Morocco Made Considerable Progress in Understanding Critical Risks OECD

Rabat – Morocco has, over the past 20 years, made considerable progress in understanding critical risks, mainly via a legislative and regulatory body, and the implementation of specific financial mechanisms.This came in a review of risk management policies in Morocco, by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), whose main findings and recommendations were presented in Rabat on Wednesday. The review has five main outlines related to the amelioration of resilience to natural disasters, namely governance, assessment and risk prevention, emergency management, recovery and reconstruction. Regarding governance of critical risks, the review wrote that Morocco made considerable progress in understanding critical risks, but these efforts have not yet led to the adoption of an integrated response.It said that “deficiencies in governance still remain, such as policies that are too sector-based, or focused on a single risk, or not sufficiently inclusive, or using a top-down method.” OECD gave a series of recommendations, as building a long-term vision at the service of an integrated critical risk management strategy, implementing an institutional framework adapted to national governance with clear lines of responsibility, and modernizing the regulatory framework in order to adapt it to current and future challenges.With MAP read more

Tariq Ramadan Denies Rape Accusation Files Complaint Against Accuser

Rabat – Tariq Ramadan lodged a complaint “for slander and defamation” on Monday against author Henda Ayari, who sued him for rape and sexual assault two days earlier.The Oxford professor issued a statement through his lawyer, Yassin Bouzrou, saying that he “categorically rejects all these false allegations.”Bouzrou added that Ramadan had filed  a complaint “for slander and defamation” with the public prosecutor in Rouen. According to Ayari, Ramadan raped the former Salafi writer after inviting her to his hotel room following a conference on Islam in Paris in 2012.Ayari told the Telegraph on Saturday that she was surprised that he asked her to meet him in his room rather than the lobby, and she said that, once in his room, he put his arms around her and began kissing her.The author previously wrote about the alleged assault in her book, “I Choose to Be Free,” without providing the identity of the attacker.“When I fought back and shouted at him to stop, he insulted me and humiliated me,” she wrote, describing the assailant by a Muslim intellectual and speaker under the pseudonym Zoubeyr in a hotel room in Paris.“I will not give precise details of the acts he did to me. It is enough to know that he benefited greatly from my weakness,” she wrote.The author first revealed the alleged rape incident on her Facebook page, following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.“I have been silent for several years for fear that he might take vengeance,” Ayari said, explaining that he had threatened to “take it to my children. I was afraid and I kept silent all this time.”The author also filed allegations against Ramadan “for rape, sexual assault, violence, harassment and intimidation” with the prosecutor’s office in Rouen.Ayari continued to say that though she “may not have the same financial means as him to pay for lawyers and experts,” she “will go to the end of this fight whatever it costs.” read more

Heavy Rain High Winds to Hit Morocco SundayMonday

Rabat – Morocco’s National Meteorological Office (DMN)  has issued a new bulletin in which it forecasts heavy, very heavy rainfall in several regions of the country this Sunday and Monday.Heavy rains reaching up to 60 mm will be recorded Sunday from 14:00 p.m. in Azilal, Al Haouz, Taroudant, Tiznit, Chtouka Ait Baha and Kelaat Sraghna, said DMN.DMN added that heavy rains averaging 30 to 50 mm will also be recorded Monday from 00:00 a.m.  to 15:00 p.m. in the regions of Kenitra, Larache, Chefchaouen, Ouazzane, Taounate, Sidi Kacem, Rabat and Sale. The meteorological office noted that heavy stormy rain and thunderstorms with some hail will also hit the areas mentioned. DMN also expects strong winds from Sunday at 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m  Monday morning.Strong winds of 60 to 80 km/h will hit the regions of Tata, Assa-Zag, Smara, Guelmim, Tan-Tan, Tiznit, Taroudant and Ouarzazate.Strong winds of between 60 to 80 km / h are expected for Monday, January 8 from 8:00 a.m. to 18;00 p.m in Chefchaouen, Tétouan, Al Hoceima, Fez, El Hajeb, Meknes, Ifrane, Midelt, Khemisset, Kenitra, Rabat, Sale, Skhirat, Temara, Sidi Slimane, Casablanca, Mohammedia, read more

Moroccan Public Personalities Sign A Petition For Womens Inheritance Rights

Rabat – The struggle for women’s right is still a contentious topic in many predominantly Muslim societies, with a prevailing patriarchal culture that gives more rights and social recognition to its male members.It is in a bid to challenge some remnants of patriarchy in Morocco’s family law that a group of Moroccan public personalities, including university professors, lawyers, theologians, doctors, journalists, writers, and many other professions, has initiated a petition in order to challenge the ta’sib rule, an inheritance law that favors men over women. The group of signatories is demanding that women be put on an equal legal footing as men when it comes to inheritance rights.Fifteen of the undersigned are the authors L’héritage des femmes (Women’s inheritance), a recent joint academic publication that explains the authors’ pro-women’s rights stance, and where they argued that the ta’sib tradition should no longer be applicable to a changing Moroccan society. The tradition that says that males should prevail when it comes to inheritance is no longer a valid reflection of Morocco as a society, they said. “Ta’sib does not correspond to the functioning of Moroccan families in the current social context,” the group wrote in their petition, further explaining that the tradition is simply the result of patriarchal interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, rather than a divine precept.In Moroccan families, women play a crucial role, with some taking full responsibility of children’s education and others providing considerable financial and other kinds of supports to their husbands, they further said in the text that accompanied the petition.Citing official figures of recent studies, the text said that one out of five Moroccan families are at the full charge of women who are not helped in any way by their ‘distant male relatives.’“Why maintain a law that has no social justification and no Quaranic foundations?” the text asked, adding that, as things now stand in Moroccan families, “it is unfair” to continue endorsing women’s suffering and exploitation for the benefit of their male siblings or ‘distant relations’“For all these reasons,” concludes the text,  alluding to all the figures the signatories provided in favor of their undertaking, “we, the undersigned, are calling for the abrogation of the ta’sib inheritance law, just as has recently been done by some other Muslim societies.” read more

The Latest Trump looking for land mines in border deal

WASHINGTON — The Latest on congressional border security negotiations and President Donald Trump (all times local):1:05 p.m.President Donald Trump says he and his aides will be “looking for land mines” when they review the final text of a border security agreement. The deal would keep the government open, but provide just a fraction of the money Trump has been demanding for his border wall.Asked by reporters whether he planned to back the deal, Trump said Wednesday he would be taking “a very serious look,” but declined to tip his hand.He says, “we’re going to look at the legislation when it comes and I’ll make a determination.”Still, Trump reiterated his desire to avoid another government shutdown, following the 35-day partial closure that left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks, saying another closure “would be a terrible thing.”Trump is also insisting that, no matter what, “We’re going to have a great wall.”___12:10 a.m.President Donald Trump says he’s not expecting the government to shut down again, a signal that he’s leaning toward accepting a budget deal that denies him most of the money he’s sought for a southern border wall.Trump says he isn’t happy with the compromise and has yet to say he will sign the tentative deal if it passes Congress as expected. A budget bill must be signed into law by midnight Friday to avoid a second shutdown this year.Lawmakers from both parties have reached a deal that would provide nearly $1.4 billion for border barriers. That’s about one-fourth of the money Trump demanded for a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico.Trump says he’s looking to supplement border wall funding with money from other parts of the government.The Associated Press read more

Morocco Pays Imams in Ceuta Melilla Double Local Imams

Rabat – While Morocco pays local imams MAD 1,500-2,000 monthly, it pays imams in Ceuta and Melilla double.In a press report aired on Spanish channel Telecinco, the president of the Bezu mosque in Ceuta, Mohammed Ali, said that Morocco pays about €500 monthly for each imam in Ceuta.He said that there are 42 official mosques, and there are up to three imams in each of the mosques around the Spanish enclave. Morocco pays €756,000 per year for imams in Ceuta.Another report from local media outlet Red Ceuta said Morocco’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs decided to help Moroccan imams in the two enclaves because they do not receive aid from the Spanish government.The report, which dates back to 2017, notes Ceuta “has 15 mosques and 16 prayer rooms for a population of 42,200 Muslims.”Read Also: Ministry of Islamic Affairs Counts Imams Who Use Social NetworksThe report complained about the management of mosques, which require financial aid.Morocco’s Ministry Islamic Affairs intervened to fund the mosques. According to the report, the ministry “is very organized and respected throughout the world, as it was a pioneer in establishing guidelines for imam training and is currently an imam factory for everyone, so much so that in many countries, Westerners entrust to Morocco the administration and appointment of the imams in the mosques in their territories.”The report added that the Ministry of Islamic Affairs manages “deals with all the expenses generated by the 31 prayer points in Ceuta.”The funds that the ministry must allocate for imams’ salaries exceed €700,000 per year, in addition to other expenses like electricity and water.What about imams in Morocco?In Morocco, imams receive around MAD 1,500-2,000. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs also offers housing and health coverage for imams. However, imams do not receive retirement pensions.An imam speaking anonymously told Morocco World News today that housing and health coverage is not enough. “Once they don’t need you, you will not have the right to a retirement pension.” He explained imams do not have permanent work contracts.“If an imam undergoes a surgery, the health coverage compensates him. However, if that person is 60-year-old, he receives no retirement pension.”Read Also: Ministry of Islamic Affairs Fires Imam for Alleged Boycott Support in Friday SermonThe imam, who works in a mosque in Temara, near Rabat, told MWN that the government needs to meet the demands of imams.“Imams in Morocco should be independent; they cannot join any NGOs or a union that can defend their rights,” he said.According to MWN’s source, the Ministry of Finance does not allocate a certain budget for imams.In his interview with MWN, the imam also said that his colleagues across the country do not receive additional income when they have children, like others in the public sector receive.The government, according to MWN’s interviewee, have excuses. “They said that since they are providing us with housing and that they have a monthly salary of MAD 1,500 and 2,000, that is enough and that they don’t have to increase our salaries.”The source said that some imams choose to read the Qur’an at ceremonies and funerals for a small fee to help themselves financially. They receive MAD 100 or 200 for such events. However, he said, this remains insufficient.We are not allowed to protestImams should say yes to everything from the government. Imams are not allowed to protest, the imam told MWN.“Imams should not have any links with politics, unions or NGOs.”He added that the government does not consider the imams’ mission a job. “They believe that the imam is doing religious rituals, and that is it.”In contrast, the imam said that imams have important tasks. They should be mobilized; they do not have weekends. “We wake up before dawn to be ready for morning prayers. After morning prayers, we get ready for afternoon prayers (her and al asr), sunset (maghrib) and evening prayers.”The anonymous imam called on the government to meet their demands and consider imams as employees in the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.He said everyone, including the lowest paid people in the ministry, have more rights than imams, whose job is to convey religious values. read more

Morocco Dismantles New Irregular Migration Network in Nador

Rabat- Morocco’s BNPJ has arrested six individuals linked to a migration network in Nador, the capital of the northern Rif region.The National Brigade of the Judicial Police (BNPJ) and security forces in Nador arrested five Moroccans and one Senegalese national. The six are suspected of organizing undocumented migration, reported the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) on Saturday.Following the arrest, security forces seized equipment used for irregular emigration: safety jackets, 5 zodiacs, 3 cars, a GPS, electronic devices for communication,  104 passports of various nationalities, bank receipts, and cash. The arrest led to the interception of 19 irregular migrants from sub-Saharan countries, including seven women.According to DGSN, members of the criminal network lured sub-Saharans into crossing the sea only to abandon them in makeshift and inflatable boats. The network would then urge Spain to help the migrants.Read Also: UNHCR: ‘Morocco Sets an Example in Immigration, Asylum PolicyEarlier this week, DGSN dismantled a similar migration network, arresting 19 migrants, 1 intermediary, and 3 alleged organizers.The police also seized their equipment: a seven-meter zodiac, two paddles, one engine, and five safety jackets.The arrests have come at a time of increasing irregular migration attempts which have pressured the navy into using controversially aggressive measures to fight the phenomenon.Read Also: DGSN Dismantles Irregular Migration NetworkOn Wednesday, the royal navy fired on a “hostile” migrant boat, injuring 16-year-old Ilyas Amrani.On September 25, the navy, in another attempt to intercept a “hostile” migrant boat, shot and killed 20-year-old Hayat Belkacem, and injured Lahbib (26), Hamza (25), and Mouad (23). read more

Moroccan Government Withdrawals of SADR Recognition Will Continue

Rabat – Spokesperson of the Moroccan Government Mustapha El Khalfi expressed the government’s satisfaction with El Salvador and Barbados’ decision to withdraw recognition of self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).In the press conference, El Khalfi said that Morocco’s government  is committed to addressing any provocative action that h seeks to undermine Morocco’s territorial integrity. The government’s stance is complemented by the newly adopted “vigilance system,” he said.  El Khalfi highlighted how Morocco responded  after the organizing committee of the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Egypt posted a video featuring the flag of the the Polisario Front’s self-styled SADR.  “All the stakeholders s intervened, including the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Sports, the Royal Football Federation, and the Moroccan embassy [in Egypt].”Morocco’s quick reaction resulted in an official apology from the organizing committee, as well as  the Egyptian government.Morocco’s position on the conflict is gaining traction. “The best proof of this,  is the decision of El Salvador and Barbados to withdraw their recognition of the self-proclaimed SADR, he added. “The number of countries that support the Polisario Front decreased from 80 countries to 50 countries. It is a limited number of countries,” said El Khalfi, adding that the number of withdrawals will increase.El Khalfi pointed out that there will be no “empty chair” policy anymore as Morocco’s government is mobilizing all its resources to combat any hostile moves that seeks to  undermine its territorial integrity and its sovereignty over the southern provinces in Western Sahara.Read Also: Morocco Satisfied with Barbados’ Decision to Withdraw Recognition of Self-proclaimed ‘SADR’The spokesperson of the Moroccan government  recalled Morocco’s participation in the 41st session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva this week.During the Council session, a group of states sympathetic to Morocco’s position  expressed support for Morocco’s territorial integrity and its Autonomy Plan.The group also reiterated their full support for the UN-led political process to end the conflict, saying that the “issue of the Sahara is a political dispute managed in New York where the Security Council is making efforts to facilitate the achievement of a mutually acceptable political solution.”The group, which includes, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, reiterated  that the Moroccan Autonomy initiative has been recognized by the UN Security Council as the “unique and exclusive way to resolve” the decades-long regional conflict. read more

Ivory Coast Honors CEO of Attijariwafa Bank With National Order Medal

Rabat –  The Grand Chancellor of the National Order of Ivory Coast, Henriette Diabaté, presented the medal of Commander of the National Order of Ivory Coast to Mohamed El Kettani, CEO of Attijariwafa Bank.  Acting on behalf of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, Diabaté honored the bank CEO on July 22 at the Grand Chancellery of National Order of Ivory Coast in Abidjan.Among the 150 guests who attended the ceremony were the Ambassador of Morocco to Ivory Coast as well as several Ivorian Ministers. Members of the Attijariwafa bank, Ivorian Bank Corporation (SIB, subsidiary of the group), other local subsidiaries of the Group, corporate clients of the Attijariwafa bank in Ivory Coast, and heads of partner organizations of the SIB also attended the award giving. Speaking on this occasion, Diabaté congratulated El Kettani for “the quality and volume” of Attijariwafa Bank’s activities in Ivory Coast at a time when Morocco represents the first African economic partner of Ivory Coast.“I am particularly happy to see in you a figure and a symbol of thecontinuity of the friendly relations between our two countries,” affirmed Diabaté.A press release from Attijariwafa bank group mentioned that “this distinction is a recognition of the commitment of the group, and of Mr. El Kettani, for the consolidation of Moroccan-Ivorian relations in particular and for strengthening South-South cooperation in general.”El Kettani noted that this distinction is for him as well as for all the group’s employees. He sees it as an encouragement to continue the efforts made for an efficient and inclusive South-South cooperation.“In the space of a few years, our Ivorian subsidiary (SIB) has become a major player in household financing, since it granted, on average, 15,000 consumer loans per year,” said El Kettani. read more

Moroccan Hotels Top the Charts in Travel Leisures 2019 Worlds

Rabat – Marrakech’s Royal Mansour and Kasbat Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains won their categories.Travel + Leisure runs an annual competition, where readers of the famous monthly travel magazine vote for their favorite hotels based on the quality of the rooms and facilities, location, service, food, and value.This year, readers voted the Royal Mansour of Marrakech as the best city hotel in North Africa and the Middle East.  It is yet another award for the luxury hotel in the heart of Marrakech. In 2018, the Royal Mansour won 7 awards including the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide annual award and the World Luxury Spa Award.The hotel was commissioned by the King of Morocco. It is spread over five stories and an estate, with multiple restaurants, 53 riads, and a 2,500 square meter spa. Many guests report having an “exceptional experience” on TripAdvisor. “Positively amazing in every way. [sic] This was our 4th time to the Royal Mansour – you are treated like royalty from the moment you arrive until the second you leave,” says one guest. For another, “the surroundings/service/décor/food/everything [were] the best I have ever experienced in a hotel.” The riads cost between $1,195 and $6,752 per night. Of the nearly 600 reviews, most are excellent, although some are more critical. “The common area is filled with people posing and taking photos,” complained one reviewer. “The design might appeal to some guests, but for my taste, it screamed gaudy and pretentious,” they added. A minority report having a “terrible” or “poor” experience. “Pure esthetics over genuine service and quality,” reports one guest. “For those with more money than sense,” finds another.Read also: Three Moroccan hotels among four best hotels in AfricaFor Travel + Leisure readers though, the Royal Mansour deserves recognition.Marrakech’s Four Seasons Resort and the famous Mamounia Hotel, also both made it to the top ten list.Travel + Leisure also awards the readers’ “top five resort hotels in North Africa and the Middle East” located outside major cities. Kasbat Tamadot won this category.Kasbah Tamadot is the former governor’s mansion at the base of the Atlas mountains. The 28 room hotel near the Toubkal, Morocco’s highest summit an hour’s drive south of Marrakech is owned by the British entrepreneur Richard Branson.The hotel has collected hundreds of positive reviews on Trip Advisor. “100% over the top AMAZING,” says one guest. “The place will make your draw drop! Wow!,” says another. “When you arrive at the hotel, it feels almost magical. The grounds are unbelievably beautiful, complete with a pool overlooking endless breathtaking views,” describes another.But you can’t please everyone. “Seriously disappointing! In fact, pretty downright awful,” complains a guest.“The fixed smile Branson-worshipping management, recently transferred from the Caribbean, were irritating to everyone we talked to and were better suited to a Virgin gym reception than a Moroccan hideaway in the mountains,” criticizes another.The rooms and suites cost between $600 and $2,700 a night in the low season. read more

Thousands of Returning Moroccans Overwhelm Ceuta Border

Granada – Thousands of Moroccans living abroad (MREs) returning to Morocco for Eid al-Adha overwhelmed the Moroccan border with Ceuta over the weekend.As many as 295,000 Moroccans have returned to Morocco from Spain for the summer holidays since July 15, when Spain’s Operation Strait Passage (OPE) began. Each year, OPE facilitates the return of Maghrebis to their home countries.The weekend saw the operation’s busiest days as many Moroccans returned home for the Eid of sacrifice. Muslim families celebrate together God’s provision of a lamb for Ibrahim by sacrifcing a ram or goat. Lines of vehicles waiting to cross from Ceuta into Morocco inundated the border on Saturday, August 10. Many Moroccans had come across the Strait of Gibraltar from Algeciras to Ceuta by ferry. In Algeciras, some ferries left more than 30 minutes after their scheduled departure due to the large volume of vehicles.Officials anticipated the large influx of MREs, and there were no incidents reported in connection with the delays at Algeciras.Read also: Spain to Implement Facial Recognition Technology at Ceuta Border In 1982, an “avalanche” of vehicles and people descending on Algeciras to take the ferry to Ceuta led the Spanish government to implement special plans for dealing with the numbers. In Algeciras, the government set up a special parking lot for vehicles waiting to board the ferry. Upon arrival in Ceuta, officials segmented vehicles into groups of 100 to navigate from the port to the border with Morocco.In Morocco, the government prepares annually for the return of MREs with Operation Marhaba. The operation coordinates the smoothe arrival of hundreds of thousands of Moroccans returning home for the summer holidays from Europe.Last month, the Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, said Marhaba was an “example of good coordination between the different public administrations and between neighboring countries.” read more

UN mission says opposition forces in DR Congo have disarmed awaiting handover

5 April 2007After clashing violently with Government troops in the capital Kinshasa last month, opposition forces and their dependents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) currently under United Nations protection have disarmed, the world body’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said today. The UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, estimates that hundreds were killed and many more wounded in the violence which broke out on 22 March between Government forces and guards of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was defeated last year by current President Joseph Kabila in the run-off round of landmark presidential elections.As of 30 March, 149 opposition fighters, called DPP, have taken refuge with MONUC. In addition to those DPP members, some 93 women and 109 children who claim to be family of DPP members have also taken refuge with MONUC.“The Mission is in discussions with the Government regarding [the opposition forces’] handover to Government authorities for disarmament or reintegration into the armed forces,” Michele Montas, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, told reporters in New York today.Mr. Bemba’s guards have yet to be handed over, as a detailed agreement is currently being negotiated by which the Government would guarantee to respect the opposition forces’ human rights and their proper treatment before the law should they be tried, as well as giving MONUC’s human rights officials access to them.Yesterday, MONUC called on Government officials to ensure that the country’s security forces act in accordance to the law and not create an atmosphere of persecution against people associated with the opposition or those originating from Equateur province, an opposition stronghold.“It is crucial that the fundamental rights of individual security and liberty, as well as the liberty of opinion and expression, which are guaranteed by the DRC constitution, should be respected by all the security forces in relation to Congolese citizens, which includes members of the opposition and the press,” MONUC spokesperson Kemal Saiki said.On Tuesday, the Security Council called on the DRC’s authorities and political parties to pursue national reconciliation and resolve their differences through dialogue.Deploring the March violence, the 15-member Council underscored the legitimacy of the DRC’s democratically elected institutions. The body also pointed out that these institutions must operate with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law, and must also avoid any unnecessary or disproportionate force.The country is rebuilding following the end of a six-year civil war, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, which cost 4 million lives in fighting, hunger and disease. read more

Five tropical community groups win UNbacked prize for biodiversity

22 May 2007Five community groups from the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America won the United Nations-backed Equator Prize today for their initiatives to alleviate poverty while conserving local biodiversity. The winners, who will each receive $30,000, were announced at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York after being selected by a jury from a group of 25 finalists chosen from more than 300 original nominations.The village of Andavadoaka in Madagascar was among the winners, honoured for demonstrating how it managed an octopus fishery so that it can provide sustainable long-term benefits. In Kenya, the Shompole Community Trust won for conserving the country’s vast and scenic grasslands and savannah as part of a profit-making ecotourism venture for the local Masai people.In Guatemala, the women of Alimentos Nutri-Naturales won the prize for reinstating the Maya nut as a staple source of nutrition and this conserving the nut forests in the buffer zone next to a biosphere reserve.The women of Isabela Island’s “Blue Fish” Association, who work within the World Heritage-listed Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, were rewarded for marketing a local delicacy – tuna smoked with guava wood – as a way to promote the alternative use of marine resources and control invasive plant species.The other winner, Shidulai Swarnivar Sangstha, uses riverboat-based educational resource centres throughout the Ganges River delta in Bangladesh to deliver information to locals about sustainable agricultural practices and market prices.Awarded biennially, the prize is part of the Equator Initiative, set up in January 2002 by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), governments, business, civil society and communities to promote grassroots efforts in the tropics to reduce poverty through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity.Equatorial regions are home to both the world’s greatest concentrations of biological wealth and some of the highest levels of poverty.Congratulating the winners, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis said they are just some of the numerous community initiatives of their kind taking place around the world.“The proliferation and scaling up of efforts such as these is critical to the achievement of our common goals to conserve biodiversity, respond to climate change and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said. read more

First charges issued by UNbacked Khmer Rouge tribunal in Cambodia

1 August 2007The United Nations-backed tribunal in Cambodia set up to try Khmer Rouge leaders accused of mass killings and other horrific crimes during the late 1970s has issued its first charges against a member of the group. Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, now faces charges of crimes against humanity over his role as chief at the S21 prison in the capital, Phnom Penh, during the rule of the Khmer Rouge.Co-investigating judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) said in a statement released in Phnom Penh that Mr. Kaing has been placed in provisional detention following the issuing of charges.Today Mr. Kaing was assigned a lawyer, Kar Savuth, from the ECCC’s defence support section, after he told the tribunal that he could not pay for legal representation. Another lawyer, François Roux, may also be assigned once his application for registration with Cambodia’s Bar Association is heard.Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the trial court and a Supreme Court within the Cambodian legal system will investigate those most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979. read more

UN hitting the target towards deployment of hybrid peace force in Darfur

7 August 2007The United Nations is on target to deploy a mainly African hybrid peace force in the war-wracked Sudanese region of Darfur on schedule, but needs more offers from countries on critical capacities such as aviation and ground transport, a senior UN peacekeeping official said today. Jane Holl Lute, acting head of the new Department of Field Support, told reporters that “we are hitting the target of a predominantly African force,” outlined in last week’s Security Council resolution authorizing the creation of the hybrid operation, to be known as UNAMID.The hybrid operation with the African Union, the first of its kind, will become the largest peacekeeping force in the world, with almost 26,000 troops and police officers and nearly 5,000 civilian staff when it reaches full deployment. It will have an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate of the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS).Ms. Holl Lute said the UN has already received enough offers from Member States to meet the required numbers of troops and police officers, but “we still are missing some pledges for key enabling capacities in the area of movement, for example, and in the area of aviation.”Troops or police officers have already been pledged by Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Thailand and Uganda. Those offers, however, are not final.Ms. Holl Lute said UNAMID’s headquarters will be established in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, with a series of sector headquarters and other deployment locations spread across the three states of Darfur, an arid and impoverished region nearly as large as France.She warned that the mission faces daunting logistical challenges because of Darfur’s climate, terrain and remoteness. There are few water sources and little transport infrastructure, and the nearest port through which supplies can be sent is 2,200 kilometres away.Despite its aridity, Darfur can face intense floods during the annual rainy season, which can run from April to October, while sand storms are also a regular threat.Water will have to be rationed carefully by the mission, Ms. Holl Lute said, adding that the UN was working with experts to see whether an apparent underground “mega-lake” in North Darfur exists and can be utilized.In response to a reporter’s question, Ms. Holl Lute said early estimates indicate UNAMID will cost more than $2 billion a year to operate, on top of the initial start-up cost.She stressed that the UN was working towards meeting the benchmarks set out in last week’s Security Council resolution, especially that by October UNAMID is scheduled to have its management, command and control structures in place. As of the end of the year, the new mission should be ready to take over operations from AMIS. Since fighting erupted between rebel groups, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias in 2003, UN officials have repeatedly described Darfur as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and the scene of widespread human rights abuses. More than 200,000 people have been killed and the conflict has spilled into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). read more

UN human rights chief announces official visit to Mexico

During her visit Ms. Arbour will sign an agreement with the Mexican Government to continue the support of her office (OHCHR) to national efforts to promote and protect human rights, according to a media statement released in Geneva today.Ms. Arbour is scheduled to hold talks with President Felipe Calderon, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, as well as other senior officials from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the Mexican Government.The High Commissioner – who has previously visited Mexico in this role – will also meet representatives of the National Commission on Human Rights, along with human rights defenders, academics, and members of women’s and indigenous organizations.In addition, she is expected to travel to the Pacific coast state of Guerrero for talks with its Governor, the committee in charge of preparing the local human rights assessment, and local indigenous groups. 1 February 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will make a four-day official visit next week to Mexico to assess recent developments in the country and key challenges ahead in protecting human rights. read more

Gulf States play vital role in global relief efforts says UN humanitarian

8 April 2008The top United Nations humanitarian official has lauded the contributions of Persian Gulf countries to relief efforts around the world, and called for boosting ties between them and the world body to better meet today’s growing challenges. “In many countries across the globe, the combined humanitarian efforts of Gulf countries have made a life-saving difference, reaching communities that, at times, the UN and other aid actors could not,” stated Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who is currently on a four-nation tour of the region.In his keynote address to the fifth annual Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference, Mr. Holmes pointed out that member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have given nearly $500 million and pledged a further $320 million in humanitarian aid over the past three years. Mr. Holmes, who is also Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that the global demand for humanitarian assistance is likely to grow dramatically in the coming years, owing to ongoing internal and civil conflicts, more frequent and intense natural disasters and the rise in food and energy prices.“If we are to meet the growing array of humanitarian needs, we must work together more cohesively not only to respond to crises, but also to reduce their impact before they happen,” he stated, stressing the need to strengthen the partnership between the UN and Gulf nations.Doing so will not only reinforce current activities, “but also help build a more fully-representative and universally accepted humanitarian movement that is better equipped to meet the challenges of both man and nature in the 21st century,” said Mr. Holmes. “Without this balance, there is a risk that humanitarian assistance will continue to be viewed as a Western enterprise,” he added. In addition to the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Holmes – who is travelling together with UN Special Humanitarian Envoy Abdul Aziz Arrukban – is visiting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Also today at the DIHAD Conference, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) unveiled the Arabic version of its popular humanitarian video game that teaches children about global hunger.Some six million people around the world have already played “Food Force,” which is designed for children aged eight to 13. In a race against time, players join a virtual team of WFP experts to get food to the needy in an emergency situation. WFP’s Deputy Executive Director John Powell noted that it is fitting that the game is being launched in Dubai, “an essential logistics hub for the entire humanitarian community, and especially for WFP as one of the leaders in this field.”Launched in 2005, as the world’s first humanitarian video game, Food Force is available as a free internet download from read more

New UN initiative aims to boost energy efficiency in worlds hotels

The 1.1 million Euro project targets savings from heating cooling, lighting, washing and drying by focusing on reducing energy consumption by 20 per cent overall in small- and medium-size hotels. It also seeks to increase the use of renewable energy by 10 per cent.The UNWTO notes that energy efficiency and the enhanced use of renewable energies will have a special place in hotel management, given that today small businesses are only marginal users of renewable energy resources and outdated technology makes them less competitive.The initiative by the Madrid-based UN agency brings together partners from the hotel, environment and renewable energy communities. In addition to small- and medium-size hotels, it is also expected to benefit hotel associations, national tourism bodies, destinations and tour operators, as well as green technology suppliers and manufacturers.The Davos Declaration, adopted at the Second International Conference on Climate Change and Tourism in October 2007, acknowledged the strong interrelationship between climate change and tourism. It also acknowledged the need for a long-term strategy for the tourism sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with other sectors, and called for urgent policies to encourage sustainable tourism and travel.“In our Davos Declaration Process on Climate Change we established a way forward for the tourism sector to become climate neutral in the front ranks of the global community,” UNWTO Assistant Secretary-General Geoffrey Lipman said as he launched the energy efficiency project.“We have to start now and this project is exactly the kind of collaborative public-private initiative we shall be seeking around the world,” he added. 13 November 2008The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has launched a new project to increase energy efficiency in the majority of the world’s 5.9 million hotel rooms, over half of which are located in Europe. read more

Central African Republic must do more to protect human rights of displaced

The country has been beset by widespread fighting and armed banditry in recent years, with some 200,000 Central Africans either internally displaced by the fighting or forced to live as refugees in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon. The precarious conditions in which over 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) still find themselves is a result of the conflict in the north, as well as abuses committed by dangerous criminal groups who are free to act with total impunity, Walter Kaelin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of IDPs, said in a press release following a three-day visit to the country. In mid-2008, the Government struck an agreement with the rebel groups known as the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) and the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) after talks in Libreville, Gabon, facilitated by that country’s President, El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba. “Signing the peace accords and holding the inclusive political dialogue mark considerable advances in the quest for peace and stability in the Central African Republic,” said Mr. Kaelin.“These steps allow it to now vigorously put in place durable solutions for internally displaced persons.”He stressed that CAR authorities have the responsibility to take specific measures allowing the displaced to exercise their right to return, as well as their right to security, food, housing, health care, education and participation in public life.During his stay in Bangui, the CAR capital, the Representative met with the Prime Minister, other ministers responsible for issues linked to IDPs, political/military movements, and representatives of the UN, donors and civil society. 12 February 2009An independent United Nations human rights expert today deplored the instability facing tens of thousands of vulnerable people uprooted by violence in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR), calling on local authorities to take action to protect the displaced. read more

Aid for health crises from UN emergency fund tops 100 million

Funding for health aid from the United Nations emergency relief fund, which was set up to speed assistance to those suffering from natural and man-made disasters, has passed the $100 million mark, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.Nicaraguans threatened by disease after Hurricane Felix, Sudanese fleeing conflicts, survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and many others around the world have benefited from the life-saving interventions supported by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), WHO said. “This funding has helped save many lives worldwide and improve health care for people caught up in emergencies,” said Eric Laroche, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises. Since its creation in 2006, more than 100 Member States and private donors have pledged some $1.5 billion to the Fund, which has disbursed well over $1 billion to emergency programmes in 67 countries. The fund was created to allow the world body quick access to its accounts, potentially saving thousands of lives facing sudden crises.The health funding has been provided through the Health Action in Crises Cluster, WHO’s quick response arm for emergency-affected countries in all regions. “Passing the $100 million mark is a sign of how vital WHO’s role in emergencies is regarded,” Dr. Laroche said. Some $66.6 million – or two-thirds of the funding provided to WHO – has been awarded for rapid response to sudden emergencies, such as earthquakes, cyclones and conflicts, while the remaining $35.4 million has gone to support health activities in protracted emergencies that remained under-funded.The greatest proportion of funding has been for African countries affected by emergencies, followed by those in the Eastern Mediterranean region, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, WHO said.In related news, the CERF’s Advisory Group will open its first meeting of 2009 today in New York to elect a new bureau and receive a briefing on the use and management of the Fund from John Holmes, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.The Advisory Group, created at the same time as the CERF, provides periodic policy guidance and expert advice on the use and impact of the Fund. 28 April 2009Funding for health aid from the United Nations emergency relief fund, which was set up to speed assistance to those suffering from natural and man-made disasters, has passed the $100 million mark, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. read more