Thursday, April 30, 2015

UN Women and MASHAV train 27 African women and 3 African men on economic empowerment

By chibairo  24 April, 2015

Thirty participants, twenty seven women and three men from Africa are cuurently attending a specialised training on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Haifa Israel. The countries represented are Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania and South Sudan. The training is organised by MASHAV’s Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Centre (MCTC) in cooperation with UN Women East and Southern Africa Regional Office (UN Women ESARO).

UN Women is the UN organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide.

Over the years, UN Women Eastern and Southern Africa Region (ESARO) has designed economic empowerment and leadership programmes whose key interventions will not only empower women and youth to access and control economic assets, but also build their entrepreneurial capacities as leaders in business, and bring women and youth to the forefront of agricultural transformation, small and medium enterprise development, and trade.

Addressing gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as increasing attention to economic and social development strategies are globally recognised as critical aspects of sustainable development. Women, especially in rural areas play a critical role in economies and societies in both developing and developed countries. Across the world, women have proven their commitment and resourcefulness in finding or adapting to new ways to improve their own lives, as well as those of their families and communities.
In several countries, small and medium enterprises owned by women are growing at a faster pace than the economy as a whole and consequently become a significant engine for job creation and growth.

At the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in September 2010, countries committed themselves to ‘promoting small and medium-sized enterprises through initiatives such as skills enhancement and technical training programmes, vocational training and entrepreneurial skills development as well as the promotion of financial services for micro, small-and medium-sized enterprises.

However, female entrepreneurs tend to have smaller networks than their male counterparts. Hence, it is necessary to create systems at the national and local levels for information exchange, training and technical advice and for assisting women in dealing with governments, donors and international institutions.

While agriculture remains one of the main pillars of economy within most developing countries, new forms of income and employment opportunities have to be promoted. Encouraging agricultural based innovative ventures will help the advancement of women in rural areas.

 The cooperation between UN Women ESARO and MASHAV is charged with historical significance, and cannot be understood in isolation from the chronological relations between Israel and Africa, especially within the frameworks of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  In light of this, UN Women ESARO can only be highly commended for their transformational and thought leadership initiative, and for their ability to take advantage of historical moments to push the women’s agenda to the centre of this political organising. As Africa rises, women must surely rise along.

Relations between Israel and Africa can be traced back to the beginning of the African states' liberation from colonial rule in 1957-1960. Israel was among the first countries to extend substantial assistance to the newly independent and awakening countries through interventions in agriculture, medicine and defence to infrastructural projects such as the construction of airports, the establishment of shipping companies, educational and professional training institutions, etc.

At another level, the UN ESARO’s initiatives fit well under the ambit of fostering lasting peace and security initiatives on the African continent, especially as their interventions aim at reducing poverty amongst women, which is one of the causes of violence against women both in peace and in conflict times. ESARO’s partnerships also facilitate the rise of peace and security institutions in Africa, all adding up for cumulative processes towards lasting positive peace. (Galtung: 2012)  Both Galtung and Gandhi contend that ending insecurities and conflict cannot be based on post-cold war concepts of developing frameworks and infrastructure for wars, but rather by non-violently resisting and eliminating the root causes of violence, and structural differences between women and men are one of the major causes of conflict and insecurities in Africa. (Gandhi in Galtung: 2012) Africa is rising and doing so in a unique and human centred way. While the Western initiatives after the Cold War focused on facilitating the growth of institutions for war and strategic studies, a new wave of institutional development also supported by UN Women focuses on peace building and conflict transformation institutions well focused on redefining national security from state centricism to a focus on human security. Rooted in the agenda for women’s rights, 

ESARO’s initiatives are backed by a rare epistemological standpoint that focuses more on finding reflective, critical and lasting solutions to the factors currently holding back the Africa continent’s growth.  

 In Kenya Esaro has built a similar partnership initiative with Kenyatta University, leading to the establishment of the African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership (ACTIL) in 2012. The ACTIL idea came at a period when Africa was celebrating 50 years of its independence, the discovery of more and more natural resources and the realisation for localising the benefits of the continent’s natural resources. Alongside this excitement was the a dialogue about the missing piece; the lack of equality between women and men even in terms of access to and utilisation of resources, and also the general lack of a transformative leadership crop as well as the rising military coups, armed conflicts, disease, violence against women and poverty. This practical reality provoked the idea of UN Women contributing to the emergence of leaders who can take the rich resources that Africa has including its people and use them to transform our societies to the level and vision that AU has crafted where we want to be in 50 years’ time. UN Women ESARO was very clear about this and thus chose to set up a centre of learning that can foster dialogue among leaders about what needs to change and how women can be agents of change alongside men. In UN Women ESARO’s conceptualisation and power analytical framework leadership is about creating quality and influential front-runners than just more followers - it is not about power over others but more about power within moving from inside to touch and groom others and transforming itself into power with others. The drivers of the ACTIL model of leadership create an environment within which people can respect each other and understand fundamental human rights and know that these are rights everybody in our society is entitled to enjoy.

In Zimbabwe UN Women ESARO has introduced the ACTIL Transformative Leadership model through its training of women parliamentarians and women leaders from the political parties in collaboration with the UN Women Country Office and the Parliament of Zimbabwe. This year the UN Women Country Office is in turn partnering with the Institute of Peace, Leadership and Governance at African University (IPLG-AU) to introduce this leadership training model for women politician and young women for the next three years until 2017 under the Norway funded Gender, Peace and Security project. In addition to the training courses that will be offered, UN Women Zimbabwe will support the setting up of a full-fledged Transformative Leadership Department and at IPLG-AU to offer certificated courses on Transformative Leadership, Conflict Analysis and Conflict Management for both elderly women and young women.

Going forward, UN Women ESARO could make even more impact by harnessing the support of the African Union Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security for the replication of similar initiatives in war torn spaces like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia as a way of promoting the right of women to benefit from land and other natural resources for their economic empowerment and source of power and strength in the face of strife. Regional Economic Commissions continent wide can also support this initiative as a means of ensuring a uniform early warning framework for women across Africa when women’s efforts to highlight the effects of poverty on their peace and security are well coordinated and supported as part of the continent’s agenda for sustainable peace. Well done Esaro, well done MASHAV!.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Love Letter to Israel

A love letter to Israel by Oliver Marjot who, by the way, is not Jewish

To My Newfound Love
I came to you, Israel, wanting to hate you.
To be confirmed in my reasonable European certainty of your arrogant oppression, lounging along the mediterranean coast, facing West in your vast carelessness and American wealth. 
I wanted to appreciate your history, but tut over the arrogant folly of your present.
I wanted to cross my arms smugly, and shake my head over you, and then leave you to fight your unjust wars.
I wanted to take from you.
To steal away some spiritual satisfaction, and sigh and pray, and shake my head over your spiritual folly as well.
To see the sad spectacle of the Western wall, and bitterly laugh at your backward-looking notion that God sits high on Moriah Mount, distant and approachable.
I wanted to smirk in my Protestant confidence, knowing that God is with me, even if you refuse to turn to him, standing instead staring blankly at a wall of cold stone, pushing scribbled slips of paper into the Holy mountain, not daring to raise your face, and ask with words.
I wanted to see your sights, to bask in your sun, to tramp my feet over your soil, to swim in your seas, to eat the fruit of your fields.
I wanted to be amazed, to be interested, to  be engaged. I wanted.
I didn’t realise you were broken as well as wealthy, fragile as well as strong.
I didn’t realise that you suffer from a thousand voices clamouring in your head, and that some of those voices care about justice and democracy, and that some of them love their neighbours.
I didn’t realise that a thousand enemies press on your borders, hoarding instruments of death, as chaos and darkness and madness consume the world every way you look.
I didn’t realise that you care about your past - that some of those voices of yours treasure the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob every bit as much as I do. I didn’t realise.
Nobody told me.
Or maybe they did, and I refused to listen.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with you.
Your beauty caught me like a hook.
Seeing you, I see what Solomon saw when he wrote about his Beloved.
I see that homeland that Jesus loved.
The lush green of your Galilee, the stark strength of your desert, the bare whiteness of your Judean hills.
I love the Hebrew you speak, the churches you wear like flowers in your hair, the proud golden dome that crowns your head.
I love the strength of your soldiers, the warmth of your sun, the joy of your songs, the peace of your kibbutzim.
This cold Boston air is a mockery of your spring warmth, and in this vast sprawl of concrete and red brick it’s no exaggeration to say that I yearn for your troubled horizons, your ancient hills.
I’m not ashamed to say it. I love you.
I’m sorry I had to leave you.
I know I have no right to love you.
What’s ten days compared to a year, a childhood, a lifetime?
Or the five-thousand year lifetime of a people?
I know that you won’t remember me, that you probably barely even registered my short time with you.
I’m sure my love means nothing to you amid the whispers of a million other lovers, and you’re so very far away.
But I will come back to you.
I will.
I’ll leave these busy, harried, Western shores, and come to you, to the East.

I’ll learn your Hebrew, I’ll share your troubles, I’ll breath your air, I’ll walk in your fields again.
I will. I will.
Until then, Israel, mon amour, my love. Until then, shalom.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hezbollah Airstrip Discovered for Drones

Lebanon based terror group Hezbollah has constructed an airstrip in the northern Bekaa Valley for the takeoff and landing of its unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite imagery has revealed.
Reports by IHS Jane’s indicate the airstrip was built in a sparsely populated area slightly south of the northern Lebanese region of Hermel, bordering the Syrian border, sometime between February 27, 2013 and June 19, 2014.
The airstrip itself is very simple. It consists of a single unpaved strip that is 670 meters long and 20 meters wide. Materials for the strip were taken from a nearby quarry to build up its northern end and to level it out.
The short length of the air strip indicates that it is not used to smuggle in weapons from Syria or Iran, since it is too short to be used by nearly all other transport aircraft used by either country’s air force, with the exception of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ An-74T-200 short take-off transports.
According to Jane’s, the most likely explanation is that the runway was “built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, which has been employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129.” Hezbollah has already confirmed that it is using UAVs to support its operations against opposition forces in Syria, particularly over the strategically-important Qalamoun region on Lebanon’s eastern border.

An antenna, which might be used to extend the range of a local UAV ground control station, is also located close to the strip, along with six small utility buildings, though none are large enough to house an Ababil-3. However, according to Jane’s, “there is a facility constructed in a valley 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) west of the airstrip that includes two utility buildings large enough to house UAVs.”

The site is also guarded by a checkpoint and swing gate, similar to other Hezbollah facilities that are located across Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Remembering the Fallen Soldiers

So different from the celebrations we read about when Palestinian terrorists are hailed as heroes, Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers in Israel is a sombre day as the country since everyone has either lost someone or knows of a family that has lost a member.

A friend who writes her own blog has put it in words of meaning, see below. 

I have been dreading this Yom Hazikaron. The pain of what we have lost over the past years is too much to bear and there is no end to the tears. Tears for the victims of terror in Israel, Belgium and France. Tears for our most precious 67 brave warriors, who paid the ultimate price for our safety and freedom. Tears for the bereaved families, the parents who have lost their sons, cut down in their prime in defense of their country. Tears for the babies who will never meet their fathers. Tears for the lovers who will never hold each other again. Tears, endless tears.

There will never be enough words to express our gratitude for their service to all of us. May their memories forever be blessed.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Khamenei Redefines Iran's Red Lines

Since the Iranians now see that the USA wants an agreement almost at any cost the Iranians view this as a weakness to be exploited. As Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall notes, Khomeni has not lost any time in redefining the Iranian red lines. 

Following my own career involving wage negotiations with militant Trade Unions in the UK, it is clear that any negotiating advantage the P5+1 had at the start of the framework negotiations has been given up without receiving anything positive in return.  
  • On April 9, 2015, Iran's top leaders, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, took firm positions on new red lines for the ongoing nuclear negotiations: immediate removal of the sanctions as soon as the agreement takes effect; opposition to special monitoring and inspections of Iran’s military sites and missile program; and non-intervention in Iran's ongoing assistance to "resistance" organizations around the world.
  • Khamenei's remarks were intended to counter the public-relations campaign of President Obama who portrayed the West's achievements both to Middle Eastern public opinion and in the United States itself. Whereas Iran's opening positions are rigid, the West, in the latest talks, has already shown how far it is willing to go for a signature on an agreement.
  • Khamenei has already stated that Iran's involvement in the region, including its assistance to "resistance" elements, is not part of the negotiations, and Iran is not required to put them on the agenda. Such words reflect Iran's growing confidence as its regional and international status improves, and its defiant conduct will likely put it on a collision course with the countries in the region.
  • The IRGC commander's support for the agreement on the one hand, and on the other, the opposition of some conservative Majlis members who are associated with Ahmadinejad, may indicate disagreement within the conservative camp and possibly within the IRGC.

Click here to read the full article.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Agritech Israel 2015

 The 19th International Agricultural Technology Exhibition, one of the world's most important exhibitions in the field of agricultural technologies will be held in Israel during April 28–30, 2015.

The Agritech Exhibition, one of the world's most important exhibitions in the field of agricultural technologies, is held in Israel once every three years.

With the world’s population expected to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2050, the need for improved agricultural productivity has never been greater. One of the ways to enhance productivity is through the stimulation of innovation in agricultural and food technologies ­ from breeding new crop varieties, to sustainable crop protection and post­harvest technologies, livestock health, feed solutions, aquaculture, soil­less agriculture, and on to irrigation technologies and precision agriculture.

The Agritech 2015 Exhibition will be held at the Israel Trade Fairs and Convention Center in Tel Aviv, and will present ground­breaking technologies and insight into post­harvest methods and processes, to tackle the challenge of post­harvest food losses.

The last exhibition organized in 2012 had 8,100 foreign visitors, 196 Israeli exhibitors and 57 foreign exhibitors. It is hoped that this years show will exceed these figures. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Iranian "Deal" is a Sell Out

The Lausanne agreement is evidence of just how hard - and successfully - the Iranians fought to preserve the essential components for creating nuclear weapons.
Alex Fishman  5th April
"Just guard me from my friends; from my enemies, I'll guard myself". We are forced to learn this age-old lesson each time anew.

The document agreed upon and signed in Lausanne on Thursday by the best of our friends from around the world makes no mention of nuclear development for peaceful purposes. Nothing in the clauses outlined in the declaration of principles indicates that Iran's nuclear program for military purposes will be converted into a program designed to further civilian-scientific objectives.

On the contrary; the document is evidence of just how hard, and successfully too, the Iranians fought to preserve the essential components for creating nuclear weapons. And this is an indication of the strategic importance Iran attributes to its military nuclear program, and the price it is willing to pay to protect it.

The bottom line:

1.     Iran has agreed to restrict its number of uranium-enrichment facilities – or, in other words, not to build new ones.
2.     The existing facilities will continue to operate at a slower pace, under supervision: 5,100 centrifuges will be in operation in Natanz, and an additional 1,000 will turn at a facility in Fordow that will be classified as a research institute (Yeah, right!).
3.     The stockpiling of enriched material will also be restricted. But nowhere in the agreement is there anything about ballistic missiles, nuclear warheads or military R&D.

In return, the sanctions on Iran will be lifted gradually. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be responsible for dictating the pace of the lifting of the sanctions. The Iranians haven't manufactured a bomb until now; so they'll hold back a little longer, for as long as it is worth their while.

The second conclusion coming from the agreement achieved in Lausanne is supposed to offer some comfort. If the Iranian nuclear program does indeed remain under tight supervision throughout the term of the agreement, it's safe to assume that Iran will not be able to turn its nuclear capabilities into a nuclear weapon overnight.

All this is under the assumption that the Iranians play fairly and don't cheat; and that if they do decide to break the rules, we will have at least a one-year warning before they can produce a bomb. Anyone who believes that we can sleep soundly at night with this conclusion in mind must the simple of the Four Sons mentioned in the Passover Haggadah., the one who has no capacity to ask questions.

4.     Iran has agreed to reduce its stockpile of 3.67-percent low-enriched uranium to just 300 kilograms;
5.     has agreed to allow inspectors access to the supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, from the mining of the uranium and through to the completion of the enrichment process;
6.     has agreed to dilute its surplus quantities of uranium – a lot of declarations that could give the impression that the Iranians really were squeezed.

But these declarations have to be backed up by particulars, which don't exist now and probably never will. There's a clause, for example, that restricts the use of new centrifuges over the next 10 years, but it says nothing about restricting the development and production of new and improved centrifuges that can be put into motion the moment the time comes.

Still unclear too is the nature of the IAEA's mechanism for that tight supervision that US President Barack Obama defined as "unprecedented," or if the UN Security Council can automatically reinstate the sanctions if Iran violates the agreement. One thing is clear: Once Iran returns to the family of nations, it will be very difficult to again enlist the world to impose sanctions on Tehran.

There is nothing surprising in the Lausanne agreement. The talks over the last few days were for show only. The Americans knew, just as Israel did, that the Iranians had been willing to sign the current version of the agreement, and an even-worse one from their perspective, already two months ago. And yes, the agreement restricts Iran's nuclear capabilities for a certain period of time. But it is a vague document that lacks numerous essential details, just like the Iranians wanted – a document they can hold up in triumph to their people.

The Iranian representatives conducted the negotiations like true professionals and ran rings around the American secretary of state. In his speech on Thursday, Obama gave Kerry a grade of "Excellent" for his persistence and patience. But anyone who was there knows he deserves a grade of "Unsatisfactory" in negotiation management. And this holds true not only with respect to Iran, but also vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Our friends in Washington appear to have sold Israel out, along with their other allies in the Middle East, for a pittance. No prizes for guessing now about a nuclear race by other countries in the region who
a)     distrust the terms of the agreement
b)     distrust the intentions of the Iranians, and

c)     distrust the US claims to have our backs covered