USFP Agrees in Principle to Join Abdelilah Benkiranes Government

Casablanca – The Administrative Commission of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) has agreed in principle in a meeting held on Saturday to join Abdelilah Benkirane’s coalition government. The USFP meeting was held over a month after King Mohammed VI entrusted Abdelilah Benkirane, Secretary General of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), to form a government coalition.Benkirane has talked with numerous other party leaders, but only two parties have confirmed their participation in Benkirane’s government, namely the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS) and the Istiqlal Party (IP). This is not enough to form a majority. USFP’s Administrative Commission held the meeting to evaluate the performance of the party in the previous elections, according to Arabic-language news source, Hespress.USFP’s Administrative Commission authorized the party to begin deliberations with Benkirane, meaning that it agreed in principal to join the PJD, the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS), and Independent Party (PI)to form a coalition government.USFP’s Secretary General, Idriss Lachgar, stated during the meeting that he “will not be nominated to any ministry in the next government, so as not to influence the talks with the head of government.”The USFP stated that all it focuses on is “the new government’s fundamental platform, important pillars, and reorganization priorities. This envisages a reduction in the number of its members and the effectiveness and efficiency of its performance.”Edited by Patrick Shaffer read more

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Liberals have options to help millennials buy homes would be a vote

OTTAWA — Housing experts say Ottawa has several options as it looks for ways to help more millennials enter the Canadian housing market in an era of pricey real estate and rising borrowing costs.University of British Columbia associate professor Paul Kershaw says there’s no silver bullet to making real estate more affordable for younger people but boosting the permanently affordable supply of housing could help.He says so could limiting zoning rules that encourage lower-density neighbourhoods.Finance Minister Bill Morneau said this week Ottawa is exploring measures to put home ownership within reach for more millennials, a generation made up of people who are now in their mid-20s to late-30s.He says real-estate affordability is a big challenge for millennials and has been one of the Liberals’ top housing concerns since they came to power in 2015.He hasn’t elaborated on what options he is considering but experts say a millennials housing policy could be a vote winner in next fall’s federal election among this increasingly critical demographic.The Canadian Press read more

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El Othmani Inaugurates Aviation School to Reduce Pilot Shortage

Rabat – Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani, inaugurated the Moroccan Private Aviation Academy (MAPA) on Tuesday in Benslimane, near Rabat.The inauguration of the aviation school followed a wave of protests from pilots of the state-owned airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), in July.The pilots called for the reestablishment of a school of aviation in the country after the closure of RAM’s training center for pilots in 2014. In his statement to the press, El Othmani said that the school will meet the growing needs of the aviation industry.The school, which is the work of a Moroccan-Jordanian partnership, will offer training to pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.Read also: Morocco and Tunisia Sign Civil Aviation Cooperation AgreementAccording to El Othmani, Africa will need some 4,900 pilots in the coming years, as well as a large number of technicians.According to the head of government, 20 percent of the students in the first class are of foreign nationalities, mostly from African countries.The project falls within the framework of King Mohammed VI’s recommendations to offer vocational training for youth.According to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), the government will assist the academy “in the sense that this project is in harmony with the industrial acceleration plan that places the automotive and aeronautical center at the forefront.”El Othmani also promised that the government will give the necessary aid to investors, “particulaty operators in promising sectors and integrating technologies of the future, in the light of the real needs of employment at the national, regional and international levels.”Read also: 10 Aviation & Aerospace Facts in MoroccoThe official also expressed satisfaction that MAPA received the national license for airline pilot training and the EASA European Approval for Aircraft Maintenance Technicians. For his part, Mohammed Fayyad Khawaldeh, managing director of the Royal Jordanian Air Academy (RJA), said his company’s commitment to the project, launched in 2016, took into account Morocco’s dire need for pilots and technicians “with regard to the extension of the activities of the national airline Royal Air Maroc.”The school expects to attract 300 students from Arab and African countries annually and cost $6 million. In July, the Moroccan Association of Airline Pilots (AMPL) complained about the absence of training centers for pilots. AMPL President Amine Mkinsi suggested that RAM could have skipped its pilot crisis if it had opened a training center.“Its reopening is a necessity because even on the international market, pilots have become a rare commodity and therefore expensive. The proof is that in 2017, the RAM wanted to hire 86 foreigners and only 26 of them accepted the offer,” he said. read more

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Melilla Police Find Migrants Hidden Inside Moroccan Mattresses

Rabat – Inside two mattresses mounted on top of a vehicle crossing from Morocco into Melilla, the Spanish Civil Guard found two underage sub-Saharan African migrants on December 30.According to Spanish police sources, the police received orders to open the trunks of all cars entering Melilla from Morocco. The driver fled when he realized that the officers were also going to inspect the two large mattresses attached to the roof of his vehicle.Read Also: Why The World Needs the Global Compact for Orderly MigrationIn October, one sub-Saharan migrant died and three others were injured when 200 people stormed the border between Morocco and Melilla.In 2015, Adou, an 8-year-old Ivorian boy hid in a suitcase to cross the border between Morocco and Ceuta.Read Also: 31% of Migrants Arriving in Spain Were Moroccan in 2018 read more

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EU Commission Wants More Security Cooperation with Morocco Against Undocumented Immigration

Rabat – To combat undocumented migration, the European Commission has pledged more security cooperation with Morocco.Morocco, a transit and destination country for migrants, has thwarted more than 54,000 undocumented immigration attempts in 2018.Moroccan authorities are also overseeing security at the Morocco-Spain border, where hundreds of migrants try to jump the high double fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos responded to a question on border security, saying that the EU and Morocco are in “regular contact to strengthen their cooperation on migration and security.”The commissioner also pointed out the importance of the cooperation between Spain and Morocco to tackle border security and migration issues.“Spain and Morocco are cooperating continuously and closely in the field of border control in order to reduce the number of illegal crossings and the risk of potential terrorist infiltration,” he said.He also spoke about the security bodies in cooperation to provide constant surveillance in the Mediterranean to prevent undocumented immigration and cross-border crime.Following Thursday’s government council in Morocco on September 6, Government Spokesperson Mustapha El Khalfi claimed that Morocco will not let its territory shelter human trafficking networks.The official also told the press that the North African country “refuses to play the policeman in the region.”El Khalfi’s remarks followed a presentation by Minister of Interior Abdelouafi Laftit during the government council.Laftit discussed new measures to fight undocumented immigration while following the guidelines of Morocco’s 2013 migration policy.Touting Morocco’s achievements since the implementation of the policy, El Khalfi recalled the two operations to regularize the legal and administrative situation of migrants in Morocco in 2014 and 2018.The government regularized the status of 50,000 undocumented migrants, 90 percent of whom were from sub-Saharan Africa.El Khalfi said that 22,000 migrants have benefited from voluntary return operations since 2014, including 1,400 in 2018.He added that Moroccan authorities frustrated 54,000 undocumented immigration attempts and thwarted 74 criminal human trafficking groups, seizing 1,900 boats. read more

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Terrorism in Morocco A Drastic Approach Needed Now

Rabat – Morocco has invested significant efforts in both the security and religious fields in order to build its reputation as a peaceful, welcoming, and tolerant country in the otherwise turbulent region of North Africa and the Middle East. Those efforts were consistent and serious, leading ultimately to very positive effects worldwide.According to the Global Peace Index 2018, Morocco ranks among the most peaceful countries in the region, together with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. However, the atrocious act of terror perpetrated a few days ago against two female Scandinavian tourists in the High Atlas Mountains was an unexpected shock that profoundly shook Moroccan and international public opinion.Read Also: Terrorism: Morocco Safer Than Algeria, US, FranceWhat makes this heinous crime so serious is the way in which it was committed. All terrorist attacks that have hit Morocco in the last two decades were either bombings or suicidal attacks targeting public places, such as hotels and restaurants. The recent brutal murder of the two Scandinavian tourists holds the mark of ISIS and reminds us of the grisly ISIS methods of killing and slaughtering in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The proactive measures taken by Morocco’s intelligence and security services have made the country impenetrable ever since the inception of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or so it seemed. Does this crime indicate that Morocco has finally been penetrated? Is this terrorist act an indication of more terrorist activity taking place in our country in the coming days? Were the security and religious approaches implemented by the government to fight religious extremism really enough? What measures can be taken next to spare the country from other harsh incidents?The above questions are pressing and should be thoroughly contemplated and addressed before any strategic move in the fight against religious extremism is made in the future. The religious and security approaches that Morocco has relied upon so far were very instrumental and should not be underestimated or belittled.Read Also: BCIJ Arrests 9 More Suspects in Scandinavian Tourist MurdersThe strategic national policy initiated by King Mohammed VI in the aftermath of the 2003 Casablanca attacks to monitor and manage the religious field through the control of mosques, the training of moderate religious scholars and preachers, and the control of fatwas by appointing the Supreme Scientific Council were all very successful. Moroccan intelligence and security services have also managed, since 2002, to dismantle more than 183 terrorist cells across the country, according to the Central Bureau of Judiciary Investigations (BCIJ).The recent murder of two Scandinavian tourists, however, has raised concerns about Morocco’s counterterrorism approach, which had previously inspired many countries at the regional and international levels. The dismantling of dozens of terrorist cells every year should have been seen as an indicator of the strong existence of the terrorist ideology in Morocco. The successful and decisive intervention of Morocco’s intelligence services before those terrorist cells could translate their ideology into brutality and bloodshed does not change the fact that the mechanisms by which that ideology works and spreads are still operating.Therefore, terrorists and religious extremists could even be around us anywhere on any day, in private and public places, waiting for the right time and the right place to put their radical beliefs into action.  The claim made by one of the arrested suspects in a video declaring his allegiance to ISIS prior to the murder of the Scandinavian tourists should be taken seriously. He said, addressing the leader of ISIS Abu-Bakar Al-Baghdadi: “You should know that only God knows of the exact number of the followers you have in Morocco.”  How can we track down and prevent those followers? What about those who firmly hold the ideology but do not belong to organized terrorist cells?We need to understand that religious extremism is an ideology and the fight against it should be at the intellectual and educational levels first and foremost. Morocco, despite the efforts that have been made, was remarkably lenient with the discourses of hate, intolerance, and bigotry which surface in schools, the media, and public spaces.Read Also: Official: Scandinavian Tourists’ Murder Wasn’t a Coordinated ISIS AttackWe have repeatedly seen videos circulating on social media by prominent Wahhabi leaders in Morocco demonizing and threatening intellectuals such as Ahmed Assid, Rachid Aylal, and others by accusing them of heresy. Somehow, those people were never arrested or tried. Perhaps the pressures by Islamic forces (Islamic parties, Islamic groups, conservative civil society, etc.) in the country put the state in a difficult and complicated position. Those conservative forces have always fiercely objected to reforms interpreting them as secular and anti-Islam, starting from the Modawana (family code) in 2003 to the Islamic education school curriculum reform in 2018.The recent terrorist attack near the tranquil and peaceful village of Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains awakens us to the bitter truth that terrorism is a constantly looming threat for Morocco. Thus, a more drastic and comprehensive approach should be implemented with zero tolerance to bigots, extremists, and the advocates of hate and terror in the name of religion.Morocco should address the conditions conducive to the emergence and spread of terrorism by fighting poverty and social disparity in the country. Moreover, strengthening the educational system and building students’ cultural awareness, promoting the culture of peace and coexistence through educational programs and curricula, ensuring humans rights and the rule of law, and promoting the universal values of peace, justice, co-existence, integrity, love, and cross-cultural dialogue would be a few steps in the right direction.May the souls of Louisa Vesterager Jespersen and Maren Ueland rest in peace, and may peace, love, and prosperity prevail in the world. read more

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Moroccan Army to Get New Uniforms for MAD 91 Million

Rabat – Lieutenant General Abdelfattah Louarak, the inspector general of Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR), has announced tenders for four contracts worth an estimated MAD 91.3 million to acquire new military uniforms, reported Maghreb Intelligence on March 9.FAR will award one contract for camouflage combat clothing (MAD 22.5 million). The second is for camouflage parkas (MAD 42.4 million). The third is for embroidery (MAD 22.5 million). The fourth contract is for new belts (MAD 3.9 million).FAR will award the contracts on April 18. The army will get its new look just in time to match its new recruits.In February, King Mohammed VI asked the government to recruit 10,000 Moroccans into obligatory military service, beginning in September 2019. The newly established compulsory military service is expected to cost Morocco MAD 500 million annually.The Moroccan government approved two decrees to implement the law on obligatory military service in January. The military service is expected to start in September.The FAR has seen several revamps since General Louarak took office.In January, Louarak appointed new military officials to high-level military positions in Morocco’s southern provinces.The general had sacked some officers and sent others into retirement in 2018 over “misconduct,” according to Moroccan newspaper Al Massae.Also in January, Middle East Monitor reported that Louarak instructed the military to modernize “its technological and counter-espionage capabilities.”King Mohammed VI appointed Louarak as inspector general of FAR in January 2017.The same month, the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) boss Abdellatif Hammouchi changed the uniforms of DGSN staff as part of a strategy to modernize the police.The new service uniform included a metal badge on the chest to indicate the identity and number of the security agent. read more

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BCIJ Dismantles 5 Member Terror Cell in Northern Morocco

Rabat – Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) dismantled on Tuesday, June 18 a five-member terror cell operating in Tetouan, Northern Morocco.A statement from the BCIJ said that the five suspects, aged between 23 and 33,  are under investigation for links to ISIS.During the arrest, BCIJ seized several electronic devices, knives, and military uniforms. Preliminary  investigations show that the suspect pledged allegiance to the self-styled “emir” of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Read Also: Morocco’s BCIJ Dismantles New IS-affiliated Terrorist Cell in MoroccoThe suspects, according to BCIJ, are also accused of promoting terrorism and extremist propaganda.  The cell is suspected of having links with terrorists in conflict zones, such as Syria and Iraq.The group are suspected of plotting terror attacks across the country. The statement added that the five cell members will be brought to justice immediately after investigation.Today’s operation is part of Morocco’s national and international counter-terrorism initiatives. BCIJ has carried several similar operation throughout the year. The latest operation was on  June 3, when BCIJ dismantled a three-member terrorist cell operating in several cities in the region of Draa-Tafilalet.Following the 2003 terror attacks in Casablanca and the 2011 attack in Marrakech, the Moroccan security services announced several counter-terrorism initiatives.The programs were praised by several international allies, including the US.In March, Morocco’s Ministry of the Interior announced the repatriation of eight Moroccan terrorists who were operating in Syria.The move pleased the US, which said that Morocco “is a highly capable partner in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.” read more

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Canadas antispam law used against former CEO of coupon marketing company

GATINEAU, Que. — Canada’s anti-spam law is being used against a former CEO who is accused of using several businesses operating under names such as Teambuy and Dealfind to bombard consumers with emailed discount coupon offers.The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is seeking $100,000 from Brian Conley for allegedly allowing or ignoring violations of the law while he was president and chief executive officer of nCrowd Inc.The CRTC says Conley is the first individual to be held liable for violations committed by a corporation. It says nCrowd and several other companies led by him and his associates have ceased activity.The commission’s staff initiated an investigation in April 2015 following complaints against nCrowd and the related Couch Commerce group of companies.The federal regulator alleges that the two groups failed to get consent to send the emails, contrary to a Canadian law that was designed to protect consumers from unwanted electronic commercial communications — also known as spam.Conley has the right to appeal the CRTC’s decision. He couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.The Canadian Press read more

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ORourke reverses course renounces fossil fuel donations

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is pledging not to take donations from the fossil fuel industry, a dramatic about-face from his star-making run for Senate in oil-rich Texas last year when he was one of the top candidates backed by the sector.O’Rourke announced late Wednesday that he’d signed a no-donation pledge backed by environmental groups. He’d previously said he’d shun support from energy company CEOs but not from rank-and-file employees.The former congressman said he’d return all donations worth over $200 from the sector that he’d received since launching his presidential bid on March 14.The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says that while challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last November, O’Rourke accepted $540,000-plus donations from the oil and gas sector, second most of any candidate that cycle behind Cruz.The Associated Press read more

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Occidental offers more cash in bid for Anadarko

NEW YORK — Occidental, which is in a bidding war with Chevron to buy oil company Anadarko, revised its offer Sunday and says it found a buyer for Anadarko’s African investments if the deal goes through.Occidental is still offering $76 a share for each share of Anadarko, the same as its bid from April, but more of it is now in cash. Occidental’s new bid is for $59 in cash and 0.2934 shares of Occidental common stock for each Anadarko share. Its previous bid was $38 in cash and 0.6094 shares of Occidental stock.Occidental says Total has agreed to buy Anadarko’s African assets for $8.8 billion if the takeover happens.Anadarko agreed to a deal with Chevron in April, but resurrected talks with Occidental last week.The Associated Press read more

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Renewed violence undercutting Middle East diplomatic efforts – UN official

25 April 2007Diplomatic initiatives to rejuvenate the Middle East peace process are making some progress, but they are being undermined by the deteriorating security situation on the ground, the United Nations political chief told the Security Council today, urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do their utmost to prevent the violence from escalating further. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told an open Council meeting on the issue that the situation in the region is fragile, capable of either moving forward based on fresh negotiations or becoming caught in a spiral of tit-for-tat violence.“Actions and inactions on the ground remain real obstacles to progress, and have the potential to lead to paralysis or even a rapid deterioration,” Mr. Pascoe said in his statement to the Council debate, which saw the participation of over a dozen speakers. “The renewed violence of the past few days shows how precarious the situation is.”Between 14 March and 17 April, at least 43 Palestinians have been killed, 22 as a result of intra-community fighting and 21 by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). More than 200 other Palestinians and 13 Israelis have also been injured, while 54 rockets and mortars were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.Mr. Pascoe called on the Palestinian Authority to take steps to counter the rocket fire and the smuggling of weapons, as well as to implement the internal security plan to restore law and order within Gaza.He added that the UN remains deeply concerned about the fate of the kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston and reiterated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent call for his immediate release. Mr. Johnston, who works for the BBC, was abducted on 12 March near his office as he was returning from the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel.Releasing Corporal Gilad Shalit of Israel, who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants last June and taken into Gaza, “is also crucial to forward movement” in the peace process.Mr. Pascoe urged Israel to play its part to calm the situation, especially with its settler community in the West Bank. He noted widespread recent reports that groups of settlers had attacked Palestinian children and a mentally disabled man.Israel continues to construct new housing units in some 75 of its 121 settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, he added, despite the Road Map plan calling for a freeze on settlements.All security measures must be proportionate, the Under-Secretary-General stressed, warning that Israeli operations in Palestinian population centres result almost inevitably in civilian casualties and are “a matter of great concern.”Israeli authorities are also subjecting UN staff members and other humanitarian workers crossing from Gaza into Israel to “increasingly arbitrary treatment” and searching their vehicles and property, including laptop computers, out of sight of UN staff.“This practice violates UN security standards, as well as UN privileges and immunities. We continue to work closely with all relevant Israeli authorities to correct the situation, but with little progress so far.”But Mr. Pascoe said there were some hopeful signs of progress on the political and diplomatic efforts, particularly the face-to-face meeting in Jerusalem on 15 April between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.The two men discussed immediate humanitarian and security issues and reportedly also exchanged views on aspects of a future Palestinian State and how and when it could be achieved, Mr. Pascoe said, encouraging the leaders to build on those discussions.He was also heartened by “the greater public awareness of the potential of the Arab Peace Initiative,” adding that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was supporting all regional or international initiatives towards peace in the Middle East.Turning to Lebanon, Mr. Pascoe observed that despite intensive efforts to ease the country’s political stalemate, there has been no breakthrough regarding a national unity government or the formation of a special tribunal to try the suspected killers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.While Lebanon has said it is committed to moving ahead on political and socio-economic reform as agreed, only a small percentage of pledges from international donors have been disbursed so far.Israeli air violations of the Blue Line have continued, as have claims that arms are being transferred into Lebanon in direct breach of the Security Council-imposed embargo. But the total strength of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has reached 13,000 peacekeepers, and there has been “near total calm” in the area in the past two months. read more

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General Assembly makes tangible progress to revitalize itself its President says

19 December 2007The 192-member General Assembly is well on the road to revitalizing its role within the United Nations, where the 15-member Security Council makes the binding decisions, and is planning major debates in the coming year on issues ranging from climate change to development funding to management reform, its President said today. “I think that we have made tangible progress and obvious progress in terms of improving the working methods of the General Assembly, thus making it dynamic and vital,” Srgjan Kerim said at an end-of-year news conference in New York.There was no need even for a resolution on revitalising the Assembly, he said, noting that such a resolution had become “totally superfluous” in light of the very intensive activities and the more constructive and cooperative atmosphere among Member States.“We cannot behave in terms of business as usual because the agenda, the problems, the challenges we are facing do not allow for that,” Mr. Kerim stressed. “So in that regard I have talked to Member States very often that we have to change our mindset and through this our attitude towards the General Assembly in making it a central, vital body of the United Nations which deals with the most important issues and challenges of today’s world.”He stressed the importance of thematic debates, such as the one already held on terrorism, which paves the way for the review of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy scheduled for next September.In February the Assembly will debate climate change. In April there will be an informal thematic debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to drastically slash poverty, hunger and maternal and child mortality, and boost access to health care and education by 2015.That debate “will be focused on three crucial goals – poverty, education and health,” and include business people, academics and all those prepared to assist the UN in implementing the MDGs, Mr. Kerim said.There will also be plenary meetings in April on management reform, focusing on procurement, accountability and human resources. “That will be a very important exercise in which the Member States will be involved to give their input and their ideas and their options and solutions on what should be a very comprehensive management reform,” said the President. The coming months will be even busier than the past season. “As I said when I was elected in May this year, I promised hard work, a lot of dynamics and a vital General Assembly and I think I have [the] great support of the Member States,” he declared. Mr. Kerim also voiced confidence that the Assembly would soon adopt a multi-billion dollar budget for the UN, citing the “tremendous effort” by Japan, as well as the efforts of the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, India “and many, many countries in making sure that we will have a budget.“And we will have, but with a very clear message to the Secretary-General and the Secretariat that we would like to see more savings, more measures, more transparency in using the money because this is part of this reform and the budget is the best way we can exercise pressure to implement this reform of management,” he added.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a $4.2 billion budget for the next two years. read more

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Mounting crises leave UN relief efforts with almost 5 billion shortfall

16 September 2009The top United Nations relief official today appealed to donors to fill the $5 billion funding gap the world body and its partner agencies face to provide emergency aid to people enduring the most severe humanitarian crises around the world. Less than half of this year’s $9.5 billion appeal the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made to cover relief efforts assisting the world’s most vulnerable people has been funded, stressed UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes. Deteriorating humanitarian situations in hotspots, such as Somalia, the occupied Palestinian territories, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Sudan have led to an upwards revision of Consolidated and Flash Appeals by $1.5 billion since the start of the year, Mr. Holmes told reporters in New York.He noted that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, an extra 250,000 people have been driven from their homes this year by the conflict with the FDLR – a Rwandan rebel militia operating in the east of the country – as well as a campaign of terror inflicted on the population by another armed group in eastern DRC, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).“Donors actually have been responding remarkably generously and well to these rising needs,” said Mr. Holmes, who also acts as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and head of OCHA. “For example, the $4.6 billion we had collected in July in response to these needs was the highest ever figure in absolute terms that we collected, and in terms of a percentage of what we’re asking for – 49 per cent – it was also the highest ever,” he said.“Nevertheless, that figure still leaves… $4.8 billion worth of needs unmet, which is also the highest ever unmet demand we’ve had at this time of year,” stressed Mr. Holmes.Mr. Holmes also pointed to deteriorating non-conflict related crises, such as the intense droughts and floods affecting various parts of the world, including countries in the Horn of Africa facing several years of failed rains. Poor rains in Eastern African have produced crises in the areas of food, nutrition, water and disease among others, leaving some 24 million people in need of aid – up from 17 million last year – in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia and parts of Uganda.“That’s another powerful reason why we’ve been arguing that a climate change deal in Copenhagen is so essential,” he said referring to the UN conference in December that will be seeking a successor greenhouse gas reduction pact to the Kyoto Protocol. “Because we think those trends are bound to intensify, in fact they will intensify.” read more

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New head of joint African UnionUN peacekeepers in Darfur arrives in Sudan

22 January 2010Veteran Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari, who most recently served as top United Nations envoy for Myanmar, arrived in Sudan today to assume his new duties as Joint Special Representative and head of the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Veteran Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari, who most recently served as top United Nations envoy for Myanmar, arrived in Sudan today to assume his new duties as Joint Special Representative and head of the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID).Mr. Gambari, who in his UN career has served as Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Special Adviser on Africa and head of the UN mission in Angola, as well serving as Nigeria’s UN Ambassador from 1990 to 1999, will meet with a number of leaders and groups over the next two weeks, including Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, Darfur authorities and UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) officials.He succeeds Rodolphe Adada of the Republic of Congo at the head of UNAMID, which was set up in 2007 to try to quell the violence in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.“I look forward very much to working with all the stakeholders in this country,” Mr. Gambari said on arrival in Khartoum, the capital. read more

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UNs internal justice system marks oneyear anniversary with hundreds of cases

1 July 2010The new administration of justice system which resolves internal disputes at the United Nations has transformed the way employment grievances are addressed in the world body, with hundreds of staff embracing the system during the first year of the reform, senior officials said today. “The system serves as a milestone in strengthening the committeemen of the Organization to the rule of law, to justice and to accountability,” Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien told journalists in New York.She stressed that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is fully committed to upholding the system of justice as prescribed by the General Assembly, and to ensuring that the Organization complies fully and promptly with the final decisions of the appeals tribunal once they have been issued.The administration of justice system resolved disputes between staff and management, which cannot be filed in national courts.The system relies on informal and formal mechanisms to resolve disputes, including the Management Evaluation Unit, which covers staff of all levels and grades at the Secretariat and the UN programmes and agencies. The role of the unit is to assure that “decisions are taken and comport with rules and regulations, but also support enhanced managerial accountability,” said Under-Secretary-General for Management, Angela Kane.Nearly 300 ¬cases – double the number from the same period in 2009 – have been filed in the first three months of this year. The majority related to benefits and entitlements.Other options are provided by the Office for Ombudsman and Mediation Services, where some 536 cases have been filed in the first five months of the year, up 70 per cent from the same period last year. The head of the service, John Barkat, said the service is growing because it is quick, interest based, preserves relationships and allows parties to select the outcome themselves.The fourth section of the system consists of the Office of Administration of Justice, which services the UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT), which is the highest court of the new internal justice system. In the year since 1 July 2009, some 500 cases have been filed with the tribunals, of which 200 have been disposed and 200 judgements rendered. For the 60 years before the new internal justice system was created, the UN relied on peer review bodies composed of staff members, followed by a review by the UN Administrative Tribunal. The new system called for by the General Assembly in 2005 has introduced two tiers of judicial review with judges who are “professional, qualified and independent,” according to Executive Director of the Office of Administration of Justice, Andrei Terekhov, who also took part in today’s press conference.In a related development, the UNAT announced today its decisions on 31 cases, which include disputes over promotions, discipline, pensions, contract matters and many other issues. The full texts of the judgements have not yet been released. read more

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UN agency appeals for better protection for worlds stateless people

Volker Türk, Director of International Protection for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), highlighted in particular the need for countries to accede to two key international legal instruments – the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness – to protect the rights of stateless people.“Stateless people are the overlooked millions who, in effect, have no recognized identity. The UN statelessness conventions provide a legal framework to prevent statelessness from occurring and to protect people who are already stateless,” he stated.Mr. Türk noted during a meeting in Geneva that stateless people often fall through a protection gap given the low number of governments who have signed on to these treaties and adopted concrete measures to address their concerns.“It’s time to change that. We need States to act, and act now in confirming their commitment to reducing statelessness and protecting their rights.”According to UNHCR, only 65 of the UN’s 192 Member States are currently State parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons while just 37 have acceded to or ratified the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The problem of statelessness occurs for different reasons, including discrimination against minority groups in nationality legislation, failure to include all residents in the body of citizens when a State becomes independent and conflicts of laws between States.“The problem is often invisible and stateless people generally live on the margins of society,” noted the agency. “Yet statelessness can have a terrible impact on the lives of individuals.” UNHCR stressed that possession of nationality is essential for full participation in society and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of the full range of human rights. 6 October 2010The United Nations refugee agency appealed today for greater efforts to help an estimated 12 million people worldwide who are considered stateless and left in limbo with limited human rights. read more

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Despite easing of Gaza blockade situation still desperate UN official warns

“We have a huge amount of progress still to make to have a meaningful impact for the population on the ground,” John Ging, Gaza Director for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told reporters in New York, stressing that 80 per cent of the population is dependent on aid and cannot afford to buy what is available in the shops.“The plight of the people is still desperate,” he said, citing the tiny proportion of construction projects that have so far been approved by Israel – only six of the 100 schools UNRWA has sought to keep up with the student population – and the need to revive the economy through full access for both imports and exports.“All of us on the ground are encouraged by positive developments because we have to turn a corner and we feel that we have turned a corner. We’re still at the bottom of the ladder and we have a hell of a long way to climb back up and that’s why we’re saying now let’s go. For four years we were going in the wrong direction. We have now turned that corner and we are going in the right direction. We need to speed it up.”Israel has blockaded Gaza for over three years but in June it started allowing in more civilian goods while still restricting access to concrete, iron and other materials that the UN says are needed to repair the devastating damage caused by the 2008-2009 offensive Israel said it launched to halt rocket and other attacks against it. Israel says these materials could be used for offensive purposes.Mr. Ging noted that there was 80 per cent aid dependency among Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants. “The water situation is in crisis, 90 per cent according to the World Health Organization calculations is unfit for human consumption, 80 million cubic litres of sewage continues to be pumped out into the Mediterranean every single day untreated,” he noted.Tens of thousands of houses that were destroyed in Israel’s offensive still stand in ruins and the construction projects that have been approved so far only account for about 7 per cent of the UN portfolio. “Moving forward, that is what we have to focus on,” Mr. Ging said, stressing the need to revive the commercial sector and resuscitate the import and export economy, with 95 per cent of the business sector now dormant, so as to get people back to work and off aid dependency.“The donor community is no longer able to meet the financial costs of this level of aid dependency,” he added, while still striking what he called “a note of hope and opportunity and urgency.”Detailing the dire needs of the educational sector, with its desperate overcrowding and children learning in shipping containers, he said UNRWA wanted to build 40 schools over the next six to eight months, with 60 more over the next two years, but only six have so far been approved. This would mean turning away 34,000 children. “We must move forward at a much more rapid pace,” he declared.Access is key for all development, he stressed, calling the blockade “illegal, inhumane and counter-productive,” and underscoring the need to move beyond the humanitarian and consumer areas to bringing in commercial supplies and opening up exports. He added that he had encountered good will on the Israeli side and was encouraged by his recent contacts, but this needs to be converted into positive action.It has been shown over the past six months that progress is possible – “it’s small, but possible” – and now the pace must be stepped up, he concluded. “Let’s seize on the opportunity.” 30 November 2010Despite encouraging developments in Gaza since Israel eased its blockade in June, with shops now full of consumer goods, the economic, humanitarian, and physical situation is still extremely bleak, the top United Nations official there said today, calling for speedy moves to revive the territory’s economy read more

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UN and major African bank in partnership to raise HIVAIDS awareness

16 December 2011The United Nations body tasked with combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and one of Africa’s largest banks have formed a two-year partnership to raise public awareness of the pandemic in the continent, the UN agency reported today. The United Nations body tasked with combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and one of Africa’s largest banks have formed a two-year partnership to raise public awareness of the pandemic in the continent, the UN agency reported today.Under the partnership, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) will use the Standard Bank Group’s marketing and communication resources across the continent to disseminate knowledge and expertise on responding to AIDS among the bank’s employees and local communities.In the lead up to World AIDS Day on 1 December, the partnership organized activities in four countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa – on the theme of ‘Getting to zero,’ a UNAIDS campaign promoting a vision of zero HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and complete eradication of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.In South Africa, where the bank is based, activities included community football matches and hula hoop competitions, engagement of local radio stations to conduct competitions around HIV knowledge, condom distribution and HIV information dissemination. Voluntary HIV counselling and testing was also provided and approximately 1,150 people tested over a two week period.Activities in Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria also included community voluntary HIV counselling and testing, condom distribution, HIV information dissemination and a football gala with young people, bankers, ministers and parliamentarians. There were also AIDS awareness-raising sessions conducted among young people in 24 secondary schools by Standard Bank wellness champions.“Our partnership with the Standard Bank Group is an excellent example of how businesses can significantly contribute to the AIDS response,” said Regina Castillo, head of UNAIDS private sector partnerships. “The Standard Bank Group is making a real difference by keeping both their workforce and their businesses healthy and contributing to the communities in which they work.” read more

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TSX surges on rising oil positive earnings news

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market charged ahead Wednesday as oil prices stabilized following a series of jolts and traders digested positive earnings reports.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 158.42 points to 14,548.85.A sharp rise in oil prices helped the Canadian dollar erase early losses that took the currency to a fresh five-year low. The loonie moved up 0.1 of a cent to 87.74 cents US as the U.S. dollar made strong advances against other currencies in the wake of election results that saw the Republicans retain control of the House and gain a majority in the Senate.U.S. indexes were also positive as the Dow Jones industrials climbed 68.91 points to 17,452.75, the S&P 500 index added 6.93 points to trade for 2,019.03 while the Nasdaq added 3.74 points to reach 4,627.38. Oil prices jumped $1.92 to US$79.11 a barrel a day after West Texas Intermediate on the New York Mercantile Exchange tumbled to a three-year low in response to plans by Saudi Arabia to cut oil prices to its U.S. customers.Saudi Arabia made the cut in order to compete with a surge in oil production in the United States.“In their minds, they think why should they cut back production and let the U.S. continue full steam ahead?”, said Allan Small, senior adviser at HollisWealth.“So the Saudis are saying, we can work with a lower price per barrel and they don’t think that others can and they’re hoping they can price some people out of the market. Their costs are a lot lower.”Crude prices got extra support after the Energy Information Administration reported U.S. crude supplies rose by a smaller-than-expected 500,000 barrels last week, far less than the 1.2 million-barrel rise that had been forecast.The move by Saudi Arabia on Tuesday sparked a selloff of TSX energy stocks with the sector dropping more than four per cent. But by late Wednesday morning, the sector had made good that loss.The consumer discretionary sector was ahead two per cent as auto parts maker Magna International Inc. said Wednesday its third-quarter profit grew to US$470 million or $2.19 a share. That’s up from $319 million or $1.39 per diluted share a year ago. Sales increased to $8.82 billion, up from $8.34 billion a year ago. Magna shares gained $5.86 or 5.3 per cent to $116.46.The base metals sector turned positive, up one per cent while the December copper contract shed one cent to US$3.01 a pound.The stronger greenback weighed on other commodities priced in U.S. dollars, particularly gold as the December contract in New York fell $20.80 to US$1,146.90 an ounce. The gold sector was down just 0.15 per cent.Elsewhere on the corporate front, shares of pipeline company Enbridge Inc. slipped nine cents to C$52.15 after it posted adjusted earnings of $345 million or 41 cents per share, up from $278 million or 34 cents per share a year ago.And shares in coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc. were ahead 55 cents to $92.39 as the company earned $98.1 million or 74 cents per share in its latest quarter, down from $113.9 million or 75 cents per share a year ago. Total revenue amounted to $909.2 million, up from $825.4 million. The company is in the midst of being taken over by American fast food giant Burger King. read more

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