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Since 1998, the Maternal Mortality Update, a biannual publication of UNFPA, has documented strategies, partnerships and projects for reducing maternal mortality and morbidity in the developing world. This year's update focuses on the importance of skilled attendance at birth for improving maternal health, which is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. It was published in collaboration with the Skilled Attendance For Everyone (SAFE) research study and the Initiative for Maternal Mortality Programme Assessment (IMMPACT), Dugald Baird Centre for Research on Women?s Health, University of Aberdeen. This report summarizes recent trends in maternal mortality, examines the importance of medically trained attendants who have emergency backup, and offers approaches for improving the level of care women receive during childbirth. A companion booklet, Into Good Hands: Progress Reports from the Field, provides examples of policies, research and activities aimed at improving skilled attendance.
This booklet, a companion to the Maternal Mortality Update 2004, documents research and interventions to improve skilled care at birth throughout the developing world. It includes an overview of efforts by UNFPA and its partners in policy and advocacy, training, health system improvements and community mobilization. It also includes summaries of strategies developed by the SAFE (Skilled Attendance For Everyone) research study to address skilled attendance in five very different situations (in Bangladesh, Ghana, Jamaica, Malawi and Mexico). The publication highlights the range of approaches and entry points required to address the various constraints to providing skilled delivery care that arise in different contexts. Published in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen.
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Introduction: Mangrove forests surrounding the country are increasingly facing serious threats of destruction. At present, the large-scale businessmen who are engaged in the prawn fishing industry, have already destroyed more than 6000 acres of mangroves in the Puttalam district of Sri Lanka. This industry has thus hampered the lives of the fishermen by destroying the mangroves. With the commencement of prawn farming, natural breeding of aquatic species in the wild--such as shrimp, crab and other fish fry-- were affected. In the long run, fish production in the country has diminished, affecting the country's economy. The Mangrove Resource Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota, Sri Lanka With the implementation of the Coastal Resource Conservation programme, a Mangrove Conservation Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota, in the Hambantota district was set up with a concerted effort to focus on the conservation of mangroves and the bio-diversity of coastal resources with a grant of Rs. 2.5 million from the Seacology Foundation, USA, under the auspices of the Small Fisheries Federation, Pambala, Chilaw recently. This Centre, which was officially opened up on July 13th, 2001, was primarily set up as a major step towards protecting the coastal environment. The Kiralakele mangrove forest is being developed with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of the coastal environment among the school children, the adults, the common people and the fisher community in the Southern province of Sri Lanka. 'Kirala' is a mangrove plant, which grows in the coastal areas in Sri Lanka, and Kiralakele (forest of Kirala mangrove (Sonneratia caseolaris)), which is the SFFL Center now being established at Ambalantota, is a captivating site covering 80 acres. This newly restored mangrove forest is earmarked to conserve the trees, fauna and flora, creepers, various aquatic species abounding in the area, as well as birds and insects, for the benefit of future generations. On its own merit, Kirala is a productive plant for the local residents. A delicious and nutritional drink is prepared with the ripe 'Kirala' fruits that contain lots of vitamins. People in the area make a living by collecting and selling the Kirala fruits. The price of a fruit is about five rupees. Kirala roots which emerged from the water level at Kiralakele also have an economic value. These roots are used to turn out bottle toppers (corks). It is also learnt that various aquatic species are natured using Kirala roots. According to local indigenous medicine, Kirala fruits, roots, bark and the flowers are treated as Ayurvedic drugs. The Kirala forest is situated in close proximity to the estuary of the main Walawe river in the Southern part of Sri Lanka. making the area ideal as a fish-breeding centre, Before the intervention of the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka, the Kiralakele was an abandoned forest. This mangrove forest was used to dump garbage and other nefarious activities before the involvement of the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka to develop the forest area. The community will reap benefits with the launching of the development activities with the people's participation.
The destruction of the coastal environmental systems in the Southern province of Sri Lanka began with the non-formal tourism industry and unauthorised and unsystematic constructions. To meet this challenge, the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka (SFFL) has adopted a people-based action programme to ensure coastal resource conservation. SFFL has also taken productive measures to ensure the welfare of the fishermen engaged in deep fishing, as well as the small fishermen who are engaged in their traditional fishing activities in shallow lagoons. In this respect, SFFL is working to protect the fishermen from unscrupuious middlemen. The majority of fishermen use traditional fishing gear, which are not hitherto developed. Their economic situation is below par, and their monthly income is between rupees 2000 to 3000. This social group consists of more than 70 per cent of the whole fisher community. They are represented by the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka. The aim of the Federation is to uplift the living conditions, build up the identity, and conserve the resources of the fisher folk in the island nation. The Federation has launched three major programmes in achieving this goal. One such programme is social development programme of the fisher community. The main low income group of this community are the fisher women and the youngsters. A special programme has been implemented to develop the living conditions of this group. It has been revealed that only 37 per cent of the total number of fisher women in the island had received some sort of education in the local schools. Others have never received any education at all. Further, it has been found that one out of every six fisher-women is a widow. Therefore, these women have encountered manifold difficulties and hardships. It was revealed that the situation of youngsters is worse as one out of 14 children in the fisher community do not attend school and a socialisation programme has been planned for their benefit. The second programme is to improve the nutritional level of the people of the fisher community. The target is to increase the protein content of the meal. The reason for the increase of the protein content of the meal is to minimise severe malnutrition of mothers and children in the fishing community. It was learnt that 48 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 37 percent of mothers are stunted and wasted. Therefore, the Small Fisheries Federation has decided to increase the availability of fish in the reservoirs and inland water bodies. For this purpose, fish breeding centres were set up. The support of the Seacology Foundation for the coastal resource conservation of the land has been greatly appreciated by the fisher folk community and the school children. The Small Fisheries Federation has extended its gratitude to the Seacology Foundation for its assistance to set up the Mangrove Centre at Ambalantota, which is named the Kiralakele Mangrove Resource Centre. The Kiralakele area is developed with the aim of creating an awareness of the coastal environment and its value and worth among the school children in the fisher community and the common people in the area, in the Southern province. It is estimated that more than 800,000 school children will benefit from the Mangrove Conservation Centre. Educational and other facilities are provided to students and other major groups who are engaged in the study of mangrove coastal environment systems. The sole objective of this exercise is to create awareness on this aspect for the benefit of future generations. The State affiliated institutions such as the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, the Southern Provincial Council, Pradeshiya Sabhas, and the University of Ruhuna (Southern) University have extended their assistance to set up the Kiralakele environment centre. This mangrove forest will be developed as a coastal mangrove environment park. The main objective is to conserve trees, flora, creepers, various aquatic species, birds and insects. The casual visitors to the site will doubtless, enjoy a lifetime experience. Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Fisheries speaking at the ceremonial opening of the ultra modern Mangrove Resource Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota said: "It is both our duty and responsibility to conserve mangroves, which are immensely beneficial to mankind...Experts have discovered rare indigenous species of mangroves here. If entrepreneurs cut down these rare varieties for personal gain and advantage, this will be a great loss to the whole island...The fauna and flora that inhabit this vast extent of mangroves at Kiralakele...must be...preserved." Mr.Rajapakse said: "Mangroves should be protected for the sake of prosperity, especially for the sake of our precious children who inherit this land for generations to come. In addition, an overall education should imparted to the residents in these parts regarding the value and worth of mangroves. The study of mangroves should also be included as a subject in the curriculum of schools to inculcate awareness in the students on the vital significance of mangroves..." Mr. Anuradha Wickremasinghe Director , Small Fisheries Federation, Pambala, Chilaw said that, with the help of the Seacology Foundation, SFFL was able to rehabilitate degraded mangroves at Kiralakele, and also has established a mangrove arboretum, and constructed raised walkways and observation areas as an eco-tourism project at this location. SFFL has also launched community- based awareness programs regarding the important role mangroves play in protecting the coastline and acting as nurseries for numerous aquatic species. Mr. Wickramasinghe stated: "We welcome visitors to this Mangrove Resource Center to enjoy the facilities provided. Our main objective is to provide basic information to correct the attitude of many about the mangrove eco-systems, by improving the awareness among the general public in an effort at conservation and management of this valuable resource." Mangrove habitats are unique in their own right, and hence in a mangrove biological garden, a visitor can enjoy a grand spectacle of various plants that are especially adapted to thrive in the harsh environment together with aquatic and terrestrial animals...A mangrove biological garden is indeed a special phenomenon because the mangrove plants have significant forms and functions, which carry out their tasks only in their very particular mangrove habitat. Accordingly, if one wishes to establish a botanical garden for mangroves, he has to take his botanical garden to the mangrove habitat rather than take the mangrove plants to a botanical garden. Hence the Kiralakele Mangrove Biological Garden is the first attempt to meet the challenge of establishing a mangrove park in Sri Lanka,. In this regard, the Small Fishers Federation of Sri-Lanka has exerted its utmost effort to display the mangrove species and associated animal species in Sri-Lanka. To know how a plant can adapt itself to thrive in such a harsh environment will surprise the novices who visit this Centre, and when viewing the mangrove habitat. Any casual visitor who is keen in learning, will know why mangrove plants can be nicknamed 'mammals in the plant world', As they continue to thrive and nourish their saplings or young ones till they are ready to accept the challenges of their difficult habitat...," Mr.Wickramasinghe added. From Christie Fernando-Sri Lanka "
Tsunami strikes livestock farming in South
The tsunami tidal waves have badly affected the livestock farming activities in the Southern region.
Under this situation 544 buffaloes, 362 cattle, 663 goats, 91 pigs, 20,658 laying hens and 15,972 broilers have died.
In addition 6,579 acres of agricultural lands, 2,225 acres of paddy lands, 158 acres of fruit and vegetable lands and 4,100 acres of home gardens have been totally destroyed by the tsunami disaster. Over 3,400 farmer families have been badly affected by this tragedy.
The total damage would be in the region of Rs. 290 lakhs.
The high salinity in these agricultural lands caused by the tsunami is presently being gradually removed and they would be able to bring them under cultivation soon, Hemal Gunasekara, Southern Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Irrigation and Livestock Development told the Daily News.
Coping with poverty coma
The architects of the poverty industry claim that there is enough food to satisfy every stomach and even to make most persons fat. There is at least 4.3 pounds of food available per person per day worldwide, writes Dr. Tofail Ahmed
The contemporary world is getting very rich in devising various sophisticated methods and means for undertaking research on poverty. 'Poverty reduction' has become a very thriving industry by its own merit.
One of the remarkable achievements of the poverty industry is its huge production of smart data on nature, extent, severity and dimensions of poor and poverty. The collection, analysis and presentation of those data in turn created a good bunch of professionals worldwide with a very high level of income prospects.
The number of crude and unsophisticated poor continues to increase and silent genocide of poverty persists in spite of the enlightened accomplishments of all these sophisticated researchers and analysis. The menaces of poverty systematically eliminate a large number of people everyday, albeit the area, volume and dimension of researches and evaluations are disproportionately increasing.
Worse yet, 11 million die every year younger than 5 years of age and more than half of those from hunger related causes. Thirty million people die of hunger every year.
The global revelation of the poverty industry claims that there is enough food to satisfy every stomach and even make most persons fat. There is at least 4.3 pounds of food available per person per day worldwide. Ignacio Ramonet in one of his articles furnishes more startling statistics. The total wealth of the world's three richest individuals is greater than the combined gross domestic product of the 48 poorest countries, which is almost a quarter countries in the world.
As per the UN calculation a levy of less than 4 per cent on the accumulated wealth of 225 largest fortunes would be sufficient to meet the basic needs of entire population of the world. More interestingly, the total cost of world's sanitation and food requirements come to only $ 13 billion, which is hardly as much as the people of the USA and European nations spend every year on perfume.
Long afterwards George Bernard Shaw in his play Major Barbara called poverty 'the worst of all crimes' and he further said, 'all other crimes are virtues beside it'. Perhaps Shaw was also unaware about its thriving professional dimensions.
If so, I am sure, both of them would have changed the content and context for using these two words 'idiot' and 'crime'. The UN goals (MDG) are noble, achievable and bound to be achieved. There are histories of changing goal posts. What happened to the goals such as 'education for all', 'health for all', 'safe drinking water for all', etc. by such and such years? Ten more years are still in hand to reduce global poverty to fifty per cent from the existing level.
We are expecting to bring down our poverty to 20/22 per cent by the year 2015. Let us hope that goal posts this time will not be changed for covering up the failure to score.
Not necessarily the economic and human poverty as the 'poverty experts' explain and analyse. This is the poverty thinking, just coming out of the intelligent heads without much headache to solve it.
Sincere thinking of the concerned people should come directly from their hearts and get it scanned at the level of head. Thinking generated only from head and expressed as lip service is a great disservice to the cause. Bangladesh side by side with its economic poverty is also en-route to a different sort of poverty which cannot be alleviated but only be elevated with the blessings of various poverty projects.
That has been happening for pretty long time and the same may happen in future too. Long live poverty!
PRSP: The million dollar document is now in our hand. For money to flow you need some sort of pipeline.
The name and shape of the latest pipeline is PRSP. You can prepare projects. Put old wine in new bottles. Call it 'poverty focus perfume spraying projects', 'coping with poverty coma', 'survival strategy in monga stricken areas of Northern Bangladesh', etc.
Any name you give but keep few expensive vehicles, some foreign trips, air-conditioned office and fat publicity competent in the budget. The tension of fever has gone with soothing sweat. The million dollar document PRSP is full of clues for new projects. This is really a very good food for project hungry people.
All the time pointing fingers towards unfed, naked, sick and homeless as poor is not giving you right picture.
Look for poor in Dhanmondi, Gulsan, Banani and other places like those. If you consider it is too big a place to find them, enter Sheraton or Sonargaon hotels and some other places like those, you can easily catch them.
I am sure you will find many of the poor people there. They are not only eating, drinking, singing and dancing wishing good health of the poor. How can you eliminate, alleviate, eradicate (whatever term you give) poverty of the country without them.
The high time is either in extreme hot summer or severely cold winter. Arrange a twenty day course for them at Rowmari of Kurigram. Keep them there in huts without air condition and running water. Feed them with ordinary local food and dress them with ordinary Lungi-Shari the villager wear.
Ask them to till land, cut wood for fuel and cook their own food in traditional earthen oven. Let them sleep on the floor in ordinary bed. No telephone and electricity connections. This is the therapy which will give them life time experience on poverty.
One should go through the poverty machine at least once in life. If some one survives the therapy, she/he is really qualified to become a poverty professional.
Mao-Tse-Taung introduced the idea in China during the period of Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. It met with havoc rather than happiness among the urbanites. Because it was punitive and compulsory. In our case it should be voluntary as sincere gesture of expressing solidarity with the poor.
The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, Chittagong University. Currently working in LGED as Consultant.
Courtesy - The News Today
Sri Lanka given USD 157.5 million
International Monitory Fund (IMF) announced that an emergency assistance of US$157.5 million was approved for Sri Lanka in March for tsunami reconstruction work.
“The approved amount became available immediately,” IMF said.
In its twice-yearly assessment issued on Wednesday, IMF said Sri Lanka’s recovery however could take much longer than expected.
Sri Lanka lost nearly two thirds of its fishing fleet and the agriculture has also been damaged in some small areas, the assessment said.
IMF said the damage to Sri Lanka by the Indian Ocean Tsunami is estimated at 4.5% of the GDP.
According to early indications Sri Lankan economy was expected to record a 6% growth rate in 2005. But the IMF said it has now lowered to 5.25% due to tsunami. Full Story
Advancing Sciences at a Time of Tsunami
An unprecedented interest in Earth Sciences has been generated by the Tsunami in Sri Lanka. Indeed, Sri Lankan scientists are writing feature articles, appearing on television, testifying to parliamentary committees and so on.The failure of earth scientists to warn of Tsunami and earthquake risk has been legitimately queried. The shortcomings of the sciences in Sri Lanka are well known- the sciences have been underfunded and marginalized for too long - the ministry of science and technology estimates that barely 0.18% of GNP is spent on sciences whereas a bare minimum of 0.7% is recommended- scientists work without proper support or facilities such as proper libraries, grant schemes or time for research- scientific bodies such as National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka Association for Sciences, Intitute of Physics and such are given far too meager support from the state.- bad governance of scientific institutions sometimes by scientists has undermined work- promotion schemes within Universities have been designed by administrators that undermines academic merit- slower promotions in the Sri Lankan technical services lets junior administrative officers overrule senior scientists and engineers.- science and technology investments in Sri Lanka have been Colombo-centric with perhaps a satellite in Kandy - these facilities are too remote from the populace - as a result science and technology does not garner broad support, input or the vitality.- in the regime of micromanagement of projects by foreign debt and grant managers, scientific services are reflexively sought from overseas, thus undermining local scientific and technological development.In addition, there has been a failure in earth sciences in Sri Lanka. Universities and related institutions have taken steps far too slowly to deal with the growing environmental and earth related problems in Sri Lanka. There are just few good signs all of which we of the Sri Lanka Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology Network have been able to document over the last six years.Long-term preparedness and mitigation of future disasters cannot happen with a robuts and vital local scientific and technological advance. They cannot be served by those in foreign metropolitan centers. The local and have been neglected for too long - the responsibility of course are not only that of the scientists but also the administrators, policy makers and debt managers.At the same time, Sri Lanka has become a focus of scientific studies, of those concerned with the Tsunami. Much funds are being generated by foreign scientists and Sri Lankan scientists serve in the role of local guides who do not have intellectual lead in the efforts. This is unfortunate as expertise on the Tsunami shoudl be developed locally - for it could be one of the few fields that remain open to Sri Lankan scientists to make a contribution of international repute.It is in this context that its best to present this proposal for advancing physical sciences in Sri Lanka. In actually fact, some Prof. Lakshman Dissanayake and myself have been working on this proposal for a year. In fact, this was the last document that I was working on December 25th. This was cleaned up for my visit to Trieste which had been planned a year back to review possibilities of plans to advance physical sciences in Sri Lanka and to explore possibilities for cooperation between ICTP and my own institution. Here is the draft proposal. It is designed mindful of current conditions to foster some excellence in a few places in Sri Lanka. "
Much maligned NGOs fill a gap in tsunami-hit Lanka
NGO-bashing is currently a favourite pastime in Colombo, the capital city of tsunami-hit Sri Lanka. The International NGOs, or INGOs as they are called, come in for special flak. They are dubbed as huge hoaxes, money milking machines, Christian proselytisers, and worst of all, a threat to the sovereignty of the country.
But in the tsunami-hit areas of the island, the victims have a somewhat different view of these organisations. Admittedly, the refugees are not too happy with the temporary shelters built for them by these NGOs, but they are glad that they have some sort of a roof over their heads, and thank these organizations for that.
The government, on the other hand, comes in sharp criticism for utter inaction.
"If any reconstruction work is being done at all, it is done by the NGOs, especially the INGOs," is a refrain one constantly heard in Sri Lanka's North East, the worst affected part of the island country, during a recent tour.
One of the most telling quotes this writer got was from Udumanachchi, a Muslim woman in Sainthamaruthu, a devastated fishing village in South Eastern Sri Lanka, who had lost two of her children in the Boxing Day disaster.
"But for these Vellakaarar (Whites), we too would have perished," Udumanachchi said standing beside a gleaming, tin-roofed, one- room, wooden house built by one of the many international NGOs working in North Eastern Sri Lanka.
"The government does nothing other than giving us food coupons worth Rs 375/- per person per week. Even water supply and debris clearance are done by private organisations, mostly from abroad," said Iftikar, another refugee.
It seems that the people do not know that the government has, by policy, left the construction of temporary shelters to the NGOs. The government is going to concentrate on the construction of permanent houses. But this needs big money, and that is yet to come. The NGOs are thus filling a gap.
However, there may be substance in the other criticism that government is not providing some other essential services, like the supply of water and the provision of health facilities.
"In the immediate aftermath of tsunami, doctors used to visit the camps, but now they do not," said an inmate in a camp in Thirukkovil in Amparai district.
The rations given by the government are also not of good quality, always. "The stomach gets upset," complained KLM Farooq of Poonochimunai, a Muslim camp in Batticaloa district.
Attack on NGOs
However, despite the admitted incapability of the government to handle all the tasks by itself, and its conscious policy of co-opting NGOs and INGOs in the work, stinging criticism of the NGOs and INGOs is in full swing in Colombo. What is surprising (and disturbing as well) is that the worst critics are part and parcel of the government!
The attack on the NGOs comes from the Sinhala-nationalist forces, particularly, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which is part of the ruling United Peoples' Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Full Story..
ReliefWeb Latest Documents on disaster risk
This concept note is prepared in the wake of the Tsunami Disaster of Dec. 26th, 2004 covering several countries of north Indian Ocean and various States/Union Territories (UT) of India. It is proposed to be discussed in an inter-ministerial meeting of relevant Ministries/Departments for appropriate action by all concerned. It covers the following topics:
· Tsunami Characteristics· Do's & Don'ts in pre, during, and post-tsunami time phases· Tsunami Risk in India and its Assessment in any given area· Multi-hazard situation in west and east coast of India and Mitigation Measures· Specific design solutions against various tsunami effects· Warning systems and Communication·
'Measuring Mitigation'. Methodologies for assessing natural hazard risks and the net benefits of mitigation - a scoping study,
This study shows that many of the standard tools used in designing development projects – such as environmental appraisal, economic appraisal, vulnerability and social analysis, risk assessment and logframe analysis – can be used or readily adapted to assess risks from natural hazards and the potential benefits of mitigation options. At present, these often cover risk in the broadest sense (operational, financial, political, etc.) but usually make little reference to natural hazards. Consequently, hazards and related vulnerability are rarely considered in designing and appraising development projects, even in high-risk areas.Another key finding is that monitoring and evaluation is still relatively neglected in disaster reduction work. There is also still too much emphasis on assessment of activities and outputs, rather than impacts. Failure at the project planning stage to provide baselines and clarify the structure of a project’s objectives, outcomes, outputs and activities also handicaps evaluation by making it difficult to identify progress and causality.The study concludes by making a number of recommendations to practitioners and policy makers that will help them to improve their approach to appraisal and evaluation.
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Source: ProVention Consortium, Date: Dec 2004
This working paper synthesises the findings of Phase 1 of a ProVention study on ‘Measuring Mitigation: Methodologies for assessing natural hazard risks and the net benefits of mitigation' (Benson and Twigg 2004).The study shows that many of the standard tools used in designing development projects can be used or readily adapted to assess risks from natural hazards and the potential benefits of mitigation options. However at present, hazards and related vulnerability are rarely considered in designing and appraising development projects, even in high-risk areas. Another key finding is that monitoring and evaluation is still relatively neglected in disaster reduction work. The report makes a number of recommendations to practitioners and policy makers that will help them to improve their approach to appraisal and evaluation.
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Integrating disaster reduction into development: Recommendations for policy-makers
Source: ProVention Consortium, Date: Dec 2004
Disasters are increasingly recognised as a potential threat to sustainable development, poverty reduction initiatives and the achievement of a number of the Millennium Development Goals. Despite this, many development and humanitarian organisations remain reluctant to pursue risk reduction as a key objective, or even to protect their own projects against potential hazards. Instead, in the face of finite aid resources and high associated opportunity costs, rising human and financial losses have been accompanied by increasing demands for more evidence that mitigation ‘pays’. In the meantime, development initiatives are damaged time and time again by disasters while aid resources already committed to further development initiatives are reallocated to finance rehabilitation efforts. This policy brief outlines recommendations for integrating assessment of natural hazard-related risks in project design, appraisal and evaluation. Their uptake depends, of course, on demand for such tools, as well as effective dissemination and use. Related policies and strategies and strong commitment to risk reduction are critical in ensuring that the tools will be revised and applied with due effect.
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Protecting Children in Emergencies
Since 1990,over 2 million children have died as a direct result of armed conflict. At least 6 million children have been permanently disabled or seriously injured,and more than 1 million have been orphaned or separated from their families.
In contrast to a century ago, when only 5 percent of war casualties were civilians, today more than 90 percent of those killed and wounded as a result of hostilities are civilians,about half of them children.
Natural disasters,such as the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, can affect even more children, causing them to lose their homes, their families,their schools,their access to adequate food,water and sanitation and even their lives in a matter of minutes.
Despite these statistics, however, the protection of children remains a secondary concern for the international community in all phases of emergency response. The failure to protect children from these escalating threats not only results in personal tragedy but carries a long-term social cost as well, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, an elevated maternal and infant mortality rate, a loss of education and a generation of marginalized youth.
Protecting children in crises must be a top priority in every stage of every emergency response. This policy briefing details different types of protection children need most in emergency situations and offers recommendations for the international community on how to better protect children in crises.
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Source: The Brookings Institution, Date: Apr 2005
The report calls for greater attention to the human rights protection needs of the more than one million persons forcibly displaced by the tsunamis of December 26, 2004 in twelve countries of South Asia and East Africa. Protection concerns highlighted include:
- Access to assistance- Enforced relocation- Sexual and gender-based violence- Loss of documentation- Buffer and security zones- Discrimination in aid provision- Military presence around camps- Recruitment of children into fighting forces- Safe and voluntary return or resettlement- Property restitution"That these and other protection concerns have emerged in the aftermath of the tsunamis underscores that it is no less important in the context of natural disasters, than it is in cases of displacement by conflict, to examine and address situations of displacement through a 'protection lens,'" the report observes.It recommends a human rights based approach to recovery and reconstruction efforts throughout the tsunami-affected region as well as other parts of the world affected by natural disaster.
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Celebrating unity in diversity
Whatever the conflicts and tribulations, the confusion, the chaos and the sometimes-maddening contradictions, the National New Year is a time to think positive and count our blessings because there is no other way to cope with national despair or depression.
The main and most powerful blessing we need to be conscious of and celebrate as another Aluth Avurudda or Puthiya Andu dawns is the richness of Sri Lanka`s multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-lingual diversity.
At a time like the National New Year we need to renew our commitment not only to accept our diversity but also to respect it and celebrate it. Mother nature itself gives us poignant and powerful lessons on the vast potential and the wonderful harvest we could reap when we accept, respect and celebrate our unity in diversity.
We could look at ourselves, the human body, for the greatest and most important lessons of the wonderful results that come from unity in diversity. We don`t need textbooks, concepts or theories for those lessons but our very lives and nature would show it to us beyond doubt.
Every part of our body is different; the roles and functions are varied. The eye plays its own unique and important role while the nose plays another. The ear also plays a vital role but we could imagine how outrageous or monstrous we would look if our whole face is one big eye, nose or ear. That is the horror of uniformity, but, tragically, many of us have been misguided into seeking such uniformity in our daily lives and relationships among people of different races, religions or cultures. Instead of a tendency or temptation to seek a monstrous uniformity, we could all make a new year resolution to move towards a beautiful and lasting unity in diversity by accepting, respecting and celebrating the diversity in race, religion, language and culture.
Mother Nature, our greatest teacher has more bountiful examples for us in this beautiful April, a time of harvest and holidays, flowers and sweet showers.
Let`s take a flower garden for instance and the most beautiful of all flowers, the roses. The very nature and essence of the flower garden would be the diversity or the different varieties of varying shapes and colours. While the rose is beautiful in itself, it would be ugly and counter-productive if the garden were filled with one rose variety. Unfortunately our distorted minds tend to seek that kind of uniformity and the National New Year is an auspicious time to let go of those one-fact thoughts and hide-bound attitudes.
Not only flower gardens but also even the very core of our country`s, civilizations and economy and agricultural fields provide vast lessons in diversity. While rice is our staple food it would be monstrous and devastating or deadly if our whole country is one big paddy field, because we would all end up with big stomachs overloaded with starch and perhaps drop dead soon.
It is our first National New Year after the worst natural catastrophe in the history of our country - the 26/12 tsunami and the multi-faceted consequence from it including the continuing fears of another tsunami or earthquakes. This first post-tsunami New Year needs to be a time for deep reflection on how fragile life is and how foolish it is to build castles in the sky or sand castles without a solid foundation.
Sri Lankans often boast of four great religions but it seems that like many other countries, we are being swayed or influenced by another monster that is fast taking the place of religion - the market and its core values of self-interest and individualism. The National New Year needs to be a time of honest and humble reflection and acknowledgement that we are caught up in a pigsty or mud hole. We need an individual and collective turning away from self-interest to selflessness, from dishonesty or humbug to honesty and from self-seeking personal agendas to sincerity and sacrificial service for the common good of all."
Dec 26 earthquake would cause landslides in Sri Lankan hill country
Tuesday, April 12, 2005, 11:20 GMT, ColomboPage News Desk: A senior geologist has warned that due to the December 26 earthquake in Sumatra, there would be major landslides with the rains in areas of Kandy, Matale and the Uva Province. Senior Geology Professor C.B Dissanayake said, ''The December 26 earthquake seems to have disrupted surface layers in Kandy, Matale and the Uva Province.'' Sudden mudflow from the ground, cracks in buildings, and fluctuations in water levels would be experienced in these areas, he said.
The National Building Research Organization has found evidence to indicate that the December 26 Sumatra earthquake was powerful enough to upset the surface layers in the hill country, he added. "
TakingITGlobal Press Release
Toronto, Canada, March 31st 2005 - Think that a computer card game, e-cards, and online blogs can help end global poverty?
TakingITGlobal (TIG) does. In partnership with the United Nations Millennium Campaign, TIG aims to empower young people to add their voice to the global fight against poverty, and campaign for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in their local community.
Developing a comprehensive MDG Campaign Kit including an action guide, brochures, bookmarks, stickers and postcards, are among TIG's partnership contributions. Further, TIG is soliciting articles about the Goals from its 80,000 plus members through a team of regional youth editors based in different parts of the world. However, the most significant component is TIG's launch of an MDG monthly theme and web portal on April 1, 2005: mdg.takingitglobal.org
The theme's unique technology informs, inspires, and involves users. There's an MDG Card Game where players have to match 8 pairs of virtual cards (each pair presenting one Goal), and answer trivia questions about the Goals in order to win a prize pack. Plus, there are MDG e-cards to e-mail to raise awareness about the MDGs and lobby governments to achieve them, and important background and statistics are on the site, too.
Action Blogs give active young people the chance to post updates about the action they are undertaking to help achieve the MDGs, and others to find an idea that suits them.
The web portal will be translated into four languages: French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. This gives the greatest amount of the world's youth accessibility to the activities.
"I can't find words matching my own excitement about being a part of such a project," said Olexi Kuzmenko, who is based in Ukraine and part of TakingITGlobal's team to engage young people on the ground to become actively involved around the MDGs.
About TakingITGlobal: TakingITGlobal is an international organization, led by youth, empowered by technology. TIG brings together young people in more than 200 countries within international networks to collaborate on projects addressing global problems and creating positive change. TakingITGlobal's main program, the TakingITGlobal.org online community, now receives over 45 million hits per month. Founded by young Canadians in 2000, TIG has launched projects with six UN agencies, and is supported by several major corporations, including HP, Microsoft, and RBC Financial Group.
About the Millennium Campaign: The Millennium Campaign was launched in October 2002 to encourage citizens around the world in their efforts to hold governments to account for the promises they made at the September 2000 Millennium Summit, where government leaders from the highest political level of every country in the world agreed to a set of eight time-bound targets that, when achieved, will end extreme poverty across the planet. Working at both the national and international levels, the ambition of the Campaign is to inspire a global movement to achieve the Goals and eradicate extreme poverty by 2015."
Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations
Effective Capacity Building in Nonprofit Organizations brings some common language to the discussion of capacity building and offers insights and examples of how nonprofits have pursued building up their organizational muscle. The report contributes to the growing national conversation about how to help nonprofits become stronger, more sustainable, and better able to serve their communities. McKinsey & Company prepared the study at the request of VPP. McKinsey also developed a practical assessment tool for this report that nonprofits can use to measure their own organizational capacity. We hope that nonprofits and funders alike find value in this report. ''
The full report
Ten steps to a results-based monitoring and evaluation system
UN issues Mid-Term Review of Flash Appeal Funding
The United Nations on Thursday (06) issued in Geneva a Mid-term Review of its flash appeal for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Flash Appeal which had been issued on January 06, was originally for $977 million and covered a six-month period. With the mid-term review UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, extended the Flash Appeal’s duration to 12 months and increased the total request to $1.087 billion. Ninety-two governments have thus far pledged $5.8 billion, with several billion more raised by private individuals and corporations.
In issuing the Mid-term Review Mr. Egland praised the "extraordinarily effective emergency relief effort," but drew notice to all the world’s other "neglected emergencies" that remain woefully under-funded. He cited a growing frustration in the post-tsunami reconstruction phase throughout the region, where houses have yet to be rebuilt and livelihoods restored. He said that the world community had to avoid a loss of momentum and needs to redouble its efforts in the coming months.
Regarding Sri Lanka, the Mid-Term Review shows that humanitarian emergency operations have been generally well funded while sectors such as critical infrastructure/environment, shelter/non-food items, restoration of livelihoods, agriculture and capacity building remain under funded. The January Flash Appeal had totalled US$ 157,250,671 for Sri Lanka, with US$ 155,723,646 of that being for the UN agencies, and the remainder being for the efforts of some international NGOs. As of March 1, contributions had reached US$ 128,478,571 of which US$ 122,258,657 was targeted to the UN agencies. The funding level as of 1 March stood at 77 per cent of that requested in the original Flash Appeal and represents a total shortfall of US$ 39.4 million, of which US$ 34 million was intented for the UN agencies. As of March the UN and its agencies had spent approximately US$ 54 million or 35 per cent of the amount contributed.
The support provided through the Flash Appeal has played a significant role in the immediate post-tsunami emergency humanitarian relief effort. Needs have generally been met with virtually all tsunami-affected people fed, protected from illness and disease and with more than 85 percent of children back in school. In addition, in most affected areas, people have gained access to adequate water and sanitation. Much debris has been cleared, particularly on main corridors and virtually all roads have been made accessible.
By extending the Flash Appeal to the end of 2005 funding can be more precisely and effectively targeted to where it is most critically needed between now and the end of the year. It is also an opportunity for donors to identify and support those projects that to date have been underfunded.
How and where longer-term reconstruction funding ultimately gets targeted awaits the finalization of the Sri Lankan Government’s National Reconstruction Plan; the results of the Second Phase of an International Financial Institutions/UN-led Needs Assessment – due to be completed by the end of April — and the finalization of a UN "W3" (Who, What, Where) survey, that is currently being compiled, on the activities and funding of NGOs involved in tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts nationwide. As these initiatives are finalized, a 24-month Transition Strategy from Relief to Recovery — which includes the period since the tsunami struck — is being developed, in consultation with the Government and other major stakeholders, by UN agencies. It will be completed by the end of May 2005.
Public Sector Transparency: What Works?
This Special Report on Public Sector Transparency illustrates current international trends in advancing transparency through civil society, government and the media. Through extensive interviews with leaders across a range of sectors as well as survey feedback from Development Gateway users, this Report explores the practical issues of ensuring openness in governments around the world. Posted April 11, 2005
Psychology workshops for Tsunami Emotional Relief
To help in the re-building process of the nation post tsunami, The Institute of Personnel Management Sri Lanka (IPM) recently sponsored and hosted a free workshop to harness the energy of the Sri Lankan people to aid the enormous tsunami emotional relief program.
The workshop was initiated and facilitated, with the help of the IPM Sri Lanka, by Dr. Chintha Dissanayake and Mrs. Gloria O'Donoghue, Chartered Psychologists of the British Psychological Society, who donated their time and expertise to the program.
The main focus of the workshop was on advancing the level of knowledge and understanding of the psychology of grief and emotional recovery, highlighting the needs associated with each stage of adjustment - especially within the context of the recent tsunami disaster; and imparting the skill and confidence required to recognise the needs of survivors and be able to help and support them or make them aware of appropriate support available / needed.
Individuals with a keen interest in familiarising themselves with the psychological effects of loss and grief, particularly in relation to the recent tsunami disaster, were attracted to this one day workshop.
The program was based on well-established theories and models of psychology including that of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross's psychological model of understanding Grief and Loss, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. From a more practical standpoint, volunteers were guided through practical exercises in skills such as effective communication, active listening & questioning techniques and developing empathy. These skills were highlighted as being vital in any emotionally sensitive support effort.
In addition to finding the theory interesting, participants found the practical exercises particularly useful. Many commented on how valuable these skills would be in day-to-day life as well as within the context of helping survivors of the recent disaster.
Seminar on spices and essential oil Industry
A Training Seminar on "Recapturing the Glory of the Spice and Essential Oil Industry through Science and Technology" organized by College of Chemical Sciences is scheduled to be held at Hotel Trans Asia, Colombo on Wednesday April 27, 2005 from 8.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
The proposed seminar is ideally suited for Industrialists, Agriculturists, Research Scientists, University academics, Postgraduate students and Technical staff engaged in spices and essential oil industry. It is another one in a series of continuous education programmes for professional development.
Professor J.N.O. Fernando, Dean, College of Chemical Sciences, in a news release states that this seminar of national importance will be conducted by an eminent panel of experts in the field. The resource persons identified are Dr. R.O.B. Wijesekara (Consultant-Link Natural Products). Mr. Sarada De Silva, (Former Chairman Spice Council). Mr Ranjith Ganemulla (Director Operations- Paints and Generals Industries), Professor Tuley De Silva (Visiting Professor, University of Sri Jayawardenapura), Dr. (Mrs.) Krishanthi Abeywickrama, (University of Kelaniya), Mr. K.R. Dayananda. (Senior Research Officer Industrial Technology Institute).
The objectives of the seminar are to educate about the novel process technology methods available, quality control methods, and current developments in value added products, current development in agriculture products, role of the Spice Council in promoting the industry in Sri Lanka and to provide opportunities for collaborative activities among stakeholders.
In this context the following topics will be covered; Methods of utilization of spices and essential oils and constraints, Novel technologies in spice and essential oil industry, Role of Spice Council in developing market strategies for spices and related products, Value added products from spices and essential oils, Developing Agricultural Products from spice and essential oils, Quality assessment and analysis of essential oils and a panel discussion.
24 MPs on overseas tsunami missions but no experts
Twenty four government and opposition MPs have taken wing to several countries on tsunami early warning system study tours unaccompanied by a single official or expert on natural disasters, parliament sources said yesterday.
These MPs split into four groups left for Germany, Japan, Australia and Turkey on NGO- funded excursions, while a team of experts and officials sanctioned by President Chandrika Kumaratunga will be representing the country at a regional meeting later this week on establishing an early warning system.
The majority of the MPs who left over the weekend are members of the recently appointed parliament disaster select committee, while a few MPs who are reportedly not linked to the mission have also joined the foreign trip, the sources said.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister A.H.M Fowzie yesterday charged that the select committee which was set up to study the lack of national preparedness during the December 26 tsunami, had no right to go abroad and study tsunami early warning systems.
`The committee was appointed to assess the shortcomings the country faced when the tsunami struck`, he said.
The Minister said though he was the minister in charge of matters relating to natural disasters, it was disappointing that he was not consulted by the parliamentarians who went on the mission.
Meanwhile, an official Sri Lankan delegation appointed by President Kumaratunga will leave for Mauritius on Thursday to take part in an official UNESCO regional meeting on the setting up of a tsunami early warning system.
The team comprises Minister Fowzie, Science and Technology Minister Tissa Witharana, Chiefs of the Meteorological department and the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, a representative of the National Aquatic Research Agency and a Foreign Ministry official. "
He says that the challenge for Sri Lanka is to find ways to reframe its rich diversity as a source of strength, instead of being a cause for conflict and stresses the importance of developing an additional to the existing ethnic identities, i.e. an identity as a Sri Lankan. He spoke to Sunday Observer staffer, Ranga Jayasuriya on a gamut of issues ranging from globalisation to the ethnic conflict.
There are four crucial global trends relevant to Sri Lanka. Firstly, the increasing income inequality between the Northern Western hemisphere and the developing world during the last forty years.
But, at the same time relative inequality between the OECD world (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and the Asian countries reduced, that means, while Asia is moving from medium to high level income group, the least developed countries, particularly in Africa are loosing out. There is differentiation in income distribution.
Sri Lanka is in the lower middle income group, which is an interesting position, because it could either become part of this Asian nations closing the gap with the OECD world, or it might be in danger of falling back.
The second phenomenon is what is now described as globalisation, which shapes whole political, technological and ecological development. Unfortunately, the developing world is at the receiving end in this process. They are not the drivers. On the other hand, in Asia, there are countries which are catching up, moving step by step into the group who helps drive this process.
In this respect, there are two models for Sri Lanka. One is the Chinese model, which is more production driven. The other is the Indian model which is more service driven. Sri Lanka has to make a decision on what kind of mixture of production orientation and service orientation it likes to choose.
One aspect which may be heavily disputed in this country is what is described as financial globalisation. This is a difficult trend, because it has led to an unregulated circulating of speculative capital around the world. Traditional culture supporting trade and marketing has been more and more taken up by speculative capital, driven by forces which are more determined by assessments of rating agencies.
As for financial globalisation, we need re-regulation of this market. Otherwise sustainable development all over the world, not only in the developing world, but also in the developed world could be undermined, as we have already seen in the South East Asian financial crisis.
The third trend is what is described as cultural globalisation. There is homogenisation of tribal culture, dominated by Hollywood or Bollywood. On the other hand you have a kind of counter culture. The Stronger the cultural trivialisation more the counter forces. When more people oppose the cultural trivialisation,there is danger that they can be dragged towards more fundamentalist tendencies.
The fourth trend is in the political sphere; because of modernisation or urbanisation, more and more people ask for political participation. They do not want to be excluded, they do not want repressive or authoritarian regimes. Politicisation and active participation in politics will lead to more pluralism, because people have different interests according to their identities, according to their communities.
Therefore the main challenge is that how we could find mechanisms that help us cope with the growing diversity. It is not possible to have political regimes, which try to stay homogeneous, on the long run. At the political level we need strengthening local and regional institutions, because, that is where people who are directly affected can articulate their own interests.
If we need to cope with growing pluralism, we have to allow the people to have a voice on the local and regional levels. That is the only way to counter the trivialisation of cultural sphere. Tribal culture is dominated by anglo saxon culture. Therefore it is necessary to cultivate or nurture the traditional culture of other religions so that there is a counter balance for the globalisation.
What is important for Sri Lanka, a country which has opened up itself to globalisation is strengthening the local and and regional communities as much as possible, because they are the most sustainable counterweight to global trends which would otherwise undermine the local culture.
Big Asian countries like India and China have found their own way of balancing globalisation, given their weight it is easier for them. As for Sri Lanka, with its rich culture, it also has so much to offer, and has the capacity to withstand forces and strengthen local identities.
It is also a challenge to Sri Lanka to find how its rich diversity could be reframed instead of being a burden or a reason for struggle and conflict.
South Africa is perhaps the best success story of this kind. South Africa was transformed from an exclusionary polity of apartheid regime to a rainbow nation.
It is crucial to develop an additional to the existing cultural and ethnic affiliations, for instance an identity as a Sri Lankan. In the process of nation building, inclusivity is the most crucial aspect. For sustainable peace or just peace, all communities who are affected by any kind of agreement must be involved in the process of identifying solutions. It is necessary to enhance the inclusivity of all negotiations, of all movements towards a common understanding on what kind of Sri Lanka, that communities of this country would like to see.
With reference to constitutional mechanisms which would help to achieve just peace, the principle of subsidiarity will be very helpful, meaning that the governance should always take place at the lowest possible level of governance.
For instance challenges of post-tsunami reconstruction in Galle, Matara and Batticaloa should better be handled by local authorities close to the people. The stronger the local officials are, the more capacities they have for effective political administration. Therefore subsidiary is a very useful principle to guide the construction of State formation. But it is up to the parties and stakeholders to decide as to what kind of State formation is adequate for this country.
All the parties to the conflict are willing to settle the conflict through negotiations, but they differ in the way to do it. Therefore a challenge for all the parties is to engage in a process which would allow them to move what is called 'positional bargaining' in conflict resolution to another attitude called 'principled negotiations'.
The joint mechanism is often portrayed in the media as one sided giving in to the other, or making concessions. That is one way of looking at it. However, negotiations are a process which both sides can learn from joining to solve the problem. They are looking at ways to organise post-tsunami aid effectively; they have to look in to the best way of fulfilling post tsunami relief needs. That should be the guiding principle in the negotiations. If one looks at federal countries around the world, many of these countries have handled the challenge of creating and combining diversity and unity somewhat more effectively than centrally organised States.
Negotiating parties to the ethnic conflict agreed in Oslo to explore a federal solution. It is important to explore as many different possibilities of power sharing, so that parties can be aware of rights of power sharing options. Sometimes, the term federalism is seen in Sri Lanka as a term which provoke either sympathy or hostility. Based on Sri Lankan culture and its historic experience when various kingdoms co-existed, they should find how to organise a power sharing.
Whatever kind of power sharing at the end of the day comes out of the process, should be decided by all the stakeholders of the process.
Constituent communities will have to find how to combine self rule and shared rule. Long on-going protracted social conflicts like the one in Sri Lanka can be addressed, only you see that as an addition of combination of peace and justice.
There can be no sustainable peace without justice; no sustainable peace without the respect for human rights and pluralism.
The number one guiding criteria for conflict resolution is that you must have vision for just peace. Number two we have to look not only on the political side, but also on the economic side. If there is no sustainable economic development there cannot be a sustainable peace. So conflict resolution needs to have a vision on social economic betterment.
Third, all communities should have a share in political decision making. Finally, you need to have an intelligent combination of a good structure and a good process; One of the requirement for a good process is inclusivity. There is no sustainable peace process, without peace dividends. Peace dividends must have economic dimension, not only the relief that there is no body bags coming home, people must feel that something is moving towards the rights direction with respect to the economic wellbeing.
Any government in power has to take that into account. Some however do not take this serious enough; because of that the former government was elected out of power.
The peace process needs an intelligent strategy as to how we can reach those people who otherwise do not see that the peace process has given them any benefits, especially in a society where there is a lot of scepticism and distrust that others might get more than oneself.
Conflict transformation, the term also includes that you should have a comprehensive understanding that you can not just confine the peace process to the leadership level; it must have a comprehensive format where the entire society is involved in healing the legacy of the past and helping all people see that the post- conflict or post- war situation is something where they all benefit. Just as same as people in the South felt that peace dividends had not reached them, people in the North-East feel that there is no tangible peace dividends for them apart from the Ceasefire Agreement. A lesson from other post conflict or post war situation is that if people who are affected could not see tangible results, they can become more and more frustrated and that they can forget that the ceasefire itself is an achievement.
It is obvious, little or no reconstruction has happened. Therefore the principal idea is to have some kind of interim arrangement, which would allow all people to see tangible results coming out of the peace process. So far it is very difficult to achieve, because the two sides want to do it differently from each other.
Any one who takes political responsibility has to see that there is a need to take risk; there is no risk free peace process.
Both sides have to look at their possibilities of taking risk. In some countries this is difficult, because, you are responsible to your constituency. Your constituency expects from you the maximum.
However the art of politics is always the art of possible.
Art of possible in Sri Lanka is to look into how we can do a step by step approach to find common solutions without loosing the rapport with our own constituency.
The LTTE's ISGA proposals many believe are the maximum proposals, it dealt particularly with the aspects of self rule, but there is little component of shared rule.
However, having followed the discussions closely my impression is that it could be the starting point for negotiations and I see the possibility of finding a compromise, that both sides are willing to look at the necessity of combining self rule and shared rule.
At the end of the day , there will be a solution to the ethnic conflict and peace will be based on an agreement where you have to combine shared rule and self rule. Any solution will be on combination the only open question is what kind of combination. In that respect parties have to come together, sit together and discuss it; no side can put their will on the other side. They all have to make concessions and look at a win- win solution, acceptable to all communities and should find ways to organise this co-existence."
A question of transparency
It is to be hoped that Kotelawela will not stop at that but extend the concern and his public-spiritedness to the private sector as well, including NGOs and other organisations which have since sprung up like mushrooms. The government itself would do well to have some control over all such organisations through a process of registration and constant monitoring.
Activities in taking an unsuspecting public for suckers have become a very lucrative trade not only in times of distress but during festivals such as Sinhala/Hindu New Year and Vesak where there is no dearth of charitable organisations, individuals and do-gooders going about house-to-house collecting funds and noting all those who refuse for vengeance later. This has now become a fine-art with the public relenting against their will for fear of reprisals.
Quite apart from these small-timers, the clean up has to commence with big-time racketeers who do not believe in transparency and accountability to those whose funds they collect. In the not-too distant past there were quite a few organisations that emerged in the name of peace and good governance attempting to save the country and the economy.
The country witnessed advertising campaigns and demonstrations hardly witnessed before with membership in these organisations zooming and well-advertised activity in place with funds collected from companies and individuals. TV shows were galore - all costing tidy sums of money. No press advertisements, however, appeared as to how this money was spent and with what returns. The private sector should have indeed set an example to the government on transparency and accountability.
Ironically, there was not a whimper except that the initial enthusiasm of some had waned and funds became a trickle! The public does not hear of them as much nowadays. The lack of transparency and accountability is nothing new on this score considering how some of the public limited liability companies are being run with public shares by a self-appointed few who, although in Annual Reports submitted take great pains to refer to your company etc but keep the public stake-holders in the dark in regard to many a transaction and dealing, virtually treating them like dirt.
Some of them do not show patience and understanding in dealing with shareholder questions and clarifications. Some act like Gogia Pashas in make-believe statements and actions meant only for the moment or the immediate future. Frauds are often covered up by assurances of investigations and even prosecution in Court with due press coverage.
Such 'ingenuine' concern is kept alive even for a couple of years and when it is thought that shareholders have forgotten the issue, the matter is dropped by private arrangement and the accused goes scott free to live happily ever after. Some of the companies are one-man shows though public limited liability companies and therefore authoritarian. Anyone trying to be smart sometimes lay themselves open for letter demands and court action. Employees in certain companies have no option to contribute to various funds, other than the legal ones such as the EPF and ETF.
Either they do it or lose their employment. Such funds are being used in charity and pseudo-philanthropy focusing the image of the company or an individual, when the actual donors are the employees. Whom to tell? Despite all the. "hanky-panky", they masquerade as the purest of the pure covering up all what is happening with talk and deed quite capable of engulfing the confidence of the public with tsunamic effect.
Millions of shareholder funds are being diverted in risky or non-existent projects at the whims and fancies of a few, sometimes written off or only operational profits focused. Scape-goats are easily found and those who should take complete responsibility go unscathed.
It is in this back-drop that Kotalawela intervention has to be appreciated and a plea extended to him that his start with the public sector be extended immediately as a necessary corollary to the private sector in a bid to cleaning the augean stables. His BOI stint in the North-Western Province would stand him in good stead with both public sector and private sector experience entwined in one in that assignment. There could be no doubt that he would have acquitted himself well in that assignment and taught a lesson or two to the BOI and the government on good governance, transparency and accountability.
Keep CEB intact, say Engineers
Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) last week urged the Government to keep CEB as a single entity and to enter into a collective agreement with the trade unions before going ahead with the proposed reforms in the power sector.
CEBEU President Ananda Piyatillake said there will be no immediate union actions as they have forwarded their proposals to the Ministry and are awaiting the response. "Even if we are compelled to take union action we would take precautions to bring down bad impact, the strike would have on the economy," he said. "We have no plans to stage a strike or to take union action immediately," he said.
"But we are warning the Government before- hand that there will be an islandwide strike by all CEB employees if they (Government) go ahead with restructuring of the CEB without considering our views," he said.
Piyatillake said if the Government or the relevant authorities could show them how they were intending to bring down the electricity rates simply by going ahead with restructuring the union was ready to support the reforms even if it were to affect the interests of the workers.
After restructuring the companies will be able to increase the tariff further and this will in turn bring more hardships to the already burdened consumers.
Meanwhile, the Head of the Power Sector Reforms Office Nihal Wickramasuriya said the World Bank has pledged to cut down the interests of power sector debt, if the Sri Lankan power sector would go ahead with the reforms proposals, "that would not only benefit the power sector but also the consumers," he said."
Await NGO monitors
The Government plans to introduce a monitoring system for Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) by way of getting them to work on National Action Plans.
At present there are no laws in Sri Lanka to directly monitor the work of NGOs and they work on projects designed by them. Now the Ministry of Social Services has decided to get the NGOs to work on National Plans designed by the Government.
As the first initiative, the Ministry summoned all NGOs in the Southern Province involved in children related projects last Thursday for a discussion to introduce a National Action Plan for Children in Galle.
"Hereafter, NGOs have to adhere to the requirements of National Plans designed by the Government", Social
Services Ministry Additional Secretary W. H. Zoysa told the Sunday Observer. The NGOs have earned the wrath of certain political parties and many organisations over their work in Sri Lanka. When asked whether the Ministry has received complaints against any NGO, Zoysa replied negatively. Another meeting will be held on April 20, in Trincomalee for all NGOs operating in the Eastern Province. Thereafter, a national level programme will be held in Colombo for all NGOs in the country to introduce a National Plan for Tsunami Victims for a two-year period, he said.
When contacted the Registrar's office of the National Secretariat for Non Governmental Organisations said that 945 organisations have registered as Non Governmental Organisations so far. About 200 applications have also been received from various organisations after December 26. However, now the Social Services Ministry has to obtain the clearance from the NGO Unit in the Ministry of Finance prior to registration. The Finance Ministry will give clearance for local NGOs if they can show Rs. 3 million contribution in three years. Foreign NGOs need to bring $ 1 million in three years to be eligible for registration.
Though, the Finance Ministry requested NGOs which were working on tsunami related projects to register with the Ministry, only 235 NGOs have responded positively.
Many foreign Governments have pledged that they will assist us to help tsunami victims but tsunami aid has not come to Sri Lanka in the form of money only. They sent us food items,equipment, medicine, etc, Social Services Minister Sumedha Jayasena told the Sunday Observer.
Some NGOs have constructed houses for tsunami victims. A German national has built 50 houses in Telwatte in Galle District. The Red Cross (ICRC) has pledged to build 15,000 houses too. "Donors are waiting until we prepare project plans to build houses,hospitals,other public buildings, etc", she said
When contacted the Director General of Customs Sarath Jayathilake said that tsunami aid containers are still being cleared at Orugodawatte. He said that 58 containers of UNICEF were released last week and daily about 20 tsunami aid containers are released with the help of the Social Services Ministry."
Sunday Observer Media Watch
It was revealed that a host of issues and problems had cropped up, especially in relation to law and order, human rights, property rights and individual privacy that the existing legal system is unable to cope with.
The public including the tsunami victims as well as law enforcement officials are helpless in this situation, which requires urgent attention of the lawmakers or the legislators.
Naturally the role of media was also discussed at length. The media earned both bouquets and brickbats with the latter exceeding the former. There was consensus that the media had failed to adequately bring into focus these new issues and provide a platform for healthy dialogue.
Furthermore, the conduct of the media itself left much to be desired according to some participants. The media by virtue of its role in society is well equipped to criticise anyone and everyone. It is a monitor of power, both political and economic at all levels.
While the media relishes criticising others it hardly opens its columns and channels for self-criticism. Nor does it encourage others to criticise it in one's medium.
The Sunday Observer thinks it is time for the media to mend its ways. It should open its columns and channels to readers, listeners and viewers to criticise the media, point out its shortcomings and malpractices.
As a socially responsible newspaper committed to the best practices and traditions of our industry the Sunday Observer will be devoting an entire page - MEDIA WATCH - on the last Sunday of every month beginning April 24 where the public could freely express their views, grievances and complaints about the functioning of the media.
We earnestly anticipate your contributions to MEDIA WATCH. Please limit your contributions to 300 words maximum in order that we could accommodate the views of more persons.
Leaders indifferent to the people in the East
We the Peoples 2005 Report
Message from Civil Society produced by the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA) and the North-South Institute (NSI) will be available at the end of March at http://www.wfuna.org/. The report highlights the results of a global online survey of civil society organizations in more than 100 countries and documents how they are engaging with the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs.
A preview of this report is now available in the form of a pamphlet. In this pamphlet, you can find out:
- Why 2005 is a "pivotal year for the United Nations".
- When and where major events leading up to the Millennium Review Summit are taking place.
- What civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world are thinking, strategizing, and campaigning about.
- How civil society groups are mobilizing support for what they want to see on the Summit agenda.
- What you can do at local and global levels to make a real difference to become a Global Citizen!
Select Committee probes Seismo meter failure
Saturday, 02 April 2005 12:18 (GMT + 6.00) , By Fouzer Sheriffdeen
The Parliamentary select committee on Natural Disaster Preparedness that was appointed after the Tsunami devastation is aimed at creating awareness & preparedness on natural disasters for the future.
The Chairman of the committee, M.P., Mahinda Samarasinghe & M.P.s Rauff Hakeem, John Amartunge, Ravi Raj, and Mahinda Wijesekera, first visited the Geological Department of the Peradeniya University on an inspection tour of the Seismological station on the 31st of March, where the M.P.s were received by the academics of the faculty, Prof. Kapila Dahanayake, L.K.R. Perera (Head of The Geological Dept., Udeni Bandara Amarasinghe (senior lecturer) and Prof. V. Kumar, Dean of the faculty.
Senior Lecturer Mr. Udeni B. Amarasinghe, who had been instrumental in getting this facility into the University for academic purposes, with the help of the JICA, in an effort initiated by the latter, when he was in Japan at the Sukuba International Institute of Seismology and Earth Quake Engineering. They had trained a group of Asians on Global Seismological Observation, which was done by this institute expecting the contribution of respective nations to the security of Asia.
Amarasinghe realized, that as a country Sri Lanka, does not have a single seismological meter, whereas, countries such as Nepal had there own seismological meter network. He has spoken to the Chairman of the institute and sought their assistance after explaining the need prevailing in the Universities of Sri Lanka. After getting the Chairman's consent, the request was submitted to the JICA, who agreed on principle, while requesting a project report. The project report was subsequently accepted and approved by them.
They decided to provide a network of four Seismo meters, the main Centre as Peradeniya, one in the South, one in the North and the other in the East. However, due to the then security situation, we were compelled to install the equipment for the North at the Mihintale University, the unit meant for the Eastern part was established in the Oluvil campus and the installations were finally completed in April 2003, said Amarasinghe.
The observatories consist of two different Seismo meters at each location, for the global observations, is a Broadband Seimo meter and to observe local observations especially related to quakes within reservoir areas etc., a Short Period Seismo meter.
When the Chairman of the Select Committee, queried, as to why a warning could not be given on the 26th, Lecturer Amarasnghe said that all the other three meters are also linked to the main computer in Peradeniya, which is hi-tech, and a top end computer. Due to a failure of the Hard Disk or which s known as Data Logger of this computer, which was beyond our level of knowledge to restore, we were not able to get any data. In the meantime, this was not meant for such a national requirement; instead it was for academic purposes. However, after the experience of Tsunami, which we have never known during our life time, but once restored this observation network will be definitely dedicated for the national purpose."
National Action Plan for tsunami children's welfare
WOMEN'S Empowerment and Social Welfare Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena has decided to prepare a National Action Plan recommended by the Government for the welfare of tsunami victim children. Under this plan funds will be utilised according to the plan, a ministry official said.
He said that the main intention of this plan is to ensure development and protection of the tsunami affected children.
The plan will be formulated after holding a series of discussions with all non-Governmental organisations working in tsunami affected areas.
The first discussion took place at the Galle District Secretariat on April 7 attended by Minister Jayasena. All MPs representing Galle and Hambantota districts, Provincial Council and Pradeshiya Sabha MPs, State officials and representatives of the NGOs were present.
All ongoing projects implemented by the NGOs such as pre-schools, day-care centres, vocational training centres, loan schemes, self-employment schemes, welfare programs related to the disabled will be streamlined according to the National Plan.
The Government's plan will be presented to the participants during the discussion and an investment plan will be formulated.
The program is a joint initiative of the Women's Empowerment and Social Welfare Ministry and the UNICEF. The same discussion will be held early May with the participation of NGOs, State officials and all the other parties in the North and East.
Following this another discussion will be held in Colombo with the participation of all officials in South and North-East Provinces.
Follow-up monitoring will be done during a period of two years with the participation of UNICEF and the ministry. Women's Empowerment and Social Welfare Ministry Additional Secretary W.H.W.Soysa will co-ordinate the program.