Cyclone Fani moving towards Bangladesh no major impact in Bengal

first_imgKolkata: People of West Bengal heaved a sigh of relief as severe cyclonic storm Fani weakened on Saturday morning and was moving towards neighbouring Bangladesh, a senior official of the regional meteorological centre said. The city witnessed wind speeds of 30-40 kmph with moderate to heavy rainfall overnight, he said. There was no report of any casualty or major damage in the districts through which the cyclone passed, officials said. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari Puja”Fani is likely to continue to move north-northeastwards and weaken further over the next six hours. “It is very likely to move further north-northeastwards and enter Bangladesh around noon as a deep depression with wind speeds of 50-60 kmph, gusting to 70 kmph,” Deputy Director General of the Regional Meteorological Centre here Sanjib Bandyopadhyay told PTI. The very severe cyclonic storm weakened into a severe cyclonic storm over the Odisha coast, before moving further north-northeastwards and entering West Bengal through Kharagpur in West Midnapore around 12.30 am on Saturday. Also Read – Bengal civic volunteer dies in road mishap on national highway “It has moved to Arambagh in Hooghly and is now in Nadia district…and is moving towards Murshidabad district,” Bandyopadhyay said. A senior official said apart from a few mud houses collapsing and tress falling, there were no reports of casualties from any of the districts. “However, we are awaiting further details,” he added. Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, along with senior engineers of the civic body and local councillors, was on a night-long vigil in and around the city to keep a tab on the situation. “We had made arrangements to act on an emergency basis had Fani hit the city. But thank god nothing major has happened,” Hakim told PTI. Meanwhile, flight operations resumed at the Kolkata airport at 9.57 am on Saturday, an Airports Authority of India (AAI) official said. Flight services were suspended at the airport from 3 pm on Friday. Train services on the Sealdah and Howrah sections were also getting back to normal, the officials said. Five persons were injured when a portion of the roof of a hutment collapsed on Friday night in the central part of the city’s Beniatola Lane, police said. All the five injured persons were released after treatment. The West Bengal government had taken precautionary measures in East and West Midnapore, North and South 24 Pargana districts, besides Howrah, Hooghly, Jhargram, Kolkata and the Sundarbans. The cyclone barrelled through Odisha on Friday, unleashing copious rain and windstorm that gusted up to 175 kmph, killing at least eight people, blowing away thatched houses and swamping towns and villages.last_img read more

Morocco JanuaryFebruary trade deficit expands 47 percent

first_imgRabat (Reuters) – Morocco’s trade deficit expanded 4.7 percent from a year earlier in the first two months of the year to 31.39 billion Moroccan dirhams, the foreign exchange regulator said on Monday, mainly due to increased wheat imports. The north African country’s wheat imports jumped 60 percent or 2.548 billion dirhams compared with the same two months last year as the government suspended customs duties and introduced subsidies from the start of January to counter rising world prices. Those measures will expire at the end of April.Energy imports edged down 0.1 percent to 14.84 billion dirhams from 14.99 billion in the same period in 2013. Tourism receipts fell by 0.9 percent to 7.95 billion dirhams, and remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans living abroad dropped by 3.3 percent.last_img read more

Bikini Fashion Show in Front Hassan Mosque in Rabat in the

Rabat – During the 1960s, Morocco was the hosting venue of a swimwear fashion show organized by a British manufacturer seeking to unveil its latest swim brands collection.A video posted to YouTube by channel Far Maroc shows international models posing in bikinis and other beach clothing at a fashion show held in the capital Rabat in 1967.Among those invited to the fashion show is the late Princess Lalla Nouzha, a sister of late King of Morocco, Hassan II. In addition to posing in bikinis next to a hotel swimming pool, the models are also seen in the video posing on the Rabat beach and at the esplanade of tour Hassan mosque. read more

Morocco Nine Cases of Cutaneous Anthrax Disease Diagnosed In Imilchil

Rabat – A team of doctors in Imilchil, a mountainous small town in Midelt province, diagnosed nine cases of Cutaneous Anthrax caused by consuming the meat of diseased cows.The Ministry said that this form of anthrax infection diagnosed in nine patients is considered to be the least dangerous. The Ministry added that all these cases were taken care of and were given necessary treatments, stressing that the local Health and Veterinary Services have taken safety measures to isolate the infected cattle. “This epidemiological situation is not alarming in the sense that the Cutaneous anthrax disease is of bacterial origin and can generally be treated,” said the Ministry of Health, reassuring that the Ministry, in coordination with the departments concerned, is closely monitoring the situation and will inform the public of any developments.According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “cutaneous anthrax is the most common form of anthrax infection, and it is also considered to be the least dangerous.”The same source added that the disease can happen when “a person handles infected animals or contaminated animal products like wool, hides, or hair.” read more

Arsenal to Face Manchester United to Overcome Champions League Defeat

By Ayoub DerrazaRabat – One of the fiercest matches of the Premier league this season will be at Emirates Stadium Sunday afternoon, between Arsenal and Manchester United.The home team Arsenal will have the opportunity to defeat the Red Devils former champions of the Premier League in order to overcome their last two defeats at the Champions League, and fight for the lead. The entire ‘gunners’ squad will be available to manager Arsène Wenger to choose a strong line-up, including Chilean international Alexis Sanchez and forward Theo Walcott. The English star has scored 12 goals in his last 13 Premier League matches.On the other side, the Red Devils seek to secure their 4th win –in a row- at the Premier League, and take the leading spot, which is temporarily with their neighbors Manchester City.Louis van Gaal will try to achieve the challenging task with a special line up, armed with experienced players represented by ‘the golden boy’ Wayne Rooney; and young French striker Anthony Martial.The Gunners and the Red Devils will have an appropriate occasion to overcome UEFA Champions League’s failure and reignite the Premier League competition. read more

74 Journalists Killed in 22 Countries in 6 Months NGO

Geneva – The number of journalists killed continued to increase from January to the end of June 2016 to reach 74 in 22 countries (3 per week on average), according to the NGO Press Emblem Campaign (PEC).During the same period (January to June) and with the same criteria 71 journalists were killed in 2015 (reaching 135 for the whole year), 66 in 2014 (138 for the whole year), 59 in 2013 (129 for the whole year).PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen said that despite the many meetings held on the issue of the safety of journalists, the adoption of UN resolutions, measures undertaken to enhance training and protection, the so many condemnations, we have not been able to hold the breaks on the terrible tally. We must do more in the fight against impunity. He added that it is clear that unresolved and ongoing conflicts are the source of the high price paid by journalists for informing the general public.Afghanistan from the outset of this year has been the most dangerous country for media work with 10 journalists killed, Syria the second with 9 media workers killed.Mexico follows with 8 killed, then Iraq and Yemen with 7 in each country.5 journalists were killed in Guatemala, and 4 in each of the following countries: India, Pakistan and Turkey (where 2 Syrian journalists were killed by ISIS).2 journalists were killed in the Philippines, 2 in Russia and 2 in El Salvador during the first six months of 2016.One journalist was killed in the following countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Honduras, Libya, Serbia, United States, Somalia and Venezuela.The PEC strongly condemns those attacks and calls upon the governments to assume their obligations and brings the perpetrators to justice.Without an independent inquiry it is very difficult to know why the journalists were killed. Around two thirds of journalists were intentionally targeted, while a third was killed in fighting, the same source pointed out.This is an alarming trend that a great number of media workers are intentionally eliminated by terrorist organizations in particular by ISIS. From January to June a dozen of them were killed by ISIS in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The Taliban are responsible for the killing of ten journalists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with Special consultative UN status. The PEC, founded in June 2004 by a group of journalists from several countries, based in Geneva, is an international independent nonprofit and non-governmental organization. It aims at strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest or in dangerous missions.With MAP read more

Leaked Zafzafi Video Police Investigate with News Website Editorial Director Media

Rabat – The editorial director of news website Barlamane has been summoned on Wednesday for interrogation over the leaked video of Rifian activist Nasser Zafzaf, according to Arabic speaking news website Ahdath info.The interrogation is to be conducted by the National Brigade of Judicial Police (BNPJ) in Casablanca.Barlamane published on Monday the highly controversial video where Zafzafi is seen showing parts of his body to the camera, during what could have been a medical examination. The video was judged by Zafzafi’s lawyers and supporters of the protest movement in Rif as “degrading”.Zafzafi is currently under preventive detention in Ain Sebaa 1 prison in Casablanca.On Monday, the Crown Prosecutor in Casablanca ordered the opening of an investigation into the incident. The Penitentiary Administration released a statement denying Zafzafi was filmed in prison.Barlamane had been subject of another controversy earlier in July when it published excerpts of a leaked confidential report by the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) that confirmed allegations of detained Rif activists and protesters that they were tortured by police. read more

Maroc Telecom Hosts 2nd Annual Smart Days on Digital Transformation in

By Zoubida SenoussiRabat – Maroc Telecom’s Smart Days have returned for a new round of rich exchanges around the discovery and study of global digital trends.Morocco World News attended the event, alongside researchers, experts, entrepreneurs, web influencers, and journalists, who gathered Tuesday at the Maroc Telecom headquarters in Rabat to learn more about “Digital Transformation in Morocco and Africa.” For this occasion, Maroc Telecom welcomed two renowned international experts to share their knowledge on digital revolution: Gilles Babinet, multi-entrepreneur and the first president of the National Council of Digital in France and Rebecca Enonchong, Cameroonian entrepreneur, and president of AppsTech, a multinational software development company.As the first speaker to take the stage, Babinet discussed challenges faced by African companies since the digital revolution.“We are actually witnessing the third industrial revolution, embodied by the digital transformation, which generates huge gains in opportunities,” explained the expert, adding,  “Several sectors are now affected by this phenomenon such as tourism, hospitality, insurance, finance and even health.” According to him, the richest companies are those who give their technology for free.The French entrepreneur concluded that we need to “replace hierarchy with technology.”For her part, Enonchong focused on how the digital revolution has transformed Africa, including the regulatory and financial issues that have accompanied digital changes.  “To successfully implement an effective digital transformation model covering all sectors of activity (i.e. public service industries and services, finance, technologies), Africa should rely on its many strengths,” she said.“We can especially quote: the strong mobile breakthrough, the relatively nascent legal provisions governing technologies, and the fast appropriation of technologies” explained the President of AppsTech who is very optimistic for the future of digital in Morocco and Africa.The telecommunications giant, Maroc Telecom, launched its “Smart Days” gathering last year in Rabat to bring together major Moroccan and African players in the field of digitization. The meeting enables the general public to exchange knowledge and learn about the latest developments in the world of technology and communications.Maroc Telecom is the first global operator in Morocco and Africa to offer secure mobile management, connected object solutions for companies like Smart Car, and innovative solutions, such as the MT Cloud solution. read more

AntiIslam Movement Angers Muslims by Roasting Pigs Near Mosque in Holland

Rabat- Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) disrespected Muslims during Ramadan. The anti-Islam movement recently roasted pigs in front of Laleli mosque in Holland’s Rotterdam city at the time of breaking fast.Pegida took advantage of Islam’s restriction on the consumption of pork, as it is regarded as “impure,” to provoke Muslims not only in the Dutch province but worldwide.Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Omer Celik strongly condemned the act, severely criticizing Rotterdam’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, especially because he a Moroccan Muslim, calling his decision to grant permission for the action “immoral.” This is so far the most immoral attempt ever in the history of hate crimes. Granting legal permission to such an immoral activity is also another deficiency of morality.— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) June 6, 2018 Mr Abutalib, from a Muslim family, says that organizing a demonstration is a fundamental legal right. Since when disrespect to mosques has become legal right? Any disrespect to mosques, churches, synagogues is a hate crime. There cannot be any law which would allow hate crime— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) June 6, 2018Other municipalities in the Netherlands did not allow Pegida to roast pigs in front of mosques at the fast-breaking time. However, Ahmet Abutalib, Mayor of Rotterdam, who is of Moroccan origin, thinks that this activity of Pegida is not against the law. Such a gross tragedy!— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) June 6, 2018Celik compared Aboutaleb with other mayors such as the Hague’s mayor, Pauline Krikke, who banned Pegida’s barbeque party at the As-Soennah mosque in the city. Turkish Muslim organizations in Rotterdam lay flowers around the mosque as a symbol of peace against hate crimes. Celik stated on his Twitter account prior to the peace demonstrations that “flowers against the odour of hate” would be “a true lesson of humanity.”Turkish and Muslim organisations in Rotterdam will hold an activity at the same hour to lay flowers around the mosque and will erect a wall of love with flowers against the odour of hate. This is a true lesson of humanity.— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) June 6, 2018Rotterdam newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reported that Pegida had planned to roast the pigs in front of various mosques in the Netherlands, in Arnhem, Gouda, Utrecht, and the Hague, and Rotterdam during the Ramadan iftar (the breaking fast time) until the evening prayer. Earlier in June, Pegida shared a series of posts on Facebook, encouraging its followers to participate in the notorious barbeque in front of many mosques. One post reads: “We have good surprises for mosque Utrecht…behold!”“The barbecues will start every evening at 8:30 p.m. Anyone who brings their own plate and cutlery and a good anti-Islam mood is welcome,” a previous post read, according to Netherlands news outlet NL Times. read more

Morocco Confirms It Will Privatize La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech

Rabat- Following the weekly government council on Thursday, El Khalfi announced in a news conference that the government approved Draft Law 39-89 permitting the privatization of public institutions and decided to sell La Mamounia.Marrakech Mayor Mohamed Larbi Belkaid previously told Bloomberg that “the hotel had stopped distributing dividends to shareholders for eight to 10 years through 2017, mainly because of the repayment of loans obtained to fund a major overhaul.”Morocco’s state-run rNational Railway Office (ONCF) owns 60 percent of La Mamounia. The state-owned investment management fund Caisse de Depot and Gestion (CDG) and the city council of Marrakech own 20 percent each. The government’s decision came to reduce the budget deficit to 3.3 percent of GDP in 2019 and to improve their governance.Read Also: Morocco Considers Selling 51% of La Mamounia Hotel in MarrakechMinister of Economy and Finance Mohamed Benchaaboun declared in October that the Moroccan economy requires measures to mobilize resources, control spending, and reduce the burden on the investment budget. He also noted the impact which the rising prices of oil and gas, which peaked in early October, will have on financial balances.Built in 1923, La Mamounia Hotel is a prestigious hotel known worldwide. It received a makeover at the hands of French designer Jacques Garcia in 2009. The hotel has earned many awards since its reopening in 2009.In February, interior design magazine Architectural Digest listed La Mamounia among the “7 Most Historically Significant Hotels in the World.”Rumors had it that the government might privatize ONCF. However, Benchaaboun said that government will not privatize ONCF but may consider selling stakes in Maroc Telecom, the country’s main telecommunication company. read more

Homebuilders face affordability hurdles this spring

A pullback in mortgage rates has helped boost homebuilder stocks this year after a dismal 2018, when the U.S. housing market slowed under the weight of higher borrowing costs, rising prices and a thin supply of homes for sale.Investors are betting that the decline in the average rate for a 30-year mortgage will help more Americans become owners this spring homebuying season. But many analysts and economists are projecting a decline in home sales for the full year.“Spring will not be as strong as last year, in part because spring last year was pretty strong, but also because homebuilders are trying to adjust price for a more cautious consumer who is concerned about price and competing with additional inventory,” said Carl Reichardt, managing director and homebuilding analyst at BTIG.While steady job growth has fueled demand for homeownership, rising prices and a shortage of properties for sale has made homes less affordable for many buyers, especially those seeking to transition from renting to owning.Sales of newly built U.S. homes surged 16.9 per cent in November from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 657,000, according to the Commerce Department. Despite the healthy gain, sales remained 7.7 per cent below the pace from a year earlier.The 35-day government shutdown delayed the release of more recent sales data. Analysts project that December new-home sales, due out next week, declined 13.5 per cent from November, according to FactSet.Meanwhile, sales of previously occupied U.S. homes dropped 1.2 per cent in January to the slowest pace in more than three years, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Sales are down 8.5 per cent over the past 12 months.The U.S housing market stalled in 2018 after a long period during which price increases outpaced income growth. That had been offset by historically low mortgage rates, until rates began rising steadily a year ago, reaching a seven-year high near 5 per cent.Mortgage rates hew closely to changes in the yield for the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, which went into a skid in early November as nervous investors drove up demand for U.S. government bonds during the October-December stock market sell-off.The average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate has been steadily declining since its mid-November high of 4.94 per cent. Last week, it slipped to 4.35 per cent, the lowest average in more than a year.Buyers will see lower borrowing costs on home loans. However, that alone won’t mean they’ll have it easy this homebuying season, notes Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.“Home prices are higher than ever before and expensive homes are far more plentiful than entry level homes,” Hale said.That trend, in turn, could mean fewer sales for many homebuilders, because newly built homes tend to be more expensive relative to resale properties. And in recent years, builders have tended to focus on catering to homeowners looking to trade up to a bigger or nicer home.“As much as an affordability issue there’s also a psychological issue,” Reichardt said. “Buyers have been resisting higher home prices, not simply because they can’t afford to pay what builders are asking, but because they don’t want to.”Big builders that have taken steps in recent years to build more communities priced for first-time buyers are likely to fare better this spring. Of those, Reichardt singled out D.R. Horton and Lennar. The analyst has “Buy” ratings on both.The Federal Reserve’s decision to take a “patient approach” in determining future interest rate hikes has helped lift stocks broadly this year, and the move has been especially positive for homebuilders.That’s because when the market is uncertain about homebuilders’ prospects for earnings growth, interest rates become a proxy for earnings, notes Reichardt.Despite their recent gains, shares in most U.S. homebuilders remain sharply lower than a year ago. That means investors should be cautious when considering the sector.“2019 is going to be a tough year, which is why we’re not especially favourable on the stocks,” Reichardt said. “At the same time, we don’t think this is any kind of repeat of the last down cycle.”Alex Veiga, The Associated Press read more

King Mohammed VI to Sahel Commission Climate Equality is About Dignity

By mohammed Amine Benabou Rabat – On behalf of King Mohammed VI, Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita has delivered a royal address to the Climate Commission of the Sahel region. The conference, which began its work today, is meeting in Niamey, Niger. The King stressed Morocco’s commitment to oversee feasibility studies for investment plans with regard to climate of the Sahel region. The King also expressed concern over climate conditions in the Sahel.“This region, which is a bridge between north and south African regions, is now undergoing severe climate change from which results adverse effects on the environment.”King Mohammed VI emphasized the importance of launching a climate investment plan and a priority program for the region, “whose implementation is underway.”He stated that one of “the important challenges we are faced with is tackling this environmental issue effectively, while setting clear objectives pertaining to socio-economic development and meeting security measures.” The King considered achieving “climate equality is, for African people, a battle for bettering their living conditions, ensuring a dignified life and a promising future.” He also put forward that climate equality should not be a “hollow slogan” but a “prerequisite for us all” in help youth avoid distress and not “fall prey to crime and terrorist organizations.”Read Also: Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj Calls on King Mohammed VI to Save Moroccan AthletesThe King also highlighted the efforts from the launch of the COP 22 summit in Marrakech in 2016, which was a “strong political signal” and an initiative which set the stage for dynamic transnational ambitions thanks to the joint efforts of the Congo Basin Commission, the Sahel Region Commission, and the Island States Commission.He also suggested the possibility of the Sahel region becoming a model of regional integrity at the economic, environmental, political, and human levels.Similarly, the King stressed that the efforts stakeholders exert to combat the detrimental effects of climate change should transcend national borders.He concluded that “our responsibility for the African youth is to exhaust all the possibilities to fulfil their aspirations and put this continent on the right track.” “The future of Africa lies in our ability to devise new joint solutions with mutual commitment that is accommodating [the] interests of all parties concerned, be they in the north or south.” read more

Egypts Grand Imam AlAzhar Says Polygamy Is Injustice to Women

Rabat – The grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Islamic Institution, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, has said he believes that polygamy is often an injustice to women and children.”Al-Tayeb argued, “The practice is the result of a lack of understanding of the Qur’an and the tradition of the prophet.”He made the comments on his weekly television program and on Twitter. Al-Tayeb recited a verse from the Qur’an, Surah an-Nisa 4:3, which says that in order for a Muslim man to have multiple wives, he “must obey conditions of fairness—and if there is not fairness it is forbidden to have multiple wives.”Al-Tayeb explained, “We have to read the verse in full, and the part which says, ‘two, three and four wives,’ is only part of the verse, and not the entire verse, as having multiple wives oppresses the women and her children.”In his weekly television show on Friday, Al-Tayeb told viewers, “Those who say that marriage must be polygamous are all wrong.”The grand imam called for a broader revision in the way women’s issues are addressed.Over the weekend, social media commenters heavily debated Al-Tayeb’s remarks. The imam joined the debate, clarifying that he did not call for banning polygamy but for people to care more about women.“I do not call for legislation that abolishes the right of polygamy, but I reject any legislation that destroys the law of the Holy Qur’an or Sunnah,” he tweeted.“Women represent half of society. If we don’t care for them it’s like we are walking on one leg only,” he added. read more

Court rules travel companies dont owe Breckenridge taxes

FRISCO, Colo. — The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that online travel companies do not have to pay accommodation and sales taxes in the ski resort town of Breckenridge.The Summit Daily News reported Wednesday that the court’s 3-3 decision earlier this month affirms the lower court’s ruling against the city.Breckenridge has been in litigation with 16 travel companies since 2016, claiming they owe unpaid taxes for hotel reservations.The appeals court ruled last year that the companies don’t owe the taxes because they are not considered “renters” or “lessors” as stipulated in the city’s law.City finance director Brian Waldes says they are disappointed by the decision, and they’re considering changing the language in the city ordinance.Changing the tax ordinance would require voter approval through a ballot question.___Information from: Summit Daily News, http://www.summitdaily.com/The Associated Press read more

Sudan should assist in deployment of Darfur force without delay UN rights

12 March 2007Sudan’s Government should fully cooperate with the immediate deployment of a United Nations-African Union (AU) hybrid force for Darfur and end the targeting of civilians, while all armed rebel movements must also strictly observe human rights laws, the UN Human Rights Council’s high-level mission to the region said in its report published today. Despite failing to get into Darfur because of visa restrictions, the mission met hundreds of relevant people and reviewed thousands of pages of documents relating to the human rights situation in the troubled region during its month of work from 5 February to 5 March in Geneva, Addis Ababa, N’Djamena, Abeche and the refugee camps of Eastern Chad.“The situation is characterized by gross and systematic violations of human rights and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. War crimes and crimes against humanity continue across the region,” the mission said in its 35-page report to the Human Rights Council, which begins its fourth session in Geneva today.“The principal pattern is one of a violent counterinsurgency campaign waged by the Government of the Sudan in concert with Janjaweed /militia, and targeting mostly civilians. Rebel forces are also guilty of serious abuses of human rights and violations of humanitarian law.”The report says the Sudanese Government “has manifestly failed to protect the population of Darfur from large-scale international crimes, and has itself orchestrated and participated in these crimes.”Underscoring the “solemn obligation of the international community to exercise its responsibility to protect,” the report details the grim situation in Darfur, highlighting that killing of civilians remains “widespread,” along with the systematic use of rape and sexual violence. It also makes recommendations to the Council itself, the Sudanese Government, the various armed rebel movements and the international community.“The Government of the Sudan should cooperate fully in the deployment of the proposed UN-AU peacekeeping/protection force without further delay,” the report states. “Sudan should end the targeting of civilians in Darfur, cease all support for Janjaweed/militia forces, and proceed with the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of such forces.”The mission also called on the Government to remove all obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the millions in need in the region. The UN says more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003, while in total, some 4 million civilians need assistance to survive in Darfur, which is in the west of Sudan.The report also calls on all armed rebel movements operating in the region to strictly observe and respect international law, and ensure the free and safe access and movement of humanitarian personnel. It also urges them to “cooperate in good faith” in the pursuit of peace.In addition, it calls on the Security Council to take “further action” to ensure the protection of civilians in Darfur, including through the deployment of the proposed UN-AU force, while recommending that the Human Rights Council should help set up an independent national rights commission for Sudan “to address the grave situation.”Meanwhile on Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon spoke with Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir, and informed him of the choice made along with AU Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré, of a UN-AU joint Special Representative and a Deputy Special Representative for the Darfur region, as well as the force commander for the joint mission, according to a UN spokesperson, who told reporters today that Mr. Ban would discuss the Darfur situation with the Security Council on Thursday.On Thursday last week, the Secretary-General received a letter from Sudan’s President replying to his earlier correspondence detailing the proposed UN-AU force of up to 24,000 personnel. The letter was accompanied by a 14-page annex in Arabic. read more

Armed bandits force tens of thousands of Central Africans to flee homes

23 May 2008A surge since the start of the year in the number of attacks by armed bandits across the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) is forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes and has brought economic activity to a standstill in large parts of the already impoverished and strife-torn country, the United Nations relief wing reports today. As many as a third of the estimated 300,000 people who have become displaced have done so because of banditry, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.Groups of between 10 and 30 armed men – known locally as “coupeurs de route” or “zaraguinas” – are roaming the northern CAR, killing or assaulting villagers and travellers, kidnapping both children and adults, looting property and burning homes.In a particularly disturbing recent trend, the bandits have burned down entire villages, often as punishment for resistance by village self-defence groups. The villagers have fled to the bush or to neighbouring towns.UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg spoke out against “the indiscriminate and predatory attacks” and the impact they are having.“They are driving tens of thousands of people to the edge of survival,” she said. “We need to make sure that victims have access to protection, shelter and health services.Toby Lanzer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the CAR, said many farmers and traders are now afraid to travel to sell their wares in towns and villages.“People rely on aid agencies to provide seeds and tools, which are no longer available in the market,” he said. “We also provide soap, basic household goods and clothes to victims who have lost everything in an attack.”OCHA estimates that one million people in the northern CAR have been affected by either civil conflict or the banditry, with nearly 200,000 internally displaced and another 108,000 fleeing as refugees to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Sudan. In March and April, more than 14,000 refugees entered Chad.Although the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have launched a $96.8 million aid programme to deal with the displacement and suffering, they have received just over a third of the necessary funding.UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador and actress Mia Farrow, who has just completed a week-long visit to the CAR, said many of the people she met had no access to clean water or medicines, and yet were still trying to ensure their children attended “bush schools” and received an education.“The desire of parents to give their children education is inspiring,” she said, warning however that more and more Central Africans are living in fear because of the banditry. Ms. Farrow added that rape and other forms of sexual violence were also widespread.UNICEF’s Regional Director Esther Guluma called on both the Government and the international community to spend more to help those in need. read more

Security Council extends diamond and travel sanctions on Côte dIvoire

29 October 2008The Security Council voted today to renew for another year a ban on diamonds and an arms embargo against Côte d’Ivoire, as well as targeted sanctions restricting the travel of individuals. The Security Council voted today to renew for another year a ban on diamonds and an arms embargo against Côte d’Ivoire, as well as targeted sanctions restricting the travel of individuals.In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body today said it would review these measures next October to determine whether progress has been made in putting key aspects of the peace process into place and positive steps made in the long-delayed elections.The Ouagadougou Agreement – signed in neighbouring Burkina Faso last March between the Government, which controlled the south, and the rebel Forces Nouvelles, which held the north – called for a number of measures to resolve the crisis that first divided the West African country in 2002.Today’s resolution also extended the mandate by one year of the Group of Experts established to monitor sanctions against the country, calling on the parties to the peace pact, especially the Ivorian authorities, to “provide unhindered access” to the UN team to equipment, sites and installations.It also said that “any threat to the electoral process in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular any attack or obstruction of the Independent Electoral Commission in charge of the organization of the elections,” constitutes a threat to peace and the country’s national reconciliation process.The Council requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the French Government provide immediate reports should any “serious obstacle” impede the freedom of movement of the UN peacekeeping operation in the country (known as UNOCI) and the French forces which support it.On Monday, the body heard from the top UN envoy to Côte d’Ivoire, who warned that increasing delays in the dual identification and electoral processes are imperilling the hard-won peace in the nation, which is rebuilding after a brutal 14-year civil war.Nearly six weeks have passed since the launch of the identification and voter registration drive, which was slated to wrap up at the end of this month, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Y. J. Choi told the Security Council in an open meeting.“Unfortunately, the pace of progress has been painfully slow,” he said. The pace will soon accelerate, but “the magnitude of delay has taken almost everybody by surprise.” read more

UN agency regrets lack of transparency in Italys return of boat people

“I appeal to the Italian and Maltese authorities to continue to ensure that people rescued at sea and in need of international protection receive full access to territory and asylum procedures,” High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a news release.Noting that the incident marked a significant shift in policies by the Italian Government, the agency stated that it “deeply regrets the lack of transparency which surrounded the event,” and urged the authorities to reconsider their decision and to avoid repeating such measures.According to UNHCR, the diversion to Libya followed a day of “heated discussions” between Maltese and Italian authorities about who was responsible for the rescue and disembarkation of the people on the three boats, which were in distress. Although the vessels were closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, they were in the Maltese search and rescue area of responsibility.“While no information is available on the nationalities of those aboard the vessels, it is likely that among them are people in need of international protection,” UNHCR stated, noting that in 2008, an estimated 75 per cent of sea arrivals in Italy applied for asylum and 50 per cent of them were granted some form of protection.Laurens Jolles, UNHCR’s Rome-based representative said the agency has been working closely with the Italian authorities to ensure that people fleeing war and persecution are protected in line with the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. “It is of fundamental importance that the international principle of non-refoulement continues to be fully respected,” he said, referring to the right of a refugee or asylum-seeker whose case has not yet been fully assessed to not be sent to a country where his or her life or liberty could be at risk.UNHCR noted that Libya has not signed the Refugee Convention, and does not have a functioning national asylum system. 7 May 2009The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced concern after Italy sent some 230 people it rescued yesterday off the waters of Malta back to Libya before a proper assessment of their possible protection needs were carried out. read more

New UN partnership seeks to boost information technology in Arab region

10 August 2009The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has teamed up with a Jordanian-based business services company to promote information and communication technology (ICT) to support education, science and culture in the Arab region. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has teamed up with a Jordanian-based business services company to promote information and communication technology (ICT) to support education, science and culture in the Arab region.The agreement signed today in Paris between UNESCO and the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization (TAG-Org) seeks to increase access to and measure the use of ICT in different sectors of society, enhance teacher training, and promote multilingualism and internationalized Internet Domain Names.“UNESCO relies upon and welcomes partners such as TAG-Org to realize the vision of knowledge societies,” stated Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO.The agency and TAG-Org are planning to create a knowledge society portal on which data in Arabic and English on the state of Arab countries on ICT in education, science, culture, communication and commerce – collected through digital surveys, digital reporting, and digital resources – will be made available.Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Founder and Chairman of TAG-Org, said availability of such data will assist local governments, institutions, and international organizations to understand gaps in ICT and to take a leading role in developing ICT infrastructure and building ICT capacity.Under the new agreement, UNESCO and TAG-Org will develop an immediate action plan for that project, prepare a strategy to enhance multilingualism and Internet Domain Names in the Arabic script, and work together to increase the availability of Arabic content on the Internet, among other things. read more

On World Poetry Day UN stresses bards role in meeting humanitys aesthetic

21 March 2011The United Nations today celebrated World Poetry Day, highlighting the role of bards in bearing eternal witness to the great transformations of the world and humanity’s aesthetic yearnings. The United Nations today celebrated World Poetry Day, highlighting the role of bards in bearing eternal witness to the great transformations of the world and humanity’s aesthetic yearnings. “Poets convey a timeless message. They are often key witness to history’s great political and social changes,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said in a message. “Their writings inspire us to build lasting peace in our minds, to rethink relations between man and nature and to establish humanism founded on the uniqueness and diversity of peoples.”UNESCO proclaimed 21 March as World Poetry Day in 1999, calling poetry a “a social need, which incites young people in particular to return to their roots, and a means whereby they can look into themselves at a time when the outside world is irresistibly luring them away from themselves.”The main objective of the proclamation is to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities.The Day is meant to support poetry, return to the oral tradition of poetry recitals, promote its teaching, restore a dialogue with other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, support small publishers and create an attractive image of poetry in the media so that the art will no longer be considered an outdated form.UNESCO encourages the Member States to take an active part in celebrating the Day, at both local and national level, with the active participation of national commissions, non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and public and private institutions concerned, such as schools, municipalities, museums, cultural associations, publishing houses and local authorities.“There is still a tendency in the media and among the general public to refuse to take the poet seriously,” UNESCO said in its 1999 proclamation. “Action is needed to free ourselves in order to make this image a thing of the past and to give poetry its rightful place in society.”It was a message Ms. Bokova stressed today. “Poetry is not merely a means of communicating or transmitting information, for, as poets work constantly on the language, poetry also enlivens human discourse and always reveals the original brilliance of culture,” she said.“UNESCO therefore sees the defence of freedom of expression and information, on one hand, and the promotion of poetry, on the other, as two indissociable components of its mandate for peace. As poetry reaches deeply into the innermost efforts of men and women to create and reflect, it has the capacity to sustain dialogue amid the diversity of human expression.” read more