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Myanmar: Water shortages hit Shan State

3 February 2016 - 2:08am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

The National League for Democracy’s environmental conservation committee for Shan State will dig an artesian well for villagers living in the proximity of Heho Township’s Let Maung village in a bid to supply them with water after they have been hit by shortages, the Global New light of Myanmar reported on 3 February.

A shortage of water availability started to become apparent in the area on 11 January, and while it is not the first time locals have faced a shortage of water in the area, they have said water has run out much earlier this year than in years previous.

Villages in the water scarce villages are currently relying on drinking water donated by donors.

Weather forecast experts have analysed that a weather front, known as El Nino, is to hit Myanmar with much more strength in 2016 than in previous years, which will cause water shortages and extreme heat, the report said.

Myanmar: Kachin Anti-Poppy Campaign Continues Despite Hurdles

3 February 2016 - 2:02am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN

Vigilante drug eradication programs in northern Kachin State have been able to sustain momentum, despite threats to several volunteers’ lives last month.

For two years, local civil society organizations (CSOs) have been leading anti-drug campaigns to destroy poppy fields. In January, activities took a violent turn when a volunteer was shot dead and three others were injured by poppy growers in Tanai and Waingmaw townships.

Still, Tang Gun, secretary of a drug eradication group in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, said the programs will continue as poppies begin to blossom. Between 600 and 1,400 members of local CSOs have traveled to larger plantations in five townships—Sumprabum, Putao, Chipwi, Waingmaw and Tanai—across Kachin State to destroy the illicit crop.

Tang Gun told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that teams have destroyed more than 1,500 acres of poppy fields in Tanai and 2,000 in southern Waingmaw, the townships with the most fields.

He added that three people were injured on Jan. 31 during such an exercise: two in a mine blast near the Sha Ngaw stream in Waingmaw, and another by a shotgun. One volunteer died that same month from injuries sustained from gunshot wounds to the chest and head.

“The teams aim to prevent the production of heroin in the region,” Tang Gun said. “Locals suffer a lot from drug-related problems. Many young people already face addition to the drug. We don’t want to see more of that.”

Drug eradication activities were far-reaching in Kachin State during the 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the government. But when this tenuous peace broke down in 2011, locals said that it also revitalized poppy growing in the region.

The apparent uptick gave local CSOs and community members, led by the Myitkyina-based Kachin Baptist Convention, a new cause to join hands in the eradication of poppy fields in Kachin State. Today, teams conduct surveys in their respective regions on field locations, raise awareness and attempt to persuade locals to join them in anti-poppy campaigns.

Tang Gun said that the results have been promising, with the number of poppy plantations diminishing as a result of combined efforts from teams in Kachin and northern Shan states. He also urged poppy growers to look to seasonal poppy substitutes.

“We have a lot of good soil in Kachin State. We can grow crops other than poppy.”

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 27 January – 2 February 2016

2 February 2016 - 10:24am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen, Zimbabwe

Snapshot 27 January – 2 February 2016

Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Chad: 86 people were killed and 62 injured, with 15 missing after Boko Haram set fire to Dalori, near Maiduguri in Borno state. The past week also saw attacks in Chibok that left 13 dead and 30 injured. 40 civilians were reported dead after Cameroonian troops announced they were carrying out a search for BH militants in the area. In Cameroon, 52 people were killed in BH attacks in January. In Chad, two suicide bombings in Lac region left three dead and 56 wounded.

Namibia: The drought that has been affecting Namibia since the first months of 2015 is worsening, as several reservoirs are drying up. Over 380,000 people are reportedly in need of emergency food assistance and almost a quarter of the population suffers from food insecurity. Widespread loss of livestock has been recorded in pastoral areas.

Turkey: Stability has deteriorated in recent months as fighting between government forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has intensified. An estimated 200,000 people have been internally displaced in by conflict and military operations since July 2015, and 240 civilians have been killed. At the same time, Turkey is hosting over 2.5 million Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees, straining its response capacity.

Updated: 02/02/2016. Next update: 09/02/2016.

See the Crisis Overview 2015: Humanitarian Trends and Risks 2016, ACAPS' overview of long-term trends in humanitarian needs for major crises, and scenarios outlining their potential evolution in 2016.

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

World: CrisisWatch No. 150, 1 February 2016

2 February 2016 - 7:09am
Source: International Crisis Group Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, China - Taiwan Province, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Western Sahara, World, Yemen, Zimbabwe

The month saw an intensification of Yemen’s war, amid heightened regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia and Iran complicating prospects for peace. Political tensions increased in Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Moldova, where protests over endemic corruption and a lack of confidence in the government could escalate. In Africa, Boko Haram’s deadly attacks increased in northern Cameroon, and Burkina Faso was hit by an unprecedented terror attack. On the nuclear front, in East Asia, North Korea’s announcement that it had carried out a successful hydrogen bomb test was roundly condemned, while nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were rolled back in accordance with the July 2015 deal.

Myanmar: Political parties and peacebuilding

2 February 2016 - 6:41am
Source: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre Country: Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka

International peacebuilding actors have so far been wary of engagement with political parties. However, there is growing recognition of the importance of working with local political systems, institutions and parties in the promotion of peace. It is therefore important that international actors strengthen their understanding of political parties in conflict-affected contexts and how such parties relate to conflict and peacebuilding, as well as examine how best to deepen engagement with them.

This report examines the nature of political parties in conflict-affected contexts and the challenges such parties face in becoming effective actors for peace. It analyses three cases – Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar – where parties have played very different roles in relation to both the grievances and struggles that have fuelled conflict, and efforts to build and sustain peace. It then discusses how lessons from these cases can inform the work of international peacebuilding actors.

Finally, the report examines the track record of the international community in working with political parties in conflict-affected contexts. It argues that international actors must move beyond “blueprint” approaches to party support and instead develop more comprehensive and context-relevant responses to the specific challenges that such parties face.

There is growing awareness among international peacebuilding and statebuilding actors of the importance of engaging more effectively with political processes and structures in conflict-affected and post-conflict states. Although political parties are frequently at the centre of such processes and structures, international actors have generally been wary of working with them beyond limited capacity-building activities, seeing this as a sensitive and high-risk area.

Political parties can help build peace. However, they can also fuel antagonism, grievance and conflict. If international peacebuilding and statebuilding actors are serious about working more effectively with local politics, it is essential that they strengthen their understanding of political parties and the roles they play in relation to conflict and peacebuilding, as well as rethink how best to engage with them.

Myanmar: Six months after the Myanmar floods, hundreds of thousands assisted as Red Cross continues to support affected communities

2 February 2016 - 1:46am
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

Yangon – January 29 2016 - Six months on from the devastating floods that struck Myanmar, around 400,000 people have received emergency assistance and support in their recovery from the Myanmar Red Cross Society and its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

At their peak the floods affected over 9 million people across 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. The floods temporarily displaced over 1.7 million people and destroyed 15,000 homes as well as more than 840,000 acres of agricultural crops.

Between July 2015 and January 2016, over 1,400 Red Cross volunteers and staff from the Myanmar Red Cross Society and Red Cross partners assisted flood affected people across the country. The first phase included evacuations, providing emergency relief such as purified water, food, household items, and shelter materials. Since then, efforts have been focused on supporting the longer term recovery of flood affected communities across the five worst hit regions of Chin, Rakhine, Sagaing, Magway and Ayerwady with livelihood activities, cleaning of contaminated ponds and wells and infrastructure rehabilitation.

Cash assistance has been one of the main pillars in the Red Cross operation. 60,000 people have received cash grants from the Red Cross. Myanmar Red Cross and International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) focused their help in Sagaing, Magway, Ayerwady, Chin while Myanmar Red Cross, in close collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), distributed cash grants in Rakhine.

“This is the first time we have distributed cash grants on such a large-scale as part of our response to a natural disaster in Myanmar”, said Professor Tha Hla Shwe, President of the Myanmar Red Cross Society. “Our aim is to support self-recovery as quickly as possible and cash gives people the choice to prioritize their needs which could be repairs to their home, stock for a small business or household items.”

The floods had long term health impacts. 285 health structures were damaged and water sources were contaminated, increasing the threat of waterborne and vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria. Both are endemic in Myanmar and contribute to the high mortality rates of children in rural areas of the country. The Red Cross is committed to strengthening community and village health structures and systems, including training volunteers in First Aid and providing health education to ensure that communities are better prepared for accidents and potential health threats.

“Myanmar is one the most disaster prone countries in the Asia Pacific region,” said Professor Tha Hla Shwe. “An important part of our recovery plan is focused on disaster risk reduction initiatives which directly involve the participation of hazard-prone communities, helping them to become more resilient to future crises. They range from training local volunteers to strengthening early warning systems, pre-positioning relief supplies and carrying out small-scale infrastructure projects that improve flood defences.”

The Red Cross operation is scheduled to continue until August 2016, targeting affected communities with livelihoods support, shelter assistance, improved access to clean water and sanitation and health education. The operation is supported by the IFRC, the ICRC and sister Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies.

For further information, please contact:

In Yangon:

Shwe Cin Myint, Director, Humanitarian Values & Communication Department, Myanmar Red Cross Society Email: shwecinmyint@redcross.org.mm

Mobile: +95 (0) 98553284, 9977115600

Mandy George, community engagement adviser, IFRC Email: amanda.george@ifrc.org Mobile: +95 (0) 9254656372

Twitter : @mandygeorge

Jean-Yves Clémenzo, communication coordinator, ICRC E-mail: jclemenzo@icrc.org Tel: +95 9420107606

Twitter: @JClemenzoICRC

In Geneva :

Reeni Amin Chua, IFRC Geneva. Email: reeni.aminchua@ifrc.org Mobile: +41 79 708 6273 Twitter: @reeniac

Neha Thakkar, ICRC Geneva Email: nthakkar@icrc.org Mobile: +41 79 574 0636 Twitter: @NThakkarICRC

Follow @IFRCAsiaPacific on Twitter for news and information on IFRC operations in the Asia Pacific region.

Myanmar: Bringing women to the heart of peace in Myanmar

2 February 2016 - 1:11am
Source: Trócaire Country: Myanmar

Posted by Eoghan Rice

By Alison Heron of Trócaire in Myanmar

“You can’t just add women-and-stir” said May Oo Mutraw speaking about the inadequate efforts to ‘include’ women in the peace process.

Women’s participation in decision-making roles in Myanmar is extremely low, a trend reflected in Myanmar’s national peace process.

From the beginning, the peace process has failed to engage women and therefore has inadequately considered gender issues. Women were largely excluded from the drafting of the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), while the Union Peace Conference (UPC), the first political dialogue since the NCA was signed last October, took place in January with women accounting for only 7 per cent of attendees. This was despite the UPC proclaiming itself as an “inclusive” political dialogue.

At the launch of Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process (AGIPP), an inspiring group of women shared their experiences and discussed the barriers faced by women involved in the peace process.

Inclusions, representation and participation are not the same. Participation involves a deep and meaningful involvement. As AGGIP’s briefing noted “responding to criticism about women’s exclusion from the peace process by slotting in a few women as observers is an inadequate response.”

Women who attended the Union Peace Conference reported that they faced intimidation when they tried to engage in the discussions.

Women’s perspectives and women’s issues are often left out simply because men don’t understand them. In Myanmar this is enhanced by societal and cultural norms and is a major obstacles to women’s participation. Breaking these cultural norms does not happen overnight, it is a long term goal and the process will take time. Engaging men in the process is key.

At the UPC, male facilitators were not gender sensitive. However, the panellists noted that we cannot blame men for not promoting equality, for not using gender sensitive language and for not highlighting women’s issues, if they do not have the capacity to do so. We need to build up capacity of both men and women involved in the peace process to understand gender sensitivities. Engaging men, changing attitudes, behaviours and building capacity is critical to achieve success for women, peace and security in Myanmar.

With the new government coming into power these women’s alliances are considering how to engage and what to recommend. May Oo Mutraw noted that it took eight years of negotiation and lobbying for some of the ethnic armed organisations to accept women’s involvement. “Now we need to be strategic, we need to know and understand which alliances to make,” she says.

A clear-cut policy for enhancing the role of women particularly in decision-making is needed. A 30% gender quota is being introduced to support women’s involvement in political life, but it is equally important to remove barriers that prevent women from engaging and participating.

Nang Phyu Phyu Lin captured the feeling in the room when she summarised “the 30% are coming – do not fear us.”

The time for women’s inclusion is now - change is happening and it is not something to fear.

World: AHA - Annual Disaster Report

1 February 2016 - 11:46pm
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

The Column AHA Centre News Bulletin Volume 13, February 2016

General Conclusion

The year 2015 saw a marked decrease in the number of disasters that occurred in the region. The number of incidents in 2013 and 2014 were 322 and 290 respectively, declining to 114 in 2015. Corollary to this decrease is the decrease in the number of affected people. From 39,820,535 and 17,883,714 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, to 6,514,427 in 2015. Despite the considerable decrease of incidents over the past three years, January still continues to generally be the month when most disasters occur in the region since 2013. Flooding too, remains to be the most disaster causing natural hazard. In 2015, 65% of disaster incidents are accounted for by ooding events.

This decrease in disaster incidents is coincident with the occurrence of one of the top three strongest El Niño events ever recorded in history. It should be noted that scientists have already shown that the number of climate-related disasters like oods, storms, droughts and others that occur either in an El Niño, neutral or La Niña years are statistically not different from one another (Goddard and Dilley 2005).

Nonetheless, El Niño and La Niña are important as their occurrence make hydrometeorologically induced disasters more predictable urging decision makers to take the necessary precautions. Moreover, an El Niño or La Niña may last until to more than a year, affecting rainfall and temperature patterns for far longer, leading to accruing societal impacts.

World: The Column AHA Centre News Bulletin Volume 13, February 2016

1 February 2016 - 11:40pm
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

On this Edition

  • AHA Centre Emergency Response Organisation Exercise
  • Annual Disaster Report
  • INSIGHT
  • Steps for Continuous Improvement in
  • Emergency Operations at AHA Centre

Myanmar: Burma: Events of 2015

1 February 2016 - 8:44pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

The transition from military to civilian rule in Burma that started in 2011 slowed down and reversed in some sectors in 2015. Despite a significantly improved environment for freedom of expression and media, in key areas the government’s commitment to improving its human rights faltered or failed. The landslide victory of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) in November elections, the first relatively open national elections in 25 years, seemed poised to reenergize reforms in some areas, but it was too early to gauge at time of writing.

Elections

Nationwide parliamentary elections were held on November 8, with 91 parties and hundreds of independent candidates contesting over 1,100 seats. The NLD won a majority of seats in both national houses of parliament and in regional and state assemblies, with more than 85 percent of seats.

The Union Electoral Commission (UEC) lacked independence and impartiality in the lead-up to elections. Its chairman repeatedly said he hoped for victory by the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and the commission itself issued guidelines prohibiting political parties from criticizing the military in policy platform speeches broadcast over state-controlled media.

Due to changes in political party laws and enforcement of the draconian 1982 Citizenship Law, the applications of more than 50 Muslim candidates were disallowed during candidate eligibility screening, including those of two sitting ruling party members of parliament who identify as Rohingya Muslims. Neither the USDP nor the NLD fielded a Muslim candidate anywhere in Burma, and no Muslim citizen was voted into parliament nationwide.

The nationwide repeal of temporary citizenship cards (the so-called white cards) disenfranchised over 800,000 people who had previously been permitted to vote in the 2008 constitutional referendum and the 2010 elections, many of them Rohingya in Arakan State.

Despite these serious defects, the two-month campaign was surprisingly open, with few reports of intimidation, violence, or irregularities. Party rallies were conducted peacefully throughout the country, and there were no significant curbs on freedom of expression or media. Polling was conducted in a transparent manner with large numbers of domestic and international observers, and political parties observing the count. The UEC acted professionally through the tallying period with daily updates on results.

Constitution

Despite calls from ethnic communities and opposition parties, the Burmese military refused to permit consideration of any amendments to the 2008 constitution in the national parliament in June and July. The constitution allocates 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the military and requires 75 percent of parliament to vote to approve constitutional changes, giving the military an effective veto.

Amendments that were rejected included a proposed change to section 59(f) on eligibility for the presidency, which bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the position because she has children that hold foreign citizenship, and proposed changes to sections 261 and 262, giving the president rather than state and regional assemblies the authority to select the influential chief ministers of 14 of Burma’s 15 states and regions.

Religious Minorities

Discrimination and threats against the Muslim minority in Burma, a manifestation of growing ultra-nationalism, intensified in Burma in 2015 with the increased prominence of the Buddhist-monk-led Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha.

Ma Ba Tha successfully urged the government to draft and pass four so-called “race and religion protection laws”: the Population Control Law, passed in May; and the Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Law, the Religious Conversion Law, and the Monogamy Law, passed in August. The four laws are discriminatory and violate religious freedom by, for example, creating special rules for Buddhist women who marry—or seek to marry—non-Buddhist men; introducing vaguely defined acts against Buddhism as grounds for divorce, forfeiture of child custody and matrimonial property, and potential criminal penalties; and empowering authorities to limit the number of children that members of designated groups can have.

In contrast, the parliament did not pass the comprehensive Violence Against Women Law, a bill that would have strengthened women’s rights protections.

Burmese civil society organization leaders who publicly criticized the laws were accused of being “traitors” by senior Ma Ba Tha officials and some reportedly faced death threats. In September, nine embassies in Rangoon made a public statement against the misuse of religion in the 2015 elections, sparking a rebuke from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While some political parties, notably the NLD, voted against the laws, other political figures promoted the laws as protecting Burma from Muslim threats. President Thein Sein took credit for the laws in a social media video as election campaigning began in September. Ma Ba Tha held a series of nationwide victory rallies lauding the laws as protecting the Buddhist faith against an Islamic “invasion” and in some cases declared its support for the USDP, marking its growing involvement in electoral politics.

Prominent Ma Ba Tha member and leader of the “969” anti-Muslim boycott movement U Wirathu threatened the UN special rapporteur on Burma, Yanghee Lee, during her January visit to Burma, calling her a “bitch” and a “whore,” and exhorting followers to assault her. The government took no steps to respond to this incitement, and no prominent public figure in Burma has openly criticized the rising discrimination and threats endorsed by Ma Ba Tha or its intimidation of civil society.

Freedom of Association and Assembly

The numbers of political prisoners in Burma rose in 2015 as the government’s commitment to ending the imprisonment of activists waned. At year’s end, an estimated 112 people were incarcerated for alleged violations of the flawed Peaceful Assembly Law and other political offenses, a notable rise in cases since the large prisoner amnesties of 2012. At least 486 more were facing trial.

The leadership of the joint committee overseeing political prisoner releases—composed of representatives of the government, former political prisoners, and political parties—was changed in February with the hardline deputy minister of home affairs, a serving military officer, made chair. Prominent activist Ko Bo Kyi was removed from the committee.

On March 5, plainclothes police auxiliaries, suspected to be members of the Swann Arr Shin (Masters of Force), which had not been deployed against protesters since 2007, assaulted a small group of student protesters and activists from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group who were peacefully assembling to criticize the government’s education law. Police then arrested the protesters.

Five days later, on March 10, security forces blocked a small group of student protesters in the town of Letpadan from marching on Rangoon. When students attempted to tear down the barricades, police forces abandoned all discipline and violently assaulted the students, arresting over 80 of them. Students who were injured in the assault say they received only rudimentary medical care. At time of writing 50 students remain in custody in Tharrawaddy Prison on charges of rioting, assaulting police officials, and illegal assembly.

After the March violence, the European Union, which has been providing technical assistance to the Burma police force as part of a community policing and crowd control project, criticized the authorities and called for an investigation. In September, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission issued a report calling for abusive police to be punished, as well as any student demonstrators who may have acted to provoke officials. No police officers had been prosecuted at time of writing.

Land rights activists in Burma are regularly arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and trespass for protesting land appropriation and displacement. Authorities arrested a number of land rights activists and farmers in Karen State in June and August who had been calling for compensation and redress for land they claim was unlawfully seized. Prominent activists such as Su Su Nway were also arrested in 2015, and authorities sentenced a number of leaders of the long-running protests in the Letpadaung copper mine case in Monya, including veteran activist Naw Ohn Hla, to four years in prison for peaceful protests they led outside the Chinese embassy in Rangoon.

Rising intolerance against Burma’s LGBT communities was voiced by senior government officials, including a security minister in Mandalay Region who called on police to arrest and “educate” transgender people.

Refugees

The maritime exodus of Rohingya Muslims dramatically increased in 2015, with Rohingya families departing from Burma and Bangladesh on smuggling vessels, at times joined by large numbers of Bangladeshi migrant workers.

The United Nations estimates that 94,000 people made the journey between January 2014 and May 2015. In May 2015, some 5,000 people on boats were abandoned by smugglers and denied entry to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with at least 70 dying during the ordeal. After intensive international media coverage, Malaysia and Indonesia finally permitted boats to land, and then promptly interned the new arrivals.

Thailand did not formally allow landings, but when boats made it to shore anyway, authorities detained those on board. Boats intercepted by authorities in Burma were towed to Maungdaw in Arakan State, and Bangladeshi citizens were repatriated back to Bangladesh.

A regional conference in Bangkok on May 29 hosted by Thailand and attended by 17 countries failed to adequately address the dispossession and abuse of Rohingya in Arakan State that continues to fuel the maritime crisis. At time of writing many observers were forecasting a resumption in maritime flight by desperate Rohingya, accompanied by serious human rights abuses, starting again in late 2016, when sailing conditions improve in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

Some 140,000 mostly Rohingya Muslims remain in internally displaced person camps in Arakan State, subject to strict restrictions on movement and access to basic services. Although access by humanitarian agencies to the camps improved somewhat in 2015, allowing for provision of limited health and education services, the situation remains dire. Poor conditions in the camps and the threat of renewed violence against the Rohingya are an important driver of maritime exodus. On the positive side, the government assisted an estimated 10,000 internationally displaced persons (IDPs) in 2015, helping them rebuild homes in the areas from which they had been displaced in 2012.

An estimated 110,000 refugees who fled Burma during decades of civil war remain in nine camps in northwest Thailand. UNHCR, international and national nongovernmental organizations, and the Thai government continue to discuss a plan for voluntary repatriation of members of this group. Refugees continue to express concerns about insufficient participation in planning for their return and the uncertain security situation in Burma, including the prevalence of land mines in some of the areas to which they may return.

Ethnic Conflict and Forced Displacement

Armed conflict between the Burmese military and non-state armed groups escalated in 2015. Clashes between the Burmese army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops continued sporadically, reportedly involving disputes over natural resource extraction.

In northern Shan State, fighting between the army and the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), often in conjunction with insurgents from the Arakan Army and Shan State Army-North, continued throughout the year and several thousands of civilians were displaced by conflict. In central Shan State, fighting between the Burmese army and Shan rebel forces escalated around the November elections, displacing some 6,000 civilians.

On February 17, two volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross Society were injured when their convoy was attacked by unknown assailants. They were part of a marked Red Cross convoy that was evacuating civilians displaced by fighting in Shan state. Four days later, a Myanmar Red Cross volunteer was injured in an attack on a marked Red Cross convoy traveling from Laukkai.

In March, fighting began in the northern Shan State special region of Kokang between the army and forces of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). Burmese forces used airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments, allegedly indiscriminately, during the fighting against the MNDAA. Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced in Kokang areas, with many fleeing to China.

The government sought to conclude a nationwide ceasefire with 16 non-state armed groups in 2015. Instead, conflict escalated to levels not seen since before the fighting in Kachin State entered an uneasy truce in 2013. Some 130,000 Kachin civilians remain internally displaced in camps, with many IDPs in KIA-controlled areas receiving little international assistance, largely due to Burmese army obstruction.

Child Soldiers

The Burmese military continues to recruit and use child soldiers, as do many paramilitary and militia forces under Burmese army command, and child soldiers have reportedly been recruited and deployed by many non-state armed groups as well. The Burmese military has maintained its support for the 2012 Action Plan agreed to with the UN and international groups to end child soldier recruitment, and has allowed monitors to visit army and militia camps.

Key International Actors

Influential bilateral partners of Burma including the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia maintained their support for the limited reforms of the Thein Sein government despite increased concerns over renewed assaults on basic freedoms. Numerous governments praised the relatively open November elections and the conduct of parties and the UEC.

The EU continued to sponsor Burma resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and General Assembly in 2015. In July, the HRC passed a resolution condemning persecution of Rohingya and other minorities in Burma and called on the government to ensure human rights protections for all groups.

China did not raise human rights concerns in 2015 but sharply criticized Burma for its failure to stem fighting in Kokang that spilled over the border, particularly for air strikes that killed a number of Chinese civilians.

Russia continues to sell Burma conventional arms, and there are reports that Burma and North Korea maintain military links. The US, UK, and Japan engaged in limited military-to-military engagement with Burma in 2015.

Myanmar: Kachin & Northern Shan States Camp Profiling Rounds 1-3 | Cross-Camp and Trend Analysis Report 2013-2015

1 February 2016 - 1:51pm
Source: CCCM Cluster, Joint IDP Profiling Service Country: Myanmar

Analysing trends over time of camp-based displacement in northeast Myanmar

Report launched from JIPS and Stats Norway support to the CCCM Cluster

In January 2016, a report was published on the displacement situation in northeast Myanmar. Based on data from a profiling exercise of the camp-based displaced population in Kachin and northern Shan states, the report provides an overview of the displacement situation over time and highlights differences between camps in Government and non-Government controlled areas.

Camp Profiling in northeast Myanmar

Led by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster in Myanmar, the camp profiling process started in 2013 with the aim of obtaining an updated overview of the situation within each of the IDP camps and to establish a common central information tool for the coordination of camp-level activities. Upon request of the CCCM Cluster, JIPS supported the set up of the exercise initially through a mission in 2013 that worked primarily on methodology and tool development, operational planning and training. A key outcome of this mission was a questionnaire developed jointly by multiple partners in order to feed specific and varied information needs.

The process was designed to be implemented regularly, in order to update the profiling data for operational use and coordination. Since 2013, a total of three rounds of camp profiling have been conducted (2013-2015), with a fourth round currently underway. The continued implementation of this process is an indication of success but also of the continued need for the overview it provides.

Camp profiling data has been made available through different channels, including the individual camp profile reports and an openly accessible database of information on each camp covered. In addition, JIPS has supported the operation to conduct a longitudinal analysis of trends over time based on data consolidated from all three rounds.

Cross-camp and trends analysis

Taking the analysis one step beyond the individual camp profiles, in 2015 JIPS collaborated with Statistics Norway to provide support to their partners in Myanmar for the analysis of the rich amount of data the profiling. This collaboration produced a cross-camp and trends analysis that was able to assess whether the situation in the camps had changed or remained stable over the last three years, as well as to identify any differences between the camps. The final report is intended for use primarily by the Shelter/NFI/CCCM Cluster partners and donors but also for the wider humanitarian community for strategy development and planning.

The cross-camp and trends analysis compared large and small IDP camps in different locations (Government and non-Government controlled areas) and over time (between 2013 and 2015). The report shows trends in the demographic composition of the camps as well as changes in access to services (including shelter, food security, health, education, and protection). Although limited, it also provides an initial analysis on livelihoods and key gaps and priorities for response identified by both camp managers and camp dwellers.

Read more about the camp profiling process and access single camp profiles here.

Read more about JIPS support and download cross-camp and trends analysis report here.

World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 30 - January 2016

1 February 2016 - 1:08pm
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, World, Yemen, Zambia

This bulletin examines trends in staple food and fuel prices, the cost of the basic food basket and consumer price indices for 69 countries in the fourth quarter of 2015 (October to December). The maps on pages 6–7 disaggregate the impact analysis to sub-national level.

Global Highlights

• During Q4-2015, FAO’s global cereal price index fell by a further 15.2 percent year-on-year because of abundant supplies and sluggish demand. The index returned to the level seen before the food price crisis of 2007-08.

• The real price of wheat dropped by eight percent over the last quarter. It fell by more than 25 percent compared with Q4-2014 mainly because of world record production and higher ending stocks.

• The real price of maize remained constant compared with Q3-2015. Despite lower than expected production forecasts for 2015/16, global supplies were comfortable amid above-average closing stocks.

• During Q4-2015, the real price of rice decreased by two percent. As in Q3, prices were 15 percent below 2014 levels. However, global rice supplies may tighten in 2015/16.

• In Q4-2015, the real price of crude oil dropped a further 12 percent compared with Q3-2015 and reached its lowest level in the past eleven years.

• The cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) during Q4-2015 in nine countries: Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Turkey. High increases (5–10%) were seen in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Yemen. In the other monitored countries, the change was low or moderate (<5%).

• Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), were evident in 19 countries, particularly in Ghana, Haiti, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Syria (see the map below).3 These spikes indicate crisis levels for the two most important staples in each country, including beans, cassava meal, maize, millet, potatoes, rice, wheat, sorghum and sugar.

World: Humanitarian Funding Update January 2016 - United Nations Coordinated Appeals

1 February 2016 - 11:46am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Currently, the humanitarian response plans and appeals for 2016 are seeking over $19.8 billion to meet the needs of 89.4 million people across 37 countries. The figures may increase in the course of 2016. As of 29 January, $50 million has been received for the appeals.

In January 2015, the UN-coordinated inter-agency appeals required $16.4 billion to meet the needs of 57.5 million people across 22 countries.

The year ended with requirements at $19.9 billion, an increase of $3.5 billion, to meet the needs of 82 million people in 38 countries.

As of 29 January, 21 humanitarian response plans (HRPs) and six refugee response plans (RRPs) for 2016 have been published. Eighteen of them are already being tracked by the Financial Tracking Service (FTS). Of these, early recipients of funding include: Nigeria (4 per cent funded), Cameroon (3 per cent), Niger (2 per cent), Libya, Chad and Somalia (all at 1 per cent).

Further response plans are being finalised and will be available online in the coming weeks.
Sectors benefitting from early funding have been those of agriculture, protection and human rights, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, food and health.

So far in 2016, the reported global humanitarian contributions are over $1.3 billion, with approximately $261 million in outstanding pledges. These contributions are reported towards bilateral funding, the Red Cross movement, and other funding mechanisms including for NGOs outside the UN-coordinated appeals framework.

As reported to FTS, the UN coordinated appeals have been consistently funded on average at 62 per cent regardless of the total requirement per year, and despite its five-fold increase over the last five years. 2015 saw the lowest coverage, closing the year at 53 percent (there may be adjustments to these final figures). The total funds received increased by 93 percent from $5.6 billion in 2011 to a highest $10.8 billion in 2014. It is expected that FTS will receive more funding reports attributed to 2015 appeals over the course of this year. All donors and operational partners are encouraged to report their contributions to FTS in a timely manner to ensure an up-to-date reflection of the funding status.

Meanwhile by 29 January, donors had pledged almost $250 million towards the CERF for 2016, of which some $76 million has already been received. In January, CERF allocated almost $9 million in rapid response grants and an additional $100 million to sustain life-saving relief for up to 4.5 million people in nine severely underfunded crises where levels of vulnerability are alarmingly high and available resources for humanitarian response are critically low.

  • The global figures in this document (89.4 million people and $19.8 billion req

Indonesia: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (26 January - 1 February 2016)

1 February 2016 - 3:50am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands

INDONESIA

Between 28 and 31 Jan, flooding was reported in both Sumatra and Java. Approximately 2,600 houses were inundated for days and at least six bridges connecting villages in Aceh were damaged. This is in addition to the 4,900 houses that were inundated the previous week and where water has now receded.
Local authorities reported no casualties and provided basic relief assistance.

2,600 houses inundadated

On 28 Jan, the Head of the East Flores District Government, East Nusa Tenggara Province reported severe drought as a result of prevailing El Niño conditions. Around 96% of the 250 villages in the district have experienced harvest failure. The East Flores Government confirmed the current drought conditions are comparable to the severe drought experienced in 1997. Local authorities have provided some water pumps as well as water trucking, focusing on water for community consumption.

240 villages with harvest failure

MICRONESIA

Forecasters are warning that El Niño drought conditions are developing across Micronesia affecting parts of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the northern Marshall Islands. In the Marshall Islands, assessment teams are being dispatched to the outer islands to verify reports and identify needs. In the Federated States of Micronesia, authorities are attempting to verify reports from Yap and Chuuk States suggesting water shortages are being experienced.

SOLOMON ISLANDS

Investigations are underway into 17 deaths which could possibly be related to a recent rotavirus outbreak which now appears to be passing its peak. 3,660 cases of diarrhoeal disease have been identified in the Solomon Islands since the start of November, however the number of new cases being detected has decreased in recent weeks. The country’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services has been working to curb the spread of the virus with support from partners including WHO,
UNICEF and the Red Cross.

3,660 cases of diarrhoeal dissease

PHILIPPINES

The agricultural losses in Zamboanga City attributed to El Niño rose to almost US$272,000 affecting over 700 farmers and 14,900 metric tons of crops including rice, corn and assorted vegetables. Out of over 700 hectares of agricultural land affected, some 650 hectares have no chance of recovery.
Cloud seeding operations to mitigate the effects of the persisting dry spell will commence in February with support from the country's weather bureau.

700 farmers affected

PRECIPITATION FORECAST

Drier than normal conditions are likely to ease over much of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. However less than average rainfall is very likely for the Philippines, Micronesia, and mainland SE Asia, which even during normal conditions, receives very little rainfall this time of year. Dry conditions are also predicted for Sri Lanka.

Myanmar: Rebuilding lives in Myanmar, six months after the floods

1 February 2016 - 2:50am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Myanmar

By Mandy George, IFRC

Never in her 90 years had Daw Tin Oo witnessed anything like it. “The water came so fast,” she said. “Normally it flows one way and is only two or three feet deep, but this time it came from both directions. I’ve never heard such a noise. It kept rising so fast, and we were afraid. So we fled as fast as we could, leaving everything we had behind. The only things we saved were the clothes on our backs. We lost our home, our possessions and even our village.”

Daw Tin Oo and her family were one of the nine million people affected by the devastating monsoon floods that hit Myanmar last July. The floods affected 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions, displacing over 1.7 million people and destroying over 15,000 homes and 840,000 acres of cropland.

Daw Tin Oo’s entire village of Maw Like Kalay South, in Sagaing region, relocated to empty land over two miles from their village. Her family owned a two-storey house together with agricultural land. Life was comfortable. As she tells her story, Daw Tin Oo’s animated, smiling face becomes serious.

“Now it is all totally ruined. Our house is under mud and we couldn’t salvage anything except the shack where we used to store hay. Our agricultural land is destroyed and we have no way of making a living. This new place is still very strange for us. For 90 years I lived in my native village. When we arrived here, I just wanted to cry. So we all cried together.”

As part of its floods recovery operation, the Red Cross Movement has so far helped over 60,000 people in Sagaing, Magway, Ayerwady, Chin and Rakhine with cash grants. Daw Tin Oo and her family received 500,000 Myanmar Kyat (approximately 385 USD).

“We decided to spend some of this money purchasing the land we have moved to,” she said. “We are happy to know that we own this land now, this is a big thing. The rest of the money we are keeping as a safety net for medical expenses and other emergencies.”

When the floods came, U Pyar Gyi, 44, and his wife and three children were also forced to flee their home and small business near the river bank of Nat Nan village.

“We didn’t know what to do after this. How could we rebuild our lives when our home and business were destroyed? When we heard the Red Cross would be giving us some money to do this, at first we couldn’t believe it. We were so excited that we couldn’t even eat or sleep. We decided to spend most of the money on restarting our shop and we hope to grow the business again and have a life like we did before.”

The Myanmar Red Cross Society has to date helped over 400,000 people with emergency assistance and help in their longer term recovery. The Red Cross is also working to build the resilience of communities to better withstand future crises.

“Myanmar is one the most disaster prone countries in the Asia Pacific region,” said Professor Tha Hla Shwe, President of the Myanmar Red Cross Society. “An important part of our recovery plan is focused on disaster risk reduction initiatives which directly involve the participation of hazard-prone communities, helping them to become more resilient to future crises. They range from training local volunteers to strengthening early warning systems, pre-positioning relief supplies and carrying out small-scale infrastructure projects that improve flood defences.”

Myanmar: New era dawns as Suu Kyi's party strides into Myanmar parliament

1 February 2016 - 2:03am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Naypyidaw, Myanmar | AFP | Monday 2/1/2016 - 05:54 GMT

by Hla-Hla HTAY

Myanmar entered a new political era Monday as Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy MPs took their seats in parliament, carrying the hopes of a nation subjugated for decades by the military.

Wearing orange uniforms, lawmakers from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) arrived for their first day of work in the capital Naypyidaw buoyed by a massive popular mandate from November's election.

That poll saw the NLD wrest a majority from the army establishment and has spurred hopes of a new political dawn in the long repressed nation.

Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar's struggle for democracy, entered the cavernous parliament building without making a comment.

She took a seat alone for the short opening session which saw the lawmakers sworn in and the appointment of a close ally, Win Myint, as lower house speaker.

"Today is a day to be proud of in Myanmar's political history and for the democratic transition," Win Myint said in an acceptance speech.

The new government faces a daunting rebuilding task in one of Southeast Asia's poorest countries where the economy has been crushed by generations of junta rule.

Many NLD MPs are also political novices, unskilled in the business of government.

They will have to swiftly adapt to a treacly decision-making process in a legislature where unelected soldiers occupy 25 percent of all seats.

"It's a historic moment for the country," said Myanmar political analyst Khin Zaw Win said, adding "a lot of worries come as part of the package" of taking power.

Suu Kyi,70, is barred from being president by a military-scripted constitution because she married and had children with a foreigner.

She has vowed to sidestep this hurdle by ruling "above" a proxy president, although she has yet to reveal her choice for the role.

While there is no clear schedule for the selection of candidates, it could be within days.

Elected members of both houses and the military will nominate three candidates to succeed President Thein Sein, who retains his post until the end of March.

The new president will then be chosen by a vote of the combined houses.

- Great expectations -

Observers are closely watching Suu Kyi's relationship with the still powerful military, which holds key ministries as well as the 25 percent parliamentary bloc.

Suu Kyi may try to persuade the army to help her change the charter clause that blocks her path to power, analysts say, although it has so far baulked at any attempt to redraft it.

After decades under the military yoke, Myanmar's people queued in their thousands to cast ballots for Suu Kyi and her party in November, throwing their support behind her simple campaign message of "change".

With a resounding parliamentary majority, her lawmakers are -- at least initially -- expected to act as a rubber stamp for her government.

The country has begun to blossom since the end of outright army rule in 2011.

Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has since opened the long-isolated country to international investment and launching sweeping political reforms.

But Myanmar remains blighted by civil wars and ethnic and religious divisions, while poverty rates are high and the country's bureaucracy is poorly funded and riven with corruption.

On the streets of Yangon, ordinary people said they were however optimistic about what Suu Kyi could achieve.

"We have been hoping for an NLD government for a long time. I feel happy now," said 22-year-old dentist Kyaw Htet.

bur-klm/apj/mtp

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

World: Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Annual Report: October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015

31 January 2016 - 5:46am
Source: Government of the United States of America, International Food Policy Research Institute, US Agency for International Development Country: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, World, Zambia

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy recently released its annual report covering research and activities progress over the past year. The overall goal of the FSP program is to promote inclusive agricultural productivity growth, improved nutritional outcomes, and enhanced livelihood resilience for men and women through improved policy environments. The goal will be achieved by fostering credible, inclusive, transparent and sustainable policy processes at country and regional levels and filling critical policy evidence gaps. The second full year of FSP implementation was also motivated by the Malabo Declaration goals of doubling smallholder productivity and tripling intra‐African trade by 2025 as a means to accelerate poverty reduction. The Leader Award supported design and implementation of two new associate in Nigeria and Senegal, building on lessons learned from associate awards launched in Burma and Malawi during the first year of FSP.

Food systems, especially in Africa, are changing rapidly. Employment generation in agriculture and the food economy is an increasingly important dimension of food security. FSP analyzes upstream and downstream food system transformation in a range of countries using a structural transformation lens. Research on upstream transformation has looked at sustainable intensification challenges (including fertilizer and seed policy), and changing land dynamics and their effect on mechanization and rural employment. This research has yielded paradigm shifting findings, especially on farm size in Africa that have been widely shared through conferences and publications as well as consultations with country ministries and other planning authorities. Similar progress has been attained on the understanding the dynamics of diet change associated with urbanization on linkages to producers and processors.

In addition to global research and engagement FSP provides demand driven strategic analytic support to USAID, national governments and other key stakeholders. This support has focused on support to the Africa Union Commission and other regional leadership forums on guidance to support implementation of the Malabo declaration.

Executive Summary

The overall goal of the FSP program is to promote inclusive agricultural productivity growth, improved nutritional outcomes, and enhanced livelihood resilience for men and women through improved policy environments. The goal will be achieved by fostering credible, inclusive, transparent and sustainable policy processes at country and regional levels and filling critical policy evidence gaps. The second full year of FSP implementation was also motivated by the Malabo Declaration goals of doubling smallholder productivity and tripling intra‐African trade by 2025 as a means to accelerate poverty reduction. The Leader Award supported design and implementation of two new associate in Nigeria and Senegal, building on lessons learned from associate awards launched in Burma and Malawi during the first year of FSP.

Activities in West Africa have focused on supporting ECOWAS to establish a regional agriculture joint sector review (JSR).
The JSR represents a key instrument for supporting mutual accountability and implementing the CAADP result framework. It allows a broad spectrum of stakeholders to contribute to overall policies and priorities in the agricultural sector. Through FSP, MSU and IFPRI are contributing to an assessment of the agricultural sector performance in collaboration with national and regional experts. Workshops were held in June and July to discuss the support required by ECOWAS from various technical partners: key outcomes included a roadmap, work plan and common indicators for the regional JSR. FSP also coordinated reviews of the regional seed, fertilizer, pesticide and veterinary drug policies.

These reviews fed into the broader process designed to address gaps and weaknesses in terms of technical and institutional capacity and promote best practices in the sector. The findings will be incorporated in the JSR report to be presented at the ECOWAP10 Conference to be held in Dakar November 17‐19, 2015.

Rice is the most widely traded food commodity In West Africa. A regional model to simulate the impacts of the regional rice self‐sufficiency policy on trade, poverty and food security was expanded to include seven countries. ECOWAS is the main user of the regional rice model to inform and guide its regional rice program (rice production targets and proposed investment levels). The model was also used to assess the effects of the Ebola crisis on food security in Guinea. This timely analysis is relevant for the JSR process in Guinea as it will help inform the establishment of baselines for key indicators to be monitored through the country’s JSR.

In Ghana, a joint MSU‐IFPRI‐IFDC‐AFAP team developed proposals for an integrated soil fertility program for Ghana and discussed these with the Minister of Agriculture as well as with a convening of public and private sector stakeholders in Accra presided over by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

In Mali, FSP completed preliminary reviews of the seed and fertilizer system and piloted a multiple‐visit household survey to generate evidence on input access, utilization and productivity impacts in relation to subsidy costs. FSP launched a new associate award funded by USAID Nigeria to strengthen the capacity of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and expand engagement with university‐based applied policy researchers.

The FSP project in East and Southern Africa has been active in support of New Alliance policy commitments in Malawi and Tanzania. In Malawi, the FSP team facilitated broad stakeholder consultation on the proposed National Agricultural Policy, resulting in a much improved relationship between civil society and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD). The team contributed to reviews of seed, fertilizer and contract farming policies and provided the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) with reform options for parastatal marketing and the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP). Significant changes were subsequently introduced to reduce the FISP program cost and improve transparency. FSP has strengthened the capacity of Ministry staff and promoted interest in planning additional courses for policymakers and journalists.

In Tanzania, FSP broke the deadlock between proponents and opponents to a key new alliance policy commitment, reform of Local Government Authority (LGA) crop taxation (cess). The combination of an FSP‐led LGA study to provide new empirical analysis on the incidence and consequences of the current tax system, combined with vigorous and targeted policy outreach, built consensus among all stakeholders for lower and harmonized crop cess rates. Following review by an inter‐ministerial committee a white paper is now ready for submission to the President and Parliament for approval. FSP used this reform process to build capacity for policy analysis and stakeholder engagement by working with government staff in every stage of the LGA crop cess study and related policy outreach activities. As part of this reform effort, FSP worked with LGA officials to coordinate the development and pilot phase of an e‐payment system for crop cess collection to improve tax collection efficiency, reduce potential for corruption, and increase compliance. A directive has been issued to implement this system in all 166 LGAs. See Appendix A for more details on these two policy reform successes.

In Burma, FSP works closely with civil society organizations to build their capacity for evidence‐based policy analysis and advocacy. Lack of information on the organization and performance of agriculture and the rural economy is a major constraint on guiding public policy and investment. FSP partners with the Myanmar Development Resource Institute‐ Centre for Economic and Social Development to study under‐appreciated sectors such as aquaculture (the country’s fastest growing source of fish protein) and pulses (the largest agricultural export in volume and value terms) to unlock their growth potential. The studies have also been utilized by government and donors to develop recovery strategies following this year’s extensive flood damage in central and lower Burma. FSP and MDRI‐CESD undertook a household level rural livelihoods survey in Mon State as a basis for a rural development strategy to support the government’s decentralization efforts. In collaboration with the Food Security Working Group, FSP undertook training for 30 participants in policy analysis and advocacy methods to increase civil society organizations ability to engage with government on policy change (See appendix A for more details on this success story).

Understanding the political economy context and institutional architecture constraints for policy reform are critical to the design of successful policies and reform processes. FSP conducts global collaborative research and outreach to inform best practices in policy process and capacity building. The innovative conceptual framework developed during year 1 was applied to case studies of policy change – three each on fertilizer and micronutrient policy. A toolkit for analysis of policy systems is being developed for use by USAID country missions and FSP country teams. An inventory of innovations in policy institutional architecture has also been developed as the basis for further case studies in year 3.

Food systems, especially in Africa, are changing rapidly. Employment generation in agriculture and the food economy is an increasingly important dimension of food security. FSP analyzes upstream and downstream food system transformation in a range of countries using a structural transformation lens. Research on upstream transformation has looked at sustainable intensification challenges (including fertilizer and seed policy), and changing land dynamics and their effect on mechanization and rural employment. This research has yielded paradigm shifting findings, especially on farm size in Africa (see Appendix A) that have been widely shared through conferences and publications as well as consultations with country ministries and other planning authorities. Similar progress has been attained on the understanding the dynamics of diet change associated with urbanization on linkages to producers and processors.

In addition to global research and engagement FSP provides demand driven strategic analytic support to USAID, national governments and other key stakeholders. This support has focused on support to the Africa Union Commission and other regional leadership forums on guidance to support implementation of the Malabo declaration.

Turkey: At least 37 dead, including children, as migrant boat sinks off Turkey

30 January 2016 - 4:20am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Afghanistan, Greece, Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, World

Ayvacik, Turkey | AFP | Saturday 1/30/2016 - 22:06 GMT

by Ozan KOSE

The Turkish coastguard on Saturday recovered the bodies of women and children washed up on a beach after yet another migrant boat sank while trying to reach Europe, leaving at least 37 dead.

In harrowing scenes reminiscent of the death of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler photographed lying dead on a Turkish beach in September, the body of a small child could be seen among those strewn over a beach near the town of Ayvacik in northwestern Canakkale province, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

An AFP picture showed the dead child dressed in dark trousers and a blue top, face covered with a small hat. A pacifier lay close to the body. In another image, a Turkish gendarme was seen lowering the corpse of an older child into a body bag.

Another young child was found dead in the water, according to the AFP photographer.

An unknown number of other children also drowned after the boat ferrying them and their families -- some from Syria, others from Afghanistan and Myanmar -- to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos sank just off the Turkish coast.

The fatalities came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she expected most of the refugees being taken in by Germany from Syria and Iraq to return home once peace has returned to their countries.

Merkel has faced strong pressure over her welcoming stance towards asylum seekers.

"We expect that once peace has returned to Syria, once the Islamic State (group) has been defeated in Iraq, that they will return to their countries of origin, armed with the knowledge they acquired with us," Merkel was quoted as saying by the DPA news agency.

She cited the refugees from former Yugoslavia as an example, saying that 70 percent of those who arrived in Germany in the 1990s returned home once it was safe to do so.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Swedish police said dozens of masked men believed to belong to neo-Nazi gangs had gathered in Stockholm late on Friday and handed out leaflets calling for attacks against young migrants.

Police had beefed up their presence in the city centre, deploying anti-riot and helicopter units after learning that extremists were planning "aggression on unaccompanied migrant minors" in the city.

  • 50 metres from the shore - The migrant deaths off Turkey follow another incident two days ago in which 25 migrants, including 10 children, drowned off the Greek island of Samos.

A Turkish official contacted by AFP said the Turkish coastguard recovered 37 bodies from the scene of the latest tragedy including children. In an earlier statement the Turkish coastguard said 75 people had been rescued.

AFP's photographer counted at least 19 bodies.

"We are sad. At least 20 friends are still missing," a weeping woman who was among the survivors said.

The capsized boat was visible around 50 metres (yards) from the shore, where divers from the coastguard were still searching for the missing. Military police in green berets placed bodies in bags to be taken to a morgue.

Life jackets and other refugees' belongings were seen dotted across the beach.

The drownings continue a grim trend that accelerated last year when nearly 4,000 people died trying to reach Europe by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

During the first 28 days of 2016, a further 244 migrants died at sea, with at least a dozen more dying on land, the IOM said Friday.

Turkey, which is hosting at least 2.5 million refugees from Syria's civil war, has become the main launchpad for migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty to Europe.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the outflow of refugees, in return for 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in financial assistance, but the agreement has failed to check the migrant tide.

Merkel said Friday that with 2,000 new asylum seekers entering the Balkans on their journey to northern Europe every day the EU "urgently" needed to implement its side of the agreement.

Italy has however questioned how much of the money should come from the EU budget, and how much control the bloc will have over how Ankara spends the funds.

Turkey's minister for EU affairs Volkan Bozkir Saturday dismissed any problems with Italy about the release of the EU money and said the funds would be released in February.

pho-fo/har/mfp

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Q&A: Though rich in resources, malnutrition stalks Myanmar – WFP

29 January 2016 - 2:24pm
Source: AlertNet Country: Myanmar

Source: Fri, 29 Jan 2016 16:14 GMT

Author: Thin Lei Win

YANGON, Jan 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations' its needs until the end of 2016. The organisation provided food and cash assistance to 1.2 million people in 2015, including victims

Read the story on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

World: 2015–2016 El Niño Early action and response for agriculture, food security and nutrition report - Working Draft (26 January 2016) Update #5

29 January 2016 - 11:25am
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization Country: Angola, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Botswana, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Tonga, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, World, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Jan 2016

Background and purpose

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has as its **Strategic Objective 5** to “Increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises”. In support of its national counterparts, FAO aims to address the current and future needs of vulnerable people affected by the 2015‒2016 El Niño event.

It is widely recognized that by striking before a crisis has escalated into an emergency, **disaster losses** can be reduced and emergency response costs significantly decreased. **Early actions** strengthen the resilience of at-risk populations, mitigate the impact of disasters and help communities, governments and national and international humanitarian agencies to respond more effectively and efficiently.

Sea surface temperatures in the El Niño region 3.42 have continued to increase, reaching a record weekly average of 3 °C in the second week of November. However, while most models predict that this El Niño will likely stay above the + 1.5 °C “strong” threshold, it is difficult to assess if the current event will surpass the effects of the 1997–1998 El Niño, as it is a slow onset phenomenon and each occurrence can differ from the others. Even if this El Niño will not be as strong as that of 1997–1998, it will be one of the strongest registered, which is already impacting several regions.

The increase in climate-related disasters from an **El Niño event** is particularly important for FAO’s mandate. A recent ten-year analysis led by its Climate, Energy and Tenure Division showed that 25 percent of all damage caused during natural disasters is in the agriculture sector. In drought alone, agriculture is the single most affected sector, absorbing around 84 percent of all the economic impact (The Impact on Natural Hazards and Disasters on Agriculture, FAO 2015). This report provides a global analysis of the current and expected evolution of El Niño-related disasters and its impact on **agriculture**, food security and **nutrition**.

It aims to give a consolidated outlook of the situation and the early actions being taken by governments, partners and FAO. Countries were selected based on a combination of analysis of the El Niño event and FAO priorities for strengthening the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises. In view of the rapid evolution of the phenomenon, the report will be subject to regular updates.