LafargeHolcim to Open Cement Grinding Station in Laayoune

Rabat – LafargeHolcim, the national cement leader, is set to inaugurate its first cement grinding station in Laâyoune.This major production unit will support the development of the entire Southern region, particularly its major infrastructure and housing projects, by meeting the growing demand for cement, an essential product for construction.The LafargeHolcim project will join the Ciments du Maroc factory in the region, as the Italcementi subsidiary owns a cement grinding and cementing center as well as a wind far near the same coastal town. The cement market in the southern provinces is quite appealing for domestic and global investors.Moroccan group Anouar Invest had already announced plans to build a cement plant in Laayoune. The investment disclosed  in 2014 will amount to MAD 300 million. The cement plant, named Moroccan Cimenteries of the South (Cimsud), should eventually reach a capacity of 500,000 tons per year. The cement plant will take 75,000 person-days throughout its construction and create 170 jobs.In its 2017 forecasts, LafargeHolcim Maroc expects domestic demand for cement to remain stable compared to 2016. The group is pursuing its strategy of differentiation and commercial innovation to better satisfy the needs of its customers, notably by introducing constructive solutions for the building industry as well as the supply of major infrastructure projects.In line with Morocco’s sustainable development and green energy objectives, LafargeHolcim Morocco plans in 2017 to implement a waste sorting center in Rabat as well as a construction solutions development laboratory in Casablanca.The successful merger of Lafarge Ciments and Holcim Maroc gave birth to LafargeHolcim Maroc, with a cement production capacity of 11.8 million tonnes, close to 280 points of sale, and 3,000 employees and subcontractors. read more

Boucetta Continues Tour of African Development Projects Launched by King Mohammed

Rabat – Moroccan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mounia Boucetta, continues her trip to African countries where King Mohammed VI launched several joint projects during his tour of the continent in 2016.Boucetta is expected to arrive in Guinea on Tuesday before heading to Ivory Coast. The minister arrived in Senegal on Monday where she met with President Macky Sall.“On the basis of the assessment we have made concerning the projects with top priority which both heads of state have expressed their will to realize, we noted that there is a good advancement but that there are nonetheless some difficulties which the concerned parties are urged to overcome so that the overall engagements be respected,” said the minister following her meeting the Senegalese President. The Secretary of State and other members of the Moroccan delegation visited the site of the fishing project in the bay of Soumbédioune in the Senegalese capital Dakar.The bay is home to 1,500 fishermen and over 300 pirogues. The MAD 20 million project intends to build a fishery, equipped with a cold-room, a fish-processing space, and a marketplace for selling fish.The project is due to be completed in October or November, according to the Maghreb Arab Press.Moroccan officials and their Senegalese counterparts reviewed the advancement of 15 agreements signed by the two countries, the Moroccan press agency affirmed, adding that priority was given to projects related to the residential property project “Cité de l’émergence”, the Octopus Development Plan, solar energy, and aquaculture.Other agreements that were discussed are related to agriculture, microfinance, and international transport.On July 11, Boucetta started her African visit to monitor joint projects launched by the kingdom and its continental partners. Boucetta was sent on instructions by King Mohammed VI, who in recent years has led Morocco to increase its cooperation with other African countries.Ethiopia was the first stop for the Moroccan delegation which is made of officials from ministerial departments of agriculture and housing, and representatives of l’Office Chérifien de Phosphates (OCP), Mohammed VI Foundation for Sustainable Development, and the General Confederation of Businesses in Morocco (CGEM).Other African stops included Rwanda, Tanzania, Madagascar, and Zambia.The Moroccan delegation is expected to return to the kingdom in early August. read more

This is How King Mohammed VI Sees Future Moroccan Cities

Rabat – For King Mohammed VI, Morocco strives to build smart cities without slums, with clean environment and with a spirit of creativity, civilized conduct, tolerance and cooperation to better serve citizens.In a message to the participants in the 2nd Ministerial Forum on Housing and Urban Development, delivered by King’s advisor Abdellatif Menouni, King Mohammed VI warns against the challenges of urban sprawl that causes considerable issues for urban planning.“Urban sprawl which is not based on prior planning leads to many challenges and causes considerable problems in terms of urban management. It compounds transportation problems, increases infrastructure costs, implies encroachment on rural areas, intensifies the pressure on public services, depletes natural resources and leads to environmental degradation,” the king said. The king also stressed on the most salient features of urban sprawl: “Population growth leads to ever growing urban areas because of the horizontal and vertical development that is required to meet the basic needs of inhabitants in terms of housing, roads and various other services.”The king added that “Horizontal urban sprawl often bites into land reserves, using up fertile, high-yield farming areas. This creates a concrete jungle, not to mention higher urban management costs and inefficient public services.”These profound changes in urban life, said king Mohammed VI, “will contribute to social and spatial imbalances inside cities, particularly large ones.”To solve the complexity of this situation and the perils involved, the King called on authorities “to pay close attention to urban development and to seriously address the basic issues relating to urban organization in general.”In addition to an adequate housing, the King deemed necessary to provide a clean environment which allows for economic development and smart urban planning that ultimately serves the citizen.The sovereign also stressed the need to lay the groundwork for an urban policy which respects local identities and particularities, while considering new, creative mechanisms for a new urban development system that would enable Moroccan citizens to enjoy good living conditions.“This requires thorough institutional reforms whereby regions, decentralized authorities and national initiatives would be given extensive powers. Through these reforms, those in charge of public policies should also be in a better position to answer citizens’ needs and fulfil their aspirations,” the King underlined.King Mohammed VI invited participants to strive hard in order to consolidate cooperation and promote the exchange of know-how and experiences between Arab countries given that they have the same concerns, face similar challenges, and have their eyes set on the future.The statement also recalled the launch in 2004 of the national program “Cities without slums” to eradicate all sorts of sub-standard housing in 85 cities and towns.“This ambitious national program is based on making housing the gateway to social cohesion and to economic dynamism. So far, thanks to this program, 58 cities and towns have been declared slum-free,” the King said.As the 2011 Constitution stipulates, the right to housing is essential, together with the right to water, a healthy environment, healthcare and social security.“Many accomplishments have been made in this regard thanks to political will and an approach based on the promotion of rights and of urban integration,” the King underlined. read more

Turkey Wants to Arrest Mohammed bin Salmans Allies for Khashoggi Murder

Rabat – International news outlets reported today that a Turkish prosecutor has ordered that an arrest warrant be issued against two Saudis close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.On Wednesday, a  Turkish source close to the investigation dossier said that the prosecutor’s office filed a request to obtain the warrants for Saudi nationals Ahmad al Assiri and Saud al Qahtani, two allies of MBS.Former media advisor to the royal court Al Qahtani and former deputy chief of Saudi intelligence General al-Assiri were removed from office on October 20 after the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Read Also: King Mohammed VI Snubs Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanThe prosecutor’s office in Istanbul believes that “there is strong suspicion” that the two sacked officials were involved in the planning the murder.On Tuesday, two US key senators concluded that Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.Richard C. Shelby, a republican senator, also commented on bin Salman’s involvement, stating that “all evidence points to that, that all this leads back to the crown prince,” adding that “This is conduct that none of us in America would approve of in any way.”US President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo have all been defending Saudi Arabia, claiming there is no “smoking gun” linking bin Salman to the murder. read more

State ups budget timeline for review of Alaska ferry system

JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration is upping the budget and extending the time for a review of potential options for the future of Alaska’s ferry system.But a spokeswoman for the system, Aurah Landau, says the administration so far has not changed its position on funding to keep the ferries running while future options are explored. No ships currently are scheduled to sail past Oct. 1.An initial request for proposals laid out a budget for the work of up to $90,000, with a report due to the state transportation department by July 31. The latest version sets a budget of up to $250,000, with a report due to the department by Oct. 15.Landau says officials think the new timeframe and budget will result in a quality report.Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press read more

French Reality Stars Nabilla and Thomas Vergara Celebrate Babymoon in Marrakech

Rabat – Newly-wed French reality stars, Nabilla and Thomas Vergara, chose Marrakech as their “babymoon” getaway.The couple, who married on May 7 in London, chose to trade Paris’ gray streets for the warmth of Morocco’s ochre city before their baby arrives. Nabilla, often dubbed by the media as the “French Kardashian,” made sure to share the holiday snaps with her 4.3 million Instagram followers.One photo shows the brunette beauty standing in an archway of The Selman, one of Marrakech’s most luxurious hotels, with the caption “Good morning Marrakech.” Nabilla also posted a snapshot flaunting her newlywed bliss. The photo shows Thomas Vergara kissing her on the forehead while cradling her baby bump, with the beautiful backdrop of Marrakech’s landscape. Nabilla captioned the photo “Little love trip before we welcome our little angel.” View this post on Instagram Petit voyage en amoureux en attendant notre petit ange A post shared by Nabilla Vergara (@nabilla) on Jun 15, 2019 at 3:02am PDT Read also: ‘Desert Design’: Berber Carpets Added to Museum Collection in Marrakech read more

King Mohammed VI Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Discuss Latest Regional Developments

Rabat – King Mohammed VI held a phone call with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.During the conversation between the Crown Prince and the Moroccan monarch, the two leaders discussed  the warm relations between Morocco and the UAE.Bin Zayed tweeted that: “Mohamed bin Zayed received a telephone call from Moroccan King Mohammed VI, during which they discussed the brotherly relations between the two countries. Read Also: Western Sahara: UAE Renews Support for Morocco’s Autonomy PlanThe King and bin Zayed also discussed “ways to further develop” diplomatic ties to “serve the common interests of both countries and peoples.”محمد بن زايد يتلقى اتصالا هاتفيا من ملك المغرب محمد السادس .. جرى خلاله بحث العلاقات الأخوية بين البلدين وسبل تنميتها، إضافة إلى تطورات الأحداث التي تشهدها المنطقة وعدد من القضايا التي تهم البلدين.— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) July 8, 2019The tweet added that the two royals also discussed the latest regional developments, as well as exchanging views on common concerns.The phone call comes following reports of alleged friction between Morocco and UAE. The rumors came to the forefront when Morocco’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita excluded the UAE from his tour to the Gulf in April.The reports emerged when the North African country expressed decided not to side with the Gulf countries on certain regional issues, including Yemen and Libyan crisis. Reports also suggested that the friction between Morocco and the UAE also extended to Morocco’s relations with Saudi Arabia.Earlier this year, the Moroccan government withdrew from the war in Yemen, citing humanitarian concerns.In response to the rumors, Saudi Arabia and the UAE expressed satisfaction with the historical relations unifying Morocco with its Gulf allies.In June, the UAE reiterated its constant  support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan,.The Moroccan government submitted the Autonomy Plan to the UN in 2007 as a pragmatic and realistic solution  to definitively settle the Western Sahara conflict.Saudi Arabia echoed the UAE’s position in April during Bourita’s visit.The gulf kingdom reassured Morocco of its support for the territorial integrity of the North African country, as well as the ongoing  historical diplomatic ties between the two countries. read more

King Mohammed VI Appoints Abdelali Belkacem Director of Royal Protocol and

Rabat – King Mohammed VI appointed Abdelali Belkacem as the new director of the Royal Protocol and Chancellery on Friday, August 2.Belkacem will replace Abdeljaouad Belhaj, who has been the director of the Royal Chancellery since 2010.Belkacem has been serving as the charge de mission at the Ministry of the Royal Household. His new mission as the director of the Household and Chancellery will be to manage royal ceremonies at royal palaces.He also will be in charge of publishing statements on the royal activities. read more

Teacher to Face Disciplinary Measures for Posting Video Critical of Moroccan

Rabat – Education Minister Said Amzazi announced, at a press conference held on September 20, that a teacher was suspended and will appear before a Disciplinary Committee. The teacher had posted a video depicting the deplorable state of a public school in Sidi Kacem (31 kilometers east of Rabat). The teacher posted the video, widely shared on social networks, to urge officials to take action against the derelict infrastructure at her school and Morocco’s crumbling public education in general. While several Internet users admired the teacher’s move, the Minister of Education, Said Amzazi considered the teacher’s behavior “inappropriate”. Amzazi argued that the teacher’s actions only seek to tarnish the image of the ministry and its efforts to improve the country’s school infrastructure.The minister explained that the school in the video has undergone a number of renovation works recently. Amzazi also denied the authenticity of several photos and videos shared on social networks and showing the state of a number of squalid schools in the kingdom. He said the pictures and videos were “unfounded” and shot in another country.Several Moroccan teachers expressed solidarity with their colleague. Internet users launched a campaign under the slogan, “Sharing the truth is not a crime.” Others are also planning a sit-in. read more

UN court starts deliberating in maritime dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras

23 March 2007The United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun its deliberations in the dispute between Nicaragua and Honduras over the delineation of their maritime border in the Caribbean Sea after public hearings in the case ended today. Nicaragua brought proceedings against its Central American neighbour in 1999 at the ICJ, saying diplomatic negotiations over the disputed maritime boundary had failed, and asking the Court to rule on the boundary and determine which country has sovereignty over the islands and cays within the area of dispute.The dispute affects the territorial seas, the exclusive economic zones and the continental shelves of the two countries.The ICJ, which sits in The Hague, is a UN court that adjudicates disputes between States. In a press statement released today, the Court said it will deliver its judgement at a date to be determined. Public hearings in the matter began on 5 March and concluded today with the presentation of final submissions. read more

Many deaths disabilities in poor nations avoidable under UN basic surgery plan

“The initiative signifies a shift in the way we think about surgery,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) clinical procedures official Luc Noel said. “Until recently, surgery was a neglected health issue in developing countries because it was assumed to be too expensive and sophisticated.” The programme, which already exists in 22 countries, will boost the capacity of first-level health facilities – rural or district hospitals and health centres – to deal with simple but essential surgery in a growing number of developing regions. In many cases, death and disability can be avoided through simple surgical interventions after road accidents, interpersonal violence or war, abdominal emergencies, pregnancy complications, congenital abnormalities, fractures, burns, or the consequences of acute infections, which together cause the loss of approximately 11 per cent of total lost years of healthy life. Injuries alone kill more than 5 million people every year, accounting for nearly one in every 10 deaths worldwide. The WHO Emergency and Essential Surgical Care Project trains health staff in simple surgery, anaesthesia and emergency care. After training and with the help of basic equipment, health care staff are able to perform surgical procedures that save lives and prevent disability. “Why should a child die from appendicitis, or a mother and child succumb to obstructed labour, when simple surgical procedures can save their lives?” WHO surgery programme chief Meena Cherian said. The quality of emergency and essential surgical care is often constrained by inadequate basic equipment for interventions that are simple but vital, such as resuscitation, giving oxygen, assessing anaemia and inserting a chest drain. Other barriers to the timely and appropriate delivery of basic surgical services include poor infrastructure and insufficient numbers and training of health-care professionals. In most developing countries, adequate surgical services are found only in urban areas. Furthermore, the migration of health professionals leaves a shortage at primary-health facilities, where services are provided by non-specialist or even non-medical personnel, many of whom are inadequately trained. A number of isolated local initiatives have shown that even with only basic training and technologies, many lives can be saved or improved. For instance, clubfoot, a congenital deformity of the foot marked by a twisted position of the ankle, heel and toes which affects well over 100,000 newborns each year, can greatly impede mobility in children and if untreated can lead to severe disability and loss of productive life. Yet, if diagnosed at birth or soon after, it can often be treated using minimally invasive techniques, the so-called Ponseti method, involving multiple manipulations and plaster castings early in a child’s life. The techniques, which have been quite effective in the industrialized world, require minimal resources and can be implemented by health personnel in primary health-care facilities. In Uganda, over 100 professionals have been trained, resulting in effective treatment of 95 per cent of new cases of clubfoot. Surgical intervention has also become a common component in HIV/AIDS care. Some complications associated with HIV infection, such as abscesses, anorectal disorders, lymphadenopathies, lipoatrophy or mild forms of Kaposi sarcoma, are also diagnosed and treated with simple surgical interventions. 26 September 2007With hundreds of thousands of deaths or permanent disabilities from traffic accidents, violence, war and other causes easily preventable through simple surgery, the United Nations health agency has expanded its programme to train health care staff in low- and middle-income countries in essential basic surgical and anaesthesia skills. read more

Nearly 1600 displaced Afghans return home this year with UN assistance

A total of 341 internally displaced families, consisting of 1,588 persons, have returned home in 2007 with the assistance of UNHCR and the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, Nilab Mobarez, Information Officer with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told reporters in Kabul today. In addition to those that returned to Balkh, internally displaced families have also returned to their homes in the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Farah. An additional 470 families – some 2,560 individuals – are expected to return to their homes in the coming weeks.Returning families receive free transportation to their final destination as well as relief supplies. Upon arriving home, they are provided with reintegration kits which include seeds and wheat flour from the UN World Food Programme (WFP).UNHCR estimates there are over 129,000 people still displaced within Afghanistan, most living in camp-like situations and in need of assistance.Since 2002, over half a million internally displaced persons have returned to their homes with the assistance of UNHCR, WFP and the Afghan government.Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan will be holding a workshop tomorrow in Kabul to address the rights and needs of mine victims and persons living with disabilities. The widespread and indiscriminate use of mines during more than two decades of conflict has turned Afghanistan into one of the world’s most heavily contaminated countries, according to the Centre, which has been coordinating mine action activities, such as surveys, mine and battlefield clearance, mine risk education and victim assistance on behalf of the Government since 1989.Mines and unexploded ordinance (UXO) kill or injure an average of two Afghans each day. 22 October 2007Over 100 internally displaced Afghan families have recently returned to their homes in Balkh province thanks to the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which, along with Government authorities, has aided the resettlement of nearly 1,600 internally displaced persons in the war-torn nation this year. read more

UN and relief agencies set priorities for helping Central African Republic

The projects, which will cost $29 million, will provide life-saving assistance to one million people, including 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 3,000 Sudanese refugees. They were identified as meeting criteria which included saving lives, operating in a conflict zone, and working to a clear deadline. UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes welcomed the ranking exercise and called on the international community to support the projects generously. “Stating clear priorities and mobilizing money in line with them has been a long-standing aim in the aid community. I am pleased to see that NGOs and UN agencies in CAR have joined forces and shown that this is possible,” he said. Most of the 37 priority projects provide emergency health care, protect displaced populations, in particular women and children, and ensure that populations affected by violence have access to food and water. “Prioritizing the projects in the appeal helps us to be sure that we are reaching people who need aid the most,” said Toby Lanzer, Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR. “It also shows our concern for transparency and accountability when implementing humanitarian programmes.” 4 February 2008United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the impoverished Central African Republic (CAR) have identified more than 30 high-priority projects in a ranking exercise designed to improve the effectiveness, transparency and accountability of the aid they provide. read more

Thousands of Somalis flee capital after fresh fighting this week – UN

25 September 2008At least 12,000 civilian residents of Mogadishu have fled their homes in the Somali capital since last weekend because of a surge in fighting between Islamist insurgents and Government forces backed by the Ethiopian military, the United Nations refugee agency reported today. Half of the newly displaced have found shelter in different neighbourhoods within Mogadishu, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while the remainder have escaped to the town of Afgooye, about 30 kilometres away.Afgooye is already home to an estimated 350,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly from Mogadishu, where the fighting between the Government forces and the Islamists has been particularly intense over the past year.Catherine Weibel, a spokesperson for UNHCR, told UN Radio that many residents panicked as the shelling stepped up at the weekend and they left their homes to avoid being caught in the crossfire.Ms. Weibel said UNHCR and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in the region expect that the number of displaced to keep rising as the fighting is continuing.She added that humanitarian workers are finding it difficult to reach those in need and distribute aid because the city is so insecure.The latest fighting is taking place despite the signing of a UN-brokered peace deal between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the rebel Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in June that was supposed to end the armed clashes.Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991, and the current fighting has combined with a drought in parts of the country to create a humanitarian crisis. At least 3 million people, or more than a third of the population, are now dependent on aid.The efforts of the UN to deliver aid are often hampered by pirate attacks against aid ships off the coast of Somalia, prompting the naval forces of individual States – including France, Germany, the Netherlands and Canada – to provide escorts.Today the World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed the decision by Canada to extend its naval escort mission by a further month, instead of ending this Saturday as originally slated.“Make no mistake – Canada’s generous act of extending naval protection will allow us to get food in and will save lives,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said in a statement. “We urgently call on other nations to step up to the plate.” read more

French human rights advocate receives UNESCO prize for lifetimes work

Stéphane Hessel of France has been awarded the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights after he was selected by an international jury that considered 36 separate nominations.The jury cited “the life-long commitment and extraordinary contribution of Stéphane Hessel to the promotion of a culture of human rights, justice and dignity,” according to a press release issued today in Paris by UNESCO.Born in 1917, Mr. Hessel served with the French Resistance during World War II before he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. He escaped while he was being transferred to another camp.After the war ended, Mr. Hessel helped draft the UDHR in 1948 and also held a number of important French diplomatic posts, including at UN Headquarters in New York.Later he created the Association for Training of African and Malagasy Workers (AFTAM) in France, served on the French Higher Council for Integration and held posts with the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights and the French Higher Council for International Cooperation.His work continued beyond the regular retirement age. In 1996, at almost 80 years of age, he acted as a mediator during the occupation of a Parisian church by illegal immigrants.Mr. Hessel will receive $25,000 and a certificate when the award is presented to him at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on 10 December, the anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR.The UNESCO/Bilbao Prize is given out every two years and is funded by a donation from the city of Bilbao (part of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, Spain). It succeeds the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education that was set up 30 years ago.This year the jury gave an honourable mention to the international movement known as ATD Fourth World. Founded in 1957 by Father Joseph Wresinki, it has branches in 30 countries around the globe and works to support the most disadvantaged and socially excluded members of society. Its work includes assisting the poorest of the poor with administrative paperwork and developing pilot projects to give everyone access to basic rights. 19 November 2008One of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 60 years ago will receive a prestigious prize in recognition of his life-long advocacy for a culture of rights around the world, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced today. read more

Myanmar must act now to promote democracy or face years of instability

“It is up to them to choose how to respond to the aspirations of their people and to the expectations and encouragement of the international community,” he says in his latest report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to the General Assembly. “I believe that this choice may determine the prospects for peace, democracy and prosperity for the coming generations.”Mr. Ban voices disappointment and concern that meaningful steps have yet to be taken by the Myanmar Government following the recent visit by his Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari, calling the house arrest of Ms. Suu Kyi “a serious setback to the prospects of genuine national reconciliation, democratic transition and the rule of law…“The Government’s failure to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a missed opportunity for Myanmar to signal its commitment to a new era of political openness,” he adds, laying out three immediate concerns that must be addressed to ensure the credibility of the political process, with elections scheduled for next year.These are: the release of all political prisoners and their free participation in political life; the commencement of dialogue between the Government, the opposition and ethnic stakeholders; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible and legitimate elections.“Now is the time for the Myanmar Government to address these concerns in order to ensure that the political process serves the interest of all of the people of Myanmar, in a way that is unifying rather than divisive and that is broadly acceptable to the international community,” he writes.“In this regard, I expect that the Government will take the necessary steps consistent with its commitments to ensure that the elections are fully inclusive, participatory and transparent, and are prepared and conducted in accordance with international standards.”He also calls on the Government, in cooperation with the international community, to move from ceasefire agreements with a majority of armed ethnic groups to durable peace.“This requires the exercise by both sides of maximum flexibility in negotiations that must be responsive to their respective concerns and interests, including those on the future status of armed groups, addressing of local development needs and curtailment of criminal activities in border areas,” he says. “Equally important to the prospects of durable peace and democracy is the need to address the pressing humanitarian and socio-economic challenges facing the people of Myanmar,” he adds, calling for unlocking the country’s economic potential and harnessing Myanmar to rapid advances taking place elsewhere in the region to overcome poverty, raise living standards, promote social peace and pave the way for broader change. 24 September 2009The time has come for Myanmar’s leaders to make “clear and fundamental choices” – release democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners and hold legitimate elections or else face generations of instability and poverty – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today. read more

Liberia joins UNbacked campaign to eradicate polio in West Africa

Health workers fanned out across Liberia today to vaccinate children against polio as the third round of a synchronized regional immunization campaign aimed at eradication the paralyzing disease in West Africa began, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported.Vaccinators are aiming to reach 53 million children across West Africa during the five-day campaign.In Liberia, the exercise is jointly supported by the health ministry, UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), as well as more than 700 social mobilizers.UNMIL Radio and other community radio stations are broadcasting jingles and polio-related messages regularly, with UNICEF providing technical and financial support for communications, and a supply of more than 900,000 doses of polio vaccine. WHO is providing technical support as well as funds for logistics, monitoring, transportation and allowances for vaccination teams.“I would like to call on parents all across the country to take their children for the polio vaccine – not only for its importance but because it is their right,” said Ibrahim Sesay, a UNICEF child protection specialist in Liberia. “We call on vaccinators and health workers in the field to do their outmost in ensuring that every child under five is reached and immunized against this deadly disease,” he added. 28 May 2010Health workers fanned out across Liberia today to vaccinate children against polio as the third round of a synchronized regional immunization campaign aimed at eradication the paralyzing disease in West Africa began, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported. read more

Security Council urges Iraqi leaders to strive towards formation of new government

The 15-member panel calls on “all political entities to respect the certified election results and the choices of the Iraqi people,” according to a statement to the press read out by Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.The Council statement echoes the remarks earlier this week of Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), who described the certification as a crucial step towards the formation of a government that will shape the country’s future for the next four years.The Federal Supreme Court upheld the results announced by Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), in which the party headed by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, received more votes than the coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the 325-member Council of Representatives.At least 12 million people cast their votes in the 7 March polls, in which more than 6,000 candidates took part.Today’s press statement by the Council stressed that Iraqi leaders should quickly engage “in an inclusive political process to form a government that represents the will and sovereignty of the Iraqi people and their hope for a strong, independent, unified and democratic Iraq.”Last week Mr. Melkert told the Council that a broad-based coalition government in Iraq is a better alternative for the people of that country who are eager to see a stable administration.“At this juncture, Iraq would probably be better served by a broadly inclusive government as a radical alternative to exclusion and disenfranchisement that many communities have experienced in the past,” he stated.In his latest report on UNAMI, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that, once established, the new government will face a host of challenges, ranging from national reconciliation and the sharing of natural resources to human rights and reconstruction. “The challenge is to consolidate the gains that have been made in recent years and not allow armed groups and other spoilers to exploit the situation,” he wrote in the report, which was released last month.In the press statement today Mr. Heller noted that Council members condemn the recent series of terrorist attacks in Iraq “by those who sought to deny the voice of the Iraqi people by attempting to disrupt the elections and the government formation process through violence.” 3 June 2010The Security Council today welcomed the certification of the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, three months after the polls were staged, and urged the country’s political leaders to re-double their efforts to form an inclusive and broad-based government. read more

Investing in agriculture key to reducing Near Easts reliance on food imports

“On average, cereal yields in the Near East are currently about half the world average, and the gap is widening,” said Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in an address to the 30th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “It is projected that the deficit in cereals will more than double between 2000 and 2030. This growing food deficit makes the majority of Near Eastern countries more dependent on imports and, therefore, vulnerable to shocks in international and domestic markets,” Mr. Diouf said.The region also suffers limited water and land resources, a fact that aggravates its vulnerability to food insecurity, he told the meeting, which began on Sunday and is due to end tomorrow.Per capita availability of renewable water resources in the Near East is currently around 1,050 cubic meters per year, compared to a global annual average of 8,900 cubic meters per person. That amount is projected to drop by half by the year 2050, according to FAO.“Contrary to the period between the 1970s and 1980s, public expenditures on agriculture in the Near East have been very low in the past few years, particularly in relation to the contribution of agriculture to gross domestic product (GDP),” Mr. Diouf said. “While the share of agriculture in GDP is about 12 per cent for the region, its share in national public expenditure does not exceed 5 per cent.” He said solutions to food deficits in the region lay in increased investment in agriculture and trade. “Increased intra-regional cooperation, through increased trade and investment, continues to generate a great interest in the Near East,” he said.Countries falling under FAO’s Near East region represent a diverse mosaic of some 30 States in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa with different levels of endowment in terms of natural resources and socio-economic conditions.Serious food security concerns exist in conflict zones, notably Afghanistan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, Mr. Diouf said.Overall, the number of hungry and undernourished people in the Near East region is currently estimated at 37 million, according to FAO’s latest figures – an increase of 17 million people from 1996 levels, but 5 million fewer hungry people than in 2009. 7 December 2010Countries in the Near East have become increasingly dependent on food imports as their rapid population growth has outpaced agricultural production, a senior United Nations official said today, stressing the need to boost investment in farming in the region. read more

Sudan UN condemns harassment of its peacekeepers in Southern Kordofan

17 June 2011The United Nations today strongly condemned the detention and abuse by the Sudanese armed forces of four UN peacekeepers who were on patrol in Kadugli, the main town in Southern Kordofan, where fighting is raging between the northern and southern armies. The harassment of the peacekeepers was blamed on members of the northern army known as the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.“The Sudanese Armed Forces, the [southern] Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA] and other armed groups must immediately stop intimidating and harassing UN staff, who are critical to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable populations,” said Mr. Nesirky.He said security and the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan remained of very serious concern amid intermittent fighting, shelling and military build-up in various areas of the state.In the other disputed area of Abyei, the UN peacekeeping Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) confirmed that six shells fired by SAF earlier today landed 150 metres away from an UNMIS base in Agok. There is no report of casualties.“We are in the process of verifying the details, as the SAF is claiming the shelling was part of an exercise, while the SPLA is stating that the SAF shelling was targeting SPLA positions and intimidating the local population around Agok. It remains to be determined precisely what happened,” said the UN spokesperson.“Both sides must stop military actions, which are not only a threat to the UN in the area but to the local populations in the area,” he added.Yesterday, a UNMIS team landing in Magennes – a contested area along the border of Upper Nile and Southern Kordofan states – was briefly detained by Government of Sudan police. The UNMIS team was accompanied by two members of the United Kingdom and United States consulates in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.According to the Government of Sudan officials in the area, the flight did not have the requisite landing authorization, although UNMIS had obtained flight clearances from the Government of Southern Sudan in Juba. The entire team was released and returned to Malakal in Upper Nile state and no one was harmed in the incident.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, reported that the situation in Abyei remains tense and volatile a month since fighting resulted in the displacement of nearly 113,000 people.Clashes between SAF and SPLA were also reported on Wednesday near the Banton Bridge in Abyei, according to OCHA, which added that UNMIS had confirmed the movement of SAF troops from Abyei town southwards towards the bridge and that of SPLA forces northwards from Agok town and Twic county.An inter-agency food security and livelihood assessment team last week visited Wunrok, Mayan Abun, Turalei and Agok, where internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled Abyei when it was taken over by SAF on 21 May found that the prices of staple food, such as sorghum, have increased by 40 per cent in local markets.The spike in food prices is a cause for concern considering that rainfall is expected to intensify in two weeks rendering roads to Agok impassable, a factor that will reduce grain supplies to the area, according to OCHA.A second convoy of 13 trucks carrying humanitarian aid, including fuel and other non-food items, was due to depart from Juba today headed for Wunrok, Turalei and Kwajok in Warrap state, Malualkon and Aweil in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, and Wau in Western Bahr el-Ghazal. Warehouses have been erected in Wunrok and Turalei and another store is under construction in Agok, according to OCHA.This year’s joint funding appeal for humanitarian work in Sudan, which is seeking $1.7 billion, has currently received $731 million.In Southern Kordofan, insecurity and restrictions on movement of humanitarian personnel continue to severely limit access to IDPs around Kadugli and other areas, OCHA reported.As part of an inter-agency response, members of the Humanitarian Country Team have called for the creation of humanitarian corridors, particularly between Kadugli and El Obeid, to allow the safe passage of people who wish to leave.OCHA reiterated its call on all parties to the conflict in Southern Kordofan to refrain from targeting civilians and using indiscriminate military tactics. The Office urged them to respect and protect civilians and allow access to them by emergency aid workers as required under international humanitarian law.Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), expressed deep concern over the escalating conflict in Southern Kordofan, saying that further fighting may undermine the agency’s efforts to reach the 400,000 people it was feeding before the latest outbreak of violence.In a related development, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kang Kyung-wha, will begin an eight-day mission to Sudan on Monday.During the mission, Ms. Kang is due to visit Khartoum, Southern Sudan, Darfur and the Transitional Areas, and meet high-ranking officials, including the Vice-President of Southern Sudan, the country’s Foreign Minister and the Chief Justice.In Darfur, she will visit several camps for IDPs and places of detention. She will also use the opportunity to raise key issues and lend her support to human rights defenders. read more