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Special online issue of International Review of Mission offers African perspectives on Mission and Evangelism
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Conference on World Mission and Evangelism gathering takes place in Arusha under the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship,” from 8 to 13 March 2018 

ARUSHA, Tanzania, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- As the World Council of Churches (WCC) prepares to hold its next Conference on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) in Arusha, Tanzania, a special online “virtual” issue of the International Review of Mission (IRM) gathers articles dealing with African perspectives on mission.
Africa, writes editor Benjamin Simon in an introduction to the collection, “is home to some of the most vibrant and inculturated forms of World Christianity, dealing with all sorts of theological issues and topics.”

With the theme, “African Perspectives on World Mission and Evangelism,” this special issue of IRM gathers articles already published that deal with key issues that are at stake in missiological studies in the African context and beyond. All articles may be freely consulted and downloaded.

The CWME gathering takes place in Arusha under the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship,” from 8 to 13 March 2018.

“Many missiological perspectives within World Christianity have their origins in the African context,” writes Simon. “Theologians from the African continent have become leading figures in missiological studies and research on World Christianity.”

The International Review of Mission is published by the WCC in partnership with Wiley, the Oxford-based books and journals publisher.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of World Council of Churches (WCC).

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United Nations torture prevention experts announce resuming visit to Rwanda
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture decided to review the list of countries that have failed to establish a national detention monitoring body within four years after ratification  

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) decided to resume its visit to Rwanda, which was suspended on 19 October 2017. The exact dates of the visit will be announced in due course.
It has also announced that it will visit Uruguay, Belize and Portugal during the first months of 2018.

The visits were decided at the SPT’s February session, which took place in Geneva from 12-19 February, 2018. The SPT also decided that it would review the list of countries that have failed to establish a national detention monitoring body within four years after ratification, a serious violation of their obligations under the Optional Protocol. The list is now currently composed of Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nauru, Nigeria, Panama and the Philippines.

The SPT can make unannounced visits to any place where people are or might be deprived of their liberty in countries which are a party to the Protocol to the Convention against Torture. That includes prisons, police stations, detention centers for migrants, juveniles’ detention centers, interrogation facilities and psychiatric hospitals.

“During our visits we listen to States and then advise them on how they can ensure that detained persons are free from torture and ill-treatment and have decent conditions of detention. Every country which ratifies the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture must first focus on establishing an independent, efficient and well-resourced national preventive mechanism. Our visits aim also to help States fulfil that obligation” said Sir Malcolm Evans, Chair of the SPT.

In addition, the Subcommittee provides advice to national authorities on how to establish national detention monitoring bodies, known as National Preventive Mechanisms (NPM). It also cooperates with the national monitoring bodies and helps them to perform in accordance with their obligations.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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South Sudan: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ New Data Collection Tool helps improve refugee children access to education
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

In South Sudan, gross enrolment rate for refugee children in primary school is 56% as compared to 68% for the host community 

JUBA, South Sudan, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- UNHCR and the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan today launched a new data collection and analysis tool, Refugees Education Information Management System (REMIS) that will help improve monitoring and planning of education programs for refugee children living in South Sudan.
Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children. Globally, only 61% of refugee children have access to education as compared to more than 91% for non-refugees. In South Sudan, gross enrolment rate for refugee children in primary school is 56% as compared to 68% for the host community.

“UNHCR’s approach to education of refugee children in South Sudan is anchored in ensuring the provision of education not as a peripheral stand-alone service, but rather as a core component of UNHCR’s refugee protection and solutions mandate,” UNHCR Deputy Representative Vincent Parker said at the launch ceremony, adding that refugee education data is not included in the South Sudan Education Management Information System hence refugee children remain largely invisible.

The new Refugee Education Management Information System is called to bridge the gap in refugee education data and help better plan activities and programs that promote the inclusion of refugee children and adolescents in the national education system, and allow them to benefit from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Moreover, the new data collection and analysis tool will also enable UNHCR to understand the extent to which its education program benefits children from host communities whose right to education should be equally upheld.

“The Ministry fully supports any initiative that allows refugees to go to school. For us it is not important whether the child is a refugee or not, as we are striving to ensure every child’s right to education,” Shadrack Chol Stephen, Director General of Alternative Education of the Ministry of General Education and Instruction said, addressing the audience.

The launch of the Refugee Education Management Information System was followed by a two-day training on practical application of the tool organized by UNHCR for 20 participants from the Ministry of Education and General Instruction, National Bureau of Statistics, Commission for Refugee Affairs, UN Agencies as well as UNHCR partners working in the area of refugee education.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Reviews the Initial Report of the Seychelles
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Government was fully cognizant that the ratification alone was not enough and that the Convention should guide actions at every level to deliver the transformation that it hailed 

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today concluded its consideration of the initial report of the Seychelles on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Introducing the report, Jeanne Simeon, Minister for Family Affairs of the Seychelles, said that following the ratification of the Convention in 2009, the Seychelles was actively spreading its messages and raising awareness, including among the children as a way to place accent on embracing diversity from an early age. The 2010 census had included persons with disabilities as a separate category for the first time. The Policy on Inclusion and Action Plan on Inclusive Education, and the National Employment Policy were in place. Efforts were being made to use universal design in the construction of new public buildings, despite the delay in the review of the Town and Country Planning Act. Persons with disabilities continued to face obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights and the biggest challenge was dealing with negative mind-sets: of non-disabled persons, who continued to view persons with disabilities as needing protection, but also of persons with disabilities themselves, who remained in the margins of society, overpowered by ideas that they ‘cannot and therefore do not’. The Government was fully cognizant that the ratification alone was not enough and that the Convention should guide actions at every level to deliver the transformation that it hailed, concluded Ms. Simeon.

In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts commended the adoption of the policy on inclusive education and the Washington Group Short Set of Disability Questions, and went on to highlight the main areas of concern, including the fact that the parliamentary act of ratification, which would ensure domestication of the Convention, had not yet been adopted. The delegation was asked about steps taken to align the definition of disability with article 1 of the Convention and to harmonize the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms with the human rights-based approach to disability. Experts were worried about the lack of a systematic approach to the participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the formulation and implementation of policies that would transform their rights. The Seychelles still maintained the guardianship system under the Civil Code and limited legal capacity of persons with disabilities. The Criminal Code allowed the detention of persons who may be ‘of unsound mind’, while parental rights could be withdrawn from persons deemed to fall into this category. The failure to amend or repeal the Town and Country Planning Act was an important obstacle to the right of persons with disabilities to access services, goods, and information and communication technologies.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Simeon reiterated the commitment to address the gaps in the area of accessibility, the legal and policy frameworks, and education and inclusivity, and to continue the efforts to foster non-discrimination at all levels in a coordinated and holistic manner and with the full participation of persons with disabilities.

Coomaravel Pyaneandee, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, concluded with a recognition of the prominent role of the Seychelles in advancing women’s rights, and urged the country to do the same in the context of disability and ensure that persons with disabilities were represented at all levels.

The delegation of the Seychelles was composed of representatives of the Ministry for Family Affairs and the National Council for the Disabled, as well as the Permanent Mission of the Seychelles to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 27 February to start the review of the initial report of the Russian Federation (CRPD/C/RUS/1).

Report

The report of the Seychelles can be read via the following link: CRPD/C/SYC/1.

Presentation of the Report

JEANNE SIMEON, Minister for Family Affairs of the Seychelles, said that following the ratification of the Convention in 2009, the Government had started with a programme of awareness raising and education, spreading the messages of the Convention widely. Its articles had been translated into Creole and developed into child friendly materials to place accent on embracing diversity from an early age. Persons with disabilities were specifically targeted to ensure they were aware of their own rights, and to take lead in advocacy efforts. The 2010 national census had included persons with disabilities as a category for the first time; its results indicated that three per cent of the population had a disability. The Seychelles had free primary healthcare and the Government was working on improving access to health for persons with disabilities. Money had been allocated to prevention programmes, and substantial progress had been made in the promotion of early childhood years as evidenced by the launch of the Seychelles Early Child Care and Education Framework in 2013. The Institute of Early Childhood Development, a part of this Framework, had been established to coordinate activities within this sector.

The Minister went on to highlight the first Policy on Inclusion and Action Plan on Inclusive Education, and the National Employment Policy, and mentioned the success that persons with disabilities enjoyed within the realm of sport at the international level. The Seychelles continued to work with non-governmental organizations, for example the partnership between the Ministry of Education and the Association of Hearing Impairment had led to the establishment of a School for the Deaf and the development of a curriculum in the Seychellois sign language. More recently, the Government had entered into an agreement with Autism Seychelles and Autisme Réunion, which had led to the training of 179 teachers and school leaders and 105 health professionals in understanding children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Ms. Simeon then turned to the question of accessibility, noting that efforts had been made to use universal design in the construction of new public buildings, despite the delay in the review of the Town and Country Planning Act. Persons with disabilities continued to face obstacles to the full enjoyment of their rights and the biggest challenge was dealing with negative mind-sets; both those of non-disabled persons, who continued to view persons with disabilities as needing protection, but also of persons with disabilities themselves, who remained in the margins of society, overpowered by ideas that they ‘cannot and therefore do not’. An increasingly aging population would lead to an increase in the number of people with disabilities in the Seychelles; the Government would need to ensure availability of services in line with the Convention and to cater to the transformation that the Convention hailed. Ratification alone was not enough, rather it should guide actions at every level, concluded the Minister.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for the Seychelles, took positive note of the great progress the Seychelles had made in opening its economy to the world and signing and ratifying human rights treaties. The Rapporteur commended the adoption of the policy on inclusive education, and the adoption in 2010 of the Washington Group Short Set of Disability Questions, and went on to express regret that, despite the numerous efforts, the Committee had not succeeded in having a meaningful dialogue with civil society organisations. Mr. Pyaneandee went on to highlight main areas of concern in the Seychelles, including the fact that since the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a parliamentary act of ratification to ensure its domestication, had not yet been adopted.

More worryingly, there was a very low level of participation of persons with disabilities in both the formulation and implementation of policy, which meant that persons with disabilities could not have a fair and equitable enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, or civil and political rights. The Country Rapporteur also noted that there was still no outcome to the review of the Civil Code, which was important in the context of legal capacity of persons with disabilities, and raised concern about the failure to amend or repeal the Town and Country Planning Act, which did not provide for access of persons with disabilities to services, goods, and information and communication technologies. Within the realm of employment, the non-adoption of legislation was a serious concern, as it led the Committee to believe that discrimination in all its forms still prevailed in the Seychelles.

Questions by Committee Experts

With regards to the National Plan of Action on Disability, Committee Experts asked which Ministry was responsible for its implementation, and whether persons with disabilities and their representative organizations had been included in the formulation of the Plan. Would the National Council on Disability play a role in the implementation? The delegation was asked to provide some positive examples of the implementation of the Plan, particularly in the domain of legal rights, accessibility, employment and access to health and education.

An Expert remarked that there was no systematic approach to facilitate participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the formulation of policies that would transform their rights. What financial support was being provided to nurture the growth of representative organizations?

The delegation was also asked to inform of measures taken to ensure that the definition of disability conformed to the definition contained in article 1 of the Convention, and also to explain what was being done to harmonize the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms with the human rights-based approach to disability.

What specific political and legal remedies had been adopted to protect persons with disabilities who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex?

Concerning the situation of women and girls with disabilities, Experts asked about measures to protect them from all forms of discrimination and violence including sexual violence, how many were in the institutions, what was being done to increase the knowledge among women with disabilities of their rights and in particular their sexual and reproductive rights, and about the possibilities to report gender and disability-based discrimination. What was being done to change the negative social attitudes towards children with disabilities?

Was a sign language available for the public, and were there any courses on universal design apart from the compulsory modules in architect training? What sanctions were meted out to those who failed to comply with accessibility standards? How accessible was the country to visitors and tourists with disabilities?

How were media involved in disseminating information which portrayed positive picture of disability?

Experts were surprised that, according to the 2010 census, only three per cent of the population had a disability, while global-levels estimates put the proportion of persons with disabilities to over ten per cent. In this context, they wondered about the definition of disability, as well as the functioning of the disability-determination mechanism including the criteria for obtaining disability status.

Experts asked about specific laws that prohibited discrimination on the grounds of disability, and the plans to amend the legislation to ensure that such discrimination was prohibited in all areas. Did the law recognize denial of reasonable accommodation as a form of discrimination, and if not, what measures would be taken to ensure its recognition?

Corporal punishment of children was unlawful, but it was not prohibited in homes, schools, penal institutions, and alternative care settings, Experts remarked and expressed concern about particular vulnerability of children with disabilities to corporal punishment. What steps had been taken to ensure that the legislation fully protected all children including children with disabilities from punishment, and to prohibit “reasonable chastisement”?

Responses by the Delegation

Responding to the questions raised by the Committee Experts, a delegate said that corporal punishment had been prohibited in educational settings; the Government was working to repeal sections of the Children’s Act dealing with this issue, and it was expected that a law would be passed by the end of the year.

Efforts were being made to improve accessibility of schools, hospitals and government offices. When a new school was built, for example, the planning authority would consult with the Committee for Disabled Persons for their guidance as well as with the National Council for Disability. This was despite the fact that the Town and Country Planning Act was yet to be repealed. The same applied within the tourism sector, with most new hotels having disability friendly access and rooms. Since the ratification of the Convention, tourist resorts had recognised accessibility as a major concern and the Ministry of Tourism was also directly engaged in this. The delegate conceded that more work needed to be done with smaller establishments.

There was an ambulift to facilitate access to airplane for wheelchair users. The Seychelles was importing at least five disability-friendly buses, one of which would be available for each region of the island. A system of ‘stoplights’ for deaf persons along with an oral system for blind and partially sighted persons was being tried out, and monitored by the transport body in the country.

There had been delay in the finalisation of the Town and Country Planning Act but it should be ready by June 2018. At the current time, there was nothing binding in place in terms of accessibility for persons with disabilities, but a policy was being implemented with the Planning Authority, which was used to advise developers.

In response to questions on the participation of persons with disabilities in matters of policy and implementation, the delegation noted that the National Council on Disability was the channel through which the voices of persons with disabilities were heard.

With regard to concerns raised about violence against women and girls with disabilities, a delegate said that the Seychelles is a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which included provisions for the women with disabilities. Moreover, Department for Family Affairs was continuing its Orange Day campaign, while victims of domestic violence were protected by the Seychelles Family Violence (Protection of Victims) Act, 2000. The Government had recently conducted a survey on domestic violence and the Cabinet of Ministers was in the process of formulating an action plan based on the findings, which would give special consideration to women with disabilities. The Family Violence Act allowed for victims to apply to the court free of charge.

With regard to questions on the guaranteeing of dignity for persons with disabilities, the delegation explained that Article 16 of the Constitution stated that every person had the right to dignity and so provided protection and fulfilled international law.

The delegation acknowledged that the review of the Civil Code was taking time, which was
partially due to the fact that the Code was being reviewed in its entirety. A White Paper had been drafted on the proposed amendments.

In answer to questions on ‘reasonable provision’ for persons with disabilities, a delegate gave the example of the Social Security Act, which had been amended so that persons with disabilities would no longer lose their financial benefits should they find employment.

Addressing the issue of the domestication of conventions, the delegate said that to date the approach had been to adopt conventions into specific laws, and admitted that in the case of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this had not been declared. Domestication of the Convention needed to be addressed and at a faster pace, recognized the delegate.

With regard to universal design, she said that while there was a university teaching architecture in the Seychelles it did not yet have these specific courses. As a partial remedy, scholarships were available to students to study this area in other countries, such as the United Kingdom.

Concerning the representation of persons with disabilities at the policy level, the delegation said that persons with disabilities formed large part of the National Council on Disability’s board of directors, either directly or indirectly. There was no one on the board yet who was intellectually disabled, but they were represented by an non-governmental organization. The National Council on Disability was reviewing its strategic plan for next three years, and it envisaged going beyond being an advocacy body to being more actively involved as a policy regulator.

Persons with disabilities had to be medically assessed in order to receive state benefits. A more function-based assessment of disability was being developed in line with the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organization, but finding practitioners capable of carrying out this type of assessment was difficult given the limited human resources in the Seychelles.

The National Action Plan on Disability had been finalised but because some important actors were missing, the process was continuing it remained as a living document.

The National Human Rights Action Plan had tried to ensure that data was collected on vulnerable groups, but the primary source had been occasional surveys which had not been carried out as often as needed. Since 2010, however, persons with disabilities were included in the national census, the next which would be in 2020. The National Council on Disability was also planning a survey to gather better information. The delegation explained that the low percentage of persons with disabilities in the general population was also because of free and universal access to primary health care.

There were no data available on cases of discrimination against persons with disabilities that had gone to court or to the employment tribunal. The court was a new building and therefore fully accessible, but the Seychelles realised that more efforts were required to make the courts more understood as a place of redress for persons with disabilities.

A lot of effort had been made to raise awareness; the media were being actively used to pass the messages and there were television programs which actively portrayed the role that persons with disabilities could play in society.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, Committee Experts asked about measures to empower persons with disabilities to participate in the justice system, to provide access to justice to them more readily, and to encourage the participation of people with disabilities in the justice system including as jurors.

The delegation was asked whether sign language interpretation was being provided in courts and in the police, and if the new court was accessible to persons hard of hearing who did not use sign language. What were the qualifications and training of sign language interpreters and how many there were?

In terms of legal capacity of persons with disabilities, Experts inquired about initiatives to replace the current guardianship system under the Civil Code with supported decision making, and how persons with disabilities were being supported in making decisions in financial matters for example in inheritance. The Criminal Code allowed the detention of persons who may be ‘of unsound mind’, they noted and raised concerns about the withdrawal of parental rights by the State from persons deemed to fall into this category.

Were persons with disabilities being discriminated against in immigration legislation, which asked whether applicants were ‘mentally disordered or physically affected’?

Experts continued to express concern at the steps being taken to ensure that persons with disabilities were not subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including corporal punishment. To which extent did the 2006 Mental Health Act protect people with disabilities against forced sterilization?

Raising concern about vulnerability of persons with disabilities to violence, Experts asked for a list of specific articles in the national strategy for domestic violence, which directly targeted the rights of women and girls with disabilities. Were there accessible hotlines available for people with disabilities to report abuse, and specifically, was there a mechanism for women and girls with disabilities to report exploitation?

Further questions on accessibility related to the accessibility of boats, given the geography of the Seychelles, and custom regulations on mobility equipment.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that the action plan on domestic violence had taken place during the 2008 to 2011 period, and that a survey on gender-based violence and emerging challenges had been carried out. Based on the survey and the review of the action plan on domestic violence, new five-years plan was being developed. Previous action plans marginalized persons with disabilities to some degree but there would be more focus on this category of persons in the new action plan. The delegation acknowledged that victims of gender-based violence with disabilities had particular needs when reporting abuse. A shelter for victims of domestic violence was well under way; land had been procured and the Government were now seeking a partnership with the private sector for the construction. The shelter would be built taking into consideration the needs of victims with disabilities.

On the question of marriage, she said that the Civil Code sets the necessary provisions, such as age, sex and necessary consent. Essentially, as long as persons with disabilities were able to consent, they had the right to marry.

The Seychelles was currently reviewing the Mental Health Act and the Civil Code, with an assistance of an international expert. A Mental Health Advisory Committee had been set up to facilitate the process, with the involvement of the office of the Attorney General. Persons with disabilities had been involved in the consultation process, as had their parents and other representatives.

The new bill would make provision for the setting up of a Mental Health Board, and a Tribunal, which would have several functions, such as overseeing the management of mental health issues. The bill was focussed on ensuring that all persons with disabilities could make decisions regarding their own treatment, unless they were not able to understand the information enabling them to make such a decision or understand the consequences. Furthermore, the State would be obliged to provide appropriate tools for persons with disabilities to make their choices. The bill allowed for involuntary hospitalization of a persons with disabilities for a period of fourteen days, but it also provided for an application to be made to the Tribunal for an extension.

As for persons with disabilities living in institutions, there were 18 women and 21 men. They were in this situation as their families did not wish to look after them and so the State had no other option but to keep them there.

In the context of disaster preparedness, a survey had been commissioned to identify the type of risk persons with disabilities found themselves in related to where they lived and worked, and to understand the degree of knowledge persons with disabilities had regarding disasters. The survey concluded that while the majority of respondents with disabilities clearly saw the point of being involved in planning for disasters, a significant minority said they were unwilling to participate. The early warning system was available in sign language and was shown on state television.

The Domiciliary Care Scheme aimed to ensure that persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, could stay in their own homes as far as possible. The scheme provided help with daily chores, hygiene and mobility. The full package could provide up to 24 hours care a day, seven days a week. Applicants for the scheme would be means tested, with the poorest receiving the assistance entirely free of charge. The scheme was currently being reformed so that a more professional service could be provided. Home carers were being specially trained to understand the needs of persons with disabilities.

The Seychelles provided full tax relief on wheelchairs, while for other mobility aids, tax exemption was partial, as value-added tax and environmental tax would be charged. There were three main islands in the Seychelles and two modes of transportation, plane and ferry. For those using wheelchairs, flying was more difficult as these were small planes with steep steps. Much work had been done with the ferries to make them more adaptable and accessible for persons with disabilities, with the provision of ramps and specially equipped rooms on board.

Going on to concerns regarding corporal punishment, another delegate stated that the Children’s Act was being modernised and would be aligned with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The interest of the child was paramount in the Act and this best interest principle was applicable to decisions regarding the removal of children from their parents. Any removal would be a last resort and not based on the disability of their parents.

On the question of sign language interpreters, the Association of Persons with Hearing Impairment had played a leading role, both advocating for the deaf and working alongside the Government. Sign language was to become one of the national languages of the country and there was now a dictionary of the Seychellois form. Four sign language interpreters had been trained with the support of the European Union and were specialised to work in legal institutions and settings. The interpreters were now functioning under their own association, monitored by oversight committee comprising a lawyer, a deaf person and a member of the association itself. However, there was still work to be done in terms of captioning in the courts, the delegate conceded.

There were several hotlines in the Seychelles, including for children, people in mental distress and people suffering from domestic violence, but these were not available for persons with all types of disability and more work needed to be done to make them accessible.

Answering the question on the participation of persons with disabilities in the legal process, the delegate said that jurors were selected randomly so it would not be known whether the person had a disability or not.

In terms of economic independence and the role of the school education in this context, the delegation explained that persons with disabilities did learn some skills to help them in their daily lives, including with their finances. The National Council for the Disabled provided trainees with life skills and career guidance. To further enable persons with disabilities to become financially independent, the Social Security Act had been amended so that they could keep their benefits even if they gained employment. Other ways in which the State attempted to provide for the economic rights of persons with disabilities was in the promotion of cottage industries and access to grants and loans to facilitate self-employment.

Questions by Committee Experts

Committee Experts inquired about the plans to provide public information in Braille and other accessible formats, the legal status of sign language and Braille, whether students with disabilities had full access to all types of learning aids to enable their participation in mainstream schools, and the care and provisions for autistic students. Was there a timeframe for the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled?

Further questions were again raised on the level of participation of persons with disabilities in matters of policy and planning, such as whether there were concrete measures to include them in the monitoring of the Convention.

Thanking the delegation for its ‘sincere approach’, one Expert recognised that the Seychelles was one of the few States that included challenges within its reporting, which he deemed an example of good practice. He then went on to ask whether measures were being taken to assure access to tertiary education for students with disabilities. Other Experts questioned the availability of information and communication technology equipment in schools, specifically for students with disabilities, and asked the delegation to provide concrete examples on financial initiatives for persons with disabilities.

Another Expert noted that although persons with disabilities were recognised as vulnerable with regard to sexual and reproductive health, there were no specific programs for them. The delegation was asked about intentions concerning the adoption of a national plan on healthcare of persons with disabilities, accessibility to healthcare facilities and the free provision of medicines to this group.

With regards to the participation of persons with disabilities in public life, the delegation was probed on the election of persons with disabilities to parliament, state programs to enable persons with disabilities to take part in cultural activities, and accessibility of polling stations and voting booths.

Experts took good note of the statement that 73 per cent of persons with disabilities were economically active, and asked how their wages compared with those of non-disabled persons. What support was available to persons with disabilities to move into full employment from sheltered employment?

An Expert remarked that the Seychelles intended to strengthen its National Human Rights Commission and asked when this would happen and whether the Commission would be endowed with investigative powers.

Replies by the Delegation

The National Council for Sport ran a rehabilitation programme for wheelchair users and once a month there were activities for persons with disabilities who wished to participate in sports. Disabled athletes had taken part both in the Indian Ocean Games in 2015 and the Rio Paralympics in 2016, bringing home a clutch of medals between them. The Paralympic Association of the Seychelles was affiliated with the International Olympic Committee, which had provided training its officers and sports coaches in Germany.

With regard to education, a delegate said that, as part of the inclusive education policy, a module on special educational needs was offered to all teachers. The autism training had been organized in 2017. Autistic students were assessed by a five-member team, comprising psychologists, educational experts, occupational therapists and a paediatric nurse. Most students with disabilities were educated in mainstream schools, with only 0.64 per cent in special schools (91 students). Some students transferred between the different schools either way.

The Seychelles was taking effort to ensure that health information was fully accessible and all new health structures used universal design. Assistive devices were available for free as far as was possible. There was a new policy on sexual and reproductive health under way, with more onus being given to persons with disabilities.

Polling stations were wheelchair accessible and persons with disabilities could be assisted by family members or other persons they trust in the booth. The only problem was with the ballot paper, which was not yet available in Braille. Currently, there was no persons with disabilities serving as Members of Parliament, but persons with disabilities were represented at a high level within the arts. The Government was fully engaged with the tourism industry and that the larger resorts and hotels both understood and met their obligations.

In terms of the economic independence of persons with disabilities, a delegate explained that the Seychelles was in the process of economic reform since 2008 under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund. While the country had improved economically, austerity measures had impacted negatively on certain sections of society, including persons with disabilities. A new Office for Poverty Alleviation was addressing the impact of austerity measures on vulnerable citizens. There were initiatives to promote small enterprise promotion and cottage industries, and different loans and grants, to which persons with disabilities were encouraged to apply.

Concluding Remarks

JEANNE SIMEON, Minister for Family Affairs of the Seychelles, said that the points raised in this frank dialogue would enable the Seychelles to assess how far it complied with the Convention. The Seychelles would remain committed to ensuring that the right action was taken to address the gaps in the area of accessibility, in the legal and policy frameworks, education and inclusivity. Efforts to foster non-discrimination at all levels in a coordinated and holistic manner and with the full participation of persons with disabilities would continue. Perseverance in all these areas would mean that persons with disabilities should have the right environment to achieve their full potential in life.

COOMARAVEL PYANEANDEE, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, recognised the prominent role the Seychelles played in advancing women’s rights. When it comes to disabilities, the Seychelles had to continue on same path and ensure that persons with disabilities were represented at all levels.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG).

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South Africa: National Assembly Gives the Constitution Review Committee Mandate to Review Section 25 of the Constitution
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

The motion was adopted following a vote where 241 MPs voted for the amended motion with 83 MPs voting against it 

CAPE TOWN, South Africa, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- During its sitting today the National Assembly (NA) resolved to assign the Constitutional Review Committee to review Section 25 of the Constitution – which speaks to the right of property ownership.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) led a debate on this motion which the majority party, the African National Congress (ANC), amended before it was later adopted following a vote in the NA.

In its motion, the EFF moved that the NA, in terms of Rule 253, establish an ad hoc committee to review and amend section 25 of the Constitution to make it possible for the State to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.

The ANC amended parts of the motion to read as such: “With the concurrence of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) instruct the Constitutional Review Committee to review section 25 of the Constitution and other clauses where necessary to make it possible for the state to expropriate land in the public interest without compensation.”

The motion was adopted following a vote where 241 MPs voted for the amended motion with 83 MPs voting against it.

The Constitutional Review Committee has been given until 30 August 2018 to report back to the NA.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Republic of South Africa: The Parliament.

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Two Nigerian journalists charged with cybercrime
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Authorities released Daniel Elombah the same day he was arrested; Timothy was released on 500,000 Nigerian naira (US$1,400) bail after spending 25 days in police custody 

LOME, Togo, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Nigerian authorities should immediately drop plans to charge Timothy and Daniel Elombah, editor and chief executive respectively, of the independent Elombah news website, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
A federal court in Abuja is scheduled to arraign the brothers on cybercrime and terrorism-related offenses on March 1, their lawyer Obunike Ohaegbu told CPJ.

“Timothy and Daniel Elombah are journalists and not terrorists who should be free to continue their journalism without legal harassment or fear of going to jail,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal from New York. “Authorities should drop all legal proceedings against them and review Nigeria’s cybercrime law to ensure it is constitutional and is not abused to silence the press.”

Nigerian security forces detained the pair, along with several others, on January 1 for an allegedly defamatory article about Nigerian Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris that was published in the privately owned website Opinion Nigeria, and which the brothers have said they did not write, CPJ documented at the time.

Authorities released Daniel Elombah the same day he was arrested; Timothy was released on 500,000 Nigerian naira (US$1,400) bail after spending 25 days in police custody, according to Ohaegbu.

Elombah reports on the extremist group Boko Haram and has written critically about President Muhammadu Buhari’s son. Daniel Elombah denied that Elombah had anything to do with the article that police said prompted their arrest.

Jeff Okoroafor, the founder and publisher of Opinion Nigeria, told CPJ in January that police requested the article be removed, but that he refused. He said no further action was taken.

When CPJ called the headquarters of the Nigeria police in Abuja, the person who answered the phone said that he was not allowed to speak to journalists, and hung up.

If found guilty, the brothers could each face up to 10 years in jail under the Cybercrime Act, Daniel Elombah told CPJ.

At least four bloggers have been prosecuted under the Cybercrime Act since 2015, according to CPJ research.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Nigeria
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

NEW YORK, United States of America, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Nigeria:
The Secretary-General is gravely concerned over the situation of the more than 100 school girls abducted by suspected Boko Haram insurgents during an attack on an educational institution in Dapchi Town, Yobe State, on 19 February. He strongly condemns the abduction and attack.

The Secretary-General calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all missing girls and for their safe return to their families. He urges the national authorities to swiftly bring those responsible for this act to justice.

The Secretary-General reiterates the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Governments of Nigeria and other affected countries in the region in their fight against terrorism and violent extremism.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of United Nations – Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Courtesy call by the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Seychelles
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Their discussions centred on how well Germany is doing in the tourism market in Seychelles 

VICTORIA, Seychelles, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The President of the Republic, Mr. Danny Faure, welcomed the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Seychelles, H.E. Mrs Jutta Frasch, at State House this morning. The courtesy call on President Faure forms part of her routine official visit to Seychelles.
President Faure expressed his pleasure at welcoming Ambassador Frasch once again to Seychelles and noted that the Government of Seychelles greatly values the excellent long-standing friendship and partnership that exists between Seychelles and Germany.

“Rest assured that Seychelles will continue to support your country. Germany has always been faithful to our development. We share common positions in the international arena. We are a strong partner with the European Union as well as of African development in the region. Looking at the tourism sector, you have contributed highly to the economy. We remain thankful that we can continue to count on Germany for support in meeting some of our development aspirations,” said President Faure.

Their discussions centred on how well Germany is doing in the tourism market in Seychelles. They also spoke about the situation in East Africa, especially in Kenya, and they discussed Germany. The President and Ambassador Frasch also went over different areas of cooperation that could bring the relations between Seychelles and Germany to greater heights, including renewable energy and climate change resilience, amongst others.

Speaking to the local press after the meeting, Ambassador Frasch noted that Germany, being a member of the EU, will continue to support sustainable fisheries, because it is a very important part of Seychelles’ economy.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Mrs Jutta Frasch presented her credentials as Ambassador to Seychelles in March 2016.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles.

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South Africa: Department of International Relations and Cooperation hosts the Inaugural Drought Core Group meeting
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

South Africa is the only African country that had participated in the High-Level Partnership Mission and subsequently stepped up its humanitarian support 

PRETORIA, South Africa, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- South Africa, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), has been bestowed with the singular honour of hosting and Chairing the inaugural meeting of the Drought Core Group (DCG), which is being held today, 28 February 2018, at the OR Tambo Building, DIRCO’s Headquarters.
The DCG is the outcome of the UN High-Level Partnership Mission co-led by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the African Union Commission (AUC). The DCG is a coalition of key humanitarian and development donors that has been formed to keep the focus and attention on the issue of tackling drought and preventing famines.

Through the DCG, the members will consolidate their support and leverage urgent international assistance to not only provide immediate relief to affected people, but also to build their long term resilience.

South Africa is the only African country that had participated in the High-Level Partnership Mission and subsequently stepped up its humanitarian support and the Chair is a recognition of that effort.

The inaugural meeting is focussing on the outlook and risks for drought and famines in the African continent in 2018 and also deliberate on the Terms of Reference and future strategy of the Group.

The UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Partnerships with Middle-East and Central Asia, Mr. Rashid Khalikov and the UN Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy, Mr. Ahmad Al-Maraikhi are among some of the participants.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

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Nigeria battles its largest Lassa fever outbreak on record
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

The outbreak has affected 18 states since the first case was detected on 1 January 2018, resulting in 72 deaths caused by the acute viral haemorrhagic fever 

ABUJA, Nigeria, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Nigeria’s Lassa fever outbreak has reached record highs with 317 laboratory confirmed cases, according to figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) this week.
Although endemic to the West African nation, Lassa fever has never reached this case count in Nigeria before. The number of confirmed cases during the past two months exceeds the total number of confirmed cases reported in 2017.

The outbreak has affected 18 states since the first case was detected on 1 January 2018, resulting in 72 deaths caused by the acute viral haemorrhagic fever. A total of 2,845 people who have come into contact with patients have been identified and are being monitored.

The World Health Organization is supporting the NCDC-led response with a focus on strengthening coordination (including through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network), surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing, clinical management of patients, and community engagement. State health authorities are mobilizing doctors and nurses to work in Lassa fever treatment centres.

“The ability to rapidly detect cases of infection in the community and refer them early for treatment improves patients’ chances of survival and is critical to this response,” said Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, WHO Representative to Nigeria.

Health facilities are particularly overstretched in the southern states of Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi. WHO is working with health authorities, national reference hospitals and the Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) to rapidly expand treatment centres and better equip them to provide patient care while reducing the risks to staff. Among those infected are 14 health workers, four of whom have died.

“Given the large number of states affected, many people will seek treatment in health facilities that are not appropriately prepared to care for Lassa fever patients and the risk of infection to healthcare workers is likely to increase,” said Dr Alemu.

Health workers are being trained in infection, prevention and control measures, such as the importance of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolating patients during treatment. WHO has provided an initial supply of PPE, other related materials and is assessing additional needs with a view to addressing them.

WHO is also supporting national response efforts in neighbouring Benin, where more than 20 suspected cases have been reported.

Note to editors

WHO is supporting coordination for Nigeria’s response to Lassa fever with national and state health actors, and stakeholders and with partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), including the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Afenet, the Alliance for international Medical Action, the Nigeria Red Cross Society, UNICEF, the University of Maryland, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, the Federal Medical Centre Owo, and the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakiliki.

Distributed by Africa Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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Change of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan in April 2018
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

Mr. Irfan Siddiq OBE has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan 

LONDON, United Kingdom, February 28, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Mr. Irfan Siddiq OBE has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Sudan in succession to Mr Michael Aron who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Siddiq will take up his appointment in April 2018.
CURRICULUM VITAE

Full name: Irfan Siddiq

Married to: Penélope Siddiq

Children: Two

2017 – 2018 Plan International, International Advocacy Director
(secondment)

2016 – 2017 FCO, Head, Secondment Unit

2013 – 2016 Baku, Her Majesty’s Ambassador

2011 – 2013 FCO, Head, Arab Partnership Department

2010 – 2011 Baghdad, Deputy Head of Mission

2007 – 2010 Damascus, Deputy Head of Mission

2005 – 2007 FCO, Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary

2004 – 2005 Washington, secondment to US State Department as Political Officer

2003 – 2004 Baghdad, Political Officer, Coalition Provisional Authority

2002 – 2003 Cairo, Second Secretary (Political/Press)

2000 – 2002 Full time language training (Arabic)

2000 – 2000 FCO, Desk Officer, Middle East Peace Process Section

1999 – 2000 New Delhi, Second Secretary (Economic/Commercial)

1998 –1999 FCO, Desk Officer, NATO

1998 Joined FCO

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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Youth-Led Research Highlights Key Challenges Facing Young People Developing and Adopting Agricultural Technology
February 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

MCF RESTLESS LOGO

 

ACCRA, Ghana, February 28, 2018 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Young African innovators are taking charge of their future and designing innovative agricultural technologies despite lacking access to finance, innovation hubs, and information according to a new report released by the Mastercard Foundation Youth Think Tank. At a launch organized by Restless Development in partnership with the Foundation, 14 youth researchers presented findings from Building Inclusive Agricultural Technologies for Young People, a report highlighting barriers and opportunities to the creation of agricultural technologies, their promotion, and uptake by young people.

“Elevating the voices of young people and trusting in their ability to solve the challenges they face is a core value at the Foundation,” said Peter Materu, Chief Program Officer, Mastercard Foundation. “This report demonstrates how young people are using their ingenuity to develop technology that has the potential to create employment opportunities for their peers and provide dignified and fulfilling livelihoods in the agriculture sector. Their recommendations in this report are actionable. It is essential that we listen and act.”

The Youth Think Tank was established in 2012 to ensure young people were meaningfully engaged in improving their economic opportunities in Africa. The youth-led international development agency Restless Development recruits, trains, and supports the young researchers. This year’s cohort ranges in age from 15- 24 and they are from rural and urban areas in East, West and Southern Africa. They also have a diverse set of educational and employment backgrounds. In addition to conducting research, YTT members have been trained as advisors and consultants, and equipped with skills that will enable them to provide strategic support on how to design, implement, and evaluate youth programs.

“The Youth Think Tank evidence-based research report is an echo of young people’s voices-our perspectives on the way things ought to be done,” said Patrick Lolung, Youth Think Tank member, Kenya. “The report has come at the right time when we, the young people, are rapidly advancing and incorporating technologies in our lives in every aspect. The findings and recommendations we arrived at perfectly address the current challenges we grapple with and [suggest] what could be the way forward for policy actors and other stakeholders.”

Through peer-to-peer research that included interviews, focus group discussions, and survey data, this year’s report provides key insights into how young people interact with technological innovations across various parts of the agrifood system in Africa.

Key Takeaways

1.  Agricultural technologies must be tailored to optimize opportunities for young people – particularly rural young men and women – to maximize on-farm production and ease their entry into off-farm activities.

2. Young tech designers struggle to find resourced spaces where they can access information, mentorship, collaboration, as well as digital and offline tools to prototypes their designs.

3. Agricultural technologies must be promoted using channels that are accessible to end-users. While tech designers often use social media to promote their products, end users tend to learn about new technologies by word of mouth.

4. Even when young adopters are aware of technologies, they sometimes lack the skills to utilize them. Training in foundational, technical, and soft skills is required to ensure that young people can access and operate agricultural technologies.

5. The biggest constraint that young people who design technologies and those who take them up face is financial. However, it is important to note that the two groups have different needs when considering financial products. For example, designers need seed capital products and competitive incubation grants, while end-users require loans with flexible repayment schedules that reflect an understanding of the agricultural season. ?

For more information, please read the full report here; 2017–2018 Youth Think Tank Report: Building Inclusive Agricultural Technologies for Young People

“Beyond the practical recommendations that this research suggests, we are excited that these agenda-setting findings highlight what we should be looking at in this sector,” said Catherine Rodgers, Hub Director, Restless Development Uganda. “Young people are using their voices to inform governments, policymakers, private sector actors, and financial service institutions to the challenges they are facing and how they can be addressed. Through the solutions that they have already developed, young people are influencing how actors in this space should be responding to these challenges.”

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the Mastercard Foundation.

Program and Partner Descriptions 
 
About Youth Think Tank 
 
The Youth Think Tank (YTT) is a research initiative implemented by Restless Development in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation. Now in its fourth iteration, our current cohort of researchers includes 28 young people from seven countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Ghana. This program sees young researchers as meaningful partners in generating high-quality evidence on youth livelihoods, leading every step of the research process through Restless Development’s 6-step, youth-led research methodology-from their recruitment and input into designing the research framework through their sharing of the research findings. The program’s ambition is to ensure young people are meaningfully engaged in informing development programs and strategies, and that they are leaders in driving transformative change through research.

About Restless Development
 

Restless Development the agency for youth-led development. We are run out of strategic hubs in ten countries across Africa, Asia and in the UK and USA, with a wider network of partners across the world. We work to make sure young people have a voice, a living, sexual rights, and are leaders in preventing and solving the world’s challenges. Restless Development has been working with young people since 1985 and our work is led by thousands of young people every year. We listen to young people, our work is led by young people, and together we help young people make lasting change in their communities and countries. For more information, please visit: http://restlessdevelopment.org/

About Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest, private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, Canada, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MCFoundation on Twitter.

Media Contacts:

Restless Development
Catherine Rodgers, Hub Director, Restless Development Uganda
Tel: +256 200906450; E-mail: catheriner@restlessdevelopment.org
Rachel Proefke, Senior International Research Manager, Restless Development Uganda
Tel: +256 200906450; E-mail: rachelp@restlessdevelopment.org

Mastercard Foundation
Tonya Reid, Associate, Communications
Mobile: +437-992-3432; E-mail: treid@mastercardfdn.org; Skype: tonyareid

Africa Practice East Africa Limited
Pereruan Kenana, Senior Consultant
Mobile : +254 720800843 or +233 244687113; Email : pkenana@africapractice.com

 

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