Sierra Leone is echoed in Covid lock-down in Irishwoman’s diary

Helen Fallon, the Deputy Librarian in Maynooth University has penned a colourful inspiring piece in the Irish Times today, An Irishwoman’s Diary.

In a lovely rhythmical piece she describes how the slower pace of lockdown echoes for her the time she spent as Librarian in Fourah Bay College in Freetown. Queueing for the post office in Ireland reminds her of queueing in Sierra Leone for the post office and for other services. The art of letter writing she honed in Sierra Leone has become more attractive than email and texts! The well scripted opinion piece can be accessed on the following link:

Here and there – An Irishwoman’s Diary on waiting time

Helen Fallon

“After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets.” Photograph: Getty Images“After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets.” Photograph: Getty Images

Its strange. Doors with locks, metal shutters, iron grills that scream “Keep Out” – an unfamiliar sight in our town. The feel of it is familiar though, another time, another country, some 30 years ago.

After the 6pm curfew was announced, the ramshackle stalls, with their wares illuminated by yellow light from kerosene lamps, disappeared from the Freetown side-streets. I missed the taste of sweetcorn charred black on the outside, crunchy inside and the fiery beans wrapped in warm bread. I missed the laughter of children around the stalls, playing with cars sculpted from wire clothes hangers.

Today, squad cars, lights flashing, have set up a roadblock in the main street. They stop drivers, who tired of the lockdown, want to travel beyond the allocated distance, to go somewhere, to get away.

In Sierra Leone, khaki-clad soldiers marched through the streets, stopping people who were spilling into the city, maybe thinking they could get away, outrun the war.

At night I watch House of Cards on Netflix, light candles, enjoy their soft light and sensuous smells as the summer light slowly fades. Sometimes I read a book from the local library, downloaded via Borrowbox to my tablet.

Because of its proximity to the Equator, there was no dusk in Sierra Leone. Darkness dropped over the village at around 6.30pm. Sometimes, I crossed the dusty pink road to the tailor’s tiny shop, to buy a single Leader cigarette and to listen to the whirring of his sewing machine. Above the shop a piece of white board displayed a blue scissors, a useful symbol in a place where most people could not read or write. I lit candles when there was no kerosene and read books until my eyes grew tired. The books, mostly by African writers, with dazzling orange covers and dizzying prose, I borrowed from the British Council Library in nearby Freetown.

This week I join the queue outside the post office. Tired of emails and texts, I’m eager to write letters and cards. Back in 1991, I queued for stamps. I queued to collect my post. I queued to buy kerosene. I queued to board rust-eaten buses that clattered along pot-holed roads. Waiting at junctions for hours for connecting buses, I queued for hot prawns on sticks and luminous pink Kool Aid. Sometimes I just queued!

Now I work from home, connect with people on Zoom, Teams, What’s App and Skype. I participate in webinars with people from around the world, people I am unlikely to ever meet face to face. Back then I taught with blackboard and chalk in a classroom with my students. Sometimes, on Sunday, they invited me to their homes to meet their family and eat groundnut stew oozing palm oil.

I take a walk in the evenings. People, some masked, hurry by, careful to observe the social distancing rule.

My walk home from the university where I taught from 1989 to 1991 was also about five kilometres. That was my favourite time of day. The sun had softened. The dusty red path to the village glowed with a pale pink light and the place was almost beautiful. Women, returning from the village pump, buckets on their heads, babies tied securely to their backs, greeted me with “Aw di bodi?”

I’d linger before going indoors, study red chilies drying in the sun, listen to the thud of the pestle, as cassava leaf was beaten to a pulp in a wooden mortar, sides etched with deep cracks from the thumping of a thousand cassava leaf suppers. Later, I’d hear the women call children – Khadiata, Fatmata, Abdul Karim, Ishmael – beautiful melodic names, that still linger in my head.

People want someone to blame – the Chinese, the World Health Organisation, the pharmaceutical industry that doesn’t have a vaccine for the virus. The Sierra Leonean people blamed the government for the unpaid salaries and empty promises; they blamed the diamond dealers who hovered like vultures for stones sifted from river beds by barefoot women and children; sometimes they blamed their colonisers, who left them, in 1961, with only the bitter taste of disappointment.

But there’s all the goodness too. Yesterday, a book of poems by Paula Meehan left on my doorstep, last week a surprise delivery of two bottles of wine and a bottle of olive oil, the phone calls, the seeds my brother posted to me for my garden.

In Sierra Leone, there were the Irish potatoes, so called to distinguish them from sweet potatoes, that one of my students brought me as a gift, shortly after I arrived in Sierra Leone. Knowing I was Irish, perhaps she thought the taste of potato would ease the loneliness of being in a new country. There was the piece of woven country cloth, like Irish linen but coarser, that someone, I forget who, brought me from their home village.

I still have it, in a box in the attic, with other things from that time. What will I have to remember this time?

OECD Development Co-operation peer review: Ireland 2020 published

OECD Development Co‑operation Peer Reviews: Ireland 2020

Use the link to read the full document:

http://www.oecd.org/dac/oecd-development-co-operation-peer-reviews-ireland-2020-c20f6995-en.htm

Some of the text/comments in the review, which is overall very positive towards the work being done by the Irish development Co-operation programme, are highlighted below.  Clearly a concern not highlighted and unknown at the time of compiling the report is the impact that the financial crisis resulting from the current Covid-19 pandemic  is likely to have on the Irish and international economies.  As happened during the last financial crisis there was a reduction in funding to development co-operation, and there are currently fears in the development agency communities that this same financial loss to ODA will recur, impacting the “furthest behind” to the greatest extent.

As identified in the report financial assistance to fragile contexts has fallen since 2013. Of course, it must be acknowledged that it was starting from a very low base in some countries in 2013.

” In 2018, 55.5% of Irish official development assistance (ODA) was allocated to fragile contexts, well above the average of 38% for all DAC donors. However, the share has been declining each year since 2013, when allocations to fragile contexts made up from 67.9% of Ireland’s total ODA”

The Review also point out that “Ireland’s strong political commitment to reach 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) as official development assistance (ODA) is at risk of remaining unfulfilled. Since 2015, ODA volumes increased but the ODA ratio has stagnated, standing at 0.31% of GNI in 2018, despite a commitment to increase the ratio during periods of economic growth.”

Within the review Ireland is strongly urged and recommended to

“…..develop operational guidance on both reaching the furthest behind first and its top priorities, and it should implement a plan to roll out this guidance to staff and partners……………..”

Ireland is recognised as a successful influencer of global policies on sustainable development.

The international community has adopted important global frameworks thanks to Ireland’s effective facilitation. Ireland co-facilitated, with Kenya, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It co-facilitated, with Jordan, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which paved the way for the adoption of the Global Compacts on migration and refugees. Also noteworthy is Ireland’s support to enable the participation of representatives from least developed countries (LDCs) in global framework discussions, particularly in negotiations on the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change and meetings of the Scaling Up Nutrition network and the Commission on the Status of Women.

There is civil society support for development co-operation

The Irish population is very supportive of sustainable development, and the government and its partners are well placed to sustain and deepen this support The Irish population has a positive attitude towards development co-operation and acts in support of sustainable development.

In relation to national tax and finance

Ireland deserves credit for having undertaken a spill-over analysis in this critical area for its economy and, albeit with a long transition period slowly, phasing out loopholes as part of the OECD and Group of Twenty work on base erosion and profit shifting. It is fully compliant with global tax transparency standards (OECD, 2017[6]), has recently achieved compliance status on anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (Financial Action Task Force, 2019[7]), and has made progress on implementing the OECD anti-bribery convention (OECD, 2018[8]). Ireland has signed and ratified the multilateral convention to implement tax treaty-related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) and adopted its principal anti-abuse provision.3 It is also implementing the BEPS treaty related to minimum standards on treaty shopping. Building on the spill-over analysis, Ireland could continue to monitor the effects of its tax policies on revenue collection in developing countries.

Mainstreaming of gender equality and climate adaptation in programmes:

A Better World puts greater emphasis on cross-cutting issues and on leveraging interlinkages across sectorial interventions. It provides for expanding Ireland’s geographical focus, which may create a risk that development programmes may be spread too thin. The policy also includes a commitment to improve the way of working in order for Ireland to become a more dynamic, responsive and effective learning actor. Reaching the furthest behind first is at the core of A Better World, and Ireland is developing a clear and accessible guidance to this approach. Updated strategies and operational guidance on policy priorities is required to ensure that all actions contribute effectively to the achievement of A Better World. Mainstreaming of gender equality in policy and programming is advancing. Ireland mainstreams climate adaptation more than the DAC member average in its priority sectors. Nevertheless, new operational guidance and staff capacity-building could help Ireland to further embed a strategic approach to mainstreaming across the board.

Evaluation needs increased personnel:

Insufficient human resources impacted Ireland’s evaluation activities in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In 2014, the DFAT evaluation function had a staff equivalent to four and a half, dropping in 2015 to a minimum of one.

Ireland has a unique approach to crises and fragility that builds on learning, including from its troubled past, and focuses on key issues such as refugees and migration and gender.

A good range of tools – diplomatic, development and humanitarian – ensure that Ireland can design an appropriate response to individual fragile contexts. Efforts to clarify Ireland’s risk appetite in fragile contexts and to scale up conflict prevention programming would be useful. Ireland is widely seen as an excellent partner, providing quality financing and supporting its investments with a presence on key partner bodies such as boards and donor support groups where Ireland uses its influence to improve effectiveness and coherence. There are good efforts to align internal funding streams to support the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. Ireland could now continue to improve its coherence with other humanitarian, development and peace actors on the ground.

 

Ireland’s allocations largely follow its policy commitments to address crises and fragility:

In 2018, 55.5% of Irish official development assistance (ODA) was allocated to fragile contexts, well above the average of 38% for all DAC donors. However, the share has been declining each year since 2013, when allocations to fragile contexts made up from 67.9% of Ireland’s total ODA. Ireland will need to take care to ensure that its allocations match its policy ambitions. In terms of the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, 28% of Ireland’s ODA to fragile contexts goes to humanitarian assistance and 11% to peace, which is roughly consistent with the average share to these areas allocated by other DAC members (OECD, n.d.[3]).

Effective programme design and instruments

Ireland’s history provides the backdrop for its unique approach to crises and fragility Although there is no formal cross-government mechanism guiding Ireland’s engagement in fragile contexts, there is general coherence across Irish efforts. This is largely driven by Ireland’s history. For instance, Ireland drew on its experience with the Good Friday Agreement to push for the participation of women in peace processes. However, a more deliberate co-ordination around Ireland’s approach to fragility would be beneficial, for example by ensuring the close alignment of Department of Defence 96  OECD DEVELOPMENT CO-OPERATION PEER REVIEWS: IRELAND 2020 © OECD 2020 contributions to peacekeeping; Department of Finance work on World Bank International Development Association replenishments; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine support to the Rome-based agencies; and the development co-operation programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Efforts to build a more systematic common Irish approach, as reflected in A Better World………………………….

 

Gender issues are a key focus

A Better World makes a significant commitment to gender equality, and this plays out in Ireland’s fragility and crisis programming. Ireland leads on the gender aspects of peacekeeping reform. It also has a strong global voice, policy and programming focus on Women, Peace and Security and is working on this through its humanitarian programming; for example, it is using its leadership role on ICRC donor support group to focus on sexual and gender based violence. Ireland’s role on gender equality issues in these contexts is much appreciated by partners.

 

Two recommendations implemented from the previous review in 2016:

Embassies and NGOs receiving support from headquarters should work together to improve dialogue and co-ordination for more effective programming in the partner country.

Ireland should further improve the transparency of its development co-operation.

Two recommendations partially implemented since 2016:

Ireland should work towards more systematic publication of both its programme reviews and the results of its humanitarian programme.

Ireland should communicate the rationale and projections for scaling up its ODA towards 0.7% of GNI to the public and key stakeholders. It should also start planning how increases will be allocated.

 

 

Ireland has effective delivery, partnerships and instruments of humanitarian assistance for rapid response:

 As noted in the previous peer review, Ireland has a range of tools for rapid response. The most useful is prepositioned funding with a core group of Irish NGOs, under its Emergency Response Funding Scheme. Funding to NGOs is sometimes supplemented by calls for proposals, with a rapid turnaround, for specific issues, as was recently done for Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ireland also supports the in-kind stocks of the Humanitarian Response Depots, although staff informed the peer review team that this would be reviewed in light of the global push towards greater cash programming and for local purchases of response items.  99 OECD DEVELOPMENT CO-OPERATION PEER REVIEWS: IRELAND 2020 © OECD 2020 Ireland is doing better than most DAC members on multi-annual funding Ireland’s funding arrangements are considered of high quality. In 2017, 42% of Ireland’s humanitarian funding was multi-year funding – up to three years for NGOs under the Humanitarian Programme Plan – and 53% was un-earmarked or only softly earmarked. This quality funding allows partners to plan ahead, include resilience approaches, save money and retain key staff. Ireland could usefully collect some of these success stories and share them with other, more reluctant, donors. Even funding through other government departments is highly predictable and flexible, as is the case in relationship of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with the World Food Programme. Partners across the board are highly appreciative of Ireland’s engagement and the quality of funding arrangements.

59 Years of Independence in SL

Best Wishes to the Sierra Leone community in Ireland on their special day today marking Independence. Our celebrations will be in our own homes this year. May you stay safe and well!

Best wishes to Sierra Leoneons in their own country and around the world!
In the words of Umaru Fofana via his twitter account:
It’s 59! Happy Independence Day, #SierraLeone. May tribes be only important to promote progressive cultures. May corruption be resisted by all no matter who the corrupt person is. May your citizens’ loyalty be to country, not Gov’t or political party. May #Covid19 go away SOON!
5:53 AM · Apr 27, 2020 from Sierra Leone·Twitter for iPhone

SLIP welcomes the lifting of the ban on pregnant girls attending school- another move for equality in education

Ban on pregnant girls attending school lifted- another move for equality in education in Sierra Leone

In a move that has been mooted for sometime now, yesterday the Government of Sierra Leone lifted the ban on pregnant girls attending school. This is an important move in addressing an inequality in education in SL which has been enforced since 2010. The lifting of the ban is in line with the ECOWAS Court finding that the right of pregnant girls to access school without discrimination was violated in Sierra Leone.

It is of course sad that the lifting of the ban  coincides with the closure of schools nationwide to lower the risk of contracting the corona-covid19 virus. There will be better days ahead for us all, we hope and pray!

https://www.switsalone.com/36121_h-e-president-julius-maada-bio-overturns-ban-that-excluded-pregnant-girls-from-school-effective-immediately/