AfricaThe head of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has criticised the international community for often "undermining national development efforts". Kingsley Amoako called on rich nations to "revisit their policies on aid, trade and debt" in order to reinforce their billion dollar development aid packages.
He urged the international community to re-think the annual US $300 billion subsidies for agriculture - which is six times the total amount of aid to developing countries.
His statement, which was released by the ECA headquarters in Addis Ababa, came during a two-day conference on the social implications of globalisation in Africa.
Amoako said Africa was forced to export unprocessed goods because the tariffs are much lower - depriving African countries from access to export markets.
"For every step in the processing chain that adds value, the duties rise sharply," he stated. "These tariff escalations undermine manufacturing and employment in industries where developing countries need to be competitive."
The huge drop in commodity prices has cost Africa over US $20 billion in the last three decades, he added.
Amoako also criticised aid packages which he said are often "donor-driven" rather than African-owned, and require literally thousands of time-consuming reports each year. (Source: IRIN)
EritreaTens of thousands of Eritreans are reapplying for refugee status in Sudan, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). It said that more than a month after the 31 December deadline which ended refugee status for hundreds of thousands of Eritreans - most of them living in Sudan - dozens of legal teams are sifting through nearly 27,000 applications from Eritreans who want to remain in Sudan as refugees.
The applications - one per family - represent nearly 100,000 people living mainly in refugee camps and urban centres in Sudan.
"Some Eritreans say they cannot return home for fear of persecution because of their political affiliations or religious beliefs. Others say their marriage to non-Eritreans, particularly to Ethiopians, will place them and their families at risk if they return home," UNHCR said.
The legal teams recently completed screening applications in Gedaref and Wad Madani, and have shifted the emphasis to remote refugee camps in eastern Sudan before these are rendered inaccessible by the rainy season.
Meanwhile, some 32,000 Eritreans who have registered to go home are still waiting for the return operation to resume. Repatriation was suspended last June due to the rainy season and was expected to start again in October. But this was delayed by the closure of the Sudan-Eritrea border. UNHCR says it is trying to negotiate with both governments to allow the stalled operation to resume. (Source: IRIN)
EthiopiaA controversial new Ethiopian draft press law violates African goals of freedom of expression and googovernance, Ethiopian journalists said on February 11. The Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) said the planned law breaches the New Partnership for Africa (NEPAD) which governments have signed up to.
Under NEPAD - which is heralded as a development lifeline for the continent - governments have agreed to enshrine the rights of freedom of expression.
The criticism follows a symposium over the weekend where journalists and government officials tried to thrash out sticking points over the new law.
Although the EFJA welcomed the weekend talks as "historic" and said it would try to overcome weaknesses in the fledgling private press, it refused to accept the new law.
"It is a law that is directed against our very existence and designed to render us completely ineffective," the EFJA said in a joint statement with editors, publishers and media professionals.
"Any law that is issued in the future in connection with the press without the participation of publishers and newspapers is irrelevant," it added.
Elements of the new law include sections whereby newspapers will have to pay tax on press releases and government officials have 30 days to respond to a question.
Diplomats in Addis Ababa have also been showing increasing interest in the new draft press law which could come into force later this year. The British embassy has helped organise various workshops where journalists and officials can discuss the new law. (Sorce: IRIN)
MalawiThe World Food Programme (WFP) on February 10 said it may have to extend its aid programme in Malawi, which was scheduled to end in March. There were concerns that the new crop of maize would not be ready for harvesting until June because of late planting in most parts of the country.
"We are in dialogue with the government, donors and our implementing partners to assess what really needs to happen after March. The key concern is that the crops are not harvested too early. In a crisis situation there is a tendency to harvest maize before it matures, but then this means that farmers do not produce a full crop," WFP emergency officer Amy Horton said.
There have already been reports of desperate villagers harvesting and eating green maize. The latest Southern African Development Community (SADC) vulnerability assessment estimates some 3.5 million Malawians (31 per cent of the population) will require about 173,000 mt of emergency food aid through March 2003 - mainly due to drought.
Horton said a rapid crop assessment would be conducted later this month which would determine the scale of the needs across the country after March.
"Instead of general distribution, WFP intervention would likely target the most vulnerable populations, for example people living with HIV/AIDS who are too weak to get a crop for themselves," WFP regional spokesman Richard Lee said. (Source: IRIN)
NigeriaA team of British experts on February 10 began a two-week training programme in Nigeria on disaster management for security personnnel and the national relief agency, officials said.
The British government-sponsored team from the Bournemouth University Disaster Management Centre is conducting the course at the Command and Staff College, Nigeria's premier military training institution, based in Jaji, in the northern state of Kaduna.
Beneficiaries include selected personnel from the army, police, other security services and the National Emergency Management Agency.
"This course will lay a solid foundation for disaster management techniques which Nigeria could use as a platform towards managing disasters when they occur," Brig-Gen Nuhu Bamali, the officer in charge of curriculum issues at the college, told reporters.
The course work, he said, included all aspects of disaster management, such as risk assessments, coping with and evacuating casualties, and working in coordination with national and international systems.
Bamali said the course became necessary because of the frequency of disasters recorded in Nigeria in recent years and the poor response to them. (Source: IRIN)
SomaliaThe European Commission has approved a major project to support rehabilitation of the core road network in the self-declared republic of Somaliland, northwest Somalia.
In a statement, the EC described the project as a continuation of ongoing support through the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), which will include technical assistance to the Somaliland Roads Authorities.
"The total budget is € 4.5 million with contributions from the European Commission (€ 4.2 million), the implementing partner - the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), and the Somaliland Road Fund," the statement said.
It described Somaliland's roads as the region's lifeline. "With no railway network and with air travel being far beyond the reach of most Somalis, roads are crucial channels for trade and communications," the EC said.
Noting that the port of Berbera had been growing in importance, it stressed the need to continue improving the road between the port and the region.
"The volume of transported goods grows constantly, although it has suffered a setback as a result of the adverse effects of the livestock ban," the statement said. "Once this ban is lifted, traffic flows could rapidly grow even further." (Source: IRIN)