UN Youth envoy launches coding competition to help solve climate crisis and ‘Reboot the Earth’

UN Youth envoy launches coding competition to help solve climate crisis and ‘Reboot the Earth’

Jayathma Wickramanayake’s office describes the competition as a “global hackathon”, where teams of computer programmers, scientists and others, will try to solve a local climate crisis, that may be unique to each location in line with specific community needs, by creating new software, or improving upon existing programs.

The hackathon will take place at United Nations Technology Innovation Labs in five different countries (Malaysia, Finland, India, Egypt and Germany), during August. Through a series of Tech Challenges, one team from each country will be selected to travel to New York City to attend a “Reboot The Earth” awards ceremony, during the UN Climate Summit on September 21.

The winner from each country will get the chance to have their solution showcased at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in January 2020, and the overall winner has the opportunity of seeing their software proposal developed at one of the UN Technology Innovation Labs.

You can find more details of the competition, and how to enter, here.

In an interview with UN News, Ms. Wickramanayake said that young people are key to solving global climate challenges, and drivers of change and innovation: “With the global climate movement led by young people, the United Nations supports youth’s effort in driving climate action”, said the Sri Lankan-born envoy.

Since the launch of the Youth 2030 Strategy, the United Nations has been scaling up global, regional and national actions to meet young people’s needs, realize their rights and tap their possibilities as agents of change.

As the Youth Envoy explains, Reboot The Earth is about creating a platform for young people to share their best innovative ideas and solutions with the United Nations, making them equal partners in the global fight against the climate crisis:

“Reboot The Earth presents young people with the opportunity to not only showcase their potential and ideas, but also to be recognized at the United Nations Climate Summit in September 2019”

“We’re calling the winners of this year’s hackathon ‘The #ClimateReboot Troops’, and they will have be able to collaborate with the United Nations on a long-term project, to work on, and scale up, solutions that will have a real-life impact in communities.”

Kenya’s Finance Minister appears in court on graft charges

Kenya’s Finance Minister appears in court on graft charges

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and 15 other top officials appear in a court in Nairobi over corruption charges linked to the construction of two dams. Rotich pleads not guilty to the charges.

South Sudan hails China’s support to health sector

South Sudan hails China’s support to health sector

Source: Xinhua

Igga said Beijing has provided medical equipment, capacity building to health workers and financial aid to improve South Sudan’s health infrastructure.

The deputy president made the remarks on Wednesday during a visit to the China-aided project for the expansion and modernization of South Sudan’s main public health facility, the Juba Teaching Hospital, which is expected to be completed by September.

nile explorer south sudan

South Sudan’s Deputy President James Wani Igga (C) addresses journalists during a visit to the Juba Teaching Hospital in Juba, capital of South Sudan, May 22, 2019. Phase one of the 33 million U.S. dollars medical assistance provided by the Chinese government to improve South Sudan’s health sector will be completed by September 2019. (Xinhua/Gale Julius)

Riek Gai Kok, South Sudan’s health minister, said the China-aided Kiir Mayardit Women’s Hospital in the central town of Rumbek will also be complete next month. He hailed the medical collaboration Juba and Beijing have had since 2011.

Hua Ning, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan promised to channel more development support to South Sudan because of the prevailing peace.

“We hope that as peace finally comes to South Sudan, we will have more hospitals for the people of South Sudan,” Hua said.

South Sudan is already benefiting from a grant of about 33 million U.S. dollars provided by the Chinese government in 2013 to modernize and expand health facilities in the country that has greatly improved health care across South Sudan.

nile explorer south sudan

Photo taken on April 16, 2019 shows a building under construction in Juba, South Sudan. The project is part of a 33 million U.S. dollar medical assistance provided by the Chinese government to improve South Sudan’s health sector. Phase one of the China-aided project which kicked off in November 2017 is nearing completion. (Xinhua/Gale Julius)

SOUTH SUDAN’s REVITALIZED AGREEMENT IS ON HEALTHY START AND HOLDING IT’S GROUNDS

SOUTH SUDAN’s REVITALIZED AGREEMENT IS ON HEALTHY START AND HOLDING IT’S GROUNDS

Fresh civil war erupted in Juba on 15 December 2013, causing heavy civilian casualties. The war spread to other parts of the country as the power struggle within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and took a nose dive into the military and the general public. As the war progressed, it took ethnic dimensions pitting the Dinka and Nuer residing largely in Juba. The war was predictable but the magnitude of the violence was unforeseen as it quickly spread from Juba, Bor, Malakal, Akobo, and Bentiu. There were revenge and counter-revenge from both sides of the conflict. Immediately, in January 2014, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) intervened to stop the violence and broker a negotiated peaceful settlement within the context of the conflict. Eventually, and on 12 September 2018, the South Sudanese political parties: the SPLM, SPLM IO and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), signed the Revitalized Agreement on Resolutions of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). These parties to the R-ARCSS have so far shown their commitment to it as compared to the previous peace agreements (ARCSS 2015 in point) which ended up in a brutal violence and total failure.
The focus has now shifted to the implementation of the R-ARCSS. The R-ARCSS has provisions for eight months pre-transition leading to the formation of Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). The TGoNU shall run for a period of three years under which a new constitution will be made and government structures put in place. There shall be institutional and security sector reforms that will make government small, effective and efficient. Reforms will be directed at the public sector but most importantly putting governance institutions in place. The implementation phase requires all parties to collectively pull in the same direction and ensure the process is carried out to a successful conclusion.

The immediate challenge is hence security. The security challenge is complex to deal with in a period of three years given the history of the liberation struggle within SPLM/A and lack of documentation on liberation cadres within the formal and informal military ranks. The process of creating a new South Sudan Defense Forces and the criteria of inclusion and exclusion is a negotiated agenda. It also carries with it political risks of more violence from those who might not be accommodated within the new People’s Defense Forces (PDF). Thus, security sector reforms must encompass vocational training and recruitment of cadres in other security agencies such as police, wildlife, prisons, and national security among others. Security sectors reforms also have both lateral and horizontal implications since the number of generals shall be drastically reduced and redeployment and training of others in military academies to take new roles within the restructured South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF). The success of security sector reforms shall equally guarantee success in other sectors and state institutions.

Security sector reforms remain the most controversial and basic source of ensuring peace in South Sudan. The six national security services (SPLA, South Sudan National Police, National security intelligence, South Sudan National Prison, National Wildlife, and Fire Brigade) have to be restructured, reformed and professionalized. Above all, they have to be put under government administration for accountability and strict monitoring and supervision. In the past, the central focus has been the reconstruction and undertaking of security reforms solely focusing on SPLA instead of whole security sector reforms. Whereas there have been policy documents of security sector reforms such as the transformation program (2012-2017), very little has been achieved. Security agencies are largely a reflection and damping ground of SPLA and its affiliated militias. The starting point would be a comprehensive undertaking or review of the security sector to determine force strength, capacity, skills and competencies and then right size through alignment with resources and in a manner that takes into consideration emerging security threats in South Sudan and globally. The specific objective of undertaking sector reforms is to professionalize the six security agencies while making them independent of the executive and SPLA. Most importantly is to place them under civilian control. Finally, the general objective would be to strengthen civilian oversight role internally and externally. The security sector should be undertaken also as part of greater institutional reforms.

South Sudan faces serious humanitarian crises in diverse forms- Internally displaced persons, refugees, and over seven million facing starvation across the country. There are those physically challenged, injured, traumatized, and civilian deaths with attendants effects socially manifested in IDP camps where direct and indirect effects of the war are widespread and notable. The humanitarian tasks involve high social movement and mass resettlement of people. More often than not, diseases such as measles, cholera, and meningitis take the heavy toll on women and children in a distressful environment and conditions. What is more, it requires huge international support from humanitarian agencies to resettle refugees and internally displaced persons even as the state seeks a lasting solution to the problem largely associated with war and legacy of war.
The revamping of the economy is equally important if not the most important variable in realizing and implementing the peace process. Besides the oil economy that contributes to 98% of national revenue, other sectors of the economy have been neglected. Agriculture, animal husbandry, minerals, and tourism have the potential to transform the economy and create jobs for the youth. It is worth noting high youth unemployment and security implications, especially when coupled with high inflation and low productivity. Indeed, the revitalized peace agreement placed more emphasis on sharing oil resources and revamping the oil infrastructure at the expense of diversification of the economy and food security. Prudent management of oil resources and diversification of the economy would generate revenue that might transform sectors such as health, education, delivery of social services and infrastructure to link the country both horizontally and vertically.

The success of the peace agreement would depend also on the caliber of the constitution negotiated within the transitional period of three years. The constitution requires taking into consideration a federal system of government and control of resources by devolved units to allow the central government to concentrate on foreign policy, defense national security. The aim would be to introduce many centers of power and control of resources placed at the hands of the local populace. What is important however is not to weaken the state but allow the state to play its traditional role.

Finally, peace is expensive and require support beyond national borders. The peace agreement would need the support of the whole world and especially countries with significant investments and other interests in South Sudan. The primary focus should remain the interests of South Sudanese to realize and reap peace dividends.

By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey

Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Want to help save African wildlife? Visit Africa.

Nairobi — Standing in the pop-out of a Land Rover just a few yards from Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos in the world, at Ol Pejeta in central Kenya, was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.

The last two massive members of this subspecies live under armed guard 24 hours a day in a 700-acre enclosure here. Ol Pejeta is the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa.

In an era when purpose-driven, transformative experiences are the ultimate travel luxury, a visit to Africa should be at the top of any traveler’s list.

Americans are often inspired by African wildlife: there was outrage two years ago when Cecil the lion was shot by a hunter in Zimbabwe; the Trump administration took heat last year when it said it would overturn a ban on the sale of elephant trophy imports from Africa; and in March, when the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died here at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the severity of rhino poaching got international attention.

For those who really want to help save African wildlife, I offer the same advice that Elodie Sampere, Ol Pejeta’s head of conservation marketing, gave to the group of journalists I was traveling with: “The best way to help is to visit, not donate.”

One of the most exciting parts of being here is seeing what the locals are doing to help conserve and protect the continent’s iconic species. Donating to causes from afar helps, but spending money in person shows the local communities that the animals are more valuable alive than dead. And in a selfie-driven era, visitors spread the word far more effectively about the importance of saving these delicate ecosystems.

Beyond that, experiences here can be life-changing, as mine were at Ol Pejeta. More than 85,000 visitors come here annually, taking game drives through Ol Pejeta’s plains, where I encountered elephants, lions and chimpanzees. The high amount of rainfall in this region compared with other parts of Africa means more vegetation, and Kenya’s highest density of wildlife outside of the Maasai Mara. The reserve uses advanced fencing techniques to facilitate the movement of wildlife while, as much as possible, keeping poachers out.

Visitors can either stay at a number of lodges on the conservancy or nearby, as we did, at the Fairmont Mount Kenya. Tour operators like Intrepid Travel offer trips that focus on visiting the last two northern white rhinos and donate part of their profits to protecting them.

Guests at the Fairmont Mount Kenya don’t even have to leave the property to get a taste of animal conservancy. The resort’s founder, 1950s film star William Holden, was a hunter turned conservationist who also founded the onsite Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, which raises and rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife with the goal of releasing them back into the wild.

You can get far more up close and personal with cheetahs at the conservancy’s orphanage than you would in the wild. And cyclists setting off from the resort through the conservancy can see the rare white zebras, which are being bred and hopefully released back to the wild, as well as the mountain bongo, one of the most endangered animals in the world.

By Johanna Jainchill

Qatar lifts exit visa system for migrant workers

Qatar lifts exit visa system for migrant workers

By BRIAN NGUGI

Hundreds of African migrants employed in Qatar as domestic workers, cleaners, drivers and chefs can now come back home freely after the Middle East nation abolished its controversial exit visa system, which requires foreigners to obtain their bosses’ permission to exit the country.

Qatar authorities said on Sunday the “Law No 13 of 2018… regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates would be implemented effective this week.

Kenya on Monday welcomed the move saying it raises hope of an end to mistreatment of locals seeking bread and butter in Qatar. It asked other middle east nations to follow suit.

“It is a welcome development of putting to an end a heinous and outmoded system that has sinister echoes of a dark and oppressive time of shackled labour and slavery,” Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said in an interview yesterday.

“We welcome the development and hope that Qatar’s enlightened leadership will resonate across the Arab Middle East, where similar systems of denial of free passage of peoples and labour continues to cause great difficulties and suffering among migrant workers and even some professionals,” Mr Kamau said.

Kenya has over the years called for abolition of the exit visa system as it had long been abused by employers who would confiscate passports of workers.

Most Kenyan migrants are employed as domestic workers and are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, violence, rape and sometimes murder.

Many of them who have returned home from Qatar and other Middle East nations have come back with harrowing tales of mistreatment, torture and abuse by their employers, with many blaming the exit visa system for their predicaments.

But under the new law, all but five per cent of a company’s workforce-reportedly those in the most senior positions-can leave without prior permission from employers.

Those not allowed to exit Qatar “for any reason” can file a complaint to the Expatriate Exit Grievance Committee that will “take a decision within three working days”, the Qatar ministry was quoted as saying.

Employment contracts involving migrant workers in the Middle East are based on the ancient Bedouin principle of kafala, which many liken to modern-day slavery.

What was once essentially a code of hospitality – that encouraged families to host travelling strangers and treat them as one of their own – has evolved into the sponsorship of migrant workers, which gives employers enormous control over their employees. Common practices include the withholding of wages, confiscation of passports and long working hours in substandard or inhuman conditions.

Domestic workers, who are obliged to live in their employer’s homes, are particularly vulnerable to physical abuse, sexual violence and various forms of mental cruelty, while the almost total lack of labour laws for migrants provides little scope for redress.

Kenya in September 2014 announced a ban on export of labour to Middle East countries but later lifted it last year after instituting reforms that included vetting of recruitment agencies.

In 2013, the Kenyan embassy in Riyadh rescued more than 800 Kenyans languishing in Saudi jails.

Source – Daily Nation