1st African council of informal workers’ unions

1st African council of informal workers’ unions

In an unprecedented intervention at the African level, Tunisia chairs the 1st African council of informal workers’ unions.  It must be noted that the gathering of all African informal sectors that involve most of the continent’s populations, in Tunis, is a very commendable effort.

 

1st African council of informal workers’ unions

 

Tunisia chairs 1st African council of informal workers’ unions

(TAP) – An agreement on the creation of the first African council of informal workers’ unions was signed Wednesday during a regional forum held under the theme “the representativeness of informal workers: for an inclusive social dialogue.”

The forum is organised on the initiative of the Tunisian Institute for Inclusive Employment, in collaboration with the Global Equity Initiative.

“Tunisia, which is represented by the Tunisian Institute for Inclusive Employment, is the chair of this African council which includes 6 unions of the informal sector of South Africa, Liberia, Rwanda, Guinea, Ghana and India,” said president of the institute Asma Ben Hassen.

1st African council of informal workers’ unions

She told TAP the council aims to implement the recommendations of studies developed by the Tunisian Institute for Inclusive Employment and the International Labour Office, on the informal sector to implement projects to promote social and health conditions of workers.

Ben Hassen stressed that the file of the informal economy is among the priorities of the Tunisian government for several considerations including the increase in the number of informal workers who reached about 1,592,000 in 2019, according to the National Institute of Statistics, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of economic and social crises.

1st African council of informal workers’ unions

For his part, Minister of Social Affairs Malek Ezzehi stressed the need to address the challenges of the social protection system for vulnerable groups and informal workers, noting the importance of launching a social dialogue to strengthen the transition from the informal economy to the formal economy and support the representativeness of workers in this sector.

A number of representatives of ministries and national organisations, such as the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) and the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA) took part in this meeting, along with components of civil society and specialised centres.

Delegations and experts from Africa and Asia were also present, as well as former Guinean Prime Minister Kabiné Komara.

Unlocking Peace Ministry in the Middle East

Unlocking Peace Ministry in the Middle East

All MENA countries, derived from the XIX and early XX centuries, acquired this capability when policing their citizens, identifying any person protesting their government without due process. The same applies to interstate relations where transboundary resources and interests of any kind envenom and more often inflame situations. So, at this conjecture, is it not the opportune time to at least try unlocking a Peace Ministry in the Middle East?

 

Unlocking Peace Ministry in the Middle East: Announcing the Middle East Consultation 2022

 

 

Everything is affected whenever peace is missing. Absolutely everything! Conflict has a way of harming all areas of the human experience. We all know too well the pain and confusion undermining peace throughout our nations, our communities, and our own souls in regrettable ways. It disorients and forces us to grapple with the seemingly overwhelming gravity of sin and the depth of its consequences. For this reason, God really, really cares about peace.

Seeking peace is essential to God’s story for humanity. Scripture demonstrates the extent to which conflict infects a fallen world while also declaring the length God goes for the sake of peace. This didn’t happen without sacrifice; Jesus Christ endured the extreme weight of conflict as he hung on the cross. And it was on this journey to the cross that he shared eternal words with his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is a perplexing type of comfort. Jesus is perfectly aware that our hearts will face trouble and fear in an uncertain world, but he assures us that the only kind of peace that can suffice is an otherworldly peace. Because of this, we have hope amid the storms of strife.

It can feel like the Middle East invents ever creative ways to undermine peace as people across the region deal with struggling societies, mounting insecurities, dirty politics, violent factionalism, destructive ideologies, and wave after wave of crisis. The problems fill headlines and reports throughout ceaseless cycles of bad news. Residents struggle through chronic frustration and disillusion, and growing numbers are joining a migration outflow seeking better fortunes in new locations.

Christ followers across the Middle East face their own flavors of conflict. Egypt encounters layers of challenges as churches and Christian groups serve amid rapidly changing times. In Algeria churches struggle to forge faith communities against the grain of a suppressive government. Christians of Iraq continue to navigate decades-long strife while trying to nurture one another and serve their neighbors. In Palestine, occupation and oppression hinder the most basic areas of human life and fuel hardships of many kinds. Sudan’s believers are dealing with rapidly changing political situations after years of regime change and upheaval. And in Lebanon, new layers of crisis pile upon old, unresolved conflicts to destabilize a state and its people. Unfortunately, these are only brief samples of the range of conflict raging across the region. It can all seem so overwhelming, and in the darkest moments cries go out, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1).

Though it doesn’t come easily, we must insist on recognizing the profound ways God’s people can and do faithfully minister peace amid challenging situations. Churches, organizations, and individuals of faith are ready vessels for extending Christ’s peace; they possess the potential by the Spirit to alter situations and write new stories for people and places. Is this not what it means to take hold of the peace that Christ leaves? This among the many questions the Middle East Consultation 2022 aims to ask on September 21-23 during Peace I Leave with You: Theories and Practices for Peace Ministry in the Middle East.

Practicing effective peace ministry requires us to imagine peace in ways that conform our thoughts and attitudes to the person of Christ in service of others. Biblically, peace ministry can be understood as the work of unlocking human potential by moving people, communities, and nations into healthier dynamics of shared life. Such outreach proceeds from deep convictions that the gospel is a holistic response to any situation where sin inflicts strife, oppression, hatred, and mistrust- everything antithetical to the restorative work of God.

Paradigms for peace ministry can help us recognize how peace involves multidimensional expressions (peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peacebuilding) working across levels of the human experience, including the personal, group, and national. The following grid, which MEC 2022 will adopt as a basic working framework, helps conceptualize this dynamic:

National Peacekeeping National Peacemaking National Peacebuilding
Group Peacekeeping Group Peacemaking Group Peacebuilding
Personal Peacekeeping Personal Peacemaking Personal Peacebuilding

Such a framework is helpful, but it certainly cannot convey the complexity of engaging conflict. There are no simple explanations or quick solutions to the problems plaguing the Middle East. Each unique context in the region carries assorted variables that require us to ask a proper set of questions. Worldly logic may say peace is an elusive dream or unattainable ideal, but authentic faith in Christ compels us to take hold of the gospel’s promises of peace as we seek to discover how God is active and alive in the world. Our eschatological hope for the future moves us to action as we relish the words of Isaiah 9:7: There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.

God is working through conflict for redemptive purposes, and everyone has a role to play in this. This means embracing the invitation to partner with God in living out Christ-honoring works of peace and continually exploring new ways to think about the theories and practices of peace ministry.

On September 21-23, the Middle East Consultation 2022 will do just this in the three-day online event Peace I Leave with You: Theories and Practices for Peace Ministry in the Middle EastJoin us for a series of enriching discussions examining the challenges facing the Middle East region and illuminating the hopefulness of peace for the world in and through Christ.

Read Arab Baptist Theological Seminary.

Apply for MEC 2022 today!

Factbox: What became of the ‘Arab Spring’?

Factbox: What became of the ‘Arab Spring’?

In a would-be factbox enumeration, what became of the ‘Arab Spring’ by is explored in the aftermath of the not-so-well-mediatised people’s mass movements in specific countries of the MENA, Here is perhaps the exception give or take a few other countries such as Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, etc. 

July 25 (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied is set to secure more power under a new constitution that is expected to pass in a referendum on Monday, in what critics fear is a march to one-man rule over a country that rose up against dictatorship in 2010. read more

Saied’s opponents fear the changes will deal a major blow to democracy in Tunisia, widely seen as the only success story of the “Arab Spring” uprisings against autocratic rule that elsewhere ended in renewed repression and civil wars.

Here’s a recap of how the Arab Spring panned out for the countries affected:

TUNISIA

Fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire on Dec. 17, 2010 after a local official confiscated his barrow.

Protests spread from his town, Sidi Bouzid, across the country, turning deadly. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled on Jan. 14, 2011, inspiring revolts elsewhere.

Factbox: What became of the 'Arab Spring'?

Police officers control the crowd while surrounding a man suspected to be involved in opening fire on a beachside hotel in Sousse, as a woman reacts, Tunisia June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Amine Ben Aziza

Tunisia held a first democratic election that October, won by the moderate Islamist Ennahda which had been banned under Ben Ali.

A new constitution establishing a parliamentary system was agreed in 2014, and Tunisians choose their lawmakers and president in free and fair elections, most recently in 2019.

However, economic troubles caused hardship and disillusionment. Illegal emigration to Europe increased. The economy, heavily dependent on tourism, was hit particularly hard by COVID-19.

In July 2021, President Kais Saied froze parliament and sacked the government – moves his opponents called a coup but which were welcomed by those Tunisians who were fed up with political bickering and paralysis. read more

A year later, Saied called a referendum on a new constitution that strengthened the presidency, capping what his opponents called a march to one-man rule. Saied has said freedoms will be protected. read more

EGYPT

President Hosni Mubarak had been in power since 1981, but massive anti-government protests began on Jan. 25, 2011 as activists called a “day of rage”, inspired by Tunisia. As hundreds of thousands of protesters massed after Friday prayers three days later, Mubarak deployed the military.

Factbox: What became of the 'Arab Spring'?

Egyptians rally at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo February 1, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Protests gathered momentum, and the army pulled its forces from the protests and Mubarak stepped down – to be tried in August on charges of abusing power and killing demonstrators.

The once-banned Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 election but a year later the military, encouraged by anti-Brotherhood protests, toppled the new president, Mohamed Mursi, who was put in prison and died in 2019.

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi replaced him as president. Rights groups documented abuses in a crackdown on dissent and the military faced a long-running insurgency from Islamist militants in Sinai.

Mubarak died a free man in 2020 aged 91, the case against him having been dropped in 2014.

YEMEN

Crowds took to the streets against President Ali Abdullah Saleh from Jan. 29, 2011, aggravating splits in the army and between political blocs. Saleh was hurt in an assassination attempt in June 2011, forcing him to seek treatment in Saudi Arabia.

Gulf states brokered a transition deal including a “national dialogue” aimed at resolving Yemen’s problems, with Saleh’s old deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to be president until elections.

With an al Qaeda insurgency raging in the east, Sanaa faced new problems in the north from the Iran-allied Houthi group and from a revived southern secessionist movement.

In 2015, after the Houthis seized Sanaa, Saudi Arabia and its allies began a military campaign to keep Hadi in power – a war that soon reached bloody stalemate, aggravating food shortages and cholera outbreaks.

Ex-president Saleh was killed in a roadside attack in 2017 after switching sides, abandoning the Iran-aligned Houthis for the Saudi-led coalition.

A U.N.-backed ceasefire took effect in April, 2022 and Hadi, who had spent years in exile in Saudi Arabia, was replaced by a presidential council.

LIBYA

In first Benghazi and then Misrata, protests broke out in February, 2011, soon turning to armed revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

In March, the United Nations Security Council declared a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces and NATO started air strikes to halt their advance on Benghazi.

By August, rebels had seized Tripoli and in October Gaddafi was captured hiding in a drainpipe outside his hometown of Sirte and killed.

Local militias seized hold of territory and, as chaos took hold, the country split in 2014 between western and eastern factions. The U.N. helped broker a political agreement in 2015, but in practice the country stayed divided and Islamic State seized control of Sirte for more than a year.

In 2019 eastern commander Khalifa Haftar launched a new war, assaulting Tripoli for 14 months before his forces turned back. By now the conflict was international, with Russia, the UAE and Egypt backing Haftar and Turkey the Tripoli government.

A U.N.-backed election – part of a peace process aimed at knitting Libya back together – was cancelled in December, 2021 for reasons including disputes over the rules.

In March 2022, the Sirte-based parliament appointed a new prime minister but the government based in Tripoli refused to step down, leaving Libya split between rival administrations.

BAHRAIN

On Feb. 14, 2011, the biggest protests in years erupted in Bahrain as demonstrators echoed the Egyptian crowd’s call for a “day of rage” to demand the ruling monarchy grant democracy.

As protesters and police clashed over the coming weeks, sectarian tensions rose in a country where many majority Shi’ite Muslims had long chafed against the Sunni ruling dynasty.

On March 14, neighbouring Sunni kingdom Saudi Arabia sent tanks across the causeway linking it to Bahrain to guard major installations. The authorities declared martial law and cleared protesters from the camp that had become their symbol.

Protests continued for months, leading to at least 35 deaths, but the monarchy suppressed the uprising and restored control.

SYRIA

When the first protests began to spread through Syria in March, 2011, President Bashar al-Assad sent in security forces and there was a wave of arrests and shootings.

Factbox: What became of the 'Arab Spring'?

A youth with his back painted with the colours of Syria’s opposition flag marches during a demonstration demanding that relatives of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh be dismissed from senior army and police posts in Sanaa May 14, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

By July, protesters were taking up arms and army units were joining the gathering revolt, later backed by Gulf monarchies and Turkey, as Assad hit back with air strikes. Full-blown war erupted.

As chaos engulfed the country, the Islamic State group in 2014 seized a swathe of territory, drawing a U.S.-led coalition to back Kurdish fighters in the northeast.

Support from Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah movement helped Assad claw back control over much of the country, defeating the rebels in areas including Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta from 2015-18.

By the end of the decade, hundreds of thousands were dead and more than half the country’s pre-war population was displaced with the country partitioned between Assad, Turkey-backed rebels and Kurdish-led groups.

Writing by Angus McDowall and Tom Perry; Editing by William Maclean

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Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

By Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects Julian Delia

 

Smart City Malta isn’t the only project masterminded by Dubai Holding, a subsidiary company of the UAE crown’s real estate arm, that has departed from its original terms, according to research conducted by The Shift following the Maltese government’s recent decision to change the parameters of the deal.

Similar projects in India and Morocco have also suffered the same fate – incomplete, then turned into residential projects yielding more personal profits instead of the investment in the economy and the creation of jobs promised.

The three Emirati nationals on Smart City (Malta) Ltd’s board of directors are Khalid al Malik, Jassim al Abdool, and Majed Mohammed Khamis Sabt Al Suwaidi. Dubai Holding’s subsidiary company, SmartCity Dubai FZ-LLC, owns a majority of the shares of SmartCity (Malta) Ltd.

The new terms of the deal for Smart City Malta ratified by the Labour government mean the three wealthy businessmen have been granted a much freer rein over what happens with the massive tract of land they purchased in Kalkara in 2007.

Al Malik is listed as the managing director of Dubai Holding, while Abdool is the executive director of Dubai Holding Real Estate.

Al Suwaidi is the managing director of three subsidiary companies under the umbrella of TECOM Group. TECOM Group also forms part of Dubai Holding’s portfolio of companies.

The Smart City project in Malta amounts to almost a fifth (17.55%) of Kalkara’s entire surface area – 316,000sqm from a total of 1,800,000sqm of land.

In 2007, the Maltese government first signed the deal which was supposed to lead to the creation of an ICT city, a project backed by a €300 million investment that was supposed to create 5,600 jobs, which never materialised.

From Kalkara to Kakkanad

That same year, Dubai Holding announced an almost identical Smart City pitch for an area in India known as Kakkanad.

Smart City Kochi, as the project is known, bears striking similarities with the one in Malta, albeit on a larger scale – in 10 years, the project was supposed to convert over 800,000sqm of land into an ICT city, creating 90,000 jobs in the process.

Like Smart City Malta, Smart City Kochi also lists Malik and Abdool as directors.

In 2020, the New Indian Express published an article describing how a state government representative sitting on Smart City Kochi’s board had allegedly attempted to sell off over 120,000sqm of land meant for IT development as residential real estate instead.

The attempt to sell off this land mirrors what happened in Malta with the Shoreline residential development – even though the original agreement stipulated specific parameters for ICT-related development.

Two years later, the same news portal published another article comparing Smart City Kochi with an IT hub located across the street known as Infopark, with the portal describing the promised Smart City hub as a project that “failed to live up to all the initial hype even 11 years after its launch”.

An analysis of the concept art originally showcased for Smart City Kochi compared to satellite imagery of the area on Google Maps shows that while some of the proposed projects are under construction, ten years later, the project is far from what was advertised as the end stage of the project.

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

The conceptualisation of the Smart City Kochi project.

 

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A Google maps view of the region in which the Kochi project was supposed to be built (the box in red marks the location of Infopark).

The Rabat-Salé connection

Al Malik’s biography on Dubai Holding’s website states that the managing director “is also responsible for the company’s international real estate investments in places such as Malta, Kochi and Morocco as well as managing its strategic relations with local and international investors, and its government affairs”.

The Shift’s research indicates that Dubai Holding had, in 2005, announced a $2 billion project in an area known as Bouregreg, nestled between the cities of Rabat and Salé in Morocco.

Similar to the project in Kakkanad and Kalkara, the ambitious plans announced initially by the then-king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, do not match what is seen in Bouregreg today.

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A conceptualisation of the urban development between Rabat and Salé.

 

Wealthy sheikhs behind Smart City leave trail of failed projects

A Google maps screenshot showing the same area between Rabat and Salé as it currently stands.

The project was originally supposed to convert a massive 40 million sqm area into an entirely new urban district featuring 2,000 apartments, 300 retail outlets and adjacent malls, parks and theatres.

The only visible structure in the area is the Grand Théâtre de Rabat, the construction of which was completed last year, two years past its deadline.

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What is the link if any between the countries of the MENA region?

What is the link if any between the countries of the MENA region?

From Morocco to Oman, apart from the obvious official language and religion, there is history.  In effect, it is the movement of people from the outer edges of the MENA that was always throughout millennia a common carrier upon which carriages would transport migrants away from danger and bad life.  So, what is the link if any between the countries of the MENA region?

Recent examples of mass movements of Syrians into Jordan, Turkey, and the European Union would be the most edifying sample.  More recently, Yemen despite its status as a poorer country compared to other Gulf ones went nevertheless through conflict with its neighbours and its populations had to flee away to its immediate adjacent countries.  Before that, there was the Libyan case where a large desert country with a small population did produce as it were some migrants mostly to Europe for the well offs and the neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt for the masses.

After more than half a century of migratory movements between the two shores of the Mediterranean, the North African migration system was definitively “formatted” as it still stands today: organically linked to France first, and then to Western Europe.

The Levant conflict and civil wars, and finally the crises and successive wars here and there since the 80s, have consequently forced the exodus of millions.  North African countries have in turn been affected, directly or indirectly, by these Middle Eastern crises.

But geopolitical issues are also not the only differentiator of these countries and apart from armed conflicts and/or civil unrest, oil and conflict are felt like the main drivers of migration to and from or within the MENA.

Climate change and its subsequent life deregulations are affecting its inhabitants.  Would this, despite all the goodwill of all the COPs and SDGs, affect the numbers and the flows?

Would all countries be subject to this culturally well-established custom since the Exodus from Egypt, to run away to search for better climes?

The above-featured image is of Wilson Center.

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