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In brief

News of the week

by D+C / E+Z

In brief

Unicef sees millions of children left behind / Burundian Vice-President flees to Belgium / Peace agreement concluded for Mali / Overwhelming victory for Ethiopia’s ruling party / 6th mass extinction looms / Aung San Suu Kyi’s way to presidency in Myanmar blocked

Unicef sees millions of children left behind

Despite global progress, millions of the world’s poorest children are left behind, according to Unicef. In its final report on the child-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “Progress for Children: Beyond Averages” Unicef acknowledges “significant achievements”. However it also states that unequal opportunities have left millions of children living in poverty, with many dying before they turn five. Masses lack schooling and suffer chronic malnutrition.

According to the report, children from the poorest households are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday standards than children from the richest households in the same country. They are also far less likely to achieve minimum reading skills. Unless such children are reached, Unicef estimates that:

  • 68 million more children under five will die from mostly preventable causes by 2030;
  • an estimated 119 million children will still be chronically malnourished in 2030;
  • half a billion people will still be defecating in the open, posing serious risks to children’s health in 2030; and
  • it will take almost 100 years before all girls from sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest families to complete their lower secondary education.

Unicef calls on the international community to focus on the most disadvantaged children in its new 15-year development roadmap, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that will be adopted this year. According to the report, better data collection is needed to identify the most vulnerable and excluded children and indicate where they live. Furthermore, local health care, education and social protection systems must be strengthened. “The SDGs present an opportunity to apply the lessons we have learned and reach the children in greatest need – and shame on us if we don’t,” Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake said.



Burundian Vice-President flees to Belgium

In the run-up to parliamentary elections in Burundi, one of the vice-presidents has fled the country, and students are seeking refuge in the US embassy. According to media reports, Vice-President Gervais Rufyikiri sought refuge in Belgium on Thursday after urging President Pierre Nkurunziza not to seek an “unconstitutional” third term in office. He told France 24 that he was personally threatened because he did not support Nkurunziza’s candidacy. In May, the vice-president of Burundi’s election commission and a senior judge had fled the country.

The US embassy said about 100 students had taken refuge in an embassy parking area on Thursday. They have been gathering in a nearby construction site for weeks, saying they were seeking protection. The country has been rocked by a broad-based protest movement that does not want the president to run for a third term. The constitution only allows two terms. Parliamentary and local elections are due to be held on Monday, and the next president will be elected on 15 July.

Sources: Guardian, NBC


Peace agreement for Mali

The Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA), which unites various, mostly Touareg rebel groups in northern Mali, has signed a peace agreement with the government of President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita. Negotiations had been going on for a year in Algeria with support from the international community.

In 2013, a joint insurgency of Islamists forces and Touareg militias plunged Mali into a deep crisis. The military toppled the government, and new elections were only possible after the French military had intervened. Keita won a convincing majority, but his government has not managed to control the vast northern Sahara areas of the country.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said: “We won the war in 2013, now we have won the peace.” Some observers, however, argue that, while the agreement with the CMA is valuable, more must be done to bring peace to Mali.

Sources: RFI, Libération


Overwhelming victory for Ethiopia’s ruling party

Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has won all of the seats in the nation’s parliament. Official results of last month’s general elections were announced on Monday.

Critics dismissed the outcome. “This result was completely expected, there is no multiparty system in Ethiopia. It’s just fake,” said Taye Negussie, a sociology professor at Addis Ababa University, as quoted by the Guardian.

The EPRDF has been in power since 1991 when it overthrew Mengistu Haile Mariam´s dictatorial regime. It oppresses the opposition as well as other critics and journalists.

Sources: Guardian, Sueddeutsche Zeitung


Mass extinction could “ruin lives of everybody on the planet”

Scientists from leading US universities warn that earth is heading for a 6th mass extinction. In a paper published by the journal Science Advances, they point out that current species losses are “human-induced”. Species are said to be disappearing at a rate 15 to 100 times faster than normal. In the history of earth, there have been five mass extinctions. The last one occurred some 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs vanished from earth. It was triggered by a giant meteor. 

Co-author Paul Singer from Stanford University says that the impact of the 6th mass extinction “could ruin the lives of everybody on the planet”. The reason is that humankind depends on so called eco-services which are provided by nature. According to Singer, not only the extinction of a species can have dramatic consequences, but the depletion of its populations can be devastating too. He takes honey bees as an example, pointing out that, even if some bees survive in some place, their disappearance from others means that many plants are no longer pollinated and thus become endangered.

Sources: Washington Post, Science Advances



Aung San Suu Kyi’s way to presidency in Myanmar blocked

The parliament of Myanmar has voted against constitutional change. Though the majority of its members were in favour of the change, they did not reach the required quorum of 75 %. As a result Aung San Suu Kyi, opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, remains barred from presidential candidacy because her two sons hold British not Burmese passports. She says this rule is unfair.

The military objected to changing the constitution. It will keep its veto power over many relevant political decisions, including who is allowed to run for president. Outright military rule ended in 2011, but the generals are still keeping a grip on power.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to win many votes in the general election scheduled to take place in autumn. The NLD won the last free election in 1990, but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results.

Sources: Spiegel online, BBC

These items were compiled by Katja Dombrowski, Hans Dembowski, Sabine Balk and Franz Bertenbreiter on the basis of international media coverage.

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