News in Brief
UN General Assembly President, Peter Thomson, visits Ethiopia
IGAD holds a Special Summit on Somali refugees….
…and considers the humanitarian situation in South Sudan
The Nile Council of Ministers hold an extraordinary meeting in Uganda
More resources urgently needed to avert humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn…
…..but claims that drought appeals in the Horn of Africa ignore Eritrea
Somalia’s new cabinet approved by Parliament
State Minister Hirut at a High-level Climate Change action event in New York
Successful Seminars in the Netherlands on sustainable business in Ethiopia….
…and enhancing the Ethiopian-Scottish partnership
Ethiopia shows the way for growth without increased greenhouse gas emissions
News in Brief
Africa and African Union
The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government held a Special Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday last week (March 25), under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia. It was attended by the Presidents of Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda and the Vice President of Sudan and representatives of international bodies. It discussed durable solutions for refugees and the effective reintegration of returnees to Somalia. (See article)
The IGAD Assembly in Nairobi on March 25 also held discussions on the situation in South Sudan and called for unconditional opening of all possible humanitarian corridors to allow safe access to affected populations. (See article)
The Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) held an extraordinary meeting in Entebbe, Uganda on Monday (March 27), to facilitate the resumption of Egypt’s full participation in NBI activities. (See article)
On Monday this week, the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, reinforcing its last week’s appeal of aid for 16 million people needing assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan, highlighted the devastating impact of the continuing drought and famine can have on children and their education. UNICEF says 51% of children are out of education, the highest proportion of children not attending school in the world. Some Eritrean NGOs have become concerned about the lack of any mention of Eritrea in these appeals. (See articles)
The Finnish government has allocated over £18 million (over $20 million) to five countries affected by humanitarian crises caused by drought and conflict – South Sudan (£7.6 million, Uganda (£2.2 million), Somalia (£5.5 million), Ethiopia £0.75 million and Nigeria (£2 million). Another 1.5 million euros goes to Yemen. The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Kai Mykkänen, said: The Horn of Africa is facing the worst food crisis in recent history with some 20 million people suffering, “Finland must be among those that are providing assistance.”
Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly made an official visit to Ethiopia this week (March 28-30), meeting President Dr. Mulatu Teshome and other officials as well as visiting the Bole Lemi Industrial Park. He also met AU officials and spoke to the AU Permanent Representatives Committee on the work of the General Assembly. (See article)
Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn on a visit to Zambia held talks with Zambian President Edgar Lungu on bilateral and issues of common concern. The Prime Minister expressed Ethiopia’s keenness to heighten relations. Despite long standing relations, he said, links between the two countries had not reached the desired level but Ethiopia was now preparing to open its embassy in Lusaka. The Prime Minister said peace and security, economic and energy areas were among the major items of discussion. President Lungu appreciated Ethiopia’s development and its efforts to resolve regional problems through IGAD.
Foreign Minister, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, on a visit to Zambia, participated in the first meeting of a joint Cooperation Commission with Zambia’s Foreign Minister, Harry Kalaba, to extend bilateral relationships. The objective of the Commission is to consolidate diplomatic ties and enhance cooperation in economic, political and social issues, encourage utilization of and monitor implementation of agreements between the two countries.
Dr Negeri Lencho, Minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office, says the Government is working to ensure the safe return of citizens from Saudi Arabia, following Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a 90 day amnesty for all illegal immigrants living in the country. A national task force has been established to effectively coordinate the safe return of nationals and protect their rights.
An Ethiopian delegation led by Dr. Arkebe Oqubai, Minister and Advisor to the Prime Minister has been presenting Ethiopia’s key strategies and achievements in developing infrastructures and manufacturing and promoting the Ethiopia’s investment and export priority areas to business seminars in Britain and in the Netherlands this month. (See article)
State Minister, Mrs. Hirut Zemene, attended a High-Level Sustainable Development Goals Action Event on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in New York on Thursday last week (March 23). (See article)
State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Hirut Zemene met with Ambassador Ghazi Abdulla Binashoor, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Ethiopia on Thursday (March 30). Discussions covered a range of bilateral issues including the holding of a joint ministerial commission meeting and boosting investment and trade as well as strengthening cooperation on regional peace, stability and development in South Sudan and Somalia.
State Minister, Hirut Zemene met Ambassador Heba Elmarasy, Director of the Egyptian Diplomatic Institute on Friday (March 31). They expressed their keenness to draw lessons from each other’s Foreign Service institutions and forge partnerships in educational and cultural areas, enhancing the capacity of their respective diplomats.
State Minister, Hirut Zemene, meeting with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia Michael Keating on Tuesday (March 28. She reiterated that Ethiopia remained committed to help the strengthening of the security, stability and development of Somalia. Mr. Keating gave details of the International Conference on Somalia in London in May which aims to expedite progress on security and drought response as well as agree on the partnership to help Somalia advance towards 2020.
State Minister, Hirut Zemene met with an Italian delegation led by Luciano Pezzotti, Italian Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa on Wednesday (March 29). Italy is Co-Chair of the IGAD Partners Forum, and the Special Envoy, who has been in Somalia earlier in the week, underlined the commitment of the Partners Forum to support implementation of IGAD programs. Mrs. Hirut said Ethiopia valued the regular exchange of ideas with Italy. She called for more support from partners in capacity building and supporting economic stability for Somalia as well as expediting pledges to help Somalia cope with the drought.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael, held talks with Ms. Maureen Achieng, Business and Diaspora Affairs and Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration to Ethiopia and Representative to the African Union, IGAD and UNECA on Thursday (March 30). The two sides exchanged views on f working together for the safe return of Ethiopian immigrants residing in Saudi Arabia following the ninety days amnesty that the Government of Saudi Arabia has given to all illegal immigrants living in the country.
Organized by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Diaspora Engagement Affairs Directorate General, the 2nd Diaspora Coordination Office Consultative meeting opened in Hawassa on Friday (March 31). The forum will discuss current issues related to the newly introduced proclamation of the Saudi Arabian government on foreigners who hold no legal papers and residence permits
State Minister Dr. Aklilu Hailemichael met with a Turkish business delegation led by Mr. Iamam Altibas, Chairman of Altinos Holding, a Turkish company specializing in cotton processing and the garment industry on Thursday (March 30). The two sides explored prospects of investment and business in Ethiopia.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Aklilu Hailemikael, met with a Japanese Delegation led by Mr. Tetsuro Yano, President of the Association of African Economy and Development on Monday (March 27) for discussions on Ethiopia’s industrial parks development, a new area for bilateral engagement. They agreed the need to widen cooperation at bilateral and continental levels, to cover investment, trade, financing, and technology transfer and policy dialogue. Mr. Tetsuro said Japanese companies were looking forward to invest in the infrastructure and Industrial Parks’ development, energy and the water sector.
The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia condemns in the strongest terms the heinous and barbaric killings of six aid workers in South Sudan along the Juba to Pibor road on Saturday (March 25). The Government expressed its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the Governments of the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Kenya. It underlined that such deplorable attacks are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motives. It also called on all South Sudanese parties to contribute to the safe, secure, and unhindered access to aid workers across South Sudan.
A three day meeting of the Sudanese-Ethiopian Strategic Forum in Khartoum this week discussed border security, human trafficking and migrant smuggling as well as local and regional security threats, ways to enhance cooperation and exchanges of experience, and strategic military cooperation and coordination. Last October, a MoU provided for increased joint security and military cooperation to fight terrorism. Ethiopia’s Chief of Operations, Lt. General, Abraham Woldemariam and Sudan Armed Forces Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Emad al-Din Mustafa Adawi led the respective delegations.
The Director of West Asian and African Affairs at China’s Ministry of Commerce, Wang Dong, says China is encouraging companies to invest in industrial parks of Ethiopia to support the country’s vision of becoming manufacturing hub. He said there was growing interest from Chinese anchor companies and they were conducting preliminary assessments for investment projects. He said China was evaluating the possibility of an industrial park in Adama and it might start within a year.
The House of Peoples’ Representatives voted to extend the State of Emergency by four months on Wednesday (March 29), passing a bill entitled “State of Emergency Proclamation for the Maintenance of Public Peace and Security Renewal”. The Secretary of the Command Post, Siraj Fegessa, said the emergency decree should be extended to reinforce the peace and stability gained since October. Changes in operation have included lifting of curfews close to industrial sites and an end to arrests without court orders and to travel restrictions for diplomats.
Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Hailemichael Abera, has visited Scotland to encourage interest in investment opportunities in Ethiopia, holding talks government officials, MPs, investors and CEOs, and academics. He also held discussions with the Ethiopian Diaspora in Scotland. (See article)
A delegation of Sudanese members of parliament on a visit to Addis Ababa met with the Speaker of Ethiopia’s House of People’s Representatives, Abadula Gemeda, on Wednesday (March 29). Discussions covered a range of issues of common concern with both sides agreeing to jointly work together on bilateral and regional matters of common concern and bolster ties between the respective Parliaments.
New research over the last year shows that Ethiopia has demonstrated it is possible to “decouple” decouple development from rising Greenhouse Gas emissions. Figures show that between 1999 and 2012, while the population increased and Gross National Income multiplied significantly, Greenhouse Gas emissions, per capita, decreased by over 40%. (See article)
The first state-of-the-art National Public Health Training Center, constructed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with funding from the U.S. Government was inaugurated on Tuesday (March 28) today at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute. Costing 150 million birr, it will strengthen the development of Ethiopia’s health care workforce at the national level.
President Isaias told the 7th Congress of the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) on Monday (March 27) that the vision of nation building of the last 25 years included sustainable improvements in the quality of life, increased productivity for genuine economic growth, building extensive infrastructure in all sectors, creation of substantial employment opportunities, and organizing a professional, experienced and highly disciplined labor force. He hoped the Congress would map out a road map for increased job opportunities, and for work ethic and labor productivity in all sectors.
Direct flights between Mogadishu and Nairobi resumed on Thursday (March 29) when first commercial plane carrying 49 passengers from Mogadishu landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport shortly after 1.00 p.m. The re-launch of direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu was agreed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed during President Mohamed’s visit to Kenya last week.
The Kenyan government has extended the 12-hour curfew in the border region of Mandera for three months. Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said in a notice issued on Tuesday (March 28) that the curfew would remain effective until June 28. The towns affected by the curfew, which lasts from 6:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., include Mandera Town, Omar Jillo, Arabia, Fino, Lafey Kotulo, Elwak and their surroundings extending to 20 km from the Kenya-Somalia border.
President, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed attending the Arab League Summit in Jordan this week told the meeting: “Somalia faces many challenges, including recurrent droughts and famine, and most atrocious of all, terrorism.” Terror attacks that caused unimaginable loss of lives and destruction of property were the biggest affront to progress and stability in Somalia, he added.
The Federal Parliament has endorsed the new cabinet appointed by the Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire last week after several days of discussion. (See article)
On Wednesday (March 29), US President Trump signed a directive saying, certain parts of Somalia will be considered “areas of active hostilities” by the United States for the next six months. This means US military commanders have more freedom to strike targets they believe are affiliated to Al-Shabaab without reference to Presidential authority. General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander US Africa Command said last week that greater authority for local commanders would lead to more flexibility and quicker targeting.
A high-level conference to discuss ways of promoting the inclusion of minorities in the affairs of the country, and help foster lasting peace and stability opened on Wednesday (March 29) in Mogadishu. About 100 participants are attending the three-day conference funded by the Danish government, and organized by AMISOM in partnership with the Somali Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs.
The government of Puntland has officially re-launched a multi-party political system. This was announced by the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission in Garowe on Saturday (March 25). President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said he was committed to implement the democratization process and hold local council elections this year.
Somaliland will hold its presidential election on November 13, following months of delays, its electoral commission said Tuesday (March 28). The electoral body announced that it had concluded the registration of about 870,000 voters.
A spokesperson for President Kiir said on Friday last week (March 24) that the government had rejected the deployment of regional protection troops from outside the region. Regional troops would be acceptable but not those from outside the region. The government also rejected any idea that the force should cover Juba airport. Last week, UN peacekeeping chief Henri Ladsous said the first troops for the Rapid Deployment Force would be from Nepal, Bangladesh, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
President Al-Bashir told the Arab league Summit on Wednesday (March 29) that Sudan was ready to receive agricultural investments from Arab countries to achieve Arab food security. He said: “Sudan is one of the pillars of Arab food security and we look forward to receiving more Arab investments, especially after the lifting of U.S. sanctions”. Sudan has 175 million feddans of arable land, 118 million feddans of natural grassland nature and 102 million head of livestock. A Feddan is 0.42 of a hectare. A feddan is a unit of area equivalent to 1.038 acres (0.42 ha).
The third session of the strategic dialogue between Sudan and the United Kingdom concluded in Khartoum on Wednesday (March 29). A statement from Sudan’s foreign ministry said they had discussed a number of bilateral issues including peace in Sudan, human rights, culture, development, trade and investment, human trafficking and illegal migration, terrorism and violent extremism and defense cooperation.
The Sudanese and Saudi air forces started two weeks of joint exercises this week. The aim is to improve the capabilities of the two air forces and their techniques for operations against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. General Abdel Khaliq confirmed on Sunday that Sudan would be purchasing a number of Sukhoi 35 fighters from Russia.
UN General Assembly President, Peter Thomson, visits Ethiopia
This week, Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, made a three day official visit to Ethiopia (March 28-30) During his visit, he met with President Dr. Mulatu Teshome and other officials as well as visiting a number of developments including the Bole Lemi Industrial Park as well as touring the National Museum. Mr. Thomson’s visit to Ethiopia was part of a tour to several African countries to build momentum and reinforce and recognize commitment towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
He also met high-level AU officials and spoke to the AU Permanent Representatives Committee on the current and future work of the General Assembly. He held meetings with AU Commission officials and the Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union and Special Representative to the African Union, Haile Menkerios, to discuss the SDGs, AU-UN cooperation and peace and security challenges in the continent.
The President of the UN General Assembly met President Dr. Mulatu Teshome at the Jubilee Palace on Wednesday (March 29) to discuss ways of further speeding up concerted cooperation in areas of regional peace and security focusing on strengthening Partnerships against Peace and Security Challenges in the Horn of Africa, and moving forward in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the continent. One reason for Mr. Thomson’s visit to Ethiopia was to recognize Ethiopia’s noteworthy contributions during the formulation of Goal 9 of the SDGs. This encompasses three important aspects of sustainable development: infrastructure, industrialization and innovation. Mr. Thomson noted that Ethiopia’s industrial development policies were a central factor in its implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda. He said the Industrial Parks’ development going on in Ethiopia was a key mechanism towards fulfilling the country’s sustainable development requirements.
After visiting the Bole Lemi Industrial Park, Mr. Thomson said Ethiopia’s efforts to undertake rapid industrialization could be taken as a very good example to others nations. He said he had seen “factories where four thousand people carry out their jobs in clean and modern working environment. This is inclusive industrialization. I think Ethiopia is very proud of the way it is going.” He noted he himself had involved in the garment industry in the past so he knew what it looks like: “I can see very good condition and productivity. Congratulations to Ethiopia!”
He also added that it was very important thing that Ethiopia’s industrialization was being based on renewable energy.
Mr. Thomson was briefed on Ethiopia’s pro-active approach, aligning and mainstreaming the SGDs in the country’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II). The SDGs as adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015 address a wide range of development issues reflected in the three ‘Pillars’ of sustainable development, which encompass economic, social and environmental spheres. As a globally agreed blueprint for the years 2015-2030, the SDGs are a major point of reference for development actors at the national, regional and global levels to ensure sustainable development. Ethiopia went through rigorous and wide ranging pro-active consultation to align the Sustainable Development Goals with the national Growth and Transformation Plan. This has been operative for the last couple of years, and Ethiopia is fully on course in the implementation of its development plans.
There is, of course, a need to move from commitment to results of the SDGs, there is the need to move from commitments to results. The means of implementation targets under Goal 17 and under each Sustainable Development Goal are key to realizing the global common agenda, which is supported by the concrete policies and actions outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. This is critical for ensuring that no one is left behind globally in implementing the SDGs. Underlining the progress being made, Ethiopia has volunteered for review during this year’s High Level Political Forum) session in July 2017. This is a testimony of its commitment and efforts to implement and realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mr. Thomson was also updated on Ethiopia’s cooperation with regional, continental as well as International Organizations, including the UN, AU and IGAD, as well as its commitment towards the United Nations and its unwavering support for collective security. The UN Assembly President praised Ethiopia for its significant and active participation in efforts to address peace and security challenges in the region and for its leading and longstanding contribution to United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts. Strongly committed to further bolster collaboration with the United Nations on wide range of issues, Ethiopia has demonstrated an instrumental role in maintaining collective peace and security. It is a leading military- and police-contributing country to UN peacekeeping operations. Among other areas of collaboration with United Nation initiatives, Ethiopia has shown consistent support to the Secretary General’s initiative to reinvigorate the peace process in South Sudan. In this regard, it has also welcomed the outcome of the discussions that have taken place between the UN, AU and IGAD to facilitate strategic consistency among the three organizations.
IGAD holds a Special Summit on Somali refugees….
The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government held a Special Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, on Saturday last week (March 25), under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn of Ethiopia, the Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly. The Assembly was attended by President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed of Somalia; President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan; President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, and Vice-President Hassabo Mohamed Abdul-Rahman of the Sudan, as well as Abdulraqeb Seif Fatch, Yemeni Minister of Local Government and Chairman of Relief Higher Committee, the Executive Secretary of IGAD; the Secretary General of the United Nations; the Chairperson of the African Union Commission; the European Union Special Representative to the Horn of Africa; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; the UNHCR Special Envoy for the Somalia Refugee Situation; the Chairperson of the IGAD Partners Forum; and Special Envoys of Norway, UK and USA.
The Summit was to discuss protection and seek durable solutions for refugees and their effective reintegration of returnees to Somalia. It was organized in order to find a collective and comprehensive regional approach to deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees, while also maintaining protection and promoting self-reliance in the countries of asylum, with the support of the international community. It strongly supported the strengthening of security and stability in Somalia. It demanded the United Nations provide sustainable and predictable funding to AMISOM through assessed contributions. It agreed that the Federal Government of Somalia, in an all-inclusive manner, should lead all efforts related to stabilization and reconstruction of Somalia and enhance Somali ownership of State-building, peace building and national reconciliation. It also noted the upcoming London conference and suggested that the conference should take in to account the Resolutions of this Summit.
Opening the Assembly, Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Dessalegn applauded the timing of the summit, noting, “This meeting could not be more timely to address the predicament of the Somali refugees”, indicating that now was the appropriate time for Somalis to return and rebuild their country. He said the election of the new President of Somalia in February and of the Parliament last December marked milestones in the country’s post-conflict transformation. He noted Somalia President Mohamed had a lucid vision to develop Somalia and address the problem of refugees. Prime Minister Hailemariam called for enhanced capacity for the Somalia Government to win the war against Al-Shabaab in order to ensure peace and security. He urged the need to strengthen and properly support the government of Somalia and assist the process of building capacity for its democratic institutions. In addition, he encouraged development partners and financial institutions to continue supporting the resilience of refugee hosting countries and facilitate the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of refugees.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the IGAD leaders agreed on the Nairobi Declaration on Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees and Reintegration of Returnees in Somalia. They agreed to collectively pursue a comprehensive regional approach to deliver solutions for Somali refugees, while maintaining protection and promoting self-reliance in the countries of asylum, with the support of the international community and consistent with international responsibility-sharing as outlined in the New York Declaration’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework. They also agreed to create an enabling environment for safe, sustainable and voluntary return and reintegration of Somali refugees.
The Summit agreed to facilitate the voluntary return of Somali refugees by addressing the root causes of displacement, violence and armed conflict to achieve the necessary political solutions and the peaceful settlement of disputes; to accelerate and scale up stabilization and reconstruction efforts with effective participation of women; and provide support to the Federal Government of Somalia through increased and coordinated regional engagement in security institutions, specifically the Somali National Army and the Somali Police Force. They also agreed to support strengthening of security and stability, by enhancing AMISOM and reinforce its capacity and that of Somalia’s National Security Forces of Somalia to deliver assistance to the civilian population; accelerate provision of basic services and livelihoods through increased planning and investment in development to facilitate the voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returnees and IDPs; undertake a comprehensive survey of the skills of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons to strengthen the State-led Durable Solutions Initiative (DSI) for return and reintegration in Somalia in keeping with the National Development Plan (NDP); and create enabling conditions for the Somali Diaspora to continue to contribute the recovery of the Somali economy.
Specifically on solutions for refugees, the communiqué underlines strengthening the protection of refugees and responding effectively to the drought, mobilizing resources and coordinating efforts of international agencies, host communities and refugees to prevent environmental degradation and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems in refugee hosting areas; maintaining asylum space and, with the support of the international community, improving the living conditions of refugees and host communities; and enhancing education, training and skills development for refugees. It calls for States to align domestic laws and policies, in line with refugee status and expand alternative arrangements to refugee camps and facilitate the free movement of refugees and their integration into national development plans and access to services; as well as adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach to refugee protection and assistance, create a better environment for Somali refugee women by mainstreaming gender in all instruments, policies, programs and action plans and strengthen the capacity of governments in host countries and Somalia for the delivery of services.
The communiqué calls for support for host countries to help them maintain protection in countries of asylum and respond effectively to the drought affecting the region, and strengthen the capacity of countries in the region to contribute to the protection and provision of assistance to Somali refugees and enhance policies of national unity and social cohesion that strengthen peaceful co-existence between Somali refugees and host communities. It supports the commitment by the Federal Government of Somalia to organize a National Forum on refugees and IDP solutions in line with the National Development Plan, and agrees to maintain the solidarity and generosity of States and communities in the region towards Somali refugees by continuing to provide asylum to persons in need of international protection. It also agreed to the creation of an IGAD Multi-Donor Trust Fund channeled through the Government of Somalia to support and facilitate the creation of an enabling environment and the rolling out of durable solutions, including safe, sustainable and voluntary return of refugees, as well to mobilize support and resources for the development of borderland areas and cross border co-operation, and strengthen existing regional mechanisms, including the IGAD Ministerial Committee on refugees and migrants, and other sectoral ministerial committees to coordinate, implement and monitor commitments to durable solutions for Somali refugees.
The communiqué calls on international actors to honor and translate pledges made into concrete support for Somalia, and for International Financial Institutions and others to accelerate Somalia’s debt relief process and provide access to financial assistance to facilitate development. It encourages increased involvement and engagement of development actors and the relocation of humanitarian and development actors to Somalia in order to further support assistance, stabilization and recovery efforts. This would be a confidence building measure. It called for the international community to enhance resettlement for Somali refugees as well as expediting third country admissions and enhance coordination and coherence between all actors, including, where possible, the integration of humanitarian and development responses, for the effective delivery of programs in support of Somalia’s peace building and state building processes. It called upon the international community, in the spirit of responsibility-sharing, to provide the requisite resources to support IGAD Member States, humanitarian and development actors to implement the Nairobi Comprehensive Plan of Action for Durable Solutions for Somali Refugees, requested development actors and multilateral donors to mobilize resources to promote alternatives to refugee camps and invited humanitarian and development actors, including the private sector, Somali Diaspora, International Financial Institutions, regional development banks and bilateral donors, to combine their efforts, and strengthen collaboration and inter-linkages in support of durable solutions.
…and considers the humanitarian situation in South Sudan
The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government holding its 30th Extra-Ordinary Summit on March 25 in Nairobi also held discussions on the situation in South Sudan and called for unconditional and swift opening of all possible humanitarian corridors to allow safe access to affected populations. The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) was tasked to confirm this action within a week. This urgent call for unimpeded humanitarian access to affected areas of South Sudan came after briefings given by the President of South Sudan and the Vice-President of Sudan as well as the Assembly’s deliberations on the current situation in South Sudan.
The Assembly expressed its deep concern over the worsening humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and called for all necessary measures to be taken to save lives and forestall extension of famine. It welcomed the donation of the President of the Republic of the Sudan of 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian supplies to the people of South Sudan, and his to ensure that the humanitarian supplies reach the intended beneficiaries.
The Assembly condemned the proliferation of armed groups in South Sudan, and urged all armed elements to renounce violence as a means of solving the problems of South Sudan. They urged all factions to immediately stop the fighting. In response to this call, the Government of South Sudan agreed to announce a unilateral ceasefire and grant amnesty to those that renounced violence. The Assembly, welcoming the position taken by the Government of South Sudan to announce a unilateral ceasefire and offer amnesty, urged all actors to join in the national dialogue.
With respect to the relations between Sudan and South Sudan, the Summit urged both sides to ensure that their territories were not used by any armed groups that threatened the security of either countries or the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). The Summit encouraged all parties to fully commit to the implementation of the ARCSS, and, in particular, to focus on security sector reforms in order to build a republican army to guarantee the safety and security of South Sudan and its people. It further called for South Sudan to work towards building an encompassing political process determined through a credible election, in which all South Sudanese had an opportunity to determine their leaders and hold them to account.
With regard to the role of the Member States of IGAD, the Summit reiterated the continued and collective engagement of IGAD Member States in the search for lasting peace, security and stability in South Sudan. In this regard, it also emphasized its commitment to the revitalization of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission. The Summit called upon all parties to fully cooperate with JMEC and avoid any impediment to the movement of the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM).
The Nile Council of Ministers hold an extraordinary meeting in Uganda
The Nile Council of Ministers (Nile-COM) held an extraordinary meeting in Entebbe, Uganda on Monday (March 27). The item on the agenda of the meeting was discussion of facilitation of Egypt`s resumption of full participation in the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). This has been frozen since 2010.
Last year, a Special Committee of the Nile-COM was set up to engage with Egypt over the issue of resumption of full participation in the Nile Basin Initiative. The Special Committee was mandated to listen to Egypt`s “concerns” over resumption of its activities in the Nile Basin Initiative. This followed a decision of the 24th Nile-COM meeting of 14 July 2016 and the discussions that followed during the 45th Nile Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC) held in November last year.
The Special Committee met on March 13 and listened to Egypt`s “concerns” at a meeting in Khartoum, and then prepared a report to submit to the Nile Council of Ministers. At the extraordinary meeting of the Nile-COM on March 25, the Special Committee presented its report and Nile-COM responded to the “concerns” of Egypt. Nile-COM noted that the concerns raised by Egypt were related to the Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile (CFA), which had been signed by the majority of the countries of the NBI and ratified by three of therm. Its response emphasized that the two processes, the CFA and the NBI were separate and it was up to Egypt to decide whether it wanted to rejoin the NBI or not. The Egyptian delegation then requested more time to review the response of Nile-COM and promised to study, consult and report back with a formal reply.
The Nile-COM ministers also stressed that what was good for the Nile was enhancement of cooperation by building on the experience of the NBI. The Ministers also underlined that it was important to move forward rather than continue to look back.
Ministers of Water Affairs of Nile-COM members of Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Sudan and South Sudan and also the Minister of Water and Irrigation of Egypt attended the meeting. Kenya was represented by the Principal Secretary for Water and Irrigation, and the United Republic of Tanzania by its Deputy High Commissioner to Uganda. DR Congo did not participate in this meeting. The Nile Basin Initiative has ten permanent members. These are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Eritrea has observer status.
More resources urgently needed to avert humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn…
The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the worst drought to hit the region in 60 years and leaving more than 10 million people in urgent need of food assistance. In Somalia, southeast Ethiopia and northern Kenya, the march to May rainy season is expected to yield below-average rains. The UN has officially declared famine in parts of South Sudan. This month, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs disclosed, in addition to the 100,000 people already facing starvation in Leer and Mayendit, a further 1 million people are on the brink of famine in the country. More than 3.4 million South Sudanese have been displaced, including 1.9 million people internally displaced and more than 1.5 million who have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. The conflict in the country has exacerbated the drought situation to a horrendous level.
Famine threatens in Somalia, where the United Nations has warned that millions of Somalis are on the verge of famine due to drought. It says $825m in urgent funding is needed in order to avert disaster. Extreme lack of access to water is a key driver of the crisis in arid areas like Somalia. Due to the depletion of water sources, some communities are relying on buying water, with prices rising sharply and becoming beyond the reach of many. It’s predicted that the entire south of Somalia might face famine within the next two months.
Other countries in the Horn of Africa are being severely affected by the drought. The government of Kenya has declared a national disaster and estimates that the current number of people needing assistance has risen to 3 million. The number is expected to rise to 4 million by July. In mid-March, the UN and humanitarian partners launched an appeal for US$165.71 million to reach 2.6 million people with life-saving assistance and protection for the next 10 months.
The Government of Ethiopia, which managed to control the impact of last year’s El Nino climate phenomenon with its strong disaster management system and assistance from partners, has launched its 2017 Humanitarian Requirements Document, looking for US$948 million to help supply 5.6 million people with emergency food and non-food assistance this year and increase their reliance. The government, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended for its response to last year’s drought, has already launched effective efforts to deal with the problems in a more coordinated way. National and sub-national committees have been established to oversee the distribution of relief supplies, which include food distributions, water point rehabilitation, livestock support, health services, and non-food items distribution for affected families. The Government, together with partners, has been able to respond to most of the increased health related needs attributed to drought. To maximize the response capacity, it has divided the most affected woredas in each region amongst operational partners.
Regional states have also begun to realize the value of joint efforts and understand that these are necessary to build stronger resilience mechanisms and lessen the vulnerability of communities in the affected areas. Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia recently agreed the Mogadishu Declaration on Regional Cooperation on the Current Drought. This underlined that while each government was mobilising to respond to the situation, they also believed that this “dire situation” called for international collaboration and “regional partnership between governments, civil society, aid organisations, business and international donors.” The four countries committed themselves to regional cooperation to facilitate a more comprehensive response, agreeing to strengthen cross-border collaboration and increased efforts to establish security and stability in Somalia to ensure an effective response to the drought. They also stressed tier support for provision of appropriate protection and assistance to those compelled to leave their areas of origin as a consequence of the drought. The declaration also added the four counties in the longer term would work together bilaterally and through existing regional bodies such as IGAD, the African Union as well as the United Nations to address the underlying structural issues that commonly affect our economies, environments and communities, including cross-border rangeland and water resource management.
In other words, the Mogadishu Declaration outlines an approach for a more comprehensive response via partnership within and beyond the region. One example of the growing support for joint action, and turning promise into action, came last weekend with the announcement of the Government of Sudan that it was opening a new humanitarian corridor for food aid to be delivered by the UN World Food Program from El Obeid in central Sudan to Bentiu, in Unity State, South Sudan. By opening this cross-border corridor, the Government of Sudan is showing its commitment to the people of South Sudan and further strengthening cooperation with the international community to help pull South Sudan back from a widening famine that could affect another 1 million people. This decision also comes at a critical time just before South Sudan’s rainy season, which starts in May and usually renders roads impassable.
In addition, countries in the affected areas are also acting unilaterally, devising various drought mitigation strategies that include both short-term approaches, such as distributing food and water to those affected and longer-term approaches including planting drought-tolerant crop varieties, or diversifying crop and income bases so that there is something to fall back on when drought strikes. Kenya’s government, for example, is supplying food to areas worst hit by drought and is also working on sustainable long-term solutions such as investing in community water sources to avoid dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Ethiopia, too, has put in place several drought mitigation strategies, including launching its Productive Safety Net Program, which gives rural communities facing chronic food insecurity greater resilience to resist shocks, create assets and become food self-sufficient. In addition, real-time maps generated through a Satellite-Assisted Pastoral Resource Management initiative are relayed to pastoralists who can use them in times of drought to find pasture for their animals.
While these current efforts by governments and local administrations, civil society, NGOs, and the international community to minimize the impact of these repetitive cycles of drought will certainly make a difference, there is also agreement and growing understanding of the need for a more extensive, coordinated and effective approach to lessen the effects of the changing global climate change in the Horn. While projects for disseminating information are already beginning to emerge, the need to create innovative ways to provide available information and solutions to farmers can best be assisted by countries with higher levels of digital technology. Equally, in the short-term, mobilization of other resources are still urgently needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the Horn.
…..but claims that drought appeals in the Horn of Africa ignore Eritrea
In the last few weeks, the international community began to mobilize itself to respond to the critical situation across the Horn of Africa; the impact of the conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia and of the drought that has left millions at risk of famine. In the United Kingdom, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) last week launched an appeal for assistance for 16 million people from Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Underlining the gravity of the situation, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Boris Johnson visited Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya last week to observe conditions on the ground. Others are also mobilizing aid and pledging assistance, UN Agencies, Turkey, Kuwait, Germany and other countries.
On Monday this week, the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, which is made up of 13 leading UK aid agencies, reinforced its appeal for aid, highlighting the devastating impact drought and famine have on children and their education. It said figures released by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs showed that in Somalia and Ethiopia nearly 340,000 school children were being forced out of education due to schools temporarily closing and in Kenya, 175,000 pre-primary and primary school children in ten counties were out of school due to the impact of drought. In South Sudan, statistics released by UNICEF in 2016 showed 51% of children who are primary and lower secondary school age are out of education; the highest proportion of children not attending school in the world. In total, six million school children in East Africa will have their education disrupted if funds aren’t raised and aid fails to be delivered. In Somalia, where children under 18 make up half the population, education facilities, especially in urban areas, have been coming under increasing pressure as more and more people travel around looking for food and water. That’s why Save the Children, a DEC member, has established a number of temporary learning spaces, equipped with teaching materials, to encourage those affected by the food crisis to continue their education. This response aims to reach 56,000 people in Somalia alone. The Chief Executive of DEC, Saleh Saeed, said: “It is shocking to hear that children are dropping out of school due to hunger and to care for their families, but sadly it’s not surprising. Communities are out of food and the drought has led to crops failing and livestock dying, so education is just not a priority. Failure to act now will result in millions of children missing out on an education, which could be devastating in the longer term and could lead to a lost generation of children.”
Mark Goldring Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, talking about the situation in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia hit by back-to-back climate shocks causing devastating shortages of food and water, and complicated in Somalia, by conflict that led to large-scale displacement, disruption of agriculture and the collapse of normal trading and market activities, says the international community and NGOs can prevent people starving and support them through these crises. What the NGOs need, he said, were two things: funding, and access to the people in need.
There hasn’t been any mention of Eritrea in these appeals and calls for action. Some Eritrean NGOs have, therefore, made known their concern over this failure to include Eritrea very clear. In a letter to the Guardian newspaper last week, three Eritrean NGOs said that as members of the Eritrean community they were deeply moved by the appeal for assistance in the Horn of Africa, launched by British aid organizations, but they could not understand why Eritrea was not included in the appeal. Their letter said that the UNICEF report in January had confirmed that the El Niño drought had affected half of all Eritrea’s regions and acute malnutrition was widespread. The letter said that although this situation was confirmed by information smuggled out of Eritrea, it had been denied by President Isaias, who had said in January last year that “the country will not face any crisis in spite of reduced agricultural output”. The writers said it would be unforgivable if the international community now turned its back on the Eritrean people.
It’s not that aid agencies are reluctant to lend a hand. It is that the Eritrean government is reluctant to accept their support. The Assessment Capacities Project, an academic and research institution based in Switzerland, and dedicated to improving assessments of humanitarian needs in complex emergencies through the provision of specific information, says that the Eritrean government severely restricts the access of humanitarian actors inside the country. Very little is known about humanitarian needs: UNICEF estimates that the total affected population is 1.5m. Only a handful of UN organizations, and a few non-governmental organizations, are allowed to operate in the country. Even they find their hands tied behind their backs.
In January 2016, when the first indications of the scale of the drought in the region was becoming clear, the information ministry said, after President Isaias was interviewed by the state media: “In view of the harvest shortfall that has affected the whole Horn of Africa region, President Isaias has stated that the country [Eritrea] will not face any crisis in spite of reduced agricultural output.” The president’s denial of any critical situation developing made it difficult for aid agencies to cooperate with the Eritrean government or to provide aid to the people. In fact, some information has been smuggled out of the worst-affected areas by Eritreans working with the victims of the drought, and from the reports of people who have managed to cross the borders into Sudan or Ethiopia. Despite a ban on mobile phones or cameras into feeding centers, some people have also managed to smuggle pictures abroad. Photographs, taken in recent months, show children wasted from malnutrition and outbreaks of cholera.
In January this year, UNICEF issued a report “Humanitarian Action for Children 2017 – Eritrea”. This noted that 80% of the population depended on subsistence agriculture and that rain-fed agriculture was the predominant economic activity, employing more than two thirds of the population. It pointed out that Eritrea was affected by periodic drought and food shortages and even in times of good rainfall, domestic food production was only estimated to meet between 60 to 70% of needs. Data from the Nutrition Sentinel Site Surveillance system indicated an increase in malnutrition rates over the past few years in four out of six regions of the country. UNICEF projected that 22,700 children under five projected would be affected by severe acute malnutrition in 2017. It said that national data also indicated that half of Eritrean children were stunted in their growth. The vulnerabilities of children now needed to be addressed through collective action, it emphasized.
Certainly, UNICEF does operate in Eritrea, as does UNHCR and WHO. UNICEF says it wants to reach 505,000 children in 2017. It aims to admit 15,000 children under 5 with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), into therapeutic feeding programs; to give 40,000 children under 5, with MAM, targeted supplementary feeding; and 450,000 children under 5, vitamin A supplementation. It aims to immunize 100,000 children immunized against measles, and expects to provide life-saving curative interventions for 50,000 children affected by acute watery diarrhea. Other activities will cover provision of water and hygiene messages, and basic education for 15,000 out-of-school children from nomadic communities. Now, UNICEF is requesting US$11 million to meet the needs of children in Eritrea in 2017 as without these funds it will be unable to support the national response to the health, child protection, WASH and education needs of the most vulnerable children and communities.
Somalia’s new cabinet approved by Parliament
Somalia’s House of the People endorsed Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire’s new cabinet on Wednesday this week (March 29). Acting parliament speaker Abdiweli Sheikh Ibrahim said that 224 MPs voted in favor of the new cabinet, 15 rejected it and two abstained. The cabinet includes a number of members of parliament, eleven of the 27 ministers, nine of the 15 state ministers, and seventeen of the 20 deputy ministers, and there had been some concern that MPs might try to challenge the Prime Minister’s nominations. In the event Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor and the ministers were immediately sworn in by the Chief Justice. And the next day, the newly endorsed cabinet met to discuss important issues regarding the ongoing drought response and rising insecurity in the capital. The meeting also discussed details of the general orientation for cabinet members and the process of familiarization and taking over their new offices. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre said his government would give special and urgent attention to drought relief operations and security. He said it was time to end the cycle of terrorism and insecurity in the country, adding that they would mobilize the society to contain rising insecurity in the capital.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who attended the Arab league Summit in Jordan this week, also stressed security and drought were the major concerns facing the country. He told the Summit that terrorism was the biggest threat to Somali stability. “Somalia faces many challenges, including recurrent droughts and famine, and most atrocious of all, terrorism,” he said, adding, “Terror attacks that cause unimaginable loss of lives and destruction of property are the biggest affront to progress, stability in Somalia.” The President went on to say that “Terrorism is a fast growing tumor in almost all continents. Unfortunately, Somalia has had to endure it longer than the rest.”
President Mohamed also used the occasion to raise awareness of the drastic humanitarian crises facing Somalia as the worsening drought threatens to plunge the country into a famine. He said more than three million women, children and elderly people faced enormous risks if they did not receive immediate support. He attributed the drought to a number of factors including climate change, failed rains and dried rivers which also allowed the easy spread of deadly diseases. Millions of animals had died, he said, diminishing the country’s strongest economic asset. The President said that that for Somalia to overcome its challenges it needed to have realistic plans and “unyielding support from our brothers and friends”. On the sidelines of the Summit, the President also met with King Abdullah of Jordan and discussed with King Abdullah on ways to enhance the bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, including security, trade and investment as well as drought assistance programs.
State Minister Hirut at a High-level Climate Change action event in New York
A High-Level Action Event on Climate Change and Sustainable Development was held in New York on Thursday last week (March 23). The event was organized to deliver a universal push for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to revitalize political momentum on climate change and reinforce synergies between climate change activities and delivering the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. It also sought to increase awareness on the urgent need to invigorate ambition and implementation relating to the 2020 targets of the development agenda and the action required to keep the rise in global average temperature well below two degrees. Member states, indeed, expressed the urgent need to tackle the adverse impacts of climate change by implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.
The President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson in his opening remarks cited the rise of global average temperature and the impact of climate change. He said the world was seeing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity and environmental destruction, along with catastrophic climate events of increased frequency and severity. Basing his hope on the assurances of the scientific community, the President noted the possibility “to bend the curve on current trajectories, if we work together to curb the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions.” This, the President added, “requires that we transform the global economy, and on this front, positive signs of progress are emerging.” He urged the importance of pressing on with the transformational tasks at hand. Otherwise, he cautioned, the consequence will be condemnation throughout future generations.
The President of the Assembly emphasized that implementing the Sustainable Development Goals required massive financial flows into development. This offered enormous opportunity to leverage these investments into activities that could drive action for both sustainable development and for climate change. “Economic transformation of this magnitude”, he said, “is going to drive global growth and job creation while also delivering on the SDGs.” He stressed that it was “in implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that we will find these exponential opportunities.” He reiterated his call for all parties to the Paris Agreement to ratify it without delay and encouraged those who have already done so to stay true to their communal course and deliver on their commitments.
The President said the task of taking action on the scale necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change remained hard. The actions required, he said, included: recognizing the interlinked nature of our efforts to combat climate change, achieving sustainable development, providing humanitarian assistance, managing the flow of displaced people, and sustaining peace, and all at the same time leveraging mutually-reinforcing opportunities for action. Emphasizing the importance of leadership and explaining the difference between a politician and statesmen, the President said: “A statesman is a politician who thinks of his grandchildren. Today is a day for us all to think of the welfare of our grandchildren….. We have time to change our ways and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, taken together with the Paris Climate Agreement, shows us how.”
UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, reiterated that climate change was caused by human activities and had become an unprecedented and growing threat to peace and prosperity as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals. He told the gathering that the world was facing serious risks across the whole of the 2030 Agenda. He said: Food security is under threat around the world due to more droughts; with food insecurity, we must add economic insecurity as scarcities of staple crops cause price surges.” He noted that water insecurity was becoming a growing phenomenon around the world and its scarcity, he said, threatened to become a catalyst for conflict.
Nevertheless, the Secretary-General expressed optimism over the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate and underlined the commitment of the United Nations to help all Member States to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda. He said out of all the United Nations Member States which signed the Agreement, more than 130 Parties had ratified it. He also noted that those same UN Member States recognized that “implementing the 2030 Agenda goes hand-in-glove with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience.” The Secretary General noted positive trends in the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as Sustainable Development Goals and said: “the world is moving towards a green economy. Governments and business increasingly understand that there is no trade-off between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.” In conclusion, he emphasized the necessity of Climate change action; it was also a clear opportunity to advance efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ethiopia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Hirut Zemene, who was delivering a statement of behalf of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, currently chaired by Ethiopia, in her remarks noted the historic achievements of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. She stressed the need to maintain and accelerate the momentum that these had created through the revitalization of global partnership by translating commitments into concrete actions. The State Minister highlighted the complementarity of the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. Both aimed at ensuring “inclusive and sustainable development by promoting long-term and environmental-friendly policies to achieve prosperity for all.” So, she stressed, “These universal challenges necessitate universal approach. Therefore, addressing them requires the widest possible international cooperation.”
State Minister Hirut underlined the fact that climate change, for climate vulnerable countries, is an existential matter. It is not just mere concern in relation to the impediment it presents to development. Recalling the agreement in Paris, which she pointed out was committed to take “an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge,” she stressed the fact that “the vast majority of scientists around the world agree that climate change is happening; and it is changing at a faster rate than ever recorded in human history because of our activity.” It was not possible to continue with “business as usual”; it needed urgent and concerted action. Mrs. Hirut underscored the need to take comprehensive action to combat climate change and its impacts. These required “enhanced political determination, from all countries, particularly from developed countries, so that our planet can support the needs of the present and future generations.”
Noting that the most vulnerable countries are suffering disproportional impact from climate change, the State Minister called for additional financial assistance and technology from the developed countries, particularly for the most vulnerable countries, on the basis of the agreement reach at the Paris Climate Conference. That, she underlined was “a universal commitment that needs to be respected.”
Successful Seminars in the Netherlands on sustainable business in Ethiopia….
At the beginning of last week, a high-level Ethiopian delegation made a working visit to the Netherlands (March 18 – March 22) to carry out promotional seminars on sustainable business, focusing on ‘Horticulture’, and ‘Doing Business in Ethiopia.’ The delegation led by Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Government Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister aimed to inform both the public and private sectors about the present situation, new vision and economic trends in Ethiopia and to seek the support of the Dutch government to encourage private sector investment in Ethiopia. It also intended to update the Dutch private sector about current business opportunities and invite it to participate in Ethiopia’s economic development through investment, through knowledge and technology transfer and through ways to benefits.
During their visit, which had the support of the Dutch Government, the delegation held also talks with Ms. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation on bilateral economic cooperation. Other subjects discussed included assistance on sustainable land management and initiatives and tangible long-term sustainability. The delegation also held discussions with Mr. Kees van Baar, the Dutch Human Rights Ambassador, on human rights in business and investment.
The delegation made a number of visits to discuss aspects of trade and investment. One was to Schiphol-Cargo, to Royal VOPAK, the world’s leading independent tank storage company. They met with Jeroen Verheul, Ambassador at large for Netherlands Foreign Trade and Development. They talked with development agents and knowledge institutions: EP-Nuffic, Solidaridad Europe and Landscape and Wageningen University Research Station. They were also given a presentation on the cool cargo chain by the Flying Swans Consortium, a group of Dutch companies that provide an integrated cross-sectoral approach including finance to enhance development through connecting emerging markets to the global value chain. Other visits were to Royal Floraholand at Aasmeer, the largest trading center for plants and flowers in the world, a field visit to Kuehne-nagel, one of the leading global providers of innovative and fully integrated supply chain solutions, and to Evofendex and Waterwatch Cooperative dealing with trade facilitation and information services with satellite technology for Agrifood, accessible and affordable to all actors in the value chain.
At Robobank-Westland, the delegation participated in a seminar on business opportunities in horticulture with particular reference to the integrated development of horticulture at Hawassa. The seminar, opened by the Mayor of Westbank, attracted more than 70 participants from public and private sectors. Dr. Arkebe gave a presentation on the new vision and economic trends of Ethiopia and Zelalem Meles, Chairman of the Ethiopian Horticulture Association gave an account of the performance and opportunities of the Ethiopian horticulture sector, of the new horticulture hubs at Hawassa, Alagae, Arbaminch and Bahir Dar and the incentives attached to these. Mr. Peter Niekus gave presentation on the way Rabobank, a Dutch multinational banking and financial services company, supports Dutch business in Africa, representatives of Dutch companies involved in investment in horticulture in Ethiopia also gave testimonials on the Ethiopian Horticulture industry. The seminar concluded with a question and answer session and business networking.
The second seminar, on ‘Doing Business in Ethiopia’ took place on March 22. Jointly organized by the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels and the Netherlands-African Business Council at the Common Fund for Commodities in Amsterdam, it was opened by Alex Gruber, Chief Operations Officer at Common Fund for Commodities. Ato Tesfaye Tadesse, Minister Counselor from the Ethiopian Embassy in Brussels, on behalf of Ambassador Teshome Toga, underlined Ethio-Netherlands political and economic relations and the alignment of Ethiopia’s economic diplomacy and its national security policy and strategy with the Netherlands economic cooperation policy of trade, aid and investment. He stressed the pivotal role of the private sectors in enhancement of the policy measures taken by the two Governments, citing the Double Taxation Avoidance and Bilateral Investment Guarantee Treaties concluded between the two Governments. He noted that there were some 135 Dutch companies active in investment, mostly in horticulture, in Ethiopia and there had been successful trade missions as well as the Ethio-Netherlands Business event held in November 2015.
Dr. Arkebe updated participants about the current situation in Ethiopia, and explained the new vision and economic trends in Ethiopia. He emphasized the stability and economic growth of the country and mentioned the commitment of the government to development, dedicating more than 60% of its annual budget to infrastructure, energy and education. He underlined the competitive advantages for foreign direct investment, briefing participants on the current development of 10 world class eco-industrial parks in the country. There are being dedicated to specific sectors including textiles and apparel, leather and leather products, pharmaceuticals and agro-products, and are also geared into commodity production along value chains. He also noted that the parks are closely linked into infrastructure developments, including airports, railway lines, dry ports, and universities. Dr. Arkebe also elaborated on the incentives offered to manufacturers and to developers. As an example, he gave an account of the recently inaugurated Hawassa Industrial Park which specializes in textiles with a generating capacity of a billion dollar annual export revenue and employment for 60,000 employees. Dr. Belachew Mekuria, Deputy Commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, also briefed the seminar on the current investment climate, and the various investment incentives and services provided by the Commission. Ato Yakob Yala, Director of the Ethiopian Horticulture and Agriculture Authority, explained the activities and responsibilities of his organization and gave details of the Ethiopian horticulture sector development and the new horticulture hubs. In addition, representatives of the Dutch private sector in Ethiopia, from Africa Bavaria, Kagan Spices and Steder Logistics also gave presentations about their activities and the business opportunities in Ethiopia.
…and enhancing the Ethiopian-Scottish partnership
Ethiopia has long enjoyed close economic, diplomatic, and cultural relations with the United Kingdom; Great Britain was among the first countries to open an embassy in Addis Ababa at the end of the 19th century. Ethiopia, in turn, was the first African country to establish an embassy in London. Both countries collaborate on many issues of mutual concern at the regional and global levels. At the regional level, the countries are keenly aware of the importance of cooperation on peace and security matters in the Horn of Africa. At the global level, Ethiopia and the UK both have worked together on matters of common interest including the most recent global efforts surrounding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the fight against terrorism and Climate Change. These longstanding relations were underlined by the recent visit of UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson, to Ethiopia, and acted as an important foundation for the recent visit of an Ethiopian Embassy delegation, led by Ambassador Hailemichael Abera, to Scotland, the northernmost member of the United Kingdom.
Ethiopia, in fact, shares a unique historical attachment to Scotland through the 18th-century expedition of James Bruce, the renowned explorer and writer, to Ethiopia. In his travels, Bruce explored the Blue Nile Basin, eventually reaching Gondar, then the capital of Ethiopia, in February 1770, where he was well-received by the public and remained for several years. Today, Scotland, which is famed for its dynamic economy, admired universities and research institutions and vibrant cultural scene, is an important partner in Ethiopia’s journey towards middle-income status. The Embassy delegation travelled to Scotland to encourage and promote partnership and investment opportunities for stakeholders including government officials, lawmakers, investors and captains of industry, academics and universities as well as other members of civil society. Equally, the delegation aimed to hold discussions with the Ethiopian Diaspora in Scotland, to brief them on the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II) and their role in the overall development activities of the country.
During the visit, the delegation held discussions with Dr Alistair Allan, Minister for Europe and International Development in the Scottish Government, to identify opportunities for further bilateral and multilateral level cooperation and to enhance the burgeoning trade and investment relations between the two countries. The recent past has witnessed a steady growth in the number of British companies investing in Ethiopia including flagship investments from Diageo, Pittards, New Age and Kefi Minerals among others. The delegation also held extremely useful meetings with senior staff at Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities as well as the University of West Scotland in Paisley, focusing on facilitating new opportunities for research collaboration with Ethiopian universities through their centers of excellence. Potential partnerships with Ethiopian higher education institutions in medicine, engineering, economics, sport and quality assurance as well as capacity building programs aimed at “Training the Trainers” were identified as priority areas. Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has engaged in a higher education strategy that has seen the establishment of around 40 public universities and numerous technical and vocational institutions focused on increasing technical and scientific capacity at the national level. The universities expressed their willingness to build organic partnerships with counterparts in Ethiopia and emphasized the benefit of strengthening existing relationships.
The delegation also held talks with staff of the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, the Chief Executive and members of the African Forum Scotland and the Scottish Council of Development and Industry (SCDI). These focused on the promotion of key growth sectors in the Ethiopian economy to potential investors. The Ethiopian Government strategy prioritizes target investment areas including manufacturing (textiles and garments, leather and leather products, chemical products, pharmaceuticals, engineering and metal fabricated products, and agro-processing), agriculture, construction and hospitality. There was considerable interest shown in these opportunities. Both sides expressed strong interest in establishing a Trade and Investment Forum in Glasgow in the near future as well as facilitating a sending of a Scottish trade and investment mission to Ethiopia in the near future.
The delegation briefed these organizations on the country’s ambitious industrialization strategy aimed at the development of industrial parks and zones dedicated to productive economic sectors. As a key strategy of GTP II, these have the strong support of the Government, with the Prime Minister himself chairing the Ethiopian Investment Board. The industrial zones, which are being located along key economic and infrastructural corridors across the country, welcome both foreign and domestic investors engaged in export-oriented industries. Ambassador Hailemichael called on Scottish government officials and investors alike to explore further investment opportunities in Ethiopia with a view to creating new markets for Ethiopian products. He stressed the Government was always ready to facilitate and support investors in these endeavors for the benefit of both parties. The delegation’s highly successful visit to Scotland, assisted by the dedicated efforts of Professor John Struthers, Ethiopia’s Honorary Consul to Scotland, and Ahmed Abdi, a member of the Ethiopian community in Glasgow, demonstrated further evidence of robust Ethio-Scottish relations based on the principles of partnership and mutual benefit.
Ethiopia shows the way for growth without increased greenhouse gas emissions
One of the major questions connected with climate change has been whether the development and the improved living standards that Least Developed Countries (LDCs) want and need necessarily require the sort of methods and resource use that caused the environmental damage inflicted by the development of Western countries. Climate negotiations have shown LDCs demand the right to develop their own economies and build their own development in their own way. They have made it very clear they are not prepared to confine themselves to under-development in the name of “carbon responsibility” and particularly not when major developed countries remain reluctant to modify their own activities.
For researcher Stephen Baines one question was whether it was possible for economic growth to be decoupled from increased carbon emissions in Least Developed Countries. Another was whether it was possible to deliver improved living standards for citizens without causing major environmental damage; or as he put it: “can LDCs “leapfrog” dirty technology and move straight to green solutions? Does prosperity always automatically come with a carbon price tag?”
Mr. Baines carried out research in Ethiopia over the last year and much to his own surprise he came up with evidence that it was, indeed, possible to decouple development from rising Greenhouse Gas emissions. He notes that in 2010 Prime Minister Meles firmly committed Ethiopia to highly ambitious goals: To become a Middle Income nation by 2025 and to do this by 2030 without a single additional gram of Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs) from the country’s 2010 levels. These commitments were set out in Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy in 2010, which had three complementary objectives: fostering economic development and growth; ensuring abatement and avoidance of future emissions; and improving resilience to climate change. The policy was based on four pillars: the adoption of agriculture and land use efficiency measures; protection and rehabilitation of forests; deployment of renewable and clean power generation; and use of appropriate advanced technologies in industry, transport, and buildings. There were also elements selected for fast-track implementation covering hydropower potential, advanced rural cooking technologies, livestock value chain, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+).
Mr. Baines points out that it looked very ambitious. A little under a third of the population still live on less than $1.25 a day, so the strategy in effect commits Ethiopia to raise real incomes per person 3.3 times over 15 years, measured by Gross National Income per capita. By the end of this target period there would be over half as many people again in the country. And to achieve Middle Income status by 2025 and by 2030 without increasing Greenhouse Gas emission levels would certainly difficult.
In fact, Mr. Baines says he didn’t believe this was possible when he came to do research in Addis Ababa last year. His study was undertaken in partnership with Oxfam GB, the Environment and Climate Research Center in Addis Ababa, UNDP’s Ethiopia office and the University of Birmingham. He explains that for his research he used World Bank statistics of Population, Gross National Income (GNI) and GHG emission, alongside Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy commitments, to calculate how much more carbon-efficient Ethiopia’s Technology would need to become to meet its targets. Using the World Bank figures on population growth and Ethiopia’s commitments to Middle Income status and carbon neutrality, he said, it was possible to calculate that “Technology” in Ethiopia needed to become more carbon-efficient by a factor of more than 4.5 times in the period 2010- 2030, if Climate Resilient Green Economy goals were to be met. He compared this level of technological carbon efficiency gains to those achieved by other nations at times of strong economic growth. He surveyed six other countries between 1999 and 2012, 2 OECD countries, 2 BRICS countries and 2 other developing countries, using the same methodology. None of the other six countries surveyed “were able to rise to the challenge of decoupling on this scale.”
So was there any indication that Ethiopia was getting anywhere near its making real progress towards ambitious commitments? Mr. Baines said using the World Bank datasets he looked at Ethiopia’s recent performance and talked to key players in Government and civil society. “The results blew me away”, he said, “They demonstrate that Ethiopia now has the track record to meet its twin targets if it can just stay on the same trajectory.”
The facts: between 1999 and 2012, the country’s population increased by 43%; national affluence (Gross National Income) increased by 242%; but Greenhouse Gas emissions, per capita, actually decreased by around 15%, and after taking population growth into account, per capita emissions fell by over 40%.
So how has Ethiopia achieved this, asks Mr. Baines. His answer is that it was through making its institutions ready for change. He looked in depth at the capacity of Ethiopia to benefit from climate finance and then focused in on some landmark case studies in investment into “green growth” initiatives, among them the rollout of a national programme of “Eco-Industrial Parks”, securing international private investment in construction of a major geothermal plant, and ongoing efforts to enhance the take-up of “New Improved Cook Stoves” across the country.
Mr. Baines concludes that on the basis of World Bank figures it appears that at very early stage of development Ethiopia has decoupled absolute GHG emissions from economic growth. He says cautiously that Ethiopia’s achievements might, therefore, “constitute a small, tentative, fragile message of hope”. Indeed, he adds, if growth can indeed be green and the results of growth be equitably shared to relieve poverty, then “we really have a development model which is worth replicating”, and “Ethiopia may have forged a new route for Sustainable Development, a model for other Least Developed Countries to follow.”