A UN gay rights victory and political crisis in Congo: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 22 December 2016

Vitit Muntarbhorn, U.N. independent expert on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Photo by: Rick Bajornas / U.N.

Evacuations continue from war-ravaged Aleppo, while human rights observers struggle to gain access. The IMF chief’s legal battles raise questions about European leadership at the institution, while U.N. gay rights advocates win another battle. This week in development news.

Civilian evacuations continued from Aleppo, Syria. More than 25,000 people have been evacuated. The United Nations voted Monday in support of a resolution to send observers to the city to monitor the evacuations and guard against human rights abuses as the Syrian government assumes control over the formerly rebel-held city. The situation around observers, including whether they have gained access to Aleppo yet, remains opaque. As temperatures drop and snow falls in Syria, the evacuation effort could be over before observers arrive. “The whole history of Syria has been one of lacking access to civilians. Armed men with guns and power have prevented humanitarians from doing their job on behalf of the civilians. That's the story of this — this war,” Jan Egeland, special adviser to the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria, told NPR.

Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, was convicted by a special French tribunal Monday of “negligence with public money,” for her approval of a 400 million euro ($418 million) payout during her tenure as French finance minister. The IMF’s executive board reiterated its support for Lagarde’s leadership, and she will keep her job — Lagarde was appointed earlier this year for a second five-year term. While the conviction carries no penalty for Lagarde — she could have faced a 15,000 euro fine and up to a year in jail — it could spark additional questions about the IMF’s leadership appointment process, including the arrangement between world powers that grants management of the institution to a European. At the end of Lagarde’s term, expect to hear louder calls for an open appointment process that could draw leadership from an emerging market country.

United Nations gay rights advocates scored a second victory against countries seeking to block the appointment of a new U.N. investigator for LGBT discrimination. Countries opposed to plans to appoint an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity to monitor violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation failed to amass enough support to block it at Monday’s U.N. vote. The U.N.’s member states are starkly divided on issues of gay rights and gender identity. According to the U.N. at least 73 countries have criminalized homosexuality. In September the U.N. Human Rights Council appointed Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand to the new independent investigator role. A number of African countries, Russia, and the 57-country bloc Organization of Islamic Cooperation have vowed not to cooperate with Muntarbhorn’s oversight.

Violence erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo as President Joseph Kabila’s second term came to an end and he remained in power, violating the constitutional mandate that he step down. His term was set to end Monday, but he delayed elections until April 2018, which resulted in protests in multiple cities. Police forces cracked down brutally on protesters and according to Human Rights Watch, at least 26 people have been killed. Alyoscia D’Onofrio, the International Rescue Committee’s senior director of governance, wrote this week that the DRC is in “dire need of better aid” and that international community needs to sustain its support for the country that has long been mired in conflict.

A White House report on artificial intelligence, automation and the economy points to the disruptive potential new technologies hold for jobs — and it notes that the benefits and consequences won’t be evenly distributed. “Whether AI leads to unemployment and increases in inequality over the long-run depends not only on the technology itself but also on the institutions and policies that are in place,” it reads. Previous research from the World Bank suggested automation could threaten up to 85 percent of jobs in some developing countries, and development efforts to boost employment will have to take these shifting means of production into greater account.

Devex is taking a holiday break next week. We’ll be back on January 3 with more must-read global development news, analysis and insight. Read more international development news online, and subscribe to the Development Newswire.

About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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