Morocco UK Key Partner In Region Of North And West Africa

first_imgLondon  –  The Kingdom of Morocco is a key partner for the United Kingdom in the region of north and west Africa, wrote a report by the foreign affairs committee at the British parliament. With its stable form of government, relative prosperity by comparison to its southern neighbors, and strong internal security and intelligence services, Morocco is identified as key partners for the UK and other Western countries in addressing the security challenges of the Western Sahel, said the report entitled “UK response to extremism and insecurity in north and west Africa”.“Morocco appears to have genuinely embarked on a path towards greater democratic openness, with the agreement of a new constitution in 2011, and significant political reforms, it said.  “Relations between the UK and Morocco are warm and mutually respectful,” it noted, highlighting that “Morocco has involved itself in efforts to rebuild Mali after the crisis, and has promoted dialogue between the government and Tuareg nationalists”.last_img read more

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India City of Guwahati Launched Buses for Women Only

Casablanca – The Indian city of Guwahati now has eight buses that only women are allowed to ride. This aims to stop the constant harassment they face, such as groping and staring.The state chief secretary Jitesh Khosla and district transport officials provided eight buses for women in Guwahati. In addition, boys under the age of eight will also be allowed to use the special buses.There are also special buses andmetrocompartmentsfor women in the capital, New Delhi. Moreover, the buses have women conductors that operate during the morning and afternoon, in order to ensure females are safe on their way to and from work.Equally important, the female conductors have been trained in martial arts for self-defense.In the past two years, India has received a lot of media attention after numerous sexual attacks and threats. Women in India feel unsafe at the sight of crowded public transportation full of men. For this reason, working women and schoolgirls are relieved that their country is finally taking some actions to maintain security for female passengers.Zerifa Wahid, an Indian film actress and brand ambassador for this service said, “Girls and women have started working in different professions. I think this will help them feel secure”.If the operation succeeds, then the service will be offered across the entire country. This new measure could help reduce sexual crimes towards India’s female population. read more

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Kaymu Appoints One of the Youngest Managing Directors in Morocco

Casablanca- Kaymu Morocco announced today that Sevan Marian was appointed Managing director. Mr. Marian joined Kaymu Morocco at January 2014 as Head of Sales. At 26 year old, Kaymu’s new MD is one of the youngest CEOs in Morocco.Mr. Marian graduated from the prestigious French EDHEC Business School. He started his career at ERDF (Electricité Réseau Distribution de France) as financial controller to next join a Strategy consulting firm in Paris. “We are happy to announce the nomination of Sevan played a pivotal role for the development of Kaymu in Morocco. Today, he is managing a young, dynamic and brilliant team that totally represents him.Morocco is one of the most promising markets in Africa and we are very confident in Sevan’s ability to unveil its potential” declared Fanny Ponce, Managing director of Kaymu in North Africa.With an average age of 26 year old, Kaymu’s team which is composed of 80 people is one of the youngest in Morocco. read more

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Maroc Telecom Blocks Online Games

Rabat – After blocking VoIP services through free applications such as Skype, Whatsapp and Viber, Maroc Telecom has also decided to block online games in Morocco.Despite the fact that no official statement has been made in this regard, Moroccan online gamers have found difficulty logging into their online games as usual.An online petition was launched earlier today asking for the immediate release of online games. After only a few hours and up to this moment, the petition was signed by 7304 people. The problem seems really serious. Moroccan online professional gamers who have been competing in different tournaments online will henceforth be deprived of access to their games; the fact which caused outrageous reactions on social media.As customers who pay their bills monthly to Maroc Telecom, Moroccan professional online gamers ask for a quick explanation to this serious decision which strikes a community of hundreds of thousands of people in Morocco. read more

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Pitbull At Mawazine Festival… Again

Rabat – The 15th Mawazine Festival will feature the return of one of the singers who stunned the Moroccan audience four years ago: Pitbull. The American celebrity from a Cuban origins will perform for the second time in OLM-Souissi on Friday May 27. (Legend of picture: Pitbull alias “Mr. Worldwide” performing in OLM Souissi, 2012).The multilinguist artist recently released a new album in 2016, titled “Climate Change,” a few months after his Spanish project Dale. Dale, which has become a symbol for Pitbull, which is repeated at the beginning of almost all of his songs, stands for: “Disfrutando, Armando, Locuras, Etc.”Pitbull has turned ecological, and is interested in preserving the environment, like fellow star Leonardo Dicaprio.He also acted in the series “Empire” in 2015, and recently announced his new project with the single “Free K.”  “Messin’ Around,” a duet with Enrique Iglesias, is another song that could be a summer hit this year.Edited by Timothy Filla read more

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Portuguese President Says His visit to Morocco Consolidates Bilateral Historic Ties

Casablanca – Portuguese President, Marcelo Duarte Rebelo de Sousa, said, Monday in Casablanca, that his official visit to Morocco at the invitation of HM King Mohammed VI helps consolidate the bilateral “historic Ties.” “For centuries, we have historical ties with Morocco (…). This visit allowed us to further strengthen these relations,” the Portuguese President told the press.He also noted that his visit to Morocco is of great importance to his country, which seeks to develop its relations with Morocco in all areas, especially the economic and political fields through promoting trade and visits exchange at the government level, adding that the two countries have recently signed an agreement in the energy field. Portuguese investors are increasingly interested in Morocco’s business opportunities, especially in the fields of tourism and industry, said Rebelo de Sousa, stressing that his country is closely following Morocco’s development in all fields.In this regard, he welcomed the efforts of the Kingdom to promote the political, economic and social development under the leadership of HM the King.Portuguese President also noted that his visit to Morocco was an opportunity to discuss with Moroccan officials various bilateral issues and other topics of common interest, including relations between Europe and Africa, the presence of the two countries on the African continent and the Middle East.With Map read more

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The World Mourns the Truck Attack That Killed 84 People in

By Sekar KrisnauliRabat – A large white truck struck down an enormous crowd of spectators in the southern French city of Nice Thursday night during the annual Bastille Day firework celebrations, considered as France’s most important holiday, and caused death and mayhem in what was later called a terrorist assault by the French president.At least 84 people were reported dead, including many children, France’s Interior Ministry said, and 18 more people were under critical condition in the hospital. It was reported that the victims died as the driver of the truck mowed them down the sidewalk for more than a mile. The truck was described by officials and police officers as being full of weapons and grenades. The driver was later shot to death by police officers. This has become the latest terrorist attack on French soil, eight months after the killing of 130 people took place in the Bataclan music hall and theatre and approximately 18 months following the Charlie Ebdo shooting that left 12 employees of the satirical magazine dead.“The horror, the horror, has once again, hit France,” President François Hollande said in a nationally televised address early Friday. He said the “terrorist character” of the attack was unmistakable and denounced the attack a “monstrosity.”France would observe three days of national morning starting Saturday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Friday morning.“We will not give in to the terrorist threat. The times have changed, and France should learn to live with terrorism,” Valls said during his statement outside Élysée Palace in Paris.Officials have warned residents to stay indoors and canceled all further scheduled festivities in Nice following the incident.Witnesses of the attack described the scene as violent and chaotic, news sources reported, and expressed their frustration at the ongoing terror that has struck France for more than a year.“I heard lots of screams and everybody was running in different directions. …It felt surreal and I didn’t move,” Pouya, from Toronto, told the BBC. “Then I saw the truck coming straight at me…. After that there was no conscious thought, my body took over, time slowed down.”Damien Allemand, a Nice Matin journalist, described online what he saw after the fireworks, the Associated Press reported.“A fraction of a second later, an enormous white truck came along…turning the wheel to mow down the maximum number of people,” he told the AP. “I saw bodies flying like bowling pins along its route. Heard noises, cries that I will never forget. This evening, it was horror.”Two French police officials said they have found identity papers alongside the driver which belonged to a 31-year-old Frenchman of Tunisian descent, the AP reported.Around 10:30 p.m. Thursday, the truck sped down the Promenade des Anglais after turning onto the promenade from a side street near a children’s hospital, The New York Times reported. Some of the first killed were identified as a middle-age Muslim woman and an unidentified man on Magnan Beach. The Times’ interactive map showed that police were shooting at the truck in front of Westminster Hotel and Spa, still on the promenade. The map further showed that the truck then came to a stop in front of the Casino du Palais and the driver was shot to death by police.The world mournsHead of States, public figures, and people around the world have taken to social media to express grief, condolences, and to some extent, offer assistance.Egypt’s Grand Mufti Allam, the nation’s highest religious authority, condemned the attack and described it as a “despicable attack,” according to the Times.The newly appointed British PM Theresa May said her nation would provide any required assistance, the Times reported.“We must redouble our efforts to defeat these brutal murderers who want to destroy our way of life,” she said.Malcolm Turnbull, Justin Trudeau, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Narendra Modi, the PM of Australia, Canada, Israel, and India, respectively, among other head of states, also took to Twitter to express their condolences.Malcolm Tunbull tweet:We mourn for the victims of another murderous act of terror in France overnight, on Bastille Day https://t.co/BZ18IJJaKb— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) July 15, 2016Justin Trudeau tweet:Canadians are shocked by tonight’s attack in Nice. Our sympathy is with the victims, and our solidarity with the French people.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) July 14, 2016Benjamin Netanyahu:Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:Israel condemns in the strongest terms last night’s horrific attack in Nice.— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 15, 2016Narendra Modi:Appalled by the horrific attack in Nice. I strongly condemn such mindless acts of violence. My thoughts are with the families of deceased.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 15, 2016The hashtag #PorteOuverteNice which means Open Door, has been used to offer homes to those in need of shelter. #RechercheNice, or “search Nice” has been used in hopes of finding friends and loved ones. #JeSuisNice which means “I am Nice,” adopted from the initial #JeSuisCharlie after the Charlie Hebdo attack, and #PrayForNice has also been circulating around social media to show support. read more

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Casablanca Hosts 17th Annual Freight Forwarders Conference

Rabat – Five-hundred experts and business leaders from 20 countries gathered May 4 to 6 at Hayat Regency in Casablanca for the 17th Annual Conference of Freight Forwarders of Africa and the Middle East region (RAME).Under the title “Connect and achieve with efficiency and sustainability”, the three-day symposium aimed to motivate and discuss the development of investments as well as to highlight achievement of Moroccan Freight Forwarders Association (AFFM) members during International Federation of Freight Forwarders (FIATA) meetings.AFFM chairman Rachid Tahri said that 2017 is an opportunity for Morocco and AFFM to emphasize the “Africanity” of the kingdom. The global event also showcased the efforts made by the Morocco in the development of logistics and transport sectors. “By organizing this international meeting Morocco asserts its African leadership and confirms its role as an international logistics hub in the Mediterranean area and Africa,” explained AFFM president.The event was organized by FIATA in coordination with the Ministry of Equipment, Transport, Logistics and Water and the AFFM. read more

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Russian court orders US investor Calvey held for 2 months

MOSCOW — A Moscow court has ordered a U.S. investment fund manager to be jailed for two months while facing fraud charges.Michael Calvey, founder and senior partner at Baring Vostok equity firm, was detained Friday morning along with two other fund managers.Prosecutors say Calvey is suspected of embezzling 2.5 billion rubles ($37 million) from Vostochny Bank, where Baring Vostok has a controlling stake.But Calvey said during his court appearance Saturday that the charges against him are likely connected to an arbitration case that Baring Vostok initiated against some Vostochny Bank shareholders.Calvey has worked for years in Russia and invested heavily in the country’s technology sector, including in the web search company Yandex.The Associated Press

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New Judges Trained in Tamazight Digital Justice to Join Moroccan Courts

Rabat – New Moroccan judges from “Group 43” have taken courses in Tamazight (Berber) for the first time in the country, in line with the Justice Ministry’s preparations of an official Tamazight alphabet.In addition to Tamazight, the judges have received professional digitization training to prepare them for online courtrooms in the near future, such as accessing and participating in hearings remotely via video.At the ceremony, justice minister Mohamed Aujjar stated that the new judges are “fortunate” to be part of an independent judicial force in the current technology age to pave the way for the integration and success of digital justice by 2022 in Morocco’s judicial system. Photo: HespressPhoto; HespressThe president of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Mohamed Abdennabaoui, pointed out that the profession of a judge is a “dangerous” one and “not for anyone” because judges must maintain high ethics, confidence, and keep an eye on the latest legal updates and developments.The ceremony, which took place at the higher institute of the magistracy, was attended by the first president of the Court of Cassation, Mustapha Fares, who said that the aspirations of the Moroccan society rest on the shoulders of the new generation of judges.The new graduates will enter the next stage of practical training on Monday before assuming their roles officially.Read Also: Morocco Wins Gold and Silver Medals at Arab Math OlympicsTamazight in schools and administrative institutionsFor Tamazight’s better integration into Morocco’s education system, the government presented draft laws 26.16 and 04.16.The first law relates to the integration of Tamazight into national education and administrative institutions and the second to the National Council for the Languages and Culture of Morocco to protect and develop both Arabic and Tamazight.The number of primary school children studying Tamazight in the current academic year has increased to 600,000, according to the secretary of state at the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, and Scientific Research, Khalid Samadi.Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani has repeatedly stressed on the use of Tamazight alongside Arabic as the two official languages of the country, in essential documents such as contracts, ID cards, passports, drivers’ licenses, and banknotes.El Othmani repeatedly asserted the need to use only Arabic and Tamazight in official documents instead of foreign languages, such as French, but noted the administrations’ “lack of consideration” of the government’s calls. read more

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Stock options to be taxed more like regular income under new federal

OTTAWA — Executives at big established companies who get paid with large stock grants will owe more in tax under changes promised in the new federal budget.Under the current rules, employee stock option benefits are taxed at half the normal rate of personal income — the same rate as capital gains.The plan announced in the federal budget Tuesday will put a $200,000 annual cap on the stock-option grants that get the preferential treatment, for employees of large firms.The government plans to exclude start-ups and rapidly growing businesses from the cap, to allow them to use potentially lucrative stock options as a tool to attract and reward employees without necessarily paying big salaries.“We will take action to limit the benefit of the stock option deduction for executives of large, long-established corporations — while ensuring that everyday employees aren’t affected, and that start-ups and emerging Canadian businesses can continue to grow, attract talent, and create more good jobs,” Finance Minister Bill Morneau said.The government said the rationale for preferential tax treatment of employee stock options is to support younger and growing businesses and that it does not believe that they should be used as compensation for executives of large, mature companies only because they come with favourable tax treatment.Further details of the plan are expected to be released in the summer.Bruce Ball, vice-president for taxation at the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, said the details of the plan will be key.“The have to figure out exactly which companies the new rules will apply to and which ones they don’t,” Ball said. “There are references to start-up companies and growth companies and there are references to mature companies at the other end, so I think we’ll need some sort of clarification in the middle.”The Liberals set themselves up similarly in their 2017 budget, promising changes to restrict the use of private corporations by professionals such as doctors to get better tax treatment for their incomes, with details to come. When Morneau released those details the following summer, the angry reaction ultimately caused the government to back down.The government noted the change to the taxes on stock options will only apply to options granted in the future and will not apply to those granted before the announcement of legislation to implement the new plan.Employee stock options allow workers to buy shares of their employers at a set price, which might be less than the market price.In their 2015 campaign platform, the Liberals had promised to set a cap on how much could be claimed through the stock option deduction.Craig Wong, The Canadian Press read more

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What Disney gets as its 713B buy of Fox assets closes

It’s finally complete. Disney closed its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets on Wednesday, more than a year after the mega merger was proposed . Disney gets far ranging properties ranging from Fox’s film studios, including “Avatar” and X-Men, to its TV productions such as “The Simpsons” and networks including National Geographic.The acquisition comes as Disney plans to launch its streaming service Disney Plus later this year.MOVIESX-Men and other movies from Fox’s studios could be added to Disney’s upcoming streaming service. Fox’s film studios, with “Avatar,” X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool, would pair well with Disney’s studios. This includes reuniting the Marvel franchises X-Men and the Avengers, as some of those characters were already in Fox’s hands when Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Disney also has the Muppets, Pixar and “Star Wars.”On Tuesday actor Ryan Reynolds tweeted a picture of his “Deadpool” character in a Disney-branded school bus. “Feels like the first day of ‘Pool,” he wrote.TELEVISIONFox’s TV productions include “The Americans,” ”This Is Us,” ”Modern Family” and “The Simpsons.” Its networks include FX Networks and National Geographic. The Fox businesses add to Disney’s roster of channels like ABC, the Disney Channel and Freeform. “Modern Family” already airs on ABC.STREAMINGDisney gets controlling stake in streaming service Hulu. Comcast, Disney and Fox now own 30 per cent apiece, with AT&T owning the other 10 per cent through Time Warner. With Fox’s share, Disney has a controlling 60 per cent stake. It has said it plans to keep operating Hulu for general programming, with its own Disney Plus service offering more family-focused fare.INTERNATIONALThough it dropped its bid for Fox’s stake in Sky, Disney gets other international properties from Fox, including Star India, a major Mumbai-based media company with dozens of sports and entertainment channels; and stakes in Tata Sky, an Indian satellite TV provider and Endemol Shine Group, a Dutch-based media company.THEME PARKSDisney has made extensive use of its portfolio at its theme parks in California, Florida and overseas. Disney, for instance, is expanding its attractions related to “Star Wars.” On the flip side, Disney turned its Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a major movie franchise.Disney would be able to expand its opportunities with Fox, though theme parks have historically been able to reach licensing deals with rival studios. Comcast’s Universal, for instance, has rides based on Fox’s “The Simpsons” and Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter.” Disney has licensed Fox’s “Avatar” for its “Pandora” park within Walt Disney World.FOX CORP.What doesn’t Disney get? Fox Corp. is a new stand-alone company that comprises of the assets Disney didn’t buy. It includes Fox News, Fox Sports, the Fox Network, and Fox TV stations.Mae Anderson, The Associated Press read more

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UN agencies urge respect for Afghan childrens rights to life and education

18 September 2008United Nations agencies working in Afghanistan have urged all parties in the strife-torn nation to respect the right of children to life and education, including by allowing safe access for vaccinators and ensuring that students, teachers and schools are free from violence. Today’s call comes just days after a suicide bombing in the south-eastern town of Spin Boldak killed a driver for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and two doctors working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a polio vaccination programme. So far this year 18 cases of polio have been reported in Afghanistan – one of four remaining countries in the world where the disease is endemic. Of those, 16 cases were reported in the south and two in the east, both areas where insecurity has hindered access for vaccinators.“Continued insecurity has greatly challenged our vaccination efforts,” Tahir Mir, who works with WHO’s Polio Eradication Initiative, told a news conference in Kabul today. Dr. Mir added that last weekend’s killing will not prevent UN agencies and the Afghan Ministry of Health from continuing its efforts, and urged all actors to allow immunizations to take place next week from 21 to 23 September, to coincide with the annual observance of the International Day of Peace. The goal is to vaccinate 1.8 million newborns and children under the age of five over the three-day period. “The polio eradication mission will continue… This is probably the best way to honour our colleagues,” he said.The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan said she was confident that the country was close to eliminating the scourge. “If we have the days of tranquillity we are confident we can finish the job of eradication of polio in Afghanistan. It is within reach,” said Catherine Mbengue.UNICEF and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are also urging that children, teachers, schools and literacy centres in Afghanistan be protected against all kinds of violence, she added. UNESCO’s mission, together with other UN agencies and development partners, is to promote education as a fundamental human right and to improve the quality of education, according to the agency’s representative in Afghanistan.“But today in Afghanistan education is at risk,” stated Shigeru Aoyagi, who noted that more than 230 students and teachers were killed and around 250 schools were attacked by militants during the past three years. Both agencies stressed that the sanctity of schools must be respected, the lives of students and teachers must be protected, and the schools must not be used by any parties to the conflict for operations or political reasons. read more

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Combating terrorism organized crime among UN police work says top adviser

“The threats faced by the global community include not just international wars and conflicts but civil violence, organized crime and terrorism,” Police Adviser Andrew Hughes, who heads the Police Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told a recent gathering of the UN’s top police officials.“Law enforcement is a key element in facing many of these challenges to international peace and security and support to national policing services is essential for peace security, human rights, development and democracy,” added Mr. Hughes at the opening of the Fourth Police Commissioners and Senior Police Advisers Conference at UN Headquarters in New York.Participants at the three-day conference, comprising of Police Commissioners (PCs) and Senior Police Advisors (SPAs) from 13 UN peacekeeping operations, shared information and strategies on how to improve host countries’ internal security systems.Assistant-Secretary-General for the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions (OROLSI), Dmitry Titov, told the gathering that although not all post-conflict challenges are resolved, “peacekeeping operations certainly can play a central role in reducing the likelihood of future conflicts and creating a framework in which normal sustainable development can resume.”He added that the UN has helped to improve the lives of millions of people “living in or emerging from brutal and devastating conflicts,” which he described as a significant achievement, especially by the UN police components.In a meeting with PCs and SPAs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to them for their efforts in strengthening the ability of national security services to promote and protect basic security needs in their host countries.In his address to the conference which ended yesterday, Assistant-Secretary-General for DPKO, Edmond Mulet, also underscored the importance of the increasingly complex work performed by PCs and SPAs in 18 peacekeeping operations deployed across five continents and 12 time zones. 12 February 2009United Nations police units supporting peacekeeping missions worldwide not only play a key role in reforming and rebuilding national law enforcement agencies in post-conflict countries, but also have a significant hand in combating larger global threats, the world body’s police official said. read more

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Global fiscal stimulus funds could jumpstart world economy – UN report

The estimated $750 million – or some 1 per cent of current global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – could spur significant returns, including stimulating innovation and job growth, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and making strides towards curbing poverty. The 154-page “Global Green New Deal” report – written in consultation with experts from over two dozen UN and external organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – was released today as more than 100 Environment Ministers have converged in Nairobi, Kenya, for UNEP’s four-day Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which began today. “Spent wisely and creatively [the stimulus funds] offer the chance to deal with the today”s immediate crises and begin focusing and framing a response to those on the horizon from future food shortages, natural resource scarcity, energy security and climate change,” said the agency’s Executive Director Achim Steiner. The new publication “represents an opportunity to accelerate towards innovation-led, low carbon, low waste Green Economy societies with decent employment prospects for many more millions of people,” he added. The Republic of Korea is putting nearly $40 billion – or 3 per cent of its GDP – towards its Green New Deal, which could generate almost 1 million new jobs, the report said. For its part, China is expected to spend close to $600 billion on a fiscal stimulus package, of which it will dedicate $140 billion – just under 2 per cent of its GDP – for green investments, adding to its $17 billion renewable energy sector which already employs some 1 million people. The United States will direct almost 1 per cent of its stimulus funds towards environmental restoration, making federal office buildings more energy-efficient, creating a smart power grid and other green measures. Also issued today at the Nairobi gathering was the UNEP Year Book 2009, which stresses the critical need for switching to a low-carbon green economy, spotlighting worrying trends, such as over 2 billion tonnes being generated worldwide annually and the number of cars on the road forecasted to double to 1.3 billion by 2050. But the Year Book also pointed out green progress being made, including the projected 30-40 per cent drop in emissions in the construction industry. 16 February 2009Investing one-third of the roughly $2.5 trillion planned stimulus funds in “greening” the global economy will give a large boost to efforts to lift the world out of recession, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released today. read more

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Marking World Habitat Day UN officials call for recharged urban planning

5 October 2009Mounting urban challenges – including climate change and unplanned development – highlight the need for revitalized and planning to meet the needs of city dwellers, top United Nations officials said today, marking World Habitat Day. Mounting urban challenges – including climate change and unplanned development – highlight the need for revitalized and planning to meet the needs of city dwellers, top United Nations officials said today, marking World Habitat Day.“Evidence from around the world suggests that governments at all levels are largely failing to address these challenges,” with hundreds of millions of city residents becoming ever more vulnerable to rising sea leaves and other climate-related hazards, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on his message for the Day.In both developing and developed countries, upmarket suburban areas and gated communities have increased in number while there has also been a simultaneous increase in slums, which he characterized as a “troubling trend.” This, the Secretary-General emphasized, has resulted in a growing divide between technologically advanced, well-serviced business sectors and areas experiencing declining industrial output.“Better, more equitable urban planning is essential,” he said. “New ideas from smart cities around the world are pointing the way toward sustainable urbanization.”Urban planning is central to achieving this goal, “but planning will work only where there is good urban governance and where the urban poor are brought into the decisions that affect their lives,” Mr. Ban stressed.For her part, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), said that urban planning systems in many parts of the world have not adapted to the changing reality.“Indeed, they are often contributors to urban problems rather than tools for human and environmental improvement,” she said in a statement for the Day, whose theme this year is “Planning our Urban Future.”The blame for urban problems, however, cannot be placed solely on planners, likening that to “turning back the clock and going back in history to a time when no one could have foreseen the problems we now face,” Ms. Tibaijuka said.The private sector and individual citizens who often do not prioritize the public good in their actions, powerful economic interest, inadequate training and other factors have created conditions in which urban planning has not been successful.“In trying to correct these deficiencies, planning has opened itself to public participation and preference and to taking a more realistic view of the limits possible, while factoring in the resources likely to be available for implementation,” the UN-HABITAT head noted.A UN independent expert today said planning “with and for the poor” is crucial in the fight against climate change.“Disasters caused by extreme weather are not simply a result of natural events, but reflect also a failure of urban planning and development policies,” said Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, noting that some 1 billion people worldwide live in overcrowded conditions or in slums and other informal urban settlements, many of which are in areas prone to flooding or landslides.Cities without the necessary infrastructure, she pointed out, are more susceptible to climate-related disasters.“Land and housing for the poor should be placed in the center of urban planning in order to ensure the sustainability of cities,” Ms. Rolnik underscored. “Concerned communities need to be consulted and be allowed to participate in the decision-making process.”World Habitat Day will be celebrated around the globe with events such as a football match in Cameroon and a photo exhibition in Chile. read more

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DR Congo UNbacked health insurance plan provides coverage for refugees

28 December 2009A $6,000-per-month United Nations investment in a pioneering health care scheme is paying significant dividends for nearly 1,500 refugees living in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who fled neighbouring countries. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spends just $30 a month for each refugee family, up to seven or eight people, on a life-saving medical insurance plan administered by the Bureau Diocésain des Ouvres Médicales. Under that plan, which was established in 1978 and covers 2 million people in Kinshasa, refugees in the Congolese capital are assigned to a health centre close to home for primary care and can be referred to a major hospital, for more complicated treatment.UNHCR joined the BDOM system this year after an extensive evaluation of refugees’ complaints about the quality of medical services they received.“Now that half of all refugees are living in cities, we are having to look at more innovative ways of delivering services to them,” said Paul Spiegel, head of UNHCR Public Health and HIV Section. “The health insurance programme in Kinshasa may be one example we will want to consider duplicating for refugees in other major cities,” he added.Local health care experts say the system is more efficient, with less bureaucracy and more focus on the health of the patients, and refugees are not only assured medical treatment but are free from discrimination when they arrive at the hospital. read more

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UN enlarges crucial communications centre for earthquake relief in Haiti

With access to information vital for making crucial decisions on how best to get help to some 3 million victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is rushing to enlarge the emergency communications network it has set up in a country where an already weak infrastructure has been destroyed.Within 24 hours of the 12 January quake WFP – which plans to distribute 10 million ready-to-eat rations in the coming week – had already sent its Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST) to the ravaged capital, Port-au-Prince, bearing laptops, satellite phones and VHF radios from the agency’s IT (information technology) centre in Dubai. Once on the ground, they set up a makeshift office in a garden inside the compound of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and set to work, restoring the mail server, establishing steady voice and data services, and a VSAT wireless voice and data link independent from the established but damaged infrastructure.Now, a week later, the FITTEST office in the compound garden is a mini communications hub, allowing up to 100 humanitarian workers precious voice and data access within and outside the country. As well as enabling operations to help disaster victims, communications are also important for the safety of aid workers. The WFP team has set up a 24/7 radio room to keep contact with them as they move across Haiti.Meanwhile, more equipment is on the way. A self contained cellular network has been dispatched from Brindisi, Italy. Once up and running, it will be able to handle data and phone calls from some 5,000 devices. Another three metric tons of material, satellite equipment, phones, computers and radios is being dispatched from Dubai.“We have basic connectivity,” WFP specialist in IT network design William Gonzalez said. “But there are the obvious problems of limited phone lines and limited bandwidth, which is something we will need to address as the humanitarian community in Haiti increases in number.” 20 January 2010With access to information vital for making crucial decisions on how best to get help to some 3 million victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is rushing to enlarge the emergency communications network it has set up in a country where an already weak infrastructure has been destroyed. read more

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At UN small island nations press for urgent action on climate change

Top officials from small island developing States (SIDS) issued calls from the General Assembly podium today for enhanced measures to be taken on combating climate change, especially in speeding up the availability of funds for poorer nations to adapt to global warming.At last December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, industrialized countries pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012, with that figure set to climb to $100 billion annually by 2020.But the “much-publicized ‘fast-track’ funding,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, told the Assembly’s high-level debate today, “has become a ‘best kept secret.’”He stressed that “information on how much of the pledges have been honoured, disbursed and to whom, has been scarce. When available, the information is vague and seems bereft of coordination.”With the form, content and completion of a new global treaty on climate change remaining uncertain, Mr. Malielegaoi stressed that making the promised funds available is a “moral imperative.”The next conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to be held in November in Cancun, Mexico.“We cannot afford to leave Cancun empty-handed,” the Samoan official stressed. “Concrete results must be achieved not only to give our people confidence that substantive responses are being reached to protect against climate change and at the same time strengthen our belief that our United Nations can deliver a legally-binding agreement.”Also urging the provision of the promised fast-track funding “without delay” was Fijian Prime Minister, Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama.“The threat of climate change, particularly sea level rise, continues to hang over us all,” he told the Assembly today.“While some of us are more vulnerable than others, we must work in concert as a responsible international family to mitigate the adverse effects of this global phenomenon.Also calling for resources to be made available for developing nations as quickly as possible, Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adam of the Seychelles voiced concern that a bulk of the funding for adaptation is being channelled through traditional outlets.“This means that most SIDS will miss out on funds because of our middle income status,” he pointed out.Addressing climate change, Mr. Adam, stressed, requires mechanisms on funding that do not rely on “business as usual.”Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Edward Natapei told world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters that “the degree of urgency for real commitments to emissions reduction must be commensurate with the science and associated impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable communities.”Action must be taken, not with concerns over short-term impacts on industrial growth or political tenure, but with the longer-term view of building sustainable economies and societies around the world, he argued.The necessity of reaching a climate change agreement “cannot be over-emphasized,” said Peter Shanel Agovaka, Foreign Minister of the Solomon Islands.He said that his country supports the call issued by SIDS to reduce temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to lower greenhouse gas concentration to well below 350 parts per billion.The need for global cooperation to solve the issue of climate change was among the themes of the address by Vice-President Mohamed Waheed of the Maldives.His country, he said, “believes that it is time to let go of the mistrust and blame that has plagued the UNFCCC process.”Dr. Waheed welcomed India’s recent initiative to voluntarily curb its emissions and its commitment to promote green energy “without waiting for others to follow suit.”Climate change, he stressed, threatens the country’s very existence, and the Maldives has invested in water and sanitation projects, as well as coastal defences. It is also creating voluntary resettlement programmes to move people to more viable islands within the country.“It is unquestionable that our actions alone cannot save us. The global community must act,” the Vice- President underlined, in a sentiment echoed by Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.The Caribbean nation, Mr. Spencer said, has pledged to curb its “already minuscule” greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, within the range specified by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).“However, much remains to be done and we are painfully aware that we cannot do it alone,” he said.He urged all countries – both developed and developing – to announce “real, meaningful emission reductions targets, so that we can move this seemingly endless debate forward and reach a comprehensive, binding agreement in the very near future.” 27 September 2010Top officials from the Pacific Island nations issued calls from the General Assembly podium today for enhanced measures to be taken on combating climate change, especially in speeding up the availability of funds for poorer nations to adapt to global warming. read more

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UN drugs office to send assessment mission to Kyrgyzstan

The UN office that deals with the illicit drug trade announced today that it will send a mission to Kyrgyzstan to assess what action can be taken to combat the trafficking of Afghan heroin in Central Asia. The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, said the mission was being set up in response to a 29 October request from the Kyrgyz authorities. “Confronting the flow of illicit Afghan opium is of paramount importance for the security of the region,” Mr. Fedotov said. “Effective drug control in Kyrgyzstan would bolster UN-wide efforts to consolidate peacebuilding and conflict prevention.” He added that after the mission, experts would draw up initial plans for a strategy to support Kyrgyzstan’s new drug control service. The request for support from UNODC came from the head of the Kyrgyz State Service on Drug Control, Vitaly Kerimovich Orazaliev, who described increased drug trafficking in the country as an “alarming situation.” Mr. Orazaliev said money from drug trafficking was used to finance “destabilizing forces and corruption” in the country. 2 November 2010The UN office that deals with the illicit drug trade announced today that it will send a mission to Kyrgyzstan to assess what action can be taken to combat the trafficking of Afghan heroin in Central Asia. read more

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