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ON THE AGENDA: Ten questions we'll answer this week

Source: Mon, 18 Feb 2013 16:37 GMT
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Here are 10 questions our correspondents will do their darndest to answer this week as they scurry around their various beats, which include humanitarian issues, climate change, women’s rights and corruption. Stay tuned to discover the answers.

 1. Why are there so few women politicians in Kenya?

Liberia has Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Malawi has Joyce Banda. Rwanda has more female MPs than almost any other country. So why does Kenya have the lowest number of women politicians in East Africa? The answer is a lack of affirmative action policies. We’ll bring the issue alive through the eyes of Martha Karua, the country's leading female politician and a presidential hopeful who markets herself as an alternative to the status quo. But as deeply divisive elections loom, will Kenyan voters actually consider voting for a woman? Find out from Katy Migiro on TrustLaw.

2. Is Haiti destined to be a “permanent failed state”?

When he was elected almost two years ago, “Sweet Micky” Michel Martelly promised to clean up quake-hit Haiti. But his government’s failure to organise long-delayed local elections, halt unconstitutional appointments and garner a political consensus means Haiti could become a “permanent failed state”, according to a report by International Crisis Group. AlertNet correspondent Anastasia Moloney will look at what Haiti’s political crisis means for the country’s already slow reconstruction efforts.

3. Are aid workers in Myanmar being threatened for helping Rohingyas?

Most humanitarian agencies in Myanmar won’t talk about it for fear of jeopardising their work, but we’re learning that some aid workers are facing threats for helping Muslim Rohingyas caught up in sectarian violence in Rakhine state. That violence has displaced tens of thousands of people and prompted criticism of Myanmar’s reformist government for its treatment of Rohingyas and its poor handling of clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. Our correspondent will explain more on AlertNet mid-week.

4. Is Britain about to U-turn on extractive industry transparency?

Two years ago, Stephen O’Brien, Britain’s parliamentary undersecretary of state in the Department for International Development, clearly told TrustLaw correspondent Luke Balleny that Britain would not be joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a code of global practice to promote revenue transparency through standardised disclosures of mining fees and taxes. But as Britain prepares to host the G8, are we about to see a U-turn? Luke is digging to find out.

5. Why hasn’t Britain’s Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal for Syria?

Nearly 70,000 people killed and some 2.5 million displaced. You’d think a humanitarian crisis like Syria’s would trigger a fundraising appeal from the Disasters Emergency Committee, an alliance of 14 leading British aid agencies including the likes of Oxfam, the British Red Cross and Save the Children. That’s what usually happens when major crises happen – the DEC allows the aid agencies in the consortium to raise money jointly rather than launching separate appeals. But for Syria, nothing. Could there be politics at play, as there were when the BBC famously refused to air the DEC’s Gaza appeal in 2009? Katie Nguyen is on the case for AlertNet.

6. Who are the new criminal gangs displacing Colombians?

Nearly five decades of conflict between government troops, leftist rebels, cocaine smugglers and groups linked to far-right paramilitaries have uprooted almost 4 million Colombians and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian hotspots. But even as the government and FARC rebels sit down to peace talks in Havana, we’re learning about a new menace driving people off their land: criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining. Is this the inevitable consequence of the “narco culture” that has engulfed Colombia? Anastasia Moloney will investigate for AlertNet.

7. How can “sand dams” tackle water shortages?

Access to water has long been a problem in arid northern Kenya, but new “sand dam” technology is helping people who live there to harvest much-needed water. Our local correspondent will explain all on AlertNet Climate, which will also have stories this week on the role biogas can play in creating jobs for Kenyan women and an important water-sharing treaty between Bangladesh and India.

8. How can telephone hotlines stop backstreet abortions?

In Argentina and Chile, women’s rights groups are running hotlines telling callers how to get safe abortions using the drug misoprostol. This allows women in Chile, where there’s a total ban on abortion, to get information about how to induce safe abortions, which means they are less likely to resort to dangerous backstreet clinics. Anastasia Moloney will have the story for TrustLaw.

9. Why are mothers in the Asia-Pacific region giving up breastfeeding?

A report from Save the Children says less than a third of mothers in the Asia-Pacific region breastfeed their babies, compared with almost half six years earlier. That’s worrying because a child who is breastfed for six months is 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea. What the heck is going on? Could it have something to do with aggressive marketing techniques by makers of breast milk formula, who are targeting Asia as an emerging market? AlertNet correspondent Thin Lei Win is looking into it.

 10. Why is Ethiopia the unlikely champion of disaster risk reduction?

Ethiopia is on course to build Africa's "most comprehensive" risk profile online tool and is urging others to follow suit. What is the future of such disaster risk databases? Astrid Zweynert will have the answer for AlertNet.

That’s not all. Look out this week for video talking points on corruption in Italy and tension over North Korea, plus the following:

  • Emma Batha has an interview with an outspoken and glamorous Senegalese rapper who uses music to spread messages against female genital mutilation (FGM). She’ll also interview a Gambian anti-FGM campaigner who has been imprisoned for her work.
  • Katie Nguyen asks what it will take to get a fair press for refugees and asylum seekers in Britain.
  • We’re following up on the story of Eritrean refugees being kidnapped in eastern Sudan.
  • Thin Lei Win is working on a number of stories on rape in Thailand, including an interview with a former Thai beauty queen, herself a victim of domestic violence, who is speaking out in an effort to break taboos.
  • And Luke Balleny will grill the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on its Tax Information Exchange Agreements, which critics say are too cumbersome to put a thorn in tax dodgers’ sides.

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