UN official rebukes UK over Yemen aid cut

UN official rebukes UK over Yemen aid cut
Mark Lowcock — formerly a senior figure in the UK’s Department for International Development — said he was shocked by the decision to slash the country’s Yemen aid budget. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 March 2021

UN official rebukes UK over Yemen aid cut

UN official rebukes UK over Yemen aid cut
  • Mark Lowcock: Britain has decided to ‘balance the books on the backs of starving people’
  • Decision ‘has consequences not just for Yemenis now, but for the world in the long term’

LONDON: The British government has decided to “balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen,” in an act that will see tens of thousands die and damage the UK’s global influence, the head of the UN’s Office for Humanitarian Affairs has said.

In a rare direct criticism of a British government decision, Mark Lowcock — formerly a senior figure in the UK’s Department for International Development — said he was shocked by the decision to slash the country’s Yemen aid budget.

The decision is “an act of medium- and longer-term self-harm, and all for saving what is actually — in the great scheme of things at the moment — a relatively small amount of money,” he added.

“The decision, in other words, to balance the books on the backs of the starving people of Yemen has consequences not just for Yemenis now, but for the world in the long term.”

The British government has announced that it will provide £87 million ($120.3 million) in aid to Yemen this year — down from £164 million in 2020. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the decision was due to “current straitened circumstances” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of measures introduced to manage the pandemic’s economic shock, the British government has temporarily reduced its aid budget from 0.7 percent of gross domestic product to 0.5.

The decision will impact a number of countries and vulnerable populations currently in receipt of British support.

A leaked Foreign Office report revealed that officials are considering slashing the aid budget to Lebanon by 88 percent, to Syria by 67 percent, to Libya by 63 percent, and to Somalia by 60 percent, among other countries.

Lowcock said: “The UK has had a strong reputation for being a leading donor and a lead player in international development. That has had wider reputational benefits for the UK and that obviously isn’t the case any more. There is a very substantial reputational impact, particularly because this is a commitment that was made in the UN.”

He added that the aid cuts would harm Britain’s ability to influence other countries, and that the move could prompt other donors to follow suit.

“The result would be much more loss of life and misery, additional instability and fragility, and more substantial problems in these hotspots, which, we know, from bitter experience, have a tendency to spread and create their own bad dynamics, with wider international consequences, including to countries like the UK,” he said.

A recent escalation in fighting between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi militias has prompted UN warnings that the poorest Arab country is on the brink of the world’s worst famine and humanitarian catastrophe.

In a recent round of fundraising, the UN had hoped to raise $3.85 billion in aid from donor countries, but expressed “disappointment” that despite generous donations from countries such as Saudi Arabia, current total pledges failed to reach even half that amount.


US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
Updated 12 sec ago

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’

US, UK will respond to Taliban based on their ‘actions not words’
LONDON: Members of the UN Security Council have unanimously voted to extend the international organization’s assistance mission in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s sweeping takeover of the country.
At a meeting on Friday, all five permanent members and the 10 rotating members of the Security Council, opted in favor of a resolution tabled by Norway and Estonia to allow the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan’s mandate to run for another six months, until March 17.
The resolution also called for the formation of “an inclusive and representative government,” and emphasized the importance of “the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women” in the country moving forward.
It also reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Taliban-run Afghanistan, adding that, “the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to plan or finance terrorist acts, or to shelter and train terrorists, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country.”
UNAMA is the UN’s main humanitarian facilitator in Afghanistan. It coordinates with other UN bodies such as the World Food Program to deliver aid in the country and employs more than 1,000 people, the majority of them Afghan nationals.
At a press conference prior to the Security Council meeting, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We will hold the Taliban accountable not for what they say, or what they have written in these written commitments, but for their actions. The international community is unified in that position, across the board.”
On how America would deal with any Taliban actions it disagreed with given it no longer had troops in the country, the envoy added: “Our leverage remains. We are one of the largest contributors of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and that gives us tremendous leverage.”
According to the UN, 18 million people in Afghanistan are now in need of humanitarian assistance — around half of the country’s population.
During Friday’s Security Council meeting, Thomas-Greenfield again reaffirmed her country’s commitments to human rights — particularly those of women and minorities — in Afghanistan.
She described the extension of UNAMA’s mission as an “important step” that demonstrated the Security Council’s commitment to the UN’s role in “supporting the Afghan people.”
Britain’s permanent representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said: “On counterterrorism, we hope the Taliban will live up to the commitments they made in Doha (the capital of Qatar).”
Part of the Taliban’s agreements with the US that facilitated the withdrawal of American forces from the country was that the Taliban would no longer allow their territory to be used as a safe haven for terrorists.
Afghanistan was invaded by the US and its NATO allies in 2001 after it was found that the Taliban government was harboring Al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden, that had been central to the deadly attacks in America that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
Echoing the US, Woodward said: “We will calibrate our approach to the Taliban according to the actions they take.”

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
The Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help. (ANJ Photo)
Updated 17 September 2021

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque

First Friday prayers held at new Tokyo mosque
  • An imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims
  • “This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community,” said Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid

TOKYO: Muslims held the first Friday prayers at a new mosque and community center established in the Nishi Kasai district in Edogawa, one of the 23 wards of Tokyo.

On the second floor, an imam led a Friday prayer for about 80 Muslims, while loudspeakers conveyed the audio to the first floor of the building in an area set up for females worshippers.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to open an Islamic Center in Nishi Kasai to serve a Muslim community as well as our neighbors and local community and society at large,” the Imam volunteer Abdul Wahid told Arab News Japan. “We are offering our services, to serve Islam, to teach Islamic values and teachings in this society and community.”

Nishi Kasai is about 15 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

Abdul Wahid said the Islamic Center will open its doors to all who want to learn about Islam and those who need any social help.

Haroon Qureshi, Secretary-General of the Japan Islamic Trust, told Arab News Japan that the establishment is run by the Japan Islamic Trust, a religious organization running nine mosques in Japan.

“We are thankful for the cooperation of the local Muslims in Japan and many donors from more than 70 countries,” he said.

Abdullah Baba, president of Nishi Kasai Center, said they established their community seven years ago when there were 12-15 families, which increased to 80 families. The new center will provide important help for them.


Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
Updated 17 September 2021

Taliban order male students, teachers to school

Taliban order male students, teachers to school
  • A statement published on Facebook Friday did not include girls of that age

ISTANBUL: The Taliban’s education ministry says all male students of grades 6 to 12 and male teachers should resume classes across Afghanistan, starting on Saturday.
The statement published on Facebook on Friday did not include girls of that age, and the lack of guidance highlighted ongoing concerns that the Taliban might impose restrictions on girls and women.
Since taking over power last month, the Taliban had allowed girls in grades one to six to resume classes. When they ruled Afghanistan previously in the 1990s, the Taliban had forbidden girls and women from attending school and work.
In some of the provinces, women still are not allowed to continue their work, with exceptions for women who have worked in health departments, hospitals and education.

Related


Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
Updated 17 September 2021

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort

Trial begins over COVID outbreak in Austrian ski resort
  • An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts

VIENNA: A civil trial opened Friday in Austria over the government’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak at an Alpine ski resort during the early stages of the pandemic that relatives say resulted in unnecessary infections and deaths.
Sieglinde and Ullrich Schopf, the widow and son of a 72-year-old Austrian man who died of COVID-19 after becoming infected in Ischgl, are seeking about 100,000 euros ($117,000) compensation from the government. Their is seen as a test case for a larger class action suit involving hundreds of people who fell ill with COVID-19 following a trip to the Paznaun valley in February and March 2020.
The family is supported by Austria’s Consumer Protection Association, which said it is open to a negotiated settlement.
The outbreak in Ischgl, a popular resort in western Austria, is considered one of Europe’s earliest “super-spreader” events of the pandemic.
“Stopping people from leaving and arriving in the Paznaun valley or at least issuing a travel warning — the authorities failed to do that,” said Alexander Klauser, a lawyer representing the Schopf family. “Thousands of people left the Paznaun valley unhindered, thousands of people arrived without a clue that they were in danger.”
An independent commission last year concluded that authorities in the Tyrol region acted too slowly to shut down ski resorts in the valley after it became clear they were dealing with one of Europe’s first coronavirus outbreaks in March. But the panel didn’t find evidence that political or business pressure played a role in the decisions.
Klauser, the lawyer, said that even after authorities issued a directive to close apres-ski bars it wasn’t enforced strongly enough.
“Open air mass gatherings which were forbidden according to the directive continued,” he said. “The police just watched on without doing anything.”


Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis
Updated 17 September 2021

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

Japan Foreign Minister condemns attacks by Yemen Houthis

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu on Friday condemned Houthi attacks earlier this month on Saudi Arabia.

“On September 4, a missile attack in the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia was launched and repeated transporter attacks by Houthis against Saudi Arabia have been carried out. We strongly condemn such actions,” Motegi told Arab News Japan at a press conference.

Motegi stressed that the Japanese government was attempting to help in negotiations in order for a truce to be reached between the Houthis and various other parties.

“We very much support the activity by Ambassador Grandberg, Special Envoy for Yemen of the United Nations, and various other initiatives to end the disputes in Yemen and in the international community,” Motegi said.

The Japanese minister said during his recent visit to the Middle East, he more firmly supported a peaceful truce in Yemen.

Motegi said Japan will continue to collaborate with the relevant countries within and outside of the Middle East to achieve peace and security in Yemen.

“Ninety percent of the crude oil arriving in Japan comes from the Middle East and from such perspective peace and stability in the region is of crucial importance for Japan.”