New Public-Private ‘Smart Communities Coalition’ Launched at Davos
Mastercard and USAID announced the launch of a public-private coalition to “transform refugee settlements into digitally connected communities.”
The Smart Communities Coalition aims to improve collaboration between the public and private sectors in providing connectivity, digital tools and energy access for refugees. Members include the multinationals Accenture and Microsoft and major nonprofits Mercy Corps and World Vision.
The coalition – announced during the World Economic Forum in Davos – plans to begin pilot projects in 2018 focused on Kakuma and Kalobevei refugee camps in Kenya and Bidi Bidi, Kiryandongo and Rwamwania refugee settlements in Uganda.
“The first step of the Smart Communities Coalition is to bring around the table the private [and] public sector, having each of these entities coming forward with these commitments,” Mastercard’s executive vice president of public-private partnerships Tara Nathan told Refugees Deeply this week. “Various actors have made a lot of high-level commitments, but now we’re asking for specific tactical commitments: to bring to the table solutions, developers, consultants.
“Other fora have focused on dialogue, convening, bringing together partners,” Nathan said. “This is meant to be an operational executional coalition.”
Europeans Plug UNRWA Shortfall After U.S. Pulls Funds
Several European donors have expedited funds to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after the U.S. withheld part of a tranche of funding this month.
After Belgium gave UNRWA all of its planned three-year contribution of $23 million last week, the Dutch government fast-tracked $16 million while Sweden provided $58.5 million and Norway $15 million.
The U.N. agency had appealed for immediate funds when the U.S. withheld $65 million of its planned contribution, after President Trump questioned U.S. contributions to the agency, which provides health, education and social services to Palestinian refugees around the Middle East. UNRWA relies on the U.S. for around one-third of its funding.
“We must prevent a funding shortfall that would put stability in the Middle East further at risk. We encourage other donors to step up!” Norway’s ambassador to the U.S., Kare R. Aas, wrote on Twitter.
More Central Africans Displaced Than at Any Time Since 2013 Clashes
Displacement in the Central African Republic is at its highest since militia violence engulfed the country in 2013.
The U.N. refugee agency said 688,000 people were internally displaced in 2017 – 60 percent more than in 2016 – while 540,000 Central Africans have fled the country’s borders. That’s a significant portion of the entire Central African population, estimated to be around 4.6 million, the agency noted.
Despite peace efforts that quelled the bloodiest days of 2013 and 2014, a resurgence in armed groups in several parts of the country has sent Central Africans fleeing for their lives.
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