Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Launches Education Project, Signs US$ 66 Million Education Multi Donor Trust Fund

Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education has launched the Sierra Leone Education Project and signed a US$ 66 Million 5- year Multi Donor Trust Fund to boost the Free education Programme.

Representatives from international agencies, governments and national stakeholders at the launching programme

The Vice President, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, said that the launch of the education project by the World Bank, Irish Aid, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the European Union, EU, showed the importance of partnership in supporting the vision of president Bio.

“Today every Sierra Leonean kid wants to be in school. That explains clearly the Free Education Programme has created a tremendous impact. This has, no doubt, given reasons to His Excellency’s vision to prioritise human capital development as the bedrock of the New Direction Government,” he noted.

The World Bank Country Manager, Gayle Martin, said they were happy to celebrate the first day of the start of the new school term with the launching of the Sierra Leone Education Project, as well as signing the Education Multi Donor Trust Fund with development partners.

She noted that with Government’s flagship Free Quality Education Programme, the project would be a five-year support to primary and secondary education nationwide, adding that in particular the aim was to improve the management of the education system, teaching practice and learning conditions.

“Education is the single-most important determinant of economic mobility and the importance of investing in education cannot be overemphasized. The World Bank congratulates the efforts of the government of Sierra Leone, the leadership of President Bio in placing education and human capital development, more generally, at the centre of the national development agenda, as articulated in the National Development Plan, and also as reflected in budget allocations since 2018, under challenging macro-fiscal conditions,” she noted.

Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr Moinina David Sengeh, said that the event showed a celebration of the education sector as they witnessed the formal kick-off of the Free Education Project. He recalled that when he took up office the first challenge was to restructure the ministry so that it could absorb resources, engage partners and deliver education services to all children; digitalize the ministry through technology that would help do work better; help school leaders lead better, help teacher teach better and also help pupils to learn better.

”I am pleased to report to your Excellency that not only do you have a ministry fit for purpose, we even have an entirely new directorate called Partnership and Resource Mobilization. We cannot deliver effective services without the right global and local partnerships and efficient resource mobilization approaches. Today is a bold step marker under our belief as a ministry as we reaffirm our partnerships with the World Bank, Irish Aid, the EU, and the Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office,” he explained.

Dr Sengeh further stated that regardless of the many challenges the world had faced, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry recorded many gains, adding that they would continue to work and consult with partners, children, civil society and the private sector.

“We will continue to evolve and transform with evidence data. We are, more than ever, motivated and ready to deliver on our mandate and completely transform the education sector in Sierra Leone,” he assured.

Mimi Pabai, a proud cashew farmer in Faala

For Mimi Pabai, 42, a mother of three, she can now see light at the end of the tunnel with the introduction of the EU-funded Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) project in which selected farmers in Bo District are beneficiaries.

Mimi ( center) with members of Gualatima Women’s Cooperative

In the Faala community of the Bo District, Southern Province of Sierra Leone, where she is head of the Gualatima Women’s Cooperative, there are visible signs of the gains brought to her farming activities.

“Life was hard when I lost my husband during the January 6, 1999 rebel invasion of Freetown at the climax of the 11-year civil war of Sierra Leone.  I returned to Bo to see how I could make my life meaningful since I already had the basics in gardening,” Mimi says.

In Bo, she decided to bring other women who had suffered similar fate together to form a self-help group. This initiative led to the establishment of the Gualatima formation of a women’s cooperative with the aim of embarking on gardening as a source of livelihood.

“It was not easy in the beginning since we had no access to land. After several requests, the community elders gave us a portion of land for our farming activities. This enabled us to

cultivate leafy vegetables. Subsequently, we brought other women on board.

“The increase in the number of women led to the demand for more land for expansion of our work,” Mimi says.

With time, through Mimi’s initiative, the number of women grew exponentially. Mimi was subsequently made leader of 49 women’s groups, with a strong membership of 1,955 from several communities in the Bo and Moyamba districts of Sierra Leone. “When I was appointed chairlady, this was a turnaround in my life as many women joined me and we began doing big things.” Over the past two years, our target had been to venture into cashew production, but we had no land and no cashew seedlings. When I heard about the BAFS project, I contacted Solidaridad and they happily supported us with cashew seedlings after the town chief gave us more land.

According to Mimi, Solidaridad was the first organization to change the narrative of women not owning cash crop farms. Together with her group, they were lucky to have been the first women’s group to receive and plant 107 acres of cashew seedlings under the Boosting Agriculture and Food Security (BAFS) project. The project targets smallholder farmers as the driving force of agricultural production in Sierra Leone.

“We were proud to see the Solidaridad vehicle with the seedlings in our community. It makes us proud and more committed as farmers.”

Solidaridad West Africa, through the European Union funding, focuses on cashew, coffee and cocoa. The overall objective of the BAFS project is to reduce poverty and food insecurity while improving household living conditions, as well as higher incomes. 

This is achieved by a special focus on increasing the quality and quantity of production, processing, marketing and trading while implementing environmentally sound agricultural practices. 

The project seeks to improve household living conditions by promoting tree crop intensification and diversification through intercropping techniques such that the women would be able to make enough money and remain self-reliant.

The project is implemented by Solidaridad (lead implementer) and the Cotton Tree Foundation as the co-implementer across 10 districts of Sierra Leone.

“Solidaridad focuses on supporting farmers, especially women and the youth to meet the food and nutritional needs of their families, as well as improving their economic wellbeing and is, therefore, happy with this partnership with the EU and the Government of Sierra Leone,” says Nicholas Jengre, Country Representative for Solidaridad.

Where Brexit will leave the UK’s human rights diplomacy

Sean Molloy, Connal Mallory, New Castle University

Boris Johnson, as foreign secretary, attends the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2018. Magali Girardin/EPA

The UK has played a leading role within the UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) since its creation in 2006 as the main international body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. But when the UK seeks re-election in October 2020 – a requirement for membership of the council – it’s likely to have departed from the European Union and its powers of human rights diplomacy will be on an uncertain new footing.

In recent years, Britain’s human rights diplomacy at the HRC has operated in two channels. On the one hand, the UK has been able to influence human rights directly by its own efforts, acting in its capacity as a sovereign state and through British diplomats. On the other hand, the UK has exercised influence indirectly through its membership of the EU collective process. In theory, this permits the UK to prioritise certain rights on its own, while also influencing a much broader range of human rights through the EU bloc. But by leaving the EU, it will be left to go solo.

This raises questions about which rights the UK will prioritise and which rights will be sidelined diplomatically without the ability to rely on the EU to push them.

Our recent research with our colleague Rhona Smith examined the possible consequences of Brexit on the UK’s human rights diplomacy. We looked at the UK’s engagement as an EU member state between 2006 and 2018, by examining participation in what are called “interactive dialogues”, where UN-appointed experts are questioned in relation to a designated theme or country.

We found that the UK is less active and considerably more selective than the EU in its participation in these dialogues.

UK priorities

We found that in some cases, the UK and the EU are very similar in their involvement in interactive dialogues. For instance, both the UK and the EU are regular participants in discussions with special mandate holders for such countries as the Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Iran.

When looking at themes, the UK tends to participate in dialogues on civil and political rights for certain, specified groups. So of the 12 dialogues on violence against women across the 38 session of the HRC that we studied, the UK participated in nine, and five out of a total of seven dialogues on discrimination against women. The UK also has a high participation rate of over 80% with dialogues relating to terrorism and freedom of expression and association, among others.


But there are some countries and thematic human rights issues on which the UK’s participation is either non-existent or falls far below participation rates of the EU. We found four countries – the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cuba, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Burundi – where British participation in country dialogues was minimal.

There are also a large number of themes with which the UK rarely engages, including dialogues with groups such as indigenous peoples, the rights of migrants, the sale and exploitation of children and people of African descent.

As the graph below shows, the UK rarely participates in discussions on social, economic and cultural rights, such as the right to health, education and housing. This can be contrasted with the EU where participation rates rarely fell below 90% across the 38 sessions of the council.

An opportunity

Should the UK continue to focus on a narrow subset of rights and countries after Brexit, it’s unlikely to be able to contribute to the shape and development of aspects of the international human rights project outside of these areas. Not only will this diminish the UK’s place as a leading promoter and advocate on human rights, it also offers less liberal and progressive countries the opportunity to push back.

One way the UK could prevent a backslide in its status as a human rights leader would be to continue to align with the EU. Despite the fallout from the EU referendum, the UK and EU still agree more than they disagree in respect to international human rights law.

Another route would be for the UK to use Brexit as an opportunity to expand its human rights diplomacy beyond its current list of priorities, which include modern slavery, freedom or religion or belief and freedom of expression. It could also treat Brexit as a chance to invest more in human rights diplomacy. A conscious political decision to be more proactive across all engagement at the UN would not only ensure Britain’s ongoing influence as a human rights champion, but also retain its stature as a global power while its reputation transitions as it leaves the EU.

If attention isn’t paid to both the UK’s role in global diplomacy and human rights issues after Brexit, the consequences for both could be profound.

Credit: The Conversation

Horn of Africa countries launch regional initiative as peace dividend beckons, $15 billion investment on the cards

Five Horn of Africa countries have launched an initiative to forge closer economic ties, building on the improving political climate in the sub-region.

The initiative was formalized on 18 October, on the sidelines of the World Bank Group/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington DC. The countries agreed on priority projects and programs that will constitute the initiative, which is being developed by the countries with support from the African Development Bank (, the European Union and the World Bank.

Horn of Africa

The effort will culminate in a financing forum next year to seek investors to realize a package of priorities identified by the quintet, which has over the past decade registered some of the highest growth rates in Africa.

Khaled Sherif, the African Development Bank’s Vice President for Regional Development, Integration and Business Delivery, who attended the roundtable in Washington said: “The Horn of Africa’s geo-strategic position with regard to the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, has important regional and international significance. “These can be harnessed to spur integration, resilience and usher in a new era of prosperity, enabling the countries to reap significant dividends from the current peace initiatives.”

The Horn of Africa nations identified four priority areas of focus: (i) improving regional infrastructure connectivity; (ii) promoting trade and economic integration; and (iii) building resilience; and (iv) strengthening human capital development.

The proposals require financing of around $15 billion.

Most of the Horn of Africa countries easily outpaced the continent’s average growth rate in 2018. Africa’s gross domestic product expanded by an estimated 3.5% last year, while Ethiopia reached 7.7%, Djibouti 5.6%, Kenya 5.9% and Eritrea 4.2%. Somalia was the exception at 2.9%.

The region is expected to receive a further lift from the 2018 peace accord between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which has already increased cross-border trade and could advance economic integration.

The AU-EU-UN task force meeting calls to rescue stranded migrants and refugees in Libya

A task force by the African Union, European Union and the United Nations has called for the rescue of stranded migrants and refugees in Libya.

Smugglers holding refugees and migrants in deplorable conditions, say UN agencies

The AU-EU and UN task force met on 16 April 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia following the latest developments in Libya and the escalating conflict in Tripoli.

Chaired by the Special Envoy of the Chairperson and Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Madam Amira Elfadil, and attended by the Head of the EU Delegation to the AU, the Chief of Mission IOM and the UNHCR Representative to the AU, the task force deliberated on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya, as the available humanitarian space continues to be threatened each passing day by the ongoing conflict.

The meeting highlighted the urgent need for humanitarian assistance, especially for basic needs such as food, water and medical services for internally displaced persons, migrants and refugees caught in the conflict, and called upon the AU Member States and the international community to come to their rescue by providing the necessary support and assistance.

The task force called upon and appealed to all warring parties not to use civilians, including migrants and refugees as human shields but instead provide them with safe passage/corridors to safe and secure areas where they can be afforded the necessary humanitarian assistance.

The meeting noted with concern that in spite of the progress made by the Assisted Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme (AVHRP) implemented by IOM and relevant Member States and evacuation of refugees by UNHCR, a considerable number of refugees seeking protection and resettlement, and migrants remain in Libya. With more than 7,000 migrants and refugees being held in detention centres. In addition, there is a growing number of internally displaced persons whose plight causes grave concern.

In respect to the need to accelerate the return programme, the task force appealed to all concerned Member States with nationals in Libya, to double their efforts, including, in provision of consular services and issuance of travel documents so as to facilitate and fast-track their return from Libya. The task force also appreciated the role played by Niger in hosting the majority of vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya.

In the same vein, the task force also appealed to the Libyan authorities to continue facilitating landing rights to other airlines, consular services of concerned Member States and fast-tacking of exit visa processing to allow swift return of those wishing to return to their countries of origin.

The task force expressed much appreciation for the continued support and assistance offered by the people of Libya and its authorities to the multitude of stranded migrants and refugees in Libya this far, and appealed to other Member States to generously contribute, accordingly. The task force also calls for the protection of all migrants and refugees in line with international and regional standards.

The task force will continue to engage and work with all stakeholders, including concerned Member States, the Libyan authorities and the international community in seeking practical solutions to the migrants’ situation in Libya as we continue to seek for a durable political solution to the impasse.

Cambodia Continues to Grow Despite Global Economic Challenges: World Bank

Cambodia’s growth rate is expected to be marginally higher than last year

While global economic prospects continue to moderate, and risks have heightened, Cambodia continues to grow, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Cambodia Economic Update report, released on Wednesday.

The growth rate is expected to be marginally higher than last year, reaching 7.1 percent in 2018, driven primarily by domestic consumption and exports.

Following a gradual recovery in the second half of 2017, Cambodia’s exports surged, supported largely by strong demand in the United States and the European Union. Cambodia is among few countries in the East Asia and Pacific region expected to experience marginal improvements in growth.

Risks in the financial sector continue to grow, with large exposure to the construction and real estate sector. External risks include the potential withdrawal of Everything But Arms preferences for Cambodia and the unpredictable spill-over effects of US-China trade disputes.

“Priorities for Cambodia include safeguarding the health of the financial sector, while building up reserves, strengthening competitiveness and preventing rapid real exchange rate appreciation, given the recent surge in imports,” said Sodeth Ly, World Bank Senior Economist for Cambodia.

While the longer-term outlook remains positive, Cambodia needs to develop its physical and human capital to attain higher income status in the long term.

“To achieve its upper middle-income country aspirations, Cambodia needs to increase its investment in human capital and infrastructure and adopt reforms that enable sustained and inclusive growth. Mobilizing significant domestic savings to boost investment is critical to attain what high-performing Asian economies have achieved,”said Inguna Dobraja, World Bank Country Manager for Cambodia.

The report also calls for further bridging the infrastructure deficit to absorb rising foreign direct investment in manufacturing and agro-processing, as well as continued improvements to the business environment.

The Cambodia Economic Update is a biannual report that provides up-to-date information on short and medium term macroeconomic developments in Cambodia.

First IOM Member State Forum on a Comprehensive Approach to Resettlement and Complementary Pathways to Europe

The need for a comprehensive approach; a continuum of care in resettlement; and complementary protection pathways to Europe for refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations was the focus of the IOM Member State Forum, the first of its kind held by the UN Migration Agency, and co-hosted with the Government of Belgium in Brussels this week. 

“The availability of humane solutions to forced displacement pales in comparison to the scale and scope of this phenomenon, with 68.5 million forcibly displaced persons across the globe,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino, in his opening message to the three-day event on Monday.

“IOM is convinced that more can be done on resettlement and complementary protection pathways in partnership and coordination with our Member States and partners to help refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations.”
Director General Vitorino stressed that the continued success and enlargement of these schemes rely on strong partnerships with all stakeholders. The Forum serves as a catalyst for this, he said.

IOM noted that countries such as Canada, the EU and Associated States, Argentina and Chile have significantly expanded resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes in recent years and are exploring other protection pathways for refugees and migrants in vulnerable situations. Complementary protection pathways such as family reunification and humanitarian visas, in addition to resettlement, also provide tailored responses in support of safe, orderly and regular migration.

“Ultimately, resettlement and complementary protection avenues are not about processes or procedures alone; they provide life-changing protection to fellow human beings in need,” said Eugenio Ambrosi, IOM Chief of Staff and Regional Director for the EU, Norway and Switzerland.  “As resettlement actors, we need to do our best to help their lives change for the better.”.

The first day focused on the need for coordinated approaches in often complex environments, and the essential components of successful resettlement programmes, namely the interdependencies of case management, pre-departure health assessments, pre-departure orientation, movement management and post-arrival integration support, along with immigration and visa solutions.

Representatives of 25 European countries alongside their peers from Australia, Asia, North- and South America attended the Forum together with partners and officials from European institutions. They learned about migrant-centric family reunification support as well as humanitarian and other visa processing operations through a series of presentations and panel discussions.

Operational solutions, they affirmed, must emphasize rights and needs, whether by protecting migrants from smugglers, unscrupulous visa brokers, excessive fees, or other factors that may cause them to seek unsafe and irregular migration channels.

An exhibition showcased the close cooperation with partners and the comprehensive set of activities in support of safe and dignified migration that IOM has developed over the years in collaboration with its Member States. The highly interactive exhibition included IOM’s Holding On campaign, a virtual reality experience that places the viewer inside the makeshift homes and campsites of internally displaced persons as they reflect on their most cherished possessions.

The second and third days covered the area of health, reviewing the evidence and cost effectiveness of pre-departure health assessments (PDHA) through plenary sessions, thematic workshops and group discussions that enabled participants to exchange experiences and share evidence. Participants roundly assessed that PDHA is an important tool that can improve integration efforts in receiving communities, supported by the secure transfer of health information.

“A rich amount of information was shared by a variety of experts from the IOM, resettlement countries and other partners,” said Paul Desautels, Director, Resettlement Operations, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). “Numerous complex issues were raised in the sessions which ‎were provocative and allowed the countries to explore future program enhancements in the areas of health, movement and integration.”

IOM’s protection-oriented approach and duty to ensure a continuum of care to its beneficiaries, leading to sustainable integration, is centered around working with governments and partners to tailor programmes to specific contexts whilst ensuring adherence to principles and standards of assistance for refugees and migrants.

This animated video showcases the resettlement process, from selection to reception, for one refugee family. It highlights the plight of refugees and IOM’s role in essential aspects of resettlement, from health and integration, to ensuring safe and dignified movements.