Austrias Parliament Rejects Draft Resolution Hostile to Moroccos Position on Western

Rabat – An Austrian parliament committee rejected a draft resolution which was hostile to Morocco’s position on Western Sahara.During a March 7 Foreign Affairs Committee session at the Austrian parliament, several leftist politicians attempted to pass a draft resolution which was hostile to Morocco’s official stance on the four-decade-long conflict over Western Sahara.The attempt to adopt a pro-separatist resolution was guided by a member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, Petra Baur. The draft resolution called for the “extension of the mandate of MINURSO to include the monitoring of human rights,” an unidentified diplomatic source told Moroccan news outlet Le360.The resolution, however, received “strong opposition” from other Austrian political parties and was outvoted and was put off forever, added the source. “As soon as the draft resolution was tabled in early March, Moroccan authorities carried out an awareness campaign,” said the Moroccan diplomat.In response to the draft resolution, “the Moroccan ambassador in Austria, Lotfi Bouchaara, met with several members of parliament from different political parties to alert them to the biased and subjective content of this draft resolution,” added the source.According to the same source, “No resolution of the Security Council recommends the extension of MINURSO’s mandate to human rights. On the contrary, UN resolutions welcome the initiatives taken by Morocco in this regard.”Quoting the Moroccan diplomat, Le360 added that “it is legally incorrect to say that all peacekeeping operations have a human rights component. This is inaccurate and unjustified in the cause of MINURSO because the Moroccan national institutions function perfectly as evidenced by the Security Council resolutions.”Morocco has maintained long diplomatic ties with Austria. The bonds linking the two nations began in 1783. “It is a very old friendship that binds the two countries. In recent years, bilateral relations have intensified” between the two sides at different levels, including political-diplomatic, economic and cultural levels,” said the diplomatic source.“We are committed to preserving and strengthening this positive dynamic. We took note of the Parliament’s decision not to adopt this resolution. It is a wise approach,” the Moroccan ambassador said. read more

Historic Law on Violence Against Women Goes into Effect September 12

Rabat – September 12, 2018, is a date to remember as Moroccan courts will officially implement Law 103-13 on gender-based discrimination.Six months after its publication in the official gazette in February, the law on the elimination of violence against women will go into effect, providing women the ability to file complaints of sexual harassment and giving severe punishment to harassers.The law will give prison sentences ranging from one to six months for people who sexually harass in public spaces, by use of words, acts or signals of a sexual nature for sexual purposes. The harassers will also be fined from MAD 2,000 to 10,000.Perpetrators of cybercrime, including broadcasting or disseminating a combination of false allegations, will face one to three years in prison and a fine ranging from MAD 1,000 to 20,000 if found guilty.The law will also include the establishment of a regional committee for female victims of violence at the level of the judicial district of each court of appeal.Moroccan women have expressed positive feelings about the law, which defines any act of violence and harassment as a crime.The Association Tahadi for Equality and Citizenship (ATEC) told Morocco World News it was satisfied and positive over the decision to implement the law.“12 September 2018 is a historic day by all standards for Moroccan women,” the statement said.While many see the decision to implement the law is a big step for women, some believe more work should be done yet.Bouchra Abdou, an activist, feminist, and president of ATEC told Morocco World News that women’ associations will ask for more explanations and details of the law.For the activist, the implications of the law are still vague; while the law was announced in the official gazette, it’s full text has not been published yet. Abdou noted that women do not know exactly what they should do if they are harassed.Minister of Solidarity, Women, and Family Bassima Hakkaoui said that it took the government six years of consultation and public debate to implement the law.According to the official, the law is based on four aspects of justice, according to international standards: preventive, protective, restorative, and solidarity.Void for vagueness?“Do we need witnesses for the law to be implemented against a harasser? We still don’t have a complete idea about how this law is going to work,” Abdou said.For Stephanie Willman Bordat, international human rights lawyer, the struggle does not end here. Asked if she is positive about the law, the human rights activist said that “the law is not made to be implemented,” but to amend the current law. Bordat told Morocco World News today how the law has criminalized public harassment.“What the law basically did is create a couple of new crimes or it increased the prison time for the crimes that already existed. The problem is that for those to be implemented, the law has to include items related to the reporting and investigation and prosecution. In other words, to be implemented, the law has to put into place the implementing mechanisms.”According to the activist, the law should also facilitate the reporting procedure for women wishing to file complaints of gender-based discrimination.“It has to put systems and procedures for police to investigate, and it has to put in place procedures for prosecution to prosecute. And the law does not do anything like that. It says sexual harassment is a crime, but if you go to the police to say that ‘this guy was harassing me,’ there is no clarity in the law about what the police officer is supposed to do and about how they do the interview and investigation.”She added that law enforcement does not have the power to do their job “if they don’t have the obligation that they have to do that job.”‘The law is so bad’Commenting on the provisions against domestic violence, the activist said that the issue “was a crime before; that is nothing new. Rape and sexual assault were also crimes before.” The activist also pinpointed the fact women do not file complaints against violence. Bordat said that only 3 percent of women who suffer it report rape.“The law does not change anything regarding rape crimes.” She also emphasized that a “response from law enforcement is necessary: otherwise, why would women go and report against those crimes?”The lawyer also criticized the lack of intervention of law enforcement in certain cases, like domestic violence. Bordat said that for police to intervene, there must be imminent threat of death. “For police to go to a private home to investigate a domestic dispute, it has to be an imminent threat of death; [a] prosecutor can’t arrest abusers unless women bring a medical certificate of 20 days of incapacitation … None of that changed.”Bordat also addressed a message to women, recognizing that “there is still a long road ahead of us…. It is going to require ongoing advocacy. The law is so bad.”She added that concerned parties should monitor the law and how it is going to be implemented. Sensitization campaignATEC will launch a campaign to raise awareness on the danger of harassment.“The campaign includes direct sensitization meetings with citizens,” ATEC’s statement added.The campaign aims also to explain the law and its provisions in simple language for citizens. The center will also provide citizens with brochures “carefully prepared to be accessible to all women, and posters designed for the same purpose will be featured in the city of Casablanca.”Tahadi plans to launch an online campaign, sending audio messages from Moroccan activists, authors, and citizens to raise awareness against harassment and to call on women to take the initiative to “quickly submit complaints against harassers.”In the audio clips Morocco World News obtained of human rights activists, feminists, and public figures, the primary message was to ask women to take a firm position against harassment and to break their silence to fight it.The continuation of a long struggleOne woman already started to say no to violence. On September 6, a Moroccan woman in Casablanca filed complaints against three men for sexual harassment.The law on violence against women was originally set to take effect in August, but was delayed until today for unknown reasons.The law comes after widely-publicized cases of rape, harassment, and violence caused outrage among Moroccan citizens.The latest case to receive wide attention was Khadija’s.The 17-year-old said she was kidnapped and raped by more than 12 men for two months. Her alleged rapists also tattooed her body against her will, she said, writing their names on her skin.A similar case caused outrage in Casablanca last year when a group of teanagers physically harassed a young woman on a moving bus while other passengers did nothing. read more

Moroccan Coalition Calls for Abolition of Death Penalty

Rabat- The Moroccan Coalition Against the Death Penalty has called for a demonstration in front of Parliament to demand the abolition of the death sentence. To bring awareness to its campaign, the coalition organized a press conference alongside the Moroccan Prisons Observatory (OMP) on Tuesday in Rabat.The coalition seeks to lead a demonstration to ask MPs to vote for the UN resolution for a “moratorium on the use of the death penalty” which the country had abstained from in 2016. The call for the demonstration is in line with the World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, Wednesday.The coalition will also call for the government to improve prison conditions for those already sentenced to death.Morocco’s representative to the UN, Omar Hilale, clarified that the country has maintained a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1993, when the last government-sanctioned execution occurred.In 2017, at least 95 people were sentenced to death in Morocco. And in contradiction to Hilale, Death Penalty Worldwide recorded more than 15 individuals were executed in 2017.The UN argues that the North African country’s position is incompatible with Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution, which guarantee the right to life to all human beings and the right to “the security of their person and of their kin.”Since the revision of the constitution in 2011 to include the “right to life,” human rights missions and NGOs have repeatedly called on Morocco to abolish the death penalty. Human rights activists demonstrate annually in October to end the death penalty in Morocco. read more

32 Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Moroccos Al Hoceima

Rabat – An earthquake struck the northern edge of the Rif mountains overnight, rocking the city of Al Hoceima. The epicenter of the quake was centered in the Sidi Boutmim area and affected a 25-kilometer area, according to news outlets. Al Hoceima sits near a major tectonic plate boundary separating the African and Eurasian plates, which makes it a vulnerable spot for earthquakes.In 2004, one of the deadliest earthquakes to hit Morocco occurred near Ait Kamra in the Al Hoceima province. The earthquake leveled nearly 2,600 houses and killed approximately 630 people. Read Also: Magnitude 3.2 Earthquake Shakes Morocco’s MeknesLast year, earthquakes struck the area twice in one month. A 4.0 earthquake struck the Al Hoceima province at the beginning of November, and a 3.8 quake hit neighboring Driouch province at the end of the month. There have been no reported deaths or significant damage from yesterday’s earthquake.However, a study conducted by researchers indicated that Al Hoceima might not always be so lucky. The study determined that “a significant percentage of the buildings of Al Hoceima have a high seismic vulnerability,” meaning that the city could potentially be victim to another tragedy like the 2004 earthquake unless people take action to improve buildings. read more

Judge defends Obama expansion of national monument in Oregon

SALEM, Ore. — A judge has defended former President Barack Obama’s expansion of a national monument in Oregon, ruling against a logging company’s lawsuit that said the expansion deprived it of timber.Environmental groups hailed Tuesday’s ruling. The case ironically put the Trump administration in the position of defending Obama’s expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, even after Trump’s former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended shrinking it.In the lawsuit against President Donald Trump, lawyers for environmental groups sided with U.S. Justice Department lawyers in fighting the logging company. Two similar lawsuits are being heard in federal court in Washington.For the Trump administration, the unlikely alliance is all about preserving presidential power. For the environmentalists, it is about protecting the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, which at the stroke of Obama’s pen in his final days in office in 2017 nearly doubled in size to more than 150 square miles (390 square kilometres).Kristen Boyles, attorney with Earthjustice, a San Francisco-based legal group that is one of the defendant-intervenors in the three lawsuits, applauded the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke.“Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is one of America’s natural wonders, not a collection of standing logs for a timber company,” Boyles said.Clarke’s ruling is not final. He referred his report and recommendation to a U.S. district judge, and said any objections are due within 14 days.John Murphy, owner of Murphy Co. and Murphy Timber Investments LLC, the Oregon timber concern that brought the lawsuit in federal court in Medford, said it would file an objection.“I am very disappointed in Judge Clarke’s decision,” Murphy said in a telephone interview. “We operate five mills, and we need the wood.”Murphy noted that other mills have been shutting down because of lumber scarcity and competition from the Southeast, where much of the timber is grown on private land. In contrast, roughly half of the land in Oregon belongs to the federal government.In 2000, President Bill Clinton created Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, a unique habitat where three mountain ranges converge, forming a biological corridor for mule deer, grey wolves and spotted owls. It is home to more than 200 bird species, the imperiled Oregon spotted frog, deer, elk and many kinds of fish.Obama’s expansion extended it into Northern California, and onto 62 square miles (161 square kilometres) of land that Congress designated in 1937 for timber harvesting to allow local communities to prosper.“The land is designated for permanent timber production,” Murphy said.Clarke said Obama did not exceed his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to expand the monument. The act authorizes a president to set aside federal land as protected national monuments. Timber harvesting is banned in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, except for environmental reasons.Opponents of the expansion said that because it intrudes on land already reserved for timber production, the president unilaterally disregarded an act of Congress.But Clarke wrote in his decision that while the main purpose of the 1937 law is for timber production, no court has found that it sets aside federal public land exclusively for timber production or that it invalidates other federal environmental laws.Meanwhile, Trump has yet to decide Cascade-Siskiyou’s fate.Zinke in August 2017 recommended reductions or other changes at Cascade-Siskiyou and nine other national monuments, but Trump has acted on only two. He cut the size of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah.If Trump winds up also shrinking Cascade-Siskiyou, the environmental groups that have lined up with him against the three lawsuits will likely wind up as his adversaries.“We don’t think the president has the power to shrink monuments,” Boyles said.___Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselskyAndrew Selsky, The Associated Press read more

Pamela Anderson Calls FrenchMoroccan Ex Monster in Dramatic Instagram Post

Rabat – Anderson publicly announced her split from 33-year-old football star boyfriend Adil Rami on her Instagram account on Tuesday, June 25. The 51-year-old model and actress accused her ex of leading a “double life,” and said the relationship had been a lie. Rami fired back on social media, denying that had he cheated on Anderson.“I don’t think I’ll recover easily from this,” Anderson said, commenting on her post. Anderson first gained international fame after being chosen as Playmate of the Month for Playboy Magazine in February of 1990. The Canadian-American actress was a popular cast member in the TV show Baywatch in the 1990s before going on to star in films including Barb Wire and Raw Justice.Born in Corsica to Moroccan parents, Adil Rami was courted by Morocco before the football player opted to play for France, the country of his birth. Rami was on the French Squad when they won the 2018 World Cup, but stayed on the bench throughout the tournament.Although Anderson and Rami began dating in 2017, the relationship did not go public until Anderson showed up to support Rami in person during France’s winning match against Belgium during the World Cup in July of 2018.Following the break-up Anderson unleashed a barrage of accusations against Rami on Instagram, alleging he had carried on a relationship with his former partner. The actress also claimied she suffered “physical and emotional torture,” providing a link to a domestic violence hotline in her post.Calling Rami a sociopath, Anderson said she had hired a bodyguard for protection and that she would “run for my life.”Rami responded on Instagram, using the same black and white photo of the couple Anderson used in her post. “A break is never easy,” he said. “As often in these situations, emotion can take over.” Rami continued by denying Anderson’s accusation his of leading “a double life.” read more

Democrats subpoena banks as they probe Trump finances

WASHINGTON — Two House committees have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions as part of investigations into President Donald Trump’s finances.The House financial services and intelligence panels issued the subpoenas Monday, according to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. He says the subpoenas are part of an investigation “into allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process.”The California Democrat did not name the other financial institutions.House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, also a California Democrat, says “the potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern.” She says her committee is looking into those matters, including whether they pertain to Trump.The investigations are among several House Democrats are conducting into aspects of the president’s personal and political life.Mary Clare Jalonick, The Associated Press read more

Karaoke axethrowing venues want to sell beer under Utah law

SALT LAKE CITY — Two lawmakers are proposing changes to a new liquor law in Utah after beer licenses were denied to a karaoke lounge and an axe-throwing venue.Democratic Rep. Angela Romero said Wednesday she plans to introduce an amendment to include karaoke venues among the new sites approved for beer sales.The law represents a tightening of already strict liquor laws in Utah, where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instructs members to avoid drinking alcohol.Yet, liquor sales have been increasing steadily at state-controlled liquor stores, driven by new, out-of-state residents and thriving tourism.State liquor bosses have said Social Axe Throwing in Ogden and Heart and Seoul Karaoke in Salt Lake City don’t fit the definitions of a “recreational amenity” contained in the law set to take effect May 14.The definitions include theatres, pool parlours and concert venues.The sponsor of the law has said he would be open to tweaking it.Morgan Smith, The Associated Press read more

UN agencies team up with Israel Jordan Palestinian Authority to fight fruit

United Nations agencies are helping scientists, politicians and farmers from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in their fight against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which works with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on this initiative, termed it a peaceful ‘no fly’ zone.Sterilized male flies are brought in through a military checkpoint between Israel and Jordan in the Arava Valley. The 7 million flies are then transported to the Dead Sea on “the only plane authorized to tick-tack between the two countries in this region where military ‘no-fly zones’ typically rule,” the IAEA noted in a news release.Twice a week, Steve Carrigan becomes the friendly “fly bomber,” releasing swarms of sterile male flies by air to overrun the Mediterranean Basin´s shared Valley. The “Medflies” are commercially bred for birth control; their mating yields no offspring. If left to multiply in the wild, Medflies would wreak havoc on citrus and other fruit, quickly turning crops into infested mush.“We´re using a pest to fight a pest,” said Jordan’s Minister of Agriculture, Mostafa Qrunfleh. “Together with partners, we’re winning,” he added of the project, which has received support from the IAEA and FAO since the mid-1990s.For the region’s agricultural leaders, the success of the Medfly project feeds hopes. “As much as this may sound remarkable, the Medfly acts as a bridge to peace,” Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, Shalom Simhon, said. “We’re working together to protect our shared region.”The IAEA and FAO first helped to set up pilot projects and supply sterile male Medflies to Israel and Jordan in 1998, four years after the two countries signed a peace treaty and related cooperation agreements. The Palestinian Authority joined the partnership one year later, and now has the capacity to adopt the technology. The IAEA funded the partnership for many years, as did the United States, including a four-year, $2.5 million grant. 6 April 2007United Nations agencies are helping scientists, politicians and farmers from Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in their fight against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests. read more

UN refugee agency backs green plan with pledge to plant 9 million

“The main problem in areas of displacement is deforestation as refugees and internally displaced persons need to cut and collect wood for cooking, to provide light, for construction and for natural medical ingredients and fodder,” explained UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Environmental Senior Officer Valentine Ndibalema.“People also cut down trees to create areas for cultivation or to sell the wood in markets and have an additional income.”The resultant damage is a major concern for host countries and local populations because the land can take years, if ever, to recover. In response, UNHCR has joined a major tree-planting campaign run by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP).UNEP launched “Plant for the Planet: The Billion Tree Campaign” in November last year and it has so far won pledges to plant more than 960 million trees, while almost 14 million have actually been planted to date. The agency is encouraging individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organizations and governments to take part.UNHCR will enlist the help of refugees and host communities as it pursues the goal of planting 9 million trees this year. Seedlings of various types of tree are being produced and will be distributed for planting around shelters and homes or for reforestation of denuded areas.The idea for the UNEP campaign was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, whose Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in 12 countries in Africa since 1977. 21 May 2007Backing a major “green” initiative, the United Nations refugee agency has pledged to plant more than 9 million trees this year in areas of human displacement. read more

UN supports creation of first closed juvenile rehabilitation centre in Afghanistan

28 November 2007The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has created a new “closed” juvenile rehabilitation centre in Afghanistan – the first of its kind in the war-torn nation – to provide young offenders with the training and counselling they need to make better lives for themselves once they complete their sentences. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has created a new “closed” juvenile rehabilitation centre in Afghanistan – the first of its kind in the war-torn nation – to provide young offenders with the training and counselling they need to make better lives for themselves once they complete their sentences. Located in the capital, Kabul, the Centre “aims to reduce re-offending and to promote rehabilitation in a more appropriate and effective way than traditional punitive measures,” according to a press release issued by UNODC. The Centre is a pilot project that the agency has begun in Kabul and hopes to expand throughout Afghanistan, which is seeking to rebuild a functioning juvenile justice system following decades of conflict. While essentially a correctional facility for serious offenders – both boys and girls – under the age of 18, the Centre represents an “innovative system” in that it also provides educational and vocational training, as well as psychosocial counselling, Matteo Pasquali from UNODC’s Country Office for Afghanistan, told the UN News Service. The Centre provides a place to rehabilitate children in conflict with the law – as offenders under 18 are referred to under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Afghanistan is a party – rather than just punish them, Mr. Pasquali stated. Prior to the opening of the new facility, juvenile offenders served their sentences in “open centres,” which allowed the children to go home at the end of each day, he added. The newly inaugurated Centre, constructed by UNODC with financial assistance from the Italian Government, is part of the agency’s larger criminal justice reform programme in Afghanistan. During the past three years, UNODC has also supported the establishment of a Juvenile Justice Department within the Ministry of Justice, set up new premises for the Juvenile Court of Kabul and provided training on juvenile justice and rehabilitation. read more

Top UN official welcomes Lebanese recognition of Iraqi refugees

Lebanese authorities are giving Iraqis who either entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas a total of three months – as of the start of this week – to regularize their status, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported yesterday.The agency said the decision will result in the release from detention of hundreds of Iraqis, many of whom had already served their sentences but were still being held.Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, described the Lebanese Government’s decision as courageous.“The Lebanese decision is of particular significance given that it has been taken at a time when the country has been facing political turmoil and volatile security,” he said.Speaking in Amman, Jordan, at the end of a week-long visit to Jordan, Syria and Iraq, High Commissioner António Guterres said the move would create “protection space” in Lebanon for Iraqis fleeing threats or the widespread sectarian violence in their homeland.He also said the agency would assist those released from detention and their families, including by providing legal aid to help Iraqis regularize their status, a process that includes obtaining residence and work permits.“UNHCR’s priority will be to assist detainees upon release as, after several months of detention, many of them will be destitute,” Mr. Guterres said. “We will also help as many Iraqis as possible obtain work permits so that they can become? self-sufficient and lead a dignified life.”More than three-quarters of the estimated 50,000 Iraqis living in Lebanon are believed to have entered the country illegally, according to a survey conducted late last year. UNHCR has so far formally registered 9,939 Iraqis and started providing medical, educational and material assistance to them, while another 1,462 have been resettled from Lebanon to third countries. 21 February 2008The United Nations refugee agency has praised Lebanon for agreeing to recognize thousands of Iraqi refugees who had previously been considered to be illegal immigrants requiring detention. read more

Around 16 billion in new commitments unveiled at UN antipoverty event

25 September 2008Governments, foundations, businesses and civil society groups have rallied around the call to action to slash poverty, hunger, disease and other socio-economic ills by 2015, by announcing an estimated $16 billion in new commitments to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), at a high-level event at United Nations Headquarters. “Today we did something special. We brought together a broad coalition for change,” Mr. Ban told a news conference at the end of the day-long event, which he convened with General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto.The gathering “exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” he stated, noting that it generated an estimated $16 billion, including some $1.6 billion to bolster food security, more than $4.5 billion for education and $3 billion to combat malaria. “If so, that expression of global commitment would be all the more remarkable because it comes against the backdrop of financial crisis,” said the Secretary-General, who recently reported that soaring food and fuel prices and the global economic downturn are impeding advances in meeting the internationally agreed anti-poverty targets.“Today, we have strengthened the global partnership for development,” Mr. Ban told participants at the event’s closing. “Your resolve to act is evident. Yes, you have stepped up to confront growing challenges. Now, I urge you to move with more speed and focus.” Mr. Ban has called for a summit on the MDGs in 2010 to further assess the delivery of the commitments undertaken.Mr. D’Escoto said the new initiatives will inject new energy, resources and hope into global efforts to achieve the Goals. “However, these good efforts, as important as they are, are not enough,” he noted.“The only way we can alleviate the suffering of the world’s poor is by creating a sound and just international economic system,” he stated, urging participants to work towards progress on the stalled Doha round of trade liberalization talks. “Ultimately, all countries are responsible for their own development. But everyone must have fair opportunities to do so.”Nonetheless, he acknowledged the great strides made today. “We must go forward in partnership, for what we can achieve together is far greater than what any country or organization can accomplish alone.”Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero today added his voice to the chorus of those expressing disappointment at the lack of progress in alleviating the lot of the world’s hundreds of millions of poor people.“We have not advanced as much as we should have. We have not progressed as we had planned. We have done something wrong,” he told the General Assembly on the third day of its annual General Debate.“And yet the urgency is the same if not greater than it was when the Millennium Goals were adopted,” he said. “We cannot hold back. We cannot blame our failure to fulfil our obligations on the situation in the markets. We cannot hide behind circumstances to avoid our pledges. “It is not only a matter of heeding ethical imperatives, which in themselves cannot be delayed. It is a matter also if acting responsibly in support of international stability and equilibrium.” read more

Manmade brown clouds darkening cities threatening health in Asia

13 November 2008A three-kilometre-thick “brown cloud” of man-made pollution, which stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to China to the western Pacific Ocean, is making Asian cities darker, speeding up the melting of Himalayan glaciers and impacting human health, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. A three-kilometre-thick “brown cloud” of man-made pollution, which stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to China to the western Pacific Ocean, is making Asian cities darker, speeding up the melting of Himalayan glaciers and impacting human health, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs), resulting from the burning of fossil fuels and biomass, has resulted in the formation of particles such as black carbon and soot which absorb sunlight and heat the air, experts write in the study released today in Beijing.The clouds also “mask” the actual warming impact of climate change by anywhere between 20 and 80 per cent because they include sulfates and other chemicals which reflect sunlight and cool the surface.The artificial lowering of temperature by ABCs is leading to sharp shifts in weather patterns, causing significant drying in northern China while increasing the risk of flooding in the Asian nation’s south. Monsoon precipitation over India and South-East Asia has dropped up to 7 per cent since the 1950s, with the summer monsoon both weakening and shrinking.Meanwhile, the health and food security of 3 billion people in Asia are threatened by ABCs, which impacts air quality and agriculture.Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, voiced hope that “Atmospheric Brown Clouds: Regional Assessment Report with Focus on Asia” will serve as an early warning of the phenomenon, which he hopes will now be “firmly on the international community’s radar.”He called on developed countries to help their poorer counterparts attain the technology needed to spur ‘green’ economic growth.“In doing so, they can not only lift the threat of climate change but also turn off the soot-stream that is feeding the formation of atmospheric brown clouds in many of the world’s regions,” the Executive Director said.The new publication points out 13 megacities as being ABC ‘hotspots’: Bangkok, Beijing, Cairo, Dhaka, Karachi, Kolkata, Lagos, Mumbai, New Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Tehran. Soot levels in these cities comprise 10 per cent of the total mass of all man-made particles.Since the 1970s, the Chinese city of Guangzhou, among other cities, has witnessed “dimming” – or reduction of sunlight – of more than 20 per cent, it notes.The solar heating of the atmosphere by ABCs is “suggested to be as important as greenhouse gas warming in accounting for the anomalously large warming trend observed in the elevated regions” such as the Himalayan-Tibetan region, the study says, leading to the retreat of glaciers.Further, the clouds contain toxic aerosols, carcinogens and other harmful particles, which could result in more people suffering from respiratory disease and cardiovascular problems.While the effects of the clouds on food production and farmers’ livelihood could be immense, more research must be done to determine their precise role, it acknowledges, adding that the possible impact of ABCs could include elevated levels of ground-level ozone, which could result in massive crop losses of up to 40 per cent in Asia.Scientists behind the report – produced by UNEP’s Project Atmospheric Brown Cloud – stress that brown clouds also can be found in parts of North America, Europe, Southern Africa and the Amazon Basin, and that they also require urgent and detailed research. read more

Security Council mission arrives in Afghanistan to gauge progress in turbulent country

24 November 2008A Security Council team landed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, today to assess the war-torn country’s progress towards peace and rebuilding, as well as to underscore the importance of regional cooperation for governance, security and development. Among its tasks the delegation will review the status of international pledges made at the Paris Conference in June, at which dozens of countries and organizations committed resources to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and advance peace, security and development. The mission, led by Ambassador Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata of Italy, will also evaluate the humanitarian situation in the country and highlight the cooperation between the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including collaboration on humanitarian and human rights issues, and in supporting the electoral process.The team – made up of ambassadors and representatives from the Council’s 15 member countries – is slated to meet with President Hamid Karzai, Government leaders, as well as civil society and other representatives over the next three days. read more

NBA star and UN ambassador stresses right to schooling in native Argentina

National Basketball Association (NBA) star Manu Ginóbili stressed the right of all children to complete their elementary and secondary studies during a recent visit to a school in the impoverished Argentine province of Chaco in his role as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Mr. Ginóbili, a native of Argentina, made the visit to the school in Fontana on the eve of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, observed on 9 August. Fontana is home to a sizeable population belonging to the indigenous group known as Qom.According to UNICEF, education is a challenge for Qom students since they begin school without knowledge of the Spanish language and during their education they receive no instruction in their mother tongue.“When it comes to Qom students, our efforts must be doubled to make sure that we help fulfil their right not just to an education, but to quality bilingual education as well,” said UNICEF Representative in Argentina Andres Franco.During his visit to the school, Mr. Ginóbili took part in a language class with the children and emphasized the importance of sport as a powerful tool for child development. “I am delighted to share this time with the children and to talk about the importance of sport as a way to bridge between studies and fun and in increasing the likelihood that children will remain in school,” he said.The three-time NBA champion also visited the Centre for the Promotion of Rights, where he heard from Qom women about the importance of having a space where they could learn new skills and gain knowledge about their rights.Mr. Ginóbili also took the time in Fontana to highlight the “Cities for Education” initiative, which promotes the right of all children and adolescents to complete their elementary and secondary studies. Supported by UNICEF, provincial and local authorities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the initiative will reach out to thousands of students in Chaco province from preschool to adult night school, as well as all school administrators and teachers. The initiative provides training for teachers and school administrators on successful teaching methods including sequence learning, which promotes holistic learning through the use of words and concepts that are familiar to the children. Instead of learning single letters, for instance, the children identify each letter with words and sentences which give meaning to the concepts they are learning.“Strategies such as sequence learning contribute to the success of the first learning experiences of these children, which, in turn, provides them with the incentive to continue their studies,” Mr. Franco said. 11 August 2009National Basketball Association (NBA) star Manu Ginóbili stressed the right of all children to complete their elementary and secondary studies during a recent visit to a school in the impoverished Argentine province of Chaco in his role as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). read more

UN chief deplores deadly terrorist attack in Iran

According to media reports, at least 42 people died in the suicide bombing in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran, which borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan.The attacker detonated the bomb at a meeting of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and local tribesmen in the south-eastern region of the country.In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban today extended his condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the Government, wishing a full recovery to those wounded in the attack. 19 October 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned yesterday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Iran which killed dozens of people and injured many more. read more

Ban welcomes conclusion of presidential election in Guinea urges reconciliation

Mr. Ban congratulated the president-elect, Alpha Conde, and encouraged him to work to consolidate and promote national unity.Guinea’s Supreme Court certified the results of the run-off presidential election held on 7 November in which Mr. Conde was pitted against the country’s former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo.The run-off poll followed the first round of the election in June. It was the final stage of the interim Government’s efforts to restore democracy after Captain Moussa Dadis Camara seized power in a coup in 2008 following the death of long-time president Lansana Conté.Mr. Ban deplored the incidents of violence and violations of human rights that followed the release of the provisional results on 15 November. “He emphasizes the need to respect international human rights standards and calls on the security forces to ensure the protection of all Guineans. He warns those who may incite or perpetrate violence that they will be held accountable,” said a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesperson.Mr. Ban commended all those who facilitated the transition process in Guinea, including the country’s leaders, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso – in his capacity as the mediator mandated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and Guinea’s other international partners.“The United Nations will continue to support national reconciliation, peace building and development efforts in Guinea,” the statement added. 3 December 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the certification of the results of the presidential poll in Guinea and urged the people of the West African country to accept the outcome and to move towards peace and national reconciliation. read more

SecretaryGeneral condemns abhorrent attack on Pakistani school bus

The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack on the bus in Matani, on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar. Four children as well as the driver are reported to have died and around 18 others wounded.“The Secretary-General strongly condemns this abhorrent act of terrorism and extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said. 13 September 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced shock and condemnation at today’s attack on a school bus in north-western Pakistan which resulted in a number of deaths and injuries. read more

UN honours three humanist poets – Tagore Neruda and Césaire

13 September 2011The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today launched a programme honouring Rabindrânâth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aimé Césaire, three poets who, each in his own way, carried high the standard of humanist values. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today launched a programme honouring Rabindrânâth Tagore, Pablo Neruda and Aimé Césaire, three poets who, each in his own way, carried high the standard of humanist values. Beyond their different geographic, social and political contexts, Tagore, a Bengali poet at the time that India was under British rule, Chile’s Neruda and Césaire – from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe – showed a commitment to speaking for the voiceless. “By challenging relations based on domination and submission – whether they concern colonialism, fascism or racism – their message attains a universal dimension,” UNESCO said at a forum opened by Director-General Irina Bokova at its headquarters in Paris. Launched in the wake of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures of 2010, the programme aims to promote translations, publications, and creations connected to the three writers, facilitating the dissemination and adaptation of their message. A tribute to Tagore was organized with Bangladesh’s and India’s permanent delegations to UNESCO as part of the 150th anniversary of his birth, with song, dance and poetry readings. A UNESCO work – Rabindrânâth Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Aimé Césaire for a reconciled universal – pays tribute to this universal oeuvre. Published in English, French and Spanish, the illustrated book examines the legacy of the three authors and their messages from a comparative perspective. read more