As many as 98% of disabled children in the developing world “never see the inside of a classroom” or go to school at all, says Eddie Ndopu. He could have been one of that vast majority. Born in Namibia, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and expected to live for only five years. Now 33, Ndopu is a leading advocate for human rights and accessibility for all.
GZERO’s Tony Maciulis caught up with Ndopu at the UN General Assembly this week. The two discussed his role as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Advocates, a prominent position he shares alongside leaders including Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, and Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President Brad Smith. He hopes to bring a “fresh” perspective to the discussion of global development and help leaders understand the needs of the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities.
Ndopu credits his success to his fiercely strong single mother, who never gave up on him despite all odds, and he continues to pay it forward and find new ways to raise awareness of the need for greater inclusion. He describes his recent memoir "Sipping Dom Perignon through a Straw" as “equal parts cheeky and incisive.” Just like him.
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German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Italy that both countries had reached the “limits of [their] capacity” to accommodate migrants, and called for “fair distribution” of the burdens of migration across the European Union.
The background. In just the last week, over 11,000 people have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa. They’re part of the 127,000 migrants who have landed in Italy in 2023, more than double the number who had arrived by this point in 2022.
Under current EU asylum regulations, migrants are required to apply for asylum in the member state to which they first arrive. Should they, say, leave Italy to try their chances with Germany’s relatively generous system, they’re to be deported back.
But Rome has recently been refusing to accept back asylum-seekers who leave, citing the disproportionate influx. That caused a row with Berlin, which announced last week it would suspend a voluntary agreement to take in 3,500 asylum seekers who had landed in Italy — before suddenly reversing course.
The European Union received over 519,000 asylum requests between January and June, a 28% year-on-year increase and the most since 2016. Germany fielded 30%, about as many as France and Spain combined. That’s not counting over a million Ukrainian refugees whom Germany hosts, far and away the most in Western Europe.
So when Meloni says the rest of the bloc needs to share the burden, it resonates in Berlin. It’s also in the SPD’s interest to be seen taking a more proactive anti-immigration stance, as their conservative rivals have recently revived the idea of a national migrant cap. It’s part of a larger shift on migration politics in Germany, as even SPD’s left-wing allies in the Green party call for tougher migration standards faced with the ascendance of the far-right Alternative fur Deutschland.
Convincing the rest of the bloc to step up will be difficult. Since migration to Europe from Syria spiked in 2015, the EU has struggled to find consensus on bloc-wide immigration policies due to conflicting pressures in the politics of each member state.
Hard Numbers: Rwanda’s Kagame will run again, the EU takes on Uber, water contamination threat in Libya, US Fed keeps cool
4: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, announced that he’ll run for a fourth term in next year’s election.
Kagame, who has been accused of cracking down on the opposition, tweaked the constitution back in 2015 to extend presidential term limits. Asked about what “the West” might think of his move, Kagame, didn’t mince words: “What these countries think is not our problem.”
40: A top Uber executive has warned that an EU proposal to classify gig workers as employees could boost ride prices by as much as 40%. Brussels says Uber should provide more job security and benefits for its employees. Uber, which has come up against similar battles in Spain, the UK and elsewhere, says the measure will hurt consumers and lead to “devastating” job losses.
4,000: Over a week after a catastrophic flood tore through two dams in eastern Libya, killing 4,000 people (while 9,000 remain missing) the UN has warned that sewage is contaminating water supplies, raising the specter of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and hepatitis.5.25-5.55: The US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady at 5.25-5.55, still the highest level in more than two decades after 11 rate hikes beginning in March 2022. The decision gives policy makers some breathing room to plot their next moves amid subsiding inflation. Still, with price growth well above the Fed’s 2% target, rates could stay above 5% well into 2024, analysts warn.
Correction:Yesterday, we incorrectly stated that the Fed's pause was the first in 18 months. The Federal reserve also paused rate hikes in June, 2023. We regret the error.
Hard Numbers: Peru declares crime emergency, EU cuts Somalia aid, Chinese weddings dwindle, McCarthy tests his majority, oil prices surge
160,200: Peruvian President Dina Boluarte declared a state of emergency in two districts of the capital, Lima, and one in the northern city of Talara amid a devastating wave of violent crime. Lima police collected 160,200 crime reports last year, up 33% from 2021, part of a larger spike in violence in South America.
7 million: The European Union has suspended funding for the World Food Program’s operations in Somalia, which last year amounted to over $7 million, after a United Nations investigation discovered widespread theft by local power brokers, armed groups, and even aid workers themselves. The graft has macabre costs: Somalia barely avoided a famine last year amid a drought that killed 43,000 people — half of them children under 5.
6.8 million: Love is decidedly not in the air in China, as the country registered just 6.8 million weddings in 2022, a drop of some 800,000 compared to 2021 and the lowest figure on record. Meanwhile, even those who are tying the knot are more hesitant to have children, a factor contributing to China’s first population decline in 60 years, and a major long term headache for policy planners in Beijing.
4: US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is gambling that he can push through a temporary spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, despite fierce blowback from within his own GOP caucus. His margin is slim: he can afford to lose just only 4 GOP votes if he wants the measure to pass.
95: The price of oil hit $95 dollars per barrel, climbing some 26% for the quarter as Saudi Arabia and Russia have cut production to boost prices. Higher oil prices are likely to prop up inflation, complicating matters not only for households, but also for central bankers who had been hoping to ease off of interest rate hikes sooner than later.
In what could prove to be a major stumbling block to restoring democratic rule in Niger, on Saturday its ruling junta signed a mutual defense pact with the governments of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso.
The three countries have all seen their governments toppled by military coups since 2020. Niger’s fell most recently in June with the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum, who remains under arrest on charges of “high treason.”
The new Alliance of Sahel States, as it is known, obliges members to defend each other should any of them come under attack. Not coincidentally perhaps, the pact was signed a week after Niger accused France of plotting to invade the country to restore Bazoum’s presidency.
France refuses to recognize Niger’s new military government, which has asked Paris to withdraw its troops and ambassador. There is fierce opposition to the presence of the former colonial power in the region: French troops have been removed from Mali and Burkina Faso, and Mali has asked the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA to leave its territory as well.
The new pact also represents a challenge to the power of ECOWAS, a West African economic and political union, of which all three countries are also members. ECOWAS itself had initially threatened military intervention to restore Bazoum, but has since dropped the idea.
In addition to mutual defense, the Alliance obliges its members to jointly tackle armed rebellions. All three nations face the threat of Islamic insurgency within their borders, and both Mali and Burkina Faso have relied on Russian mercenaries to help fight jihadists. The Alliance may now make it easier for Russia to expand its influence to Niger, which had been in discussions with the Wagner Group prior to the death of founder Yevgeny Prigozhin in a plane crash on Aug. 23.
First, there was the devastating earthquake in Morocco. And then, cataclysmic flooding in Libya. Recent natural disasters in northern Africa have shocked the world. They've also mobilized United Nations rescue and support teams, says UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an exclusive GZERO World interview.
“We have a central emergency response fund, and we mobilized $10 million to support the operation in Libya," Guterres tells Ian Bremmer. "We are discussing, with Moroccan authorities, our best way to support them...We'll be doing everything to mobilize international community to support these two countries in this very, very tragic situation."
What role can the United Nations play in these devastated zones, and how much is a warming planet contributing to recent climate catastrophes?
For the full interview, tune into GZERO World with Ian Bremmerat gzeromedia.com/gzeroworld or on US public television. Check local listings.
Hard Numbers: Education crisis in Burkina Faso, Chinese formalizes ties with the Taliban, NASA unveils UFO study, Russian oligarchs off the hook
1,000,000: In Burkina Faso, where violence has raged unabated for five years, more than a quarter of schools are closed due to a sharp increase in fighting. The number of closed schools has risen by thirty percent since a coup last year, affecting more than 1,000,000 students and creating a looming education crisis in the country.
2: China appointed a new ambassador to Afghanistan on Wednesday, reopening diplomatic relations two years after the Taliban took control of Kabul. Analysts say the move is meant to give China a bigger role in helping to stabilize Afghanistan – Beijing has energy and mineral investments in the country, and also fears that if the Taliban government falters, the country could become a haven for anti-Chinese extremists and terrorists.
800: The galaxy waited with baited breath Thursday morning as NASA unsealed its official study of UFOs– or UAPs as they are called these days (Unidentified aerial phenomena). The takeaway: NASA doesn’t know what most of the 800 reported UAP sightings are, but it knows for sure that most of them aren’t extraterrestrials. The report attributes most UAP run-ins to natural phenomena, and announced that UAP research and data collection is now a top priority– on par with space exploration and Earth science.
3: The EU removed 3 Russian oligarchs from its sanctions list, citing concerns that the sanctions would not withstand legal challenges in international courts. At the same time, ordinary Russians who cross into the EU by car are now subject to having their vehicles and valuables confiscated on the spot by Baltic border guards.