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UK cuts grants for small aid charities to save ‘less than cost of No 10 press room’ | Aid

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The UK has scrapped three rounds of grants to small international development charities, prompting fury that it has wiped out funding for 42 projects around the world to save “less than the [£2.6m] cost of the Downing Street press room”.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) told charities last week that rounds six, seven and eight of the Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) would not go ahead because of aid cuts, cancelling in total about £2.1m of funds earmarked for new and future programmes, including many that had been approved.

“The cruelty of these cuts cannot be overstated. For less than the cost of the Downing Street press room, small UK charities would have delivered more than 40 transformative projects to the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Jess Price, a director at Health Improvement Project Zanzibar. “Instead of delivering this critical work, we are now trying to recoup losses and rebuild local trust.”

The charity, one of 1,500 members of the Small International Development Charities Network (SIDCN), was planning to use an approved £50,000 grant to build an A&E department and train 12 staff in a rural hospital in Zanzibar, a project it said would give 220,000 people access to life-saving emergency services.

Other projects due to receive SCCF grants include programmes to provide basic skills for 11,000 child domestic workers in Bangladesh, teach young pregnant women in Sierra Leone, and support girls living on the streets in Uganda.

Ruth Patil, operations manager at Carers Worldwide, said the cancellation of funding for its approved helpline for 2,000 family carers of children with disabilities in remote Nepal was “undoing years of good work in the community”.

“Nepal is about to go into another lockdown and instead of supporting people who are more isolated than ever, we are breaking our promises,” she said.

Charities said FCDO officials told them on 30 April that agreements had been cancelled, including the Community Partnerships fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct impact grants, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programmes. Some active grants were halted and given 90 days to close, they said.

The SIDCN said applications for SCCF grants were still being accepted a month ago and a huge amount of work would be wasted during a pandemic that had already devastated the budgets of small charities. It is calling on the government to commit to a £50m package of support.

Neil Heslop, the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Small UK charities stepped up brilliantly to support British values at home and abroad in the face of the pandemic. Aid cuts at this level risk permanent damage to dozens of international development charities and their delivery of life-saving programmes for the poorest … Without support, vital services will go and lives will be lost.”

The FCDO have been approached for comment.

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Belgium might close schools and cultural activities

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Today, Friday, Belgian governments are meeting again in order to decide on new Covid measures in order to stop the spreading of the virus as numbers are spiking. This time the concertation committee is gathering on the request of the Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon who suggested to close down all indoor events, including all concerts and theatre productions. The closing of schools is also on the agenda.

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El Salvador ‘responsible for death of woman jailed after miscarriage’ | Global development

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The Inter-American court of human rights has ruled that El Salvador was responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby when she suffered a miscarriage.

The court has ordered the Central American country to reform its draconian policies on reproductive health.

The decision on Tuesday marked the first time an international court has ruled on El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and was celebrated by women’s rights activists, who believe it could open doors for change across the region.

Since 1998, abortion in El Salvador has been banned without exception, even in cases of rape and incest. Over the past two decades, more than 180 women have been jailed for murder for having an abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies, according to rights groups.

The case of Manuela v El Salvador was brought after the 33-year-old mother of two from the countryside died from cancer after receiving inadequate medical diagnosis and treatment, leaving her two children orphaned. She had been serving a 30-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide after a miscarriage.

When Manuela – whose full name has never been made public in El Salvador – went to the hospital after miscarrying, staff failed to provide her with timely treatment and instead subjected her to verbal abuse and accused her of having an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Manuela was handcuffed to her bed and denied access to a lawyer while police interrogated her.

“There is no doubt that Manuela suffered an obstetric emergency,” the landmark court ruling stated. “Such situations, as they are medical conditions, cannot lead to a criminal sanction.”

The court also ruled that the state must pay reparations to Manuela’s family, and should develop comprehensive sexual education policies and guarantee doctor-patient confidentiality.

“The Inter-American court has done justice by recognising Manuela was another victim of an unjust legal context that originates in the absolute prohibition of abortion,” said Morena Herrera, at the Feminist Collective for Local Development, one of the parties in the case supporting Manuela’s family.

“Manuela’s story is a sad one, but it represents a change and becomes a path of justice and hope for all women in Latin America and the Caribbean who are criminalised for obstetric events.”

Most countries in the region respect the Inter-American court’s jurisdiction, opening the door for sweeping change, activists said.

“This is a huge advance for reproductive rights, not only in El Salvador but across Latin America,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, another party in the case. “This is a standard we can apply to the constitutions and states across the region.”

Martínez Coral added that while the ruling was to be celebrated, the issue of poverty affecting access to reproductive rights remained a challenge.

“There are over 180 cases of women in jail, or that have been jailed, over these issues,” said Martínez Coral, who also worked as a litigator on the case against the Salvadorean state.

“What that means is we’re dealing with a state that criminalises women and, above all, criminalises poor women in the most rural and impoverished areas,” she said.

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EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

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The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a proposal to digitalise EU cross-border justice systems, aiming at making them more accessible and effective. Under the new draft law, the EU executive wants to tackle inefficiencies affecting cross-border judicial cooperation and barriers to access to justice in cross-border cases. Shifting paper-based communications to electronic formats would save up to €25m per year across the EU in postage and paper costs.

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