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Immigration to Europe: Beni Mellal, Morocco’s city of exile for migrants pushed back from Europe’s borders | International

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Moroccan security agents escorted 21-year-old Azdin, a refugee from Sudan, onto a bus, drove 11 hours southwest, then left him at the bus station in Beni Mellal, the capital of Morocco’s second-poorest region, situated in the country’s north-central interior. Azdin had no money, no food, no cellphone, no first aid supplies. One month after a mass attempt to breach the border fence in Melilla, an exclave city belonging to Spain, Azdin is still trapped in this impoverished city. And he’s not the only one. The forced expulsion of migrants from the Spanish border has left more than 200 people — mostly from Sudan, some from Mali — living in desperate conditions on the streets of Beni Mellal, with no way to leave. Some have broken legs and feet, many have infected wounds covered by old, filthy bandages. Azdin’s only advantage is that he knows this city well: it’s the 10th time Moroccan authorities have sent him here — once for each failed effort to jump the fence. The collective attempt last month left at least 23 people dead.

Beni Mellal is the punishment inflicted on hundreds of migrants and refugees detained by Moroccan security agents in their attempt to reach the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Lately, the city has served as the main destination for migrants forcefully transferred after being arrested at the border, but there are many others: Ouarzazate (a 12-hour drive from Nador, the Moroccan city bordering Melilla), Fquih Ben Salah (eight hours from Nador), Chichaoua (10 hours), Errachidia (seven and a half hours), Kalaat Sraghna (a little over nine hours) — places far away from the border, extremely poor, and very difficult to leave. Young men with little to no resources — those who, like Azdin, have no friends or family who can send them €20, €30, or €50 — spend months living on the streets, waiting to catch a bus that will take them back north, where they can try their luck at the fence once more.

For years, the government has detained and expelled migrants who attempt to reach Europe through Morocco’s northern border with Spain’s North African enclaves, banishing them to faraway cities or ditching them in the middle of the desert. It doesn’t matter whether they have papers identifying them as refugees: police hunt them down in raids, detain them before they reach the fence, beat and arrest them as they try to climb it, load them onto buses with police escorts, and then head south. This strategy of forcefully removing migrants and asylum-seekers to the country’s poorest and most remote cities is a key pillar of the Moroccan government’s war on irregular migration. Forced relocation wears migrants down, exhausting them both physically and emotionally, and separating them from friends and traveling companions, making their journey even more difficult, dangerous, and deadly. Despite the cruel and controversial conditions in which these transfers are carried out, they continue to occur on a regular basis, on a massive scale. EL PAÍS made repeated attempts to contact Morocco’s Ministry of Interior for comment, but never received a response.

The road to Beni Mellal passes through small towns with dirt roads and little to no cell service, where the main luxuries are cows, lukewarm water, and a store selling cans of tuna in tomato sauce. The city, which sits at the feet of the towering Atlas Mountains, can appear charming at first sight, to those who have just made the long and desolate journey there. Even more so since the first thing one sees, as the heat melts the asphalt, is a large castle, perched atop a lush, tree-covered hill, next to an apartment complex with a swimming pool. But this mirage of comfort quickly fades away, revealing the real city, and the reality of its more than 190,000 inhabitants.

Unemployment and extreme poverty are visible everywhere: in the tattered and filthy blankets the city’s street vendors use for sleeping in the dirt; in the beggars sprawled out on the sidewalks, delirious in the heat of the day; in the woman rescuing stale watermelon slices from a trash can; in the Moroccan teenager with gelled hair, wearing his best shirt, begging for a job. It’s visible, too, in what is absent — in the aftermath of 30 years of out-migration, as many of the city’s residents themselves chose to migrate. Also irregularly, also to Europe. In many of the city’s cafés, water is served from repurposed motor oil jugs.

At the city bus station — a simple building with salmon-colored walls — 18-year-old Ahmed, from Sudan, loiters around, then enters an adjoining café, unfazed by the commotion of the vendors, beggars, and travelers returning home after Eid al-Adha, Islam’s biggest holiday.

The bus station in Beni Mellal.
The bus station in Beni Mellal. Javier Bauluz

Ahmed has a wound on his ankle that’s becoming infected — the result, he says, of being beaten with a baton by a Moroccan police officer. The soles of his feet are worn raw from walking barefoot: in addition to stealing his money and cellphone, Ahmed says that security agents took his shoes as well. “Bah! It’s no big deal!” he says, laughing. According to government authorities, the mass crossing in Melilla on June 24 left at least 23 people dead. But the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) says the death toll is higher, with 27 confirmed dead and 64 disappeared. On top of surviving that tragedy, Ahmed is fleeing war in Sudan, and he doesn’t want to make a big deal of his comparatively minor injuries. He’s a vulnerable teenager playing tough. He has no other choice.

The death of Abdenacer

Ahmed arrived in Beni Mellal on June 25, the day after the tragedy in Melilla. Police loaded him onto a bus — just like the one that brought Azdin here. “They took us away from Nador in 36 different buses, at least,” Ahmed says. “We left at about seven in the evening, after hours left lying on the ground, and arrived around six the next morning. There were at least 35 people on my bus and one of them died en route. They offloaded the body when we got to Beni Mellal. We didn’t even have water; we had to buy it from the police who were escorting us.” The young man who died on Ahmed’s bus was from Darfur, Sudan. His name was Abdenacer Mohamed Ahmed. His identity was verified by AMDH.

Ahmed says that seven other buses took the same route as his. If his calculations are correct, that means some 280 people were abandoned in Beni Mellal. The majority are Sudanese refugees, a group that has become increasingly prevalent on migration routes to Spain since 2020. Many have left Beni Mellal and are now in Casablanca or other cities to the north, making their way back to the border. But others remain stranded in the city. With nothing. “There are still about 170 or 180 of us here,” Ahmed estimates. The group of refugees, including Ahmed and Azdin, have started to organize, and last Friday they began registering the names of their members in a notebook. In just a few days, and only counting those in their immediate vicinity, they’d managed to register 64 people, including at least 10 minors.

“They send you to the farthest place possible so that it’s harder to get back,” explains Bashir Hamid, a 27-year-old Sudanese migrant who has been expelled 15 times to this and other cities far from the border. Bashir made this same journey over and over again, back and forth over the course of a year, until he finally managed to cross into Melilla on June 24. “Sooner or later, everyone comes back. If you have money, as soon as you step off the bus, you get right back on another one.”

For years, migrants have shared similar stories of being beaten, pushed back, detained, and forcefully displaced from the Spanish border, and human rights groups have long condemned the practice. But it continues to happen. In addition to internal expulsions, the Moroccan government also deports people to their countries of origin and orchestrates forced expulsions to Algeria, where authorities dump migrants in the middle of the desert with no food or water. These forced transfers are carried out with no oversight or transparency, and it remains unknown whether the EU includes them in its official statistics claiming that Morocco has successfully prevented the departure of over 40,000 Europe-bound migrants. According to Moroccan researcher Ali Zoubeidi, an expert on migrant smuggling and border security, “the practice of displacing people to cities in the country’s interior contradicts Morocco’s focus on maintaining humane migration policy. It’s a violation of the human rights of migrants.”

Stranded for three months

Refugees in Beni Mellal consider themselves lucky to be expelled during the olive and orange harvest seasons (winter through spring), because it’s easier to find work. A day laboring in the orchards pays about 85 dirhams, or a little over $8 — enough for those who find work to buy food to share with the rest of the group. But this time of the year, there’s no harvest and no work. Maybe a few hours here or there on a construction crew, but not much else. Hustling up enough money to afford a bus to Casablanca or Rabat (about $10) and enough savings to survive on the road takes time. The last time Azdin was here, he was stranded for three months.

It’s 1pm on Friday afternoon, and the temperature has already climbed to 106 degrees. A group of Sudanese are resting under the shade of a tree, their stomachs empty. Two burly Moroccan men — quite possibly members of the motley crew of government spies that’s been following and keeping tabs on EL PAÍS’ movements in Morocco — approach the group of migrants offering three bags of food. There’s couscous, chicken, bread and French fries. “They’re only doing this because you guys are here,” one of the migrants explains. “The Moroccan authorities don’t let people help us,” another boy adds. They share the food with a Moroccan who, like them, is living on the street, and then offer one of the bags to the group of journalists.

Five hours later and the streets are still boiling at 110 degrees, but the city is already starting to come alive. Teenagers come out to play soccer, and women walk to the cafés — never alone, and almost always surrounded by children. The grassy parkway on Mohamed VI Ave. — the greenest space in downtown — is overflowing with people. The group of Sudanese gather in a corner of the park, near the bus station where they were first dropped off. There are dozens of them, playing cards, sleeping, selling cigarettes and tea, typing on the few phones they have, or simply observing their surroundings in silence. Many are hobbling around on crutches or limping, their bodies covered in old bandages, their wounds still festering. A small Sudanese boy appears, looking no more than 12 years old. Among the locals, their presence has become totally normalized, even if some of the city’s poorest feel slighted: “Why are you so worried about the Sudanese?” grumbles a neighborhood shoeshiner, “We have it just as hard as they do, if not more.”

All around the grassy gathering spot, laundry hangs out to dry on improvised clothes lines and tractor tires are strewn about, serving as sofas. Nearby, a partially-constructed building has been turned into a temporary hiding place for a group of Malian refugees who, like the Sudanese, are fleeing conflicts that have forced hundreds of thousands more to leave their homes.

The assembly

Refugees in Beni Mellal spend most of the day with no food. They rely on charity, or on the support of their companions who manage to find a few hours of work.
Refugees in Beni Mellal spend most of the day with no food. They rely on charity, or on the support of their companions who manage to find a few hours of work.

The refugees are afraid, and the group is reluctant to speak with journalists. They call an assembly to decide whether they should speak to EL PAÍS. In Melilla, Oujda, Casablanca and Rabat, Sudanese refugees have been more than willing to tell their stories and denounce what happened at the fence, but in Beni Mellal, they are terrified. “We’re afraid the Moroccan authorities will punish us,” one person explained. “They could hunt us down and beat us, or leave us in the desert to die.” There are some in the group who want to give interviews, but the older, more experienced migrants — the leaders — are against it. Only Azdin and Ahmed agreed to speak in detail about their situations, but that was before the group had called the assembly.

The reluctance of Sudanese migrants to speak with journalists belies the stated commitments of Moroccan, Spanish and EU authorities to shared principles of humane migration management. The governments’ latest joint press release, issued on July 8, claims that “respect for fundamental rights is a value shared by Morocco and the European Union,” and describes the North African country as a “strategic partner” with one of the “most advanced” migration management models in the world.

The assembly lasts two days, with many insisting that speaking to EL PAÍS isn’t worth the risk of reprisals from the Moroccan government. In the end, the group decides to write their own press statement, and agrees to let EL PAÍS to take a few photos.

Five days later and out of the country, EL PAÍS received a WhatsApp message with images of the statement the group had promised. Written on five sheets of pink, looseleaf paper, it related accounts of harassment at the hand of Moroccan police in the migrant camps of Nador; described the experience of approaching the fence in Melilla, and of the people they lost along the way; and provided testament to the brutality of the Moroccan and Spanish security forces who attempted to stop them. They repeatedly insisted that they are not gang members or criminals, as the Moroccan press has claimed. And they said that the number of dead in Melilla is much higher than has been reported.

On the statement’s final page, the group posed a series of questions to the Moroccan authorities — all effectively rhetorical, since no one will ever answer them: “How many of those killed in Nador were from Sudan? And have you told their families? Or do they still not know?”

Translated by Max Granger

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Rwanda Gov’t Accused of Using Torture, Killings as ‘Accepted Methods’ of Control: Report

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In April, the UK clinched a deal with Rwanda that stipulates illegal migrants arriving in Britain via the English Channel will be sent to the East African nation, where their asylum claims will be processed.

An unnamed Foreign Office official has accused Rwanda’s government of resorting to “arbitrary detention, torture and even killings” as “accepted methods of enforcing control,” in light of Britain’s upcoming High Court review of the legality of the London­-Kigali deal to send some asylum seekers to the East African nation.

The official also claimed that “There are state control, security, surveillance structures from the national level down to [households]” in Rwanda, according to The Guardian.

This comes as the UK government is seeking to keep parts of the documents secret for fear the contents could damage international relations and threaten national security. In particular, No 10’s application for a public interest immunity (PII) certificate calls for keeping “10 short passages confidential.”

The Guardian, along with the BBC and The Times, urges the disclosure of all 10 passages, insisting that it is in the public interest, a view supported by the PCS union, as well as the charities Care4Calais and Detention Action.

A government spokesperson, in turn, praised Rwanda as “a safe and secure country with a track record of supporting asylum seekers.” They underscored that the government remains “committed to delivering this policy to break the business model of criminal gangs and save lives.”

A draft ruling from Lord Justice Lewis on the PII application is expected tomorrow, while a full High Court hearing into the London-Kigali deal on asylum seekers is scheduled for September 5.

Rwanda Deal

The London­-Kigali asylum pact, which was inked by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Vincent Biruta on April 14, 2022, stipulates that adult migrants who illegally arrived in the UK seeking sanctuary since January would be given a one-way ticket for the 4,000-mile (6,400-km) trip to the East African nation for processing and resettlement.

Under the deal, those relocated to Rwanda will receive “support, including up to five years of education, vocational and skills training, as well as integration, accommodation, and healthcare, so that they can resettle and thrive.”

UK Border Force officers help migrants, believed to have been picked up from boats in the Channel, disembark from Coastal patrol vessel HMC Speedwell, in the port of Dover, on the south-east coast of England on August 9, 2020. - The British government on Sunday appointed a former marine to lead efforts to tackle illegal migration in the Channel ahead of talks with France on how to stop the dangerous crossings. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.06.2022

‘Deeply Un-British Policy’: Critics Slam Rwanda Deal as First Deportation Flight to Leave Mid-June

The outgoing UK prime minister’s government described the Rwanda scheme as a legitimate way to protect lives and thwart the criminal gangs that send migrants on risky journeys across the English Channel.

The implementation of the deal is currently on standby after a last-ditch order by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) led to the cancellation of the UK’s first flight to take asylum seekers to Rwanda in mid­-June. Home Secretary Priti Patel made it clear that the ECHR’s move would not prevent London from going ahead with its plans to send some illegal migrants to the East African nation.



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Global instability: Global plagues bring to its knees a world unable to face them together | International

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A brutal pandemic; frightening climate change; a devastating war that drives widespread rearmament; severe trade disruptions; gigantic multinationals that take advantage of loopholes to avoid paying much-needed taxes. The world faces colossal global challenges that shake it intensely and whose solutions necessarily pass through close international cooperation. As the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, stated at the end of July, with respect to global warming, the dilemma is clear: collective action or collective suicide. However, signs of growing polarization and rift abound, between the West and the authoritarian giants of the East, or between the North and the South of the planet. Against the backdrop of the great geopolitical fracture caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the current situation throws up an unequivocal sequence of alarm signals of different kinds.

The meeting on climate change held in Bonn in mid-June to prepare the COP27 in November in Egypt ended without progress and with acrimony; The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported in mid-July that the negotiation it leads to implement a global tax framework for multinationals is delayed and it will not be possible to apply it before 2024 in the best of cases; at the end of July Russia announced that it is withdrawing from the international space station project; the review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that has begun in New York takes place in the midst of strong geopolitical turmoil that does not induce the greatest optimism; In early August, China announced the breaking off of dialogue with the United States on key issues such as the environment or high-level military meetings in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Not all are disasters. The ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) held in July achieved a consensus statement that, although minimal, represents an important sign of vitality for a badly wounded international institution. A recent deal to allow Ukraine to export grain has begun to bear fruit. The US has approved an important piece of legislation that contemplates investments of more than 300,000 million euros over a decade to facilitate the green transition, a national episode but with great global repercussion. There are inspiring episodes of transnational cooperation, such as the EU anti-pandemic crisis funds.

But the achievements seem insufficient given the magnitude of the crises, and the underlying currents are not at all promising for the near future in the fundamental field of truly global cooperation, apart from national, bilateral or regional initiatives. The stark rivalry between powers hinders the essential constructive attitudes; the economic slowdown encourages selfish instincts; The specter of a new rise of nationalist and protectionist recipes is serious, whether it materializes in the extreme form of a seizure of power —as is likely to happen in September in Italy— or in the inhibiting effect that this strength has on the rulers of another country. political inspiration.

Below is a review of the state of the art in some of the key areas in which global responses to global problems would be necessary – and where, however, more friction than solution is in sight.

Weapons

The war launched by Russia in Ukraine has highlighted, in addition to the impotence of the UN system in cases like this, the seriousness of the collapse of the security architecture that had been built during the Cold War, an important framework of treaties of gun control that set limits, increased transparency, decreased the risk of dangerous misunderstandings. The collapse began two decades ago. In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and more recently withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty for a wide range of reasons, while Russia took the lead in withdrawing from the Armed Forces Treaty. conventional in Europe.

This gap is especially serious in a context like the current one, with a clear arms race. World military spending is increasing and, for the first time in decades, according to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute), nuclear arsenals are on the way to not only a qualitative improvement, but also a quantitative one. “We have to be aware that the lack of dialogue on nuclear risks and arms control between powers is in itself dangerous, because it makes it easier to misunderstand and miscalculate in a crisis,” says Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Gun Control Association.

A Chinese soldier observes the movements of a frigate during maneuvers in the Strait of Formosa on August 5.
A Chinese soldier observes the movements of a frigate during maneuvers in the Strait of Formosa on August 5.Lin Jian (AP)

This dangerous trend has been seriously accentuated by the recent breakdown in dialogue between Beijing and Washington. If the conflictive relationship between the West and Russia is worrying given the high military potential at the Kremlin’s disposal, the deterioration with China is even more so. The Asian giant will most likely be a 21st century hyperpower. He is determined to develop war-fighting capabilities commensurate with that status and is traditionally reluctant to engage in arms-control deals in the style of those that helped keep the Cold War from turning hot.

“Unlimited spending on increasingly sophisticated military equipment only fuels an arms race that no one can ultimately win. We need to get back to a point where the major powers are engaged in a constant and fruitful dialogue,” Kimball continues. “With Russia the relationship is broken, and as for China, Washington should recognize that its actions can have a negative influence and Beijing should understand that the US has concerns about its behavior.”

The current NPT review conference in New York is a perfect compendium of the difficulties that complicate the road in this sector. The nuclear powers recognized by the Treaty are in the midst of massive efforts to modernize their arsenals. Russia and North Korea make thinly veiled threats to use it. Iran is leaps and bounds closer to having the capabilities to have a nuclear weapon if it wanted to. Dozens of countries, meanwhile, have ratified the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. But both the dialogue between nuclear powers and that between them and the abolitionists seem very complex. A final consensus statement from the conference looms as virtually impossible. The hope is that at least a declaration backed by a “supermajority,” as Kimball defines it, will come about. This, however, is “possible, but not likely,” acknowledges the expert.

Climate change

Nor does it seem likely that the world will make coordinated and consistent progress in the fight against climate change in the near future. While the brutal heat waves that hit Europe ―with terrible droughts and fires that devastate the territory― remind us of the urgency of speeding up the task of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, multiple dark elements accumulate on the table .

Political action in the US to facilitate the green transition is extremely important and will increase the pace of US emission reductions. However, as important as it is, the package is not even enough, according to expert calculations, to meet the 2030 emission reduction goals assumed by the Joe Biden Administration. Meanwhile, disruptions in the energy market linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine have precipitated a return to coal in several European countries. China, for its part, has increased the pace of permitting the construction of new coal plants very consistently, according to a Greenpeace report. In the first quarter of 2022, plants for a power of 8.6 gigawatts were authorized, almost half of the capacity approved throughout 2021, when Xi Jinping gave a boost to strongly advance decarbonization. The breakdown of cooperation between Washington and Beijing in this section is a huge blow, as they are the two main emitters.

Several people walk through the reservoir of La Viñuela (Malaga), which is at 12% of its capacity.
Several people walk through the reservoir of La Viñuela (Malaga), which is at 12% of its capacity.García-Santos

“We live in a very complex context, of concatenated crises that interact. In this context, energy security is emerging as the preponderant variable over the others. Short-term signals are undesirable. And, in the general picture, the commitments made to reduce emissions are clearly insufficient. Even so, we are much better off than a decade ago thanks to the legislative and executive framework that has been built to tackle the energy transition”, observes Lara Lázaro, principal investigator at the Elcano Royal Institute and an expert in the field.

The difficulties in international cooperation in this sector and at this time were exposed at the meeting held in Bonn in mid-June to prepare the COP27 scheduled for November in Egypt, which ended without tangible progress. If, on the one hand, the need for energy security drives polluting bets in the short term, and the economic slowdown stirs up East-West competition, the Bonn meeting illustrated, on the other hand, the validity of the pulse between the North and the South , with the latter accusing the former of not fully assuming its responsibility for the damage caused to all as a great historical polluter. The issue of mobilizing aid to developing countries to deal with this impact is an open wound.

The decision of the G-7 held in Germany at the end of June to accept exceptions to the commitment to avoid public investment in the fossil fuel sector caused much concern among the supporters of a decisive acceleration in the fight against climate change. The taxonomy recently approved by the EU, according to which gas is cataloged in a green label that favors investments, also caused controversy.

“At COP26 in Glasgow, among other things, it was proposed to reach COP27 with revised objectives. But I see it unlikely that Europe will get there with greater goals. Perhaps more closed implementation plans. Nor do I see the US or China arrive with increased objectives. Egypt will hold the presidency in a devilish context”, comments Lázaro.

The pandemic

Contributing to the devilish context is a pandemic that has prostrated the planet for two and a half years. The situation is clearly better than in the previous summer thanks to the deployment of the vaccines, but the emergency cannot be considered resolved nor, above all, the way of dealing with it shows the desirable signs of an effective international cooperative attitude.

The WHO (World Health Organization) continues to record around 15,000 weekly deaths from covid this summer, and the disruptions to the economy due to confinements, as China shows, are consistent. At this point, Africa still has a proportion of citizens with full guideline of only 20%. The north-south gap and west-east distrust mark this scenario.

“The international reports that have been prepared – such as that of the Monti commission, to which I was linked – coincide in indicating that the north-south international response has been clearly insufficient and not very supportive”, comments Rafa Bengoa, former Minister of Health of the Government Vasco, former director of the WHO health systems area and currently co-director of the Institute of Health and Strategy.

“Many countries, including Spain, are trying to provide both vaccines and medicines and infrastructure to the countries of the south, but this has been slow, it is not going at the speed at which the virus is going. We are playing more to the security of the north than to the solidarity that we should have, “says the expert.

The most visible combat scenario has been that of the release of intellectual property from vaccine patents. India and South Africa have spearheaded the claim. After a time of uncertainty, the Biden Administration backed the idea. But the issue remains stalled, opposed by several major European producing countries. The recent WTO ministerial conference has addressed the issue in its final consensus statement. However, the result has been considered practically irrelevant by supporters of liberalization and by independent experts. “It doesn’t change things much,” says Uri Dadush, an analyst at the Bruegel think tank, and a former World Bank executive and president of The Economist Intelligence Unit.

In this context, hopes for better international cooperation are pinned on a process launched within the framework of the WHO to outline a new legal framework. “The idea is to have a legal and binding mechanism that goes much further than the international health regulations of 2005, which were established after SARS-1, and which have proven to be insufficient due to lack of teeth,” observes Bengoa.

The expert points out how the WHO faced serious problems in investigating what happened in Wuhan, China, the likely epicenter of the pandemic, because it does not have the power to act without authorization from member countries. “The framework agreement is going to have to say things about these issues.” Once again, the growing mistrust between powers embodied in a traumatic way by the breakdown of the dialogue between Washington and Beijing is emerging as a potential obstacle to endow an international institution with penetrating powers. It should be remembered that Donald Trump, a possible candidate for the next US presidential elections, promoted the withdrawal of his country from the WHO.

Trade

Trade is another area subject to strong tensions for geopolitical reasons or because of the disruptions linked to the pandemic. Precisely under the Trump presidency, the conflict between the US and China fully broke out, in which the arrival of Biden has meant a certain containment, but not a solution. The highest arbitration panel of the WTO for disputes between States is inoperative as the necessary judges have not been appointed, with the United States convinced that the court exceeded its powers in the past. The relationship between the other great world trade giant, the EU, and China is not serene either. The sinking of the investment agreement between the two, once heavily sponsored by Germany, is a symbol of growing suspicion in Europe about Chinese attitudes and excessive interweaving with that market. The Russian war in Ukraine has, of course, been shaken up again, with a wide range of retaliatory sanctions against Russia by some 40 democratic countries.

Still, the recent WTO ministerial conference concluded with a consensus agreement. “This is positive. The WTO is a fundamental institution, and many other ministerial ones ended up without it,” says Dadush, who, however, points out that the agreements found are of a “minimalist” nature, and that the declared intention to reactivate the arbitration panel by 2024 “It doesn’t really commit anyone.”

A man pushes a cart past containers at the Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 4, 2021.
A man pushes a cart past containers at the Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 4, 2021.WILLY KURNIAWAN (REUTERS)

Dadush points out that the current turmoil — tariff conflict between the US and China, sanctions on Russia or the UK’s exit from the EU — while significant, nevertheless represents “a small part of global trade.” The expert believes that the most likely future scenario is that of “free trade that will go ahead, a globalization that will continue, with many difficulties and tensions, but without a global trade war.”

The hypothesis of an open war between China and the United States is the only circumstance that can profoundly alter this central perspective, Dadush observes. “But I think that everyone is aware that we cannot afford an open war between Washington and Beijing, that it is necessary to find a modus vivendi, and that is why that is not the most likely scenario,” Dadush continues.

“I also believe that”, he continues, “even if nationalist and protectionist options come to power in Western countries, they will also be limited, in the transition from campaign rhetoric to government action, by the reality that trade is essential. for economic development and pressure from business environments that are often close to right-wing political families. Therefore, I believe that the most realistic scenario is that of free trade that, although with difficulties, will go ahead”. In this sense, it should be noted that the right-wing coalition dominated by protectionist parties that is the favorite to win the elections in Italy issued this week supposedly reassuring signals in the face of the European integration process, in which free trade is a central issue. It will be necessary to see, in case of victory, how much the facts will correspond to the words of now.

Taxation

Another blow to the hopes of finding global solutions to global problems came this July when it was confirmed that the negotiations to implement a global corporate tax system are facing many difficulties and will not be able to conclude this year as many expected. Last year, 140 countries agreed to establish a framework that allows taxes to be collected more fairly from large multinationals that take advantage of their size, the characteristics of their business and jurisdictions with negligible tax levels to avoid paying taxes on their profits. The agreement provides for a minimum corporate tax of 15% and that at least part of the profits of multinationals be registered in the jurisdictions where their clients are, and not where their headquarters are, conveniently located.

But the application in the real world is complex, and the OECD, which is leading the negotiation, has reported that at least one more year will be necessary and the implementation would not be possible before 2024. The legislative package approved this Friday in the US contemplates various tax measures but, as recognized by the Treasury Department itself, promoter of the global agreement, they do not serve to place the country in line with the framework agreed upon in the OECD.

As if the obstacles to global cooperation in all these sections were not already notable, others are on the way, such as the US legislative elections in November, which could break Democratic control of Congress. It is to be hoped that, with the Republicans in control of one or both Houses, Washington’s willingness to cooperate internationally will be diminished, giving yet another turn to a spiral that goes in the opposite direction to the direction required by the plagues that afflict the world.

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Silence, stigma and unaffordable drugs: the Kenyan woman finding sickle cell solutions | Global development

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For Lea Kilenga, life seemed normal until a new boy at her school encouraged other children not to sit next to her. The incident was her first realisation that there was a stigma to living with sickle cell disease.

Like her two sisters, Kilenga was diagnosed with the genetic blood condition in early childhood. The disease changes the shape of red blood cells from round to crescent-shaped. These cells then stick together, causing blood clots, intense pain and anaemia. The condition mainly affects people of African or Caribbean heritage.

Lea Kilenga, the founder and executive director of Africa Sickle Cell Organization.
Kilenga has since become a successful advocate for the disease in Kenya, where nearly 14,000 children are born with the condition every year. Photograph: Koyanga Bey/Courtesy of Lea Kilenga

Because Kilenga wasn’t the only one in her family dealing with “sleepless nights and night-long cries”, she thought “taking daily medicine, seeing the doctor every two weeks and undergoing routine blood transfusions were all normal for every child”.

“Until the day a boy in my class, who was new, mentioned that I was peculiar and contagious,” says Kilenga, 33. “Despite efforts to make myself seem not so different, I couldn’t hide my jaundice and distended stomach and skinny body. Many of my classmates bought into the narrative, and soon no one wanted to associate with me, sit with me or touch me. I didn’t go to school for three months after this.”

Her self-esteem bruised, she went through a period of “destructive behaviour” and was admitted to hospital multiple times with alcohol and drug overdoses. She managed to turn herself around in university.

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A common condition

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The human toll of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is huge and rising. These illnesses end the lives of approximately 41 million of the 56 million people who die every year – and three quarters of them are in the developing world.

NCDs are simply that; unlike, say, a virus, you can’t catch them. Instead, they are caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. The main types are cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – heart attacks and stroke. Approximately 80% are preventable, and all are on the rise, spreading inexorably around the world as ageing populations and lifestyles pushed by economic growth and urbanisation make being unhealthy a global phenomenon.

NCDs, once seen as illnesses of the wealthy, now have a grip on the poor. Disease, disability and death are perfectly designed to create and widen inequality – and being poor makes it less likely you will be diagnosed accurately or treated.

Investment in tackling these common and chronic conditions that kill 71% of us is incredibly low, while the cost to families, economies and communities is staggeringly high.

In low-income countries NCDs – typically slow and debilitating illnesses – are seeing a fraction of the money needed being invested or donated. Attention remains focused on the threats from communicable diseases, yet cancer death rates have long sped past the death toll from malaria, TB and HIV/Aids combined.

‘A common condition’ is a new Guardian series reporting on NCDs in the developing world: their prevalence, the solutions, the causes and consequences, telling the stories of people living with these illnesses.

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Kilenga has become a successful advocate for those living with the disease in Kenya, where nearly 14,000 children are born with the condition every year. Named Kenya’s SCD champion by the ministry of health and NCD Alliance Kenya in 2016, her work began two years before with a photography project “to prove there were more of us”. She photographed 400 people.

“I was inspired by the stories and the people living with SCD – both patients and caregivers. It was a silent disease in that no one spoke about it for fear of stigma,” she says.

Half of the people Kilenga met had no access to pain medication, even though, as she says, “pain is universal and relative”.

“Everyone has pain to varying degrees, but not everyone will understand your pain unless they experience it to the level you do.”

From Lea Kilenga’s 10003 Warrior Project.
From Lea Kilenga’s 10003 Warrior Project. Photograph: Courtesy of Lea Kilenga

The drug hydroxyurea, commonly used to prevent sickle-shaped blood cells from forming, was approved for treatment in Kenya in the past decade and is the most affordable option to manage the symptoms, although “it does not work for everyone and the term ‘affordable’ is a stretch”, says Kilenga.

Only 5% of the people she photographed had seen a health professional, and most had received multiple misdiagnoses.

Kilenga learned how “people with sickle cell, especially those in rural areas, largely self-medicated with herbs and traditional remedies due to lack of access to sickle cell care”.

Her discoveries contributed to the establishment of national SCD care guidelines. Most children with the severest form do not survive beyond the age of five. Kilenga’s sister died in childhood.

In 2017, Kilenga set up the Africa Sickle Cell Organisation to raise awareness and get better care for patients in resource poor, high burden areas, such as the coastal city of Taita-Taveta, where Kilenga lives.

From Lea Kilenga’s 10003 Warrior Project.
From Lea Kilenga’s 10003 Warrior Project. Photograph: Courtesy of Lea Kilenga

Manjusha Chatterjee, from NCD Alliance, called Kilenga a trailblazer.

“Lea has championed the destigmatisation of her condition and NCDs more broadly to ensure more awareness of rarer NCDs and tackle the social taboos surrounding them.”

Painful sickle cell episodes affected her more in her teens and 20s, but Kilenga can sometimes find herself in the emergency department when they strike, needing strong pain relief.

Her vision is to make sickle cell disease a global health priority. “My message to people with sickle cell is there’s no saviour coming. We’ve had 100-plus years to wait for them, they have not shown up to make significant change for us. So we must make this change for ourselves and others like us.”

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