“My congratulations go out to the whole Tara team on their tremendous human and logistical achievement,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said today of Tara Expeditions and the Arctic Drift project, Tara Arctic 2007-2008. “This expedition was not only about adventure however. The important scientific work undertaken will also contribute to a greater understanding of the negative impacts of climate change on the arctic environment.” The world’s polar regions are playing on a global scale the role of a canary in a coal mine – providing early warnings on the impact of human-induced changes on nature, ranging from global warming to chemical pollution. Wedged in the pack ice, Tara “drifted” with the wind and ocean currents at an average speed of 10 kilometres per hour for more than 500 days. In one and half years she covered 5,200 kilometres in the Arctic, and at one point was only 160 kilometres from the North Pole, the northern-most position ever reached by a schooner. The boat is now sailing in open water, and by the end of the week is expected to reach land at Longyearbyen, capital of the island of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean. She will then continue on to her home port of Lorient in France. “The polar regions are some of the most hauntingly beautiful places on Earth,” Mr. Steiner said. “They are also nature’s early warning systems where issues like human-induced climate change, the thinning of the ozone layer and the impacts of persistent chemical pollution continue to be registered first.” As part of the International Polar Year, Tara has provided an unprecedented platform for scientific observations and research (including the European DAMOCLES project) on how the Arctic environment is changing. Throughout the course of the expedition, it has been relaying these findings to scientists, policy makers and the general public alike. In 2004 the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an unprecedented four-year scientific study by an international team of 300 scientists, provided clear evidence that the Arctic climate is warming rapidly now and, of even greater concern, that much larger changes are projected for the future. ACIA predicted that Arctic vegetation zones and animal species will be affected. Retreating sea ice is expected to reduce the habitat for polar bears, walrus, ice-inhabiting seals, and marine birds, threatening some species with extinction. Such changes will also affect many indigenous communities who depend on such animals, not only for food, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity, according to UNEP. And, beyond the region, as the Arctic glaciers melt and the permafrost thaws, it will be developing countries, with limited means to adapt to environmental change that suffer most. 22 January 2008The United Nations-supported polar research boat Tara has broken free from the Arctic ice sheet after a record-breaking scientific expedition of over 500 days drifting across the top of the world to gauge the impact of global warming and pollution.
Rodolphe Adada, who is also the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, directed that a high-level delegation from the mission hold a series of meetings today with IDPs and other concerned parties, UNAMID reports.Another UNAMID assessment mission to Kalma camp has been scheduled to try to rebuild confidence among the camp’s estimated population of 80,000 IDPs. The mission comprises police officers, military advisers, human rights staff and civil affairs personnel.UNAMID said today it has obtained concrete evidence that 31 IDPs were killed on Monday when Sudanese military and police forces raided the camp, which is situated in South Darfur state.The Sudanese forces had entered the camp to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs and said they only returned fire after gunshots were directed at them from behind a human shield of women and children.Yesterday UNAMID issued a statement condemning what it called the “excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force” by Sudanese security forces, noting that those forces were heavily armed while the residents carried sticks, knives and spears.“While the alleged presence of weapons in the Kalma camp is a real security concern for the Government of Sudan authorities, the actions taken to address it are a clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement,” UNAMID stated.“UNAMID strongly condemns the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the Government of Sudan security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties.” However, the statement also stressed “that the presence of weapons voids the status of IDP camps granted to them by international humanitarian law and exhorts the IDP community and its leaders and representatives to ensure that their camps are, and remain, weapons-free zones.”The residents have told the mission today that the continued armed presence maintained by Sudanese Government security forces is contributing to tensions at Kalma, one of many camps across Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003.In his latest regular report to the Security Council on the work of UNAMID, published today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern at the continuing violence across Darfur and its humanitarian consequences for the civilian population.“I urge all parties to recognize the urgent need to end the suffering of innocent civilians and immediately commit themselves to an unconditional ceasefire,” he wrote.Mr. Ban stressed that although more UNAMID units will be deployed in the coming months, they “cannot be a substitute for a political process. Ultimately, the crisis in Darfur can be resolved only through political negotiations and a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement.”Meanwhile, the newly appointed Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, arrives in the region tomorrow to take up his duties.Mr. Bassolé is slated to arrive in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters of UNAMID, and then will travel soon to Nyala and El Geneina, the capitals of South Darfur and West Darfur respectively. 27 August 2008The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) set up meetings today with the residents of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a bid to ease tensions after dozens of people were shot dead there earlier this week during clashes with Sudanese security forces.
1 December 2008The United Nations envoy tasked with helping to resolve the conflict behind the recent fighting that has engulfed the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has completed his second round of consultations with leaders in the African Great Lakes region. Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the eastern DRC held talks – along with his co-facilitator, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa – starting late last week with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, DRC President Joseph Kabila and the country’s Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba.On Saturday, the facilitators also held talks with renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who heads the rebel militia known as the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP) that has been fighting Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in North Kivu province.“The Special Envoy intends to remain closely engaged with the principals and other actors in the region,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said today, adding that he is looking ahead to a second summit of the region’s leaders tentatively scheduled for next month.Escalating conflict between the FARDC and the CNDP has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the past three months, mainly in North Kivu, which borders Rwanda. Other armed groups, including the Mayi Mayi, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.Last month, during his first round of consultations, Mr. Obasanjo held talks with Mr. Kabila, Mr. Nkunda and other regional leaders.“All of them support the effort we are making now, but they also underlined the need to maintain the momentum,” he told reporters in New York last week, characterizing the first round of diplomatic efforts as “fairly good.”In a related development, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council today adopted a resolution condemning the violence, human rights violations and abuses taking place in North Kivu.The resolution was adopted by consensus, which came at the end of a special session on the human rights situation in the eastern DRC and noted the sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers by militias.It also urged the international community to address the root causes of the conflict and to continue helping the Government promote peace and stability.In her address at the start of the session last week, Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that outbreaks of bloodshed will continue to occur in the area unless impunity is ended for those guilty of the worst violations.“The DRC runs the risk of becoming a case study in how peace processes can go awry without the will to make justice and accountability an integral part of these processes,” she said.“The prevailing culture of impunity contributes to this wide range of serious human rights violations,” Ms. Pillay told the 47-member body, adding that “unparalleled violence” against women continues, with rape being a particular concern.Meanwhile, the Council’s Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism to examine the record of all 192 Member States created by the General Assembly in 2006, began its third session in Geneva today. The Group assessed the fulfilment of rights obligations by Botswana and the Bahamas.
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the rockets fired into Israel came from the general area of Tayr Harfa in south Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) returned fire with a few artillery rounds directed at the location from where the rockets originated. The IDF meanwhile is continuing with the military operation it began on 27 December, with the stated aim of ending rocket and other attacks by militants in Gaza. The nearly two-week operation has reportedly led to some 680 deaths and injured more than 3,000.In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the firing of rockets against Israel from southern Lebanon and reminded the parties of their obligation to fully adhere to Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah, and to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement. “The Secretary-General is relieved that today’s incident did not escalate and urges both parties to exercise maximum restraint,” the statement added. UNIFIL Force Commander General Claudio Graziano, who also called for restraint to prevent any escalation of the situation, is maintaining close contact with the parties, who have reassured him about their continued commitment to maintain the cessation of hostilities, in accordance with resolution 1701.UNIFIL, in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces, has taken immediate measures to identify the perpetrators of the attack, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility. Additional troops have been deployed on the ground and patrols have been intensified across UNIFIL’s area of operations to prevent any further incidents. The Lebanese Armed Forces has also decided to deploy additional units in the south in order to further enhance security in the area. 8 January 2009The United Nations has confirmed that at least three rockets were fired into Israel from south Lebanon, with Israeli forces returning fire, and has called for maximum restraint following the attack, which comes amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
27 March 2009Despite recent elections and the establishment of new government in their homeland, thousands of Somalis are continuing to flee to north-eastern Kenya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today. Despite recent elections and the establishment of new government in their homeland, thousands of Somalis are continuing to flee to north-eastern Kenya, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today. More than 20,000 Somalis have been registered in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps since the start of 2009. Several of the new arrivals told UNHCR that they left due to rising insecurity, coupled with drought and food shortages. “Many also express little optimism for the return of peace to their country in the near term,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva. “Despite the recent elections held in Djibouti which saw a new Government come to power, many parts of Somalia are still insecure.”Somalia, which has been beset by factional strife since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, has witnessed a number of positive developments in recent months, including the creation of an expanded Parliament, the election of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and the formation of the Unity Government.At the same time, the UN estimates that over 3 million people, a third or more of the total population, will remain dependent on humanitarian assistance this year.According to UNHCR, more than half of the new arrivals to Dadaab are women and children, some having travelled as much as 800 kilometres over 16 days by foot to reach the camps. Mr. Redmond said UNHCR is continuing to receive new arrivals at Kenya’s sprawling and overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex. Designed nearly two decades ago to accommodate a total of 90,000 people, the complex currently houses over 261,000. There are concerns that the upcoming rainy season, set to begin in early April, could put additional constraints on the already congested camps.The agency and the Kenyan Government are finalizing plans for the construction of new camps to ease the burden on the Dadaab site. “It is crucial for the Government to provide us with land as soon as possible, where we can build other camps and thus decongest the existing camps and prepare for more people if the current arrival trend continues,” Mr. Redmond stated.
1 December 2009United States singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder is joining the prestigious roster of United Nations Messengers of Peace to advocate for the Organization’s work, with the artist – blind since birth – championing people with disabilities. “Our newest Messenger of Peace is someone who is admired by millions of people and has given back to millions of people,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today ahead of Mr. Wonder’s official designation at a news conference on Thursday.“I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights and to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Stevie Wonder is a true inspiration to young people all over the world about what can be achieved despite any physical limitations.”He will join 10 other Messengers of Peace – individuals widely recognized for their talents in the arts, academia, literature, sports and entertainment – in helping to raise worldwide awareness of UN ideals and activities. Through their public appearances, contacts with the international media and humanitarian work, they expand public understanding of how the UN helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.The other Messengers of Peace and their areas of focus are: conductor Daniel Barenboim (peace and tolerance); actor George Clooney (peacekeeping); author Paulo Coelho (poverty and intercultural dialogue); actor Michael Douglas (disarmament); primatologist Jane Goodall (conservation and environmental issues); violinist Midori Goto (Millennium Development Goals and Youth); Princess Haya Bint al Hussein (Millennium Development Goals and hunger); cellist Yo-Yo Ma (youth); actor Charlize Theron (ending violence against women); and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (human rights).“Stevie Wonder’s activism has been pivotal in US and world events,” the UN noted in a news release, citing the 1983 campaign he spearheaded to make Martin Luther King Day a national holiday in the US, and his advocacy for ending apartheid in South Africa.He has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts, including the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Junior Blind of America and the creation of the Wonder Vision Awards Program. For over 10 years, he has provided toys for children and families in need with his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert.His career as a recording artist has reflected his concern with humanitarian issues. He has written, produced and/or performed songs relative to charities in support of disabilities, AIDS, cancer, diabetes, hunger and homelessness, domestic abuse and many other causes on behalf of children and adults.
24 February 2010Over 1,500 people have been displaced by increased fighting in the western part of Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region and very few agencies have been able to provide them with desperately-needed aid due to lack of security, the United Nations reported today. The displaced people have sought refuge in Thur, West Darfur, after fleeing from nearby villages because of increased fighting in the Jebel Marra area last month, the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said, after sending a humanitarian mission there earlier this week.“However, following the Darfur Framework Agreement signed yesterday between the Sudanese Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), it is expected that help will quickly begin to reach the areas affected by the recent clashes,” UNAMID added, referring to the cessation of hostilities pact the Government signed in Doha, Qatar, with the main rebel group.“UNAMID is already finalising plans for other similar missions to the affected areas, in coordination with other humanitarian agencies.”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday hailed the Doha accord as “an important step towards an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement” for Darfur, where nearly seven years of war between the Government, its militia allies and various rebel groups have killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes. He called on all parties in the conflict to agree on a definitive political settlementOther rebels have still not signed agreements with the Government. Earlier this month Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Dmitry Titov reported to the Security Council that two rebel coalitions known as the Addis and Tripoli Groups have shown themselves unprepared so far for substantive negotiations.
“We will present the positive image of the UN family, and allow visitors to know our objectives, missions and activities,” Awni Behnam, Commissioner General of the UN Pavilion, has said about the 32,000-square-foot pavilion. Divided into three main areas, the building was designed to be a spectacle of LCD monitors, colourful multi-media technological exhibits and UN product displays. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will deliver two video messages on some of the screens. The theme of the Expo is “Better City, Better Life,” recognizing that more than half of the world’s population in now urban and growing rapidly, and has particular significance for China, home to nearly one quarter of the world’s 1,000 largest cities. This year’s Expo is the first to be held in a developing country. Given its ties with the overarching theme, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the agency leading the world body’s effort on sustainable urban development, is coordinating its presence at the Expo. UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka and Mr. Behnam were slated to cut the ribbon officially opening the pavilion today. Over the next few days, they will be joined in presentations and on panels by General Assembly President Ali Treki Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) award-winning actor and climate change advocate Forest Whitaker and World Food Programme (WFP) Ambassador Against Hunger Li Ning. One of the sections of the pavilion contains 192 chairs, representing all of the UN Member States, reminiscent of the General Assembly Hall in New York where representatives gather to discuss world issues. This year at the high-level opening of the General Assembly in New York, the Secretary-General will host a summit on speeding up progress towards reaching the universally agreed-upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets, by their 2015 deadline. Similarly, participants at the Shanghai Expo can attend meetings and talks in the UN Pavilion forum area, the only non-invitation one at the Expo. “This is an opportunity for people from all walks of life, from civil society to world leaders, from students to celebrities, to come together to debate how best to tackle these issues so that everyone can benefit from urban life,” Jeanette Elsworth, Public Information Officer for the UN Pavilion, told the UN News Centre. “Dialogue is what the UN is all about and we hope to welcome as many people as possible to the Pavilion to share their views.” One of the biggest exhibits in the pavilion is called “6 Billion Others.” Featuring hundreds of television screens showing clips from a film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, it shows how more than 600 people and communities in 17 countries are confronting climate challenge. “I fear the sea. The sea is my only fear. Where will we go? The water is coming closer every day, the country is worsening day by day. I have never seen this before,” a fisherman in Bangladesh tells the camera. The testimonies are based on questions from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was set up by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 1 May 2010Focusing on the theme “One Earth, One United Nations,” the world body hopes to showcase the breadth of its work at its state-of-the-art pavilion the World Exposition in Shanghai, China, which kicked off today and is expected to draw 70 million people.
Gender equality and the empowerment of women will be the main focus of attention when government ministers from across the world gather in New York for the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) next week.“It goes without saying that the empowerment of women has one of the strongest multiplayer effects on achieving all of the MDGs,” said Hamidon Ali, President of ECOSOC, referring to the eight human development and poverty eradication targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which countries have pledged to try and achieve before the 2015 deadline.He told journalists at UN Headquarters that this year’s agenda had been selected to stress the importance of women as agents of social change. Empowering women has the potential to improve maternal and child health, reduce global hunger, contribute towards universal primary education, help in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and curb environmental degradation.Mr. Ali said women did 66 per cent of the world’s work and produced 50 per cent of the food, yet they earned 10 per cent of global income, owned one per cent of the property, and constituted 60 per cent of the world’s poorest people.Also on the agenda at the ECOSOC meeting are efforts to end gender-based violence, which remains a priority for the UN because of its potential to prevent women from participating fully in productive social activities.The week of high-level meetings will include the Annual Ministerial Review, which will focus on implementing the international goals for gender equality and the empowerment of women, and the Development Cooperation Forum, which will centre on development cooperation in times of crises.Six developing countries – Brazil, Guatemala, Moldova, Mongolia, Namibia and the Republic of Congo – will make the national voluntary presentations on lessons they have learned when formulating and implementing their national development strategies. Seven developed countries – Australia, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Korea and the United States – will make presentations on how they have helped poorer nations meet their development priorities.Keynote speakers include the former Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet; the British Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell; and Moushira Khattab, Egypt’s Minister of State for Family and Population Affairs. 25 June 2010Gender equality and the empowerment of women will be the main focus of attention when government ministers from across the world gather in New York for the annual high-level meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) next week.
9 July 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has named Valerie Amos of the United Kingdom as the new United Nations humanitarian chief, one of five senior appointments announced by the world body today. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has named Valerie Amos of the United Kingdom as the new United Nations humanitarian chief, one of five senior appointments announced by the world body today. Ms. Amos, who is currently her country’s High Commissioner to Australia, will succeed John Holmes, another UK national, who has served as Under Secretary-General for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since 2007. “Ms. Amos brings to this position extensive background and experience coupled with well-honed leadership skills and the ability to forge consensus, coordinate delivery of results and work with diverse stakeholders,” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters.He added that the Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, “for his dedicated service to the Organization and commitment to alleviating the conditions of the many peoples affected by emergency situations.” The Secretary-General has also appointed Yuri Fedotov of Russia as the new Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), replacing Antonio Maria Costa of Italy, who has served in that post since 2002. In his new position, Mr. Fedotov – currently Russia’s Ambassador to the UK and a former deputy foreign minister – will also serve as the Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV). Also announced today were senior-level appointees at UN peacekeeping operations in Côte d’Ivoire, Timor-Leste and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Ndolamb Ngokwey, a national of the DRC, will serve as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), where he will also act as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. Mr. Ngokwey will replace Georg Charpentier, who was appointed Deputy Special Representative, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan. Shigeru Mochida of Japan will succeed countryman Takahisa Kawakami as Deputy Special Representative for Security Sector Support and Rule of Law of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Mr. Kawakami passed away on 15 March this year. In addition, Lieutenant-General Chander Prakash of India has been appointed as the Force Commander for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym as MONUSCO, where he will succeed Lieutenant-General Babacar Gaye of Senegal.
26 August 2010The United Nations agriculture agency and the European Community are supporting Liberia in rehabilitating its fertile lowlands, which cover one fifth of the West African country, to cut the nation’s dependence on rice imports and improve the livelihood of vulnerable farming families. Considering that lowland farms have the potential to yield up to 80 to 90 per cent more rice than upland ones, the Liberian Government has prioritized the rehabilitation of swamps, especially those with damaged or abandoned rice fields. “In the swamps, you can grow two, three crops of rice per year, compared to just one per year on upland slopes,” said Sheku Kamara, an agricultural engineer with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).By contrast, “with upland rice… you have to move to another area after each harvest, then you slash and burn to clear brush and trees, then you move to another area and you repeat that.”Mr. Kamara has provided technical support for a 2,000-hectare swamp and irrigation rehabilitation project funded by the European Union.FAO has distributed rice seeds, fertilizers and pest management supplies to 10,000 vulnerable rural households under the initiative. It is also supporting school garden projects and vegetable growers with materials, training and technical assistance.The agency’s technical support to the Government includes training to improve the quality of extension services, strengthen the capacity of employees to conduct crop surveys, and revive the national system for producing, testing and storing seeds.While rice production in Liberia has increased significantly since the end of its 14-year civil war in 2003, the percentage of rice that is imported remains high. According to Government figures, Liberia continues to imports 60 per cent of the rice it consumes.Up to 5,000 men and women in Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties, many of whom fled rural farms during the civil war, are participating in the new initiative. They are reviving defunct lowland farms, repairing irrigation systems, and receiving training in sustainable farming techniques.“During the war, we went away,” said Bendu Bendeh, a resident of Samay in Bong County. “After that, we had no money, no way to work.”Today, Ms. Bendeh stands on swampland that she and her neighbours have rehabilitated.“Now we know how to set up the bunds,” she said, referring to the dirt embankments that criss-cross the fields and serve as a form of irrigation control, work platforms and footpaths. Ms. Bendeh also received seeds, tools, fertilizer and pest management supplies.“We were taught how to take rice from a nursery and transplant the seedlings for a better crop,” she added.
15 August 2011The United Nations today called for a thorough investigation into violations of international law committed in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state in June which it said could, if substantiated, amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes. A preliminary report, produced jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the former UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), describes a wide range of alleged violations of international law in the town of Kadugli, as well as in the surrounding Nuba mountains, after fighting broke out in Kadugli on 5 June between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army North (SPLA-N).Reported violations included “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property,” as well as massive displacement, according to a news release issued by OHCHR.“This is a preliminary report produced under very challenging circumstances and with very limited access to affected areas,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.“However what it suggests has been happening in Southern Kordofan is so serious that it is essential there is an independent, thorough and objective inquiry with the aim of holding perpetrators to account,” she added.The report, which covers the period from 5 to 30 June, also describes aerial bombardments on civilian areas in Kadugli and elsewhere in Southern Kordofan, which, it says, have resulted in “significant loss of life.” “The SAF regularly conducted aerial bombardments in the Nuba Mountains, and in several towns and villages populated by the Nuba,” the report states, while also citing a number of SAF air strikes on airstrips used by humanitarian organizations. It also describes widespread looting by elements of the Popular Defence Force (a militia allied with the SAF), alleged attacks on churches, the burning of houses in Nuba villages, interference with medical and humanitarian assistance and allegations of the existence of several mass graves in Kadugli itself and in a number of villages in the region.However, neither the existence of the mass graves nor other reports suggesting possible use of chemical weapons have been fully verified, OHCHR stated.Most, but not all, of the violations and allegations detailed in the report are attributed to the SAF, the Central Reserve Police or their militia allies. Ms. Pillay expressed concern about continuing violence in the six weeks since the end of the period covered by the report, and noted some of its key recommendations concerning access.“It is vital that unhindered access is granted to human rights monitors to conduct investigations into allegations of continuing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and to humanitarian actors trying to bring relief to the affected populations whose access has also been severely restricted by both sides,” she said. “We need the access to be able to go in and look at the situation, to investigate certainly. But also longer-term presence for the promotion and protection of human rights of the community,” said Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, who travelled through Sudan during a week-long visit in June.The report describes a number of specific individual detentions and disappearances – including some women and children – as well as “a series of extrajudicial killings targeted at people who were affiliated with the SPLA-N and SPLM, most of whom allegedly were from the Nuba communities.” It also notes a long list of attacks and harassment of UN staff – especially those of Nuban descent – as well as the dropping of bombs near UNMIS positions.“These flagrant and repeated violations of international conventions as well as specific agreements with the Government of Sudan concerning the privileges and immunities under which the UN operates are an extremely serious matter which cannot be left unresolved or unpunished,” said the High Commissioner.She urged the Sudanese Government to immediately release any UN staff who are still in custody, as well as all other detainees who have not committed any crime.Southern Kordofan lies in Sudan but borders the newly independent South Sudan. The mandate of UNMIS came to an end after South Sudan became its own nation on 9 July. The Security Council created the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), but the new mission does not have a mandate to operate in Sudan.
“What we need to do is to make sure that we’re out there fast, that we’re out there early, we’re out there trying to solve problems before they begin,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told a news briefing following the release of a UN report outlining the successes and challenges of a process that, through a system of early warnings and skilled interventions, can pre-empt conflicts before they erupt, saving both lives and national resources. He called preventive diplomacy “a crucial part of the UN operations that has needed to be pressed and pushed forward,” and cited the Organization’s cooperation with regional bodies in the process.As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon did in the report, Mr. Pascoe, who heads the UN’s Department of Political Affairs (DPA), laid out some of the recent successes, such as ending inter-ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, achieved in cooperation with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), halting post-election violence in Kenya, and promoting the transition from military to civilian rule in Guinea.The Under-Secretary-General said he expected the high-level Security Council discussion on the issue on 22 September to produce an effort “to really revitalize this area, to talk about what we have done and to move the process forward… For the Secretary-General it’s been something that he’s been preaching since the first day he got here,” he added.In his report, Mr. Ban warned that adequate financial investment, in particular for rapid responses, is crucial and Member States must ensure predictable and timely financial support.While the biggest return on the investment in preventive diplomacy comes in lives saved, the World Bank calculates that the average cost of civil war is equivalent to more than 30 years of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for a medium-size developing country, with the most severe civil wars imposing cumulative costs of tens of billions of dollars. Mr. Pascoe noted that the UN can either be out in front in the efforts, or in the background, working with regional organizations which often have the needed expertise. “Frankly our biggest successes are if we have been helping to resolve a problem and you guys don’t hear about it,” he said. “We’re not in the business of looking for publicity for the work that we do.” One example was just a couple of weeks ago in Malawi, which was facing a potentially explosive confrontation between the Government and opposition after deadly protests in July. In keeping with the more proactive approach he has been advocating, Mr. Ban sent João Honwana, a DPA director for African affairs, who quietly mediated talks that helped avert a confrontation and pointed the two sides toward a dialogue on the underlying problems.“The sense that we should be involved has been growing day by day,” Mr. Pascoe said, noting the key role played by DPA’s Mediation Division and support unit in mobilizing the requisite expertise, resources and standby teams. Levent Bilman, director of the Policy and Mediation Division, stressed that the unit had become a reliable asset in supporting mediators, field missions and other UN agencies and regional organizations, with the capacity to deploy experts anywhere in the world within 72 hours. 12 September 2011The United Nations today further highlighted the need for preventive diplomacy to nip crises in the bud before they become more intractable and deadly, as it prepared for a high-level discussion next week to enhance the tools at hand.
CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. has added British Airways as its eighth code-share partner, enabling the U.K. carrier to sell seats on the Canadian airline’s planes starting Monday.The agreement, which builds on a previous deal between the two carriers to collaborate on baggage handling and other tasks, is meant to draw more international travellers into WestJet’s network.“The launch of this new code-share represents another strategically significant milestone for WestJet,” said WestJet executive vice-president Bob Cummings.[np-related]“We remain committed to bringing top-quality airlines on board as part of our airline partnership strategy. The success of this strategy has contributed to the strong results we’ve seen so far this year.”Code-share deals allow airlines to sell seats on one-another’s planes using the same two-digit code. In this case, the “BA” code will be used when travellers on British Airways flights to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto connect to WestJet-operated flights to Ottawa, Edmonton and Victoria.“Our partnership with WestJet is great news for our customers. It will enable easier travel from Canada’s gateway cities to destinations that have been more difficult to access from the U.K,” said Lynne Embleton, British Airways’ director of strategy and business units.WestJet’s fleet currently consists only of Boeing 737s, which don’t have the range for overseas flights, so partnerships like the one with British Airways are a key way for the company to expand its market reach.Over the past year, WestJet has signed code-share deals with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern Airlines, Delta Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM and Korean Air.It also has 20 interline deals — less integrated partnerships that involve working together on baggage handling and ticketing. Interline deals often pave the way for code shares.WestJet is also working to expand its presence in smaller markets, with plans to launch a regional service next year using Bombardier Q400 propeller aircraft.WestJet shares dropped thirteen cents to $17.33 in early afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
MONTREAL — Prices for cellphone services — including voice and data — have decreased since last year, putting Canada in the middle of the pack internationally, a new study says.A typical package of mobile phone services — including voice, text, call display and voice mail features — has fallen by about 13% compared with 2012, said the study, commissioned by Industry Canada and the CRTC.Prices for smartphone plans that include data fell about 5% compared with 2012, said the study, done by Wall Communications Inc.“We’re not the worst, we’re not the best,” Gerry Wall, president of Wall Communications, said Thursday.“Overall, I would say we’re right in the middle.”Prices were also tracked in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia and Japan.For a plan including 450 incoming and outgoing minutes, voice mail and call display and 300 text messages per month, the cost was $44.86 in Canada. A similar plan in the U.S. cost $76.14 and $38.85 in Britain after adjusting for currency and the relative purchasing power of the Canadian dollar.A plan including 1,200 incoming and outgoing minutes, 300 text messages and one gigabyte of data usage per month was $93.59 in Canada, $145.79 in the U.S. and $63.52 in Britain after currency adjustments.The study Thursday also found that the new wireless players like Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile have helped bring down prices since they launched in the marketplace in recent years.“Further, the monthly data allowances offered by the new wireless entrants, on average, exceed those of the incumbents,” the study said, referring to large telecom companies such as Rogers, Bell and Telus.Prices for cellphone services are a hot button issue for Canadians.“It becomes an emotional thing,” Wall said. “Any time you start spending a lot of money on anything in the household, it catches your attention and it kind of bugs you.”The CRTC recently announced plans for a new wireless code earlier this year to that will allow consumers to cancel their wireless contracts after two years without penalty.The code also sets provisions to limit extra data and international data roaming charges to avoid huge, surprise bills.The study Thursday also looked at prices for such services as Internet, landline telephones and bundled telecom services.Compared with 2012, overall Canada had more price increases and didn’t fare as well internationally, Wall said.But rates for typical broadband Internet service went down about 6% in 2013, but not rates for higher speeds.Prices for monthly higher-speed broadband Internet services were higher in Canada than those in all of the surveyed countries at $65.18 and $82.88 — with the exception of the United States with prices at $99.10 and $123.27 after adjusting for currency and the relative purchasing power of the Canadian dollar, the study said.Wall said prices for local and long-distance calls were up modestly and, again, Canada falls in the middle of the pack on pricing.Average Canadian prices for bundled telecom services, which can include landline, Internet, TV, and wireless, were up about five period this year.“There’s a fair amount of price competition amongst providers. In terms of the prices that we’ve seen, it’s very middle of the pack internationally for us,” Wall said.The study surveyed telecom providers including Rogers, Telus, Bell, Videotron, Eastlink, SaskTel, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity, Shaw and Primus. It has been done annually since 2008.
TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed lower Monday as mining stocks fell alongside metal prices in the wake of weak industrial data from China.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 15,482.56 -49.02 -0.32%S&P 500 — 1,984.13 -1.41 -0.07%Dow — 17,031.14 +43.63 0.26%Nasdaq —4,518.90 -48.70 -1.07%The resource-heavy S&P/TSX composite index dropped 49.02 points to 15,482.56.The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.36 of a cent to 90.5 cents US.U.S. markets were uneven with the Dow Jones industrials up 43.63 points to 17,031.14, while the Nasdaq was down 48.7 points at 4,518.9 and the S&P 500 index slipped 1.41 points to 1,984.13.Data showed that Chinese industrial production decelerated markedly in August to just a 6.9% rise from a year earlier. It was the slowest growth since the 2008-09 financial crisis and left markets wondering if China’s economy can reach the 7.5% growth level targeted by the Chinese government.“Many depend on China to set the pace of what’s going to happen with copper and energy,” said Allan Small, senior adviser at HollisWealth.“So, if there is a noticeable slowdown, obviously that will hurt the commodity sector and our economy in Canada will be affected by it.”The base metals sector was the biggest TSX loser, down 1.77% as the weak Chinese data pushed December copper down two cents to US$3.09 a pound. First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) gave back 96 cents to C$23.16.The U.S. Federal Reserve was also in focus with traders curious to see if the central bank drops a hint that it could raise interest rates sooner than mid-2015, when it is generally expected that short-term rates will start to head up from near zero, where they have been since the financial collapse.They will be looking at the Fed’s statement Wednesday to see if there has been a change in key language. For some time, the Fed has reassured markets that “it likely will be appropriate to maintain the current target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends.”Markets will look to see if the Fed drops the words “considerable time.”“Is it going to be first quarter, second quarter, third quarter — I think the consensus is somewhere middle of next year,” Small said. “But we’re splitting hairs here. At the end of the day, rates are going higher sometime next year and we need to start to be prepared for that.”The great bit of uncertainty on markets this week is coming from the U.K. as traders look to Thursday and the referendum on Scottish independence. A Yes vote would result in huge complications from currency to membership in the European Union and NATO.In corporate news, Microsoft will acquire Stockholm-based game developer Mojang, the maker of Minecraft, for US$2.5 billion. Minecraft, which lets users build and explore a virtual world, has been downloaded 100 million times on PCs alone since its launch in 2009. Microsoft lost 45 cents to $46.24.Air Canada is moving to begin contract negotiations with its pilots union early in hopes of avoiding the acrimony that marked the last round talks that ended up being eventually settled by a federal arbitrator. Its shares (TSX:AC.B) jumped 57 cents or 6.7% to $9.05.Elsewhere on the TSX, auto parts makers help push the consumer discretionary sector down 1.17% with Magna International (TSX:MG) losing $3.61 to $118.97.The energy sector was ahead 0.25% as October crude in New York gained 65 cents to US$92.92.The gold sector was up 0.1% as December bullion advanced $3.60 to US$1,235.10 an ounce.TOP STORIESHow Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are driving the housing market in CanadaScotland independence referendum keeps markets on edgeThere’s a beer battle brewing as Heineken rejection leaves SABMiller vulnerable to AB InBev takeoverCIBC shakes up management as new CEO Victor Dodig unveils new teamWHAT’S ON DECK TUESDAYECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m. Manufacturing sales & orders (July): Economists expect a 1.1% riseCORPORATE NEWSUNITED STATES Adobe Systems Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 26¢ a share
TORONTO — Aecon Group Inc.’s (TSX:ARE) stock price has soared after the Canadian construction firm confirmed it has engaged BMO Capital Markets and TD Securities to look into a possible sale of the company.“Any transaction would be intended to create shareholder value and enhance the company’s capabilities and growth potential,” Aecon said in a statement.The company made the disclosure after regulators halted its stock because of a spike in its volume and price, but cautioned there is no guarantee that the process will lead to any agreements or a sale.After the stock halt lifted, Aecon’s share price soared $2.90 or 20.2 per cent to close at $17.24 on Friday.Desjardins Capital Markets analyst Benoit Poirier said in a note that the “clearly undervalued” company is an attractive takeover target given its strong balance sheet, solid exposure to Canadian infrastructure opportunities of up to $40 billion, and because it has been without a CEO since November 2016.“In our view, diverse engineering and construction firms could be interested in (Aecon’s) assets given the strong bidding pipeline, especially U.S. contractors,” said Poirier.Raymond James analyst Frederic Bastien said in a note that U.S.-based companies would likely be too focused on their own markets to contemplate a move north, but that some European firms with Canadian experience could be interested.“It would have to be a company that recognizes the potential in Aecon’s infrastructure and nuclear refurbishment activities and sees upside in Canada’s oil, gas and natural resources sectors.”On the timing of the move, Bastien speculated that while the lack of a CEO might have spurred the company’s search, the board had more likely been approached with an offer.Bastien put out an estimated takeover price of about $23.50 per share, while Poirier put the price at about $21 even.Aecon and its predecessors have been involved in landmark construction projects in Canada including the CN Tower, the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Vancouver SkyTrain and the Halifax Shipyard.The company has divisions in construction, mining, energy and infrastructure, with headquarters in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.
The images were impounded after the owner of the photographic laboratory alerted police, but they were later posted on a Sri Lankan website.On Tuesday a magistrate sentenced the trio to six months in prison with hard labour, suspended for five years – which means they will not actually serve any time in jail. The court also levied a small fine on them.They were convicted under a section of the Penal Code which outlaws deeds intended to wound or insult “the religious feelings of any class of persons” through acts committed in, upon or near sacred objects or places of worship. In 2010 two Sri Lankan Muslim traders were given suspended jail sentences for selling keyrings containing an image of Buddha.That same year Sri Lanka denied a visa to the R&B star Akon, who had been due to perform a concert. It happened after public protests over one of his music videos which briefly showed scantily-clad women dancing in front of a Buddha statue.There is currently widespread excitement in Sri Lanka as the Kapilvastu Relics – believed to be bones of Lord Buddha – have been brought to the island from India for a two-week tour of temples. (BBC) Mistreatment of Buddhist images and artefacts is strictly taboo in the country. The incident is alleged to have taken place at a temple in central Sri Lanka.Police spokesman, Ajith Rohana, told the BBC the French party had visited the laboratory to get pictures printed. The pictures show the travellers posing with Buddha statues and pretending to kiss one of them. A Sri Lankan court has given suspended jail terms to three French tourists for wounding the religious feelings of Buddhists by taking pictures deemed insulting.Two women and one man were detained in the southern town of Galle after a photographic laboratory alerted police. Most of Sri Lanka’s majority ethnic Sinhalese are Theravada Buddhist. Last month there were reports that five Arabs visiting the island were arrested for distributing “literature insulting to Buddhism”.
One defendant, Piratheepan Nadarajah, 36, also faces charges of conspiring to acquire antiaircraft missiles for the group, known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Mr. Nadarajah and several co-conspirators had engaged in negotiations in 2006 with an undercover F.B.I. agent to buy twenty SA-18 heat-seeking missiles, 10 missile launchers and 500 AK-47 assault rifles. The other defendant, Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, assisted Tamil officials in researching and acquiring aviation equipment, submarine and warship design software and communications equipment, a criminal complaint charged.Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, said the defendants “were part of the cycle of sophisticated arms and large sums of money that fueled” the Tamil Tigers, an organization that authorities said had used suicide bombings and political assassinations. Mr. Nadarajah and Mr. Sriskandarajah were both wearing khaki jumpsuits and were cuffed at the ankles when they entered not-guilty pleas before Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom. A bail hearing was set for Jan. 9. The men’s fight against extradition ended this month after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed their appeals, clearing the way for them to be sent to the United States. Two men extradited from Canada on charges of supporting a Sri Lankan rebel group that has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States were ordered held without bond Thursday during an appearance in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.The two men, who were born in Sri Lanka and became naturalized Canadian citizens, had been sought by the United States since 2006. Each has been charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Tamil Tigers, the separatist group that was defeated three years ago after more than 25 years of insurgency. Mr. Nadarajah’s lawyer, Sam A. Schmidt, said later by phone that his client was “an honorable hardworking family man who has demonstrated his responsibility to the courts in Canada.”Joshua L. Dratel, a lawyer for Mr. Sriskandarajah said: “He’s gone through this process for six years; this is another chapter that we’ll have to overcome.”After the proceeding, Mr. Dratel asked the judge to allow his client’s mother, who had traveled to New York from Canada, to greet her son. They were allowed to exchange a few words across a short distance in the courtroom, with the mother visibly weeping. (NY Times)
She was arrested together with two others over allegations they assaulted a man in Borella.However when contacted by the Colombo Gazette at the time, Hirunika Premachandra had rejected the claims. Premachandra said that the police had asked her to apologize to the man over the incident, which she refused to do. She was then arrested and released on police bail. (Colombo Gazette) The Additional Magistrate today forwarded the case to a mediation board. Hirunika appeared in court today over an incident a couple of weeks ago where she was arrested by the Borella police and then freed on police bail. Colombo Additional Magistrate Praharsha Ranasinghe today advised Hirunika Premachandra to wear appropriate clothes in court.The Additional Magistrate gave the advice after noting the dress Hirunika Premachandra wore to court today. She had said that when she had gone to meet the man with her bodyguards over a private dispute the man had stormed at her.She said her bodyguards had come in-between the man and her and pushed the man behind.He had then lodged a complaint with the police saying the bodyguards had assaulted him.