At G-7, Trump May Find Common Ground on Gender Equality, Africa

U.S. President Donald Trump is in Biarritz, France, for the G-7 summit, where he will be meeting world leaders who oppose his stances on many issues, including tariffs, Brexit, climate protection, China, Iran and Russia. 

But in this meeting of the leaders of the world’s major industrialized countries, there could be areas of cooperation where Trump is willing to offer support, or at least not resist: women’s empowerment and Africa. 

French President Emmanuel Macron, as the G-7 2019 president and summit host, has chosen combating inequality as the theme, with gender equality and partnership with Africa as key issues. He will be pushing several initiatives, including the Biarritz Partnership for Gender Equality and Partnership for the African Sahel. Macron also will be calling for renewed support for Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa. 

Despite Trump’s skepticism of foreign aid and his rejection of globalism, including his famous statement in front of the 2018 U.N. General Assembly that the U.S. “will not tell you how to live or work or worship,” his administration has indicated it may support at least some of these initiatives, noting that the White House has launched similar efforts. 

On Sunday Trump will participate in a G-7 working lunch on inequality and a session on the partnership with Africa later in the afternoon. 

FILE – Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, speaks during the opening ceremony of the Women’s Forum Americas in Mexico City, May 30, 2019.

Biarritz partnership for gender equality 

Earlier this year, Macron formed a G-7 Gender Equality Advisory Council whose members include Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and gender equality activist and actor Emma Watson. The council is tasked with identifying legislative measures worldwide to combat gender violence and discrimination, as well as to improve girls’ access to education and support women’s economic empowerment. 

Macron is pushing countries to join the partnership and adopt the laws and public policies identified by the council. 

He also will call for renewed support for African women’s credit financing through the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa initiative, a pan-African mechanism to reduce the cost of accessing credit and bridge the $42 billion financing gap being faced by women on the continent. 

The White House has not announced whether it will sign on to any of the G-7 initiatives on gender equality. But a senior administration official told reporters that global women’s empowerment is a “huge priority for this administration” and a message “we really want to drive home this weekend in France,” citing the launch of the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative and commitment as a founding member to We-Fi, a partnership hosted by the World Bank Group to finance women entrepreneurs. 

W-GDP was launched by the White House in February 2019, and it is billed as “the first whole-of-government effort to advance global women’s economic empowerment.” 

The president’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, is leading the administration’s efforts on global women’s empowerment.

Renewed focus on Africa 

Africa is Europe’s immediate neighbor, and instability on the southern side of the Mediterranean has an impact on the northern side, with the migrant crisis being the most visible example. 

With that in mind, Germany and France are proposing a new partnership with Africa, including an initiative to enhance international commitment for the Sahel, a region facing multiple challenges ranging from the impact of climate change to the threat of terrorism. 

The G-5 Sahel countries are Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. 

Macron also has invited Senegal, Egypt, Burkina Faso, South Africa and Rwanda to join the G-7 countries in discussions about issues important to the continent. 

The formal invitation of African partners to the G-7 “opens an opportunity to drive forward key items on the African agenda, where priorities should be placed, how they should be financed, what the necessary coalitions for success are,” Yvonne Mburu told VOA. Mburu is founder and CEO of Nexakli, a global network of African health professionals and member of Macron’s Presidential Council of Africa

Mburu said the litmus test would be whether there will be measurable outcomes from the G-7 deliberations, and whether there is an accompanying mobilization of financial resources. 

Sahel Alliance 

At the summit, G-7 leaders will be encouraged to join the Sahel Alliance, which seeks to economically develop the region and strengthen support for members’ national security. 

The U.S. government has already expressed doubts about financing a new U.N.-backed mission in the Sahel, but it might be open to the new format of cooperation that the French team wants to discuss, said Karoline Postel-Vinay, a research professor at the Paris-based institute Sciences Po. “However, as we now know, American foreign strategy seems predictably unpredictable,” she added. 

Ivanka Trump leaves the African Women’s Empowerment Dialogue, with Overseas Private Investment Corp. acting CEO David Bohigian, right, and security staff, April 15, 2019, at the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Despite not outwardly obstructing the G-7 agenda on Africa, it’s unclear how much substantive support the administration would provide. 

A White House statement ahead of the summit applauded the efforts of partners and the international community to promote peace and stability in Africa but did not mention whether the U.S. would provide additional economic or security assistance in the Sahel as called for by Macron. 

The White House instead pointed to its Prosper Africa private-financing initiative and the BUILD Act as proof of the administration’s commitment. The law was passed in 2018 and aims to facilitate private capital in developing low-income economies. 

Analysts say the administration’s policy on Africa is focused more on investment, in particular in the context of countering China. 

While it hasn’t abandoned any of the pillars of focus that previous administrations have had on the continent, the Trump administration is “doing less with less,” said Judd Devermont, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

“The administration is running the traps on some of the security stuff,” said Devermont, “but without the same robustness of previous administrations and certainly not anywhere near where we were in democracy and governance.” 

He added that Trump does not have the personal connection that President Barack Obama had with the continent, nor the interest in development that President George W. Bush had. 

On Thursday, Trump scrapped a proposal to freeze more than $4 billion in foreign aid after objections from lawmakers of both parties and his own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Divisions elsewhere 

While there may be some consensus on gender equality and Africa, there clearly are deep divisions between members. 

For the first time in its history, this summit will not produce a joint communique amid deepening divisions between leaders over myriad issues. 

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6 Hurt in Lightning Strike at PGA Tour Championship 

Six people were injured Saturday when lightning struck a 60-foot pine at the Tour Championship where they were taking cover from rain and showered them with debris, Atlanta police said. 

A pine tree is stripped of bark after being hit by lightning at East Lake Golf Club during the third round of the Tour Championship golf tournament, Aug. 24, 2019, in Atlanta.

The third round of the season-ending PGA Tour event at East Lake Golf Club had been suspended for about 30 minutes because of storms in the area, and fans were instructed to seek shelter. The strike hit the top of the tree just off the 16th tee and shattered the bark all the way to the bottom. 

Ambulances streamed into the private club about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta. The players already had been taken into the clubhouse before the lightning hit. 

Brad Uhl of Atlanta was among those crammed under a hospital tent to the right of the 16th hole that was open to the public. 

“There was just a big explosion and then an aftershock so strong you could feel the wind from it,” Uhl said after the last of the ambulances pulled out of the golf course. “It was just a flash out of the corner of the eye.” 

Atlanta police spokesman James H. White III said five men and one female juvenile were injured in the lightning strike. He said they were taken to hospitals for further treatment, all of them alert, conscious and breathing. 

The PGA Tour canceled the rest of golf Saturday, with the round to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, followed by the final round. 

Last week at the BMW Championship in the Chicago suburbs, Phil Mickelson was delayed getting to the golf course when lightning struck the top of his hotel, causing a precautionary evacuation. 

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Global Warming Increases Threat of Himalayas’ Killer Lakes

When a “Himalayan tsunami” roars down from the rooftop of the world, water from an overflowing glacial lake obeys gravity. Obliterating everything in its path, a burst is predictable only in its destructiveness. 
 
“There was no meaning in it,” one person who withstood the waters in India’s Himalayas told a Public Radio International reporter. “It didn’t give anyone a chance to survive.”  
 
Christian Huggel, a professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who specializes in glaciology and geomorphodynamics (the study of changing forms of geologic surfaces), said thousands of cubic meters of water moving down a mountain “is really quite destructive and it can happen suddenly.” 
 
That water comes from glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOFs, which are increasing in frequency as climate change increases the rate of glacial melting. This catastrophic lake drainage occurs wherever there are glaciers in places such as Peru and Alaska.  
 
The most devastating GLOFs occur in the Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and the Tibetan Plateau. When combined, the area has the third-largest accumulation of snow and ice after Antarctica and the Arctic. 
 
Melting glaciers 
 
In the Himalayas, climate change melted glaciers by a vertical foot and half of ice each year from 2000 to 2016, according to a study released in June’s Science Advances by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.  
 
That is twice the rate of melting from 1975 to 2000.  
 
Local people have noticed the change. In a 2016 interview from the Everest basecamp, Dr. Nima Namgyal Sherpa told VOA that in the past, the glacial streams in the mid-Everest region started flowing in May, but the Sherpas now see the flow beginning in April. 
 
That melted snowpack seeps down to fill mountainside indentations to form glacial lakes. As global warming accelerates the melting, the lakes are expanding, as is their number and threat, monitored in some areas with automated sensors and manual early warning systems by army and police personnel with communication gear. 
 
“Bigger lakes may increase the risk of catastrophic dam failure,” Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, told the magazine Science.  
 

The retreating ice of the Pastoruri glacier is seen in the Huascaran National Park in Huaraz, Peru, Aug. 12, 2016. The melting of glaciers has put cities like Huaraz at risk of what scientists call a “glof,” or glacial lake outburst flood.

Today, there are more than a thousand glacial lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, with more than 130 larger than 0.1 square kilometer in Nepal alone. The lakes threaten the livelihoods and lives of tens of thousands of people who live in some of the world’s most remote areas.
 
On June 12, 2016, a GLOF near Mount Everest sent 2 million cubic meters of water toward the Nepalese village of Chukhung, which lost just one outhouse to the torrents, in part because scientists warned residents in the area about the approaching danger. 
 
Weeks later, on July 5, a GLOF near the village of Chaku registered on seismometers, which had been installed after an earthquake the year before, as a “huge pulse of energy,” Kristen Cook, a geologist at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, told EOS, an online site that covers earth and space science news.
 
Examining satellite images, Cook and her colleagues found the GLOF moved boulders as large as 6 meters in diameter. 
 
Early warning systems 
 
This year, on July 7, a GLOF early warning system of weather monitoring stations and river discharge sensors saved lives in Pakistan’s Golain Valley, which has more than 50 glaciers and nine glacial lakes.  
 
The event destroyed villages, roads and bridges, but there were no reported deaths. A shepherd located upstream from the valley called authorities to report the burst, which gave communities downstream as much as an hour to evacuate.  
 
“Our standing crops [and] apple and apricot orchards have been completely destroyed,” Safdar Ali, whose shop was heavily damaged as the water swept away livestock, stored grain, irrigation channels and micro hydropower plants, told Reuters.  
 
“I see no loss of human life this time as a positive,” Amanullah Khan, assistant country director for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) told Reuters. “It shows our training has been a success.”  
 
The UNDP program, which helped establish flood protection systems in the area starting in 2011, has installed small-scale drainage systems and mini-dams, and taught people in the remote region survival skills, such as simple first aid, because the arrival of skilled emergency help can be delayed by the rugged topography. 
 
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and other international groups are setting up early warning systems for glacial lakes in Nepal. 
 
Local governments are taking preventive measures, such as removing loose rocks and debris that make the bursts of water even more destructive. Authorities are also draining glacial lakes to reduce the amount of water released by a breach, and they are discouraging settlement in GLOF hazard zones.  
 
“If the lakes burst above the villages up in the Everest area, up between 12,000 to 13,000 feet, there are villages all the way downstream and they will wipe [away] some of these villages,” said Norbu Tenzin Norgyal, whose father, Sherpa Tenzin Norgyal, summited Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. “The danger is real.” 

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Rohingya Reject Plans They Voluntarily Return to Myanmar

Two years ago, Myanmar’s army drew international condemnation for driving more than 750,000 Muslim Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh. This week the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments announced the beginning of a voluntary repatriation plan for many, however not a single person volunteered to go back. Steve Sandford spoke to refugees and rights workers about the prospect of returning home amid security and rights concerns.
 

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Trump and Macron Agree Russia Should Join G-8 in 2020 But Will It?

Will Russia join next year’s G-7 summit? The question is being considered after U.S. President Donald Trump raised the idea ahead of the group’s annual summit this week in France. The group voted to suspend Moscow’s membership in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, which Russia continues to hold. Trump says it’s time for them to rejoin. Anna Rice reports on whether that’s likely to happen.
 

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Tanzanian Journalist Arrested for Publishing ‘False’ News: Lawyer

A Tanzanian journalist has been arrested for “publishing false information” after broadcasting a story about police brutality, his lawyer said Friday, in the latest crackdown on free press in the country.

Joseph Gandye, who works for local station Watetezi TV, was arrested Thursday in the financial capital Dar es Salaam and held in police custody overnight.

His lawyer, Jones Sendodo, said Gandye was transferred to Iringa in Tanzania’s south on Friday.

“He is accused of publishing false information,” Sendodo told AFP.

The Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which found Watetezi TV last year, said Gandye was arrested after airing a story on August 9 about police in Iringa forcing six young detainees to sodomise each other.

His arrest comes less than a month after another Tanzanian journalist, Erick Kabendera, was detained in circumstances condemned by rights groups.

Kabendera, a respected journalist and government critic, was initially questioned over his citizenship before being threatened with sedition charges.

But in court these were dropped, and he was charged with organised crime and financial offences.

The US and British embassies in Tanzania have formally expressed their concern over a “steady erosion of due process” in the country, underscoring Kabendera’s plight as a case in point.

Accusations of “sedition” and other vague offences have been levelled against journalists and media houses under President John Magufuli, who has been criticised for his authoritarian leadership style.

Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used the cybercrimes law to jail critics.

Azory Gwanda, a Tanzanian journalist and government critic who disappeared in 2017, has never been found.

Reporters Without Borders has labelled Magufuli a “press freedom predator” and dropped Tanzania 25 places on its annual press freedom index this year.

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