New deals in Cuba, bad deals in Greece: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 24 March 2016

Refugees in Lesbos, Greece. A number of high-profile humanitarian organizations have suspended their operations in the country following the controversial European Union-Turkey deal for Syrian refugees. Photo by: ChadBriggs / CC BY-NC

A new development relationship begins with an awkward handshake, relief organizations bow out of Greece in protest over the controversial new refugee policy, and the United Nations reminds the world that there is too much tuberculosis and not enough water. This week in development news.

President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba — the first visit of a sitting United States president to the island nation in 88 years — highlighted a series of recent changes in the relationship between the two countries. Cuba’s increased participation in regional development programs targeting education, innovation and entrepreneurship was a common theme of the trip. President Obama’s signature education program for the Western Hemisphere — 100,000 Strong in the Americas — saw new funding commitments that will help build university partnerships and support “innovation competitions.” The White House also announced it will invite 10 Cubans to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the Silicon Valley this June; and for the first time, up to 15 Cubans will participate in the administration’s Youth Leaders of the Americas Initiative.

Opting out of “one-in-one-out.” A number of high-profile humanitarian organizations have suspended their operations in Greece, in order to not to be associated with the controversial European Union-Turkey deal for Syrian refugees, which seeks to deter migrants from attempting the sea crossing to Europe. On Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders suspended its activities on the island of Lesbos, a day after the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees suspended some of its activities and criticized the deal. The International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council have also followed suit. The groups say they’ve seen reception centers turned into detention facilities and refuse to be part of an “inhumane” process.

A ceasefire agreement in Yemen has raised hopes for a political solution to the year-old conflict, which has led to 6,000 deaths — half of them civilian. The ceasefire is scheduled to begin April 10, and peace talks would resume the following week under the deal, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen told the Wall Street Journal. The peace talks will include five focus areas, according the the report: “withdrawal of militia and armed groups, handover of heavy weapons to the state, arrangements for interim security, restoration of state institutions and creation of a special committee for prisoners and detainees.”

Fighting for water — and against TB. Thursday is World Tuberculosis Day and a good reminder to the world that one-third of its population is infected with TB, one of the deadliest diseases on Earth. In 2014, 9.6 million people around the world became sick with TB, leading to 1.5 million TB-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fight is increasingly shifting to multi-drug resistant TB. This week the U.N. also marked World Water Day, with a focus on “water and jobs.” The U.N. noted that almost half the world’s workers are in “water-related sectors,” and yet many of these workers lack basic labor rights.

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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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