Thursday, 30 April 2009

Prof .William Were got a gong from Her Majesty for her services to Health in the commonwealth

Born in 1940, in Kenya the seventh child of a Quaker family that believed in education, she
received her first degree in natural sciences and became a teacher. However, 1967 due to her
fascination with health care challenges she decided to join Nairobi faculty of Medicine which
had just opened. Although some of her family members got concerned about her move, Were
was supported by her husband who felt that there was important work to be done. Her academic
qualifications include a Bachelor’s degree (BA) in Natural Sciences from William Penn College,
Iowa (1964), a Post-graduate Diploma in Education from Makerere University,(1966), Bachelor
of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, (MB ChB), University of Nairobi (1973), Master of Public
Health, Johns Hopkins University (1976), and Doctor of Public Health, (Health Planning and
Management) from Johns Hopkins University (1981).
Miriam Were is a Professor of Public Health at the Department of International Health, Health
Planning and Management at Johns Hopkins University (USA). A look at her involvement in
activities around the globe and more specifically in East Africa, reveals a woman of strength and
a major force in changing health care in Africa. She is an icon of health professionalism,
especially in Public Health. Some refer to her as ‘one of the unsung strengths of the continent’.
Being a mother, she understands all the pain of motherhood and child rearing, especially in
remote rural societies where access to modern health facilities still remains a dream. For the past
40 years, Were has dedicated her life to advancing the health and welfare of the people of Africa
through a focus on the practicalities of delivering service at the local level. She has mobilized
communities to develop and implement innovative solutions to health problems. One illustrious
example of her community-based approach is the ongoing work on public toilet facilities in local
communities to improve hygiene and overcome longstanding taboos. She has also drastically
improved the infant vaccination rate by organizing children into small groups to visit local
clinics. Her innovations have had enduring impact across the entire African continent, through
her engagement with the African Union and as a key health advisor to the African Heads of state
on AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Her style of work through the direct engagement of the
youth, sex workers, drug abusers and homosexuals has encouraged openness and frank
discussion of sexuality and HIV/AIDS and has contributed to the reduction of stigma and
discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. She is a dedicated advocate for vulnerable
populations, especially the poor and the marginalized. She is also committed to the
empowerment and development of all voices irrespective on one’s sex, tribe, age or class
background. Widows and orphans severely affected by HIV/AIDS are among those most
positively touched by her contribution to expanding access to medical services.
Prof. M. Were has also received many awards and honors as Academic and Health Professor.
• On 28th of May, 2008, received the HIDEYO NOGUCHI AFRICA PRIZE, (Medical
Services by Japan), presented by the Prime Minister of Japan in the presence of the His
Imperial Majesty, The Emperor of Japan and Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of Japan
with over 40 African Heads of State and world leaders present during the TICAD IV in
Yokohoma. This was the first time this prize was presented. The co-winner was Prof
Brian Greenwood, medial Research.
• On 18th July, 2007, received THE QUEEN ELIZABETH II GOLD MEDAL for
outstanding contributions to International Public Health and supporting the health needs
of disadvantaged people in London.
• On 5th July, 2007, during the World YMCA Women Leading Change Awards, she was
awarded the TRAIL BLAZER-“for her life-long commitment to working with
disadvantaged people to improve the quality of their lives and her innovative approaches
to community empowerment and for her current leadership driving the National
HIV/AIDS response in Nairobi Kenya”.
• On 29th October, 2006, awarded the MEDAL OF THE ITALIAN CABINET by the
International Scientific Committee of the Pio Manzu Centre. Professor Miriam K. Were
received this award at the same time as one awarded to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of
Liberia; the first African women to be given these awards by the Pio Manzu Centre,
Rimini, Italy.
• On 10th March, 2006, marking the International Women’s Day in Kenya, was awarded
academic excellence.
• On Kenya’s National Day, 12th December, 2005, Professor Miriam K.Were received
(EBS) of the Republic of Kenya for “distinguished service rendered to the nation,”
including creating an enabling environment for effective HIV/AIDS response. The
Award is in the Second Group of National Honours.
• In the period 1998-2000 Prof. Miriam K. Were had the Honour of being the sole African
candidate for consideration by the UN Secretary General for the post of UN
Undersecretary as UNFPA Executive Director.
• In 1993, she received Obelix of Axum Award from the Ministry of Health of Ethiopia for
having Worked with the people of Ethiopia.
Some of her selected publications are as follows:
Dissertation. 1981, Johns Hopkins University
Health system Research Series. 1992.
Lastly Prof. Were serves on numerous National and International Committee through which she
exerts influence.
Photo: Ayoub mzee

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Somalia’s Prime Minister in Addis Ababa ;
Donor promises contrast with Somali realities
Last weekend, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Shermarke, and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Sharif Hassan visited Ethiopia . The Somali delegation held talks with Prime Minister Meles and Foreign Minister Seyoum, and Prime Minister Shermarke, on his first visit to Ethiopia since his appointment, stayed in Addis Ababa until Wednesday [22nd April]. He said he had had a fruitful exchange of views. He noted that his government wanted to streamline the command and structure of the security forces and he hoped for Ethiopian aid in training and capacity building in security and other areas. His government’s top priorities were security and finance, and he underlined the need for IGAD assistance in institution building.
Prime Minister Meles made it clear that Ethiopia fully supported the new government as it had done since its inception. Ethiopia agreed that security and finance were the priorities and the government needed to generate revenue. Ethiopia was fully prepared to assist in training in finance, tax collection, customs and similar areas, together with other IGAD member states. It was also prepared to continue to train security forces. Ethiopia agreed Al Shabaab posed the greatest threat to the government and the government needed international community assistance in the security area as a matter of urgency. Foreign Minister Seyoum emphasized that Ethiopia would fully honor its commitments to provide capacity building to the new government. He pointed out the need to enable Somalia to manage its own affairs and urged the international community to redouble its assistance, noting that the fight against piracy should go hand in hand with practical moves to build up the government’s capacity.
In the discussions, Prime Minister Shermarke also emphasized the government’s interest in reconciliation and said it was working on the integration of the former TFG, ARS-Djibouti, Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamma, former ICU and different clan militias. He said the Government was engaging with Hizbul Islam but had given up hope of rapprochement with Al-Shabaab. Hizbul Islam is made up of four factions, one being the Asmara-based faction led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys’. Sheikh ‘Aweys’ unexpectedly arrived back in Mogadishu on Thursday, flying down from Asmara where he has been for the last two years. His arrival underlined the Somali Government’s need for increased security. Despite claims that he might be prepared to talk to the new government, Sheikh ‘Aweys’ appears to be intransigent towards his former ICU allies, taking his tone from the statements of President Issayas. He has already denounced the government of Sheikh Sharif as infidels and declared they should be wiped out, and said the fight against AMISOM should be continued. Addressing a supporter’s rally, he said talks with “our deceived friends, government officials”, could only take place once AMISOM had left Somalia . “AMISOM”, he added, “is not a peacekeeping force…they are the bacteria in Somalia . Somalia has not yet reached peaceful agreement. So be patient. We are left with little time to fight and achieve our Islamic objective.”
Paradoxically, in Brussels on Thursday, the international community was talking about strengthening AMISOM and the TFG with impressive sounding pledges of funding, but saying nothing about the specific and looming danger posed by the arrival of Sheikh ‘Aweys’ in Mogadishu. The joint United Nations, African Union and European Union Conference on Somalia was co-chaired by UN Secretary General, Ban ki-Moon and African Union Chairperson, Dr. Jean Ping, and hosted by the EU. Among those attending in Brussels were President Sheikh Sharif of Somalia ; Amre Mussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; Professor Ekmelledien Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference; Javier Solana, the EU High Representative of Common Foreign and Security Policy; and Louis Michel, the EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid. On Wednesday afternoon [22nd April] the conference was briefed by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, the UN Special Representative for Somalia , the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, the AU Special Representative to Somalia , the AMISOM Force Commander and the Somali Minister of Defence.
Delegates spoke of the prospects for a “new chapter” and a “brighter future” for Somalia , and the conference came up with pledges of over US$250 million to cover security and law enforcement, humanitarian aid and, possibly, a coast guard. This was US$90 million more than expected. However, it remains to be seen how far these pledges will be redeemed and how quickly. There is a significant disconnect between the international community discussions in Brussels and the situation on the ground in Mogadishu . The international community has so far shown no sign of facing up to the immediate challenge now facing the TFG in Somalia . As he emphasized, Somalia ’s Prime Minister does most certainly need concrete and immediate support on a large scale.
Meanwhile, in a report to the UN Security Council dated 16thApril, Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, responding to a January request from the Security Council to develop a mandate for a UN force in Somalia, proposed a three stage UN approach to Somalia. The Secretary-General notes that the plan for a UN peacekeeping operation of some 22,500 troops outlined in his report of 9thMarch remains a “high risk option”. He therefore recommends an incremental approach incorporating some of the other options he has put forward. The first step would be support for AMISOM coupled with UN assistance to build up some security institutions, support political reconciliation and provide humanitarian assistance. Mr. Ban ki-Moon said he anticipated this lasting for three or four months and being followed by a “light UN footprint” in Mogadishu , including direct assistance from the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). Then after reference back to the Security Council, then and only then, the Secretary-General would be prepared to propose a full-fledged peace keeping operation to replace AMISOM. The Secretary-General regards this as a carefully calibrated and flexible approach. He also emphasizes the need to prevent “minority groups pursuing a hard-line approach” from disrupting progress, and for the TFG to be able to sustain its reconciliation efforts and extend its authority on the ground. All this, of course, looks very theoretical, even abstract, in the light of events on the ground in Somalia .
The Second Ethio-Sudan High-Level Joint Commission Summit
The 2nd Ethio-Sudan High Level Joint Commission Summit was held in Addis Ababa on 21wt and 22nd April. President Omar Hassan Ahmed Al-Bashir and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi led the respective delegations. In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Meles expressed his satisfaction with the progress of implementation of the bilateral agreements between the two countries, and reiterated once again Ethiopia 's position regarding the issuing of the ICC warrant for the arrest of President Al-Bashir. As a matter of principle, he stressed, the ICC warrant is neither in the interests of peace nor of justice. Ethiopia , he said, supports the African Union resolve to lobby for a deferral of the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Meles also noted the importance of Sudan ’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as critical for peace in Sudan and indeed for East Africa as a whole. President Omar Al-Bashir, for his part underlined the importance of the historic relationship existing between two sisterly countries whose relationship was, he said, based on mutual interest. He stressed the important role Ethiopia had played in IGAD and in the sub-region and he made it clear he appreciated the role of the Joint Ministerial Commission in promoting the expansion and deepening of bilateral cooperation in all areas. The Joint Ministerial Commission meeting presented its report to the heads of government after discussing the status of implementation of different agreements and coming up with a proposal on the establishment of a working mechanism for the Commission.
The main achievement of the High Level Joint Commission has been the establishment and institutionalization of three committees namely a Political Committee, a Trade, Finance and Economic Committee and a Social Affairs Committee. This is an important step towards producing an effective mechanism to cover the multi-faceted, multi-sectoral, relations between Ethiopia and Sudan . The three committees have agreed to prepare an action plan for 2009/10 starting in June, and also to develop a three-year general plan. The Joint Border Development Commission, which provides a forum for the adjacent regional states along the common border, is another of the mechanisms of the Joint Ministerial Commission. A joint follow-up Committee to be chaired by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries has now been established following a recommendation by the Ministerial Commission that it should have the responsibility for coordinating all areas of cooperation and follow up implementation of agreed activities. The Summit endorsed the Joint Ministerial Commission report.
At the closing of the Summit three Agreements, two Memoranda of Understanding and four Executive Programs were signed by Foreign Minister Seyoum and Sudan ’s Minister of International Co-operation, Al-Tigani Salih Fidail, in the absence of Foreign Minister, Deng Alor, reportedly in the Hague . These covered areas of trade exchange, production of natural glue, and forest protection and development. Memoranda of understandings covered quality and standards control, and human resource exchanges, as well as principles of implementation on culture and tourism, youth and sports, health, higher level education and science research.
Before leaving Ethiopia yesterday, President Omar Al-Bashir made a brief visit to Tigrai region, flying up to Makelle to meet regional officials. The original plan for the President to pray at the Al-Negash mosque where followers of the Prophet were given sanctuary from persecution in Ethiopia had to be cancelled because of delays in leaving Addis Ababa .
The AU’s Executive Council’s 12th extraordinary session
The 12th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council was held in Tripoli , from 15th to 16th April to consider issues related to the transformation of the AU Commission into an Authority and explore the implications of such action. The Extraordinary Session was the result of the decision taken by the AU Summit at the beginning of February, following the Special Summit on the Union Government and the 12th Ordinary session of the AU Assembly, both held in Addis Ababa . It was agreed an Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council should be held within three months to consider the further elaboration necessary to transform the AU commission into the AU Authority. It was only after a lengthy debate in the Special Session and in the 12th Ordinary Assembly Session, the Summit took the decision, on recommendation of the Executive Council, that further work was needed to elaborate on the decision to transform the Commission into an Authority. Specifically this meant a need to look further into (a) the functions of the proposed African Union Authority; (b) the size of the Authority; (c) the portfolios of the Secretaries and, (d) the financial implications of establishing such an Authority. The Secretaries referred to are the new name for the Commissioners as decided by the Special Session of the Summit . The Summit also decided to call the Chairperson of the AU Commission and his deputy, President and Vice-president respectively.
The crux of the discussions revolved around the nature of the Organization that member states are now creating. The central point is whether member states are embarking on the creation of a union government or whether the process is actually setting up an inter-governmental organization. In fact there has been no decision by member states to create a union government, an idea which remains in the realm of fantasy. No member state has argued explicitly against the AU as an inter-governmental organization of sovereign states. However, proposals continue to be made which suggest there is still confusion over the issue. This apparent lack of conceptual clarity continues to affect the debate on Union government. Many had expected that the Tripoli Extraordinary Ministerial Meeting would follow the same pattern. In fact, however, the meeting was successful in making sure that the instructions of the AU Summit in February were adhered to fully. Obviously, the changes proposed to the Constitutive Act, including changing the designation of the head of the AU commission, and other details agreed in Tripoli , will have to await the amendment of the Constitutive Act in accordance with Article 32 of the act. It could be recalled there were attempts in the past to avoid resorting to Article 32 because it was thought strict compliance with Article 32 would prevent any speedy amendment of the Constitutive act.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

By Lydia Namubiru
LAND conflicts will escalate in at least 30 districts in Uganda unless urgent measures are taken to resolve them, experts have warned. A ‘time bomb in waiting’ is how the NGO Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) calls the looming land crisis as a result of population pressure and lack of proper land policies. The conflicts include border disputes with neighbouring countries, inter-district border disputes, wrangles between landlords and tenants, and tenants resisting acquisition of land by investors. The disputes over international boundaries include Migingo island in Lake Victoria pitting Uganda against Kenya, a 9 km stretch in Yumbe between Uganda and Sudan, the Katuna border area with Rwanda and the Mutukula border area with Tanzania. Disagreements with the Democratic Republic of Congo involve Rukwanzi Island in Lake Albert, Semliki, Medigo area in Pakwach and Vurra border area in Arua. The disputes over Migingo Island and Rukwanzi Island have already led to violence. In August 2007, Congolese soldiers killed a Ugandan-based British oil worker accusing him of illegally crossing the border. And last week Kenyan slum dwellers uprooted the railway line to Uganda protesting what they called continued Ugandan occupation of Migingo Island. Disputes over district borders exist between Moroto and Katakwi, Sironko and Kapchorwa, Bundibujo and Kabarole, Moroto and Lira, Tororo and Butaleja, Butaleja and Budaka and over Namatala swamp between Mbale and Budaka districts. In Buganda region, conflicts are expected to worsen between landlords and tenants, the latter increasingly facing eviction as land becomes scarce and its value goes up. Violent evictions have pervaded the area in recent years. Land’s ministry spokesperson Dennis Obbo argues that the proposed land amendment bill will solve many of the conflicts in Buganda as it seeks to give more protection to the tenants. However, the bill has been fiercely resisted, particularly by interest groups, and it has been shelved for now. In Gulu district, returnees from internally displaced people’s camps are locked in land disputes over boundaries as original land marks have disappeared and the elders who knew them have died. In parts of Ankole and Bunyoro, royals who hold large chunks of land are embroiled in conflicts with people who have occupied their land for decades. In Kasese, three indigenous tribes are fighting over a small portion of land that was not taken over by the Government for game parks or forest reserves. “The people of Kasese have been squeezed into ‘a corridor for survival’ as the rest of the land mass is inaccessible because it is gazetted as Government protected land,” says one of the research reports by ACODE. According to the researchers, the Government holds 65% of the land in Kasese while the district’s three tribes of Bakhonzo, Basongora and Banyabindi are left to share the remaining 35%. As a result of land scarcity, the Basongora cattle keepers encroached on Queen Elizabeth National Park upon their return from the Democratic Republic of Congo where they had been chased out. Violent clashes broke out with the Uganda Wildlife Authority which tried to evict them back into the survival corridor. “To say the least, Kasese is sitting on a time bomb, which could explode anytime,” says the report. In the Eastern part of the country, the Karimojong of Moroto accuse the Teso people of Katakwi of having altered the border line in their favour in the 1960s, when Curthbeth Obwongor from Teso was minister of local government. In 1966, the altering of the border caused heated disagreements in the area. The Karimojong petitioned then President Milton Obote, who subsequently cancelled the alteration and dismissed Obwongor from parliament. The dispute, however, flared up again in 2004 when then LC5 of Moroto, Terence Achia, locked horns with his Katakwi counterpart, Steven Okure Ilemukorit, over parts of Napak, Kodike and Alekilek which the latter claimed belonged to Katakwi. “These recent claims and counter-claims by politicians are threatening to inflame the conflict and could result into generalized violence,” the report says. The situation in Kibale, which has seen bloody disputes in recent past, is far more complex than any other region and dates back to colonial days. The colonial government gave part of the Kibale land to chiefs in Buganda Kingdom. When the so-called lost counties were given back to Bunyoro kingdom after independence, the Baganda landlords fled with the land titles. As a result, the occupants on about 70% of Mailo land in the area have no security of ownership. In addition, the Government has over the decades resettled different groups of people in the area. Immigrants now comprise 50% of the district’s population, up from 10% five decades ago. A rift between the indigenous Banyoro and the immigrants has become apparent in 1990s and has continued to grow. Bulisa district is another trouble spot where oil prospects are just the latest catalyst to a looming land war. According to the area MP, Birahwa Mukutale, the British colonial government took 80% of the land in Bulisa and Bugungu to gazzet it as Murchison Falls National Park and Budongo Forest reserve. The remaining 20% was then zoned into grazing land near the lake and land for cultivation near the park. This land has been communally owned and used for over 60 years. “Unfortunately, in 2004, Bulisa was invaded by nomadic herdsmen who do not respect the zoning. As a result, there are daily conflicts between cultivators and herdsmen,” says Mukutale. In addition, the herdsmen claim they individually hold land titles for about 40 sq miles in Bulisa. But the indigenous residents refute these claims, arguing that all this land is communally owned. What should be done? Officials in the lands ministry agree with the ACODE researchers. “The hot spots are many,” says Dennis Obbo, the ministry’s publicist. “We have found that wherever there is productive use of land along an administrative border, there is conflict.” Mapping the land conflict areas and noting the unique drivers of conflict in each area should be the first step to avert war, according to Onesmus Mugyenyi, the executive director of ACODE. “We carried out this research because we wanted to show the Government that conflict mapping should be adopted as a strategy for resolving disputes. It should be done on a regular basis so as to help plan interventions.” “We are hoping that the land policy will sort out many of the problems,” says Obbo. The government is also in the process of buying land from absentee landlords to help insecure tenants acquire land titles. “The government has so far bought over 76 hectares of land with money from the Land Fund.” The Bulisa MP believes that systematic demarcation of land would also be part of the answer. The Government is currently carrying out pilot projects in the districts of Iganga, Ntungamo, Kibale and Mabale. The World Bank is set to fund the project in another 28 parishes countrywide. In this exercise, all land will be surveyed and land owners will be able to secure their tenure by registration and acquisition of land titles. The high population growth rate, which goes hand in hand with climate change, is another area that needs to addressed, according to the Africa Peer Review. Estimated at 3.2% a year, Uganda’s population growth rate is third highest in the world. The average Ugandan woman gives birth to seven children in her lifetime. By 2050, Uganda’s population is expected to reach 120 million, three-fold the current population. “This is a serious challenge that affects the growth levels in Uganda”, says the 2009 Peer Review report. “It is strongly recommended that Uganda considers adopting and implementing a national population policy as a key element in its poverty reduction strategy.” As most of the land conflicts are in highly populated areas, a population policy might also be a key element in averting an escalation of land wars in Uganda.[ref new vision]

“Turning a police state into a slave state”

A statement by Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week strongly denied recent media claims that both Israel and Iran were carrying out ‘rival intelligence operations’ in Eritrea or that either had bases, Israel in the Dahlak Islands, and Iran at Assab. The statement said ‘invective’ against Eritrea had intensified in recent months, and went on to claim that it was coming from key western intelligence services and using “selected ‘human rights groups (Africa Watch, CPJ etc) and some NGOs” as conduits. Surprisingly, the statement made no mention of the latest human rights report, “Service for Life: State Repression and Indefinite Conscription in Eritrea .” This accuses the Eritrean Government of extensive human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, torture, appalling detention conditions, forced labour, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and worship. The Government has been accused of turning Eritrea into “a giant prison”. The report describes how the Government uses “a vast apparatus of official and secret detention facilities to incarcerate thousands of Eritreans without charge or trial,” and refers to torture, cruel and degrading treatment and forced labour as routine for national service conscripts and detainees. Detainees are typically held in overcrowded cells, sometimes underground, or in shipping containers which reach searing temperatures by day and freeze by night. Detainees include top government officials detained in September 2001 and held since then without charge or trial, among them Mohammed Sherifo, former vice-president of Eritrea , and two former foreign ministers as well as other ministers. Critics point out that those who try to flee unlimited national service conscription, compulsory for all between 18 and 55, risk severe punishment and the possibility of being shot while crossing the border. Because of the risk of mistreatment for those returned, as many have been from Libya , Egypt , and Malta in recent years, the UN High Commission for Refugees has advised against deporting anyone to Eritrea , for whatever reason. The Eritrean Government has been denounced for allowing a “police state to evolve into a slave state”. And this is the state that Mr. Jonathan Tepperman of Newsweek claimed is destabilizing the Horn of Africa merely out of frustration with Ethiopia ’s failure to accommodate Eritrea over the border issue!
Ethiopia’s reporting obligations and human rights reports
A two-day National Conference on the theme “ Ethiopia ’s Reporting Obligations under International and Regional Human Rights Instruments-Progress made and the Way Forward” was held this week in Addis Ababa (on 23rd and 24th April), at the United Nations Conference Centre. This National Conference was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Regional Office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide a forum for the consolidation of draft government human rights reports for submission to various international treaty bodies. The conference was a follow up to an earlier National Conference held in October 2007 under the title: “The reporting obligations of Ethiopia to United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies”. It was aimed to evaluate the achievements and identify the challenges being faced in implementation of recommendations adopted by the National Conference.
The Conference was attended by over 200 participants including representatives from federal and regional government bodies, national institutions, civil society, the United Nations Agencies, the African Union and observers from the diplomatic community. It was officially opened by Ato Berhan Hailu, Minister of Justice, who reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to the promotion and protection of human rights, and identified some of the measures taken by the Government to entrench human rights in the country. He recognized the contribution that treaty reporting could make to such national efforts, and expressed the determination of the Government to continue active engagement in the treaty reporting process. Ambassador Kassa G/Hiwot, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Mr. Frej Fennich, Regional Representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner delivered welcoming speeches and Ms. Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a video recorded message.
The National Conference considered a number of draft reports presented for discussion and prepared by a reporting structure adopted to enable Ethiopia to comply with its reporting obligation under human rights treaties. The structure of the project included the National Inter-Ministerial Ad-Hoc Committee, legal experts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the drafting committee, under the overall supervision of the National Inter-Ministerial Ad Hoc Committee which was coordinating the entire reporting process enabling participation of non-governmental actors and the provision of different training opportunities for relevant actors. More than 500 men and women, representing various governmental and nongovernmental institutions, have received human rights training in the context of the Project. The Ad Hoc Committee also approved the draft reports for submission to the relevant treaty bodies. The committee of five legal experts was coordinating the gathering and processing of relevant information through contact with Regional States and Federal Government institutions and non-governmental actors. This project has allowed for the submission of the Common Core Document, the combined report to the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and for the initial and combined report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples´ Rights.
The entire exercise was originally focused on treaty reporting but in the course of the reporting process, the United Nations Human Rights Council informed Ethiopia that it would be reviewed in December 2009 and asked for a report to be submitted by September 2009. It was considered convenient to include Ethiopia ’s draft report to the UN Human Rights Council for consideration during the 6th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session.
The National Conference considered all five reports from the working groups and participants made detailed comments enhancing the quality of the reports. They acknowledged that the reports already contained detailed information, but it was agreed that written submissions could be made until 30th April 2009 through emails and other means. The Conference designated a group of 15 persons to serve as a drafting committee, representing all branches of the Government from Federal and Regional Government institutions, private media, NGOs, private participants, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, and legal experts. The Conference adopted the recommendations presented by the group, including the need for sustained reporting and for the establishment of a permanent institutional mechanism, and increased roles for national human rights institutions.
During the closing session, following the adoption of the recommendations by the Conference, Dr. Tekeda Alemu, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, awarded certificates of recognition and tokens of appreciation to Members of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Committee, the Legal Experts and members of the Drafting Committee for their outstanding contributions to the successful conclusion of the Project. Concluding comments were made by Ambassador Kassa G/Hiwot, Chief Commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Frej Fennich, Regional Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In his closing statement, Dr. Tekeda reiterated the commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to the idea of sustained reporting by Ethiopia to the various treaty bodies. He welcomed the recommendations of the Conference and assured participants that the ideas contained in the Declaration of the Conference would be given serious consideration by the relevant Government bodies. He also praised the collaboration between the various Government institutions, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Dr. Tekeda stressed that human rights should be free of polemics. The issue should not be over-politicized. Human rights are not an issue for public relations, and it is important for all stakeholders to resist temptations to sensationalize the issue.
It should be recalled that the reporting system established under various United Nations human rights treaties and regional instruments is designed as an overarching supervisory system allowing states which are party to these international and regional instruments to submit initial and periodic reports detailing the administrative, legislative and judicial measures taken by the states themselves. These reports are prepared on the basis of guidelines issued by the treaty bodies themselves. This is a generalized way of referring to the various committees established under the respective treaties and composed of independent experts elected by the states party to these treaties. They serve in their personal capacities, and are selected on their high reputation in various fields of endeavor. Once they receive reports from the state parties, they normally appoint rapporteurs to review the reports and request additional information from the state party as necessary. The next step is open consideration of reports in discussions, normally held in Geneva . At these sessions, the state party representative makes introductory remarks followed by questions and answers from the relevant Committee members. The representatives of the state parties respond to queries and engage in dialogue with the Committee. At the conclusion of these sessions, the Committees issue concluding observations and recommendations. The state parties are expected to consider these observations and recommendations and take them under consideration in their national plans at different levels.
The significance of this reporting by Ethiopia should be seen both in terms of discharging its treaty obligations and in the contributions from the observations and recommendations of the expert’s bodies relevant to national efforts for promotion and protection of human rights. The report and discussions that will follow presentations to the treaty bodies will also provide concrete and objective information on the situation of human rights in the country. Ethiopia has been the target of a great many allegations on human rights and of hearsay reports by third parties. This factual reporting to treaty bodies, and Ethiopia ’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council under the Universal Periodic Review, will now be able to provide real and credible sources of information for human rights in Ethiopia .

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Swine Flu
Tue, 28 Apr 2009 06:00:00 -0500
Just when I thought that cold and flu season was over, here it is, swine flu. I’m sure that by now you’ve heard news reports of the outbreak of swine flu, first in Mexico, now there are reported cases in the United States and in other countries as well.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the swine flu is a respiratory disease that is commonly found in pigs. Sometimes humans pick it up, and sometimes it can be transferred from person to person.
What should you do?
In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, don’t panic.
Stay informed. Know if there has been a swine flu outbreak where you live or where you’re planning to travel. The CDC is investigating and tracking the reported cases of swine flu. Also listen to reports and guidance from your state and local health agencies.
Wash your hands! I sound more and more like my mother, but she’s right, keeping your hands clean is an important step to reducing the spread of disease. Follow regular disease prevention steps like covering your coughs and sneezes, staying home when you’re sick, and practicing good health habits.
If you live in an area with an outbreak and you get sick with fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, the CDC recommends you contact your health care provider.

State Health Agencies:
Alabama Department of Public Health
Alaska Department of Health and Human Services
Arizona Department of Health Services
Arkansas Department of Health
California Department of Health Services
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Connecticut Department of Public Health
Delaware Health and Social Services
Florida Department of Health
Georgia Division of Public Health
State of Hawaii Department of Health
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
Illinois Department of Public Health
Indiana State Department of Health
Iowa Department of Public Health
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Kentucky Cabinet of Health Services
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
Maine Bureau of Health
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Michigan Department of Community Health
Minnesota Department of Health
Mississippi Public Health
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services
New Mexico Health Department
New York State Department of Health
Wadsworth Center
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
North Dakota Department of Health
Ohio Department of Health
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Oregon Department of Human Services
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Rhode Island Department of Health
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
South Dakota Department of Health
Tennessee Department of Health
Texas Department of State Health Services
Utah Department Of Health
Vermont Department of Health
Virginia Department of Health
Washington State Department of Health
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services
Wyoming Department of Health

Questions & Answers
Key Facts about Swine Influenza (Swine Flu)
On This Page
Swine Flu
Swine Flu in Humans
Swine Flu in Pigs
Related Links

Swine Flu
What is Swine Influenza?Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.
How many swine flu viruses are there?
Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. Pigs can be infected by avian influenza and human influenza viruses as well as swine influenza viruses. When influenza viruses from different species infect pigs, the viruses can reassort (i.e. swap genes) and new viruses that are a mix of swine, human and/or avian influenza viruses can emerge. Over the years, different variations of swine flu viruses have emerged. At this time, there are four main influenza type A virus subtypes that have been isolated in pigs: H1N1, H1N2, H3N2, and H3N1. However, most of the recently isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.
Swine Flu in Humans
Can humans catch swine flu?
Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.How common is swine flu infection in humans?In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported.
What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork?No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You can not get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
How does swine flu spread?Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
What do we know about human-to-human spread of swine flu?In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman was hospitalized for pneumonia and died 8 days later. A swine H1N1 flu virus was detected. Four days before getting sick, the patient visited a county fair swine exhibition where there was widespread influenza-like illness among the swine.
In follow-up studies, 76% of swine exhibitors tested had antibody evidence of swine flu infection but no serious illnesses were detected among this group. Additional studies suggest that one to three health care personnel who had contact with the patient developed mild influenza-like illnesses with antibody evidence of swine flu infection.How can human infections with swine influenza be diagnosed?To diagnose swine influenza A infection, a respiratory specimen would generally need to be collected within the first 4 to 5 days of illness (when an infected person is most likely to be shedding virus). However, some persons, especially children, may shed virus for 10 days or longer. Identification as a swine flu influenza A virus requires sending the specimen to CDC for laboratory testing.
What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans?There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in the US for the treatment of influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. While most swine influenza viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent swine influenza viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses.
What other examples of swine flu outbreaks are there?Probably the most well known is an outbreak of swine flu among soldiers in Fort Dix, New Jersey in 1976. The virus caused disease with x-ray evidence of pneumonia in at least 4 soldiers and 1 death; all of these patients had previously been healthy. The virus was transmitted to close contacts in a basic training environment, with limited transmission outside the basic training group. The virus is thought to have circulated for a month and disappeared. The source of the virus, the exact time of its introduction into Fort Dix, and factors limiting its spread and duration are unknown. The Fort Dix outbreak may have been caused by introduction of an animal virus into a stressed human population in close contact in crowded facilities during the winter. The swine influenza A virus collected from a Fort Dix soldier was named A/New Jersey/76 (Hsw1N1).Is the H1N1 swine flu virus the same as human H1N1 viruses?No. The H1N1 swine flu viruses are antigenically very different from human H1N1 viruses and, therefore, vaccines for human seasonal flu would not provide protection from H1N1 swine flu viruses.
Swine Flu in Pigs
How does swine flu spread among pigs?
Swine flu viruses are thought to be spread mostly through close contact among pigs and possibly from contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs. Herds with continuous swine flu infections and herds that are vaccinated against swine flu may have sporadic disease, or may show only mild or no symptoms of infection.
What are signs of swine flu in pigs? Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed.
How common is swine flu among pigs? H1N1 and H3N2 swine flu viruses are endemic among pig populations in the United States and something that the industry deals with routinely. Outbreaks among pigs normally occur in colder weather months (late fall and winter) and sometimes with the introduction of new pigs into susceptible herds. Studies have shown that the swine flu H1N1 is common throughout pig populations worldwide, with 25 percent of animals showing antibody evidence of infection. In the U.S. studies have shown that 30 percent of the pig population has antibody evidence of having had H1N1 infection. More specifically, 51 percent of pigs in the north-central U.S. have been shown to have antibody evidence of infection with swine H1N1. Human infections with swine flu H1N1 viruses are rare. There is currently no way to differentiate antibody produced in response to flu vaccination in pigs from antibody made in response to pig infections with swine H1N1 influenza.
While H1N1 swine viruses have been known to circulate among pig populations since at least 1930, H3N2 influenza viruses did not begin circulating among US pigs until 1998. The H3N2 viruses initially were introduced into the pig population from humans. The current swine flu H3N2 viruses are closely related to human H3N2 viruses.
Is there a vaccine for swine flu? Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu. The seasonal influenza vaccine will likely help provide partial protection against swine H3N2, but not swine H1N1 viruses.
Related Links
INFLUENZA: Pigs, People and Public Health (Fact Sheet)

You are cordially invited to a Private Viewing of

‘Social Justice – An Exhibition of Photography’

Thursday 30th April
The Hub, Edinburgh’s Telford College.

Wine and canapés will be served at 6:30 pm.

The photographs, and posters, prepared by Telford College students are part of a competition sponsored by Edinburgh Trades Union Council on the theme of Social Justice.

Judging will take place between 6:00 and 6:30 by judges

· Fiona Hyslop, MSP
· Richard de Marco
· Grahame Smith, General Secretary, STUC.


Two exciting editions of The Trumpet Newspaper:* Calls for Britain to offer an Immigration Amnesty get louder.* An encounter with Nollywood's Lancelot Imasuen.* Masenda returns to Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.* Uche Nworah on Nigerian ex-Diaspora men maintaining their wives and children remotely.* Mayor Emmanuel Obasohan chronicles life* Omoseye Bolaji's exploits in South Africa* An analysis of the Niger Delta crisis and how our Oil is stolen* Iya-Ile, a Nigerian drama at London's Soho Theatre

* Murderer husband commits suicide weeks after killing wife* Nigeria High Commission London announces reforms* Mama Awolowo advises Otunba Gbenga Daniel* London Metropolitan Police is recruiting - please quote 42/09 or text POLICE19 ...* Lebara offers free calls and texts* Sierra Leone Excellence Awards ...* Wole Soyinka's Death and the King's Horseman opens* President Yahya Jammeh honours U-17 team... and more
Links to your favorite publication are further down in this email.

Monday, 27 April 2009

400 years of black history

Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance
78 Carlton Place
G5 9TH
Tel: 0141 418 6530
Mob: 07758253 823

From: John Nelson [mailto: ] Sent: 27 April 2009 12:18To: "Undisclosed-Recipient:;"Subject: Voices of Congolese Women

I apologise for the very short notice for this meeting being held in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh tomorrow evening (Tues. 28th), but thought I should let ACTSA contacts know about it. Anyone planning to go would need to get in touch as soon as possible with the organisers mentioned in the notice in order to be on the attendance list for the security check at the door. I understand that there is to be another speaker, in addition to the ones mentioned in the publicity notice: "Drocele Mugomoku who has arrived in the UK for a short visit from DRC and will be able to give an up-to-date account of her work in DRC. The presentation will focus on how women can be more involved in decision-making processes of peace-building, both at national and international level."
DRC is officially in ACTSA's area of interest, though it is not a country about which we claim any particular expertise. I am sorry not to be able to attend myself, and hope some other ACTSA folk might be able to.
John Nelson (ACTSA Scotland )

Parliamentary Event hosted by Rob Gibson MSP:
Organised and introduced by the Women's International League for
Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
28 April 2009
Committee Room 1
6 - 8 pm
Michael Russell, Minister for External Affairs, will open
the event. DRC activists living in the UK will lead the
evening in a seminar-style event
Speakers include:
Marie-Louise Pambu
Kongosi Onia Mussanzi
and Marie-Claire Faray
If you would like to attend this event, please contact Helen Kay
or Janet Fenton at Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre,
St John's Church Terrace, West End Princes Street ,
Edinburgh EH2 4BJ
email or
tel: 0131 229 0993 or 07985 914143
Space will be limited and for security reasons your name will have to be on
the guest list.


In 1979, hours after having run the New York Marathon, the former Olympic champion Chris Brasher wrote an article for The Observer which began: "To believe this story you must believe that the human race be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible. Last Sunday, in one of the most trouble-stricken cities in the world, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million black, white and yellow people, laughed, cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen." Enchanted with the sight of people coming together for such an occasion, he concluded questioning "..whether London could stage such a festival?"That is how the LONDON MARATHON was born
Today 2009 The results with ratifications are:
2 KABEDE 2:05:20

Defending champion Martin Lel of Kenya has failed to recover from the right hip injury he sustained during his final training session last weekend and has been forced to withdraw from today's Flora London Marathon.
Lel was hoping to win his fourth London title but after a late fitness test yesterday he was advised to withdraw by medical staff.
Lel said: "I am very disappointed not to be able to compete for my fourth Flora London Marathon title but I need to be cautious.

Champions and Course Records
Year Men Women
1981 Dick Beardsley USA Joyce Smith GBR
Inge Simonsen NOR
1982 Hugh Jones GBR Joyce Smith GBR
1983 Mike Gratton GBR Grete Waitz NOR
1984 Charlie Spedding GBR Ingrid Kristiansen NOR
1985 Steve Jones GBR Ingrid Kristiansen NOR
1986 Toshihiko Seko JPN Grete Waitz NOR
1987 Hiromi Taniguchi JPN Ingrid Kristiansen NOR
1988 Henrik Jorgensen DEN Ingrid Kristiansen NOR
1989 Douglas Wakiihuri KEN Veronique Marot GBR
1990 Allister Hutton GBR Wanda Panfil POL
1991 Yakov Tolstikov URS Rosa Mota POR
1992 Antonio Pinto POR Katrin Dorre GER
1993 Eamonn Martin GBR Katrin Dorre GER
1994 Dionicio Ceron MEX Katrin Dorre GER
1995 Dionicio Ceron MEX Malgorzata Sobanska POL
1996 Dionicio Ceron MEX Liz McColgan GBR
1997 Antonio Pinto POR Joyce Chepchumba KEN
1998 Abel Anton ESP Catherina McKiernan IRL
1999 Abdelkader El Mouaziz MAR Joyce Chepchumba KEN
2000 Antonio Pinto POR Tegla Loroupe KEN
2001 Abdelkader El Mouaziz MAR Derartu Tulu ETH
2002 Khalid Khannouchi USA Paula Radcliffe GBR
2003 Gezahegne Abera ETH Paula Radcliffe GBR
2004 Evans Rutto KEN Margaret Okayo KEN
2005 Martin Lel KEN Paula Radcliffe GBR
2006 Felix Limo KEN Deena Kastor USA
2007 Martin Lel KEN Zhou Chunxiu CHN
2008 Martin Lel KEN Irina Mikitenko GER
Course Records
Men 2008 Martin Lel KEN 2:05:15
Women 2003 Paula Radcliffe GBR 2:15:25 (mixed race)
Women 2005 Paula Radcliffe GBR 2:17:42 (women only)

ReplyReply All

400 Years of Black British History
26 April 2009
A talk on the Imperial War Museum London's exhibition 'From War to Windrush'.
Sunday 26 April 2009, 1-4.30pm
Conference Room Imperial War Museum London, Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ


What is Black Women’s History? is a fascinating short course starting Sunday 24th May 2009.

All are welcome to attend this fascinating five week short course on What is Black Women’s History? The course uncovers the biography and achievements of great women from ancient and medieval Africa, through the slave trade, right up to the present periods. The opening class salutes the work of the pioneering African American historians, Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, Drusilla Houston, and Anna Melissa Graves. With their work emerged a new concept of Black history that underpins the course.

Clearly there is a need for this sort of information. After all: Can YOU name 10 great black women who lived before the year 1900?

Some of the biographies covered on the programme are:

· Queen/Pharaoh Hatshepsut
· Queen Mother Amanirenas
· The Queen of Sheba
· Falasha Queen Judith
· Bilikisu Sungbo
· Queen Amina
· Ann Nzinga
· Mary Prince
· Mary Seacole
· Harriet Tubman
· Amy Jacques Garvey

All of the classes are two-hour cutting edge PowerPoint presentations. The course will run for five weeks, one lecture per week on Sunday afternoon from 2.15pm to 4.15pm at PCS Learning Centre, 3rd Floor, 231 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 1EH (5 minutes walk from Victoria Station). The course costs £60 per person. Reading lists and handouts are provided.

This course will be repeated on Wednesday evenings starting Wednesday 1st July 2009

Course Content:
Week 1: The African Mother Goddesses and the Birth of Civilisation Week 2: Women in Ancient Egypt (ordinary life and women leaders) Week 3: The Queens of Ancient Ethiopia Week 4: The Queens and Great Women of Medieval Africa Week 5: Black Women in the Age of the Atlantic
There are many reasons why one may be interested in such a course. Some may wish to study the Black Woman’s experience in a systematic way. Others may be teachers who need the information to benefit their pupils. Others may be parents who need the information for their children. Some may wish to pursue the subject as a leisure interest.

Whatever the reason, please come along.

Places on this course are limited. Places are available on a strictly first come, first served basis and we anticipate that there will be a lot of demand for this course. If you would like to attend this course, please contact us for a booking form at

If you have any questions about the course, please contact Black History Studies using the numbers below.


Charmaine Simpson
Chief Executive

Presentation Dates for your diary:
- Monday 8th June 2009- 'The Lost Civilisations of Kenya'
- Monday 13th July 2009- 'Economic Development in the Black Community'
- Monday 10th August 2009- 'The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street'
- Monday 14th September 2009- 'Christianity in Early Africa'
- Monday 12th October 2009- 'The Amazing History of Black People in Britain'

*** The new book 'Before The Slave Trade: African World History in Pictures' by Robin Walker is now available! Check out the official website at


MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.
This is a special privilege for me today to bring Dr. Alice Rivlin to
you as one of our greatest experts here, an economist and someone
who's been in the key institutions of our government, the
Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget under
the Clinton administration, the Federal Reserve and we were just now
talking about the New York Stock Exchange. She's also a member of the

She will be glad to take your questions. At the end we would ask
you to please wait for the microphone and to identify yourself and
your media. Thank you.

Dr. Rivlin?

RIVLIN: Thank you very much. I'm really pleased to be here and
get a chance to interact with journalists from all around the world.
It's a very interesting time to be an economist in the United States,
as all of you know. And everybody here and abroad is asking questions
that economists find very difficult to answer, namely how bad is this
recession going to be, when are things going to turn around, how long
is it going to last and those kinds of things.

I wish I had answers. I think nobody does. We are inherently
living in a very uncertain world. The standard forecast for the U.S.
economy don't look all that bad in the sense that much of what you
would read if you look at model forecasts right now says that the
economy will continue to get worse, the GDP will be falling through
the end of this year, but it's already April, and bottom out early in
2010 and begin growing again.

People vary on how fast, but I think most people think the growth
when it resumes is not going to be all that rapid.
But that's the standard forecast, coupled with what people have
observed over a very long period, namely that unemployment is a
lagging indicator, that it continues to rise even after the GDP has
begun to grow again. And people are predicting that unemployment now
in the middle eights will go up as high as 10 or 11 percent perhaps
before it begins to fall again.
Now, that's pretty bad, but I think there's a significant chance
it could be worse, and that's the thing that gives us all so much
uncertainty. A couple of reasons, first, we haven't seen this kind of
thing before in the United States in the period in which we've been
doing serious modeling of recession. So to the extent that the
forecast depend on model, pulling together the statistics of the last
several decades, they may be misleadingly optimistic because of what a
model of that sort is telling you is if things proceed on the
average as they have in the recessions since World War II, how bad do
we expect this to be?

And that's an interesting question, but it's not the right
question because in that period we have not had a recession which
began with a serious, full-scale financial collapse. Now, there have
been recessions around the world, quite a lot of them, that have
started with banking crises and financial collapse, and what we know
about those recessions compared to the ones that didn't start that
way, is that those who start with financial collapse are worse and
So that doesn't give you a very precise estimate, but it gives you
some reason for being a little worried that the standard model
forecast may not be right.

Another reason is nobody wants to go back to the economy that we
have had in the United States for several decades, but especially most
recently in this one, namely an economy of over consumption and over
borrowing by households and by government and by corporation, over
borrowing at all levels.

We want to go back to an economy which is growing, but in which
household saving and other domestic saving is higher, and we are able
to finance more of our domestic investments through domestic saving,
rather than borrowing so much of the savings of the rest of the world.

And that would give us a much more solidly-based economy, but if
you think about what it means for the recovery, it's not good. And
for retail sales and services, consumer services, and so forth, they
will come back slower if we are transitioning to an economy with a
higher savings rate. Now, we already have a higher savings rate.
People living through this catastrophic decline in the markets and the
banking crisis are very uncertain and what people do when they're
uncertain is they don't spend.

So we've had a saving rate, a household saving rate which was
approximately zero go up now to in the range of 5 percent, which is in
many ways good, but will certainly, if it stays there and it may not
stay there but will stay higher than zero, will slow the recovery.
Now, what is in the response of the authorities? Everything they
could think of. This has been the most aggressive response to a
recession and a financial crisis probably in the history of the world,
partly because of the lessons drawn from the Great Depression, where
countries -- it was a different economy then, but we had central banks
and we had government and they did not act very rapidly and in many
ways did the wrong thing, raised taxes, raised interest rates, tried
to get back on the gold standard, doing things that were restrictive
rather than stimulative.
This time we have seen the opposite. We have seen first the
central banks around the world cooperating in a way that perhaps
central banks have never cooperated before, in reducing interest rates
and pumping liquidity into the financial system, a very inter-linked
global financial system, in an effort to preserve as much stability as
the financial institutions as possible.

Rescues of financial institutions by the central banks and here
the Federal Reserve, on a scale that we have not seen before. I'm
always a little bemused when I think about what I would have thought
when I was the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, if somebody had come
into my office and said, "Hey, you know, I think we ought to buy a
failing insurance company." That was not on the list of things that
most of us at the Fed at the time, but could possibly be done even in

But the other piece, two other pieces, one is Treasury action to try
to stabilize the banking system, a very unpopular thing to do.

And we will see how this turns out, but the Treasury together
with the Fed, as you know, launched into a very aggressive program to
stabilize the banks with so-called TARP, Troubled Asset Recovery
Program, which didn't do that at the beginning. They thought they
were going to buy the troubled assets; they couldn't figure out a good
way to price them so they went at it directly first, with direct
capital injections, quite large ones.

It's not clear whether that worked or not, because we don't know
what would have happened. People say, "Well, it didn't get the banks
back to normal; they aren't lending as much as we'd like to think they
should" But that doesn't mean that the original TARP didn't work,
because we don't know what would have happened and certainly the
authorities thought that they were, in facing a domino effect of
collapsing financial institutions around the world, and that at least
did not happen.

Now the question is what to do next. The Treasury and the
Federal Reserve in various complex ways has been both aiding the banks
and getting into the credit markets directly, buying securities and
buying packages of consumer loans, auto loans, small business loans,
whatever, to try to get credit out there directly.

And the other response has been the direct government spending
and taxation response, the stimulus program, which again is on an
unprecedented scale, pushing money out to try to keep the economy from
getting into an even more serious downward spiral and cajoling other
governments around the world to join us with considerable success in
stimulating their economies because we're all tied into this thing

And again, we won't ever know exactly how much good the stimulus
package has done, because we won't know what would have happened if we
hadn't done it. I think one can say confidently things would be a
good deal worse if we hadn't gotten money out there quickly.

So what happens next? I'm not quite sure. I'm happy to answer
questions, but it's not quite clear how long we will have to be dealing
with this and how successful the government actions will be. I'm
reasonably optimistic, but not about the short run, and I think we
also have to be very concerned about the long-run future of U.S.
fiscal policy.

The budget deficit has gone to unprecedented levels. I teach and
I had my students look at the past statistics and the highest in terms
of the budget deficit as a percent of GDP. It's wandered around. The
thing that some of us who were in the Clinton administration take
pride in is that we had a considerable budget surplus at the end of
the '90s, but that went away quickly.

The highest deficit as a percent of GDP was in 1983, about 6
percent, and we were very worried about that at the time, and we
should have been, but the more recent years we still had a deficit but
it was considerably smaller in relation to the economy. This year's
going to be 12 or 13 percent; that's twice the previous record or the
post-World War II record.

That in itself I think is not very worrisome. Those deficits are
largely caused by the financial rescue and the stimulus itself, and
they will be temporary in this huge magnitude. But even as the
economy recovers, we will be left with significant deficits, the
Congressional Budget Office estimates in the range of 4 percent of
GDP. And -- and this is the point I keep referring to and have been
for some years -- we are headed into a period in which all the
pressures on the Federal Deficit are in the upper direction.

We, like many of the countries you come from, have an aging
population. We have made promises to older people in terms of
pensions, but most particularly in terms of medical care, that are
going to be very expensive. And our medical care system is expensive
and the rate of growth of per capita spending on medical care is
high. So there is enormous upward pressure on spending in the Federal
government irrespective of what's going on now. There's nothing to do
with the current increases; that would have been there even if we
hadn't had a recession and the financial collapse.

And so we are adding to the debt and we are adding to the problem
that would have been there anyway, of very, very unsustainably large
deficits looming at us in the future, which can only be coped with if
we reduce the rate of growth of the spending under the programs for
older people and/or, I think it has to be and raise revenues in some

So that's that fiscal picture, and it's not unlike many other
countries are facing. It's not that there's something unique about an
aging population in the United States or about the difficulty of
balancing a budget. But we're a very big economy and we have very big
deficits at the moment, and we'll see whether our political system can
cope with that.
Let me stop there and answer your questions. Questions? Don't be

MODERATOR: New York, go ahead.
Indira Kannan, from CNBC TV 18, India. I actually have
two questions. One is, I think Obama said a few days ago that
the U.S. was increasing its contribution to the international monetary
fund, and one of the reasons he cited specifically with that for
countries like India and China to participate and this could persuade
them to (inaudible). What exactly would be the U.S. administration's
expectations from India in this regard, and why? And I have another
question after that.

RIVLIN: I think the basic idea is in part imbalances in
intelligence payments got us into this problem and we want a better
mechanism, better-funded mechanism to try to help countries through
adjustments and India and China are very big economies right now and
we need to help enlist them along with a bigger contribution from the
United States in putting the IMF really back in the role it started
out in that.

There was quite a long period when we weren't having difficulties
with the major developed countries balances or we thought we weren't,
and the IMF sort became a little bit more marginal and was worrying
mostly about very poor countries, but I think it's obvious that that
was a mistake. That's not the world of the future and so we need to
get the IMF back in condition where it can cope with major imbalances.

KANNAN: Do you think it's likely that the U.S. may make a direct
appeal to the Indian government, for instance, to entreat its own
contributions beyond that?

RIVLIN: I don't know. I don't know why not. I would think
that's the next thing to do.

MODERATOR: We can't hear you, New York?

Yes, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, said that mostly
major U.S. banks could be considered well-capitalized.

And some of the prominent U.S. economists have actually argued
that a lot of U.S. banks are effectively insolvent. In your opinion,
what is the real status of the U.S. banks and how could this affect
other economies, especially developing economies in the years to come?

RIVLIN: I don't think we know. At least I certainly don't know
enough about the condition of individual banks to answer that question
intelligently. Secretary Geithner's stress test is supposed to tell
us that when we get the results, which have been promised very soon.
They have examined very carefully the books of the major banks to see
not only how solvent they are now but do they have sufficient capital to
withstand a worsening of the economy. We don't know the answer to

What I think we do know is that banks don't have a lot of
confidence in their own ability to weather further storms. If they
did they would be lending more. The other thing we know is that what
happened in the last decade was excessive growth in the financial
sector. It became a sector that was out of proportion in the United
States and other places, out of proportion to the real economy. Forty
percent of the profits of U.S. corporations were in the financial
sector in the last few years. That doesn't make sense.
And too many people, too many smart, bright, young people were going
into financial services. We are going to have to downsize the banks,
hopefully without too many crashing, but over time our objective has
got to be to get the financial services sector back in better
proportion with the rest of the economy.

MODERATOR: Another question? In the back, please?

Yes, Dr. Rivlin, my name is Xingfu Zhu from Chinese media.
So my question will be how much did it account for the Medicare,
Medicare expenses last year? How much percentage of GDP did it
account? This is one thing, one question.

Follow-up question is for the budgetary deficit, when you reached
to certain levels that's regarded as risky and dangerous, by now it's
about 12 or 13 percent of GDP. Which percentage is which to the what
do you call red or light or dangerous level? Thank you.

RIVLIN: Medicare as a percent of GDP, 4 percent or 5 percent. If
you're talking about the Federal government's Medicare program. If
you're talking about medical care as a whole, everything that
Americans spend on medical care as a percent of GDP, it's incredibly
high. It's 16 point something percent, almost 17. And that is a
very, very high number with respect to anything.

The European countries, with good medical care systems are in the
range of 11, 12, 13 percent of GDP and they cover everybody, which we
don't, and with quite good care. The U.K. is less, although I think
moving up, and so one question is why do we spend so much on medical
care in the United States? There are some reasons for it. We
pay our doctors a lot; we use a lot of specialists, more than the
developed countries of Europe where you're more likely to see a
general practitioner and only get to a specialist in very specialized

And specialists earn more; that's one of the reasons. We have
pretty high administrative costs because our system is so fragmented
and complex and there may be some other reasons, but it's not a very
efficient system and that's the thing that President Obama and his
team are worrying about right now, how can we reform the American
medical care system so that it covers more people and doesn't cost as

I don't think we will be able to lower the cost, the per-capita-
cost of medical care, significantly if at all. What we can aspire to
do is lower the rate of growth, because if it's rising as rapidly as
it has been in the last few years, the numbers in the Federal budget
or in any budget devoted to medical care are simply unsustainable.
Remind me of the second question?

Red light on the budget.

RIVLIN: Oh, red light on the budget, yes. Depends what's
happening and how temporary it is. The reason I'm not worried about
the 12 or 13 percent this year or next is that I think it's really
temporary and it will get back down to a range of say 4 percent, which
is not as worrisome. But it also depends on how you're financing it.

And the thing which amazes me, actually, is that the Treasury
bond, the U.S. Treasury bond, is seen around the world as the safest
asset and therefore people buy them even if they don't get a very good
rate of return. And the interest rate on Treasury bonds since this
crisis has actually fallen dramatically because so many people want to
buy them.

That's counterintuitive because a country whose finances are in
bad shape and have a rising budget deficit should not logically be
able to finance this budget deficit so easily.

So the question is how long will this last? And I think we don't
know. It depends partly on how quickly we are able to get our
financial house in order and our economy growing again, and it depends
partly on the rest of the world, including China, whether the Chinese
continue to invest a large part of their surplus in U.S. Treasury, and
what else can I do with it?

In my own opinion, eventually China is going to have to invest
more in its own economy in growing consumption in China. The
imbalance between our two countries was in part that Americans didn't save
enough and in part the Chinese save too much and going to have to
raise the consumption level out of their own income.

MODERATOR: We'll take the next question from New York.

My name is Olli Herrala. I come from Helsinki, Finland.
(inaudible) Finnish Business Daily. I have a question
about raising the revenue. How soon are we going to see incomes tax
hikes? Thank you.

RIVLIN: How soon are we going to see income tax hikes? Well, if
the Obama budget goes through, the proposals that President Obama has
put forward. We will not see income tax increases on most people, but
we will see the tax rates on the top 5 percent, reasonably wealthy
people, go back to the levels of the 1990s. And that's the
president's proposal. It's controversial but I think it's likely to
Over the longer run, in my opinion we are going to need more revenue
but not necessarily from the income tax.

We are the only country that does not have a national broad-based
consumption tax, such as a VAT. Almost all developed countries, well,
almost all countries, I think, rely on consumer taxation fairly
heavily. All European countries have value-added tax. Canada calls
it something else, but it's the same idea. And I think we will get to
that eventually, but no president or no Congress is going to propose
that in a recession.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, yes.

I'm Yusuke Yoneyama with Japanese Nikkei newspaper.
Let me be clear about the part you mentioned. So do you think is
there any possibility the U.S. administration will propose a PAT, or a
consumption tax in the long run?

RIVLIN: Some administration will; not necessarily this one, I
think. Because I don't think we will have the political will nor
should we to reduce the medical care spending and the pension benefits
as much as we would have to stay within our current revenue system.
And the income tax is our largest source of revenue, but if you're
looking ahead, I think that we are unlikely to want to go back to much
higher income tax rates, and the only alternative that I see is a
broad-based consumption tax.

Now, there is one other alternative, and that is much heavier
taxation of energy. And that could be done in a number of different
ways. We have historically, because we produced some oil and because
we like to drive cars, had very low taxation on gasoline compared to
Europe or Japan or almost any place you can think of except the major
oil producers. And if we are serious, and I believe we must be, about
conserving oil and mitigating the pollution problems and the
greenhouse gas problems, then we have to raise the price of energy.

Now, there are lots of ways of doing that. In the Clinton
administration, we first talked about having a carbon tax. It got
called the BTU tax after British thermal unit; that was not a big
advantage. And eventually it got converted from a carbon tax, which
was a better idea, to a gas tax and a very small one, which was the
last time the gas tax was raised. It's still very low.

The Obama administration has taken a different tact, perhaps
remembering that experience where we didn't get very far with our
efforts to tax carbon. They're going at it with a cap-and-trade
system to auction permits to emit greenhouse gases and that would have
roughly the same effect if it was implemented in a sensible way. It
probably can work, but it would certainly -- it's not a tax exactly,
but it is revenue for the government and it would raise the price of
energy. So it gets you to the same place.

MODERATOR: OK, New York. You have the next question.

Yes, my name is Louise With from Berlingske Tidende
newspaper in Denmark. One of the fears of the people that are
skeptical about the Obama budget is that the Fed and the Treasury,
once the economy turns around, they're not going to be able to pull
back fast enough. What's the Fed going to do with all the assets that
it's holding? Is Treasury and the government going to be able to cut
back soon enough so that will create inflationary pressures and
essentially a really bad inflation. So I wonder how seriously do you
think are these fears and what's your view on that this year?

RIVLIN: Well, I think it's an important concern. The Federal
Reserve has been essentially printing money in creating reserves on
the books of the banks, buying assets, all kinds of different assets,
including Treasury bonds, and what all of us learned in school when we
took Economics was if you print a lot of money the result is
inflation. But not always. What we really should have learned is
inflation is too much money chasing too few goods, and at the moment
there's no chasing going on.

The demand for goods is very limited. The reserves are really
not being pumped out into the economy very fast, and the problem right
now is not inflation, it's deflation with the concern that we are
seeing some price drops and might be in the situation that the
Japanese got themselves into in the '90s where their big worry was
that prices kept going down and the Bank of Japan tried everything
they could to turn that around and were not terribly successful.

We don't want to be in that situation, but we're nearer there at
the moment than we are to the inflationary situation. But your
question is really suppose things turn around fast, the economy begins
growing again, then can the Fed pull back fast enough? I think so. I
think that the Fed is much better at controlling inflation than at
controlling deflation. It isn't just the Fed, it's central banks
generally find it easier by raising interest rates to control
inflation than deflation. And I have considerable confidence that
they will be able to do that.

Moreover, I think people think if inflation gets started it will
take off rapidly. I doubt that that's true. Our economy and the
world economy is much less inflation-prone than it used to be, because
of globalization, because of intense competition around the world.
Here, now if you're a company and you can't produce fast enough and
you don't have another, we don't have enough workers so you have
upward wage pressure, a few decades ago you would have raised the
wages and tried to produce more here. Now you don't. The option is
produce it somewhere else and sell it here. So that's one of the
reasons why I'm not as worried about inflation as I think people
remembering previous inflation episodes tend to be.

MODERATOR: One last question? Anyone? OK, thank you.

RIVLIN: Thank you, good questions.