Journey to extremism in Africa: Pathways to recruitment and disengagement

The surge in violent extremism in sub-Saharan Africa undermines hard-won development gains and threatens to hold back progress for generations to come. The need to improve understanding of what drives violent extremism in Africa, and what can be done to prevent it, has never been more urgent.

 

Against this backdrop of the surge in violent extremism in sub- Saharan Africa, and the continued prioritization of security-driven responses, UNDP initiated a follow-up study, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement in 2020.

 

The research was developed to strengthen and refine the evidence base established in 2017, as well as to update and expand the scope of the research, tracking variations in relation to the findings of the first report: Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment

 

 

Source: UN Development Programme

Move Over Ben Franklin: Laser Lightning Rod Electrifies Scientists

When Benjamin Franklin fashioned the first lightning rod in the 1750s following his famous experiment flying a kite with a key attached during a thunderstorm, the American inventor had no way of knowing this would remain the state of the art for centuries.

 

Scientists now are moving to improve on that 18th-century innovation with 21st-century technology — a system employing a high-powered laser that may revolutionize lightning protection. Researchers said on Monday they succeeded in using a laser aimed at the sky from atop Mount Santis in northeastern Switzerland to divert lightning strikes.

 

With further development, this Laser Lightning Rod could safeguard critical infrastructure including power stations, airports, wind farms and launchpads. Lightning inflicts billions of dollars in damage on buildings, communication systems, power lines and electrical equipment annually while also killing thousands of people.

 

The equipment was hauled to the mountaintop at an altitude of about 8,200 feet (2,500 meters), some parts using a gondola and others by helicopter, and was focused on the sky above a 400-foot-tall (124-meter-tall) transmission tower belonging to telecommunications provider Swisscom SCMN.S, one of Europe’s structures most affected by lightning.

 

In experiments during two months in 2021, intense laser pulses — 1,000 times per second — were emitted to redirect lightning strikes. All four strikes while the system was active were successfully intercepted. In the first instance, the researchers used two high-speed cameras to record the redirection of the lightning’s path by more than 160 feet (50 meters). Three others were documented with different data.

 

“We demonstrate for the first time that a laser can be used to guide natural lightning,” said physicist Aurelien Houard of Ecole Polytechnique’s Laboratory of Applied Optics in France, coordinator of the Laser Lightning Rod project and lead author of the research published in the journal Nature Photonics.

 

Lightning is a high-voltage electrical discharge between a cloud and the ground, within a cloud or between clouds.

“An intense laser can generate on its path long columns of plasmas in the atmosphere with electrons, ions and hot air molecules,” Houard said, referring to positively charged particles called ions and negatively charged particles called electrons.

 

“We have shown here that these plasma columns can act as a guide for lightning,” Houard added. “It is important because it is the first step toward a laser-based lightning protection that could virtually reach a height of hundreds of meters [yards] or a kilometer [0.6 mile] with sufficient laser energy.”

 

The laser device is the size of a large car and weighs more than 3 tons. It uses lasers from German industrial machine manufacturing company Trumpf Group. With University of Geneva scientists also playing a key role, the experiments were conducted in collaboration with aerospace company ArianeGroup, a European joint venture between Airbus SE AIR.PA and Safran SA SAF.PA.

 

This concept, first proposed in the 1970s, has worked in laboratory conditions, but until now not in the field.

 

Lightning rods, dating back to Franklin’s time, are metal rods atop buildings, connected to the ground with a wire, that conduct electric charges lightning strikes harmlessly into the ground. Their limitations include protecting only a small area.

 

Houard anticipated that 10 to 15 years more work would be needed before the Laser Lightning Rod can enter common use. One concern is avoiding interference with airplanes in flight. In fact, air traffic in the area was halted when the researchers used the laser.

 

“Indeed, there is a potential issue using the system with air traffic in the area because the laser could harm the eyes of the pilot if he crosses the laser beam and looks down,” Houard said.

 

 

Source: Voice of America

Africa has 39% of the world’s clean energy potential, it doesn’t need gas speculators

At Energy Day at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, Joab Okanda, Christian Aid’s Pan African Advocacy Advisor, said:

“Africa has 39% of the world’s renewable energy potential, more than any other continent. Nowhere has suffered more from the impact of burning fossil fuels so it is perfectly placed to show the world a different path to develop, freed from the shackles of a dirty energy system that has wrecked our climate.

“Fossil fuel companies are showing their greed and plan to exploit fossil fuels in 48 out of 55 African countries. If all this fossil fuel is successfully burned then it will push us past the Paris Agreement goals and spell misery for African people already on the front lines of this crisis.

“What’s so galling is that 89% the liquified natural gas infrastructure being built in Africa is to be exported to Europe to bail them out of their addiction to Russian gas. We cannot be Europe’s gas station. Otherwise, we will crash the climate.”

Source: Christian Aid

IAEA Breaks Ground to Expand and Modernize its Seibersdorf Laboratories

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Monday at the IAEA’s laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, to mark the start of construction on its planned new nuclear applications laboratories building.

“After two years of hard preparation, we now begin construction to complete the modernization of our invaluable Seibersdorf labs — laboratories that make important contributions in the global fights against disease, climate change and world hunger,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at the ceremony. The event, which was attended by representatives from 30 IAEA Member States, and host government representatives from the federal level, Regional Government of Lower Austria  and Seibersdorf Town, marks a crucial milestone in the completing the second phase of the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories initiative, known as ReNuAL2.

“As a year, 2020 was a wake-up call on human vulnerability to disease, climate disaster, food insecurity and environmental degradation,” Mr Grossi said. “The pledges to this project by our Member States are helping to ensure our labs remain modern and can continue to play a vital role in addressing these pressing challenges.” The Director General thanked contributing countries for their generosity, and Austria for the hospitality it has extended to the laboratories and its staff.

To date, ReNuAL2 has raised over €20 million from 28 supportive countries. Representatives of most of these countries were present and joined the Mr Grossi, representatives from the host country, Austria, and the Friends of ReNuAL co-chairs – Germany and South Africa – in breaking the ‘first’ ground for the new building.

The groundbreaking ceremony follows last week’s event at the IAEA’s 66th General Conference, where the Agency celebrated the most recent donations from Belgium, Saudi Arabia and the United States of America. Strong Member State financial support allowed the IAEA to sign a contract on 29 September to begin construction on the new laboratories building.

The new building will house three laboratories: Plant Breeding and Genetics (PBGL), Terrestrial Environment and Radiochemistry (TERC), and Nuclear Science and Instrumentation (NSIL). Thematically these laboratories will help countries address challenges related to climate change, food security, environmental management and more. Major construction on the new building is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.

As part of ReNuAL2, the IAEA also plans to build new greenhouses — necessary for its work in plant breeding, food safety, soil and water management and crop nutrition — to be adjoined to the new laboratories building.  Resource mobilization efforts will now focus on obtaining the funding needed for this last element of the ReNuAL2 initiative.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the nuclear applications laboratories at Seibersdorf. The groundbreaking for ReNuAL2 is the latest milestone in a decade-long effort to modernize the facilities. 

In 2014, the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) was launched to deliver a new Insect Pest Control Laboratory building, a new medical linear accelerator facility for the IAEA’s Dosimetry Lab, and the Amano Laboratories building — named after the late Director General Yukiya Amano and opened in 2020, housing the Animal Production and Health (APHL), Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition (SWMCNL), and Food Safety and Control (FSCL) laboratories.

In September 2020, Mr Grossi launched ReNuAL2, with the aim of constructing the new laboratories building, refurbishing the Dosimetry Laboratory, and replacing the aged greenhouses used by the PBGL, SWMCNL and FSCL.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency

UN launches first-ever International Finance Facility for Education

UNITED NATIONS— UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown, launched a multi-billion-dollar International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd).

With the first projects expected in 2023, IFFEd will support education and skills development investments in lower-middle-income countries. With an initial funding of 2 billion U.S. dollars, the facility is expected to expand to 10 billion dollars by 2030.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, two-thirds of countries have cut their education budgets, but education is the building block of peaceful, prosperous, stable societies, said Guterres at a Saturday joint press conference with Brown. “Reducing investment virtually guarantees more serious crises further down the line. We need to get more, not less, money into education systems.”

Wealthy countries can increase funding from domestic sources, but many developing countries are being hit by the cost-of-living crisis, and urgently need support for education, Guterres said, adding that this is exactly the role of the IFFEd.

This facility is aimed at getting financing to lower-middle-income countries — home to half of the world’s children and youth — and to the majority of the world’s displaced and refugee children, he noted.

IFFEd is not a new fund, but a mechanism to increase the resources available to multilateral banks to provide low-cost education finance. It will complement and work alongside existing tools that provide grants and other assistance, said Guterres, urging all international donors and philanthropic organizations to back IFFEd.

Brown said IFFEd is to deal with a crisis when 260 million school-age children do not go to school, 400 million children at the age of 11 are not able to read or write and leave education for good, and 840 million children and young people, by the time they leave education in their teens, have no qualifications for the workplace of the future.

“Over time, we expect the fund to grow from the two billion (dollars) that it will be initially, to five billion and then to 10 billion. This means that today we’re announcing the biggest-ever single investment in global education that the world has seen, and we believe it can transform the prospects of millions of children,” he said.

Source: Nam News Network

Communiqué of the 1097th meeting of the PSC held on 4 August 2022, on Emerging Technologies and New Media: Impact on Democratic Governance, Peace and Security in Africa

Adopted by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) at its 1097th meeting held on 4 August 2022, on Emerging Technologies and New Media: Impact on Democratic Governance, Peace and Security in Africa.

The Peace and Security Council,

Recalling the entire Preamble of the AU Constitutive Act and the provisions of Article 3 of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union;

Also recalling Decision [Assembly/AU/Dec.529(XXIII)] of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014 which adopted the African Union Convention on Cyberspace Security and Protection of Personal Data; as well as Executive Council Decision [EX.CL/Dec.1074 (XXXVI)] on the Report of the Third Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committees on Communication and ICT that endorsed the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (DTS) and Decision with reference [EX.CL/Dec.1144 (XL)] on the report of Fourth Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committees on Communication and ICT that endorsed the AU Data Policy Framework and Interoperability framework for Digital identity document (ID);

Acknowledging the dual use and multifaceted benefits of emerging technologies and new media in the promotion of democratic and good governance, as well as peace, security and sustainable development in Africa, as well as the general well-being of African people;

Deeply concerned about the misuse and abuse of emerging technologies and new media for malicious intents and purposes, including cyber-attacks, propagation of fake news, extremist ideologies and hate speech, which threaten democratic and good governance, peace and security in Africa; and reiterating the right of the State to regulate the use of emerging technologies and new media;

Also noting the increasing influence of Big Tech Companies that rely on Business Models based on massive collection and processing of data, which may affect national economies, peace and security in the Member States;

Recognizing the urgent need for Africa to develop the necessary digital infrastructure and data governance systems to ensure ethical and responsible use of data being generated by Government institutions, industries and citizens;

Committed to creating conducive conditions for harnessing the transformative potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the realization of the AU Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena; as well as the AU Agenda 2063 Aspirations and its Ten-Year Implementation Plan;

Noting the opening statement by H.E. Ambassador Jainaba Jagne, Permanent Representative of the Republic of The Gambia to the AU as the PSC Chairperson for the month of August 2022 and the statement by H.E. Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security; also noting the presentations by Professor Edward Maloka, Chief Executive Officer, African Peer Review Mechanism; Ms. Souhila Amazouz, Senior Policy Officer/Information Society Division, AU Department of Energy and Infrastructure; Dr. Thompson Chengeta- Associate Professor of International Law and Ethics of Artificial Intelligence at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria; and by Ms. Bitania Tadesse, Director of Programmes, AMANI Africa Media and Research Services; and

Acting under Article 7 of its Protocol, the Peace and Security Council,

1. Underlines the need for emerging technologies and new media to be developed and used in full compliance with national and international law, both in the physical and virtual space, and in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution A/76/136 adopted on 22 December 2018, AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection (Malabo Convention), the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2030), the AU Data Policy Framework and the AU Interoperability Framework for Digital ID;

2. Reiterates the call on the AU Commission to work towards increasing preparedness and awareness of AU Member States on security issues surrounding the use of emerging technologies and new media, while underscoring the essence for the AU Commission and the Member States to develop a strategic approach to implement the UN norms on responsible state behaviour in cyberspace at regional and continental levels, in order to ensure the security and sustainability of Africa digital space;

3. Re-emphasizes the importance of mainstreaming cybersecurity in all AU peace and security mechanisms, as well as of strengthening cooperation at technical, policy and operational levels among the Member States, in order to mitigate against the risks of malicious use of emerging technologies and new media;

4. Encourages all Member States, which have not yet done so, to expedite the signature and ratification of the Malabo Convention, as well as to develop a common approach to regulating digital platforms and a comprehensive Continental and forward-looking Cybersecurity Strategy that considers emerging technologies and new media with the participation of all concerned parties;

5. Reaffirms the imperative for the AU Commission to develop necessary frameworks for common values, standards and codes, and union-wide mechanisms focusing on the four domains, as they relate to technology and democratic governance, namely;

i) Promotion of information exchange on available technological capabilities for enhancing good democratic governance;

ii) Facilitation of multisectoral and transnational governance arrangements necessary for promoting technology transfers among the Member States;

iii) Development of mechanisms for tracking governance of regional and continental technology infrastructure and platforms; and

iv) Reviewing the impact and implications of emerging technologies on democratic governance particularly in contexts of e-Governance and e-Government;

6. Highlights the need for the AU Commission to comprehensively and systematically address the immediate issues that arise from emerging technologies and new media, including the use of such emerging technologies and new media by actors engaged in terrorism and organized crime, the misuse of social media for propagation of hate, and the use of such technologies for surveillance, repression, censorship, online harassment and orchestrating cyber-attacks;

7. Requests the AU Commission, working in collaboration with the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs), to effectively harness the advantages of emerging technologies and new media for enhancing the effectiveness of mediation, peacemaking and peace support operations; and in the same context, encourages the African Governance Platform to also harness the benefits of emerging technologies and the new media in promoting democratic governance and constitutionalism in Africa, including in early warning and in monitoring elections;

8. Further requests the AU Commission in collaboration with relevant stakeholders to undertake a comprehensive study on Emerging Technologies and New Media: Impact on Democratic Governance, Peace and Security in Africa, and the policy options available for harnessing the advantages and for effectively addressing the security threats associated with the use of these technologies and new media in Africa, based on available resources and to report back to Council;

9. Urges Member States to embrace a systematic integration and adaptation approach for optimal use of emerging technologies and new media in AU activities to promote democratic governance and the African peace and security agenda and encourages Member States to develop necessary systems and capabilities to mitigate and counter the negative impacts of misuse of emerging technologies and the new media;

10. Also underscores the need for continuous research on the interface between peace, security and democracy and emerging technologies to be carried out in an interdisciplinary manner, in order to ensure quick knowledge transfer among the academia, governments, and other sectors, including the telecommunications and media industries;

11. Calls upon Member States to adapt to the digital era by enacting necessary legislations for ensuring compliance of international law and international humanitarian law in the use of emerging technologies and the new media;

12. While noting the benefits of broad multi-stakeholder approach, calls for greater collaboration between member states, RECs/RMs, AUC and the private sector in promoting the development and responsible use of emerging technologies and media, through capacity building and harmonization of laws and regulations; and

13. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

Source: African Union