Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

May 2018
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Friday, 25 May 2018
EU development commissioner Louis Michel and European Investment Bank (EIB) President Philippe Maystadt launch a trust fund to finance infrastructure in Africa.
The initiative has come under fire from the European parliament, with left-wing MEPs arguing the EIB is “currently ill-prepared to deliver on development”.
The new fund was agreed by Europe’s leaders last December with the aim of improving African transport networks, telecoms and energy and water provision.
In the start-up phase, over the next year, the European commission will seek to free-up €60m in grants and the EIB up to €260m in loans.
But left-wing MEPs and NGOs have given a negative assessment to “the environmental, social and development consequences of EIB operations in Africa, Latin America and Asia”.
German GUE/NGL MEP Gabi Zimmer argues that case studies show the EIB’s investment in large industrial projects “is not in line with the European consensus on development”.
“This indicates that EU member states, when extending the EIB's mandate to become the union's development bank, will have to equip the institution with the tools - procedures and expertise – to enable it to act as one. Vienna will not be able to close its eyes to our demand during its EU presidency term.”
The European Union says increased use of biofuels in developing countries could bring huge benefits, especially to those affected by the bloc's sugar reform.
The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union (EU), unveiled its new biofuels strategy Wednesday (Feb. 8) which outlines a series of measures to promote biofuels within the EU and developing countries.
The plans seek to boost the production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol through additional aid and investment, aimed at reducing Europe's heavy dependence on oil and natural gas.

The new strategy also examines new economic possibilities in several developing countries and sets out measures to encourage the developing world to become biofuel producers.
The Commission paper, which builds on a biomass action plan adopted last December, sets out three main aims - "to promote biofuels in both the EU and developing countries, to prepare for large-scale use of biofuels, and to support developing countries where biofuel production could stimulate sustainable economic growth."

Biofuels, which are made from biomass -- organic matter such as wood, crops and animal waste - can be used to power vehicles and are seen in the EU as a way to reduce emissions that are believed to cause global warming and therefore climate change.
The Commission says that in a number of developing countries, the production of biofuels could stimulate economic and environmental benefits, create employment, reduce energy import bills and open up potential export markets.
Presenting the strategy to media representatives, EU commissioner for development Louis Michel highlighted the potential opportunity that biofuels production presents for developing countries.

Michel said aid could be offered to poor farmers in developing countries producing biofuels, and that the option of growing crops for biofuel use would help alleviate the effect of recently approved EU sugar reforms which cut aid to sugarcane farmers, mostly in African and Caribbean countries.
"Many developing countries are naturally well placed for the production of biofuel feedstocks, particularly those traditionally strong in sugar production. The expanding EU market for biofuels will provide them with new export possibilities. The EU will help them maximise this opportunity with support for knowledge transfer and development of their market potential," Michel said.

The Commission says it will ensure that new measures for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar protocol countries affected by the EU sugar reform can support "the development of bioethanol production, develop a coherent biofuels assistance package for developing countries, and examine how best to assist national and regional biofuel platforms."
The ACP group of countries cautiously welcomed the initiative Wednesday, but warned that they would need greater support for the strategy to benefit them.

"While there is indeed potential to develop biofuels in the ACP sugar producing countrie, and plans are already under way in certain countries, to make it a success will require considerable capital investment," a spokesperson for the ACP sugar group told IPS.
"At the moment, apart from the 40 million euro (48 million dollars) compensation agreed for 2006, the ACP has no guarantee of clear and secure financial assistance from the EU to help them diversify their industries after the reform of the EU sugar regime," he said. "That is why it is crucial that a secure and substantial fund is set aside for the ACP sugar protocol countries in the final agreement on EU Financial Perspectives 2007-2010."
The Commission announced radical plans to overhaul its sugar regime last June. The executive is planning to cut the guaranteed price of sugar by 39 percent over two years from 2007, and offer 60 percent compensation for producers forced out of business by the price cut.
Under current rules, the EU offers a guaranteed price for sugar that is paid for in effect by consumers. Brussels buys from ACP producers at about three times the average world market price.
ACP countries have a long tradition of supplying sugar to the EU under a trade agreement that has brought significant benefits to ACP economies.
The proposed reforms will hit the sugar sector in ACP countries hard. The loss of those privileges when the EU starts paying prices closer to market rates is expected to have a huge economic impact on many of the ACP countries. IPS
Thursday, 09 February 2006
Commission provides a further €5 million to help drought victims in the Horn of Africa
The European Commission has allocated further €5 million in an emergency humanitarian aid decision to strengthen the resilience of people living in areas of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia affected by severe drought. The objective is to help improve the situation of up to 5.6 million vulnerable people, providing them with water, food and healthcare and protecting their livestock herds.
Commissioner Louis Michel, responsible for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: “Starvation threatens if we don’t act quickly. The €5 million announced today is part of a major ongoing effort by the Commission to help people affected by the severe drought. It will be used immediately to provide urgently-needed water, food and basic healthcare as well as to support the livestock that most people in the region rely upon.”
So far, the Commission has allocated €73 million for drought-related interventions in response to the current crisis. It has a two-pronged approach involving the provision of relief assistance under the humanitarian aid budget (€12 million to date) and of support aimed at tackling the effects of the drought in the medium and longer term (€61 million). The latter involves financing mainly from the food aid/food security budget line and from the European Development Fund (EDF).
Mr Michel stressed that “the plight of the Horn of Africa will continue to get our full attention. The ‘long rains’ are due in May but if they don’t come, we could be facing a terrible situation, for which we must be prepared. That is why we propose to earmark further funding of almost €40 million in the coming weeks and months, taking the total to €112.6 million. We recognise that more effort is needed in the face of such huge needs and I hope that other humanitarian actors will also boost their response.”
The additional funding planned includes €9.6 million for Kenya, €10 million for Ethiopia, €9 million for Somalia and €11 million for a regional humanitarian aid programme to boost drought preparedness. A substantial proportion of these new resources will be earmarked to support the efforts of the World Food programme in the stricken regions.
A WTO panel ruled on Tuesday (7 February) that the EU's moratorium on GM products, effective between June 1999 and August 2003, was illegal. The decision may be appealed by the European Commission after it is officially confirmed in a final ruling due in March.
New EU rules to approve GM products were agreed in 2004, but the US, supported by Argentina and Canada, claims that the procedures are still too lengthy. These, a US trade official said, are "based on political expediency more than on health or safety concerns".
Those claims were dismissed by the Commission, which says it has already approved "more than 30 GMOs or derived food and feed products" for marketing in the EU. "Contrary to US claims, the EU is one of the largest importers of GMOs and derived food and feed," the Commission said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Commission is still struggling to enforce orders to some EU countries to lift national bans on GM products, such as was the case with Greece in January.
In addition, public opinion in Europe is largely sceptical about GM products. A Eurobarometer survey published on 7 February reveals that 62% of respondents across the EU-25 are "worried" about the food safety risks posed by GMOs.
Greenpeace said the WTO case should "not be used to undermine existing international agreements on biosafety" as spelt out in the Cartagena Protocol.
Wednesday, 08 February 2006
In the Hong-Kong ministerial declaration WTO members committed to eliminating all forms of export subsidies and to disciplining all export measures with equivalent effect in 2013. The US will be required to reform its delivery of Food Aid. The US currently uses its Food Aid system to offload agricultural surpluses, benefiting US farmers and transportation companies rather than targeting Food Aid where it is really needed by providing assistance in cash.

The EU does not question the granting of genuine emergency food aid - in any form, cash or kind. The US has repeatedly caricatured the EU position as endangering the humanitarian interests of those in need - but the EU’s insistence that the needs of the hungry are best served by assistance in cash, rather than food itself, is clearly borne out by the facts.

Although Food Aid in kind can be crucial in critical emergency situations, it is common sense that food aid "in kind" which has to be bought in the donor market and then shipped to the site of a food emergency is an extremely inefficient way to help people in need. By the time food reaches its destination, four to five months will have been lost. This food "aid" is often simply surplus US production and can seriously disrupt local markets and the livelihood of local farmers, who could be paid for their own produce. When Food Aid is simply dumped farm surpluses it is not targeted to the needs of the hungry people it purports to help.

A recent OECD study suggests that aid shipped in form of food costs up to 50% more to deliver than cash.
Other research has shown that about 60% of the budget for food aid actually stays in the United States, in the pockets of farmers and transport companies. In 2003, the US spent $2.6 billion on food aid, all procured on the US market and provided with US logistics.
The US Food Aid programme represents up to 20% of US wheat exports and more than 50% of non-fat dried milk exports.
In 2004 all developed countries provided Food Aid to the UN World Food Programme in cash - except the United States.
The World Food Programme funding policy clearly states: "The ideal contribution is one that is multilateral and predictable, given early in the donor’s fiscal year without requirements as to its use, preferably in cash."

What the EU is advocating is exactly that: food aid in cash and untied. That means that NGOs and international organisations would receive money to procure food in the way they judge best. As there would be no conditions linked to the use of this money, they would be free to purchase the commodities really needed, where procurement is cost-efficient, and where it is the most convenient to ensure they reach hungry people in the fastest possible way. The money saved on transportation costs by purchasing locally means more money to spend on food supplies. It also supports the local economy and improves the livelihood of poor farmers.

Food Aid resources should be administered in a flexible manner by credible NGOs and UN Agencies.
The EU has absolutely no intention of limiting genuine emergency food aid. The EU has clearly insisted that WTO members commit themselves to maintaining an adequate level of food aid.
Reform of Food Aid means untying food aid from the commercial interests of exporters. In the US, food aid is part of agricultural policy. This is food aid tailored for the interests of American farmers, not the interests of hungry people. Untying food aid from the commercial interests of removes the problem of trade distortion and makes food aid far more effective to the benefit of recipient countries.
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