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Slave auctions in Libya are the latest evidence of a reality for migrants the EU prefers to ignore

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A man called out numbers against the murky darkness of the Libyan night: “400, 500, 600, 650.” These were bids in Libyan dinars during a slave auction. Video footage of these scenes, aired in mid-November by CNN, thrust concerns about the conditions facing migrants at Europe’s borders back into the spotlight.

In response, the EU called for “swift action”, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, announced a plan to launch “concrete military action” against the perpetrators. The Nigerian government also said it had begun to bring home some of its citizens stranded in Libya.

Efforts to enable people to escape from situations of slavery, violence and exploitation in Libya are certainly welcome. But they will need to go beyond the short-term perspective that so often accompanies responses to proclamations of crisis. And these new efforts will reek of hypocrisy if they do not also recognise the relationship between existing migration control policies and the vulnerability of migrants using routes into and through Libya.

The story of young men sold as slaves in Libya was the focus of debates at the UN Security Council and topped the agenda at a major summit of European and African leaders. Slavery and other abuses are an “abomination” that “can no longer be ignored”, stated Filippo Grandi, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees.

“I was arrested and imprisoned in southern Libya… I was sold to a slave trader, along with other Eritreans, Somalis and Nigerians. This person took us to a farm, where we could not leave except to go to work at a construction site and return. We were always guarded by armed people.”

But stories of forced labour, exploitation and the buying and selling of migrants are not particularly new. I heard them myself in 2015 when I was part of a research team which carried out interviews with nearly 200 people who had departed from Libya by boat, towards Italy and Malta.I was arrested and imprisoned in southern Libya … I was sold to a slave trader, along with other Eritreans, Somalis and Nigerians. This person took us to a farm, where we could not leave except to go to work at a construction site and return. We were always guarded by armed people.

These words, from a young Malian man, were mirrored by many others who spoke of being held captive, put into forced work or bought and sold. Some were set free once they had gathered enough ransom money, wired over to them by family and friends. Others might be released when their labour was no longer required or if they managed, somehow, to escape. But it was also not unusual to hear people being beaten and even see others die at the hands of their “owners”.

Our project has not been the only one to report such findings. In 2016, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) found that 71% of migrants who crossed the central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Europe had experienced exploitation, particularly kidnapping, forced labour, carrying out work without being paid and being kept at locations against their will. In February 2017, a Sky documentary described Libya as “hell” for migrants and a study of trafficking and smuggling there referred to “the extortion economy and new slave trade”.

European complicity

Public figures are right to condemn people being sold as slaves in Libya. But their concern has an air of insincerity when they have known about it for years. The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, expressed her “total condemnation of these despicable acts” but also stated that “this is not something that began one month ago. Everybody has known about it for years”.

For officials to say now that violence, exploitation and slavery can “no longer be ignored” belies the fact that these issues were downplayed and pushed aside as the EU pursued collaboration with the Libyan authorities to control migration.

The primary objective of European approaches has instead been to stem the flow of people departing Libya by boat. Since the declaration of a migrant crisis back in 2015, the EU has given increasing amounts of funding and training to the Libyan coastguard and to detention centres to keep migrants on Libyan soil.

In the summer of 2017, an emboldened Libyan coastguard then made threats of violence to international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in search and rescue missions at sea. Soon after, an armed militia west of Tripoli with backing from the Libyan authorities – who are themselves supported by Italian and EU authorities – stepped in to intercept boats and prevent people leaving towards Italy.

These policies to stop boats arriving on European shores have had significant implications for the conditions of migrants in Libya. Many of the people we interviewed told us that they saw boats to Europe as the only way to flee. Now, once they are pushed back to Libya, they are held in detention centres, many of which have been criticised by international observers as overcrowded, unsanitary places where migrants are exploited.

Research reports point to “abundant evidence” which shows that “detention facilities in Libya are the site of sustained criminal activity, as recruitment grounds for smuggling activity but also processing centres for ransom extraction and slavery.” Another report by the NGO Refugees International noted how often “in Libya the policeman is a smuggler, and the smuggler is a policeman”. Despite this, just a few months ago Macron claimed that Libya could be an appropriate place to process asylum requests.

The containment of migrants in Libya is therefore likely to be reinforcing the very situation that Europe’s leaders appear to be so angry about now. Médecins Sans Frontières described it as “feeding the business of suffering”.

Moving beyond a crisis

European approaches to migration across the Mediterranean have repeatedly been shaped by urgent attempts to address sudden crises. But the situation in Libya cannot easily be addressed by such a short-term response. People smuggling has been a thriving economic sector for years. The profits from smuggling, exploitation and now slavery provide important funds for different groups around the country. One report describes migrants as “simply another commodity to be exploited” by the various armed groups vying to control parts of Libyan territory.

An important contribution to finding a longer term solution could come from a newly announced “transit and departure facility” in Tripoli providing opportunities for people to escape from Libya. They would be resettled elsewhere, transferred to UNHCR facilities in other countries or returned to their country of origin. But so far there are only 10,500 places available – far below the number of places required – and this is little more than the nearly 9,000 returns already carried out by the IOM in 2017.

The ConversationAfter a decade of repeatedly declaring migrant crises and emergencies at their borders, it is time the EU took a broader, longer-term approach. This has to recognise the structural relationship between policies of border control, dynamics of migration and patterns of migrant vulnerability and exploitation. Intensifying border controls without addressing the reasons why people move or providing alternatives is likely to reinforce the dangers that they face.

– Written by Simon McMahon, Research Fellow, Coventry University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Current Affairs

Facebook Reports Slower Q2 Advertising Growth While Google Reveals A Rare Revenue Decline

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The headwinds of Covid-19’s economic impact in the second quarter were strong enough to slow down even the ad-funded tech giants.

In its second-quarter results released on July 30, Facebook reported $18.7 billion in revenue, an increase of 11% despite the slowdown of advertising spend as marketers navigate the ongoing crisis. The results included $18.3 billion in ad revenue, a 10% year-over-year increase. Revenue from other operations totaled $366 million, up 40% from second-quarter 2019.

While Facebook maintained growth during the second quarter, its advertising rival Google did not. Around the same time that Facebook released its results, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported a rare decline in revenue, falling 2% year-over-year to $38.3 billion. Revenue from Google Search and other areas totaled $21.3 billion, down from $23.6 billion in second-quarter 2019. However, ad revenue on YouTube increased 6% to $3.8 billion, which the company said was driven by direct-response advertising.

In a statement, Ruth Porat, chief financial officer of Alphabet and Google, said revenues were “driven by gradual improvement in our ads business and strong growth in Google Cloud and Other Revenues.”

“We continue to navigate through a difficult global economic environment,” she said.

Both Facebook and Google have been known for their steady and massive quarterly growth despite concerns from advertisers, consumers and regulators around issues such as data privacy and content moderation. In 2019, Facebook reported revenue growth of 28% in the second quarter, 28% in the third quarter, and 25% in the fourth quarter. Revenue then grew just 17% in the first quarter of 2020 during the final three months before the pandemic prompted many advertisers to either pause or slow spending on various digital and traditional platforms.

Google’s growth story has been somewhat similar. Year-over-year revenue grew 17% in the first quarter of 2019, 19% in the second quarter, 20% in the third quarter, 17% in the fourth quarter before slowing to 13% in the first quarter of 2020.

On an earnings call today with analysts, Porat said advertising revenue “gradually improved” through the quarter with a “modest” improvement already in July.

“We do believe it’s premature to say we’re out of the woods, given the fragile nature of the economic environment,” she said.

The results come at a time of turmoil for the ad industry during the pandemic. In late June, marketing research firm eMarketer said it expected U.S. digital ad investment to increase just 1.7% this year—or $2.2 billion—compared to the previous growth estimate of 17%, or $22 billion. However, the slowed spending should be no surprise. In fact, during the early weeks of the crisis back in March, a survey of 400 media buyers found that 74% thought the pandemic would have a larger impact on ad spend than the 2008 financial crisis.

Facebook and Alphabet—along with other tech giants like Amazon and Apple—also have been under increased scrutiny by lawmakers. On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai along with the CEOs of Apple and Amazon spent the entire afternoon testifying to members of Congress. While the hearing was meant to focus on issues of antitrust, the four executives also touched on other issues ranging including data privacy, content moderation, and political influence.

While ad revenues were slower over the past three months, engagement was not. According to Facebook, engage on Facebook’s properties in terms of daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs) also increased in the second quarter, with DAUs increasing 12% year-over-year to 1.79 billion and MAUs increasing 12% to 2.7 billion. Across its “family” of apps—which includes Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp—DAUs totaled an average of 2.47 billion for June 2020, an increase of 15% over the same period last year. The family monthly average was 3.14 billion in June—up 14% year-over-year.

According to a Facebook statement about its results, the growth in usage reflects “increased engagement as people around the world sheltered in place and used our products to connect with the people and organizations they care about.” However, the company said it’s recently seen “signs of normalization” as lockdown measures around the world have eased. Meanwhile, total ad impressions in the second quarter increased 40% although the average ad price decreased.

“Our business has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, like all companies, we are facing a period of unprecedented uncertainty in our business outlook,” Facebook said in a statement about its quarterly results. “We expect our business performance will be impacted by issues beyond our control, including the duration and efficacy of shelter-in-place orders, the effectiveness of economic stimuli around the world, and the fluctuations of currencies relative to the U.S. dollar.”

In July, Facebook has also dealt with a boycott over its practices and policies around moderating hate speech on the platform. The boycott—organized by civil rights groups including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League—has been joined by hundreds of larger and smaller advertisers. Addressing the boycott on an earnings call with analysts, Zuckerberg said the company has agreed to an audit by the Media Ratings Council, and added that he’s “often troubled by the calls to go after internet advertising, especially during a time of such economic turmoil like we face today with Covid.”

“Some still seem to wrongly assume that our business is dependent on a few large advertisers, and while we value every single one of the businesses that use our platforms, the biggest part of our business is serving small businesses,” he said. “Our advertising is one of the most effective tools that businesses have to find customers to growth their businesses and create jobs.”

When an analyst on the call later asked how the boycott might be resolved, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company is still talking with civil rights groups and advertising trade organizations such as the Global Alliance for Responsible Media. She added that Facebook is “going to keep working hard at this, not because of advertiser pressure but because it’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s an interesting situation we find ourselves in because I think often times when companies are boycotted, it’s because they don’t agree with what the boycotters want,” she said. “And that’s not true at all here. We completely agree that we don’t want hate on our platforms and we stand firmly against it. We don’t benefit from hate speech. We never have. Users don’t want to see it, advertisers don’t want to be associated with it.”

By Marty Swant, Forbes Staff

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With proper investment in youth, Kenya’s potential for progress is unlimited

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By- Ruth Kagia and Siddharth Chatterjee

Africa’s demographic boom has been hailed as its biggest promise for transforming the continent’s economic and social outcomes, but only if the right investments are made to prepare its youthful population for tomorrow’s world.

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed. Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”. 

President Kenyatta once said that “The crisis of mass youth unemployment is a threat to the stability and prosperity of Africa, and it can amount to a fundamental and existential threat”.

Investing in young people especially so that they are prepared for the world of work is the main mission of Generation Unlimited (GenU), a global multi-sector partnership established to meet the urgent need for expanded education, training and employment opportunities for young people aged 10 to 24.

On 05 August 2020, Kenya will launch the Generation Unlimited initiative. This initiative will bring together key actors from the public and private sector as well as development partners to help put into a higher gear this defining agenda of our time to ensure that we have prepared our children for a prosperous future by giving them the education, training and job opportunities that fully harnesses their potential. With a median age of 18, Kenya’s youthful population represents a real potential to reap a demographic dividend and accelerate its economic progress.

Kenya has one of the youngest populations in the world. With the right investment in their talents, skills, and entrepreneurial spirit, young people present an extraordinary opportunity for transformation, growth, and change.

Three quarters Kenya’s population is under the age of 35. Across Africa there are 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, a demographic that is expected to double by 2045.

One of the greatest challenges facing governments and policymakers in Africa is how to provide opportunities for the continent’s youth, in order to provide them with decent lives and allow them to contribute to the economic development of their countries. As things stand, around 70% of Africa’s young people live below the poverty line.

In Kenya, the pillars for achieving GenU objectives are in place, with various initiatives for instance to strengthen education system through the recently-launched competency based curriculum and government promotion of programmes to enhance technical and digital skills.

The fruits of such initiatives can be seen through numerous youthful innovations from Kenya that continue to receive international attention.  For instance, inspired by his great urge to communicate with his 6-year-old niece who was born deaf, Roy Allela, a 25-year-old Kenyan invented Sign-10, a pair of smart gloves with flex sensors to aid his cousin’s communication with the other members of the family.

The flex sensors stitched to each finger aid in quantifying the letters formed from the curve of each finger of the glove’s wearer. The gloves are then connected through Bluetooth to a mobile phone application that vocalizes the hand movements.   This innovation won him the Trailblazer Award by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Gen U’s solution is to forge innovative collaborations with young people themselves. Since launching in 2018, the movement has brought onboard leaders from governments, foundations, and the private sector around the world. Its launch in Kenya underscores its government’s commitment to engage young people in pursuit of the Big 4 Development Agenda as well as Vision 2030.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is a global leader for the Generation Unlimited initiative. In Kenya, Gen U’s activities are coordinated by the Office of the President and the United Nations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Kenyatta was on Monday unanimously endorsed by world leaders to champion a new UN intervention on youth education, training and employment.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres were unanimously endorsed by world leaders to champion a new UN intervention on youth education, training, and employment at the UN General Assembly in 2018. [Photo/PSCU]

Shifts in today’s global economy demand that young people acquire skills aligned with dynamic labour needs, but local education systems have been slow to adapt. In many countries in Africa, school enrolment is up, but learning outcomes for young people remain poor. Most leave school without the skills the contemporary job market needs, and are ill-prepared for a world in which low-skilled jobs are increasingly automated.

A million young people join the workforce every year in Kenya, applying for jobs in a formal sector that can only absorb one in five of them. Some, however, find work at least intermittently in Kenya’s vibrant informal sector, which accounts for more than 80% of the country’s economy according to the World Bank.

Rather than focusing on opportunities in the formal sector, partners in the Gen U movement will look at strategies for supporting the informal sector with better infrastructure and an improved business environment. In doing so, it is hoped that it will be transformed into a recognised and legitimate sector.

Such initiatives have the full support of the recently launched Kenya Youth Development Policy, which seeks to underscore issues affecting young people. Technology will play a central role, and sector-based strategies will be central to the government’s approach.

The Kenya Youth Agribusiness Strategy, for example, will enable Kenya’s youth to access information technology for various value-addition ventures in Africa’s agribusiness sector set to be worth $1 trillion by 2030.

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen countries face changes in entire social and economic systems. Key industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, public services, retail, transportation, food supply, tourism, media and entertainment have been hard hit by the pandemic. The pandemic is an inflection point that is giving the old system a nudge. The post-COVID-19 world will be founded on a tech-savvy workforce that will inevitably comprise young people.

Calling on urgent action for young people, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on governments to “do far more to tap their talents as we tackle the pandemic and chart a recovery that leads to a more peaceful, sustainable and equitable future for all”.

In the run-up to the end of the SDGs era, we must ramp up the current level of investment in young people’s economic and social potential. As the vision of Generation Unlimited states, if the largest generation of young people in history is prepared for the transition to work, the potential for global progress is unlimited.

As President Kenyatta has noted, “the current generation of young people has the potential of expanding Africa’s productive workforce, promoting entrepreneurship and becoming genuine instruments of change to reverse the devastation caused by climate change.” 

Ruth Kagia is the Deputy Chief of Staff to President Kenyatta. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Mrs Kagia and Mr Chatterjee co-chair the Generation Unlimited Steering Committee in Kenya.

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OPEC And Its Allies Are Ready To Boost Production, But Here’s Why An Oil Market Recovery Isn’t Guaranteed

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After record production cuts in April intended to prop up the market amid a demand crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s largest oil producers are expected to ease up on the restrictions and begin to increase their output next month.

KEY FACTS

  • Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the other members of OPEC+ will meet Wednesday to discuss the current market situation and debate future production limits, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, adding that most delegates in the organization support loosening restrictions.
  • As lockdown measures ease across the globe, demand for oil is slowly beginning to rise again as shipping and air travel resume. 
  • Oil prices are still down significantly from pre-pandemic levels, however, with the Brent international benchmark priced at about 30% of January levels. 
  • The International Energy Agency said Friday that while global demand for oil had recovered strongly in China and India in May, world demand is still projected to decline during the second half of the year before recovering in 2021. 
  • The recent spike coronavirus cases and new lockdowns are creating “more uncertainty”: additional lockdowns could discourage travel and international trade, which would put more downward pressure on prices.
  • The risk to the oil market is “almost certainly to the downside,” the IAE said. 

KEY BACKGROUND

In April, the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies agreed to record oil production cuts of 9.7 million barrels a day as the coronavirus decimated global demand for crude oil. The agreement put an end to a weeks-long price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia that added even more pressure to an already-struggling market. 

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“If OPEC clings to restraining production to keep up prices, I think it’s suicidal,” a person familiar with Saudi Arabia’s thinking told the Journal. “There’s going to be a scramble for market share, and the trick is how the low cost producers assert themselves without crashing the oil price.”

Sarah Hansen, Forbes Staff, Markets

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