Pioneering insurance policy greatly benefits poor farmers finds UNbacked report

24 June 2009The fragile livelihoods of millions of poor farmers in developing countries, often devastated by adverse weather conditions, have been fortified by an innovative insurance scheme, according to a United Nations-backed report released today. A variable and unpredictable climate can restrict income and limit development for many smallholders, as banks, for example, are unlikely to lend to farmers if a drought will cause widespread defaults, even if the farmers could pay back loans in most years. This lack of access to credit restricts farmers’ ability to buy improved seeds, fertilizers and other inputs needed to cultivate land, according to the Index Insurance and Climate Risk: Prospects for development and disaster management report launched at the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) in Geneva today.Index Insurance uses a measure of weather, such as the amount of rainfall, to determine payouts, resolving a number of problems that make traditional insurance unworkable in rural parts of developing countries, said the report.With Index Insurance contracts, there is no need to visit the policyholder to determine premiums or assess damages. Instead, if the rainfall recorded by gauges is below an agreed-upon threshold, the insurance pays out. Having this insurance allows farmers to apply for bank loans and other types of credit which was previously inaccessible, said the report, which was produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) in partnership with UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Food Programme (WFP), among other governmental and non-governmental agencies.“Only the richest three per cent of people in the world are covered by insurance,” said Olav Kjorven, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy. “The world’s poor have been completely left out, even though they are the most vulnerable people most in need of protection.“Droughts, floods and hurricanes often strip whole communities of their resources and belongings,” he said, adding that Index Insurance could “finally enable millions of poor people to access financial tools for development and properly prepare for and recover from climate disasters.”A number of projects have shown that Index Insurance is affordable for people living on just $2 a day, an example being farming communities in Malawi which have been able to buy small insurance contracts to cover the purchase price of seeds in case of drought since 2005, according to the report.Nearly two million Indian farmers have also had access to Index Insurance programmes since 2003, but in order to achieve their full potential, applications of Index Insurance will need to scale up to reach many more people, the report stressed. read more

UNESCO chief pleads for release of French journalists abducted in Iraq

Christian Chesnot, a correspondent for Radio France International, and Georges Malbrunot of the daily Le Figaro are being held by militants demanding that France rescind a ban on Muslim female students wearing headscarves in schools, according to a video aired on the Al-Jazeera Arabic television station. “It is totally unacceptable that conflicting factions should use them [the journalists] as pawns in their struggle. Such attacks will not contribute to the well-being of the people of Iraq. Such actions are contrary to the teaching of Islam,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said. “I am deeply distressed by the shameful targeting of media professionals in Iraq and wish to pay tribute to their courage and their exemplary commitment to freedom of expression,” he added. According to the International News Safety Institute, 51 media workers from 16 countries have died covering the Iraq conflict. The heaviest toll has been paid by Iraqi journalists – 28 of them have been killed. Over the past several months Mr. Matsuura has issued numerous condemnations of the murder of journalists in various countries, calling them an attack on society as a whole. Only last Saturday he denounced reported killing in Iraq of Italian reporter Enzo Baldoni as a “flagrant disregard for civilian lives and for the most fundamental human values.” read more

Paedophile accused of murdering two schoolgirls goes on trial 30 years after he

Opening the case for the prosecution, Brian Altman QC told the jury: “The killings were entirely intentional and they were carried out in the woods by a man who sexually assaulted them for his own gratification. That man, say the prosecution, was this defendant, Russell Bishop.”Mr Altman went on: “This defendant was, as you will hear, arrested in 1986, charged and indeed tried the following year in 1987 for the murders of both girls, but on December 10 1987 he was acquitted by a jury at Lewes Crown Court.“Having been acquitted of these murders, the defendant was discharged was a free man and returned to live in the Brighton area.”Less than three years after his acquittal on 4 February 1990, the defendant committed offices involving the attempted murder, kidnapping and indecent assault of a seven-year-old girl in the Whitehawk are of Brighton.“Unlike Nicola and Karen, the victim survived and was able to identify the defendant as her attacker, which, together with scientific and other compelling evidence, led to his conditions by a jury at Lewes Crown Court on December 13 1990.” Schoolgirl victims Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola Fellows Schoolgirl victims Karen Hadaway (left) and Nicola FellowsCredit:PA Their bodies were found in the woods at Wild Park in Brighton the following day. Both girls had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death.Bishop was charged with their murders the following year, but was cleared following a trial at Lewes Crown Court.But after the longest investigation in Sussex Police’s history, Bishop was charged with the killings once again after the Court of Appeal quashed his original acquittal. Police searching an area where the girl's bodies were found The jury at the Old Bailey was told that the case against Bishop was based on similarities between the two cases, but also developments in DNA and forensic science, which was not available at the time of the original trial. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mr Altman told the jury: “Despite the acquittal the case was never closed and the police have continued to investigate it.“One significant part of the enquiry has been to re evaluate various areas of scientific work that were performed for the purposes of the 1987 trial but through the lens of modern day techniques, DNA profiling which although available in 1986 and 1987 was the in its infancy.”He went on:  “Because of the new evidence and without making any judgment about the guilt or otherwise of this defendant, the Court of Appeal has quashed the 1987 acquittals. That means the defendant can be prosecuted again based on the evidence that existed then and the new evidence that is available now. “Evidence of the re-evaluation of the science available at the time of the original trial and new science, we suggest proves that Russell Bishop was to the exclusion of anyone else responsible for the murders of the two girls.” Bishop denies the murders and the trial is expected to last up to eight weeks. A convicted paedophile acquitted of the kidnap and murder of two schoolgirls more than 30 years ago has gone on trial for a second time after new DNA evidence came to light, the Old Bailey has been told.Russell Bishop, 52, was found not guilty of the sexually motivated murders of nine-year-old schoolgirls, Karen Hadaway and Nicola Fellows, who were killed in Brighton in 1986.Three years after walking free from court in December 1987, he molested another seven-year-old girl, strangled her and left her for dead in the Whitehawk area of the city.For more than three decades the investigation into Nicola and Karen’s killings remained open and last year, following advances in DNA and forensic technology, Sussex Police charged Bishop with the notorious double murder.Karen and Nicola, who were close friends, disappeared from near their homes in the Moulsecoomb area of Brighton on 9 October 1986 after going out to play. Police searching an area where the girl’s bodies were foundCredit:Ken Mason  read more