TMC complains to EC against media coverage of PM’s visit to Kedarnath

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first_imgNew Delhi: The Trinamool Congress Sunday wrote to the Election Commission complaining that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the media at Kedarnath shrine was “unethical” and that the coverage of his visit was in “gross violation” of the Model Code of Conduct. The prime minister also announced that the master plan of Kedarnath Temple is ready and also addressed the public and media at Kedarnath. It is absolutely “unethical and morally incorrect,” party spokesperson Derek O’Brien said in the letter. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework “Even though the Election campaign for the last phase of polling for 2019 Lok Sabha is over on May 17 at 6 pm, surprisingly Narendra Modi’s Kedarnath Yatra is being covered and widely televised for the last two days in all national as well as local media. This is a gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct,” he said. The prime minister offered prayers at the Himalayan shrine on Sunday morning. Speaking to reporters at the shrine, Modi thanked the Election Commission for granting him permission to visit the shrine at a time when the Model Code of Conduct is in force. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen “Every minute detail of his activities during the visit is being widely publicised with an ulterior motive to influence voters directly and/or indirectly,” the TMC leader charged and added that “Modi Modi” chants are also being heard from the background. He said all these moves were well calculated with the “ill intention to influence voters” on polling day. It is unfortunate that the poll body has not taken any action against the PM, he added. “Election Commission, the highest body and the eyes and ears of the democratic process, remains blind and deaf to the gross violation of the MCC.l would request you to take immediate action and stop telecast of such surreptitious and unfair campaign which is also morally wrong,” he charged.last_img read more

The creation of a “War Room” Key to Success in the…

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first_imgWashington DC — Morocco needs a new powerful framework to overcome recent public relations setbacks in its never ending cold war with Algeria over the “Western Sahara.”The time is ripe for Rabat to engage the underlying political and diplomatic preconceptions that led to a patchy Sahara policy. The key to a viable strategy in the Southern provinces rests with the creation of a “war room” that would incorporate different intelligence agencies and all Ministries, including Interior and foreign affairs, involved in implementing policies in the Sahara.  Recent events point to the need for a national strategy to merge domestic, international and economic assessments of the situation in the Sahara into one single vision. Time and time again, domestic and social episodes turned into international incidents. A high level interposition among the competing security and political entities will streamline the “Sahara policy” creating comprehensive international strategies and positive local dynamics.  One of the most favorable outcomes of the creation of a “war room” will be the removal of the long-running impediments to a complementary multifaceted strategy in the Southern provinces. Improving the lives of the average Sahrawi is as important as reinforcing the political and diplomatic efforts on the international scene. In creating a sustained income stream for the population based on a strong self-sustained local economy, Morocco will earn international recognition. Events such as Javier Bardem’s showing of an anti-Moroccan movie in Paris, violence during United Nations envoy visits to the Sahara or the upcoming Pro-Algeria activist Haider stay in Washington underscore the need to tighten and streamline Morocco’s response to the Algerian provocations.A decision by a local Interior Minister official in the Sahara could carry several implications on the international scene. As such, close and coordinated efforts between all parties involved in the decision making process in the Provinces is critical to a successful implementation of the “Local Autonomy Plan for the Sahara.” As Rabat casts local autonomy, and not independence, as the only viable resolution to the conflict, Moroccan politicians and officials must elucidate and expound the details of the Moroccan Proposal. Some Parliamentarians and political figures’ lack of knowledge about the aspects of this crucial dossier is shameful. Dumping millions of dollars into lobbying efforts spins attitudes at the international level but doesn’t influence attitudes at the local Saharan level, if only because it gives the impression that Morocco is consolidating its positions. The fact remains, however, pro-Algeria elements are still active in Laayoune while Moroccan diplomats struggle  to expose Polisario’s human rights abuses in the Tindouf Camps.Morocco needs to appeal to a rising Sahrawi youth that doesn’t remember the Sahara war and holds very different expectations from government and politicians than their fathers and grandfathers did. To succeed in winning the hearts and minds of all the Sahrawis, Moroccan authorities should rethink some aspects of their Sahara strategy. Unified and sustained security, economic and foreign policies could be the avenue to a successful implementation of the Local Autonomy Plan for the Sahara.  Concluding that the diplomatic-lobbying efforts to influence international attitudes are more important than local domestic policies is an oversimplification; in fact, small, targeted assistance programs for young Sahrawi may have more impact on the image of Morocco’s management style in the Sahara. Adopting the two strategies thru the creation of a “war room” would be a plus.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

Casablanca: Bus crashes into Bank Agency Injures Eight People

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first_imgCasablanca – A bus crashed into a bank agency located at Ibn Tachfine Boulevard on Thursday morning, leaving eight people injured, according to LE360.  On Thursday, one of El Madina buses crashed into a bank agency on Ibn Tachfine Boulevard, in Casablanca’s Roches Noires neighborhood, leaving 8 people injured and serious material damages.Some witnesses said brake failure was what caused the bus to end up in the bank agency, according to LE360. According to the same source, the bus crash took place at 6:30 am. The bus driver had allegedly attempted to avoid collision with a truck coming from the opposite direction, before the bus ended up crashing into the bank agency.Eight injured victims were subsequently taken to Mohammed V hospital in Casablanca.last_img read more

Belgian Minister Under Fire for Racist Comments Against Moroccans

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Rabat-The Belgian government is facing a storm of criticism after one of its Ministers made racist comments about Moroccan, Algerian, and Congolese immigrants and questioning their contribution to the development of the country.Theo Francken, Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration and a Flemish nationalist, doubted that Moroccan, Algerian and Congolese immigrants could add any value for Belgium.Media reports revealed these statements based on a Facebook status that the Belgian politician wrote on November 21, 2011. He questioned the value Moroccan, Algerian and Congolese immigrants can add to Belgium’s economy in comparison to the Jewish, Indian, and Chinese immigrants. This statement was labeled racist categorization and a “worrying development,” especially from an official who takes the tenure of immigration and asylum.Theo Francken said: “I can figure the added value of Jewish, Chinese and Indian diasporas, but less that of the Moroccan, Congolese, or Algerian diasporas.”The statement brought him heavy criticism and forced him to apologize in front of the federal parliament three years later.“I realize I hurt people by saying this. I never intended to. I want to present my sincere apologies. I can guarantee you that I will be a state secretary who defends the interests of all the people in this country, with a great respect for everyone,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed. read more

France’s Orange to Take Control of Meditel, to Name it Orange…

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Rabat- Morocco’s number two telecom operator Meditel is set to be majority owned by French telecoms giant Orange and renamed Orange Morocco, French weekly magazine L’Express reported.The French group, chaired by Stephane Richard, reportedly appointed a financial expert on January 19 to assess the value of Meditel and the amount of the transaction ahead of its acquisition of a 9 percent stake with 10.10 percent of voting rights by exercising a buy option.Orange had already acquired40 percent of the company for 640 million Euros in 2010. In late December, Orange estimated in its financial statements that its 40 percent Meditel stake was worth 320 million Euros. The French company is expected to pay a little more than 72 million Euros to take control of the second mobile operator in the kingdom. Moroccan telecom regulator ANRT will have to give the green light to this operation, L’Express added.With 13.59 million subscribers at the end of 2014, Meditel faces fierce competition from Maroc Telecom and Wana Corporate.The transaction will all allow the French group to include its Moroccan subsidiary in its group accounts and rename it Orange.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission. read more

Royal Air Maroc: A National Disgrace On The International Scene

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Washington D.C. – Examples of Royal Air Maroc (Morocco’s national airline known as RAM) bad service and management incompetence have been in stark display at New York’s JFK airport.Videos of desperate and angry travelers stranded in the American airport continue to surface on social media hurting not only the image of RAM, but the reputation of Morocco as a tourist destination. Yet, neither the pleas of frantic customers nor the embarrassment and humiliation this “national” airline has brought to the country have moved a company official into action. RAM is now a national disgrace on the international scene.Will this incident be the breaking point that would compel the “power to be” shielding the company’s CEO from accountability to act and help save face? For now this will remain an open ended question. As the news speared around the airport that RAM flight number AT 203, scheduled to take off last Thursday from JFK  to Casablanca,  was  canceled,  protesters (AKA RAM customers who paid exorbitant amount for their tickets to Morocco) went into a frenzy looking for company representatives who were nowhere to be found.As it became clear that the flight will not make it in time for the passengers to celebrate Al-Eid (a Muslim holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan) with family and friends, some went into a riot mode making so much racket and commotions at the international airport that the police had to intervene to calm furious customers.This was not a flight delay but rather numerous cancelations of flights with little or no notice and no clear explanations.  As seen on many videos, Moroccan and American travelers were anxiously looking for airline officials to get information but to no avail. Flyers paying $1500 a ticket were left rotting at the airport with no information or guidance in violation of American Federal law.RAM is not only inconveniencing customers who paid high prices for their tickets but rather relegating its duties under the Warsaw Convention, “an international convention which regulates liability for international carriage of persons, luggage, or goods performed by aircraft for reward”. In fact, U.S. and Moroccan consumers have every right to file a complaint.Videos of such incidents should alone lead to the resignations of some RAM officials. Yet, as we have seen in the past this shameful images will not lead to any changes to the organization’s irresponsible leadership or adjustments in the cavalier attitudes of some of the company’s employees. In short, RAM does not care.Regardless of whether or not we fly Royal Air Maroc, the way this airline has handled its customers should be of a concern to the flying public. While I seldom fly RAM, the actions and behaviors of the national airline is a reflection on the nation and thus is a source of apprehension to me and to other Moroccans. Many of the unfortunate RAM customers who “willingly or unwillingly” fly the airline have few alternatives and hence need the support and the indignations of all of us.Most of RAM customers got used to a degraded service over the years. In recent years, Moroccans and foreigners have endured frequent broken-down planes and snappier gate agents and flight attendants. However, the recent carelessness of the Moroccan national airline at JFK has pushed its customers to unprecedented indignation and outrage. Leaving dozens of travelers stranded in an airport for days is indeed a major blow to the image of Morocco.If history is a judge, the JFK fiasco will have no impact on the culture of indifference and bad service plaguing RAM. Moroccans and visitors will have to suffer RAM or take longer flight to visit the Kingdom.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permissionThe views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy read more

Casablanca Among Africa’s Top 5 Cities of Opportunity

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Rabat – Casablanca has been chosen by US magazine Cities and technologies (CITI) among Africa’s top 5 cities for opportunity.Morocco’s largest city and economic capital ranked fourth in the list, right between Johannesburg (third) and Algiers (fifth.)“Casablanca triumphed in the hotly-contested economics index, coming first in GDP diversity and as a key location for Top 500 company headquarters — top transport and energy infrastructure rankings no doubt helped in this sense,” CITI said. However, and like Tunis, the city was let down by poor diversity and population growth, typical of the North African cities surveyed, the magazine added.North African cities dominated the top five, with Cairo in first position, followed by Tunis.Last year, Casablanca was ranked the fourth city for opportunities in Africa in a study released by American consulting confirm PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (PwC).The Moroccan economic capital ranked first in “economics” criteria, with a score that reaches 122, and first as the city with the highest number of headquarters of the top 500 companies in Africa.Casablanca ranked fourth in terms of GDP per capita, and fifth in terms of the attraction of foreign direct investments (FDI).With regards to infrastructure, Casablanca ranked also first in terms of transportation infrastructure, third in terms of airport connectivity, and fourth in road security. read more

US: Employer Dismissed for Asking Olympic Fencer to Remove Her Hijab

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Rabat – South by Southwest officials have apologized to the Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad after she was denied registration at the festival in Austin, Texas on Saturday for wearing a hijab.The organizers of South by Southwest, an annual set of film, interactive media, and music festivals that takes place in mid-March in Austin, Texas in the United States, were angered by their employer who asked Muhammad to remove her headscarf before she would be given credentials to get into the festival.The American Olympian tweeted about the incident on Saturday afternoon. I was just asked to remove my hijab at SXSW Registration for my ID badge.. I can’t make this stuff up #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016She also tweeted that she was given the wrong ID badge, with her name misprinted on the badge.Thennnnn I was given the wrong ID! From now on my name is Tamir & I work for Time Warner Inc #SXSW2016 pic.twitter.com/TE3jJR16P6— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016Immediately after the tweets went viral, the officials of the festival released a statement, apologizing to the Muslim American fencer.“It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge,” the statement read.“This was one volunteer who made an insensitive request and that person has been removed for the duration of the event. We are embarrassed by this and have apologized to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident,” they added. read more

GameStop ends pursuit of sale, shares slide in early trade

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NEW YORK — Shares in GameStop are getting hammered after the video game retailer says it is no longer pursuing a sale of the company. GameStop shares have fallen more than 20 per cent in premarket trading.The company said Tuesday that securing acceptable financing terms for prospective buyers made selling GameStop too difficult.Although its shares jumped last month when it announced it had sold its Spring Mobile business for $735 million, the Grapevine, Texas company’s stock has lost about two-thirds of its value since 2015. More and more, gamers are bypassing retail shops for games and gear that can be downloaded or ordered online.GameStop Corp. also said it is continuing its search for a chief executive.The Associated Press read more

World Cup 2018: Hicham El Guerrouj and Moroccan Fans Hyped up…

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Rabat- Moroccan fans of the Atlas Lions are hyped up in Moscow, one day before the start of the World Cup 2018 tournament and two days before Morocco’s first World Cup match against Iran on June 15.The Moroccan mile-race Olympic champion and world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj shared on his Twitter account a video of Moroccan fans chanting “I love a red flag,” from a popular Moroccan song.The Atlas Lions are playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1998. El Guerrouj’s 17-second clip captured the fans as they held the Moroccan flag together and jumped up and down in sheer enthusiasm in Moscow, where a few Russian passersby got to witness the jovial cheering.From Russie to support our @Morocco2026_FR & @EnMaroc ??? ?? ???? ????? ???? ????? ????? pic.twitter.com/F2WHHCz7pn— Hicham El Guerrouj ???? ?????? (@elguerrouj32600) June 11, 2018The Atlas Lions will play against Portugal in their second game on June 20 and against Spain on June 25 in the final first-round match. Recently, many Moroccan celebrities displayed support for the national team in their own way, including French-Moroccan rapper Lartiste who wore a T-shirt reading “Keep calm and support Morocco” during his performance on the French show “Chanson de l’année 2018” (Song of the Year 2018). In addition, many artists, such as Said Naciri, Abderrahim Souiri, and Leila Haddioui, joined together in a music video, Malhama Abtal Al Watan (Saga: Heroes of the Nation), which received nationwide ridicule and criticism for its “lack of creativity.” read more

Akhannouch: Smart Agriculture Is a Priority for Morocco

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Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Agriculture Aziz Akhannouch spoke at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) on Saturday in Berlin about the potential of digitizing Moroccan agriculture.Akhannouch said Morocco has made progress, including using satellite imagery, the internet, and mobile phones in agriculture. Morocco’s agricultural products are sold in France and elsewhere but “Morocco should double down on efforts to promote them in the demanding German market,” he added.Read Also: European Parliament Passes EU-Morocco Agriculture AgreementAgriculture digitization is a priority in the Ministry of Agriculture’s strategy, he said, citing the 2017 World Bank study on farming digitization in Morocco as supporting this trend. Fruits and vegetables make up 90% of Moroccan agricultural exports, according to the agriculture ministry. The European Parliament passed the EU-Morocco agriculture agreement on January 16. Read Also: El Othmani: EU-Morocco Agriculture Agreement Required Intense EffortsThe 11th GFFA took place in Berlin from January 17 to 19 and discussed the subject “Agriculture goes digital – Smart solutions for future farming.” read more

Moroccan Ihssane Benalluch Among the Highest-Paid Influencers

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Rabat – Moroccan Instagram star Ihssane Benalluch has been ranked among one of the highest-paid influencers on the platform, according to Hopper HQ’s annual list.Bennalluch is known for her Youtube videos, where she vlogs, discusses makeup and beauty, as well as does fashion hauls and tutorials. She started the channel in 2015 and has amassed 900,000 subscribers as well as more than 1.4 million followers on her Instagram account.Hopper HQ’s list ranks her as the 112th highest-paid Instagram star, pulling in an estimated $6000 per sponsored post. She posts in both English and Arabic on her page. Instagrams stars are able to rake in such a high profit from their posts thanks to a boom in companies turning to influencer marketing in recent years. In 2018, eMarketer reported that marketers spent $1.6 billion on sponsored posts on Instagram alone.Brands are increasingly leaning towards influencer marketing over traditional celebrity print and TV ads, thanks to the increased sense of authenticity consumers feel from influencers. The money going into influencer marketing is expected to rise even further, with a study conducted by Linqia reporting 39% of brands planned to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2019. The same study found that the majority of brands spent between $25,000 and $100,000 on influencer marketing in 2017. According to Linqia, 97% of influencers charge less than $500 per sponsored post, meaning Benalluch is way ahead of the curve with $6000 per post.Read also: Pamela Anderson Calls French-Moroccan Ex ‘Monster’ in Dramatic Instagram Post read more

Leader say Brexit shows Scotland must chart a new path

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BRUSSELS — Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Brexit and the “horror show” of the British government leadership contest are signs that Scotland needs to chart a different future path, probably outside the United Kingdom.Sturgeon said Tuesday that “increasingly, Scotland and the U.K. are on different political paths. We have to confront whether the better response to that is to have the ability to be independent and shape our own future.”Speaking to European Union experts and journalists at the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels, she said “the people of Scotland have to have a choice before it’s too late to stop the damage of Brexit being done.”Sturgeon held talks with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and was due to meet later with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.The Associated Press read more

UN Human Rights Council calls on Myanmar to release detainees political prisoners

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2 October 2007The United Nations Human Rights Council, convened in special session, today strongly deplored the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, calling on the authorities to release without delay all those recently arrested as well as all political detainees, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The United Nations Human Rights Council, convened in special session, today strongly deplored the continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar, calling on the authorities to release without delay all those recently arrested as well as all political detainees, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.The adoption of the resolution by consensus came after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, met with the South-East Asian nation’s top general to discuss the “current situation,” while UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called on the Government to give a full account of those killed, injured and arrested in the anti-Government protests that began last month.“The peaceful protests we have witnessed in recent weeks and the shocking response by the authorities are only the most recent manifestations of the repression of fundamental rights and freedoms that has taken place for nearly 20 years in Myanmar,” Ms. Arbour told the 47-member Council in Geneva.“The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that their self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability,” she added. “As the protesters have become invisible, our concern only increases for the safety and well being of the monks, presumably confined to their monasteries, if not worse, and for the hundreds of people arrested in the course of the demonstrations, and for those wounded and removed from the streets to unknown locations.”She stressed that the 2005 Summit of World Leaders at UN Headquarters in New York agreed that the international community has a responsibility to protect civilians against serious international crimes. “The exercise of such responsibility requires that preventive, reactive and rebuilding measures be put in place to avert and confront crises, as well as to prepare the ground for justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights to take hold,” Ms. Arbour declared. “As we seek to prevent the outbreak of further overt violence and abuse, we must deploy all efforts to reach those clearly in need of international protection, including those whose fate is unknown.”Also addressing the session, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro called for decisive international action to prevent a repeat of the massacres that marked a pro-democracy uprising nearly two decades ago. “The failure of the international community to prevent the massacre following the 1988 people’s uprising causing the death of over 3,000 protesters must not be repeated,” he said. “The world is watching and while the time for mere words has passed, decisive action is now needed. No State can condone such actions.” He, too, called for the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees and political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.He decried the recent media black-out and cutting of internet access as “a further example of the intolerable and oppressive means used by the authorities,” and urged the Council to seek detailed information from the Government on the number of those killed and injured. “Impunity should not prevail for flagrant violations of human rights,” he said.Mr. Pinheiro called for a strategic dialogue with the help of regional States to reconcile the army with the people of Myanmar.“There will be no progress in Myanmar’s political transition unless ordinary people have space to express their views and discontent, peacefully and in public. The starting point for a national reconciliation requires meaningful and inclusive dialogue from the Government with and between political representatives and ethnic groups,” he concluded. read more

Senior UN official arrives in Nepal to visit mission supporting peace accord

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7 January 2008A senior United Nations political official arrived in Nepal today for a four-day visit to the UN mission supporting the peace process in the South Asian country after a decade-long civil conflict between the Government and Maoists claimed some 13,000 lives. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane will also assess preparations for the election of a Constituent Assembly, already delayed from last year, which is to be held in April to draft a new constitution. The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was set up a year ago to support the peace process after the Seven-Party Alliance and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) signed a peace accord in 2006. In addition to working meetings with UNMIN, Ms. Kane will hold discussions with Government officials and political leaders and travel to the country’s eastern region, where she will meet with the UNMIN team based in Biratnagar and visit the Maoist cantonment site in Ilam. Last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the decision by the CPN-M to rejoin the Interim Government and urged all parties “to swiftly move forward in the implementation of the agreements reached and lay the grounds for a peaceful, inclusive, and credible Constituent Assembly election.” read more

Nepalese children should not take part in violent political action say UN

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22 February 2008The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today issued a joint warning to all Nepalese to keep the country’s children free from harm amid mounting concern that they are frequently participating in violent protests and general strikes. In a statement issued in Kathmandu, the capital, UNICEF and OHCHR said they had received confirmed reports of children’s involvement, especially in the Terai region, in violent activities.Earlier this month in Nepalgunj, “a considerable number of children aged between seven and 15,” some carrying sticks, were seen supporting the enforcement of a bandh or general strike. In another case, children aged between eight and 12 were observed manning a roadblock in Sunsari district armed with sticks.More than 100 children, some in school uniforms, also took part in a violent attack on Nepali Congress members in Darchula district on 5 February.UNICEF and OHCHR urged all parties in Nepal to respect the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to take all measures to avoid exposing boys and girls under the age of 18 to risk of harm. The country’s recently enshrined electoral code clearly states that no children should be brought to participate in any kind of procession, mass meeting or election-related activity.“Furthermore, it is unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of children in the Terai and some Eastern hill districts have been prevented from attending school due to the imposition of bandhs,” the statement noted. “The indefinite closure of schools has forced girls and boys to stay at home and is depriving them of their fundamental right to education.” read more

In Hokkaido G8 leaders have unprecedented chance to halt global food crisis

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8 July 2008The Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Hokkaido, Japan, bringing together the heads of the world’s richest nations, provides an “unprecedented” opportunity for global leadership to tackle the global food crisis that is plunging millions around the world into hunger, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. “We need the G-8 leaders’ commitment and political will. We need them to join a Partnership for Food, and take the political, financial, and economic steps needed to stop the global food crisis from deepening,” Mr. Ban told students and faculty at Hokkaido University.The Secretary-General’s address comes during the University’s “Sustainability Weeks” – which bring together activities on environmental issues to coincide with the G-8 summit that is currently taking place on the island’s mountain resort of Toyako.Mr. Ban noted that the food crisis is one of the three major, interlinked crises currently facing the world, in addition to climate change and the race to achieve the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. “We can succeed in confronting these problems only if we act globally, with a common understanding, bringing together all key players: governments, donors, international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and academia,” he stated. “And, we can succeed only if we act now,” he added, warning that if urgent steps are not taken to halt and reverse the current trend in rising food prices, the people who can least afford it will suffer the most. To ensure that vulnerable populations are not left without urgent help in the midst of the crisis, he called for scaling up food assistance and other nutrition interventions, increasing predictable financial support for food aid, reducing restrictions on donor contributions, and exempting purchases of humanitarian relief food from export restrictions and added export taxes. “We may also need to establish a global reserve system for humanitarian food,” he added.Also vital was to act immediately to boost agricultural production this year, including by providing urgently needed seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming planting cycles, especially for the world’s small-scale farmers – some 450 million of them. “It is high time to reverse the dramatic and deplorable downward trend in agriculture’s share in official development assistance,” Mr. Ban stated, noting that ODA has dropped from 18 per cent 20 years ago, to just around 3 per cent today. Mr. Ban said he has urged the G8 leaders and international donors to raise the level of ODA for agriculture from 3 per cent to at least 10 per cent. “And they must honour the promise they made at Gleneagles in 2005 to increase overall ODA for Africa,” he added.In addition, it was important to improve fair trade and the free flow of markets, by reducing agricultural subsidies in G-8 countries; significantly increase investment in agriculture and rural development; minimize export restrictions and levies on food commodities to help stabilize food prices; and G8 countries and their partners must reassess subsidies and tariff protection for bio-fuel production. “In all these ways, the Hokkaido summit is a potential turning point – an opportunity to initiate actions and policy shifts on food security, and ensure the focus stays on global food security over the next two G-8 presidencies,” he stated. On climate change, Mr. Ban welcomed the statement today by the G-8 that they aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, saying he was reasonably encouraged by the news. The key, he said, would be to act on this commitment and to build momentum to reach a global emission reduction pact by 2009. “We must agree by the end of December next year in Copenhagen to adopt a global agreement which is balanced, inclusive and ratifiable. This is a crucial task for us to do,” he stated. The Secretary-General also held meetings today with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki, who were also in Hokkaido for the Summit. read more

Worst drought in Guatemala in decades affecting 25 million people UN reports

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18 September 2009Some 2.5 million Guatemalans have been affected by the worst drought to hit the Central American country in 30 years, with hundreds of thousands, including many pregnant women and children, facing severe hunger, the United Nations reported today. UN agencies are currently assessing health, nutrition, food and livelihood needs in the country, where President Álvaro Colom last week appealed to international donors for aid, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update on the crisis.The dry spell has been exacerbated by the El Niño weather pattern, a warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that spawns severe droughts in parts of the world and floods in others, leading to losses in agricultural production affecting some 2.5 million people in 21 provinces across Guatemala. Pest infestations have also reduced food supply, causing the highest price rise since 2007. In the so-called dry corridor along the Pacific, 25 children have reportedly died so far, but information is still being compiled by the Ministry of Health. It is estimated that 30 per cent of all pregnant women in the corridor are malnourished.The Government intends to provide food and non-food aid to some 54,000 families in the corridor at an estimated cost of $17 million, and has requested aid for some 410,800 families, estimated to cost $100 million. The plan includes food, and support for productive infrastructure and to restore livelihood.OCHA’s Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean has deployed a regional disaster response adviser.The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Country Team have developed a tool for rapid needs assessment in the areas of health, nutrition, food security and livelihood, and assessment missions are continuing. Last week WFP warned that money only exists to provide food aid to some tens of thousands of families until the end of September, including fortified food for 100,000 children under the age of three and 50,000 pregnant-lactating women. Almost half of all Guatemalan children under five suffer from stunting as a result of chronic under-nutrition. The number of children being admitted to hospital for acute malnutrition has tripled in recent months. read more

UN shocked and appalled at killings of medical workers in Afghanistan

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The ten people killed on 5 August in Badakhshan were part of a group known as the International Assistance Mission, which has had an office in the area for many years and is known for bringing medical services to remote villages across Afghanistan. “The United Nations condemns this serious crime and apparent cold-blooded execution,” Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative, said in a press statement. “These were individuals who came to Afghanistan or were Afghans working in their own country to help the poorest and most vulnerable,” he stressed. Also condemning the attack today was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who emphasized that “health workers must have access to treat those in need and must be able to do so without fear.”At a press conference in New York, he added that “under international law, health workers must be protected while they carry out their life-saving work.”Mr. de Mistura expressed his condolences to the families, friends and colleagues left behind after the tragic incident, emphasizing that “all those involved in this and other incidents targeting health workers should respect the value of human life.” 9 August 2010All United Nations staff in Afghanistan are “shocked and appalled” at the killing of ten medical workers in the northeast of the Asian nation, a senior world body official said today, calling for the protection of international health-care workers as they provide life-saving services. read more

UN advisers denounce apparently deliberate attacks on Syrian civilians

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2 June 2011Two high-ranking United Nations officials today said they were “alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks” on civilians in Syria, and called for an investigation into possible violations of international human rights law. Francis Deng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Edward Luck, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said in a joint statement that they were “gravely concerned at the increasing loss of life in Syria as a result of the continued violent suppression of anti-Government protests.”Media reports indicate that several hundred persons have been killed in Syria during recent anti-Government protests that are part of a broader uprising this year across North Africa and the Middle East.“We are particularly alarmed at the apparently systematic and deliberate attacks by police, military, and other security forces against unarmed civilians taking part in the last two months of protests. These attacks have reportedly resulted in many hundreds of deaths. “The deployment of armed forces and the use of live fire, tanks and artillery in response to peaceful protests, and the targeting of residential areas where protests have taken place, are unacceptable under any circumstances.”The statement said the attacks “appear primarily to have targeted the civilian population.”“This underscores the need for an independent, thorough, and objective investigation into all alleged violations of international human rights law,” Mr. Deng and Mr. Luck said. They also called for an investigation into the reported killing of members of the Government security forces.For her part, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, issued a statement condemning the torture and killing of children across the region.“Children are being wounded and killed in military action and armed violence throughout the Middle East and North Africa,” Ms Coomaraswamy said.Specifically citing “the widely reported torture and execution of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib as well as the killing of a 10-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl in and around [the Syrian city of] Homs,” Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that “the killing and maiming of children is a crime and is contrary to successive Security Council resolutions.” read more