UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need
Significant portions of the UK's latest contribution will be distributed directly to vulnerable Syrians. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 31 December 2020

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need

UK pledges $64m in emergency aid amid UN warning of ‘unimaginable’ need
  • The pandemic and conflict present acute danger of humanitarian crises, including famine, during 2021.
  • The UN needs $35 billion in order to meet the needs of the world’s 160 million vulnerable people.

LONDON: The UK has committed to donate an additional £47m ($64m) in humanitarian aid during 2021, following warnings that the coming year will see dramatic rises in food insecurity, malnutrition and starvation.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said on Wednesday that the additional money would be divided between 11 countries facing acute crises, including Syria and Yemen.

“This extra emergency UK aid will mean people can feed their families and prevent these crises from escalating into widespread famine. We hope to see other donors step up to the plate with some extra funding to prevent these global crises getting worse,” said British foreign secretary Dominic Raab.

Vulnerable Syrians will receive £8m ($10.9m) in direct aid, parts of the African Sahel will receive the same, and the remainder will be channelled through the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), which has been forced to cut its aid distribution due to shortages in funding.

The additional £47m in funding will go some way to counteracting the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on developing countries.

Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview that this year “the virus caught the world off guard,” but that it was the world’s poorest nations being hit the hardest by the secondary effects of the pandemic: economic recession, political insecurity and a halt on vaccination programs.

The conditions created by the virus are “a toxic mix that has driven humanitarian need to levels unimaginable at the start of the year,” he said.

WFP predicted in June that, in the countries where it is active, food insecurity would rise by 80% as a result of the pandemic, affecting 270 million people. The UN has since warned that the dual crises of conflict and the pandemic could cause particularly acute devastation in places like Yemen, which is entering its 7th year of conflict since Iran-backed Houthi forces seized the capital Sanaa.

Despite the UK’s contribution, the UN, the WFP, and other agencies still face significant shortfalls in their budgets for 2021. Lowcock said that $35 billion in funding is required for the UN to meet the needs of 160 million vulnerable people globally — a figure that could be difficult to meet as countries facing economic hardship slash their foreign aid budgets.


US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 14 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.
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Sisak reported from New York. Associated Press reporter Jake Bleiberg in Dallas contributed to this report.