Petition Calls on King Mohammed VI to Allow Castration of Pedophiles

Rabat – Following the tragic story of the little boy Imran who was subject to a sexual and physical abuse, a Moroccan mother launched an online petition on addressed to King Mohammed VI, calling for the adoption of the death penalty against pedophiles.“I am a mother and I am traumatized after what happened to the little boy Imran,” wrote Ghita B., the author of the petition.“I do not feel safe in my country. I am afraid for my son, for all children. I want every pedophile who abuses a little angel to be sentenced to death, and make an example for other inhuman pedophiles,” the mother added. The petition has garnered already 1,652 signatures.Crimes of solicitation of minors and their sexual abuse are punishable with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison under the Moroccan Penal Code.However, La Coalition Contre les Actes Pedophiles (the Moroccan Coalition Against Child Abuse) said in its annual report on pedophilia in Morocco, published last November, that the number of reported child abuse cases in 2015 reached 935, an increase of 10 percent compared to 2014 (850 cases).Khalid Cherkapoui, President of the Coalition, reportedly said that most of the court rulings against convicted pedophiles in 2015 were light.“Most of court rulings against convicted pedophiles were between one year and four years in jail… Some pedophiles were even released, due to lack of evidence,” Cherkaoui said.The four-year-old boy, Imran, was subject to a brutal assault last week by a sixteen-year-old homeless boy, who raped him, and threw him in a deserted place in Hay Hassani, Casablanca, before the authorities found him in terrible condition.Moroccan media reported that King Mohammed VI ordered the transfer of the little boy to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Hospital in Casablanca to receive the necessary medical care. read more

RAM Cancels CasablancaCarthage Flights Due to Major Strike in Tunisia

Rabat – Royal Air Maroc (RAM) announced Thursday that it canceled four scheduled flights connecting Casablanca to Tunis–Carthage International Airport due to traffic disruption at the airport amid a general strike in Tunisia.The canceled flights are AT573, AT572, AT571, and AT570, said RAM in a statement. It added that it has taken extensive measures to alleviate the damage for inconvenienced customers.Read Also: Royal Air Maroc Receives First Boeing 737 MaxThe company invites affected customers to contact the following numbers“089000 0800” and “+212522489797” or to visit its website at Air, rail, and road traffic halted in Tunisia today in line with a national strike organized by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) after the government refused proposals to increase the salaries of 670,000 public servants. read more

EU Gives €15 Million for MoroccoEU Twinning on Prison Reform

Rabat – Morocco and the European Union will conduct an institutional twinning to improve the Moroccan penitentiary system.   The General Delegation of the Penitentiary Administration (DGAPR) launched a ceremony for the institutional twinning on Thursday, October 18, in Rabat, according to state-owned media outlet Maghreb Arab Press. The DGAPR initiative, supported by the EU, aims to improve Moroccan prisons by working in close collaboration with France, Belgium, and Italy on common issues such as overpopulation, rehabilitation, youth delinquency, and women prisoners. The EU is currently financing the project with a €1.5 million contribution. It will also send, for a period of 30 months, 50 experts to Morocco in partnership with the French Ministry of Justice, the Belgian Public Federal Service, and the Italian Ministry of Justice. The experts will come from various institutions, such as penitentiary administrations, regional directorates, and penitentiary training institutions, to train Moroccan prison staff. The general delegate to the penitentiary administration, Salah Tamek, declared the institutional twinning will help DGAPR reinforce its institutional capacity and competencies through a structured and participative quality program. The chief ambassador of the EU delegation, Claudia Wiedey, indicated that the EU is satisfied with the strategic Moroccan cooperation as both parties face complex issues related to penitentiary management and will be able to work towards its modernization. Moroccan prisons have, indeed, suffered many issues, especially the overpopulation of jails. According to Tamek in a speech he gave last year at the Justice, Legislation, and Human Rights Commission in the House of Councilors, Moroccan prisons no longer have the capacity to sustain the growing number of inmates. Last year, Morocco had more than 80,000 prisoners. The penitentiary administration closed 8 prisons in 2015 and 2016 because they did not meet the requirements. The administration built 11 new prisons, which helped ease the overcrowding by 38 percent, and increased the space per prisoner by 0.25 square meters. The prisons remain, however, understaffed. According to Tamek, hygiene and security are also slowly improving. Last year, the administration prohibited friends and relatives from bringing food baskets in all Moroccan prisons to fight the spread of drugs. Each prisoner gets six check-ups per year. Prisons have one doctor for every 820 inmates, 1 dentist for every 1,381, and one nurse for every 162.Despite the administration’s efforts, the state of Moroccan prisons is still alarming, and Moroccans hope the institutional twinning will alleviate the situation. read more

Netherlands Holds 3 Moroccan Hip Hop Artists in Migrant Detention Center

Rabat – The Netherlands held Ahmed, Omar, and Hamza, three Moroccan hip-hop dancers for at least five days in a detention center for undocumented migrants in Rotterdam. The artists, aged 20 and 21, had come to the Netherlands for a dance event.Maria Daif, former head of the Touria and Abdelaziz Tazi Foundation and of l’Uzine—the cultural center in Casablanca where the dancers rehearse—published the story of their “misadventure” yesterday on her Facebook account.The artists arrived at the Eindhoven airport on January 10, according to Daif. The immigration officer asked them about the reasons for the trip, their place of stay in the Netherlands, and how much money they were carrying. The three had about €300. Read also: Belgian Court Sentences Moroccan-Dutch Footballer to 46 months in PrisonDutch immigration held them on the grounds of “lack of means of subsistence and lack of evidence of the reasons for their travel.” A foreigner visiting the Netherlands should be carrying €34 a day, according to Schengen Visa Info.“Their return air tickets are paid and scheduled for January 17 (Hamza and Omar) and 22 (Ahmed),” said Daif.‘I am not a criminal’Daif related that the officer made them wait several hours in an office where other officers interviewed them. Immigration officers searched the artists and then transferred them to a police station outside the airport where they were asked intrusive questions. “Are you suicidal?” police wanted to know. “Have you ever had sex?” “They sign documents in Dutch that they don’t understand: ‘We were scared. When we signed, we thought we would be released,’” Daif narrated. “I am not a criminal, I am an artist,” Daif quoted Hamza.Police then put the three artists were then put in a van and transferred to a detention center for illegal immigrants in Rotterdam. Despite having visas, Omar and Hamza were held until January 15 and Ahmed until the 17th. “They did not know how long they would stay there,” reported Daif. Ahmed and Hamza, the youngest, were locked in one cell and Omar in another. The young men could leave their cells except between noon and 2 p.m. and then again over night starting at 10 p.m.Locked up for 5 daysAt the detention center, Hamza, Omar, and Ahmed called their families and l’Uzine. On January 12, they met a court-appointed lawyer. The lawyer asked general questions about their planned stay in the Netherlands and promised to come back the next day. The lawyer did not return, however. Made aware of the case by l’Uzine, a Moroccan senior official visited the artists on January 13. The official informed them that they would be sent back to Morocco but was not sure when. On January 15, Hamza and Omar, but not Ahmed, were again loaded into a police vehicle, each locked in a box, and transferred to the post in Eindhoven and then to the airport. They waited several hours in the vehicle before being handed over to a Ryanair flight crew on a plane heading to Marrakech. Back homeIn Marrakech, Ryanair delivered them to the local authorities upon landing. “We crossed the entire airport accompanied by police officers, as if we were dangerous criminals. Everyone at the airport was watching us.” Omar and Hamza ended up at the Marrakech police prefecture where police interrogated them at length before releasing them.“On January 17, Ahmed undergoes the same treatment,” Daif concluded in her Facebook post.Read also: Netherlands Refuses to Extradite Drug Lord Said Chaou to MoroccoOmar and Hamza are members of the Lions Crew collective. The group is not unknown; the New York Times published an article featuring the group in May.Last year, Daif boycotted the Moussem Cities Festival in Brussels to protest the reduced mobility of Moroccan artists in Europe. read more

Didier Drogba Visits Primary School in Casablanca for His Birthday

Rabat – Cote d’Ivoire’s former international footballer Didier Drogba made a charity visit to Morocco to fight the “digital divide.”On Monday, Drogba went to Oussama Ibn Ziad primary school in Casablanca’s Hay Hassani neighborhood to inaugurate a computer room equipped with 9 computers, high-speed internet, and many IT tools.The initiative is aimed to raise awareness of technological evolution among young students. The visit was also an opportunity for Drogba to encourage children to collectively practice sports in parallel with studies, arguing that it teaches good manners and respect.Read also: Pageant Twins to Arrive in Morocco on Charity MissionFor their part, students did not miss Drogba’s birthday and performed choreographed dances. They also prepared a birthday cake for him.Didier Drogba’s birthday cakeIppon Foundation conducted the project in partnership with the Peace and Sport organization and Supinfo International University. Supinfo students will take care of training students and teachers about new technologies.The three organizations have conducted similar charitable activities in France, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire with the same aim to establish computer rooms and give access to the internet to those in remote areas.The former Chelsea forwarder is the vice-president of Peace and Sport, whose main mission is to promote sports as a tool for peace.The ceremony was attended by the regional director of the Regional Academy for Education and Training (AREF) in Casablanca-Settat region, Abdelmoumen Tali; the governor of the Hay Hassani District Prefecture, Khadija Benchouikh; the president of the Ippon Foundation, Stephane Nomis; and the general manager of SUPINFO Morocco, Amine Zniber. read more

FCA to cut Windsor auto assembly shift in fall at loss of

WINDSOR, Ont. — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it plans to cut the third shift at its Windsor, Ont., assembly plant later this year at a cost of about 1,500 jobs.The move to end the shift starting Sept. 30 is to “better align production with global demand,” said company spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin.She said retirement packages will be offered to eligible employees and would work to find positions for others.“The company will make every effort to place indefinitely laid off hourly employees in open full-time positions as they become available based on seniority,” she wrote in an email.Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy said in a statement that the decision was unexpected.“I was shocked and disappointed that FCA has announced today the elimination of the third shift,” he wrote.“We will continue to meet with the company on alternatives of new products. We will need the support of all levels of government as we move forward.”The plant, which produces the Chrysler Pacifica and its hybrid version, as well as the Dodge Grand Caravan, has about 6,100 employees.FCA announced in late February that it would invest US$4.5 billion in Michigan to build a new assembly plant and upgrade other operations and create 6,500 jobs in the process. The planned cut in Windsor comes as Ontario’s auto sector is already reeling from General Motors’ plans to end production at its assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., by the end of the year at a loss of about 2,600 unionized workers.The Canadian Press read more

Kenitra and Agadir Receive First Regiment Of Military Service Conscripts

Rabat – The first regiment of military service recruits arrived at Kenitra’s airbase and Agadir’s Supreme Royal Forces Command on August 19. The regiment of recruits will go through the military selection process. The 2019-2020 military service selection will end on August 31, with 15,000 beneficiaries selected nationwide.Kenitra  The third airbase of the Royal Armed Forces of Kenitra received, on Monday morning, the first regiment of 357 conscripts for military service for the 2019-2020 season.According to Lieutenant Kamal Anoush, the Royal Air Force’s third airbase in Kenitra will receive a total of 4,285 conscripts, including 353 female recruits, for the selection process.In a press statement, he explained that the process begins with receiving conscripts and checking the documents required in order to “approve their registration, then we accompany them to the medical centers of the airbase for the necessary medical check-up.”He added that the selection committee will then oversee the processing of files and eventually select 2495 recruits, including 288 female conscripts.AgadirOn the same day, the headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Southern Armed Forces in Agadir received the first regiment of military service from the provinces of Agadir-Idaoutnan, Inezgane Ait Melloul, Taroudant, Tiznit, Ashtouka Ait Baha, Guelmim, Laayoune, and Dakhla.The number of conscripts is 2,585, including 145 female recruits.In a Youtube video, a few conscripts described the selection process as smooth and well-organized. “Today, we went through all the necessary examinations. It all went well!” said one female candidate.Knowing that female recruitment is voluntary, a second candidate, Fatima Zahrae, said “our fathers and family always tell us that we shouldn’t do it; that it would be difficult for us girls. I wanted to take this opportunity to prove myself to them.”In order to receive the conscripts, the Royal Armed Forces mobilized 17 military units throughout the Kingdom.  The mobilized military units include the cities of Meknes, El Hoceima, Dakhla, Laayoune, Agadir, and Casablanca.After the selection process, the recruits will be directed to the 14 training centers located in El Hajeb, Kasbah Tadla, Guercif, Temara, Casablanca, Nador, Ksar Sghir, Al Hoceima, Meknes, Kenitra, Sidi Slimane, Benguerir, Marrakech, and Benslimane.The final selected conscripts will start their one-year military training on September 1. Conscripts of both sexes will be assigned to the different ranks of the first military regiment based on their qualifications. read more

Woodstock 50 organizersvsinvestor clash heads to court

NEW YORK — Accusations and counterclaims are piling up as lawyers for organizers of the Woodstock 50 festival and their onetime financial partner head for a New York City courtroom.A hearing is set Monday in the clash over money, control and even whether the anniversary show will happen in August in Watkins Glen, New York.Investor Amplifi Live LLC announced April 29 that it was cancelling the event amid health and safety concerns.Organizers Woodstock 50 LLC say it’s still a go.They sued last week and said Amplifi Live sabotaged the festival, can’t singlehandedly cancel it and plundered nearly $18 million in funds.Amplifi Live said in court papers Sunday that organizers’ “incompetence” spurred it to take control, nix the festival and take back the money. Amplifi Live is part of Japanese marketing firm Dentsu.Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press read more

Ryanair warns Boeing grounding is hurting business

LONDON — Budget airline Ryanair says its profit fell 29% last year and warns that the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max planes will limit its ability to cut costs.Europe’s largest carrier by passengers said earnings for the year ending March 31 fell to 1.02 billion euros ($1.14 billion) from 1.45 billion euros the previous year. Strong 7% traffic growth was offset by a 6% decline in fares.Boeing grounded its 737 MAX planes after two crashes raised concerns about flight-control software. It said last week it has finished updating the software, though it remains unclear when the grounding will end.Ryanair had wanted to use the fuel-efficient planes to cut costs. But it delayed delivery of its first five Max planes until the winter so those savings won’t happen until 2021.The Associated Press read more

SNCLavalin CEO Neil Bruce retires Ian Edwards named interim CEO

The Canadian Press The engineering and construction firm has been at the centre of a political controversy following accusations by former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould that top government officials pressured her to overrule federal prosecutors and negotiate a deferred prosecution agreement with the company. MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. says chief executive Neil Bruce is retiring from the company and returning to his family in the United Kingdom.Ian Edwards, the company’s chief operating officer, has been named interim chief executive effective today.Bruce is expected to remain an adviser to the board until the end of the year.SNC also says that the board of directors has asked Edwards to undertake a review of the strategic direction of the company.A Quebec judge ruled last month there was enough evidence to send SNC-Lavalin to trial over charges of fraud and corruption. The company has pleaded not guilty.WATCH: SNC-Lavalin heading to court  read more

Ban Kimoon calls on Global Compact Leaders Summit to chart future course

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged action on climate change and other shared international concerns in an address to the Global Compact Leaders Summit – a gathering in Geneva of business leaders, government ministers, and heads of civil society groups committed to United Nations principles.“This Summit is an important opportunity to take our partnership forward – in learning as well as action,” Mr. Ban told those assembled from over 90 countries. “Over these two days, we must make an honest appraisal of what the Global Compact has achieved, renew our commitments, and chart a courageous course for the next three years.”The Secretary-General stressed the importance of joint actions to address climate change and announced the planned launch of a Business Leadership Platform on “Caring for Climate” – a joint project with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Mr. Ban recalled that since the Global Compact was launched in 2000 with 47 companies, it had grown to “what is today the world’s largest corporate citizenship initiative, counting 4,000 stakeholders in 116 countries.” The Compact “has lived up to its promise – bringing business together with other stakeholders, and infusing markets and economies with universal values,” he said.Participants, split almost evenly between developed and developing economies, “have taken thousands of actions in support of the Global Compact’s 10 principles” which relate to the environment and anti-corruption as well as human and labour rights. The conference offers the opportunity “to assess the sea change that is taking place in the relationship between business and communities,” he said, pointing out that in today’s interdependent world, “business leadership cannot be sustained without showing leadership on environmental, social and governance issues.”Mr. Ban acknowledged that progress in carrying out the Global Compact’s principles is still uneven. “We need to apply policies more deeply and specifically across the board,” he said. In areas that would benefit most from a robust global economy, business is still too often linked with “exploitative practices, corruption, income equality and other barriers” that discourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Mr. Ban called on representatives from business, trade unions, academia and governments to do their part to ensure the Compact’s success, and pledged his full support in this endeavour “so that we fulfil the Global Compact’s aspirations and vision.”General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told the approximately 1,000 participants that the UN must “strengthen partnerships with business and civil society in order to better utilize your knowledge, expertise, access and reach.”Neville Isdell, Chairman and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Company, said it was time to leverage the contribution of business through the Compact, which provided “the structure and the focus for collective action.” Praising the Compact’s voluntary character, he said the initiative “allows us to pursue the transformation in ways that none of us can do on our own.”Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan said the human rights potential of the Compact was not being fully realized, and said delisting companies that do not uphold the principles was a positive but insufficient step. She called for a “robust peer review mechanism,” adding that “the best-performing companies can help to raise the bar by holding each other to account.” Guy Rider, the International Trade Union Confederation’s General Secretary, said the Compact was grounded in principles recognized by law, and “it is up to society to tell business what its responsibility is, not up to business to establish what its responsibility is.” Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan said a new paradigm was favouring the world’s richest 1.7 billion consumers in a “continuing asymmetry” among global consumers. The “market-based globalization” was not a panacea, and an “ethics-based globalization” should instead aim at a “mutually assured survival,” he said.The Compact’s first Annual Review, a comprehensive survey that monitors the extent to which companies have implemented the 10 principles, showed wide adoption. A majority of survey respondents have policies in place related to human rights, labour conditions, the environment and the fight against corruption. Some 63 per cent said they participated in the Compact to increase trust in the company.The Review also showed that companies are increasingly following the new reporting policy, whereby signatories are expected to disclose annually how they are implementing the principles, or risk being de-listed. Some 500 companies were delisted last year for repeated failure to communicate on progress, said Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell, and 500 more were expected to be delisted this year.While companies are accelerating implementation efforts, there are notable performance gaps, Mr. Kell said. “For multinationals and other large companies, it is clear that more work needs to be done to embed the principles into subsidiaries and supply chains.”Also addressing the Summit was Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, who called on those present to “combine the universal authority of the UN, the global reach of international business and the mobilizing power of civil society to confront” global challenges together. 5 July 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged action on climate change and other shared international concerns in an address to the Global Compact Leaders Summit – a gathering in Geneva of business leaders, government ministers, and heads of civil society groups committed to United Nations principles. read more

Global land temperatures for January and April likely warmest ever recorded –

Global land surface temperatures for January and April will likely be ranked as the warmest since records began in 1880, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today, adding that it is working with its partners to set up a multi-hazard early warning system to tackle the extremes brought on by climate change, such as violent storms, floods and heatwaves.“Weather and climate are marked by record extremes in many regions across the world since January 2007,” WMO said in its update, noting that global temperatures were 1.89°C warmer than average for January and 1.37°C warmer than average for April. It noted that the most recent assessment report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the warming of the climate system was unequivocal and most likely due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels. Among the latest extremes WMO cited four monsoon depressions, double the normal, which caused heavy floods in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, killing more than 500 people, displacing over 10 million others and destroying vast areas of croplands, livestock and property; the first documented cyclone in the Arabian Sea hitting Oman and Iran; and the wettest May to July period in England and Wales (406 milimetres) since records began in 1766. Others included a powerful storm system in much of northern Europe in January; abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan since the end of June; a series of large swell waves (estimated at 3-4.5 metres) that swamped 68 islands in the Maldives in May; two extreme record-breaking heat waves in south-eastern Europe in June and July; and a heat wave that swept across western and central Russia in May, breaking several records. “Recognizing the severe health impacts of heat waves, the WMO and the [UN] World Health Organization (WHO), are at an advanced stage of preparing Guidance on the implementation of Heat Health early Warning Systems,” the agency said. Nor was the southern hemisphere spared extremes. An unusual cold southern winter brought winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to various parts of South America with temperatures reaching as low as -22°C in Argentina and -18°C in Chile in July. In June South Africa experienced its first significant snowfall since 1981 with 25 centimetres registered in parts of the country. By contrast, in the northern hemisphere winter many European countries had their warmest January on record, with The Netherlands reporting the highest since measurements were first taken in 1706, averaging about 7.1°C (2.8°C above 1961-1990 average) while in Germany the temperatures were 4.6°C above the 1961-1990 average. An increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970 has also been observed. “WMO and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of its 188 Members are working with other UN agencies and partners towards the establishment of a multi-hazard early warning system,” the agency declared. “Furthermore, they are putting in place sustainable observation systems needed for monitoring and assessing the impacts of climate change and determining the adaptation priorities for the most vulnerable countries.” 7 August 2007Global land surface temperatures for January and April will likely be ranked as the warmest since records began in 1880, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today, adding that it is working with its partners to set up a multi-hazard early warning system to tackle the extremes brought on by climate change, such as violent storms, floods and heatwaves. read more

Ebola virus outbreak in central DR Congo claims 160 lives – UN

At least 160 people have died in an outbreak of the highly lethal haemorrhagic Ebola virus in the centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today, announcing that it is rushing medical and supplies to the region to try to contain the disease.Laboratory analysis conducted in Gabon and the United States on samples taken from cases in the outbreak have confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus, which causes death in 50 to 90 per cent of cases.WHO said some of the samples also show the presence of Shigella dysentery, which is complicating the treatment of victims, who are concentrated in the Mweka and Lwebo areas of DRC’s Kasai Occidental province. It is not clear yet how many deaths were caused by Ebola given the apparent simultaneous outbreak of the diseases.So far there have been 372 confirmed cases and 166 deaths, according to WHO, while Radio Okapi – which is part-operated by the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (MONUC) – reported today that there have been 168 deaths.DRC health ministry officials are leading the response to the outbreak, but WHO said it was providing staff, supplies and equipment to the areas affected and it was also mobilizing a team of national and international experts to implement strategies to try to limit the size of the outbreak.The Ebola virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected persons or animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys and antelopes, and it has an incubation period of two to 21 days.Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating sufferers because of the lack of adequate infection control precautions in affected countries in Central Africa. Burial ceremonies also can play a role in transmitting the virus when mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person.Sufferers can experience fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headaches and sore throats, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and impaired kidney and liver function. In the most severe cases, the virus can lead to both external and internal bleeding.WHO said there is no indication yet of any need to impose trade or travel restrictions with the DRC as a result of the outbreak. 11 September 2007At least 160 people have died in an outbreak of the highly lethal haemorrhagic Ebola virus in the centre of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today, announcing that it is rushing medical and supplies to the region to try to contain the disease. read more

UN maritime agency to intensify work on greenhouse gas emissions

The head of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) today called for accelerating the agency’s work on greenhouse gas emissions from ships.Speaking to the IMO Council, Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said he would present a plan to accelerate work to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) when it meets in March of next year.Mr. Mitropoulos spoke of the increasing importance and urgency given by the international community to the control of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and “of the globally expressed wish to act, and act now,” the agency said in a news release.He said that IMO and the international maritime community needed to demonstrate their determination to be in the front line of the global campaign to tackle this threat to the global climate without delay.The acceleration involves measures to update of the 2000 IMO Study on emissions from ships, including development of a CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme, a CO2 emission baseline and technical, operational and market-based methods to achieve a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, all of which are currently planned to be finalized by July 2009. Secretary-General Mitropoulos’s call for an acceleration of the work plan has been endorsed by the MEPC Chairman, Mr. Andreas Chrysostomou of Cyprus.The IMO is the UN’s specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. 16 November 2007The head of the United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) today called for accelerating the agency’s work on greenhouse gas emissions from ships. read more

UN Peacebuilding Commission to begin assisting GuineaBissau

12 December 2007Guinea-Bissau will become the third country on the agenda of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), the United Nations advisory body set up to help countries emerging from conflict avoid sliding back into war or chaos, after the Security Council backed a request from the Government of the West African country. Guinea-Bissau is expected to formally join Sierra Leone and Burundi on the Commission’s country-specific workload once the PBC holds consultations next Monday on the Security Council’s referral of the situation.The referral comes as the Council heard briefings today from Shola Omoregie, the head of the UN Peacebuilding Support in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS), and from Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).Mr. Costa highlighted the threat that cocaine trafficking is posing to the country and its neighbours in the region, and urged the international community to make sure that Guinea-Bissau receives enough short-term assistance so that it does not collapse.Since 2005, some 33 tons of cocaine have been seized across West Africa, but Mr. Costa said this may be “only the tip of an iceberg,” adding that in Guinea-Bissau the value of the drug trade is greater than the entire national income.“Drug money is perverting the economy and rotting society,” he told Council members. “Using threats and bribes, drug traffickers are infiltrating State structures and operating with impunity.”UNODC said the country’s authorities, particularly its police and justice system, are overwhelmed by the problem and by the alliance between foreign criminal groups and powerful local figures.Later, in a statement to the press, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy said Council members renewed their concern about the security threat posed by drug trafficking and organized crime in Guinea-Bissau.Mr. Spatafora said the 15-member body supported the extension of the mandate of UNOGBIS and also invited the PBC to provide its initial advice on the situation in the country within 90 days.While it commended the Government’s efforts in pursuing national reconciliation, the press statement stressed the need to hold free and fair legislative elections next year and voiced hope that agreement will be reached soon on a date for the polls. read more

Over 100 million Europeans lack access to safe drinking water UN says

More than 100 million Europeans still lack access to safe drinking water, resulting in the deaths from diarrhoea of nearly 40 children every day, the United Nations reported today, noting that many people across the region do not enjoy the basic human right to healthy water. More than 170,000 cases of water-related diseases – including over 120,000 cases of viral hepatitis A – were reported in 2006. In Eastern Europe, some 16 per cent of the population does not have access to drinking water in their homes, while in rural areas, more than half of all people do not have a reliable supply of safe water and adequate sanitation. A new and independent Compliance Committee has been created to promote the prevention, control and reduction of water-related diseases and to increase the number of Europeans access to adequate sanitation. It will also ensure compliance with the London Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, which seeks to increase access to safe water. The new body, which was established by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the Regional Office for Europe of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), comprises nine experts, including scientists and environmental lawyers. In its first meeting earlier this week, it appointed Attila Tanzi, an Italian professor of international law, as its Chair and Ilona Drulyte, a Lithuanian public health expert, as Vice-Chair. 14 March 2008More than 100 million Europeans still lack access to safe drinking water, resulting in the deaths from diarrhoea of nearly 40 children every day, the United Nations reported today, noting that many people across the region do not enjoy the basic human right to healthy water. read more

UN calls on Côte dIvoire to push for presidential elections in late

12 February 2009United Nations officials today called on Côte d’Ivoire’s leaders to set a timetable as soon as possible for much-delayed presidential elections so that the vote can take place in the divided West African country in the latter half of this year. The number of identified voters has passed the 4.6-million mark and the operation should be completed by spring if the current trend continues, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) said in a news release.“This timetable is crucial, not only in order to maintain the present momentum, but also to allow for national planning and thus avoid accumulating delays,” it added, calling the identification and registration process, which has proceeded without any major incidents, “an historic advance” in a country that has been divided since 2002 between the Government-held south and a northern area dominated by the rebel Forces Nouvelles. “Without a target, without a date, without a timeline, we cannot provide the support that the process deserves,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire Y. J. Choi told a news conference in Abidjan, the country’s commercial capital. UNOCI set out a five-stage “rational” timetable: producing a provision voter list in the spring; issuing a definitive list after the three months allowed for resolving disputes; producing identity cards over a six-week period; distribution of cards and equipping 11,000 polling stations, for which a few weeks will be needed; and the presidential campaign itself, which on previous occasions has lasted two weeks.“Naturally, it is understood that it is the responsibility of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to set the new timetable,” the mission said. “In the interests of the Ivorian people, as well as of the international community… UNOCI is asking the IEC to publish a new electoral timetable without delay so as not to compromise the dynamic of the peace process.“For their part, the international community and UNOCI will continue to provide their support in order to ensure the success of the peace process.” The elections, a key part of the peace process that UNOCI has been fostering for the past five years, have been repeatedly postponed over the issue of voters, and were last scheduled for 30 November 2008.In a related development, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that displaced people returning home in the west of the country are facing shortages of food, water and medical facilities.UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Côte d’Ivoire Georg Charpentier has just completed a tour of the region, where village chiefs also cited the extremely high insecurity stemming from ongoing violence by ex-combatants and youths.In 2006, the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) was 750,000. By September, 2008, nearly 70,000 IDPs were identified as having returned home in the west, but the returns have been complicated by clashes with host communities over property rights, causing secondary displacements and ongoing ambushes and armed assaults against IDPs, including rape and murder. read more

UN antiracism conference winds down amid NGO expulsions for bad behaviour

23 April 2009The ongoing United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva concluded its general debate today after hearing statements on new forms of racist discrimination and expelling three non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for disruptive behaviour. A number of the UN agencies spoke at the five-day Durban Review Conference, which comes to a close tomorrow, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), which warned that saying no to racism in the work is key to promoting respect, tolerance and inclusiveness.For its part, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) highlighted its own role in countering pseudo-scientific theories of racial superiority. In a related development, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in her capacity as Secretary-General of the conference, took steps to banish three NGOs as a result of unacceptable behaviour inside UN premises “in clear violation of the rules laid down regarding the conduct of NGOs during the conference,” according to a press release.The ousted Union des Etudiants Juifs de France (UEJF) participants were “extremely prominent” during disruptions that took place on the opening day of the Conference.“There has, in the view of the organizers of the Conference, been a clearly orchestrated effort by members of this NGO, possibly in league with others, to disrupt the conference,” the release sad.Two delegates from the Neda Institute for Political and Scientific Research were intercepted with inciting materials, possibly in coordination with other organizations, and the distribution of any materials, especially offensive ones, outside designated areas is clearly prohibited. The third group to be kicked out of the conference was COEXIST for similar behaviour as UEJF, during several of the same incidents. On the Conference’s opening day, delegates of several nations walked out of the room during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s address, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said were intended to “accuse, divide and even incite” and are a roadblock to tackling the scourge of racism.On Tuesday, the conference unanimously adopted an outcome document, emphasizing the need to address all manifestations of intolerance with greater resolve, calling on States to take effective, tangible and comprehensive measures to prevent, combat and eradicate all forms of racism, and urging countries which have not yet done so to create and implement national plans to combat intolerance, among other steps. read more

Highlevel forum stresses need to tackle radioactive waste in Central Asia

The meeting brought together over 100 representatives from the region, international organizations, donors and others to discuss the problems associated with the uranium tailing deposits – left over from mining during the Cold War in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – which contain more than 800 million tons of radioactive and toxic waste. These countries have not been able to deal with the problem adequately due to lack of resources and capacity. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said the legacy of nuclear waste and related environmental management issues has a direct impact on human development in the region. “As most of the uranium tailing sites are located in densely populated and natural-disaster prone areas of Central Asia’s largest river basins, they represent a major potential risk to the region’s water supply and the health of millions of people,” she said in a statement to the forum. “Many more are likely to suffer if uranium contamination moves downstream to other areas,” she added.Neal Walker, UNDP Resident Representative, said these tailings are not only highly toxic and dangerous to human health, but they are extremely vulnerable to, for examples, earthquakes – which are inevitable and only a matter of time.Among the outcomes of the forum, he noted strengthening regulatory frameworks and national capacity to address the problem, as well as a call for public-private partnerships to bring in investments and to explore opportunities to further exploit the tailings for economic gain.“With the publicity around the event, we have generated important public awareness of the problem and broad political support for the implementation of solutions,” said Mr. Walker. 29 June 2009A high-level forum organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) wrapped up in Geneva today with the adoption of a joint declaration stressing the need to tackle the challenge of radioactive waste in Central Asia. read more

UN agency says it is facing stalemate with Iran over nuclear programme

Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a meeting of the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors that although Iran had cooperated on some issues, such as improving safeguards at a fuel enrichment plans, “on all other issues? there is stalemate.“Iran has not suspended its enrichment-related activities or its work on heavy water-related projects as required by the Security Council, nor has Iran implemented the Additional Protocol [of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty],” Dr. ElBaradei said at the board meeting, held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna.He called on Iran “to respond fully to all the questions raised by the agency in order to exclude the possibility of there being military dimensions to its nuclear programme.“To this end, it is essential that Iran substantively re-engage with the clarify and bring to closure all outstanding issues, including the most difficult and important questions regarding the authenticity of information relating to the alleged weaponization studies, by granting the agency access to persons, information and locations.”Dr. ElBaradei said that if Iran does not implement the Additional Protocol, the IAEA “will not be able to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran, especially given Iran’s past record of failing to declare material and activities.”Iranian authorities must also clarify their future intentions regarding the nuclear programme, he stressed.“This is essentially a question of confidence-building between Iran and the international community through comprehensive dialogue and other measures. I call on all parties to begin this dialogue as soon as possible and urge Iran to respond positively to the recent United States initiative in this regard,” said Dr. ElBaradei, referring to an offer of talks.Elsewhere in his report to the board, the Director General also said he was dismayed by allegations of some Member States that information concerning Iran’s nuclear programme had been withheld from the board by the IAEA secretariat, calling them “politically motivated and totally baseless.”Turning to Syria, he said that while authorities in Damascus had cooperated with the IAEA over its verification activities at the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor, they have not yet granted the agency access to information, locations, equipment or materials concerning a destroyed building at Dair Alzour, which has been alleged by some to be the site of a nuclear reactor.“I urge Syria to cooperate with the agency in its verification activities related to the nature of the Dair Alzour site. It is in Syria’s interest to enable the agency to corroborate its statements. I also call on other States which may possess information relevant to the agency’s verification to make such information available.” 7 September 2009The head of the United Nations atomic watchdog warned today that the agency has reached a deadlock with Iran over most aspects of its nuclear programme as he urged the country to credibly answer the international community’s concerns over potential military dimensions to the programme. read more