Moroccan Official Says Air Pollution Costs 162 percent of Moroccos GDP

Rabat – Morocco’s Secretary of State for Sustainable Development Nezha El Ouafi said that the economic cost of air pollution in Morocco is estimated at 1.62 percent of the country’s GDP.The statement came during a press briefing at the National Laboratory for Studies and Pollution Monitoring. El Ouafi added that the cost of air pollution in Morocco adds up to nearly $1.2 billion per year due to its effects on public health and the environment.The worrying number means Morocco attaches special importance to air pollution because of its direct impact on people and the environment, El Ouafi said. Vehicle emissions are the most important sources of air pollution in Moroccan urban centers, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of the pollution. Aside from causing economic problems, air pollution causes a great public health risk globally. According to a 2016 World Health Organization study, 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. The study also found that a shocking 92 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with unhealthy levels of pollution.Read also: Villagers in Morocco Demand Return of Their Land after Mining Pollution read more

ChinaCanada differences go beyond Beijings critical outgoing envoy Carr

OTTAWA — Canada’s trade minister is downplaying the forthcoming departure of China’s outspoken envoy to Ottawa, saying differences between the countries stretch beyond the ambassador’s level.Jim Carr says in an interview that the federal government is awaiting China’s decision on its replacement for outgoing ambassador Lu Shaye, who has had harsh words for Canada during his two-year tenure.Sources say the French-speaking Lu will leave his Ottawa post in the coming weeks for a new position in Paris.Canada’s relationship with its second-biggest trading partner has deteriorated rapidly since the December arrest of a Huawei senior executive in Vancouver following an extradition request by the United States.China was outraged by the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, and has since detained two Canadians on allegations of espionage, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments such as canola.Asked about Lu’s criticisms, Carr says personalities are not at the centre of the diplomatic dispute, and that the ambassador’s job is to express the view of his government.Lu has used strong words when talking about the Canada-China relationship — for example, he told Canadian journalists last winter that Meng’s arrest was the “backstabbing” of a friend and evidence of white supremacism.He also warned of repercussions if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a next-generation 5G wireless network in Canada.Carr said the Liberal government still hopes to solve the bilateral differences by engaging China on many levels, not just through an ambassador.“I would only assume that whatever is being spoken by the Chinese ambassador to Canada has the full support of the government, so this is an issue that goes beyond the ambassadorial level,” Carr said Wednesday before leaving for Japan on a trade mission to find new markets for Canadian products, including canola.“Of course, we await the decision of the Chinese government to replace the existing ambassador and we will reach out to whomever is in that place and make the same arguments to him or her that we’re making now.”Word of Lu’s departure comes at a time when Canada does not have an ambassador in Beijing. Last winter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired Canada’s former ambassador to China, John McCallum, for going off-script in the government’s efforts to win the release of the two detained Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Before his posting in Beijing, McCallum was a longtime Liberal MP and cabinet minister.The Canadian Press read more

Lebanons reconstruction focus of talks between Ban Kimoon and French leader

Mr. Ban and Mr. Chirac discussed the results of yesterday’s donor conference on Lebanon, which is attempting to rebuild itself after last year’s war between the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hizbollah, as well as the country’s tense political situation.During the conference yesterday Mr. Ban told participants that “political stability has to be the bedrock on which we consolidate economic recovery and reconstruction” in Lebanon, and he urged the nation’s neighbours “to fully respect its unity, independence and sovereignty. Lebanese democracy can only work if its leaders are free to make decisions and pursue reconciliation without fear of external pressure or interference.”Today the Secretary-General and Mr. Chirac also discussed an environmental conference scheduled to be held in the French capital next week, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.He said the two leaders talked about Côte d’Ivoire, the conflict in Darfur and the unstable situation on the common border between Darfur and neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).Mr. Ban, who is undertaking his first overseas trip since becoming Secretary-General on 1 January, heads now to Africa, where he will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia and Kenya in the week ahead.In the DRC, Mr. Ban will conduct talks in Kinshasa with President Joseph Kabila and other senior Government officials, as well as with peacekeepers and civilian staff of the UN’s largest mission. He will also address the National Assembly and make a brief visit to nearby Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo, to meet with President Sassou Nguesso.The Secretary-General will then go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union (AU) Summit, where he expects to discuss the Darfur crisis with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, as well as confer with the continent’s leaders on the conflicts in Chad, Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire.Mr. Ban will end his African tour with a stop in Nairobi, where he will meet Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, followed by a trip to the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. While in the Netherlands, he will also meet with Queen Beatrix as well as the Dutch Prime Minister and senior officials.After that, Mr. Ban is scheduled to go to Washington for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet – the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the United States, Russia and the European Union – which is seeking a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace. 26 January 2007The reconstruction of Lebanon and an upcoming international environmental summit topped the agenda during talks today in Paris between United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Jacques Chirac. read more

Afghanistan UN mission to boost dialogue with former insurgents envoy says

3 December 2007The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today it intends to continue reaching out to a number of groups previously involved in the insurgency that are now seeking to end the violence and participate in rebuilding the fledgling democracy. The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today it intends to continue reaching out to a number of groups previously involved in the insurgency that are now seeking to end the violence and participate in rebuilding the fledgling democracy. Political outreach is one of the Mission’s three priorities over the coming year, along with strengthening the rule of law and integrating the complex and numerous efforts underway in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative, Chris Alexander, told a press briefing in Kabul.Efforts will include engaging with those Afghan individuals and groups who, for one reason or another, have come to feel excluded from the political and development process currently underway in the country, Mr. Alexander noted.“We also intend to continue reaching out to some groups hitherto involved in the insurgency, who are now seeking ways to end the violence,” he said. The objective is to help them “re-connect with their Government and their society, participate in strengthening institutions and join with us in a concerted effort to consolidate peace.”Conditions for dialogue with these groups are set by Afghans themselves – the Government, the Parliament and civil society – but clearly, “Those Afghans who show good will, who are willing to live under the current Afghan Constitution, to participate in Afghanistan’s legitimate institutions, and to end their participation in violence – are welcome in this process,” he said.Afghanistan has experienced one of the bloodiest years since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 owing to increased violence and terrorist activity by the Taliban, Al-Qaida and other extremist groups. Mr. Alexander insisted that this would not deter the international community’s efforts to bring stability and development to the country.“Our conviction is that the appetite for peace in the coming year will grow and the dialogue about peace will be broader and deeper than ever,” he stated.Another area the Mission would be focusing on is strengthening the rule of law, including bolstering the capacity and performance of Afghanistan’s justice institutions, as well as improving access to justice for all Afghans.“The rule of law is not only about courts and prosecutors, trials and prisons,” noted Mr. Alexander, stressing that improved law enforcement across Afghanistan will continue to depend on the success of police reform – a priority for the international community. While the scale of the challenges inside Afghanistan has grown, so has international commitment to respond. “The international community is spending between $3 billion and $4 billion this year on development in all its forms, from roads to health care clinics,” he said. In addition, there are provincial development plans now for all 34 provinces, and the number of international military forces in the country has doubled in the past couple of years. Mr. Alexander expressed confidence that the coming year would mark a new beginning for the country, stating that “through political outreach, by strengthening the rule of law, and by integrating the very complex and large scale efforts underway to support Afghanistan, we think that 2008 can be a year of achievement for this country, a year of achievement for its international partners, and a year of achievement for the United Nations.” read more

New UN rights chief stresses need to tackle discrimination prevent genocide

“Genocide is the ultimate form of discrimination,” Navanethem Pillay told delegates at the opening of the ninth session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. “We must all do everything in our power to prevent it.”Ms. Pillay spent eight years as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and five on the International Criminal Court in The Hague before taking up her post as the UN’s top human rights official on 1 September.Drawing on her experience dealing with war crimes and crimes against humanity, the High Commissioner called for a stronger focus on preventing genocide, as well as the “cycles of violence, the mobilization of fear and the political exploitation of difference – ethnic, racial and religious difference” that lead to it.She noted that 2008 contains a number of important human rights milestones – including the 60th anniversaries of the Genocide Convention on 9 December, and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December.At the same time, she pointed out that both the Universal Declaration and the Genocide Convention “grew out of the Holocaust, but we have yet to learn the lesson of the Holocaust, as genocide continues.”Ms. Pillay, who herself experienced discrimination while living in apartheid South Africa, added that development, security, peace and justice are all undermined “when discrimination and inequality – both in blatant and subtle ways – are allowed to fester and to poison harmonious coexistence.”She urged States not to let “diverging points of view” deter them from taking part in next year’s review of the 2001 global conference against racism, known as the “Durban Review Conference,” the process leading to which has been heavily criticized.“I do not believe that ‘all or nothing’ is the right approach to affirm one’s principles or to win an argument,” she said. “The process will certainly benefit from active participation by all States… Should differences be allowed to become pretexts for inaction, the hopes and aspirations of the many victims of intolerance would be dashed perhaps irreparably.”She said that former South African President Nelson Mandela had taught her that “far from being appeasement, coming to terms with other people’s experiences and points of view may serve the interest of justice better than strategies that leave no room for negotiation.”In her speech, Ms. Pillay also emphasized that gender discrimination remains a major concern. “Such discrimination makes the Universal Declaration’s promise an empty pledge for millions of women and girls,” she said. “No effort should be spared to persuade countries to repeal laws and practices that continue to reduce women and girls to second-class citizens despite international standards and despite the specific commitments that have been made to throw out these laws and customs.”She pledged to carry out her role as High Commissioner in an impartial fashion, without favouring one set of rights over another. “The credibility of human rights work depends on its commitment to truth,” she said, “with no tolerance for double standards or selective application.”Over the course of the next three weeks, the Council is expected to consider human rights situations that require its attention, including follow-up to its special sessions on Darfur, Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, and the global food crisis. The Council’s President, Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, told delegates how important it is to conduct the body’s work in a spirit of candor, transparency and mutual respect for the viewpoints of others.“We cannot afford to do otherwise, given the importance and sensitivity we all attach to human rights issues…While we must continue to insist that all human rights issues be given an open and fair hearing, we must also recognize that our work in the Council is primarily to promote and protect human rights for all people; to improve the human rights situation of victims, and not merely to condemn and to name and shame,” he stated. 8 September 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today stressed the need to address discrimination and inequality, and to do more to prevent genocide, in her first major speech since taking up her new post. read more

Top UN envoy urges Iraq to protect minorities after latest killing in

In a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, expressed his “shock and outrage” at the continuing targeting and killing of religious minorities.Some 2,200 families, or over 9,000 people, had fled Iraq’s second largest city due to the upsurge in attacks, threats and intimidation in early October. On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency reported that some of the Christian families that had fled were beginning to return after hearing that the security situation had improved. Iraqi security forces have recently strengthened their presence in the area, with up to 35,000 army and police personnel in Mosul city alone, resulting in a decline in the number of explosions and arbitrary killings, according to UNAMI.Mr. de Mistura said Mosul has historically been and must remain the cradle of religious and ethnic diversity, reiterating the UN’s position that respecting and guaranteeing the rights of minorities in Iraq is “absolutely fundamental to a stable and democratic future for the country.” He called on the Iraqi Government to do everything in its power to safeguard the human rights of Christians, Yezidis, Shebeks and other minorities – all of whom have been the victims of terrible attacks – and to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are swiftly brought to justice. The Special Representative also urged local authorities, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government, to assist in protecting the rights of minorities and their religious identity, as well as in ending impunity for these criminal attacks. 13 November 2008The top United Nations official in Iraq has urged the Government to do all it can to protect the country’s minorities, after two Christian women were killed in the northern city of Mosul, just hours after some families displaced by recent violence began returning to their homes. read more

Amazon loses more forest while carbonneutral movement grows UN says

“Our Amazonia is changing at an accelerated rate with very profound modifications in its ecosystems,” the eight Amazonian countries declared in the GEO Amazonia report, supported by UNEP and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO). Despite the development of national programmes to manage the region’s ecosystems, economic activities, infrastructure construction, and human settlements are still decimating the great rain forest, vital to keeping atmospheric carbon down.The report says that by 2005, 857,666 square kilometres of the forest had been transformed, reducing vegetation cover by approximately 17 per cent, equal to two-thirds of Peru or 94 per cent of Venezuela.It recommends that the countries of the area – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – harmonize their efforts for sustainable utilization of the Amazonian ecosystems.It also called on them to bolster their environmental institutions, boost their information campaigns, promote the economic value of sustainability and create a monitoring and evaluation system for all policies, programmes and projects.Meanwhile, UNEP announced today that Copenhagen, Denmark, which will host the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in less than 300 days, has become the 100th member of the Climate Change Network (CN Net).Launched a year ago, the CN Net brings together a wide range of participants, including countries, cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UNEP said.“One year on, the unfolding financial and environmental crises make the CN Net more relevant than ever before as a showcase of both the promise and viability of the low-carbon development model which goes hand-in-hand with the emerging Green Economy initiatives around the globe,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the agency’s annual Governing Council meeting, taking place this week in Nairobi.UNEP added that Copenhagen, under its vision of becoming a “climate capital of the world,” has already cut its CO2 emissions by one-fifth since 1990 and has pledged another 20 per cent cut by 2015.The city will play host to a music and arts festival in September to be run entirely on renewable energy, including a dance party in which stationary bike teams will generate power for the sound system and ‘piezoelectricity’ created by dancing crowds will light up the dance floor.In a related development, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said today that experts at a Geneva conference urged the world maritime shipping fleet to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of seaborne vessels, adding that dealing with climate change is a priority that should not be undermined by other concerns such as the current global financial crisis. Engines of seaborne vessels now contribute between 1.6 and 4.1 per cent of the global output of CO2, speakers said at the three-day meeting entitled: “Maritime transport and the climate-change challenge.” 19 February 2009New releases from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today show two sides of the human effect on climate change, with a report revealing hastened degradation of the earth’s largest forest zone and the Danish city of Copenhagen becoming the 100th member of a climate-friendly network. read more

UN online tool allows people to track nations pledges on climate change

People around the world can now keep tabs on countries’ promises and proposals on combating climate change, thanks to a new online tool launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).The Climate Pledge Tracker was launched today in Copenhagen, Denmark, where nations are currently meeting with the aim of agreeing on an ambitious new agreement.The new programme will be updated as new proposals are made in the Danish capital, and it compares and consolidates all pledges made to date with the goal of keeping global temperature rise at or under 2 degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels.The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that to stave off the worst effects of climate change, industrialized countries must slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, and that global emissions must be halved by 2050.“With this tracker, everyone – within the [Copenhagen] conference and beyond – can, from their office or living room, monitor the ambition of governments to ‘seal a convincing deal’ by 18 December,” when the gathering is set to end, according to Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.The tracking system, which will continue to be operational after the Copenhagen conference ends, currently lists the pledges and proposals from 25 countries – including developing economies such as China, India and Costa Rica – and the European Union’s 27 Member States.It estimates that if the most ambitious existing pledges are fully realized, including with financial support for developing countries, the world would be on track to achieve emissions reductions of 47.5 billion tons by 2020, which is close to what is required to give the world a 50 per cent chance of meeting the 2 degrees centigrade temperature target. 11 December 2009People around the world can now keep tabs on countries’ promises and proposals on combating climate change, thanks to a new online tool launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). read more

UN assisting thousands uprooted by insecurity in eastern DR Congo

Since last December, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has registered 15,508 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the troubled eastern province of North Kivu.UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters that this latest wave of displacement brings to 116,000 the population of camps in and around Kitchanga. The agency is currently managing 47 IDP camps in the region, providing protection and assistance.Fierce fighting has persisted in eastern DRC, particularly in North and South Kivu, where Hutu militants blamed for the Rwandan genocide of 1994 have fled. Last year the Congolese Government launched several offensives targeting the group known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), with logistical support from the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUC).UNHCR noted that other militias and armed groups have taken advantage of the situation, attacking civilians, looting property, committing rape and burning homes.“We estimate that so far we have registered only a part of the recently displaced population and that many more could be sheltering with host families or hiding in the woods fearing to return to their homes,” said Mr. Mahecic. “These IDPs cannot be accessed due to insecurity and impassable roads.”UNHCR estimates that there are some 2.1 million IDPs in eastern DRC where it says harassment, human rights abuses, rapes and intimidations against civilians are regularly reported by the local population.Meanwhile, the UN and its aid partners have voiced concern about the dire humanitarian needs in Sud-Ubangi district in the country’s north-west Equateur province as a result of recent armed violence.While the efforts of the national army and MONUC have helped to restore calm, there are at least 60,000 IDPs in the province, where clashes that erupted last year over fishing and farming rights between different ethnic groups in one area later turned into widespread violence. “After weeks of insecurity, the area is now sufficiently safe for humanitarian operations and we are stepping up our response efforts,” said Abdou Dieng, acting Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC.The World Food Programme (WFP) has already distributed 48 metric tons of food aid for one month to almost 5,740 people in Boyazala and Bozene, while food rations for a further 30-day period are expected to reach an additional 22,400 IDPs in Bokonzi as soon as the security situation permits.Also, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is planning a number of measures, including a measles vaccination campaign for all children under five, the provision of food and safe drinking water, and the rehabilitation of schools and the distribution of educational materials.The violence in Equateur province also resulted in 109,000 people fleeing to neighbouring Republic of Congo, and 18,000 to the Central African Republic (CAR). 26 January 2010The United Nations refugee agency said today it is assisting over 100,000 civilians who have fled eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in recent months due to the ongoing military offensive against Hutu militants and banditry by armed groups. read more

NEWSMAKER UN official counters negative media coverage of Haiti recovery effort

25 February 2010A top United Nations official in Haiti says not enough media coverage has been devoted to the progress made by Haitians, humanitarian workers and their partners since the devastating earthquake struck nearly six weeks ago. “It is very easy for example to be interviewed and asked the difficult question ‘why aren’t you doing more?’” Kim Bolduc, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, told the UN News Centre as part of its Newsmaker profile series. “It is very important to remind everyone that seldom in our history have we seen such a sizeable type of operation set up within days of the emergency. Everything that has been achieved has been achieved at great sacrifice for people who are still standing in the field and running the operations,” she added. Ms. Bolduc arrived in Haiti just one and a half months before the 12 January earthquake, which killed an estimated 220,000 people, injured some 300,000 others and left 1.2 million homeless. In the first 48 hours after the quake struck, as the search was underway for the top UN envoy in Haiti, Hedi Annabi, and his principal deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa, she took temporary control of the UN mission, known as MINUSTAH, whose headquarters was reduced to rubble. “We had to simultaneously take care of search and rescue operations while helping the Government in collecting the dead bodies out in the streets, and also to immediately try to organize relief support to provide food, water and medical care for all the people who were devastated by the earthquake,” she said. The international relief effort has been criticized for being too slow, but Ms. Bolduc disagrees. “If you think about the number of people affected – three million people in a country like Haiti where the centre of the capacity – the capital – has been destroyed, managing after five or six weeks to feed over two million people is an accomplishment.” The team in Haiti celebrates every small victory, she added, recalling how during the first week it would check daily to see how many people were fed through the World Food Programme (WFP). “At first we found out that only 10 per cent of the people were fed, and then 15, then 20, then 30, that sort of moment was very important,” she said. Looking ahead to the country’s longer-term needs, she noted there is an opportunity to build back better and stronger in what was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere prior to the earthquake. “I think everyone wants the same thing for Haiti – a strong Haiti, a sustainable Haiti and a Haiti that has a future for its children and the future generation. This is the dream of everyone that is currently struggling here on the ground and for others who are not here who are also supporting internationally,” she added. Ms. Bolduc – a Canadian national born in Viet Nam – served with the UN in Brazil and Iraq before her post in Haiti. She was seriously injured during the 2003 bomb attack on the Canal Hotel in Baghdad that killed 22 UN staff, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello. She managed to escape unharmed from the Haiti quake, and started working right away to gather the capacity that was left to try to carry on the humanitarian work in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. “I think what has kept me going has always been the belief that if I struggled hard enough I would be able to help at least one person and that is not a chance that is given to everyone in all kinds of job,” stated Ms. Bolduc. That is the beauty of working for the UN, she added. read more

Thai diplomat chosen as next head of UN Human Rights Council

Sihasak Phuangketkeow becomes the fifth president of the 47-member Council, which replaced the earlier UN Commission on Human Rights that was scrapped amid concerns about its effectiveness. He was the candidate of the panel’s Asian members.Mr. Phuangketkeow told the Council today in Geneva that he wanted to concentrate over the next year on how members can use their “rich diversity” to forge a more united agenda on key human rights issues.Council members “need to draw synergy from such diversity, recognizing that human rights are indeed universal, indivisible and interdependent, and recognizing… that we all share a common stake in the credibility and effectiveness of the Council as a whole,” he said.Mr. Phuangketkeow succeeds Alex van Meeuwen of Belgium as the Council’s President.Meanwhile, on Friday the Council appointed several new special rapporteurs who will focus on monitoring human rights as they relate to certain issues or countries.Christof Heyns becomes the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, succeeding Philip Alston; Heiner Bielefeldt replaces Asma Jahangir as the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; and Kishore Singh takes over from Vernor Muñoz Villalobos as the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.Calin Georgescu is now Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, succeeding Okechukwu Ibeanu; Fatsah Ouguergouz replaces Akich Okola as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi; and Marzuki Darusman is the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), taking over from Vitit Muntarbhorn.Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts report to the Human Rights Council and serve in both an independent and unpaid capacity. 21 June 2010Thailand’s Ambassador to the United Nations Office in Geneva was today named as the newest President of the UN Human Rights Council, the panel established in 2006 to tackle human rights violations worldwide. read more

Record food purchases from developing nations helps UN agency save more lives

The food came from 96 nations, including Ethiopia, Viet Nam and Guatemala, and helped people affected by the epic flooding in Pakistan, the earthquake in Haiti, and the drought in the Sahel region of Africa, according to the agency, which released its report on 2010 purchasing earlier today in Geneva.“More than 80 per cent of all food WFP bought last year came from developing countries,” Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement. “During a time of record food prices, this investment saves lives and protects livelihoods by harnessing the purchasing power of WFP, one of the largest food buyers in the world, to invest in the agricultural economies of developing nations and deliver food assistance directly to the hungry poor who are most affected by natural disasters, wars and displacement.” The agency’s capacity to efficiently purchase has been enhanced by the growing quota of cash contributions and by new and innovative hunger tools, including advance purchase mechanisms that allow the use of cash to buy in advance and in bulk when prices are lower, Ms. Sheeran noted.“This approach allows us to save money, save delivery time and – most importantly – save lives.”Through a groundbreaking agreement signed in December 2010, WFP will buy enough wheat directly from farmers in Afghanistan to help feed more than 500,000 people in the country for three months, marking the largest local purchase ever by the agency.The effort is part of the agency’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, through which it buys surplus from local farmers for its aid operations, thereby helping to boost agricultural production and incomes in developing nations. 11 February 2011The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) procured $1.25 billion in food commodities last year, including the purchase of more food than ever before from developing nations, enabling the agency to save money, delivery time and human lives while helping to boost agricultural production and incomes. read more

UN helps train nearly 300 guards for Haitis overcrowded prisons

“The urgency was there,” Renald Jean René, a corrections official in the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said of the five-week course, during which the 297 police graduates also learned how to handle stress and hostage situations, and escort prisoners safely within jails and outside on their way to court.On prisoners’ rights, the graduates were taught that “every jailed person keeps the rights and privileges of all members of society except for civil and political rights and the freedom to move freely outside.”The new recruits, who will be deployed to the country’s 17 prisons, join 240 others who were trained in 2008. All told, there are some 1,000 prison guards for more than 6,000 prisoners throughout the country.The prison training programme is just one of the many functions performed by MINUSTAH, ranging from ensuring security and helping to respond to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, to improving roads and general infrastructure in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The 12,000-strong peacekeeping mission has been in the country since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. 7 September 2011Haiti’s understaffed prison services will benefit from nearly 300 new recruits, thanks to a United Nations-backed training programme covering all elements needed for the job, from psychological understanding to respect for prisoners’ rights to knowing when to use force. read more

Former Khmer Rouge leader deemed unfit will not be released by UNbacked

14 December 2011The United Nations-backed genocide tribunal in Cambodia ruled today that Ieng Thirith, a 79-year-old former senior member of the Khmer Rouge who was found unfit to stand trial, will not be released as ordered last month but remain in detention. On 17 November, the trial chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said it found that Ms. Thirith suffers from “a progressive, degenerative condition.” It ordered her unconditional release and that the proceedings against her be stayed.However, the tribunal’s Supreme Court chamber today granted an appeal from the prosecution and set aside the release order, adding that the trial chamber must exhaust all available measurespotentially capable of helping the accused to become fit to stand trial.“Such decision was adopted in the light of the possibility, albeit slight, of a meaningful improvement in the mental health of the accused which was foreseen by the medical experts appointed by the trial chamber,” stated a news release issued by the ECCC.In a situation where the stay of proceedings may be lifted, the Supreme Court chamber found that unconditional release of an accused is not required. It concluded that the original ground for keeping the accused in provisional detention, namely to ensure her presence during the proceedings, remains valid and relevant.Four expert psychiatrists who examined Ms. Thirith in September diagnosed her with clinical dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s, which would hinder her participation in court hearings.The Supreme Court chamber today directed the trial chamber to request additional treatment for the accused “which may help improve her mental health to such extent that she becomes fit to stand trial.” Such treatment is to be carried out in a hospital or other appropriate facility in Cambodia.Six months after the start of this treatment, the accused shall undergo a medial, psychiatric and/or psychological expert examination, after which the trial chamber shall determine her fitness to stand trial without delay.Ms. Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and former foreign minister Ieng Sary, former so-called Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, and former head of State Khieu Samphan, all leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime during the late 1970s.The ECCC is tasked with trying those deemed most responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge. It is an independent court set up under an agreement signed in 2003 by the UN and the Government, and uses a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. read more

A promising market International boutique eyewear companies see growth potential in Canada

TORONTO — Boutique eyewear retailers from around the world have set their sights on Canada as a hotbed for growth, hoping to capitalize on the country’s aging population and what they say is its taste for haute couture.Several companies including Hong Kong’s Mujosh, U.S.-based Warby Parker and Bailey Nelson of Australia have plans to open dozens of new stores over the next few years.“Canadian people focus more and more on fashion trends, which makes Canada a promising market for us,” said Mujosh spokeswoman Doris Jin.Mujosh opened its first Canadian store at West Edmonton Mall last month. It already boasts more than 700 locations worldwide and plans to add shops in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, Jin said.Last year, Canadians spent about $4.2 billion on spectacles, which includes frames, lenses, sunglasses and ready-made reading glasses, according to research firm Euromonitor International. That’s up from about $4.06 billion the previous year and roughly $3.84 billion in 2014. Euromonitor International says its expects steady growth to continue in the near future.“It’s a very friendly market,” said Ela Veresiu, assistant professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.Bailey Nelson entered Canada in 2014, though it had to close its seven stores last month after the company severed a licensee agreement, said Bree Stanlake, the company’s managing director of North America.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston But it’s coming back with two corporate-owned locations in Vancouver this spring, with plans to open one more in Vancouver and two others in Toronto over the next year, Stanlake said.“Across Canada, I can see easily between 40 and 50 stores in the next four years,” she said.Last summer, Warby Parker chose Canada when it opened its first bricks-and-mortar store outside the U.S. It now has two Toronto locations.Not to be outdone, some Canadian boutique chains also have ambitious growth goals. Montreal-based Bonlook currently has eight locations, but is planning to have more than 40 stores by early 2020, said company spokeswoman Andreanne Ferland.Canadian people focus more and more on fashion trends, which makes Canada a promising market for usPart of what makes Canada so attractive is because vision problems are growing. A rising older population and more screen time among younger generations has resulted in more people needing glasses, Euromonitor International said in a report last year.One-quarter of Canada’s population is far-sighted, while 30 per cent have near-sightedness, Euromonitor International said. A larger number of people over 55 years of age also means a higher rate of presbyopia, an age-related vision problem.Many of Canada’s provincial health plans also cover regular eye exams for children, teens and seniors, meaning more Canadians have the means to spend on eyewear.‘Doors shuttering, rents retreating’: Around 8,500 stores may close in U.S. this year alone as Amazon chews up retailersNational Post – Saturday. Apr. 1, 2017 ‘Not the first time’: Holt Renfrew cuts employee hours, shuffles execs amid luxury upheavalMujosh’s Jin said there’s another, more chi-chi factor at play, but that’s not to say the eyewear expansion plans are destined for success.“They can’t just enter a market and expand quickly and think that just because there’s increased demand … they’re going to succeed,” Veresiu said, pointing to Target’s epic collapse in Canada, where it shuttered all of its 133 stores only two years after its launch here.“The smart companies need to do their homework of course.”The Canadian Press read more

Former real estate millionaire Robert Campeau dies at 93

OTTAWA — Robert Campeau, the former real estate mogul who once controlled the Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s department store chains in the United States, has died at 93.An online obituary says he died in Ottawa on Monday. It did not specify a cause of death.Born near Sudbury, Ont., he started a construction company in 1953 and went on to amass a fortune in the real estate development business, with holdings in Ottawa, Toronto, California, Texas and Florida.According to the obituary, Campeau’s company was involved in a number of notable buildings including Place de Ville in Ottawa and Scotia Plaza, Harbour Castle Hotel and Waterpark Place office complex in Toronto.The company also built more than 25,000 houses in the Ottawa area.Campeau lost his empire and most of his fortune in 1990 when an $11-billion investment in the U.S.-based Allied and Federated department store chains collapsed under a mountain of junk-bond debt.Campeau spent several years in Europe after being fired by the company he founded, but returned to Ottawa in 2002.In 1997, his 28,000-square-foot chateau-style Toronto mansion sold far below asking price for $6.17 million.In his later years, Campeau is said to have devoted much of his time to philanthropy through a family foundation that bore his name.The obituary, which appears on the site for Arbor Memorial funeral homes, notes he is survived by a wife, six children and several grand-children and great-grandchildren.“Robert was an avid swimmer, skier, golfer, fisherman and hunter,” it reads. “Robert believed his good exercise regime was the key to his long and healthy life.”A funeral will be held in Ottawa on Thursday. read more

Foreign exchange rates

These are indicative wholesale rates for foreign currency provided by the Bank of Canada on Tuesday. Quotations in Canadian funds.Australia dollar 1.0030Brazil real 0.4051China renminbi 0.1890Euro 1.4911Hong Kong dollar 0.161978India rupee 0.01990Indonesia rupiah 0.000095Japan yen 0.01147Malaysia ringgit 0.2957Mexico peso 0.07079N.Z. dollar 0.9296Norway krone 0.1597Peruvian new sol 0.3908Russia rouble 0.02118Saudi riyal 0.3379Singapore dollar 0.9300South Africa rand 0.09542South Korean won 0.001125Sweden krona 0.1552Switzerland franc 1.3003Taiwanese dollar 0.04198Thailand baht 0.03809Turkey lira 0.3590U.K. pound 1.6458U.S. dollar 1.2672Vietnam dong 0.000056

GL regrets Tutus statement

Since the end of the conflict, the Government has implemented several housing reconstruction programmes through which 60,000 houses have been rehabilitated and 10,000 are currently being constructed in the North and East. These efforts are being augmented by bilateral donor assistance in constructing additional 50,000 houses. In addition, families whose houses were fully damaged were financially assisted to rebuild. Further, the Government has put in place massive infrastructure and economic development programmes, in the former theatre of conflict, with a total allocation of USD 700 million. As a part of livelihood support, a self employment loan scheme has been initiated for the people in the North and East. Already thousands of beneficiaries have been apportioned USD 318 million. Additionally, beneficiaries were provided Enterprise Development Services (EDS) including assistance for the self employed. These measures have culminated in a 22% economic growth in the North, while the country’s GDP grew at 8% in 2011. While the offer of support by The Elders is noted, I wish to reiterate that the best assistance that representations of the international community could afford Sri Lanka in its reconciliation process at this juncture is to provide the required time and space to the Government in implementing the LLRC recommendations. While appreciating the interest of The Elders Foundation in the post-conflict development in my country, as stated in your letter to His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka on 17th February 2012, it is regretted that you thought it necessary to address the Members of the Human Rights Council, urging intervention in Sri Lanka, a matter that requires deeper study and understanding of the related facts. Therefore, I wish to take this opportunity to elaborate on the progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka relating to resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation with a view to bringing sustainable peace in the country, with the end of the separatist, terrorist conflict in May 2009. From the 11,993 ex-combatants of the terrorist group, around 750 remain under detention and also in the Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARC). In relation to the detainees, appropriate investigations have begun in order to institute legal action. Further, all 595 child soldiers of the terrorist group were rehabilitated under a UNICEF-assisted programme, and reintegrated with their families within a year. In respect of the recommendations of the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Government has already taken necessary courses of action. The Report offers detailed observations and recommendations on International Humanitarian Law issues relating to the final phase of the conflict. It also states that protection of the lives of civilians was a key factor in the formulation of military strategy and accepts that the deliberate targeting of civilians formed no part of this policy. However, it clearly accepts that if there is evidence of transgression by individuals this aspect should be further examined. This would inter alia include the establishment of a mechanism for gathering and assessing factual evidence relating to the episodes indicated, buttressed by a strong investigative arm. The outcome of this process will determine whether there is a basis for criminal proceedings to be  initiated.  In this respect, the local legal institutions are in the process of studying the relevant material contained in the Report. The Government has further on its own accord already carried out a series of measures that included conducting of a comprehensive census in the Northern Province to facilitate firm and verifiable conclusions important for establishing accountability. The Government of Sri Lanka has assiduously continued to engage with the international community on the developments in Sri Lanka and brief them adequately. The recently launched National Human Rights Action Plan submitted to the Parliament contains a clear roadmap and timelines for implementation. Aspects of this Plan has relevance to some of the LLRC recommendations. Undoubtedly, national reconciliation is one of the priority aims of the Government of Sri Lanka at this juncture and this includes political and constitutional initiatives to address the root causes and provide restorative justice to those affected. In keeping with Sri Lanka’s uninterrupted democratic tradition, with the Parliament at the helm of governance representing the people, a Parliamentary Select Committee has been established to achieve a national consensus for constitutional changes necessary for the sustainability of the political process. In parallel, the Government is also conducting bilateral discussions with Tamil political parties on a structured basis. The Trilingual Policy introduced by the Government remains a cornerstone in building bridges among the communities and consolidating a sense of national unity. Already more than 1500 Tamil speaking police officers have been recruited to the North and East. As a means of enhancing their effectiveness, units of the Attorney-General’s Department will also be established in provinces to provide procedural guidance to the police. Full letter: External Affairs Minister G.L Peiris has written to South African Archbishop and human rights activist Desmond Tutu expressing regret over his statement on Sri Lanka.The Minister said that the best assistance that representations of the international community could afford Sri Lanka in its reconciliation process at this juncture is to provide the required time and space to the Government in implementing the LLRC recommendations. Sri Lanka, having ended a 30 year long scourge of terrorism, has now the opportunity to derive the fullest benefit from its natural strengths. In this context, the Government has taken several incremental steps to restore normalcy and rebuild the lives of those who have been affected by the conflict. These steps include the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), initiating infrastructure development projects in the former theatre of conflict, rehabilitation of ex-combatants, and embarking on a process of reconciliation including restorative justice, political and constitutional initiatives. You would no doubt agree, that it is the Government of Sri Lanka which is best placed in evolving a home-grown solution acceptable to all the citizens of the country. Therefore, internationalizing a domestic issue by any initiative through the HRC at this point of time would only lead to derailing the ongoing reconciliation process that has been put in place by the Government. As we look around the conflicts unfolding globally and the prescriptions meted out by a part of the international community, it is clear that external interventions without the consent of the country concerned do not achieve the envisaged sustainable peace but continue to exacerbate the situation. Within the last two and half years, of the 290,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), 6569 remain to be resettled, an effort which has been commended internationally. The Government has already spent USD 360 million for the resettlement programme. These remaining IDPs will be resettled once the demining process is complete. De-mining of conflict affected areas has been done at a pace comparable anywhere in the world. The Government has at present demined 1,412 square kilometers out of the 2,046 square kilometers contaminated with landmines. More than 42,000 Antipersonnel and 227 Antitank Mines and more than 15,000 items of Unexploded Ordnance have been recovered from these areas. Yours sincerely, In order to deal with the complex issue of lands, the Government has already begun a process to draft a Prescription (Special Provisions) Act, which once enacted, would favourably consider claims for immovable property including land of displaced or disadvantaged persons. Further in recognition of the importance in dismantling of High Security Zones to resettlement, the process was initiated prior to the Commission’s Report, which therefore recognized that the area had diminished significantly. By the end of the conflict in 2009, the High Security Zones (HSZ) accounted for 4098.36 Hectares and at present, 2582.45 Hectares remain. The Government will closely monitor and expedite continuing progress in this regard.  In accordance with established practice of post-conflict demobilization, the Government has institutionalized a process through a Parliamentary Consultative Committee, to continuously record specific details on the number of weapons ceased and raids conducted to bring about a total end to the possession of unauthorized weapons. Prof. G. L .Peiris read more

Sri Lanka needs space to recover

Referring to the Commonwealth which is headquartered in London, Prof Peiris said it must be remembered that this is a voluntary organisation of 54 member-states with diverse cultures, ethnicities and value systems and that it cannot be a monolith.“If a few member-states attempt to turn such an organisation into a political tool in pursuit of their own agendas, it would not only damage the ethos that the Commonwealth represents but also threaten the very future of the organization,” he said. “These challenges cannot be answered and resolved overnight. They take time and a nation needs space to do so. Sri Lanka is urging that it be given the time and space,” the minister said. Destroyed infrastructure had to be rebuilt and the government invested enormous funds to resuscitate the economy of the war- ravaged areas so that the people would have a means of livelihood for them and their families, the Minister said. (Colombo Gazette) He also said that Sri Lanka is ready and willing to work with the international community to achieve these ends but it cannot be achieved if its efforts at peaceful resolution of its problems are met with constant vilification and castigation by a few in the international community. The Minister stressed that no other country that has emerged from years of internecine strife and terrorism has achieved what Sri Lanka has done in such a short time.He said that the country faced tremendous multiple challenges. Among these challenges was to provide food, shelter and medicines for nearly 300,000 persons displaced from the conflict areas. There were thousands of ex-combatants who had to be rehabilitated and returned to society. There were child soldiers of the LTTE who had to be helped and returned to their families.In addition there were hundreds of thousands of mines and other explosive devices that had to de-activated and removed so that displaced persons could return safely to their former homes and the land put to productive use. The government says Sri Lanka needs time to return to normalcy after nearly three decades of  terrorism and secessionist war.A statement by the External Affairs Ministry quoted Minister G.L Peiris as saying that the reconciliation and rehabilitation is a slow process as other countries that have gone through similar experiences will understand and appreciate. read more

Lankan national held in Tiruchi for smuggling gold

In all, 1,070 grams was seized from him. The value of the contraband has been put at Rs. 28.19 lakh.He was a frequent flyer to Chennai and Tiruchi, sources further said. A Sri Lankan national was arrested by the Customs authorities at the international airport in Tiruchi after he was found smuggling a little over one kg of gold in various shapes in the rectum.The Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) of the Customs caught Prasad Indika (43) after he landed in Tiruchi from Colombo by a Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL-133 last afternoon, The Hindu newspaper reported. During inquiry, it was found he had concealed the gold in his rectum. The concealed gold was in various shapes — in cylindrical form besides a couple of gold biscuits, a chain and a ring, sources said. Airport sources said the officials grew suspicious by his walking style and detained him for questioning. read more