UK Aid Projects Have Been ‘Scaled Back’ Since The Brexit Referendum

International development programmes promoting water security and helping refugees in Uganda have been hit by the fall in the value of the pound

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt has called for more private sector involvement in UK aid. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Joe Sandler Clarke, @JSandlerClarke!|AIWA! NO!|Aid projects designed to help some of the poorest people in the world and mitigate climate change have been harmed by the dramatic fall in the value of the pound since the Brexit referendum.

Programmes aimed at alleviating poverty in the Congo Basin region and supporting refugees in Uganda have both had to be scaled back, according to UK government documents.

UK support for programmes mitigating climate change have also been hit. The World Bank’s Forest Investment Program, a fund to encourage reforestation, faced an “unrealised currency loss of $37.26million” last year due to the fluctuation of the pound.

NGOs say they have had to balance their currency losses with income from other sources.

Claire Godfrey from Bond, the network that represents UK international development NGOs, told Unearthed that the current uncertainty “hits the most vulnerable and poorest people the hardest”.

She said: “Delivering aid and development programmes needs a level of predictability and currency volatility affects predictability, long-term planning and therefore sustainability… donors and NGOs are going to have to do some contingency planning to ensure that the currency fluctuations we are seeing post-Brexit do not have such a harmful impact on programming.”

Pete Clutton-Brock, policy advisor with the environmental organisation E3G, said the uncertainty around Brexit posed a risk for UK development funding and climate finance. He urged the Department for International Development (Dfid) to “consider options for hedging against such volatility as a matter of urgency.”

The news comes as MPs on the International Development Committee today heard evidence from policy institutes, including E3G, on ways UK aid money can be used to mitigate climate change.

Dramatic fall

For years, the relative strength of the pound meant organisations working with the Department for International Development budgeted in sterling. But fears about the impact of Brexit on the British economy have seen the value of the pound fall dramatically since the June 2016 referendum, leaving some aid projects under-funded.

Annual reviews of aid projects published by Dfid show that several programmes have been affected by the fluctuation of the pound since the referendum.

I fear Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and contribute to UK soft power

project aimed at reducing deforestation and “improving the livelihoods of forest dependent communities” in the Congo Basin region has had to “scale back on activities to align with the new value of sterling”.

The latest review of a £45m programme providing “emergency life-saving assistance to the large influxes of refugees arriving in Uganda” warned that a “weaker pound would mean fewer beneficiaries will be reached and therefore less impact”.

An effort to “improve water security and climate resilience for poor people” around the world has also been caught out by the fall in the value of sterling, with the project’s annual review stating that partners on the programme may have to “reduce operational budgets” due to currency uncertainty.

Unearthed approached several major aid organisations receiving Dfid funding to ask if their projects had been affected by the fluctuation of the pound. These included the German organisation GIZ, which works on the Water Security Programme, and Rainforest Foundation UK, which works on the Congo Basin project.

All said they had found ways of insulating themselves from such uncertainty, by diversifying their donors and getting funding in a mix of currencies. But such options aren’t open to smaller NGOs, which carry out work on the ground.

Joseph English, a communications officer with Unicef, which receives Dfid funding, told Unearthed: “Any fluctuation in currency markets can cause revaluations of funds held by Unicef country offices or funds in support of Unicef programmes, and can lead to resource shortfalls or surplus.

“Unicef works to monitor currency fluctuations and assess their possible impact on local programme costs, and broaden funding pools and consider changes to programmes to mitigate any possible disruption due to revaluations and fluctuations.”

0.7% commitment

David Hulme, executive director of the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester, told Unearthed he feared Brexit could reduce the ‘soft power’ derived from the UK’s aid programme.

“In the short term, any fall in the value of the pound will affect many aid programmes, but the longer term consequences of our declining global influence could be even more profound.

“With Brexit likely to further erode both the value of the pound and reduce the UK’s credentials for international cooperation, I fear that Dfid will lose the ability to leverage the most out of the aid budget and to contribute to UK soft power.  This could have very real consequences for millions of people still living in poverty.”

In March 2015, David Cameron’s government passed a bill to enshrine in law the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid.

At the time of publication, Dfid were yet to provide a comment.

The World Bank did not respond to a request for comment.

BRITISH Borders MP Threatens to Quit Over Proposed Brexit Deal Compromises

|Paris Gourtsoyannis, The Southern Reporter|AIWA! NO!|Borders MP David Mundell has threatened to resign over a European Union exit deal set to be signed off by the UK Government as soon as next week. The Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson have both issued a threat to quit over compromises to that Brexit deal over the Irish border ibeing proposed in a bid to get it agreed.

Ruth Davidson and David Mundell at last year's Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.
Ruth Davidson and David Mundell at last year’s Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.

UK prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet meets today, October 16, amid widespread disquiet among Conservatives and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party about plans to keep Britain in the EU customs union and boost regulatory checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. Downing Street has sought to calm speculation that the compromises will form the basis of a breakthrough on the UK’s Brexit withdrawal aMrs Maythe Prime Minister not to do a “dodgy deal” undermining Northern Ireland’s standing in the union.

A joint letter from Ms Davidson and Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell to Mrs May warns that the issue of special status in the EU single market for Northern Ireland would be a red line for both of them, it has emerged. Under existing treaties including the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland already has separate regulatory regimes shared with the Republic of Ireland over matters including electricity and animal health.

However, the EU says that under a commitment set to agreed by Mrs May to prevent a hard border being created on the island of Ireland, the north would have to effectively remain within the single market. Checks on goods travelling between the north and Britain would need to be enhanced, affecting all livestock and agricultural products, many of which come from Scotland.

“Having fought just four years ago to keep our country together, the integrity of our United Kingdom remains the single most important issue for us in these negotiations,” the letter from Ms Davidson and Mr Mundell states.

“Any deal that delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland beyond the differences that already exist on an all-Ireland basis – for example, agriculture – or can be brought under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, would undermine the integrity of our UK internal market and this United Kingdom. “We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK beyond what currently exists.”

As many as eight cabinet ministers are said to be considering their positions over plans to keep the UK in the customs union to ensure goods continue to be traded over the Irish land border whatever the future relationship between London and Brussels without a firm date for when that arrangement would end.

Read more at: https://www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/borders-mp-threatens-to-quit-over-proposed-brexit-deal-compromises-1-4815446

SYRIA – ‘Would you like to come to Canada?’ What officials are doing for Canadians held in Syria over ISIS allegations

  • The political implications of repatriating Canadian ISIS fighters. 

  • Repatriating Canadian ISIS fighters, their wives, and children could be a political minefield for the Trudeau government. 

  • Expert says Canada should bring back wives, children of ISIS fighters

|GLOBAL VOICES|AIWA! NO!|“I’m from the government of Canada. Do you want assistance from us?”

“Yes,” Jack Letts replied.

“If so, what kind?”

“Please get me out of this place.”

With that, a Canadian consular official began an hour-long online exchange with Letts, a British 22-year-old with Canadian citizenship who is imprisoned by Kurdish forces in Syria.

READ MORE: ‘I just want to go back’: Canadian ISIS fighter captured in northern Syria speaks out

A transcript of the conversation, which Global Affairs Canada sent to his parents, who then shared it with Global News along with other documents, offers a rare look at how Ottawa is handling such cases.

They show that Canadian consular officials have been trying to find out where the Canadians are being detained in order to give them consular assistance.

The officials have communicated with the Kurdish authorities over concerns about torture allegations and medical attention for the detainees, the documents show.

But they also told the parents in an email that while they would try to get Letts to a third country, likely Turkey, they could not make any promises.

Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

Hundreds of ISIS foreign fighters, as well as ISIS wives and their children, have been captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Canadian government has said little about how it is assisting at least 13 Canadian detainees, who are being held in prisons and camps in northeast Syria.

But the transcript of a January 10 conversation between Letts and Global Affairs Canada shows that while officials have reached out to some of the detainees, they have also cautioned there’s not be much they can do.

“If it would be possible, would you like to come to Canada? Back to the U.K.?” the consular official asked.

“I want to live a normal life. I want to come to Canada,” Letts replied.

A Muslim convert, Letts traveled to Syria in 2014, leading the British press to dub him Jihadi Jack. But while he was in ISIS-controlled territory, he has denied being an ISIS member and his parents said there was no evidence he ever joined the terrorist group. Because the U.K. has shown no interest in assisting him and he is Canadian through his father, Ottawa has taken on the case.

Jack Letts said he was imprisoned near Qamishli, the hub of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Jack Letts said he was imprisoned near Qamishli, the hub of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

“Can u help me,” Letts wrote to the consular official.

He said he was imprisoned near Qamlishi, the hub of the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria known as Rojava. He said he had been there 10 months.

“We have limited capacity to provide consular service in Syria but we will try to help you,” the official responded.

The consular official asked Letts whether he had been charged, how he spent his days, what he ate, when he last saw a doctor, whether he was taking medications and had access to the Internet.

“Are they going to kill us,” Letts wanted to know.

“As I said, we have no access in Syria at the moment, but are working on your case.”

Letts asked the official if he intended to get him to Canada.

“I promise not to blow anyone up with fertaliser [sic] or however they do it,” Letts wrote, adding “that was a joke.”

WATCH: What should Ottawa do with hundreds of captured Canadian ISIS fighters?

“We have the intention to help you,” the official wrote.

“Obviously I’m not going to blow anyone up.”

“Canada is an option,” said the official.

Parents of Jack Letts, dubbed Jihadi Jack, John Letts and Sally Lane arrive at the Old Bailey in London.
Parents of Jack Letts, dubbed Jihadi Jack, John Letts and Sally Lane arrive at the Old Bailey in London.

Letts then said he was “going insane” and had tried to hang himself. He said he was experiencing kidney problems but had not seen a doctor in seven months.

“I made a mistake coming here, I know that. If you want to put me in prison, I understand that I do not mind,” Letts told the official.

“I have made mistakes, probably prison is good for me. But just not here. The situation here is terrible.”

“Tell my mum I am sorry. Tell my dad I am sorry. Tell them if I ever get out of this place I am going to try and be a better person.”

Towards the end of the exchange, the official assured Letts the government was working on his case, but within limits.

“We don’t have people in Syria and it is a complex environment so I can’t give you definitive timelines, but we are working on your case.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Canadian member of Islamic State caught, but RCMP struggle to lay charges against ISIS fighters

Global News revealed last week that high-profile Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali had been captured by Kurdish forces. His wife, former Vancouver resident Rida Jabbar, and their two kids were also detained, along with women from Toronto and Montreal who married ISIS foreign fighters, and their five children.

Letts and a Montreal man are also being held.

A Kurdish official told Global News there had been “dialogue” with Canada over the detainees, including a meeting in Iraq, but that “suddenly the Canadian government stopped this process and we don’t know why.”

Asked to comment on the transcript, Global Affairs Canada said it was aware that Canadians were detained in Syria but its “ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited.”

Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.
Jack Letts, who is British but has Canadian citizenship through his father, is being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

In a podcast, national security law expert Craig Forcese said that because the Canadians were detained abroad, the government could not facilitate their return to Canada.

The best they could do was negotiate the conditions of their detention, he said, adding the matter was complicated because the Canadians were held by insurgents rather than a state.

But even engaging with their captors diplomatically could cause problems for Canada, he said. Turkey views the Kurdish forces as part of the PKK terrorist group. “So it’s a very difficult consular dance.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said the government’s primary focus should be public safety.

“I’m very, very reluctant to repatriate known ISIS fighters, unless they’re charged and imprisoned in conjunction with their return,” he said.

He also said he supported the revocation of citizenship for terrorism and treason.

“You know, unfortunately these people made very bad decisions and demonstrated that they were a risk to the public and that’s how they should be treated.”

WATCH: Mosul, Iraq is facing several challenges post-ISIS

READ MORE: ‘I’m going to die here’: Wives of ISIS fighters want to return home to Canada

But NDP public safety critic Matthew Dubé said that while public safety is paramount, Canada was obliged to take responsibility for its citizens.

“As much as we may loathe what these people stand for and what they’re doing in some cases, I think that putting them into prisons here and having them go through the Canadian justice system is obviously at the core of a society that’s rules-based and respects the rule of law,” he said.

“Again, it’s not to condone in any way these atrocities. Quite the contrary. I believe that if we truly believe that this is wrong then we should be making sure that they are seeing justice through the Canadian system.”

Dubé also said Ottawa should bring back Canadian wives of ISIS fighters and their children. “It doesn’t sound like that’s the case at the moment, but I would hope that they would make every effort to bring the women and children back.”

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

Andrew.Russell@globalnews.ca

Toxic workplaces are feeding the impostor phenomenon – here’s why

Toxic workplaces; main source of self doubt, inadequacy and depression feeding the impostor phenomenon – here’s why

Impostor feelings include fear of failure, fear of success, a sometimes-obsessive need for perfection, and an inability to accept praise. KieferPix / Shutterstock

Research suggests that around 70% of people will experience an illogical sense of being a phoney at work at some point in their careers. It’s called the impostor phenomenon (also known, erroneously, as a syndrome). These impostor feelings typically manifest as a fear of failure, fear of success, a sometimes obsessive need for perfection, and an inability to accept praise and achievement. The phenomenon is also characterised by a genuine belief that at some point you, as the “impostor”, are going to be found out for being a fake in your role.

The phenomenon has been researched for more than 40 years and recent research into women working in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), suggests that there is a much higher incidence of it in women in these non-traditional roles.

Despite being something that affects people at an individual level, the relationship between toxic workplaces and well-being is well established. It seems that the impostor phenomenon breeds from a mix of genuine personal doubt over work abilities and the collective experience of a toxic work culture.

Simply put, our modern workplaces are feeding a sense of inadequacy in the face of a track record of achievement and success of individuals. The “impostor’s” internal drive for perfection and their constant expectation of external criticism pushes them to underestimate their abilities, while striving to exhaustion for advancement to avoid perceived failure and exposure to criticism.

Where this meets an ever-increasing demand to do more with fewer resources and a barrage of evaluation in risk-averse workplaces, impostor tendencies will thrive.

An unhealthy marriage

Toxic workplaces are often characterised by an environment that diminishes or manages out the humanity of the place and its people, as well as promoting competition. A focus on profit, process and minimising resources is pronounced. Bullying is normalised and embedded in managerial and colleague behaviour, while leadership is inert and ineffectual against it.

In toxic workplaces, work is often seen as drudgery, the motivating elements sucked out of the environment. Unmoderated criticism and punitive measures stifle original thinking, thus reducing the intrinsic rewards of work, such as having an outlet for expressing one’s unique talents and creative thinking.

The unhealthy marriage between the impostor phenomenon and toxic work cultures is sustained at an individual level by the basic human need for safety and belonging. This interferes with “rational” decision making and supersedes the entrepreneurialism and risk taking that would challenge the status quo. This is detrimental to both a person and their employer who might otherwise benefit from new ideas.

While technology continues to transform the nature of work, organisations are lagging behind in how they manage people. Corporate performance management practices are often little more than thinly disguised carrot and stick approaches. Employees are goaded along by financial and status incentives that glorify overwork and toeing the line. Toxic workplaces force people to jump through endless hoops on the way to an elusive, future state of success and happiness. Intellectual honesty, unorthodox thinking and self-care, meanwhile, are penalised.

Overwork is glorified in too many organisations. Elnur/Shutterstock

Dysfunctional competition

A rampant competitiveness in certain workplaces often provides a breeding ground for anxiety, depression and self-degradation. The finance sector is especially prone to this. Here constant winning is the cultural norm, even though it’s just not possible to win all the time.

This breeds perfectionism, which also fuels people’s need to micromanage. Dysfunctional competition gets prioritised over collaboration. People who feel like they are impostors will often fail to delegate for fear that others won’t meet their own exacting standards and that this will reflect badly on them. As a result, they take on more than they can realistically manage.

The imbalance this produces between effort and rewards exacerbates the feeling of inadequacy and creates a negative feedback loop, which leads to mental exhaustion. And if both the person and the organisation implicitly fail to recognise the toxic combination of impostor tendencies and an unhealthy work culture, they both passively endorse this social contract.

Sadly, as the digital revolution progresses, it is becoming clearer that our contemporary workplaces are demanding productivity outcomes to match. But they are using antiquated managerial structures. Workplace processes – such as poorly constructed performance management, a lack of diversity in succession planning and limited understanding of inclusion initiatives beyond box ticking exercises – fuel the very behaviour and thought patterns that these workplace structures aim to manage out.

Addressing these toxic work cultures and organisational structures could create a less fertile ground for the impostor phenomenon. Healthier workplaces and more satisfied people are likely to deliver more positive and productive outcomes.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May Government Introduces Universal Credit; What Is It ?; … And Is Not …What’s The Problem?

What Universal Credit Is; And Is Not …

woman with pushchair and man walking into a job centre
GETTY IMAGES

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Universal credit has proved controversial almost from the beginning, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems.

It’s being rolled out across the UK. But now concerns are being raised that 3.2 million working families will lose £48 a week – about £2,500 a year- compared with the old system.

The system has been made significantly less generous since it was announced.


What is it?

Universal credit is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment:

  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • housing benefit
  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit

It was designed to make claiming benefits simpler.

A single universal credit payment is paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts to cover the benefits for which they are eligible.

Claimants then have to pay costs such as rent out of their universal credit payment (though there is a provision for people who are in rent arrears or have difficulty managing their money to have their rent paid directly to their landlord)

Universal Credit is a payment to help with your living costs. It’s paid monthly – or twice a month for some people in Scotland.

Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on where you live and your circumstances.

If you live in Northern Ireland, go to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland.

Theresa May tells angry Tory MPs: “I will not trap UK in permanent customs union with EU after Brexit”

Theresa May has sought to reassure worried Tory MPs by insisting that the UK will not be permanently “trapped” in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

EU and UK flags
Theresa May is fighting a major rebellion in the Tory ranks over Brexit.Credit: 
PA Image
|Kevin Schofield,PoiliticsHome|AIWA! NO!|The Prime Minister is facing the threat of Cabinet resignations over fears that a “backstop” arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border will effectively keep the UK locked into the bloc’s trading regime forever.

Senior ministers, including Dominic Raab and Michael Gove, expressed their concerns directly to Mrs May at a mini-Cabinet meeting on Thursday evening.

Tory minister warns on Brexit customs backstop end date

Theresa May: My backstop Brexit proposal is ‘unpalatable’

Theresa May facing threat of Cabinet resignations over Brexit customs plan

It is also understood that Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and Esther McVey are considering their positions on the frontbench over the row.

In an attempt to calm tensions in the Conservative ranks, a Downing Street spokeswoman insisted any backstop deal would be “temporary”.

However, she stopped short of saying that any agreement will continue a specific date for when it will come to an end.

She said: “When we published our plans in June for a UK-wide customs backstop, we were absolutely clear that the arrangement would be temporary and only in place until our future economic relationship was ready. Our position is that this future economic relationship needs to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest.

“The Prime Minister would never agree to a deal that would trap the UK in a backstop permanently.”

HAMMOND

Meanwhile, Philip Hammond has risked a fresh Cabinet row by suggestion that a backstop arrangement is inevitable, despite Downing Street insisting it remains unlikely.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “We are not going to remain in anything indefinitely, we are very clear this has to be a temporary period. But it is true that there needs to be a period probably following the transition period that we’ve negotiated before we enter into our long-term partnership, just because of the time it will take to implement the systems required.

“It is very important to us that business doesn’t have to make two sets of changes. That there will effectively be continuity from the current set up through the transition period into any temporary period and then a single set of changes when we move into our long-term new economic partnership with the European Union.”

Theresa May has sought to reassure worried Tory MPs by insisting that the UK will not be permanently “trapped” in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

UNITED KINGDOM Increases Immigration Health Surcharge; Generates ‘Extra Cash For The NHS’

‘Since the surcharge was introduced in 2015 it has raised over £600m which the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have invested back into their health budgets…’

Increase to Immigration Health Surcharge  is intended to ‘streamline and improve the cash – flow into the NHS from various sections of the immigrant population in the United Kingdom.

The IHS allows anyone in the UK on a work, study or family visa for longer than 6 months to access NHS services in the same way as UK citizens.

The proposals would see the surcharge increase from £200 to £400 per year for non-EU nationals, with students and those on the Youth Mobility Schemeon the discounted rate of £300 per year.

Since the surcharge was introduced in 2015 it has raised over £600m which the Department of Health and Social Care and the health ministries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have invested back into their health budgets.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said:

Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but the NHS is a national, not international health service and we believe it is right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability.

I am pleased that we are a step closer to implementing the changes to the health surcharge, and the extra money raised will go directly towards sustaining and protecting our world-class healthcare system.

It is only fair that people who come to the UK make a contribution to the running of the NHS, and even with the increase we still continue to offer a good deal on healthcare for those seeking to live in the UK temporarily.

The changes better reflect the cost to the NHS of treating those who pay the surcharge, as the DHSC estimates that the NHS spends £470 on average per person per year on treating those required to pay the surcharge.

These changes do not affect permanent residents, who are not required to pay the surcharge. Certain vulnerable groups such as asylum seekers and modern slavery victims are also exempt.

Short-term migrants, including those on visitor visas, are generally charged for secondary care treatment by the NHS at the point of access.

The increase is set to come into effect in December 2018 subject to Parliamentary approval.

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