The European Commission today has announced it will give €142 million in humanitarian funds to the Sahel region of Africa in 2014, which is once again suffering because of a severe food and nutrition crisis this year. In addition, many people in Mali are in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the situation in the North.
In 2014, severe acute malnutrition rates continue to surpass emergency thresholds in many regions of Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. The lean season, the difficult months between two harvests when food and resources become scarce, has started early for many in the Sahel. One and a half million children are at high risk of severe malnutrition this year.
"Close to three million Sahelians require urgent food assistance, including more than 800,000 people in the north of Mali, while twenty million people in the region suffer from food insecurity. We need to act quickly if we are to get vital aid to the most vulnerable people who continue their struggle to survive as a result of food insecurity, natural disasters and conflict," said International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.
"We should also not forget that many of these people are displaced, having been forced from their homes," said the Commissioner. "As we help people to survive our focus continues on building the resilience of the local population. That is the only effective and sustainable way to end the cycle of emergencies in the Sahel and to put a stop to food insecurity and malnutrition for millions of people. New funds are essential to make this possible."
The EU funding will provide €57m in emergency relief for people affected by the overall Sahel food and nutrition crisis, €28 million to assist victims of the Mali crisis, €7.5m for the food crisis situation in Nigeria, where the North is experiencing the most challenging situation; €29.5m for Chad, which is in a complex crisis with an increasing number of refugees; and €2m for North Cameroon. An additional €18m is planned in EU development funding to provide relief and rehabilitation assistance to build resilience in northern Mali.
This funding will prioritise life-saving nutrition care for children and mothers and provide food assistance, access to basic health services and clean water for the most vulnerable people. It will also ensure that hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people in West African countries continue to receive vital aid.
Since the beginning of the Sahel crisis in 2012, the European Commission has mobilised €383.4m in emergency aid for both the Sahel and Mali crises. The EU’s early and substantial humanitarian response to the food crisis and the conflict has helped guarantee access to basic health and nutrition services, clean water, shelter and food for some of the most badly hit and vulnerable people in the region.
Since the beginning of 2012, the European Commission has already mobilised a total of €132m in humanitarian aid for Mali. In parallel to its emergency aid, the EU is also promoting a concerted effort with governments of the region and international partners to build the resilience of the most vulnerable people in the Sahel through the AGIR alliance. To this end, the European Commission recently announced its intention of mobilizing €1.5 billion in EU development funding from 2014 to 2020 to help build resilience in the Sahel.
EU sanctions: Commission publishes specific provisions concerning Syria, Libya, the Central African Republic and Ukraine
The European Commission has adopted three opinions on the application of specific provisions in the Council Regulations on EU restrictive measures (sanctions) concerning Libya and Syria, the Central African Republic and actions undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine. They concern 1) changes to two specific features of frozen funds: their character (sanctions concerning Libya) and their location (sanctions concerning Syria); 2) the release of frozen funds by way of enforcing a financial guarantee (sanctions concerning the Central African Republic) and; 3) the prohibition to make funds or economic resources available to listed persons (sanctions concerning the territorial integrity of Ukraine). While Commission opinions are not binding on competent authorities or EU economic operators, they are intended to offer valuable guidance to those who have to apply and follow EU sanctions. They will support the uniform implementation of sanctions across the EU, in line with the Communication on the European economic and financial system: fostering openness, strength and resilience.
Financial Services, Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said: “EU sanctions must be implemented fully and uniformly throughout the Union. The Commission stands ready to assist national competent authorities and EU operators in tackling the challenges in applying these sanctions.”
EU sanctions are a foreign policy tool, which, among others, help to achieve key EU objectives such as preserving peace, strengthening international security, and consolidating and supporting democracy, international law and human rights. Sanctions are targeted at those whose actions endanger these values, and they seek to reduce as much as possible any adverse consequences for the civilian population.
The EU has arond 40 different sanctions regimes currently in place. As part of the Commission's role as Guardian of the Treaties, the Commission is responsible for monitoring the enforcement of EU financial and economic sanctions across the Union, and also ensuring that sanctions are applied in a way that takes into account the needs of humanitarian operators. The Commission also works closely with member states to ensure that sanctions are implemented uniformly throughout the EU. More information on EU sanctions here.
In a world of imperfect information, institutions should reflect African realities
COVID-19 has plunged the African continent into a full-blown recession. According to the World Bank, the pandemic has pushed up to 40 million people into extreme poverty across the continent. Every month of delay to the vaccine roll-out programme is estimated to cost some $13.8 billion in lost GDP, a cost counted in lives as well as dollars, writes Lord St John, the crossbench peer and member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Africa.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Africa has also dropped as a result, with investor confidence dented by weak economic forecasts. The rise of ESG investing, which sees investments assessed on a range of ethical, sustainable and governance metrics, should in theory be channelling funds into worthy projects across the continent to bridge this gap.
Ethical investment principles applied in practice, however, can in fact create additional barriers, where the evidence needed to meet ESG requirements is unavailable. Operating in emerging and frontier markets often means working with imperfect information, and accepting a degree of risk. This lack of information has led to African countries obtaining among the weakest ESG scores across international rankings. The Global Sustainability Competitiveness Index for 2020 counted 27 African states amongst its bottom 40 ranked countries for sustainable competitiveness.
As someone who has seen first-hand the social and economic benefits of entrepreneurial projects in African nations, it makes no sense to me that a supposedly more ‘ethical’ approach to investing would discourage investment where it would do the greatest social good. The financial community has further work to do to generate metrics that take account of uncertain environments and imperfect information.
The countries in greatest need of foreign investment often come with unacceptable levels of legal, even moral risk for investors. It is surely to be welcomed that the international legal systems is increasingly holding companies to account for corporate behaviour in Africa.
The UK Supreme Court’s ruling that oil-polluted Nigerian communities could sue Shell in the English courts is sure to create a precedent for further cases. This month, LSE listed Petra Diamonds reached a £4.3 million settlement with a group of claimants who accused it of human rights abuses at its Williamson operation in Tanzania. A report by Rights and Accountability in Development (RAID) alleged cases of at least seven deaths and 41 assaults by security personnel at the Williamson Mine since it was acquired by Petra Diamonds.
Finance and commerce must not be blind to ethical concerns, and any involvement in the sorts of abuses alleged in these cases should be roundly condemned. Where there is conflict and where there are human rights abuses, western capital must stay well away. When conflict gives way to peace, however, western capital can be deployed to rebuild society. To do so, investors need to have confidence that they can operate in post-conflict zones without exposure to spurious legal claims.
Leading international lawyer Steven Kay QC recently published an extensive defence of his client, Lundin Energy, which has faced an extended ordeal in the court of public opinion, regarding its operations in southern Sudan between 1997 and 2003. The case against Lundin is based on allegations made by NGOs some twenty years ago. The same allegations formed the basis of a US lawsuit against Canadian company Talisman Energy in 2001, which failed due to a lack of evidence.
Kay is withering about the quality of evidence in the report, specifically its ‘independence and reliability’, saying it would not be ‘admissible in an international criminal investigation or prosecution’. The key point here is the international consensus that such allegations are dealt with by the appropriate institutions, in this case, the International Criminal Court. In this case, the company has faced trial by NGO and the media, while, it is claimed, activists have ‘shopped around’ for a jurisdiction which will accept the case. The public prosecutor in Sweden, having considered the case for an extraordinary eleven years, will decide shortly whether the wholly improbable case that the Lundin Chairman and former CEO were complicit in alleged war crimes in 1997 - 2003 will be pursued as a charge for trial or will be closed down.
I am by no means an expert on international or indeed Swedish law, but in Kay’s description, this is a case where the public narrative has far outrun the limited and imperfect information we have regarding the facts on the ground. Western companies operating in post-conflict zones are rightly held to high standards and are expected to be partners in countries’ economic development. This simply will not happen if part of the cost of doing business in these countries is to be pursued for decades by spurious legal claims.
Africa has a grim history of heinous crimes committed in the name of Western capitalism, there can be no doubt of that. Wherever they operate, Western companies should form social and economic partnerships with their host countries and communities, maintaining a duty of care to the populations and the surrounding environment. We cannot, however, assume that conditions for these companies will be identical to conditions in established markets. International institutions, standard setters and civil society should be mindful of African realities when fulfilling their right and proper role of holding companies to account for operations in Africa.
Agriculture: Commission approves a new protected geographical indication from South Africa
The European Commission has approved the registration of 'Rooibos'/'Red Bush' from South Africa in the register of protected designation of origin (PDO). 'Rooibos'/'Red Bush' refer to the dried leaves and stems cultivated in the Western Cape Province and in the Northern Cape Province, a region which is known for its hot dry summers and cold wet winters. ‘Rooibos'/'Red Bush' has developed some unique characteristics to adapt in this harsh climate and presents fruity, woody and spicy flavours. It is harvested each year during the hot summers and is sun dried just after harvesting. The tea court process is often described as an art form and is one of the most critical parts of the ‘Rooibos'/'Red Bush' production process with specific know-how and expertise required. The use of the dried leaves and stems of ‘Rooibos'/'Red Bush' as a tea was first documented almost 250 years ago. Since then its fruity, sweet taste has resulted in it being a cultural icon of South Africa. There are currently 262 geographical indications from non-EU countries registered. More information in the eAmbrosia database and in the quality schemes pages.
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