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DGI Brief - Sep 22, 2016

Good Thursday to all. Today's top 5 global issues news are about #Venezuela #Nigeria #USA #globalhealth and #Afghanistan:

- VENEZUELA: Election officials denied the possibility of a referendum in 2016 to recall President Nicolas Maduro from office, saying the earliest such national vote could be held is in the first quarter of 2017. This provided that the opposition gathers signatures from 20% of registered voters from each of the 23 states within 3 days next month. Why it matters: If the recall vote were allowed in 2016, it would have led to a new presidential election & very likely an ousting of the socialist party from power. But this way, if Maduro is voted out in 2017, his vice president - & thus the socialist party – will finish the term. It is notable that opinion polls show 80% of Venezuelans would vote against Maduro. Is power of the people ignored once again?

- NIGERIA’s President Muhammadu Buhari asked for UN’s help to mediate with Boko Haram militants to secure the release of more than 200 girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok in 2014. He indicated that Nigeria was prepared to exchange imprisoned militants for the girls. Why it matters: There are many obstacles to dealing with Boko Haram – their willingness to negotiate & the apparent splintering within the group. Having an experienced & neutral (although that is a matter of perception) intermediary like the UN could result in the return of at least some of the girls. Only 1 has so far been found.

- USA: A coalition of over 1,200 archeologists, museum directors & historians from leading institutions like the Smithsonian wrote to the Obama administration to denounce the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline that would run across or adjacent to the land of the Lakota & Dakota people, saying already the construction company Energy Transfer has bulldozed over sacred burial sites & destroyed many ancient artifacts. The company denies this. Why it matters: According to the tribes & their supporters, the pipeline violates the UN’s declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples by disturbing their lands – pollution especially of local water sources, destruction of sacred lands, exploitation & inequitable profit sharing etc. Thousands have been protesting & the Obama administration did halt the construction, but the extraction industry is pushing very hard. As if renewable energy wasn’t available. The tribes have indicated repeatedly they would be willing to develop their lands for the production of solar & wind, but once again, it seems their voices won’t be heard. Please help, there are many online petitions you can sign (for example or call your local representatives to take up the issue.

- The WORLD Health Organization (WHO) & public health experts continue their fight against the overuse of antibiotics that create drug-resistant superbugs resulting in annual deaths of 700,000 people globally. Of particular concern is the use of antibiotics in animal feed – not to treat disease but make animals grow faster & fatter. Why it matters: World Bank predicts that antibiotic resistant infections will wipe out 1-3.8% off global domestic product by 2050 making superbugs a very real social & economic threat. Estimated >10 million people will die from antibiotic-resistant infections by 2050. For yourself, please start by consuming meat not raised with antibiotics.

- AFGHANISTAN’s government signed a peace deal with “one of Afghanistan’s most notorious war crimes suspects” Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hizb-i-Islami, UN-designated terrorist. The deal is a culmination of lengthy negotiations that includes the removal of the group from international blacklists, immunity from prosecution for alleged war crimes, unilateral political activity & the release of prisoners. The deal does not include Hekmatyar’s demands that foreign forces be blamed “first & last” for the insecurity in Afghanistan, a timetable for their withdrawal or that he receive a formal title as a savior of the country. Why it matters: it is a contentious deal – it enjoys large support of the international community & many Afghans because it does focus on peace & way forward. It is possible that the Taliban may follow: removal from blacklists & political inclusion are in their interest as well. But critics point to immunity for war crimes as an element that perpetuates the culture of impunity & lack of accountability. Indeed many rights groups, especially women’s rights groups, are in deep disagreement. Will these deals actually lead to peace? And what kind of benefits will the political participation of such groups bring for the society given their stance on women, education etc.?

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