Syria misses deadline to remove chemical weapons

first_imgA December 31 deadline to remove part of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons arsenal from the country for destruction has been missed, with ships due to receive the materials returning to Cyprus.In Syria, meanwhile, a newspaper quoted government officials as saying invitations to a peace meeting in Switzerland next month had not been issued, blaming the delay on disarray among the country’s opposition groups.And in northern Aleppo, at least 10 people were killed when a regime tank shell slammed into a bus in Aleppo city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Norwegian frigate and a Danish warship had been near the Syrian coast waiting to dock at the port in Latakia to escort chemical materials to Italy, ahead of their destruction at sea on a US ship.But the vessels returned to port in Cyprus on Monday night as it became clear that the removal mission would not go ahead as scheduled.Lars Hovtun, a spokesman for the Norwegian ship HNoMS Helge Ingstad gave no new date for the mission to escort the dangerous cargo out of Syria.“We are still on high alert to go into Syria,” he said. “We still don’t know exactly when the orders will come.”The international disarmament mission in Syria had acknowledged on Saturday it was “unlikely” the weapons could be transported to Latakia in time for the December 31 deadline set for the removal of key weapons components.But the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons remained positive on Tuesday, saying the overall plan to rid Syria of its chemical arsenal was on track.“An enormous amount of work has been accomplished in three months,” OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier told AFP.“Syria’s chemical arsenal has been completely neutralised, the chemical agents and chemical products are under international control, have been sealed… the effective dismantling of the production and filling plants is on course.”“All unfilled munitions have been destroyed, so even if the Syrians tried to get their hands on certain chemical products they wouldn’t have the weapons to use them,” Chartier said.“Their capacity to produce and use chemical weapons has been reduced to zero.”Chartier said the operation was still on track to meet a deadline to rid Syria of its chemical arsenal by mid-2014.“The most important deadline in our eyes is June 30, and nothing leads us to believe that it won’t be met,” he said.The failure to meet the December 31 deadline underlines the complexity of the task of disarming Syria of its chemical weapons in the middle of a bloody civil war.On Saturday, the UN and OPCW said the war, logistical problems, and bad weather had held up the transport of chemical agents to Latakia for pick-up.Syria agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and turn over its arsenal for destruction in the wake of a devastating chemical weapons attack that prompted the United States to threaten military action against Damascus.The August 21 chemical attack, which the opposition and the United States blamed on the Syrian regime, is believed to have killed hundreds of people on the outskirts of Damascus.Syria’s Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, addressing the parliament on Tuesday, said the government was complying with its obligations.“We were able to accomplish what was agreed upon, destroying the chemical production and mixing sites,” he said.“Now we have started collecting these materials so they can be transferred to the Syrian ports and taken to other places and destroyed within a timeframe that Syria has committed to.”On the diplomatic front, Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper quoted a foreign ministry source as saying invitations to the a peace conference scheduled for January 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux.The source said invites were to have been sent by December 28, and the delay was “the result of the floundering efforts to form a delegation representing the ‘opposition’.”The key opposition National Coalition has yet to officially announce it is attending the conference, and there are questions about whether staunch regime ally Iran will be invited.In Aleppo city meanwhile, the Observatory said 10 people, including two children, were killed when a regime tank shell hit a bus.The monitoring group said the toll could rise as many of those injured were in critical condition.last_img read more

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Spain reaffirms commitment to reach political solution to sahara issue report

Madrid – Spain reaffirms its “active commitment” to reaching a “lasting, just and mutually acceptable political solution” to the Sahara issue, according to the annual report on national security, adopted Friday by the Spanish Council of Ministers.“In accordance with UN resolutions, Spain, as a member of the Group of Friends of the Sahara, reiterates its active commitment to finding a lasting, just and mutually acceptable political solution” to the Sahara issue, says the report prepared by the department of homeland security under the Presidency of the Spanish Government.The document assesses the progress of the National Security Strategy to address the dangers that may threaten the safety of Spain, including terrorism, armed conflicts, cyber threats, organized crime, economic and financial instability, energy vulnerability, illegal migration, weapons of mass destruction, espionage, and natural disasters.The report also welcomes the commitment of the various departments of the state to coping with the dangers and potential threats to Spain in “an ever-changing world.” read more

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Carlo Ancelotti Greets Real Madrids Moroccan Fans

Marrakech – Real Madrid’s Italian coach, Carlo Ancelotti, greeted Moroccan fans who supported Spain’s royal team during its semi-final match against Cruz Azul of Mexico, in the Club World Cup that is currently taking place in Morocco from December 10 through December 20.In a press conference held after the match, Carlo Ancholuti, said, “I applaud the Moroccan public for supporting us in this match. Real Madrid is a global team, and wherever we go, we find fans who support us.”The coach said that the match that brought together the two clubs was well controlled by the Royal team, especially after Ramos scored the first goal. “Ramos’s goal made the match easier for us, and gave us greater confidence, which contributed significantly to the result achieved by the winning team,”he added.Real Madrid defeated Cruz Azul four goals to nil.Edited by Elisabeth Myers read more

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Scottish Police Make Hijab Optional Part of its Uniform

Casablanca – An announcement made yesterday by Scottish police came amidst an international uproar in reaction to France’s outlawing of the Muslim beachwear known as the burkini, and its coercion of Muslim women to remove the burkini in French beaches.Police Scotland’s ratification of the Islamic headscarf was made in hopes of encouraging Muslim women to pursue the career of policing in the country.“Today’s announcement formally ratifies the Police Scotland hijab and will encourage women from Muslim communities, who may previously not have seen policing as a career option, to reconsider,” says Police Scotland’s official website. Chief Constable Phil Gormley, who made the announcement yesterday stated:“I am delighted to make this announcement and welcome the support from both the Muslim community, and the wider community, as well as police officers and staff.”Chief Gormley also highlighted that the purpose of the decision is to make the policing sector in Scotland reflective of the cultural and religious mix of the Scottish community, following in the footsteps of other sectors.“I hope that this addition to our uniform options will contribute to making our staff mix more diverse and adds to the life skills, experiences and personal qualities that our officers and staff bring to policing the communities of Scotland,” highlighted the announcer.Fahad Bashir, Chair of the Scottish Police Muslim Association welcomed this “positive step” and expressed his delight that “Police Scotland is taking productive steps in order to ensure that our organization is seen to be inclusive and represents the diverse communities that we serve across Scotland.”“No doubt this will encourage more women from Muslim and minority ethnic backgrounds to join Police Scotland,” continued Bashir.According to the BBC, out of the Muslim women who work with Scottish Police, none of them wear the veil, neither on duty nor out of it. read more

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Moroccan Delegation Visits Israel

Rabat – Israel’s Channel 1 has reported on the arrival of a Moroccan delegation in Israel to participate in a conference, kicked off Tuesday in Jerusalem.The goal of the conference  is to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Israel and Morocco.The visit of the delegation, consisting of doctors, human rights activists and journalists, has prompted several Arabic newspapers to publish rebukes, claiming that Morocco’s “normalization with Israel is still continuing.” In an interview with the Channel, Jewish Dr. Orna Baziz, one of the survivors of Agadir’s earthquake in 1960 and director of the conference, said that “the aim of the event is the linguistic and cultural integration [between Moroccans and Israelis].Baziz went on to introduce herself as a researcher of Moroccan affairs and spoke about the warm reception that she receives in Morocco, revealing that she had been born in Agadir.Regarding the Moroccan delegates, Baziz said, “We have invited people who were born in Morocco, including ten Muslims. Four persons directly departed from Morocco, in addition to poets and journalists will come from Madrid.”Baziz continued, “The design of the participation of Moroccan delegation is to gather together and suggest initiatives, since our conference includes sessions focus on brainstorming and activities that we can work on in the future.”This  is not the first time Moroccans have visited Isreal. In December 2016, Israel’s capital hosted seven Moroccan journalists “to improve the image of Israel in the Arab World.” read more

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Authorities Punish Royal Gendarmerie Officers for Profession Mistakes

Rabat- The Royal Gendarmerie in Rabat has imposed disciplinary sanctions on several senior officials in Mohamed Haramou’s department.Along with several colonels, the senior officials were sanctioned for committing “profession mistakes,” stated the daily Almassae in its March 6th edition. The news source did not specify what the mistakes were.The sanctions also affected intelligence chiefs, who were suspended from their duties pending a final decision, according to Almassae. General Haramou, head of the Royal Gendarmerie, has also made several changes in the ranks of his department.Haramou was appointed by King Mohammed VI in early December 2017, replacing Lieutenant General Hosni Benslimane.

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New Jersey becomes 4th state to approve 15 hourly wage

ELIZABETH, N.J. — New Jersey on Monday became the latest state boost its hourly minimum wage to $15 after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a measure phasing in the higher rate over five years.Murphy signed the bill alongside Democratic legislative leaders in Elizabeth after the trio announced a deal on the higher wage last month.New Jersey joins California, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia in phasing in the higher rate. The $15 wage is a prominent policy goal of left-leaning groups, as well as the fulfilment of a key campaign promise by Murphy.“Working families deserve financial security. A higher minimum wage will support families, strengthen our economy, and help make New Jersey more affordable,” Murphy said in a tweet announcing his plan to sign the legislation Monday.Republicans and many businesses, though, testified during hearings that the higher wage will increase costs and hurt commerce.The bill raises the current $8.85 minimum wage to $10 an hour in July, and then increases the rate by $1 in subsequent years until it reaches $15 in 2024, but not for all workers.Farm workers’ wages will climb to $12.50 over five years, for example. Small businesses with and seasonal employees would see their minimum wage reach $15 an hour in 2026. Tipped workers, who currently have a minimum hourly wage of $2.13, would see it climb to $5.13 an hour by 2024.Mike Catalini, The Associated Press read more

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Moroccos Jailed Activist Nasser Zefzafi Begins Hunger Strike Again

Rabat – Jailed Hirak Rif activist Nasser Zefzafi has started a hunger strike to protest “torture” and “harassment” in Casablanca’s Oukacha prison.In a four-minute video, Nasser Zefzafi’s father, Ahmed Zefzafi, conveyed Zezafi’s message to all Moroccans that supported or did not support him.In the video, posted on Facebook Thursday, August 30, Zefzafi’s father said that his son told his mother that he would start a hunger strike and would not even drink water until he dies. Zefzafi’s decision was made in response to “harassment” and “torture” that he alleges he has suffered in the prison.Ahmed Zefzafi said that his son asked for “forgiveness” from all people, including those who do not support him.He also asked his mother to tell his family not to intervene in the hunger strike.According to his father, Zezafi is still being held in the small solitary cell where he was jailed before his trial.“He can only pray when he sits on a chair because the surface of the cell is too small.”“He is determined not to eat or drink until his demands are met. It is a strike of no return,” the father told AFP.“He only asks for the rights that other prisoners enjoy: that he be taken out of isolation in a solitary cell and put him in a dignified cell where he can see and talk” with the other jailed activists, added Ahmad.Zefzafi was arrested in May 2017 after he interrupted a Friday prayer in a mosque to protest the sermon’s content.In June, a court in Casablanca gave sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years for 54 Hirak Rif activists. Zefzafi and three other activists received 20 years in prison.On Eid alAdha, King Mohammed VI pardoned 188 prisoners involved in unauthorized protests in the Al Hoceima province.The protests erupted after the death of Mouhcine Fikri, a local fishmonger, who attempted to save his goods when they were confiscated and thrown in a garbage truck.Fikri jumped into the garbage truck and was crushed to death.More than 400 activists were arrested in a government crackdown of the protests. read more

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RAM 100 Flights Cancelled in 2 Weeks as Rift with Pilots

Rabat – The rift between RAM management and pilots union has created an unending series of last-minute flight cancellations and angry customers.The Royal Air Maroc (RAM) pilots, represented by the National Association of Pilots (AMPL), have grown “inflexible” in their salary demands.RAM has called off more than 100 flights in two weeks, causing the frustration of passengers, who, despite the company’s ongoing troubles continued buying RAM tickets. Passengers hoped that the company’s trouble would not last as long as it now has, according to Moroccan newspaper L’Economiste. Since the start of the strike on July 18, RAM reportedly loses MAD 20 million daily, and the situation is “growing wayward and unmanageable.” The company is “overwhelmed and does not know what to say,” L’Economiste quoted a senior RAM managing officer as saying.The rapidly rising costs of the strike pressured RAM’s CEO Abdelhamid Abdou to call for a meeting with AMPL members on Wednesday, July 25. And while the general expectation was that a crisis recovery strategy would be found by August to avoid the grim prospect of losing the busiest and most profitable month of the summer period, the company’s pilots have recently hardened their position, claiming that RAM’s work requirements are “untenable.”An AMPL representative told Moroccan outlet Medias 24 on Tuesday, July 31, that pilots will only resume work when all their demands are met. He said that the pilots would not be lured by a crisis recovery plan that does not address all their requests. He also explained that AMPL’s position is “inflexible” and that RAM could remain paralyzed for the remaining days of the summer period.“For years we were flexible and we did not speak up, but now the situation has become unbearable,” he said. “As far as we are concerned RAM’s commercial office is the only one responsible for the ongoing disturbances at airports.”Meanwhile, RAM’s bruised reputation continues to be further affected as the company’s customers complain about long delays and last-minute changes of schedule. RAM has set up special units to inform passengers in a timely manner—a day or two before set departure time—and take care of hotel and restaurants costs for passengers of cancelled night flights. These “preventive measures are a very heavy burden on the company’s finances,” the managing officer was quoted as saying. read more

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WHO Moroccan Migrants More Likely than Europeans to Be Sick in

By Amal El AttaqThe World Health Organization (WHO) has found that immigrants from Morocco are more likely to have diseases in Europe than other Europeans.In the Netherlands, migrants from Morocco “had a higher risk for cardiovascular diseases than the host majority population, and this risk did not change with duration of stay or cultural adaptation,” said the WHO report. Ill health may be linked to weight problems. WHO added that “some evidence suggests that, in Europe, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is higher for migrant children of both sexes from Morocco and Middle East.”The report also found that girls with migrant background were more likely to be overweight or obese than migrant boys.Read Also: Morocco Thwarted 88,761 Irregular Migration Attempts in 2018The report related that national laws can conflict with international ones in providing the fundamental right to health.The WHO attributes the higher prevalence of diseases to a lack of adequate medical care and highlighted the case of pregnant women. “Frequently, irregular migrants do not have access to antenatal and postpartum health care services and are often limited to emergency care services,” said the report.The report noted higher rates of cardiovascular diseases among migrant populations and speculated “prevalence may be linked as much to socioeconomic factors as to migration-specific factors.”The report called for European countries to provide medical services for migrants and ensure they have access to medical facilities with good diagnostic methods.According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Moroccans were the second most common national to immigrate to Europe during 2018. A total of 12,745 Moroccan immigrants attempted to get to Europe via the Mediterranean; among them, 11,342 migrants survived the journey to the continent. read more

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Algerian Sovereign Authority to Open Study into Reopening Land Borders with

Rabat – An Algerian “sovereign” authority is consulting with academics on the reopening of closed land border with Morocco.A source quoted by Independent Arabia is expecting “ progress”  in the discussion under “positive” indications from  Morocco.The Independent Arabia’s sources said that a sovereign authority started its consultations with academics and specialists to discuss the “most effective way to open land border” despite the “outstanding controversial issues” between both countries. Algeria has long supported the claims of the Polisario Front, which opposes Morocco’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over Western Sahara.The suggestions of the academics include the establishment of committees made up of several ministries from the two countriesIndependent Arabia recalled Morocco’s recent positive rhetoric “free of the language of rivalry between the two neighbors” amid the popular movement in Algeria.Morocco’s government, however,  had expressed its willingness to open a frank and serious dialogue before the popular movement emerged in Algeria.In a speech marking the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, King Mohammed VI called on the Algerian government to join a frank dialogue to break the stalemate between the two neighbors.“I should like to say today, in a very straightforward and responsible way, that Morocco stands ready for a direct and frank dialogue with our sister nation, Algeria, in order to settle the transient and objective differences impeding the development of relations between the two countries,” said King Mohammed VI in his November 6, 2018 speech.The King renewed his call once again on the eve of Throne Day on July 29.The monarch said that Morocco has reiterated its  commitment to the “policy of the outstretched hand towards our Agerian brothers, out of loyalty to the bonds of rooted in brotherhood, religion, language and good-neighborliness that have always existed between the peoples of the two sister nations.”Independent Arabia  also recalled how Moroccans celebrated the victory of Algeria during the 2019 African Cup of Nations in the borders“It was ended with an official letter from King Mohammed VI, who described Algeria’s win as Morocco’s coronation,” Independent Arabia wrote.In addition to the congratulatory letter, the monarch also expressed Morocco’s commitment to friendship, saying that it was shown through the “the sincere and spontaneous manifestations of friendliness and support expressed by Morocco – its King and its people – for the Algerian national football team at the African Cup of Nations held in our sister country, Egypt.”Algeria closed the border with Morocco in 1994 after Rabat imposed visa regulations on Algerian citizens. Rabat’s decision came following a terrorist attack on the Atlas Asni Hotel in Marrakech. read more

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Spain Grants Morocco €32 Million to Support Moroccos Efforts to Curb

Rabat – The Spanish acting government approved on Friday, August 23,  €32 Million to back Morocco’s efforts to curb irregular migration.Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) reported that the latest grant seeks to “support efforts made by the Moroccan authorities to fight against irregular immigration, smuggling of migrants, and human trafficking.”Spain, added MAP, believes that shared responsibility is necessary to fight the irregular migration flows. The aid is on top of another grant of  €26 Million approved by the Spanish government on July 5.Spanish activism in favor of Morocco’s government at the European Union also led to the approval of a €140 million grant.Khalid Zerouali, director of immigration and border surveillance at the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior believes that “the €140 million is a start; it will not fix the problem, but it is a welcome gesture.” “We also intend to work bilaterally with Spain and Europe in a long-term program,” he added in an interview published earlier this month by countries faced pressure due to the border crisis. The migration surge also urged Spain to supply Morocco with equipment such as radars, vehicles, and 15 drones to help improve migration control, reported Malaga Hoy on August 12.In July, Zerouali said that Morocco has foiled more than 40,300 irregular migration attempts since January 2019.Zerouali said that the number of foiled irregular migration attempts represent a 25% increase from the same period of 2018. read more

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Colombian cities hit by Venezuela gasoline shortages

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s widespread gasoline shortages are starting to affect some cities in neighbouring Colombia, where drivers have long depended on cheap fuel from the socialist-run nation.People in the Colombian border city of Cucuta lined up for hours outside local gas stations on Wednesday to fill their tanks, fearing that shortages could become worse in the following days.Drivers in Cucuta and other cities along the border often buy gasoline from street vendors who smuggle fuel in from Venezuela, and sell it below official prices.But Venezuela’s gasoline shortages have left street vendors and smugglers with almost no fuel to sell in the black market. That has sent thousands of drivers back to legal gas stations that are now struggling to meet demand.The Associated Press read more

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Lowcost Internet next step in closing digital divide officials tell UNbacked forum

28 February 2007Bringing down the costs of Internet access could set off the same wave of connectivity that has made mobile phone usage commonplace in developing countries, said innovators and corporate leaders from some of the world’s leading technology firms meeting today in northern California with government leaders, activists and United Nations officials. For instance, telecom deregulation and skyrocketing cell phone use in Nigeria have produced “spin-offs of spirituality and spin-offs of profit” in that country, Titi Akinsanmi of SchoolnetAfrica Project told the meeting of the UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for Development, explaining that subscribers are devising value-added information services that fill social and religious needs.In 2004 alone, Africa added some 15 million new mobile phone subscribers, a figure which has more than doubled since 1999, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). But making available low-cost computers and cheap Internet depends on a complex chain of on-the-ground realities, of which technological innovation is only one component, Intel Corporation Chairman Craig Barrett pointed out. Among these are strong connection to international Internet, domestic connections and service providers, and content in local languages which meet local needs, said Mr. Barrett, who serves as Chairman of the Alliance’s Steering Committee.A sound regulatory system that encourages fair competition and innovative business models is also a pre-requisite, said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, an Alliance Steering Committee member.With its budget of virtually zero, the Global Alliance is a “low-bureaucracy organization,” Mr. Barrett told some 100 Silicon Valley technology executives, venture capitalists, academics and media members. Its aim is “to improve entrepreneurship, education, health care and government services,” said Mr. Barrett, who travelled last fall to 10 developing countries to explore how technology was being used in rural areas.Today’s exchange of ideas and experiences covered issues such as bringing broadband to Africa, building a volunteer cyber corps and linking venture capital to development. Also on the agenda were talks on crafting local content, encouraging the spread of telecentres, and mining technological innovations for development payoffs. The Silicon Valley meeting was jointly organized by the Global Alliance and Intel Corporation.Founded in 2006, the Global Alliance brings together private, public sector and civil society organizations to collaborate on multi-faceted mechanisms to spread the digital revolution worldwide.The Alliance’s next meeting on 26 March at UN Headquarters in New York will feature assistive technologies for persons with disabilities. In May, there will be a global forum on youth and ICT for development in Geneva, Switzerland. read more

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Palestinians harmed by fishing restrictions off Gaza say UN aid officials

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for an immediate easing of the restrictions given that April is the start of the annual high season, when fish migrate from the Nile Delta region in Egypt to Turkish waters across the Mediterranean Sea.Under current restrictions, Palestinians are allowed to fish only up to six nautical miles off the Gaza coast, whereas a deal in 2002 between the UN and Israel allowed for fishing up to 12 miles off the coast and the Oslo Accords of 1993 gave fishing rights for up to 20 miles.The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have said the restrictions are necessary to prevent Palestinians smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip.Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, described the relaxation of restrictions as critical.“Being confined so close to shore has meant poor catches for Gazan fishermen in terms of fish size, value and quantity,” she said, adding that fish stocks have depleted because many natural breeding grounds are close to shore.Many of the Israeli restrictions seem to be imposed arbitrarily, OCHA said in a press release, with fishing allowed in some locations but not others, and on some days but not others. It called for a means of communication between Israeli naval boats and Palestinian fishermen to reduce the hazards.OCHA also said that many Gaza residents now buy fish imported from Israel at a much higher price because of the restrictions, placing the commodity out of reach of many people.For the families of the fishermen, the reduced income means they have become progressively impoverished over the past six years, and now depend on aid and jobs from the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other humanitarian agencies. 19 April 2007Israeli restrictions on where Palestinian fishermen can work in the waters off the Gaza Strip are hurting more than 40,000 people who depend on the industry as their main source of income, the United Nations humanitarian arm warned today. read more

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Ugandan flood victims receive vital communication tools from UN agency

The United Nations telecommunications agency has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that have affected the eastern and northern regions of Uganda since August. The Government was forced to declare a state of emergency after torrential rains and flash floods swept through the country taking lives, stranding hundreds of thousands of people, destroying road and communication links, and submerging crops. The mobile satellite terminals, provided by the Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU), will help in restoring communication links and facilitating relief efforts in the affected areas. “There is no doubt that communication links are essential to ensure a more effective and coordinated relief effort,” Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, stated. ITU is providing both Thuraya hand-held satellite phones and Inmarsat Global Area Network (GAN) terminals, which are mainly used for voice communications and, in some cases, can be used for high-speed data. ITU pays for all expenses, including transportation of the equipment and usage. “Telecommunications can save lives when natural disasters strike,” Cosmas Zavazava, Head of ITU’s Division for Emergency Telecommunications, said, pointing out that this is not the first time the agency has deployed emergency communications devices in disaster zones. The ITU has provided telecommunications resources for disaster mitigation following an earthquake in Peru in August and severe floods in Bangladesh in September. “It is clear that we are making a difference on the ground,” Mr. Zavazava said. Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a food airdrop operation as part of a massive effort to reach about 10,000 displaced people in two camps after heavy rains blocked the delivery of relief food by road. “Resorting to food airdrops reflects the severity of the heavy rains and floods, which in some parts of Uganda are the worst in 35 years,” said WFP Uganda Acting Country Director Alix Loriston. “There is simply no other way to get survival rations to isolated people.” WFP says the situation in Uganda is serious as some 250,000 displaced people living in camps in northern Uganda did not receive September rations from the agency when heavy rains made it impossible for trucks to reach them. Other displaced people have not received food since July because torrential rains cut roads. WFP urgently needs $17 million to buy food for flood victims in addition to $3.2 million to operate trucks, boats and aircraft on behalf of the entire humanitarian community. It is also undertaking emergency road and bridge repairs. So far, WFP has only received one-fifth of its flood appeal made four weeks ago. 16 October 2007The United Nations telecommunications agency has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that have affected the eastern and northern regions of Uganda since August. read more

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Greater efforts needed to achieve gender balance within UN system – Migiro

While the UN has proclaimed the equal rights of men and women, and the General Assembly has called for 50-50 gender balance in the world body’s staff in numerous resolutions over the years, gender parity has yet to become a reality.“Our own statistics showed an unacceptable lack of progress in achieving gender balance among United Nations staff,” Ms. Migiro said in a message to the expert group meeting on measures to accelerate the improvement in the status of women in the UN system.She noted that, for the past eight years, the share of female Secretariat staff in professional and higher categories increased by an average of only 0.35 per cent per year. Between 2004 and 2006, the proportion of women in most professional grades actually decreased.Also during the same period, there was close to a 20 per cent rise in the proportion of women leaving the Organization voluntarily before retirement age.“Simple projections show that at the current glacial pace, we would achieve gender balance at the USG [Under-Secretary-General] level in 2080, and, even more alarmingly, at the P-5 level in 2120.”In addition, if UN managers today were judged on their performance on gender, “few of them would get a passing grade.” She stressed the need for managers at all levels to be bold and creative in their efforts to reach gender parity throughout the UN system, including in recruiting and retaining qualified women. Ms. Migiro also suggested exploring the kind of temporary special measures that have been used by some Member States to reach legislated gender targets. “It is my firm conviction that without temporary special measures, tradition, whatever its manifestation, cannot be overcome,” she stated. Another area that the Deputy Secretary-General feels requires greater efforts within the Organization is regarding rule of law. “Despite our strengths, we have struggled to ensure strategic coherence and coordination in our engagement in rule of law,” Ms. Migiro told a round-table discussion on cooperation between the UN and rule of law assistance providers, held yesterday.To address that issue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has established the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, which Ms. Migiro chairs, and the Rule of Law Unit. The Unit supports the Group in system-wide coordination, guidance and development of best practices, and fostering effective partnerships with external actors. “With these new arrangements, we have set firmly down a path towards shared strategic and policy direction, coordination and quality-control,” she said, stressing that for the UN, the rule of law is fundamental to achieving long-lasting peace and security, effective protection of human rights, economic progress and sustainable development. 14 November 2007Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called for greater efforts to achieve gender balance within the United Nations system, stating that statistics show an “unacceptable” lack of progress in this area despite the measures taken so far. read more

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International drug trafficking poses biggest threat to Sierra Leone UN warns

3 February 2009Although Sierra Leone continues to progress in consolidating peace six year after a devastating civil war, more remains to be done to make the achievements irreversible, with international drug trafficking posing a critical threat to stability in the impoverished West African country and the region at large, according to a United Nations report released today. “Illicit drug trafficking, a new phenomenon with huge potential for disrupting the security and socio-economic stability of the country, and indeed the region, has to be addressed before it takes root and poses even greater dangers,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report to the Security Council, noting the increasing use of Sierra Leone for transhipment of drugs from South America to Europe.“Cocaine trafficking represents the biggest single threat to Sierra Leone, especially since drug trafficking tends to be accompanied by arms and human trafficking, corruption and the subversion of legitimate State institutions,” he adds.It is “critical” that the international community continue to support the country in combating the menace as well as in fighting sea piracy and supporting the overall process of peacebuilding, he stresses. Various UN agencies are currently helping the operations of the national drug interdiction forceThe report is the first since the October opening of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), the latest in a series of UN missions over the past 10 years that have helped the country get back on its feet from a horrific 10-year war that killed tens of thousands of people and injured countless others, many of whom had their limbs amputated by rebel forces.In it, Mr. Ban charts the progress made and the challenges that still lie ahead, highlighting the need for all segments of the country, including the Government, political parties and civil society to work together to enhance national cohesion and political reconciliation and the urgency of making greater efforts to meet crucial socio-economic demands, including poor infrastructure and an extremely low revenue base.He stresses that urgent action is vital to combat youth unemployment, which remains “the most acute concern” in a country where the young constitute the largest proportion of the population, while calling on both the Government and the international community to ensure that the victims of the war receive the care and rehabilitation they need.On the plus side, he notes that the Government has made the fight against corruption a key element of its reform plan, with the help of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and that infant, child and maternal mortality rates have declined sharply, with support from the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Major security institutions have continued to improve, with UNIPSIL providing substantial input in developing appropriate policing standards, while armed forces reform has advanced. The country continued to register a consistent trend towards respect for civil and political rights, and for the first time in its history there appears to be a change of attitude about female genital mutilation, with some traditional chiefs pledging not to subject anyone under 18 to the practice.Meanwhile, overall economic performance has been mixed with gross domestic product growing at an encouraging 6 per cent in 2008, but economic risks in 2009 include a decline in official development assistance, the high cost of food and fuel, reduction in export revenues due to a slowdown in mining activities, and a decline in remittances from abroad due to the global recession.Sierra Leone is one of the first two countries, along with Burundi, to receive support from the UN Peacebuilding Commission, established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries avoid slipping back into chaos and to determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face.More than 90 per cent of the $35 million granted to Sierra Leone from the Peacebuilding Fund has been used on 14 projects ranging from anti-corruption, decentralization and local governance to the development of an independent national broadcasting service. read more

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Somalia Security Council mandates action against pirates for another year

30 November 2009The Security Council today renewed for another 12 months the authorization for States and regional organizations fighting piracy off the Somali coast to enter the strife-torn country’s territorial waters and “undertake all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia” provided they have the transitional government’s consent. In a resolution adopted unanimously under Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorizing the use of force, the 15-member body also noted with concern that escalating ransom payments and the lack of enforcement of the arms embargo imposed by the Council in 1992 are fuelling the growth of piracy.It called on all States to fully cooperate with the monitoring group on the embargo and reiterated its appeal to countries and regional organizations with the capacity to do so to deploy naval vessels, arms and military aircraft in the fight again a scourge that has over the years frequently disrupted the delivery of UN humanitarian aid as well as routine shipping. This year the pirates have been operating ever further out to sea, sometimes hundreds of miles away from the coast.Noting the “crisis situation in Somalia,” which has been without a functioning central government and plagued by factional conflict since 1991, “and the limited capacity of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG)” to interdict or prosecute pirates, the Council renewed earlier calls to those States fighting piracy off the Somali coast to help plug the vacuum.They should do so by concluding arrangements whereby countries willing to take custody of pirates, particularly those in the region, would station law enforcement officials on the patrol ships to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of persons detained as a result of the international operations, provided the TFG consents. The Council called on Member States at the request of the TFG “to strengthen capacity in Somalia, including regional authorities, to bring to justice those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate, or undertake criminal acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”Earlier this month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that piracy would not be defeated by military means alone. “We will find a solution only by addressing the broader political and security situation,” he said in a message to the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), stressing the need to support the “fragile” TFG. He noted that since the start of the international naval escort system two years ago, not a single ship heading to Somalia with UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid has been attacked. “WFP has been able to scale up its operations, providing much-needed food assistance to nearly 3 million people,” he pointed out. read more

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Freeing world of chemical weapons the best way to honour victims says

“Let us honour the victims of chemical warfare by reaffirming our commitment to strengthening the Convention, which is the only instrument that bans an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under strict international verification,” Mr. Ban says in his message on the Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare, which is observed annually on 29 April. “Let us also remember the suffering of the families of these victims, as we work together to free the world, once and for all, from the horrors of each and every weapon of mass destruction.”The Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on this date 13 years ago, establishes far-reaching rights and obligations aimed at freeing the world of chemical weapons.Important advances have been made in achieving that great goal, the Secretary-General notes in his message. For example, as of 31 March, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has verified the destruction of 58 per cent of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles. In addition, 89 per cent of all chemical weapons production facilities have been destroyed or converted to peaceful uses, while three States have eliminated their chemical weapon stockpiles. The OPCW has also conducted more than 4,000 inspections in 81 States parties, including verification activities at commercial enterprises, which testifies to the support the global chemical industry has given to achieving the goals of the Convention, Mr. Ban says.However, full implementation of the Convention and achieving universal membership remain significant challenges, he adds, urging States that have not yet become parties to do so without further delay. 29 April 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for strengthening the international treaty banning chemical weapons as a way to honour all those who have lost their lives to this scourge. read more

Start reading Freeing world of chemical weapons the best way to honour victims says