Interior Minister Investigation About Fish Vendors Death to be Released Soon

Fez – Morocco’s Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad said an investigation on the events regarding the death of Mohsin Fikri, a fish vendor who died in a trash compactor while trying to save his products, is currently underway.“We cannot accept officials acting in haste, anger or in conditions that do not respect people’s rights,” said Hassad, while promising due process for those responsible for the gruesome incident.Hassad also noted that the deceased and another man left the port with a car full of swordfish, which is illegal to fish. Both men had not been stopped at a police checkpoint, even though the prosecutor had been notified of the situation and an order to confiscate the fish had been issued. “Those who took the decision to destroy the fish and attack the impacter must answer to the public prosecutor,” the minister said.Hassad emphasized that the results of the investigations will be released soon, adding that “we can not consider the state directly responsible for Fikri’s death, but it is imperative that we identify the mistakes that were made and punish the perpetrators.”Previously, King Mohammed VI asked for a thorough investigation to charge all those found responsible for the incident to be held as an example for any public official who does not fulfill his duties to the best of his or her abilities.Following the tragic incident, several protests erupted around Morocco on Sunday evening, demanding governmental accountability. read more

CNN Features Restoration of AlQarawiyyin Worlds Oldest Library

Rabat – As the world’s oldest library, Al-Qarawiyyin, is home to some of humanity’s most priceless manuscripts. As part of its “Inside Africa” series, CNN has produced a seven-minute video of the library, showcasing its history and the restoration efforts now underway.From the beginning of its construction in the 14th century, the Al-Qarawiyyin Library, in the heart of historic Fez, was destined to become a critical hub of learning for scholars through the ages.The pride with which the library’s curator, Abdelfattah Bougchouf, speaks of historic structure is obvious. Housing priceless manuscripts such as a 9th century Quran, a 12th century astronomy text and a 14th century tome on jurisprudence, the value of the edifice quickly becomes apparent. The curator reverently leafs through one of the first biographies of Mohammed as he speaks of the library’s purpose as a centre for knowledge for scholars of the past, present and future. “Our duty,” he says, “is to look after it for humanity and future generations.”In 2012, it became clear that the building was in urgent need of restorative work to save it from the ravages of constant water damage. With no blueprints to work from, architects like Lamiss Ben El Haj, had their work cut out for them. Still, the excitement of working on such an historical project was an irresistible lure.Plans were drawn up from scratch and soon engineers were digging a new sewer system to permanently funnel the library’s arch enemy, water, away from its foundation. Major restructuring of the walls was needed to provide the appropriate support for the foundation.Speaking of the work that faced them, Ben El Haj, stressed the importance of using original materials and techniques wherever possible. “When we restore we should bring it back like it was.” In keeping with that philosophy, local craftsmen were brought in to apply their time-honoured skills to detail work, evidenced by the handwrought copper chandelier in one of the library’s reading rooms.Stairs were painstakingly reconstructed matching materials and colours against the original work. When the famous green roof tiles needed replacing they were removed one at a time and exchanged for exact replicas.Critical innovations were also made part of the restoration. A temperature-controlled room was constructed to house the Al-Qarawiyyin’s most priceless manuscripts. A specially constructed area in the basement was also built where the maintenance of the library’s more fragile pieces will be completed. The latest in high-tech preservation equipment has been installed, including facilities for digitizing ancient texts to minimize their handling.Recently reopened to the public, the restorative labour of love has restored Al-Qarawiyyin to, as the narrator says, its deserving place as the “Jewel in the Crown of the Medina’s restoration.” As the video concludes, a smiling Bougchouf reflects on an ancient Moroccan proverb, “Man’s best friend is a book.”Picture Courtesy: CNN read more

Moroccan Sufi Order Accuses Algerian Rival of Plotting Religious Coup

Rabat – Redouane Yassine, the spokesperson of the order Soufia Alaouia Maghribiya, has once again accused Algerian ascetic Khaled Bentounès of trying to get control of the Moroccan order’s zawiyas in order to serve his country’s anti-Morocco agenda.Bentounèes has presented himself as the spiritual head of the Shadhiliyah Darqawiya Alawiya order since 1975.His leadership, however, is contested by the Soufia Alaouia Maghribiya, which claims Bentounès is exploiting the historical connections between the two orders in plans to establish himself as a leader of the Moroccan order and appoint deputies in his favor. “This is dangerous,” Yassine told Moroccan news website Hespress in an article published on Thursday. He accused the Algerian ascetic of receiving foreign money to carry out an ostensible Algeria plot with the help of alleged partners within Morocco.On August 4, the judiciary police in Taourirt, northeastern Morocco, interrogated Bentounès and other persons over allegations they had forged a document claiming that the Moroccan Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs had recognized him as the head of the Shadhiliyah Darqawiya Alawiya, local online news outlet Taourirtplus reported.The ministry issued a statement on Monday denying the authenticity of the document.Yassine has directed similar accusations at Bentounèes for close to a decade, which the Algerian has continually refuted.In 2010, Moroccan news website Nador City reported that Bentounès, during a conference in Tangier, denied the allegations he is serving an Algerian agenda, calling the accusations void.He said that the Alawiya order “has always a good relation with Moroccan kings and people.”The forged document however casts doubt over the Algerian ascetic’s motives in Morocco.Both Morocco and Algeria have a rich history of Sufism. Though mainly playing a religious and spiritual role, zawiyas have historically had a varying degree of political influence.Sufism is part of Morocco’ soft diplomacy, especially in Western Africa, where millions of Muslims follow the Tijaniyyah order. Its adherents hold King Mohammed VI in high regards and see him as a spiritual leader.Algeria is trying to claim legitimacy over the order, as the founder of the Tijaniyyah, Ahmad al-Tijani (1737–1815), was born in Algeria but his movement started in Morocco. He was buried in Fez, Morocco’s spiritual city.However, adherents of Tijaniyyah see the kingdom as a religious center. Morocco has been helping the order in its mission to teach Islam by building centers and training imams who belong to the order. read more

Morocco Wants to Convince US to Back 1Year Extension of MINURSO

Rabat – Nearly a week before the Security Council’s October 29 meeting on MINURSO, Morocco’s Ambassador to the US Lalla Joumala endeavored to convince the US to extend MINURSO’s mandate by one year.The purpose of the ambassador’s meeting with US Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, a source told Morocco World News on Monday, was to explain why Morocco wants a one-year extension for the MINURSO mandate.Earlier this month, AFP reported that the US is calling for MINURSO to be renewed for only six months. Read Also: US Wants to Extend Western Sahara’s MINURSO for Only 6 MonthsHowever, several international powers believe that six months is not enough time for the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and his personal envoy for Western Sahara, Horst Kohler, to create the conditions to allow the UN-led political process to move forward.After the Security Council decided to renew MINURSO’s mandate for only six months in April 2018, France said the shorter mandate would be an “exception.”French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said that maintaining an annual extension “guarantees the stability of peacekeeping operations.”On October 11, Delattre reiterated his country’s support for a one-year renewal of the mission’s mandate.Read Also: Western Sahara: Colin Stewart to Give Briefing on MINURSO, UN ReportHe told AFP, “France’s position is to push for a one-year renewal, in accordance with a recommendation of the UN Secretary-General.”However, the US was firm in its position during a closed consultation at the UN Security Council on October 11. Unlike France, the US is pushing for just a six-month extension.An anonymous source told AFP after the closed consultations that Washington said a six-month extension would pressure the parties into resuming talks as they are doing in December. Morocco, Polisario, Mauritania, and Algeria will meet for talks in Geneva at the invitation of Horst Kohler.Political analysts speculate that the US decision might be imposed by Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, who believes that MINURSO has failed to fulfill its purpose despite its 27-year presence in the region.It is also speculated that Bolton is behind the US plan to cut aid to MINURSO from $16 million to $8 million next year.The UN Security Council will meet on October 29 to decide on the mandate. Prior to the meeting, Guterres addressed his annual report on the situation in Western Sahara to the Security Council, recommending a one-year extension.‘Group of Friends for Western Sahara’ preparationsStarting Monday, the Group of Friends for Western Sahara will discuss the draft resolution on MINURSO to be submitted by the US, MWN’s source said.The group includes the US, the UK, Russia, and Morocco’s key allies: Spain and France.Later in the week, the US is expected to submit the draft resolution to members of the Security Council for processing.Hale also met Algeria’s Ambassador to the US, Madjid Bouguerra, on Friday, October 19, according to the State Department, to discuss Western Sahara. read more

Moroccan Preacher Slams Channel 2M for Degrading Qadi Ayyad

Rabat – Moroccan Islamist preacher Hassan Kettani condemned degrading Islamist scholar Qadi Ayyad during a comedy show that Moroccan television channel 2M aired on New Year’s Eve.During the most recent episode of his show “Al Jumua Talk” on Youtube, Kettani criticized 2M, saying: that channel had invited a “ridiculous” comedian who used “degrading and insulting” words against Imam Ayyad.The comedian used Qadi Ayyad’s name as the punchline for a joke that associated “Qadi” with “excrement,” saying: “At home you have a bathroom that has a small library inside. You read Qadi Ayyad’s book and you are done defecating.” Born in Ceuta in 1083 under the Almoravid dynasty, Qadi Ayyad was the scion of a notable scholarly family. Ayyad became a prestigious scholar and great Imam of Ceuta and then a magistrate in the Emirate of Granada. Sheikh Kettani excused the comedian, citing the fact that he might not have been familiar with Ayyad. However, Kettani stressed that 2M, “which gets paid from the public money,” did not accidentally show the scene. The channel “is used to degrading sacred Islam,” including disrespecting the status of the Prophet Muhammad and Islamist scholars, he said.Read Also: Moroccan Cleric Annahari Stirs Row Over New Year’s Eve CelebrationAfter citing some of Ayyad’s works, Kettani called for respecting scholars and stressed that Moroccans should show indignation over the comedian making a mockery of Ayyad.He also called on Ulama councils’ scholars and intellectuals to condemn and raise voices against this act.Ayyad served as a judge in Ceuta between 1121 and 1136. He lost a revolt that he headed against the coming of the Almohades to Ceuta. Ayyad was then exiled to Tadla in central Morocco and later to Marrakech, where he died in 1149.Morocco’s Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech was named after Qadi Ayyad. He is also known as one of the “seven saints of Marrakech.” Seikh Kettani was a former political prisoner. In September 2003, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for alleged connections to the Casablanca bombings in 2003. Eight years later, Kettani was granted a royal pardon due to efforts by his lawyer, Mustapha Ramid, who later became Morocco’s Minister of Justice.Since his release, Kettani has denounced extremism and encouraged its rejection. read more

The Latest US to lift steel tariffs on Canada Mexico

WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump and U.S. trade tariffs (all times local):1:40 p.m.The United States has reached a deal to remove steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico, while those nations would scrap retaliatory tariffs they imposed on U.S. products.That’s according to sources in the U.S. and Canada who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement.The deal removes a major hurdle to the passage of a new pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.President Donald Trump imposed tariffs last year of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on imported aluminum. He employed a rarely used 1962 law that empowers him to put a levy on products that the Commerce Department determines threaten national security. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau planned a news conference this afternoon after earlier speaking with Trump.___9 a.m.President Donald Trump is delaying any decision to impose tariffs on car and auto part imports, deciding against ratcheting up trade disputes or impacting talks with European nations and Japan.Trump announced his decision to delay for up to six months in a proclamation issued by the White House on Friday.He was required to make a decision on Commerce Department recommendations aimed to protect the U.S. auto industry, based on national security concerns.Trump directed his trade team to pursue negotiations and address the impact that imports are having on the U.S. auto industry and its ability to invest in new research and development that he says is critical to the nation’s security.Trump says he’ll decide whether to take further action in 180 days.The Associated Press read more

UN Headquarters refurbishment aims to meet green standards – official

16 May 2007The senior United Nations management official today said a planned $1.9 billion refurbishment of the Organization’s dilapidated Headquarters complex will aim to meet or even exceed environmental standards. Reviewing the timetable for the overhaul, known as the “capital master plan,” Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, said parts of the Secretariat’s iconic building would be vacated and renovated while other parts would remain in use.Movement of staff would begin in 2008, with construction on a lawn on the UN’s premises to begin the same year so that the General Assembly could meet in the new space during the renovation.“We are taking this opportunity of the capital master plan to move ahead with the ‘greening of the UN,’” she said. “This is a very important opportunity for all of us and we’re going to take it to make sure the UN can become a model, if we can, on the environmental front.”She acknowledged that this is a tall order. “It is not going to be easy because this is an old building that we are renovating. If we start from scratch it would be easier,” she said. To guide its work, the UN was following the standards set by LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a group that provides certification to buildings in the United States when they accomplish certain measures. The UN was trying to achieve the group’s ‘silver rating,’” said Ms. Bárcena.“We are trying to go further if we can,” she added. Ms. Bárcena said top priority would be given to eliminating safety and health risks. “This is an old building, so as soon as you start renovating there might be the risk of certain substances that can appear in the construction, like asbestos,” she said, emphasizing that these factors would be fully taken into account.She said a recent fire inspection by the local New York City authorities revealed numerous flaws. “Others call them violations but we call them directives,” she said of the Fire Department’s findings. “They found 850 directives, of which we are taking care of them one by one,” she said, adding that a detailed plan of action has also been put into place to address each concern.“When the capital master plan is finished in 2014 we will not only meet the existing fire safety regulations in New York; we hope that we will exceed them,” she said.The main UN Headquarters buildings were constructed in 1949 and 1950 and have not been significantly improved or maintained since then. They are extremely energy inefficient, costing the UN more than $30 million a year in energy costs alone. The capital master plan is expected to save costs in the long run while saving energy.Ms. Bárcena also briefed correspondents on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposals on UN peacekeeping, which are now under consideration by the budget watchdog, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ).Under the plan, the new Department of Peace Operations would consolidate all factors dealing with strategy, planning and deployment while the new Department of Field Support would take on the responsibility of what Mr. Ban has called the current “impossibly overstretched” management.Ms. Bárcena said the proposals as they relate to the regular UN budget are “cost neutral,” with increases being sought from the “support account,” a mechanism funded through the individual budgets of peacekeeping missions. The aim would be to reduce the current headquarters-to-field staff ratio from 1 for every 149 to 1 for every 106. An increase of $65 million is being sought.“Yes, it includes an increase in posts and yes, it includes an increase in money, but this increase in numbers and resources in a certain way was going to be there even if the restructuring was not proposed,” she said, explaining that the changes were long overdue.Of the 495 new posts being sought, not all were to be in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, she said, noting that some 80 would go to the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the UN’s investigative arm.Ms. Bárcena also reviewed progress in improving the UN’s internal justice system with steps being taken to start strengthening the Ombudsman and mediation capacity while bolstering formal judicial structures.On a more personal note, Ms. Bárcena said she would make her own financial disclosure form public. This follows the example of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. Others would be made public on a voluntary basis. read more

UN raises concerns over humanitarian situation in DR Congos troubled east

OCHA reported that civilians continue to be harassed by men in uniform and homes are looted. In addition, the continued closure of the Kilambo airstrip – which restricts humanitarian access – further exacerbates the situation.Fighting has increased in recent months between Government troops and rebels allied with the dissident army general, Laurent Nkunda, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes in North Kivu.The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed supplies to over 4,500 internally displaced families, while the UN Children’s Fund participated in a mass vaccination campaign for children between the ages of six months and 15 years earlier this month. In the Rutshuru territory, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has distributed condoms and blankets.In a related development, a new military operations centre for the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – built by United Nations peacekeepers – has been inaugurated in Goma, the capital of North Kivu.In the span of one month, peacekeepers from the UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, turned a simple room into a functional, air-conditioned operations centre, which is equipped with updated maps on sliding boards, a computer and video projection system, and a conference area.At the inauguration ceremony on 29 December, General Mayala of the DRC’s armed forces (FARDC) said that the new centre is “the most modern in the DRC.”Also in attendance at the launch, MONUC’s North Kivu commander, General Narayan, told officers from FARDC – which financed the centre’s rebuilding – that MONUC aims to help the national army restore peace and establish State authority in that part of the vast Central African nation.MONUC currently has 18,407 total uniformed personnel – including 16,661 troops, 735 military observers, 1,011 police, 931 international civilian personnel, 2,062 local civilian staff and 585 UN Volunteers. 31 December 2007The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed concern over the ongoing insecurity in the conflict-ridden North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where clashes have escalated in recent months between Government and renegade forces. read more

SecretaryGeneral welcomes release of hostages by Colombian guerrillas

10 January 2008United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the release of two women held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – known by its Spanish acronym FARC – and expressed hope that other captives will also be let go soon. The Secretary-General “hopes this gesture will lead to the speedy release of the many remaining kidnap victims,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He strongly condemned the practice of kidnapping, which is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law,” the statement added. According to media reports, Clara Rojas had been held by the rebel group since 2002 and Consuelo González de Perdomo since 2001.

UN emphasizes role of blue helmets in combating organized crime

27 August 2008Policing and law enforcement experts from around the world have gathered in Stockholm for today’s start of a two-day conference examining the threats posed by organized crime to United Nations peace operations. “Establishing fair and effective criminal justice systems is essential if the rule of law is to be established in countries affected by violent conflict, in particular in post-conflict situations where UN operations are established,” said Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions, ahead of the meeting.He helped open the meeting of the fourth International Policing Advisory Council (IPAC), a group of law enforcement experts brought together by the Police Division of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).The gathering – organized by the UN, the Swedish National Police and the International Peace Institute – will delve into the impact of organized crime on peacekeeping and come up with measures to address the problem. Also taking part are experts from INTERPOL, the European Union, the World Bank, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.“A number of peacekeeping operations are on the front line in the international community’s attempt to combat organized crime in countries recovering from conflict,” said UN Police Adviser Andrew Hughes.Blue helmets have taken part in “gang-clearing” operations in Haiti, and acted against human trafficking and financial crimes in Kosovo, drug trafficking in Afghanistan, and the illicit arms trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).The UN Police Division is among the fastest-growing within the Organization, with the number of authorized police officers in its ranks swelling from just over 8,000 in January 2006 to nearly 17,000 in January of this year. Currently, over 12,000 UNPOL representing almost 100 nations are deployed in 19 UN peace operations. read more

Annual UN treaty event concludes with 80 actions by Member States

1 October 2008The annual United Nations treaty event to promote universal participation in more than 500 multilateral global pacts drew to a close today with a total of 43 Member States signing or ratifying 80 separate conventions, agreements, treaties and optional protocols. This year’s event – which began on 23 September – has seen the participation of many world leaders, with treaty actions from six heads of State and 21 foreign ministers. Three Member States today took part in the closing day of the event with four treaty actions. Cameroon signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, bringing the event total to six signatures and three ratifications for the Convention and seven signatures and two ratifications for its Optional Protocol. Following in the footsteps of Laos and Tanzania from Monday, Greece and Iceland today signed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, which received five signatures and one ratification during the event, leaving it five States short of the 20 required to enter into force. As 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the treaty event’s ethos “Universal Participation and Implementation – Dignity and Justice for All of Us,” similarly reflected this theme. The 80 treaty actions endorsed through this year’s edition of the annual event, which has taken place at the UN Headquarters since 2000, will work to support international law concerning the environment, trade, human rights and disarmament. read more

Sounding alarm bells Ban calls for more aid to landlocked poor countries

2 October 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to show the same generosity in helping the world’s 31 landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) overcome their trade-hobbling isolation as it did last week when it pledged significant new funding to help poor States in general achieve development goals. “Today we are sounding alarm bells for the Almaty Programme of Action,” he told a High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly devoted to a mid-term review of the Programme, a 2003 plan setting out specific measures to compensate LLDCs for their geographical handicaps with improved market access and trade facilitation. Although LLDCs represent about 15 per cent of States, their share of world exports has remained well below 1 per cent, according to United Nations figures. Mr. Ban noted that the “alarm bells” he sounded last week at the Assembly’s High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ambitious targets set by the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 to slash poverty, hunger, preventable illness and a host of other socio-economic ills, all by 2015, sparked an “unprecedented commitment” of as much as $16 billion.“I hope for a similarly hope-inspiring response,” he said. “Let us use the success of the High-Level Event on the MDGs as inspiration for this review.”It is vital that landlocked developing countries increase their volume of exports to meet the MDGs, yet the biggest obstacle to this is the very high cost of transport, in some cases exceeding 70 per cent of the export value, Mr. Ban told the opening session of the two-day meeting, calling for more vigorous international cooperation.Despite some encouraging progress since 2003 in improving transit transport policies, much more needs to be done in infrastructure development as roads and railways remain inadequate, and many ports use obsolete cargo handling equipment, he said. Integrated transport networks must be developed and customs operations modernized.Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto also said much more needed to be done to help the LLDCs. “Geographical realities coupled with critical infrastructure deficiencies, as well as cumbersome border crossing procedures, continue to pose daunting impediments to the external trade of landlocked developing countries,” he told the plenary.“Today, high trade transaction costs remain the single most important obstacle to the equitable and competitive access by landlocked countries to global markets.”Citing tangible progress, Cheick Sidi Diarra, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), told a news conference that official development aid (ODA) to LLDCs grew from $10.1 billion in 2000 to $16.1 billion in 2006. Direct investment more than tripled over the past five years from $3.9 billion to $14 billion.Regional and sub-regional cooperation was also one of the success stories, he said, citing the inter-Asian highway and the strengthening of airports in Africa. The World Bank reported that in 2007, landlocked countries spent an average of 49 days for their exports to reach a seaport, down from 57 days in 2006. The time spent for importing decreased to 56 from 72.But, he added: “It is increasingly recognized that high transportation costs constitute a more important barrier than tariffs.” read more

Pirate attacks could ramp up hunger in Africa warns UN agency

16 April 2009Several ships carrying United Nations emergency relief supplies bound for Somalia have become the latest victims of piracy off the Horn of Africa, prompting the World Food Programme (WFP) to express concern that millions of people in the strife-torn region could go hungry. If the Sea Horse vessel, hijacked on 14 April heading for India to load up with over 7,000 tons of food meant for Somalia, is not quickly released or replaced by another ship, WFP fears that the suffering already inflicted on Somalis will be compounded. The agency noted that last week’s attack on the Maersk Alabama – briefly sequestered en route to Mombasa, Kenya, while carrying aid for several organisations, including WFP – marked a turning point, as European Union naval escorts had kept WFP shipments secure since they began in November 2007.WFP stressed that the Kenyan port, which received more than 500,000 tons of WFP food in 2008, is essential to its operations in Somalia and elsewhere in Eastern and Central Africa. If food assistance cannot arrive through Mombasa before being re-routed to Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, southern Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), millions of people will go hungry and the already high malnutrition rates will continue to climb, according to agency.In another incident on Tuesday, the WFP-chartered Liberty Sun came under attack from pirates, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, who managed to escape before United States naval assistance could arrive.The Liberty Sun had unloaded WFP food assistance in Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, before it was attacked en route to Mombasa, loaded with 27,000 tons of WFP maize meal, corn soya blend, wheat flour, yellow peas and lentils.As 90 per cent of WFP food aid for Somalia arrives by sea, piracy has long been a concern for WFP, which saw three of its ships hijacked or attacked in 2007. Some 300 hostages and 17 vessels are currently held by a small group who are only interested in maximizing their illegal profits, Special Representative of Secretary-General for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said on Tuesday. read more

UN responding to deadly landslide in Myanmar

The 4 July landslide occurred in the settlement on the Uru River in Kachin State.According to media reports, dozens of people have been killed, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that between 700 and 800 people have been affected and are currently sheltering in five sites, including monasteries and a school.The UN and its partner agencies are working in the area by Hpakant township to plan and coordination the distribution of supplies.Food is expected to be the main priority for those affected by the torrential floods, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will be supplying emergency food aid through its partners on the ground.For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is looking into the possibility of distributing essential drugs to authorities and health facilities.At the national level, OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have offered their support during talks with the Ministry of Social Welfare. 10 July 2009The United Nations is assessing how it can assist Myanmar in the wake of a deadly landslide caused by heavy rains which swept away a jade miners’ settlement in the north of the country. read more

Ban gathers heads of regional organizations to boost cooperation on crises

Over the past few years, the UN and regional and other organizations have developed a web of cooperative relationships in various areas, including mediation, electoral matters, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. Today the majority of UN peace and security activities around the world are undertaken in cooperation with regional or sub-regional organizations.The joint UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) which is overseeing peacekeeping and mediation efforts in that war-torn region of Sudan is but one of many such examples. Capacity-building activities have also greatly expanded.Regional and sub-regional organizations bring unique insight to bear and have a special interest in responding to regional political and security crises, while the UN has more than 60 years of experience in peacemaking, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and peace-building, UN officials stress.Deepening partnerships for effective action in the field requires strong relationships, drawing on distinct mandates and comparative advantages and the retreat is intended to provide an intimate, informal forum for evaluating what has worked so far, and how future cooperation can be improved. The retreat will be followed by a Security Council debate on Wednesday on UN-regional cooperation, at which Mr. Ban and other top-level participants will speak. The meeting begins this evening with an address by Mr. Ban on “Global Realities and Regional Challenges,” and the agenda also includes time for informal interactions between the participants. Mr. Ban plans to hold bilateral meetings with a number of the participants to allow for focused discussions on regional hotspots as well as cooperation on broader global issues.Retreat participants include the heads of African Union Commission (AU), Caribbean Community, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), League of Arab States, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organization of American States (OAS), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIF), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). 11 January 2010The United Nations and regional organizations will seek to further enhance their burgeoning cooperation in peacemaking and peacekeeping, conflict prevention and crisis management at a high-level two-day retreat beginning today outside New York City, hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. read more

New UNICEF chief to highlight Japans support for child rights during visit

The new head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has arrived in Japan for a two-day visit, during which he will highlight the country’s strong support for the protection of child rights.“The Japanese Government and the Japanese people are firm supporters of UNICEF’s mission to help improve the lives of children in need,” said Executive Director Tony Lake.“Protecting children’s rights is a global responsibility that can only be met by strong partnerships like that which exists between UNICEF and Japan,” he added.Japan is among UNICEF’s top ten government donors, and private donations by Japanese people, made through the country’s National Committee, total more than the agency receives from the citizens of any other country. While in Tokyo, Mr. Lake will meet with Crown Prince Naruhito, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, as well as senior Government officials, parliamentarians and other dignitaries.He will also meet with some of UNICEF’s partners, supporters and volunteers to thank them for their engagement, and pay a special visit to Japan’s National Committee. Among his other activities, Mr. Lake is scheduled to meet with Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a former President of UNICEF’s Executive Board, who is currently the head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). They are expected to discuss joint efforts to promote children’s issues. 11 May 2010The new head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has arrived in Japan for a two-day visit, during which he will highlight the country’s strong support for the protection of child rights. read more

New chief of UN agency for urban settlements to focus on sustainable

“With over half of humanity now living in cities, we must prioritize both urban poverty reduction and environmental sustainability – especially as there are now almost 1 billion slum dwellers,” said Joan Clos of Spain.Mr. Clos was elected yesterday by the General Assembly as Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) for a four-year term starting on 18 October, at the level of Under-Secretary-General.“I am a long-time believer in sustainable cities that practise participatory urban governance and which provide shelter and basic services for all,” said Mr. Clos, who served as mayor of Barcelona from 1997 until 2006. More recently, he was Spain’s minister for industry, tourism and trade and then its ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan.“Through collaboration and partnership with governments, local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and all Habitat Agenda partners, our urban areas can be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable,” he added.On hearing the news of his election, Mr. Clos, 61, said he was deeply committed to his new task and aimed to build on the achievements of his predecessor. “I look forward to making my modest contribution to the future of cities,” he said.Mr. Clos succeeds Anna Tibaijuka, who has headed UN-HABITAT since it was formed in 2001 to replace the UN Centre for Human Settlements. The agency has the goal of providing adequate shelter for all by encouraging the development of better housing in cities and towns. 26 August 2010The new chief of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting sustainable cities and towns has stressed the need for governments, civil society and the private sector to all work more closely together to improve the world’s urban areas. read more

Recovery of global shipping industry will take more time finds UN report

20 December 2010While the hard-pressed shipping industry is recovering from recent declines, it is still being hindered by fragile global economic conditions as well as depressed freight rates and an oversupply of vessels, says a new United Nations report. The Review of Maritime Transport 2010, produced by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), shows that international seaborne trade contracted by 4.5 per cent in 2009 to 7.94 billion tons, which is below 2007 levels. It had climbed to an all-time high in 2008.Although a global recovery is currently under way, it is uneven, slower than the recoveries that have followed previous recessions, and subject to numerous uncertainties and to the fragile global economic conditions, according to the report, an annual publication that provides important information on this vital sector.“Signs show that the shipping industry and seaborne trade are recovering, but it will likely take some time for the industry to return to its 2009 levels,” UNCTAD said in a news release.Maritime transport is the single most important transport mode, with around 80 per cent of the market share in the global movement of goods. In some developing countries this percentage is much higher, due to cumbersome cross-border procedures and an underdeveloped land transport infrastructure.The report notes that seaborne trade in dry bulk commodities – such as iron ore, grain, coal, bauxite/alumina and phosphate, which represent around one quarter of seaborne trade – actually grew by an estimated 1.4 per cent in 2009. However, this figure masks fluctuations by commodity type, it adds. The supply of new vessels, the report points out, showed no signs of abating. At the beginning of 2010, the world merchant fleet reached 1,276 million deadweight tons (dwt) – an increase of 84 million dwt over 2009. Despite this increase, the combined effect of a downturn in demand and an oversupply of vessels meant that freight rates for many vessel types remained depressed.The report also details recent developments in maritime legislation, such as steps by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) regarding the scope and content of an international regime to control emissions of greenhouse gases from international shipping. Every year the report has a regional focus and this year it is on Asia since 2007, when UNCTAD last reported on the region. The report notes that recovery in the region – where gross domestic product (GDP) growth decelerated to 4 per cent in 2009, its lowest level in eight years – remains fragile and is subject to downside risks. read more

UNbacked meeting seeks to clamp down on poaching of elephants rhinos

16 August 2011Faced with increased poaching and illegal trade in ivory and horns of elephants and rhinoceroses, 300 government and civil society experts worldwide are seeking to strengthen conservation with new financial mechanisms at a United Nations-backed meeting in Geneva this week. “Innovative financial solutions are required to achieve the huge conservation task before us,” John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), told the Standing Committee of the 175-member State treaty, whose secretariat is administered by the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP). “With nearly seven billion people consuming biodiversity every day in the form of medicines, food, clothes, furniture, perfumes or luxury goods, a robust CITES is more relevant and needed today than ever. Enhanced cooperation with other organizations and initiatives is crucial to bridge the financial gap between the cost to implement CITES regulations effectively, the resources currently allocated and the services provided to stakeholders,” he added. High on the agenda of the five-day meeting, which began yesterday, are new financial mechanisms, elephant conservation, measures to reduce current levels of poaching of rhinos, tigers and other big cats, illegal trade in mahogany and other timber species, the fate of sturgeon and the caviar trade, and the sourcing of reptile skins used in the leather industry. According to a report prepared by the CITES programme for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), last year saw the highest levels of elephant poaching since 2002, with Central Africa being of most concern, with poverty, poor governance and consumption patterns in China, among the prime causes. The committee will consider targeted measures for tightening ivory trade controls all along the illegal trade chain in key African and Asian countries, and for raising awareness in Asian markets and transit countries. With rhinos, numbers have increased consistently since the early 1990s, particularly in Africa, thanks to CITES trade controls, but this trend is being jeopardized by the upsurge in demand and consequent increase in poaching levels, with illegal trade in horns, used in Asia as a medicine and for dagger handles, the driving force behind this poaching. According to a South African Government report, 174 rhinos were illegally killed there in the first six months of this year, with poaching levels rising dramatically in recent years from 13 in 2007 to 330 in 2010. More than 120 suspected poachers have been arrested since January. Rhinos elsewhere, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), India, Mozambique, Nepal, and Zimbabwe, are also suffering. The illegal trade includes fraudulent applications for CITES documents, abuse of legal trophy hunting and the use of couriers smuggling horns from Southern Africa to Asia’s Far East. The committee is also reviewing the legal origin of mahogany from Latin America. New timber information systems will be considered to ensure that the harvest is sustainable and the trade legal and traceable. read more

Pakistani trailblazer wins award for female police peacekeepers

Ms. Gulfam, currently a United Nations Police (UNPOL) Team Leader with the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), is this year’s recipient of the International Female Police Peacekeeper Award.Granted by the UN and the International Association of Women Police (IAWP), the award went to Ms. Gulfam for her work to protect vulnerable people in several countries. It was handed out on Sunday at the IAWP’s annual training conference in Lexington in the United States.For Ms. Gulfam, the award is the culmination of a career she has built step by step since she first joined the Pakistani police force in 1985.“I was born in a remote village of Pakistan in a predominantly traditional, patriarchal society,” she said. “Against all the heavy odds I decided to work as a police officer. It was not an easy task itself.”First, Ms. Gulfam joined the Punjab Police, where she worked for the investigation unit. Then she became a member of the Punjab Highway Patrol, where she was instrumental in improving the province’s traffic system. On the international level, Ms. Gulfam was the first female police officer deployed by Pakistan to a UN peacekeeping mission in 1997. She worked in Bosnia, followed by an assignment to Kosovo in 1999. “In Bosnia and Kosovo I believe that I became a role model for local women and my example encouraged them to join the police force… The newly elected President of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, is a former police officer. Her example shows that it is possible to crack and break the glass ceiling.”Ms. Gulfam also spent time as the Pakistani police contingent commander in Timor-Leste, where she was in charge of 27 police officers.Now she is the UNPOL Team Leader with the Vulnerable Persons Unit (VPU) in the capital, Dili. Upon her arrival, there had been 411 cases pending investigation since 2007. Within a year Ms. Gulfam has already solved more than 70 cases.As an UNPOL officer she is responsible for receiving and acting on complaints submitted by vulnerable people, especially women, children and those with disabilities. Beyond “traditional” police work, Ms. Gulfam has taken on VPU duties such as seeking medical assistance for victims of child abuse and domestic violence and addressing issues related to human trafficking.The officer was instrumental in involving a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in assisting victims of sexual assault and abuse. She has also enhanced the VPU with a child-friendly investigation room and adjacent garden and playground. “Timor-Leste is a typical post-conflict society, where domestic violence is rampant,” explained Ms. Gulfam, who said her job is especially difficult when victims do not report to the police. Many victims decline to provide testimony because they are afraid or unaware of their rights. In response, Ms. Gulfam has carried out a public awareness programmes on the Timorese law adopted in 2010 which declared domestic violence a public crime, and enhanced outreach to victims through liaison with NGOs. Each UN peacekeeping mission nominated two officers for the award. Ms. Gulfam was surprised to be chosen, and passed the credit to her commanding officers and PNTL colleagues. “My wish is that I do something good for the Timorese. I was away from the mission at the time when the news broke. I jumped when I received the news,” she said. “To be honest it was my dream. My friend told me about the IAWP. I looked it up and saw all the women from Europe and Canada and the United States; I thought that I could never get this award.” 23 August 2011Police officer Shahzadi Gulfam tackles difficult policing challenges with determination and a smile. In the process, she has made the communities in her charge safer places to live. read more