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Moroccan Cities Comparatively Safe from Rising Sea Levels

By Kaitlin JunodRabat – Moroccan cities are relatively safe from threats posed by global warming, as compared to other major cities around the world, according to a report issued this month. Both in terms of total population and percentage of the population that would be affected by rising sea levels, Morocco was not listed among the top 20 countries that would be most affected.If sea levels were to rise from a 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, the report found that about three percent of Rabat’s population and six percent of Casablanca’s population would be beneath sea level, while cities like Alexandria, Egypt and Pontianak, Indonesia, would find 49 percent and 46 percent of their populations, respectively, under water. Results were found by studying the relationship between cumulative carbon emissions, warming and the future global sea level rise. If carbon emission are to go on in what the report terms a “business as usual” scenario, the projected 4 degrees Celsius warming could submerge land that is currently inhabited by 470-760 million people. In Morocco, this means that 14 percent of Casablanca’s population and seven percent of Rabat’s.The international target for carbon cuts is 2 degrees Celsius, which would require carbon emissions to decrease by 40 percent by 2050 in order to maintain this threshold. Among the nations surveyed, China has the most on the line, with about 145 million citizens living on at risk land at the 4 degrees Celsius warming rate and 64 million citizens at the 2 degrees Celsius warming rate.The United Nations’ Conference of Parties, a body tasked with reviewing emissions inventories, is set to meet in Marrakech in November 2016 for its 22nd session. read more

Israeli Wild Fires Force Thousands to Flee Haifa

By Christopher BrodskyRabat – Wildfires have forced tens of thousands of Israelis to flee from their homes in the northern city of Haifa, Al Jazeera reported early Friday morning.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned anyone found responsible for the fires would be treated as terrorists. “We are facing arsonist terror. In front of arsonist terror we are also facing incitement and also arson. For us they are the same. And we will bring our full legal force to get those responsible,” he was reporting as saying.The region has experienced an extended drought as well as strong winds, fueling the spread of the fires.Local authorities estimate over 80,000 people have been evacuated from the city thus far, with several houses destroyed beyond repair.The main highway between Haifa and Tel Aviv was also reportedly closed on Thursday as firefighters and responders tried to put out the blaze.Al Jazeera noted homes in the West Bank, and neighborhoods surrounding Jerusalem, have also been affected by the fires.Four Israeli Palestinians were arrested as suspects involved in starting the fires, though they have since been released because of a lack of evidence.“At the moment we are investigating how the fires began. We strongly believe that the fires could have been started by individuals who fled the scenes,” mentioned Israeli police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld. read more

159 of Moroccans Live Without Toilets

Rabat  – A shocking 15.9% of Moroccans are currently still living without basic toilets and sanitation, according to a recent report published by Water Aid.Entitled “Overflowing cities: the state of the world’s Toilets 2016,” the  report reveals that 700 people are living in urban areas without a basic toilet and 100 million of people around the world practice “open defecation.”The same report shows that it is African countries that are in most dire need of latrines and the world’s worst countries for urban sanitation. South Sudan tops this list with 86. 3 % of its urban population living without safe toilets, followed by Madagascar with 82%, Congo with 80% and Ghana with 79.8%. With respect to the highest population experiencing an urgent crisis in access to proper sanitation, still  practicing open defection, reports concluded that 157 million urban-dwellers in the country practice open defection, followed by the Chinese.The report also explained that politics is one of the five major reasons why people are living without safe, private toilets in urban areas, saying that politicians neglect to invest in the issue of sanitation and prioritize investment in roads, schools and other visible infrastructure. read more

Moroccan Judge Amina Oufroukhi Named AntiTrafficking Hero

Rabat – Moroccan judge Amina Oufroukhi’s efforts in combating human trafficking in Morocco have caught international attention. The judge was named an “anti-trafficking hero” at the ceremony of publication of the United States’ 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report on June 27 in Washington.In the presence of Ivanka Trump, Judge Oufroukhi was awarded the “Heroine Award for Trafficking in Human Beings for the year 2017” in recognition of her leadership in the efforts in the Kingdom to develop a “new law to combat trafficking in human beings.”Oufroukhi was given the award “in recognition of her leadership as a driving force behind Morocco’s comprehensive new anti-trafficking law, her perseverance in developing a victim-centered implementation plan, and her steadfast commitment to training judicial and law enforcement officials likely to come into contact with victims of human trafficking.” The report also named seven other people as “heroes,” including Boom Mosby from Thailand, Alika Kinan from Argentina, Leonardo Sakamoto from Brazil, Vanaja Jasphine from Cameroon, and Viktoria Sebhelyi from Hungary.In addition to Oufroukhi’s efforts in fighting human trafficking in the kingdom, the Moroccan House of Representatives introduced in 2016 draft law 27-14 on combating human trafficking.This bill is part of a new national policy on migration and asylum, which aims to adapt national legislation to international laws in relation to the protocols on the fight against human trafficking. It is also part of the various recommendations of convention mechanisms and measures relating thereto, mainly those of the UN Special Reporter on trafficking in persons.The bill includes broad definitions of human trafficking and concepts of exploitation in accordance with the guidelines adopted internationally, including the Palermo Protocol. read more

Canadian Super Bowl fans can choose between US feed and Bell Media

David Paddon, The Canadian Press TORONTO — Sunday’s battle between the New England Patriots and the L.A. Rams could possibly be the last Super Bowl game to be available in Canada in its original form — ads and all —  through American broadcasts.Until 2017, Canadian viewers were blocked from the full U.S. Super Bowl feeds, including the commercials that are often produced specifically for the event, as domestic broadcasters were able to substitute their own versions of the broadcasts carried by cable and satellite.Since then, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has prevented simultaneous substitution, or simsub, during the game despite protests from Bell Media and the NFL.That rule is set to be rescinded by the government, as part of its renegotiated trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, but the deal has not yet been ratified.For now though, Bell Media’s ads during pre- and post-game programming will replace the U.S. ads on the American channels only until kickoff, about 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, and after the game’s final play.“This means that viewers tuning to the Canadian channel airing the game see Canadians ads, while those tuning to the U.S. channel see the American ads,” the CRTC says on its website.Bell Media’s coverage will be on CTV, CTV2 and TSN specialty sports channels.Among Bell Media’s first-time Super Bowl advertisers this year is Purplebricks Group PLC, a U.K.-based real estate seller that began moving into Canada last summer with the purchase of ComFree/DuProprio from Yellow Pages Ltd.Purplebricks tells viewers in a series of ads that they can avoid “commisery” — the pain of realizing they could have saved thousands of dollars by using its agents, who are paid a flat fee rather than sales commissions.Canada’s largest private sector union is also a last-minute entrant in the annual Super Bowl advertising contest, with a pair of commercials designed to save a GM assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont., that’s set to close this year.In English, the commercial repeats some of Unifor’s main complaints against the automaker’s plan to shift more of its production to Mexico and concludes: “If you want to sell here, build here.”Other new Super Bowl advertisers for Bell Media include Winnipeg-based food delivery service SkipTheDishes, Toronto-based robo-advisor Wealthsimple, and Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s biggest food companies and a prolific television advertiser for years.But the most prominent Canadian content in this year’s Super Bowl advertising lineup will likely be singer Michael Buble, who’s pitching “bubly” sparkling water for Pepsi during both Canadian and American programming.Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson said in an email that the company had sold all of its available Super Bowl time, and that it doesn’t reveal what it charges advertisers for Super Bowl spots.The Supreme Court of Canada is considering a Bell-NFL challenge to the CRTC’s authority to impose the regulation, under an appeal of lower-court decisions.But the court fight may be moot.Under Annex 15-D of the new trade agreement, Canada agreed to rescind the CRTC’s 2016 Super Bowl policy so that the NFL’s programming doesn’t receive less favourable treatment than other programming from the U.S. that’s retransmitted in Canada.In effect, the treaty recognizes that the football league — as owner of the Super Bowl programming rights — has the authority under copyright law to decide who can retransmit its programming. read more

Bezos tells of Enquirer threats to publish revealing pics

LOS ANGELES — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he was the target of “extortion and blackmail” by the publisher of the National Enquirer. He says the Enquirer chief threatened to publish revealing personal photos of Bezos unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., in an extraordinary blog post Thursday on Medium.com. The billionaire said the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid’s coverage was not politically motivated.Bezos’ accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world’s richest man and the leader of America’s best-known tabloid.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press read more

Calgary entrepreneurs enter the den

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Are they in or are they out? Viewers of the popular show Dragon’s Den will see if a local company gets the deal on Thursday.Kevin and Owen Alto are co-founders of Alto Collective, a company specializing in minimalist wallets and wood phone cases for young professionals.The brothers were invited to pitch their company on the show and Kevin said it was like being on a movie set.“They were all perfectly lit on their pedestals. I don’t think it would be the typical way that you would be speaking with investors in a boardroom or something like that, but the experience had values in many other ways. It’s kinda like the Super Bowl for entrepreneurs.”Of course, Kevin couldn’t reveal whether or not they made a deal with the Dragons as the show doesn’t air until Thursday evening.He did say that the timing of the show’s taping was perfect for him and his brother.“It actually just happened because they reached out to us so within two weeks, were pitching on the show. It was a very good opportunity for us because it coincided right when we were wanting to be looking for investors and then they gave us a call.”Kevin said the experience was memorable, something that’s been on his business bucket list.You can catch the episode at 8:00 pm Thursday on CBC.READ MORE: Calgary furniture company to make an appearance on Dragons’ Den read more

Geneva show has electrics sports cars and a VW dune buggy

GENEVA — Carmakers at the Geneva International Motor Show are unveiling new electric vehicles they hope will transform the industry as well as the high-end sports cars that are a fixture at the show.Volvo Car Group’s Polestar is showing off a battery-powered compact car while Volkswagen is touting the whimsical ID. Buggy electric, a dune buggy with waterproof seats and holes to drain off the water after surfing. Honda is also showing a battery vehicle.Lamborghini has the Huracan EVO Spyder convertible with a top speed of 325 kph (202 mph). Pininfarina on Tuesday unveiled the Battista, a battery powered speedster that can hit 100 kph (62 mph) in less than two seconds.European automakers are rolling out more electric cars to meeting tougher limits on greenhouse gas emissions.The Associated Press read more

Gunmen fire on uranium convoy in Brazil no injuries

RIO DE JANEIRO — The company that operates a nuclear plant in Brazil says that gunmen fired on a convoy carrying uranium fuel, but says they weren’t targeting the radioactive material.Gunmen shot at police cars accompanying the convoy Tuesday near the city of Angra dos Reis, where the plant is located.A statement by the Eletronuclear company says bandits were frightened by the appearance of police vehicles and shot at one. It says police returned fire, but there were no injuries.The company said Wednesday the uranium made it safely to the plant.Drug traffickers are known to operate in the area.The Associated Press read more

Cryptocurrency platform QuadrigaCX should be placed in bankruptcy monitor

HALIFAX — The court-ordered monitor picking over the remains of the shuttered QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency platform says the insolvent operation should be placed in bankruptcy.Ernst and Young says it has concluded there is only a remote possibility the Vancouver-based company will emerge from creditor protection and restructure.The professional services firm says its ongoing investigation to recover $260 million in cash and cryptocurrency owed to 115,000 users could be handled more efficiently under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.The exchange was shut down Jan. 28, more than a month after its lone director — 30-year-old Gerald Cotten of Fall River, N.S. — died suddenly while travelling in Jaipur, India.Soon after his death was announced, court documents revealed he was the only QuadrigaCX employee who knew the encrypted pass codes needed to access $190 million in missing Bitcoins and other cryptocurrency locked in offline digital wallets.According to the documents, another $70 million in cash is owed to users, much of which was tied up in bank drafts held by third-party payment processors.Quadriga Fintech Solutions Corp. and its related companies were granted protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act on Feb. 5.The Canadian Press read more

Morocco Receives 750 Vehicles 15 Drones From Spain to Curb Irregular

Rabat – Spanish news outlet Malaga Hoy reported that Spain has sent 750 vehicles, 15 drones, and dozens of radar equipment sets to Morocco to help improve migration control.The news outlet published an editorial on Tuesday, August 12, which praised Morocco’s collaboration with Spain in migration border control. The editorial reported that the collaboration has resulted in a “significant decrease in the arrival of migrants to Spain.”Malaga Hoy said that 13, 326  irregular migrants arrived in Spain, “almost 9,000 less than in the previous period.” The online paper also recalled Spanish activism in favor of Morocco’s government at the European Union, which led to the approval of a €140 million grant.“The Council of Ministers approved the sending of another €30 million to Morocco from the Contingency Fund,” Malaga Hoy added.The editorial team of the paper said that there should be shared responsibility between the countries of origin and the recipient countries.“We must collaborate with African countries (…) to stop migration,” the paper said.Morocco’s efforts to curb irregular migration have received praise from Spanish news outlets over recent months.Earlier this month, ABC news outlet said that Morocco’s efforts helped slow irregular migration in Spain.  The month of July ended with a significant decrease irregular migration, ABC said.The news outlet added that in July security services intercepted 2,362 migrants at sea compared to 7,885 in the same period in 2018.The number of aborted attempts in July represents a 70% decrease.Morocco considers Spain one of its major partners in the fight against irregular migration.Director of immigration and border surveillance at the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior Khalid  Zerouali said that “together with Spain, we work for the best interests of minors.” “We are a responsible country prepared to welcome these children, if they are truly ours, we must first identify them to make sure they are Moroccans,” he explained.On August 13, European Border and Coastguard Agency Frontex said that the “number of detections of illegal border crossings on Europe’s main migratory routes rose 4% from the previous month to around 10 500.”The agency added that the total for the first seven months of 2019 was “30% lower than a year ago at around 54 300.”Frontex said that the Eastern Mediterranean remained the “busiest” route in Europe with nearly 5,800 irregular migration attempts detected last month. read more

Need export help Here are some small business resources

NEW YORK — Small business owners who are interested in exporting, or who need education and assistance about issues like tariffs, can get information or assistance online or from federal, state or local government agencies.A look at some of the resources:Online help:The Small Business Administration has a guide to the basics of exporting, including how to find buyers and financing. www.sba.gov/business-guide/grow-your-business/export-products .The U.S. Commercial Service operates www.export.gov , a portal that also has educational materials, information about trade with specific countries and links to export services such as product analysis, aimed at determining if a product is ready for export. Some of the services are free, while others have fees. The site also has a section to help companies deal with trade problems.The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s website, https://ustr.gov also has information about individual countries and references such as a glossary of trade terms.Some states and cities have export assistant offices; search online to find out if there’s one in your state.In-person help:The U.S. Commercial Service has offices in most of the states and nearly 80 locations outside the U.S. You can find them at www.export.gov/locations .Small Business Development Centers, or SBDCs, give free counselling to small companies and can provide information on exporting and export resources. You can find one at www.sba.gov/local-assistance . Many are located on college or university campuses.SCORE, the organization that gives free advice to small businesses, has mentors who can help companies on a range of topics including exporting. You can meet with one in person or connect with them via phone or online. You can find a mentor at www.score.org ._____Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.comJoyce M. Rosenberg, The Associated Press read more

Security Council president says delegation will visit Kosovo this month

4 April 2007The Security Council will this month send a delegation to Kosovo, the 15-member body’s President said today, as it considers a United Nations envoy’s proposal for granting independence in a phased process to the ethnic-Albanian majority Serbian province that has been run by the world body since Western forces drove out Yugoslav troops in 1999. “I would expect that during the month of April there would be a Security Council mission to Belgrade and to Pristina,” Emyr Jones Parry, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, told a press briefing in New York. He added that details would follow after meetings with other Council members to see “how they’d like to conduct that mission.”Asked how the Council would advance the issue given the divergent views on how to proceed, including strong opposition to independence by the Russian Federation and Serbia, Mr. Jones Parry said yesterday’s discussion was informative because it demonstrated to the Council “how sensitive this issue is and how carefully [former Finnish] President [Martti] Ahtisaari [the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the future status process for Kosovo], had formulated his proposal.“Within the Council there is a natural sense of: we want more information, we are worried about the dismemberment of a State. At the same time many in the Council acknowledge that we’ve gotten to the point where what President Ahtisaari is proposing is the logical, the necessary political step and that if this is done in a carefully managed way, we can end up with stability, rights and reconciliation all furthered between Kosovo and Serbia.”Regarding the next steps, he said it would be necessary to take decisions on the Council mission’s leadership and terms of reference. “What I do not expect is the early tabling of a resolution,” he said, pointing out that consultations will have to be held in key capitals first.On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Ahtisaari briefed the Security Council in a private meeting, which was later followed by closed consultations. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Ahtisaari said this was the start of a process and that he was pleased by the discussions with the members of the Security Council. He said that the process, if not a marathon, was “at least a 10,000-metre run.” He also stressed that the Council must recognize that the sooner a decision is made on Kosovo, the better.Meanwhile, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the recent attack on the Monastery of Decani in Kosovo and pledged the agency’s continued support to ensure the preservation of the edifice, which is considered an endangered cultural site.“UNESCO and the whole international community recognized the universal value of this property when they inscribed it on the World Heritage List,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, referring to the fact that the Monastery is part of the ensemble of Medieval Monuments in Kosovo, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004, and put on the World Heritage in Danger List in 2006.On 30 March, a grenade launcher was found on the hillside overlooking the monastery, and a rocket engine was discovered lodged in one of its outer walls, according to the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). This follows reports of two explosive noises heard by the monks on Friday. “I condemn the attack on the Monastery of Decani,” Mr. Matsuura declared. “We at UNESCO remain committed to pursue the work undertaken to ensure the preservation of cultural heritage in Kosovo and I urge the leaders of all of Kosovo’s communities to exercise restraint for the sake of a heritage that is valuable to us all.”The largest medieval church in South-Eastern Europe, the Decani Monastery has come under attack several times since the late 1990s. Initial reports indicate that the 14th century edifice sustained only light damage in last week’s attack, according to UNESCO, which said none of the monks living in the Monastery were injured.Following the attack, the senior UN envoy to Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, voiced concern about the situation and called the monastery “a place of immense spiritual importance for the Kosovo Serb community and a treasure for the people of Kosovo and beyond.” read more

Excessive military spending is a perversion of values Costa Rica says at

24 September 2008Universal literacy, the eradication of many preventable diseases and safe drinking water for everyone could all be achieved if the world spent as much on those causes as it already does on military forces, Costa Rica’s President told the General Assembly tonight in a call for a radical re-think of global spending. Universal literacy, the eradication of many preventable diseases and safe drinking water for everyone could all be achieved if the world spent as much on those causes as it already does on military forces, Costa Rica’s President told the General Assembly tonight in a call for a radical re-think of global spending.Óscar Arias Sánchez told the Assembly’s high-level debate that many governments were hurting their citizens by indulging in excessive military spending.“On a planet where one-sixth of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, spending $1.2 trillion on arms and soldiers is an offence and a symbol of irrationality,” Mr. Arias said.He voiced particular concern about his own region, Latin America, where military spending last year topped $39 billion, even though the region “has never been more peaceful or more democratic.”Mr. Arias said that even tiny percentage reductions in military spending by countries could make a major difference to important causes and at the same time not jeopardize those nations’ defence.“I know no greater perversion of values, and no greater misplacement of priorities,” he said of the current spending arrangements. “With a small percentage of world military spending, we could give potable water to all of humanity, equip all homes with electricity, achieve universal literacy, and eradicate all preventable diseases.”The President called for international support for the Costa Rica Consensus, an initiative that would allow the debts of poor countries to be forgiven and increase spending on the environment, education, health care and housing in those States at the expense of funding arms and soldiers.“I also ask for your support for the arms trade treaty that Costa Rica is pushing forward in the heart of this Organization, to prohibit the transfer of arms to States, groups or individuals if sufficient reason exists to believe that those arms will be used to violate human rights or international law.“The destructive power of the 640 million small arms and light weapons that exist in the world, most in the hands of civilians, deserves the same or even more attention than military spending.” read more

UN reports second day of relative calm in strifetorn eastern DR Congo

No casualties were reported in the apparently isolated incidents in North Kivu province, where a recent upsurge in fighting between Government forces (FARDC) and a rebel militia (CNDP) led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda has driven at least 250,000 people from their homes. The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) confirmed the recent arrival in the North Kivu capital, Goma, of some 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), with further movements of civilians across the Ugandan border.UN aid agencies said they had restored full service for IDPs after week-long insecurity forced them to cut off some key elements. Distribution has resumed for health kits, immunization packages, fresh water and sanitation equipment, food and shelter. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said it is attempting to prevent and control an outbreak of cholera as the number of new cases has tripled to 150 a week.On the political side, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on peace in the Great Lakes Region, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, will be travelling for a first round of consultations on the DRC, beginning tomorrow in Luanda, where he will meet with Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos. Later tomorrow he will fly to Kinshasa for an expected meeting with DRC President Joseph Kabila, followed by weekend discussions in Goma.Meanwhile Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Deputy Special Representative for the DRC Leila Zerrougui has visited Kiwanja, 70 kilometres north of Goma and the scene of heavy fighting between Mayi-Mayi forces and the CNDP earlier this month, to assess MONUC’s ability to protect civilians.She explained that MONUC was there to protect the population and not to fight Congolese military elements. “That’s not its mission, that’s not its mandate,” she said. “Our military have clear orders; they know they have to protect the people, even with limited means. They will do all they can to bring the necessary assistance to the people.”She denounced the manipulation of the people, often against UN peacekeepers. “If people don’t show a friendly face to MONUC soldiers, they risk creating misunderstandings. MONUC must be allowed to protect the population so it can have good relations with them,” she told civil society organizations. 13 November 2008The strife-torn eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has remained relatively calm over the past two days apart from two skirmishes between Government troops and the PARECO/Mayi Mayi militia, the United Nations reported today. read more

Iraq top UN envoy discusses upcoming polls with senior religious leaders

During the talks on 4 October, both Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, and Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani raised the issue of pending electoral legislation, according to a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).Mr. Melkert underscored the urgent need for the Council of Representatives to pass the Election Law, while Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani expressed his strong support for the electoral process and for broad participation in next year’s parliamentary elections.The Special Representative, who also heads UNAMI, told the religious leaders of how the mission has stepped up its work in the political, humanitarian and human rights fields.Last month, he welcomed what he described as growing confidence in the electoral process in Iraq, giving his backing to the voter registration process ahead of the polls.“The importance of next January’s elections for the future of Iraq cannot be overstated,” Mr. Melkert said in remarks at a voter registration centre at Omar Mukhtar Secondary School in the capital, Baghdad.“The number of people taking part in the registration update is an indicator of the growing confidence in the electoral process and the will of the Iraqi people to rebuild their country.” 6 October 2009The top United Nations envoy to Iraq has discussed next January’s Iraqi elections with Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani and other senior religious officials in the holy city of Najaf. read more

SecretaryGeneral marks first International Day for Nowruz with call for peace

Last month, the General Assembly voted to recognize Nowruz – which means ‘new day’ in the Farsi language – annually on 21 March, the day of the vernal equinox. Marking the sun’s crossing of the Equator and the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, Nowruz is celebrated by more than 300 million people worldwide as the beginning of the new year. For more than three millennia, people in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, among other regions, have observed Nowruz through their own special traditions. “These rituals, from repainting homes to visiting friends to preparing symbolic meals, are infused with a spirit of renewal and can inspire not only those conducting them but all people,” Mr. Ban said in his message to commemorate the International Day. 21 March 2010Celebrating the first-ever United Nations International Day of Nowruz, the spring festival of Persian origin, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to people around the world to draw on the holiday’s rich history to promote peace and goodwill. read more

UN brings religious ethnic communities to the discussion table in northern Iraq

29 May 2010Security concerns and human rights topped a United Nations-backed discussion among the religious and ethnic communities of the northern Iraqi governorate of Ninewa. Participants at the meeting which took place on 27 May included representatives of the Christian, Shabak, Turkoman and Yazidi communities, as well of the Ninewa administration, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) chaired the talks – the first-ever meeting of the Committee on Ethnic and Religious Communities in Ninewa – in the city of Tilkaef. Also among the topics discussed during the gathering where the representation of Ninewa’s various communities in Iraq’s security forces. The UNAMI meeting marked an important first step for further dialogue and action, said Jerzy Skuratowicz, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative. “While each of the components has its unique and distinct ethnic, cultural and religious heritage that must be preserved, it is also apparent that they all share many common concerns, which need to be addressed.” read more

Text messaging helps thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria receive UN food

At the same time the UN World Food Programme (WFP) appealed to the world community to make the 65 per cent shortfall in the $32 million needed for the 130,000 Iraqi refugees it helps in Syria.Under the voucher project, which has proved effective in feeding refugees in cities where food is available on the market but out of their economic reach, beneficiaries receive a text message providing a code enabling them to cash in all or part of the virtual voucher at selected Government shops.“WFP’s Electronic Voucher System is an innovative and revolutionary way to deliver food assistance to Iraqi refugees in Syria,” WFP country Director Muhannad Hadi said. “After successful implementation inside Damascus, we are expanding its implementation in other governorates. We have already reached 100 per cent of the refugees living in Homs, Lattakia, and Tartous and by the end of October we are planning to expand in Edlib, Hama and Daraa.” Started last October with 1,000 refugee families in Damascus, it has now been extended to more than 9,600 families, or about 32,500 Iraqis, who can exchange the voucher, worth $30 per person per two-month cycle, for more than 15 different commodities such as rice, lentils, chickpeas, oil, canned fish and sugar, as well as cheese and eggs, fresh produce that cannot usually be included in conventional aid baskets. After each transaction, another text message will be sent informing them of their remaining balance will. “This system provides families with the freedom to select food of their own choice, at any selected shop and at any time they wish,” Mr. Hadi said.There are more than 1 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, according to Government figures, with some 130,000 regularly receiving WFP food and non-food aid from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 23 September 2010Tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria will now be able to receive United Nations food aid by exchanging coupons sent to their mobile telephones as the first such electronic food voucher system in the world moves beyond its pilot phase to embrace those living outside Damascus, the capital. read more

UN moves Sudanese refugees away from volatile Central African Republic border

16 November 2010Insecurity and logistical difficulties have prompted the United Nations refugee agency to relocate some 3,500 Sudanese refugees from a camp in north-eastern Central African Republic (CAR) to safer areas in the south-central part of the country. Some 500 people have been moved so far in the airlift carried out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the CAR Government, which began last week and is expected to take about one month. Most of the refugees at the Sam Ouandja camp originate from Dafak, a town roughly 200 kilometres away in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region. “They fled on foot in June 2007 to escape fighting and have been at Sam Ouandja ever since, but in conditions that over the past two years have become increasingly difficult,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva. Insecurity was a major factor in the decision to move the refugees, according to the agency. Sam Ouandja lies just 80 kilometres from the border with Darfur in an area with almost no government presence. As a result, the camp has found itself being frequently visited by fighters. “The presence of armed bandits and rebels, and the withdrawal of MINURCAT, the UN peace-keeping mission securing the camp, are further reasons for the move,” said Mr. Mahecic. UNHCR also faces extreme logistical difficulties in monitoring and assisting the refugees, whose camp is in a remote part of CAR with poor roads. This has hampered the agency’s ability to transport aid to the camp, resulting in the delivery of assistance only every two or three months instead of every month. The new camp, located outside Bambari, which is about a five-hour drive north-east of the capital, Bangui, is much more accessible. Refugees stay at the transit centre there for five days while constructing new family shelters with the kits provided by UNHCR, which recently opened a new office in Bambari. UNHCR is assisting some 25,000 Congolese, Chadian and Sudanese refugees and another 192,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR. read more