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Monday, October 7th, 2019

 

UN warns against civilian displacement in northeast Syria following US withdrawal

Following reports that the United States is withdrawing troops from northeast Syria, the UN warned on Monday against the further displacement of civilians from the war-torn region.

Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Panos Moumtzis, reportedly told correspondents in Geneva the UN had made contingency plans to assist civilians forced to flee south, if Turkish forces advance on Kurdish positions, following the US policy shift.

He said any military operation had to take the effects on civilians into account, adding that the UN is “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst”, according to news reports.

US allies, the Syrian Kurdish militia, or YPG, are considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, with Ankara arguing for the creation of a so-called “safe zone” for civilians along the Syrian border, under its control.

Mr. Moumtzis said that the concept had not worked in the past, referencing the massacre of Bosnian Muslims at the hands of Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica, in 1995.


Our disaster preparedness wanting; the nation requires a paradigm shift

By DAVID KIGO
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Looking at Kenya’s history on unexpected disasters or calamities, one notices a trend that has refused to go away.

We have never learnt from past mistakes. Our agencies, mostly public, will rush to the scene of calamities, led mostly by political leaders, give a way forward in what needs to be done and, a few months after the incident, it is back to business as usual.

Let’s go back to 1998, when Al-Qaeda brought hell on earth to Nairobi by bombing the American Embassy, in the process destroying the Ufundi Co-operative House.

More Kenyans would have been buried alive in the rubble had the Israelis not come to our rescue.

Many thought we had learnt a lesson and emulate the Israelis or try to learn from them about disaster preparedness and rescue missions. We never did.

A house under construction on Ronald Ngala Street came tumbling a few years later, burying alive the workers at the site.

Our emergency responders, including the armed forces, fumbled with rescue efforts until the Israelis were — once again — called in days later to spearhead the mission and save lives.

RESPONSE TIME

It was the same story with the Al-Shabaab attacks on Garissa University and Westgate and many other incidents where lives could be saved but were not.

It is only in the DusitD2 incident that Kenyans saw quick and coordinated response. Although 20-plus Kenyans and some foreigners were killed by the terrorists, the quick response by local rescue teams was appreciated by Kenyans.

Many other cases, however, prove that Kenya is still far from perfect in reacting to incidents where human life is at threat.

Kenyans from all walks of life have been saddened by the slowness by the authorities to retrieve the bodies of a woman and her four-year-old daughter whose car slid from the ferry and sank in the Indian Ocean.

Although much has been said about the shoddy and unprofessional manner the agencies have handled the matter, the buck stops at the door of the Kenya Ferry Services’ leadership.

KENYA NAVY

All Kenyans hear from the authorities is a blame game among government agencies.

The government spokesman is engaging Kenyans with non-issues while the vehicle and the bodies are yet to be sighted and retrieved.

Once again, the Transport minister has said they might involve a South African company in the mission.

All this is happening when the Kenya Navy, with all the expertise and resources available and with its main barracks a stone’s throw away, are yet to be involved.

Where do we go wrong? Is it that we cannot set up structures to deal with disasters and rapid response? Is it not time the governments, both county and national, became serious and established departments besides firefighters and ambulances, to entirely train and equip themselves for such occurrences?

It seems we never learnt from the Mtongwe ferry disaster in 1994 and the terrorist attacks that have rocked our nation.


Streamline relief food process to stop theft

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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Reports of a possible loss of Sh10 billion earmarked for drought mitigation presents a perverted sense of irony.

The loss of any public money, no matter the amount and department, is criminal. But it is extremely bad if that money is meant to feed the starving and save lives. Such an act amounts to dancing on the graves of the famished Kenyans.

The latest report by the Auditor-General indicates that the National Drought Management Authority cannot account for some Sh10.4 billion it was allocated in the 2017/2018 financial year.

In an ideal situation, the government should not be allocating cash to feed people. However, due to failing rains every other year, poor agricultural practices and wrong distribution and marketing systems, the country is perennially food-starved.

Just to illustrate this, recent statistics from the government showed that at least 2.6 million people were in the throes of starvation, necessitating humanitarian assistance to avert mass deaths.

CASH TRANSFERS

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Given the pervasiveness of hunger, the government allocates cash for food aid every year and, in addition, receives donations from the United Nations’ agencies and other international organisations for the same purpose.

Paradoxically, it is these allocations for the deprived that cannot be properly accounted for. But this is not the first time questions are being raised over utilisation of food cash.

On several occasions, some government officials and crooked individuals have been caught stealing cash or the actual food meant for the starving population.

Indeed, just the other day, the government spokesman, Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna, announced a plan to stop direct food aid and replace it with cash transfers.

INVESTIGATE

Underpinning this was the fact that food handouts were being stolen and redirected, hardly benefitting the targeted groups.

Not that cash transfer is fail-safe. Like other such grants, it is also vulnerable to theft and massive losses.

More fundamentally, the government must address itself to food security and shift from perennial relief food.

In fact, the creation of the National Drought Management Authority is an oxymoron, an admission that the State cannot feed the citizens and, hence, has to create an emergency outfit. Yet the country prides itself as an agriculture-based economy.

The relevant agencies — such as the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission — ought to get to the bottom of the matter and, should there be evidence of theft, drastic action must be taken against the culprits.

All the processes of cash and food disbursement must be interrogated to seal loopholes that allow for graft and pilferage.

It is extremely absurd that some fellows could be feeding off the cash meant to mitigate hunger.


Curb snake bite deaths

EDITORIALBy EDITORIAL
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The deaths of nearly 1,000 people every year from snake bites, which could easily have been prevented with the availability of the right anti-venom drugs, is a needless public health sector headache.

Indeed, this is a conservative figure as the toll could be much higher since many cases in the remote areas go unreported.

It’s a pity that many of the victims die simply because the nearby public health facilities do not have adequate stocks of anti-venom medicines.

These very useful drugs are not that expensive and should be available at every health facility throughout the country, especially in the snake bite-prone rural areas.

It is a damning mockery of the fairly well-developed public healthcare system to have so many Kenyans die from such preventable causes as all that is needed is to import and stock the right anti-venom drugs.

REFORM SYSTEM

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The increased encroachment on forested areas for settlement and agriculture has diminished the habitat for snakes and other creatures, heightening the human-wildlife conflict.

Since snake bites are the highest cause of death in this conflict, one would expect the national capacity to deal with the threat to be enhanced.

Health officials in Lamu and Taita-Taveta counties, which are some of the most affected, are up in arms over the importation of ineffective drugs.

But that some of the imported drugs have been found to be ineffective cannot be a justification for these deaths.

Interestingly, however, venom produced in Kenya is exported to South Africa for the manufacture of anti-venom drugs, which are unavailable to Kenyans because they are yet to be registered locally.

What a lame excuse, when the country is faced with such a serious health challenge! The Health authorities can do better.


Nowhere to hide: Big Data making the world too small for tax cheats

EDWIN OKOTHBy EDWIN OKOTH
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Comprehensive data gathering from other government agencies is set to give the Kenya Revenue Authority more muscle in the war against tax evasion and bring more earners into the tax bracket.

Save for telcos who had cited privacy violations in sharing mobile money transactions details, the Nation has learnt that other agencies such as Kenya Power, banks, the National Transport and Safety Authority as well as other records officers aligned to individual and company economic activities have been sharing data with the taxman.

Data on how many electricity meters one owns from Kenya Power is enough to arouse a rental tax demand from KRA while comparing the number of car logbooks one has registered with NTSA with the tax filing of an individual will raise questions should the two fail to make sense.

Doctors who file nil returns will have questions to answer when insurance payout data show they have been making income.

Contractors too have no place to hide with records on projects they register at the National Construction Authority which specifies, among other details, the value of the project and professional fees.

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It is now impossible to open a new bank account without a valid KRA PIN and banks have been asking customers to update their PIN details, signalling their entry into the information sharing scheme. Data is making the world too small for tax evasion in Kenya.

The approach, according to KRA officials, makes it easy to harness more taxpayers and targeting specific individuals suspected of ‘misdeclaring’ as efforts to harness revenues for the government enters a new high.

WINNING STRATEGY

KRA chief manager in charge of knowledge management and innovation Cosmas Kemboi told Sunday Nation in an interview that the strategy has been a success for the taxman, particularly on bringing aboard evasive landlords.

“The use of data for tax purposes boosted collection from the real estate alone by 41 percent and the data centre now gives us a 360-degree view of a taxpayer making it hard to misdeclare. All one has to do is to declare the true income and pay full tax on it, no one will follow you. The understanding we have with the agencies is that the data shared is used for tax purposes only and nothing more,” Mr Kemboi said.

SUPPORTED BY LAW

The taxman is relying on the Tax Procedures Act that compels institutions and persons to submit third party returns, upon being required to do so by the commissioner.

Telcos, which had been targeted to share data on mobile money transactions, especially on the business platforms with pay bills and till numbers, have previously opposed the move and KRA is said to be in discussion with the firms to access the information as well.

The use of data to assess individuals and companies for taxes even becomes easier with the digitisation of other government operations including payments through the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis). Those doing businesses with counties cannot escape with the Ifmis now integrated with KRA’s i-Tax.

GIG ECONOMY

Data sharing in the era of fast growing gig economy will be a game-changer for KRA which finds it very hard to estimate incomes from individuals involved in multiple income-generating activities.

Also on the taxman’s radar are the online traders whose tax compliance have been shaky since they do not have any particular locations where their compliance can be enforced.

“We have been working on a plan that will see us acquire a digital tax collection service to facilitate the collection of tax from these businesses. We have already advertised for it and we are receiving expression of interests,” Mr Kemboi said.

KRA plans to have at least seven million more tax payers on its systems by end of June 2021 after the tax base grew to 50.5 million people in the year ended June 2019.


Low bonuses: Tea farmers want KTDA managers voted out

BARNABAS BIIBy BARNABAS BII
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Small-scale tea farmers in the Rift Valley want Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) directors removed over alleged mismanagement that led to a low bonus payment this season.

The farmers want elections held to vote out incompetent directors and accuse the current management of failure to introduce aggressive marketing strategies for tea products to earn attractive prices that would translate to high bonuses.

“KTDA requires an urgent overhaul to cushion farmers against being pushed out of the sector due to the high cost of production coupled with low returns.

GLOBAL MARKET

“Competent managers who can market our tea in the competitive global market should take over,” said Mathew Lang’at, of Ndurio, Kaptumo zone, in Nandi County.

The farmers decried the high deductions from tea earnings to sustain KTDA operations at the expense of farmers.

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The more than 30,000 tea growers from various tea factories demanded an investigation into alleged financial misconduct.

“Such low bonus amounts to exploitation of farmers, who face numerous challenges ranging from servicing loans to maintaining tea bushes,” said the farmers from Nandi County led by David Too and Joseph Lagat.

Most tea factories in the county paid Sh14 a kilo this season compared with Sh26 last year.

KTDA managers linked the fall in bonus pay to a drop in global prices by about Sh22 a kilo due to surplus production.

Tea farmers in Vihiga County will receive Sh14 per kilo as bonus while their counterparts at Kapsara tea factory in Trans Nzoia County will be paid Sh11 per kilo.

They complained that the money was too low, with some threatening to uproot the cash crop and invest in other ventures.

Their counterparts in Kisii were paid Sh11 per kilo, the lowest in many seasons.

“The farmers expected to earn above Sh50 per kilo after global prices stabilised to cushion them from high production costs,” said Mr James Too, from Kapsara in Trans Nzoia.

The farmers’ sentiments were supported by local leaders.

“Why should farmers continue electing directors who fail to articulate their issues especially when it comes to payment of bonuses?” asked Nandi Governor Stephen Sang in a past interview.

Last year, KTDA attributed higher bonuses to improved quality of green tea and aggressive marketing.

The authority, which buys tea from about 560,000 small-scale farmers, paid Sh63 billion in bonuses last year, down from Sh52.6 billion the previous year.

Several multinational firms in western Kenya did away with second payments due to falling tea prices in the international market.


Waldgeist stuns Enable in Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

DEJA VUBy DEJA VU
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Enable (Frankie Dettori 4-5), was given a royal reception of cheers, upon leaving the parade ring, stalls, when hitting the front, and, even on her way back after an unhappy ending during Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

In fact, an eerie silence fell over Longchamp on Sunday afternoon, as Waldgeist, 5, took the honours from the World’s most adored Enable, by 2.5 lengths. It happened to be a 98th Arc de Triomphe, which Enable almost clicked for a third time.

Thousands of supporters arrived to urge their stunning filly home, but she actually began to droop in the final furlong, allowing Waldgeist his moment of glory.

 Frankie Dettori riding horse Italian jockey Frankie Dettori riding horse “Enable” reacts after finishing second during the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe flat race at the ParisLongchamp race track in Paris, on October 6, 2019. Waldgeist denied Enable a historic third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victory on October 6, 2019 in a thrilling race at Paris Longchamp. PHOTO | GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT | AFP

It can only be described as a phenomenal turn of footy. Normally, it is Enable who conjures up crazy speed where it matters.

Trainer, John Gosden, was understandably deflated, possibly blaming a rain-soaked ground for Enable’s withering state. He congratulated all connections, of course.

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So, it was Andre Fabre who prepared Waldgeist at 16-1, to cause this major-league upset.

This is why the sport is ever turbulent and magnetic. Andre scored his eighth Arc win, which he first managed 32 years ago with Trempolino.

He has since been regarded as one of the greatest of his generation. He is now 73, but looks 60.

Ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot for owners, Gestut Ammerland and Newsells Park, Waldgeist’s future is unknown.

French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot (2ndL)French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot (2ndL) holds up the trophy on the podium, flanked by Qatari Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani (R) and French President of France Galop Edouard de Rothschild (2ndR), after winning on “Waldgeist” during the 2019 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe flat race at the ParisLongchamp race track in Paris, on October 6, 2019. PHOTO | GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT | AFP

Immediate retirement could be an option. Sottsass finished third under Cristian Demuro, for Jean-Claude Rouget at 8-1.

Japan, Magical, and, Soft Light, filled other spots for the 2,400m journey. Ghaiyyaf led handsomely until fading up the straight. Twelve runners remained, after an initial entry of eighty.

All events on the Longchamp card, were full of strange results.


Regional bloc signs agreement with the African Risk Capacity

AFPBy AFP
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The African Risk Capacity (ARC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on disaster risk management and financing in the region.

The agreement is intended to help put in place proactive and comprehensive measures to reduce the negative impact of disasters and other vulnerability drivers in the SADC region.

“The partnership will enable us to systematically work with SADC to better profile disaster risks facing the region, strengthen existing response capacities and contingency plans, and offer sovereign insurance options to enable rapid action when natural catastrophes occur”, stated Dr Mohamed Beavogui, the Director-General of African Risk Capacity, in a press statement.

PRONE TO DISASTERS

The SADC region is prone to a myriad climate and natural disaster risks, including droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and epidemics. These have had devastating impacts on the populations with negative consequences for livelihoods and economic growth.

The SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena L. Tax, noted that the partnership with ARC would place the region on a path to augmenting its existing response mechanism against drought and other climate risks.

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Since 2014, 32 ARC policies have been signed by member states, with $73 million(Sh7.3 billion) paid in premiums for a cumulative insurance coverage of $553 million(Sh55.3 billion) for the protection of 55 million vulnerable population in participating countries.


Study: Gender, attitude influence choice of courses

CLAIRE WASILWABy CLAIRE WASILWA
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The choice of courses by Kenyan youths is driven by gender and attitude, a new study has revealed.

According to a study conducted on vocational training centres, by Zizi Afrique Foundation’s Ujana360 project, the imbalance in gender was clear in both the general enrolment and the choice of courses.

The 30 vocational training centres where the study was conducted had a total enrolment of 3,183 students. Of these, 60 percent (1,922) were male and the rest 1,026 were female, with a difference in gender of about 800 students.

GARMENT MAKING

Building technology, metal processing technology and carpentry and joinery did not have a single female student enrolled across all the institutions.

On the other hand, fashion design and garment making, and hairdressing and beauty therapy were predominantly female courses.

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There were only three male students who registered for each of the courses.

“In terms of gender, male students preferred motor vehicle technology, building technology, metal processing technology, carpentry and joinery, plumbing and computer and electronics. Female students, on the other hand, preferred Fashion design and garment making, hairdressing and beauty therapy, and catering and housekeeping,” stated part of the report.

However, ICT was the most popular course in both gender with an entry of 108 male students and 113 female students

PREFERRED COURSES

The scouting study established that the three most preferred courses in all institutions were fashion design and garment making, motor vehicle technology, ICT and building technology.

The study further identified poor infrastructure and disparity of the trainees in entry levels as a challenge to the implementation of TVET curricula.

One asked, ‘how do you teach a Class Eight dropout and a form Four graduate in the same class, without demoralising one, or leaving the other behind.

“The language of instruction was an issue, because many school dropouts could not comfortably communicate in English, while those that had completed secondary school preferred English,” the report further stated.

Poor infrastructure was described as inadequate physical resources stating that most the institutions were using outdated technologies or no equipment at all for practical training.

The esteem (attitude) of the students was also cited as a problem, describing it as the ‘failure mentality’, which often yielded dropout.

The study was conducted in 30 vocational training centres, both public and private, in 11 counties: Nairobi, Machakos, Kitui, Mombasa, Nyeri, Kisumu, Kericho, Turkana, Narok, Embu and Siaya.

The mapping exercise established that many courses are offered in the different vocational training centres. On average, each centre was offering at least seven courses.

Some private centres, however, had specialised in a few (1-3) courses, providing for greater institutional specialisation.


Los países del sur sufren las consecuencias más graves del desplazamiento de refugiados

Casos como los de Venezuela son muestra de esas consecuencias, pero también evidencian la solidaridad de los países del sur. En su reunión anual, el responsable de la Agencia para los refugiados destaca la nociva retórica contra los refugiados y lanza una campaña contra la apatridia en la que participa la actriz, Cate Blanchett.

El Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados destacó este lunes que durante el último año se ha subrayado la importancia del por qué es necesario contar con un Pacto Mundial sobre los Refugiados y cómo éste empieza a “remodelar nuestra repuesta colectiva”.

En contra de la creencia popular, los refugiados, los solicitantes de asilo y las personas desplazadas generalmente se ubican en los países en desarrollo y estos países necesitan un apoyo internacional más sustancial y sostenible, dijo Filippo Grandi en la apertura de la 70ª sesión del Comité Ejecutivo de la Agencia de la ONU en Ginebra.

Filippo Grandi destacó que, pese a que gran parte del debate sobre el desplazamiento forzado de personas se centra en su llegada a países del norte, las consecuencias más profundas se producen en los países del sur que reciben a estas personas, y puso como ejemplo el caso de Venezuela.

“Más de cuatro millones de venezolanos han abandonado el país, la mayoría de ellos refugiados en 14 países de América Latina y el Caribe. La mayoría de estos Estados han mostrado una solidaridad encomiable, a pesar de las inmensas presiones. La reciente decisión de Colombia de otorgar la ciudadanía a los hijos de venezolanos es un ejemplo, y el Proceso de Quito está ayudando a dar forma a un enfoque regional”.

Asimismo, ahondó en la división de respuestas que provocan “los flujos mixtos” de refugiados y migrantes y denunció una “retórica política generalizada” que “explota las ansiedades” de las personas excluidas de los beneficios generados por la globalización y dirige estos temores contra los refugiados y los migrantes.

“Enfrentar a unos excluidos contra otros no sólo es cínico e inmoral, sino que rara vez ofrece soluciones prácticas para ambos. Y las medidas adoptadas o invocadas para reducir las corrientes (retrocesos, externalización de la tramitación de asilo, políticas de disuasión) erosionan la protección de los refugiados sin abordar realmente las causas profundas de las corrientes mixtas o los problemas de la integración”.

Grandi destacó la complejidad de estas situaciones y puso como ejemplo su reciente visita a México donde observó “impresionantes ejemplos de integración de refugiados” que, unidas a las crecientes presiones migratorias regionales, hacen necesario considerar el “adoptar una serie de medidas para hacer frente a estos flujos mixtos”, como los integrados bajo el Marco Integral Regional para la Protección y Soluciones.

**Desplazamientos de larga duración **

Acto seguido, Grandi destacó su preocupación por la falta de medidas políticas ante las crisis de desplazados de larga duración, como el cuadragésimo aniversario de la crisis de refugiados afganos donde “lamentablemente, los esfuerzos de paz parecen haberse estancado una vez más” y solamente 15.000 refugiados consiguieron regresar a sus hogares.

Aumentan los esfuerzos contra la apatridia

Previamente a la sesión de apertura del Comité Ejecutivo, Grandi advirtió que los recientes progresos en la lucha contra la apatridia se ven amenazados por un aumento de “expresiones nocivas” de nacionalismo pero que aumenta el número de países que está tomando medidas contra ella.

“Hace apenas cinco años, la conciencia pública sobre la apatridia y el daño que produce era insignificante. Esto está cambiando, y la posibilidad de acabar con la apatridia nunca ha estado tan cerca como ahora”, dijo.

Pero para lograrlo, es necesario encontrar soluciones urgentes para millones de personas sin ciudadanía o en riesgo de apatridia en todo el mundo, “incluidos los rohinyás de Myanmar y las poblaciones minoritarias en riesgo de apatridia en Assam, India. Sin ellas, corremos el riesgo de profundizar la exclusión que ya afecta a la vida de millones de personas”.

Durante el encuentro también estuvo presente la actriz y embajadora de Buena Voluntad de ACNUR, Cate Blanchett, quien reconoció que hasta hace unos años no había sido consciente de que la apatridia era un problema mundial. Para ilustrar el problema, invitó a la audiencia a imaginar sus vidas sin carnet de conducir, pasaporte, tarjetas de crédito o sanitaria.

“No podía creer que hubiera tanta gente viviendo bajo un estigma perpetuo, continuo y generacional”, dijo.

ACNUR lanzó la campaña mundial #I Belong (#Yopertenezco) el año 2014 con el objetivo de acabar con la apatridia para 2024. Durante los primeros cinco años de la campaña, más de 220.000 apátridas pudieron adquirir una nacionalidad en países tan diversos como Kenya, Tayikistán, Tailandia y Kirguistán.

Esta última nación se convirtió el pasado mes de julio en el primer país del mundo en anunciar la plena resolución de todos los casos conocidos de apatridia.

Durante esta semana destacadas figuras de diversos ámbitos se reunirán con los Estados miembros en una sesión especial de la reunión del Comité Ejecutivo del ACNUR conocida como Segmento de Alto Nivel sobre la Apatridia, donde se evaluarán los progresos conseguidos por la campaña hasta el momento, y se formularán compromisos para acabar con la apatridia el año 2024.