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Afghanistan asks for Aid from European Donors to keep Afghan Migrants at Home

High unemployment combined with growing insecurity drove nearly 200,000 Afghans to Europe last year, exacerbating the global migrant crisis

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(Representative image) FILE - Refugees and migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, walk toward the transit center for refugees near the northern Macedonian village of Tabanovce, after being returned from Serbia, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA
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October 4, 2016: Afghanistan is appealing to European donors to open their wallets at an international donors’ conference Wednesday, arguing that jobs created through development projects will help stem the tide of migrants that is destabilising the European continent.

High unemployment combined with growing insecurity drove nearly 200,000 Afghans to Europe last year, exacerbating the global migrant crisis.

European nations have struggled to cope with the flood of young Afghan asylum seekers and exerted pressure on Afghanistan to roll back the human exodus.

FILE - Afghan women wash and dry their clothes in Piraeus, near Athens, March 8, 2016. VOA
FILE – Afghan women wash and dry their clothes in Piraeus, near Athens, March 8, 2016. VOA

“If we hesitate to address the migration issue, public opinion in European countries will change, and this could impact aid,” Eklil Hakimi, Afghanistan’s finance minister, told Afghan lawmakers Sunday.

Salahuddin Rabbani, the Afghan foreign minister, added that European nations have warned Afghanistan that it risked a reduction in aid if it did not act on migration.

[bctt tweet=”European nations have struggled to cope with the flood of young Afghan asylum seekers and exerted pressure on Afghanistan to roll back the human exodus.” username=””]

“The migrant crisis has changed politics in the host countries,” Rabbani told members of Afghanistan’s lower house of Parliament. “They have put forward strict immigration laws and repeatedly asked Afghanistan to take responsibility for its asylum seekers.”

Afghan officials say they can stop the migration to Europe, but they need international support to create jobs that will keep the youth in the country.

Support for Afghanistan

The two officials are accompanying President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Dr. Abdullah Abdullah to the Brussels conference where Afghanistan will present its new national peace and development framework — a five-year reform, governance and economic development plan.

FILE - An Afghan refugee jumps the fence as he tries to enter Macedonia at the Greek-Macedonia borderline near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA
FILE – An Afghan refugee jumps the fence as he tries to enter Macedonia at the Greek-Macedonia borderline near the northern Greek village of Idomeni, Feb. 22, 2016. VOA

Afghanistan and the European Union are co-hosting the conference, which will be attended by representatives from more than 70 countries and 20 international organisations and agencies. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are among conference speakers.

The development framework, which aims to “achieve self-reliance and increase the welfare of [the Afghan] people,” requires billions of dollars in funding.

Hakimi estimated that donors will pledge $3.5 billion toward financing the development plan.

Among major donors, Britain said this week it would provide almost $1 billion in development aid to Afghanistan over the next five years.

A State Department spokesman declined to say how much the U.S. planned to commit and referred questions to the conference organisers.

James Cunningham, who served as U.S. ambassador to Kabul from 2012 to 2014, said there is wide support for the continued commitment to Afghanistan.

“Another cause for optimism is it’s pretty unprecedented to have that degree of international agreement on almost anything,” Cunningham said Monday, speaking on a panel about Afghanistan at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Creating jobs

While asking for billions of dollars in funding, Afghanistan is also pledging to wean itself off foreign aid through economic growth and job creation. The development plan envisions Afghanistan’s reliance on foreign aid dropping from 70 percent of government expenditure to 40/50 percent by 2020, as domestic revenue grows from 10.3 percent of GDP to about 14.0 percent of GDP.

FILE - Afghan migrants on an overcrowded inflatable boat approach the Greek island of Lesbos in bad weather after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 28, 2015. VOA
FILE – Afghan migrants on an overcrowded inflatable boat approach the Greek island of Lesbos in bad weather after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, Oct. 28, 2015. VOA

Job creation will be key not only to reducing reliance to foreign aid, but also to stopping the mass migration from the country.

Without “a big increase in jobs, Afghans will continue to resort to desperate measures such as illicit narcotics production, out-migration, and joining violent criminal networks,” according to a draft of the development plan.

The plan will take time to bear fruit and will require sustained donor support.

“The sustainable development that will help Afghanistan meet its many challenges, bring an end to poverty, and ensure security and stability for our country will take longer than a single generation to realize,” the plan says.

The Brussels conference comes less than three months after NATO leaders met in Warsaw and agreed to fund Afghanistan’s security forces for the next four years, to the tune of $3 billion.

The U.S. provides roughly $3.5 billion annually in support of the 350,000 members of the Afghan armed forces, in addition to about $1 billion in development aid.

The United States and its partners have a shared interest in supporting Afghanistan’s reform and development agenda, Cunningham said.

“The planks are already in place to demonstrate there is going to be long-term international engagement in Afghanistan,” he said. (VOA)

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)