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Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam

Reuters’ ENVIRONMENT reported on August 2, 2019, that Turkey starts filling huge Tigris river dam, activists say in an article by Ali Kucukgocmen.

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey has started filling a huge hydroelectric dam on the Tigris river, a lawmaker and activists said, despite protests that it will displace thousands of people and risks creating water shortages downstream in Iraq.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the ancient town of Hasankeyf by the Tigris river, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, June 1, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Citing satellite images, they said that water was starting to build up behind the Ilisu dam, a project that has been decades in the making and which aims to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity for southeast Turkey.

Turkish officials have not commented on work at the dam. Turkey’s State Hydraulic Works (DSI), which oversees dam projects, referred questions to the Presidency, and the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry was not available to comment.

However, President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier this year that Turkey would start filling the Ilisu dam in June, a year after it briefly held backwater before backing down following complaints from Iraq about reduced water flows in mid-summer.

The dam, which first gained Turkish government approval in 1997, is a key part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, designed to improve its poorest and least developed region.

FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

Iraq says the dam will create water shortages by reducing flows in one of two rivers which the country depends on for much of its supplies. Around 70% of Iraq’s water supplies flow from neighboring countries, especially via the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.

Satellite images from the past two weeks show the dam has started holding water, said Necdet Ipekyuz, a lawmaker from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). He said a road in the area has already been submerged.

“They are taking steps slowly to decrease the reactions to water being held. That is why they are not informing the public,” he said, adding that several HDP lawmakers tried to visit the dam in July but were prevented by police.

Environmental campaigners have unsuccessfully challenged the dam project at the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds it would damage the country’s cultural heritage.

SUBMERGED TOWN

The rising waters of the dam are also expected to eventually submerge the 12,000-year-old town of Hasankeyf. Residents are being moved from the ancient town to a “New Hasankeyf” nearby, while historic artefacts have also been transported out of the area.

A group of NGOs, lawmakers and labor unions shared satellite images of the dam showing the increase in water levels between July 19-29.

“The current situation is strengthening the idea that the valves have been closed permanently,” the group, known as Hasankeyf Coordination, said in a statement.

“Because the dam lake is growing every day, the people who live in these areas are worried. They cannot know when the water will reach their residential or agricultural areas.”

The Iraqi government said in a statement that Turkish and Iraqi officials had discussed the water resources of the two rivers in Baghdad on Wednesday to see how they could “serve the interests of both countries”.

Turkey proposed setting up a joint research center in Baghdad for water management and to work together on some agriculture plantations in Iraq, as well as projects for development of drinking water infrastructure. FILE PHOTO: The Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be significantly submerged by the Ilisu dam being constructed, in southeastern Turkey, August 26, 2018. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar

The European Court of Human Rights in February dismissed the case brought by environmental campaigners to block the dam project, saying heritage protection is the responsibility of Turkish authorities and it had no jurisdiction.

The government needs to make an announcement, even if the dam were being filled for a trial run, said HDP’s Ipekyuz. “They are trying to tie a belt around the Tigris river’s neck and suffocate it,” he said.

Additional reporting by John Davison and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad; Editing by Dominic Evans and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Funding for Climate Action in the MENA region

Funding for Climate Action in the MENA region

Green for Growth Fund (GGF) attracts EUR 4 million in new catalytic funding for climate action in the MENA region.

Climate Action in the Middle East North Africa (CAMENA) invests EUR 4 million in the GGF to attract private capital for helping the region fight climate change; together with EUR 5 million EIB investment, the contribution further strengthens GGF’s capacity for financing and promoting green energy measures.

The Green for Growth Fund (GGF), an impact investment fund advised by Finance in Motion, has attracted EUR 4 million in dedicated funding from the initiative Climate Action in the Middle East North Africa (CAMENA). Combined with EUR 5 million in support from the European Investment Bank (EIB) through the Luxembourg-EIB Climate Finance Platform in 2018, the GGF has increased its capacity to leverage further private investments for green lending in the region.

Created with the support of the U.K. Department for International Development, CAMENA is managed by the EIB as an initiative to help countries in the Southern Mediterranean fight climate change by funding targeted climate initiatives and vehicles, like the GGF. The EIB is also supporting the GGF’s efforts to drive climate action by providing additional funding through the Luxembourg-EIB Climate Finance Platform. The investments will be used to strengthen the GGF’s “C-shares”, a special risk-absorbing layer that enables the fund to attract private capital – which is crucial for channelling higher volumes of investment to achieve maximum impact.

The GGF has seen remarkable growth in its MENA investment portfolio, which increased by over 50% in volume in 2018 to cross the EUR 133 million mark. The GGF leverages public and private capital to fund pioneering green energy initiatives such as the Phoenix 50MW sub-project of the Benban Solar Park in Egypt, the largest solar farm in the world.

“Mobilising private finance for climate action projects in the MENA region is a key priority for the EU Bank.  That is why I am very pleased that we have finalised this investment in the Green for Growth Fund. We believe this support is an important signal of confidence in the fund’s potential. We expect that our commitment, which is strengthening the special risk absorbing a layer of the fund, will attract additional finance from the private sector to support transformative green energy projects in the region” said Barbara Boos, head of the Infrastructure Funds and Climate Action division of the EIB. 

“As a co-initiator of the GGF, EIB has been instrumental in supporting green energy initiatives in the MENA region through their trust funds. We value partners like the EIB, whose contributions absorb market risks so as to attract additional private investments, thus helping to make green finance mainstream,” said GGF Chairman Olaf Zymelka. “These kinds of initiatives enable funds like the GGF to become a testament to the power public capital can wield in engaging private capital,” he added.

Lloyd Stevens, Director at GGF advisor Finance in Motion, added: “The MENA region is highly susceptible to climate change on account of its water scarcity, high dependence on climate-sensitive agriculture, and concentration of population and economic activity in urban coastal zones. Therefore, we consider it crucial for the GGF to have a positive environmental impact in the region by promoting energy and resource efficiency, and the development of renewable energy sources.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of European Investment Bank (EIB).
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European Investment Bank (EIB)
Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Travel AND Tour World published on Monday, July 29, 2019, this article elaborating on the current tourism together with other types of related business activities in the Gulf region. Dubai with its impressive urban development, artificial islands and other coastline attractions has been for a time spearheading the regional shopping and business tourism. The recent economic uncertainties within the GCC countries as well as through the political movements of the US, the EU and all other heavyweights vested interests of the world economy seem to be behind this story.

Tourism slowdown in Dubai’s Jumeirah cuts 500 jobs

Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Due to a slowdown in the emirate’s tourism industry, Jumeirah Group has cut hundreds of jobs and according to people familiar with the industry, it weighs on the operator of Dubai’s sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel.

As per sources hundreds of jobs were slashed recently by the operators of Burj Al Arab along with 24 hotels worldwide.

As the information was private the government-owned luxury hotel chain, which manages 24 properties in eight countries, recently shed about 500 jobs.

Jumeriah has more than 13,500 employees according to its website and most of the cuts were support roles.

The tourism sector is stalled causing Dubai’s hotels to struggle and the occupancy level was found to be the lowest during the second quarter since 2009.

The average daily rates and revenue available per room fell to 2003 levels as stated by STR, a global hotel data provider.

There has been an oversupply due to new opening ahead of the 2020 World Expo.

The geopolitical tensions, relatively low oil prices, the ongoing real estate and the retail slump has caused Dubai-based companies and real estate developer and banks to cut down their staffs.

New measures have been introduced by the Dubai government to stimulate the economy by lowering business fees and providing long-term visas.

Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction

Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction

Reuters’ BUSINESS NEWS on July 25, 2019, posted this article titled Old habits die hard: Saudi Arabia struggles to end oil addiction written by Rania El Gamal and Saeed Azhar to clearly show us how things of fossil fuels nature tend not to change a bit if not at all and despite all efforts to the contrary.

DUBAI (Reuters) – When Saudi Aramco was on the verge of a deal last year to buy a stake in an Indian oil refinery, its boss quickly boarded a company jet in Paris and flew to New Delhi.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih addresses the media flanked by India’s Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan (L) and Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser (R) during International Energy Forum (IEF) to announce Saudi Aramco’s participation in a planned refinery project in the western state of Maharashtra, in New Delhi, India, April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain/File Photo

Chief executive Amin Nasser arrived unannounced early on April 11, 2018, finalised the agreement and signed it later that day. Negotiators had just finished hammering out the details.

His last-minute flight, after a business trip to France with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, underlined the importance of the deal both to Saudi Arabia and its huge state oil firm.

The planned investment in the $44-billion (£35 billion) refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast is a prime example of how Aramco is trying to squeeze value out of each barrel of oil it produces by snapping up refining capacity, mainly in fast-growing Asia.

But it also underlines the challenge Saudi Arabia faces in reducing its heavy economic reliance on oil. The results of its programme to diversify have been mixed, some projects are moving slowly and others are too ambitious, economic and energy analysts say.

Prince Mohammed’s stated goal of being able to “live without oil” by as early as 2020 looks set to be missed.

“Saudi Arabia’s oil addiction is as strong as ever…economically, of course, the Saudi economy runs on oil. Oil still dominates GDP, exports and government revenues,” said Jim Krane, energy fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

“That said, Saudi Arabia is changing its relationship with oil. The dependence remains. But the kingdom is squeezing more value out of its oil,” he said.

The slow progress means the Saudi economy is likely to remain hostage to oil prices for longer than planned. Any delay in implementing change also risks denting Prince Mohammed’s image as a reformer.

SECURING THE FUTURE

Announcing his plan three years ago, the Crown Prince said Saudi Arabia must end its “oil addiction” to ensure the world’s biggest oil exporter and second largest producer cannot be “at the mercy of commodity price volatility or external markets.”

He spoke after a fall in crude oil prices boosted the Saudi fiscal deficit to about 15% of gross domestic product in 2015, slowing government spending and economic growth.

This year the deficit could hit 7% of GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund, as oil-related growth slows following production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Aramco is central to the Crown Prince’s reform plan in several ways, not least because its planned partial privatisation will generate income for the reforms.

The company has also been involved in most of the kingdom’s high-profile deals in the last two years as it increased investment in refining and petrochemicals.

In that time, Aramco has announced at least $50 billion worth of investments in Saudi Arabia, Asia and the United States. It aims to almost triple its chemicals production to 34 million metric tons per year by 2030 and raise its global refining capacity to 8-10 million barrels per day (bpd) from more than 5 million bpd.

In March last year, Aramco finalised a deal to buy a $7 billion stake in a refinery and petrochemicals project with Malaysia’s Petronas. A month later, Nasser and a consortium of Indian companies signed the initial deal that would give Aramco a stake in the planned 1.2 million bpd refinery in India’s western Maharashtra state.

In February of this year, Aramco signed a $10 billion deal for a refining and petrochemical complex in China. Last month it signed 12 deals with South Korea worth billions of dollars, ranging from ship building to an expansion of a refinery owned by Aramco.

“This is what I call the back to basics approach to economic diversification in the Gulf,” said Robin Mills, chief executive of energy consultancy Qamar Energy in Dubai. “The energy industry has the assets, capital and skills, so it’s the engine of new projects – refining, petrochemicals, gas and so on.”

MR UPSTREAM LOOKS DOWNSTREAM

In March, Aramco said it was acquiring a 70 percent stake in petrochemicals firm Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) (2010.SE) for $69.1 billion from the national wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Aramco is gaining new markets for its crude and building a global downstream presence – the refining, processing and purifying end of the production line. Its aim is to become a global leader in chemicals.

“We are not investing left and right, we are investing in the right markets, we are investing in the right refining assets, we are investing where we create value from fuels to chemicals,” Abdulaziz al-Judaimi, Aramco’s Senior Vice President for Downstream, told Reuters in May.

Nasser, previously known by Aramco employees as Mr Upstream, is leading the downstream expansion. He wants to bring Aramco’s refining capacity closer to its oil production potential, which is now at 12 million bpd.

Aramco wants gradually to match the downstream presence of its big competitors and, like Saudi Arabia as a whole, to reduce its vulnerability to any downturn in demand for crude oil or oil price volatility.

“You want to secure your demand in key markets,” said an industry source familiar with Saudi Arabia’s oil plans. “You have to become more dynamic, to become more adaptable, you have to make sure that you secure your future. Malaysia was one example, India was another.”

For years, Aramco has been a regular crude supplier to Indian refiners via long-term crude contracts.

Yet while it has stakes in refineries or storage assets in other important Asia markets such as China, Japan and South Korea – and owns the largest refinery in the United States – it has not secured that same access in India, a fast-growing market for fuel and petrochemicals.Slideshow (2 Images)

“India is a market that you just can’t ignore anymore,” an industry source said.

Aramco has also shifted its marketing strategy in China. It is now more oriented towards independent refiners to boost Saudi crude sales after years of dealing almost exclusively with state-owned Chinese firms.

SLOW PROGRESS

But overall, plans to wean Saudi Arabia of oil have advanced slowly.

Few details have emerged of a $200-billion solar power-generation project announced by the PIF and Japan’s SoftBank in March 2018. It is unclear how or when the project will be executed, and Saudi’s Arabia’s energy ministry is moving ahead with its own solar projects.

In a blow to potential investment, the image of Saudi Arabia and the reputation of the Crown Prince have been damaged by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

Leading businessmen and politicians boycotted an investment forum meant to showcase the kingdom’s new future away from oil, and it was only big deals with Aramco that saved it.

Also, the partial privatisation of Aramco has been delayed since it set out its plans to acquire the stake in SABIC, though senior Saudi officials including Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih have said it could now happen in 2020-2021.

The PIF, chaired by Prince Mohammed, was meant to receive around $100 billion from the flotation. Instead it will get around $70 billion from the sale of its SABIC stake.

The PIF made its mark on the global stage three years ago by taking a $3.5- billion stake in Uber Technologies. But since 2016, the PIF’s direct investments overseas stand at just $10.5 billion, according to Refinitiv data, and many of the fund’s announced commitments have yet to materialise.

The funds’ main investments over the past two years were inequity shares in companies such as electric car makers Tesla (TSLA.O) and Lucid Motors and Gulf e-commerce platform Noon.com.

Such deals would not necessarily attract inward foreign investment, help develop industries or create jobs.

Additional reporting by Marwa Rashad and Hadeel Al Sayegh; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Paul Salopek is tracing humankind’s footsteps out of Africa, giving voice on the way to migrants who are part of history’s largest diaspora.

A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age

By Paul Salopek, Photographs by John Stanmeyer


This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.


Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa
ETHIOPIA 2013, FOLLOWING OUR FOREBEARS Paul Salopek (at left) and his guide Ahmed Elema begin day two of the author’s global odyssey at the village of Herto Bouri, where the . . . Read More Magazine Out of Eden Walk

For nearly seven years I have been walking with migrants.

In the winter of 2013 I set out from an ancient Homo sapiens fossil site called Herto Bouri, in the north of Ethiopia, and began retracing, on foot, the defining journey of humankind: our first colonization of the Earth during the Stone Age.

My long walk is about storytelling. I report what I see at boot level along the pathways of our original discovery of the planet. From the start, I knew my route would be vague. Anthropologists suggest that our species first stepped out of Africa 600 centuries ago and eventually wandered, more or less aimlessly, to the tip of South America—the last unknown edge of the continents and my own journey’s finish line. We were roving hunters and foragers. We lacked writing, the wheel, domesticated animals, and agriculture. Advancing along empty beaches, we sampled shellfish. We took our bearings off the rippling arrows of migrating cranes. Destinations had yet to be invented. I have trailed these forgotten adventurers for more than 10,000 miles so far. Today I am traversing India.

Our modern lives, housebound as they are, have changed almost beyond recognition since that golden age of footloose exploration.

Or have they?

The United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons. The roots of this colossal new exodus include a globalized market system that tears apart social safety nets, a pollutant-warped climate, and human yearnings supercharged by instant media. In sheer numbers, this is the largest diaspora in the long history of our species.

I pace off the world at 15 miles a day. I mingle often among the uprooted.

In Djibouti I have sipped chai with migrants in bleak truck stops. I have slept alongside them in dusty UN refugee tents in Jordan. I have accepted their stories of pain. I have repaid their laughter. I am not one of them, of course: I am a privileged walker. I carry inside my rucksack an ATM card and a passport. But I have shared the misery of dysentery with them and have been detained many times by their nemesis—police. (Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have denied me visas; Pakistan ejected me, then allowed me back in.)

What can be said about these exiled brothers and sisters? About the immense shadowlands they inhabit, paradoxically, in plain sight?

Hunger, ambition, fear, political defiance—the reasons for movement are not truly the question. More important is knowing how the journey itself shapes a different class of human being: people whose ideas of “home” now incorporate an open road—a vast and risky tangent of possibility that begins somewhere far away and ends at your doorsill. How you accept this tiding, with open arms or crouched behind high walls, isn’t at issue either. Because however you react, with compassion or fear, humankind’s reawakened mobility has changed you already.

The first migrants I encountered were dead. They lay under small piles of stones in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

Who were these unfortunates?

It was difficult to know. The world’s poorest people travel from many distant lands to perish in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts on Earth. They walk into these terrible barrens in order to reach the Gulf of Aden. There the sea is the doorway to a new (though not always better) life beyond Africa: slave-wage jobs in the cities and date plantations of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the migrants’ graves doubtless contained Somalis: war refugees. Others likely held deserters from Eritrea. Or drought-weakened Oromos from Ethiopia. All had hoped to sneak across the unmarked borders of Djibouti. They became lost. They collapsed under a molten sun. Sometimes they dropped from thirst within sight of the sea. The columns of exhausted travelers walking behind hastily buried the bodies.

How long have we been depositing our bones like this on the desolate trails of the African Horn? For a long time. From the very beginning. After all, this is the same corridor used by the first modern humans to exit Africa during the Pleistocene.

One day I stumbled across a group of scarecrows hiding in the scant shade of some boulders—15 lean Ethiopian men who seemed to pretend that if they didn’t move a muscle, they would be invisible. Some were manual laborers. Most were farmers from the Ethiopian highlands. The annual rains, the farmers said, had become impossibly erratic. Sticking it out on their sun-cracked fields meant slow starvation. Better to chance the ocean of white light that is the Afar Triangle, even if you never returned. They were pioneers of sorts, new climate change refugees.

A recent World Bank study calculates that by 2050 more than 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could be tumbled into motion by the catastrophic effects of climate change. Ten million climate refugees could swell the trails of East Africa alone. In Ethiopia the tide may reach 1.5 million people—more than 15 times the emigrants now straggling annually through the Afar Triangle to reach the Middle East.

Inching north up the Rift, I was forced to consider the urge to leave a familiar world that was falling apart, a home where the sky itself was against you. All around me snaked the invisible battle lines of an intensifying range war between the Afar and Issa pastoralists—two competing herder groups whose shallow wells were drying up, whose pastures were thinning from a relentless cycle of droughts. They shot at each other over the ownership of a papery blade of grass, over a cup of sandy water. In other words, over survival. Here was the source of our oldest travel story. Drastic climate change and murderous famines, experts say, likely helped drive the first pulses of humans out of Africa.

How strong is the push to leave? To abandon what you love? To walk into the unknown with all your possessions stuffed into a pocket? It is more powerful than fear of death.

In the Afar Triangle I stumbled across seven unburied bodies. They were women and men clustered together. They lay faceup, mummified atop a dark lava field. The heat was devastating. The little wild dogs of the desert, the jackals, had taken these travelers’ hands and feet. My walking partner, Houssain Mohamed Houssain, shook his head in wonder, in disgust. He was an ethnic Afar, a descendant of camel herders, the old kings of the desert. His people called the recent waves of transients hahai—“people of the wind”—ghosts who blew across the land. He snapped a picture.

“You show them this,” Houssain said angrily, “and they say, ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’ ”

One of the unlucky migrants had squeezed under a ledge. Doubtless he was crazed for shade. He had placed his shoes next to his naked body, just so, with one sock rolled carefully inside each shoe. He knew: His walking days were over.

Walking the continents teaches you to look down. You appreciate the importance of feet. You take an interest in footwear. This is natural.

Human character, of course, is mirrored in the face. The eyes reveal sincerity, lying, curiosity, love, hate. But one’s choice of shoes (or even lack of it) speaks to personal geography: wealth or poverty, age, type of work, education, gender, urban versus rural. Among the world’s legions of migrants, a certain pedal taxonomy holds. Economic migrants—the destitute millions with time to plan ahead—seem to favor the shoe of the 21st century’s poor: the cheap, unisex, multipurpose Chinese sneaker. War refugees escaping violence, by contrast, must trudge their wretched roads in rubber flip-flops, dress loafers, dusty sandals, high-heeled pumps, booties improvised from rags, etc. They flee burning cities, abandon villages and farms. They pull on whatever shoes lie within reach at a moment’s notice. I first began to see such eclectic piles of footwear appearing outside refugee tents in the highlands of Jordan.

“I wake up to these mountains,” cried Zaeleh al Khaled al Hamdu, a Syrian grandmother shod in beaded house slippers. Tiny blue flowers were tattooed on her wrinkled chin and cheeks. She waved a bony hand at the alien peaks around her. “It feels like these mountains, I am carrying them on my back.”

Heaviness. Weight. The crush of despair. The mountainous burden of helplessness.

This is the badge of the war refugee. Or so our televisions, newspapers, and mobile phones would inform us. The stock media photo of the war-displaced: columns of traumatized souls marching with heavy steps, with slumped shoulders, along a burning road. Or families jammed into leaky boats on the Mediterranean, their gazes sagging with anguish, sunk in vulnerability. But these snapshots of refugee life—seen through the lens of the rich world—are limited, misleading, even self-serving.

For weeks I walked from tent to dusty tent in Jordan. At least half a million Syrians languished there—just one aching shard of some 12 million civilians scattered by the bloodiest civil war in the Middle East. War steals your past and future. The Syrians could not go back to the contested rubble of their homes—to Idlib, Hamah, or Damascus. Nobody else wanted them. They were stuck. All they owned was their miserable present.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Many toiled illegally on farms.

They eked out another breath of life by picking tomatoes for $11 a day. When I plodded past, they waved me over. They jauntily fed me their employers’ crops. (Residents of a poor nation, Jordanians spared little affection for their even poorer Syrian guests.) They poured gallons of tea with wild thyme down my throat. They shook out their filthy blankets and bade me sit and rest.

“Here, we only dream of chicken,” one man joked. He’d eaten grass to survive in Syria. In one tent a young woman stepped behind a hanging bedsheet and reemerged in her finest dress—pink with silver stripes. She was dazzlingly pregnant, and her beauty passed in a clean hush through my chest, into the moldering tent, before blowing unstoppably out into the desert.

What I’m trying to say is this: Whatever else refugees may be, they aren’t powerless.

They aren’t the infantilized victims usually featured in the political left’s suffering porn. They resemble even less the cartoon invaders feared by right-wing populists and bigots—the barbarian hordes coming to take jobs, housing, social services, racial identity, religion, sex partners, and everything else vital and good in wealthy host countries. (Since Neolithic times, the earliest populations of Europe have been overrun and utterly transformed by waves of immigrants from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Without such interbreeding, modern “Europeans” wouldn’t exist.)

No. The refugees I have walked among are bearded pharmacists and girl goatherds. Shopkeepers and intellectuals. That is, supremely ordinary beings grappling with meager options. Remembering their dead, they cup their hands to their faces and weep. But often they are incredibly strong. And generous.

“Please come, mister,” a Syrian teacher whispered in Turkey, guiding me from a refugee camp classroom out into the open air. Her students had been drawing decapitations and hangings as part of their art therapy. She noticed I had fallen silent. She was worried about my emotions.

A thousand walked miles to the east, in the Caucasus, a family of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria hollered, “Don’t come in please!”—making me wait outside their dilapidated home while they hastily set a table they couldn’t afford. They recently moved into a house that once belonged to ethnic Azerbaijanis, a local population ejected during the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I found the Azerbaijanis 120 miles later. They refused my money in a refugee camp café.

“We have been waiting for peace so long,” Nemat Huseynov, the café owner, said. He had owned many sheep when the conflict began in 1988. It goes on, despite a cease-fire in 1994.

Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth.

Home.

You cannot always choose your shoes on a long walk.

The world’s refugees and migrants don’t demand our pity. They just ask for our attention. Me they pitied because I walked on.

But before you do, refer to the original document for more with lots of pictures and related texts.

$5.47 bn in investments for MENA economies’ advancement

$5.47 bn in investments for MENA economies’ advancement

According to the world banking institutions, it would require some $5.47 bn in investments for MENA economies’ advancement as elaborated on the ESI of July 23, 2019. There are related Economic and Governance Risks as everybody knows but it remains as solvable as anywhere else in the world.

MENA region requires $5.47bn to transform its economies

The World Bank responded to strong demand from the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) during the financial year that ended on 30 June 2019, with $5.47 billion in new commitments to invest in people, expand the private sector, and set a course for digital transformation.

funding
Featured image: Stock

Along with the financial commitments, the Bank delivered a wide range of analytical products in support of development goals of MENA countries.

Second only to the previous financial year’s record commitment of $6.3 billion, the new commitments included $4.87 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which supports development in middle-income countries, and $596 million from the International Development Association, the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.

In addition, there were $67 million in new committed grants for the West Bank and Gaza during the past financial year.

The World Bank’s knowledge services included support for the region’s high-income countries through its Reimbursable Advisory Services. The programme, which reached $56 million during the past financial year, supported efforts to diversify economies and promote private sector development, along with supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in anticipation of their upcoming G20 chairmanship.

“While the region has stabilised following the dual economic and social shocks caused by collapsing global commodity prices and a wave of social unrest, many countries have yet to enact the deep structural reforms necessary to achieve economic transformation that yields sustainable, inclusive growth,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice-President for MENA.

Read more stories on: Digital transformation

Belhaj added: “These reforms are ever more urgent if the region is to seize the opportunity that its rapidly growing, highly educated and tech savvy young population represents. We have been working with governments to unlock this immense potential, channelling our support towards efforts to transform the region’s economies and embrace digital technology as a path to growth and opportunities.”

New strategy for the MENA region

In March of this year, the World Bank Group launched an enlarged strategy for the MENA region.

It provides a new and positive vision for the future of MENA with a focus on investments in human capital, leveraging the benefits of digital technology, and mobilising private financing for development while remaining committed to addressing the root causes of instability and responding to immediate needs.

All eyes will be on the region as Saudi Arabia takes over the presidency of the G20, Egypt chairs the African Union, and Morocco hosts the Annual Meetings in Marrakech in 2021.

Over the past financial year, the Bank worked with countries in the region to seize this momentum, turn these new priorities into reality, and project the region on to the global development stage, with a set of concrete goals to be achieved by 2021, in time for the Annual Meetings.

These efforts included a number of major financing programmes. In Jordan, a $1.45 billion financing package was launched to support the country’s plans to improve its business and investment environment and improve fiscal sustainability.

Financial programmes

In Egypt, a $1 billion programme was launched to help sustain the momentum of Egypt’s reform program and capitalise on improvements to macroeconomic stability.

The programme helped launch the next generation of reforms focused on creating opportunities for Egyptians and raising living standards by promoting the private sector and improving government performance.

In Morocco, a $700 million programme was launched in support of the government’s efforts to leverage digital technologies to transform the country’s economy into a more inclusive and innovative driver of growth.

In Yemen, the Bank launched a new country engagement strategy and committed $540 million during the financial year to maintain the provision of services and support economic opportunities, bringing the Bank’s active portfolio to over $1.7 billion.

The World Bank also continued its support to Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them in Jordan and Lebanon through projects with the Global Concessional Financing Facility, a multi-donor vehicle which has leveraged over $2.5 billion in MDB financing to date. 

The Bank also delivered a range of analytical products to support evidence-based policies and hosted regional knowledge-sharing events to promote coordinated approaches to the region’s development challenges.

“In line with the goals of the World Bank Group’s historic capital increase announced last year, our programs have focused on scaling up support to meet the aspirations of people in MENA by focusing on the opportunities that digitisation, entrepreneurship and innovation and greater regional coordination can bring,” said Anna Bjerde, World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations for the Middle East and North Africa.

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