Polls around corner water crisis far from getting over in Okhla

first_imgNew Delhi: With just a few days to go for polling, the residents of Okhla Vihar still wake up to ‘pani le lo pani’ call from vendors on rickshaw carts selling RO ( Reverse Osmosis) water. They have big white water cans which they supply at a cost of 15 Rs to 20 Rs depending upon the floor they carry water. Areas like Batla House, Zakir Nagar, Jogabai, Jasola, Okhla Vihar, Abul Fazal and Shaheen Bagh are still waiting for drinking water.Syed Akhter can’t afford to sleep late, he has to get up early in the morning to buy a water can before he departs to his office. “If somehow I miss to buy drinking water from these local rikcshaw vendors, chances are I might not get water the whole day as I come late from office. I had to rely on mineral water bottle then which proves costly,” Akhter said. Also Read – Odd-Even: CM seeks transport dept’s views on exemption to women, two wheelers, CNG vehiclesSeveral years have passed but the area’s water woes are far from over. Drinking water has always been an area of concern for the locals. Sensing business opportunity, several RO plants have cropped up in the region from where the daily vendors on rickshaw buy water to sell it further to the residents. Submersible water is used for daily chores other than drinking. The hardness of water also results in the low life of the RO machines in the houses. Also Read – More good air days in Delhi due to Centre’s steps: JavadekarThe worst affected areas are Shaheen Bagh and Abul Fazal, two adjoining areas near the Yamuna banks at Kalindi Kunj which have the major scarcity of drinking water. Both areas are still waiting for water pipelines. Though the AAP MLA from Okhla says that much has been done and water is likely to reach most of the areas very soon. “We have provided drinking water in Haji Colony, Gaffar Manzil Extension, Johri Farm, Taimur Nagar Extension and parts of Zakir Nagar. Pipeines have been laid in Batla House, Okhla Vihar, Old Jasola, Ali Vihar, Madanpur Khadar Extension and Nai Basti. We are hopeful to end the water crisesin the area soon,” says Amanatullah Khan, Okhla MLA.last_img read more

Spain 25 Moroccans Arrested for Fraud

Casablanca- Spanish authorities have recently arrested 25 Moroccans for generating 126 fraudulent labor contracts and defrauding €750,000 from the Employment and Social Security Public Services, according to El Pais. The 25 Moroccans were arrested in Lleida, a city in northeast Spain. However, the leader of the group is still on the run.According to the same source, the suspects had created a partly fictitious service company between 2008 and 2010, which employed around 126 people, mostly of Moroccan origin, who had never worked nor reported their work to the authorities. The company subsequently claimed contracts for its Moroccan employees so that they could legitimize their legal situation in Spain and enjoy unemployment benefits or subsidies.According to the same source, the police of Lleida are still on the lookout for the head of the fictitious company. In the meantime, the arrested suspects are accused of fraud and counterfeiting between 300,000 and 450,000 Euro.The investigations that led to the arrest of the 25 Moroccans began after some irregularities were spotted by labor inspectors and social security services in Lleida. The fake company showed no capital movement that would justify normal commercial activity.Edited by Jessica Rohan read more

Halal Food to Reach 16 Trillion by 2018 Report

Fez- A report published by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce forecasts the growth of the global market for Halal food and beverages (F&B) (corresponding to Islamic law) to reach 1.6 trillion dollars by 2018, up from 1.1 trillion dollars in 2013, with an annual growth rate of 6.9%.According to the Gulf News, the halal food market, which includes products such as chicken and beef, processed foods, and cold drinks accounted for 16.6% in 2012 of the global F&B market.The industry of Halal food is increasingly growing all over the world. “We see opportunities to enhance the halal food industry. The research finding on halal food sector is of considerable importance for the UAE food and beverage business, especially since halal food is a key pillar in the Dubai Capital of Islamic Economy initiative launched in 2013,” Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, Dubai Chamber’s Chairman, was quoted by Gulf News as saying.The industry of Halal food is growing mainly in the Middle East, North Africa and South and Southeast Asia. Saudi Arabia occupies the first rank as the largest market for Halal food in the region, followed by the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain respectively.With the growing demand for Halal food, “Today, Malaysia is the leading global halal hub with an annual export value of RM35.4 billion for halal products, which contributes approximately 5.1% of the total exports for the country,” according to Malaysia government’s web siteHalal is an Arabic word meaning permitted and lawful according to the Islamic guidelines. Halal food is therefore used in reference to all kinds of foods prepared or processed under Islamic Shari?ah guidelines that are permissible for Muslims to eat or drink. read more

France Police question 8yearold Muslim Pupil for Glorifying Terrorism

Rabat – Collective hysteria has apparently engulfed France since the Charlie Hebdo attacks. French authorities appear to be going too far in their campaign against hate speech. An eight-year-old French boy, Ahmed, from the southern French city of Nice was reportedly questioned by police on Wednesday after he allegedly made comments in school supporting the Parisian terrorists who attacked satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.According to media reports, when asked by other students if he was “Charlie”, the boy allegedly replied “I am with the terrorists”. The police also questioned the child’s father following a report by the school’s headmaster.Marcel Authier, director of the region’s public security, was quoted by the Agence France Press (AFP) as saying that the child raised concern when he refused to take part in a minute’s silence to honor the lives of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack, in which two terrorists fatally shot 12 people.According to news website the Local France, the boy’s school reported the incident to the local education authorities which informed the police on the grounds that the student’s words constituted “glorifying terrorism”.His teacher said the child also expressed “solidarity” with the gunmen.The parents have reportedly filed a complaint against the school’s head teacher.Photo by Fred Dufour/AFP read more

Reverse Sexual Harassment When Men Are Harassed

Rabat – The website Buzzkito posted a video on YouTube showing reversed sexual harassment.Opposite of what actually happens, a group of pretty women tried to harass and abuse men in the streets to raise awareness of sexual harassment in Morocco on the occasion of March 8, which is International Women’s Day.In this social experiment, some women used verbal attacks, physical touching, insults, and sometimes intimidation, which are some of the practices that are unfortunately commonly used by some Moroccan men to seduce women. The aim of the video is to raise people’s awareness about the hardships that Moroccan women face on a daily basis because of sexual harassment.

Mawazine Draws Locals and Foreigners to Rabat

By Erin DunneRabat – After a successful opening weekend featuring performances by international stars including Wiz Khalifa, Ellie Goulding, MHD and others, the Mawazine Festival Rhythms of the World was off to a good start. For those who attended some of the many shows, it is easy to understand why: the free festival is easily accessible and the musical acts are phenomenal. On Saturday night, Wiz Khalifa drew thousands of fans to OLM Souissi where the crowd sang along to the rapper’s iconic songs including “Black and Yellow,” “Sucker for Pain” and “See you Again.”Other shows were more family friendly such as Sunday nights performance by Amadou & Mariam who encouraged the crowd at the Bouregreg stage to dance the night away. Concerts later this week include DJ Snake, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato among others.In addition to providing entertainment and access to internally known acts for Moroccans, the festival also boosts tourism to Rabat and, more broadly Morocco. According to festival officials, “a total of 3,000 direct and indirect jobs benefit from the festival.”The Moroccan government also indicated that Mawazine “generates 22% growth in tourism turnover of Rabat.” This is an invaluable boost to Morocco, where the growing tourism industry increasingly generates a significate portion of the GDP.Among the industries that directly benefit from the festival are retail, catering and transportation, all of whom see a dramatic increase in sales, sometimes as much as 30%, during the festival. In addition, the hospitality sector, in particular upscale hotels, see two to four times more reservations during Mawazine.Mawazine also provides an important boost in international media for the Kingdom as stars and celebrities spend the week in Rabat. As Morocco hopes to increase tourism in the coming years, positive media highlighting cultural events is invaluable. While the festival is still mostly attended by locals, tourists are increasingly among the crowds.The Mawazine Festival Rhythms of the World music festival, held in Rabat under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, draws locals and foreigners alike to performances at stages across Salé and Rabat. The majority of the shows are free to attended and cater to a wide range of musical interests.Photo by Youness HamiddinePhoto by Youness Hamiddine read more

4 Killed After Helicopter Crashes in Algeria

Rabat – A helicopter operated by Algerian airline Tassili crashed on Thursday in Douera, a suburb of the city of Algiers, causing the death of four people.The helicopter hit a high voltage cable at 10:20 a.m., which caused its crash, reported Algerian TV channel Al-Nahar.The channel confirmed the death of the helicopter’s pilot, co-pilot, and two photographers.

Video Watch Michael Benyahia Ride the Formula E Car On the

Rabat – 17-year-old Formula 4 driver Michael Benyahia taking the Formula E car on a ride on the streets of Marrakech. Benyahia was born in the US, Miami on July 2000. In 2017, he became Europe’s Formula Renault 2.0 NEC Champion. He was also selected by the prestigious Monegasque Formula E – Venturi team. In 2016, he won 6 podiums by becoming 3rd in the French Formula 4 Championship. He also has 46 Karting wins between 2010 and 2014.

Realizing the value of their data consumers begin to demand more for

TORONTO — Daniel Sweeney has been a customer of Bell Canada for more than 20 years but that’s about to change.The reason for the split, according to the self-employed computer consultant, is the unsatisfactory way Bell has handled his questions about its new “tailored marketing” initiative.Since December, Canada’s largest telecommunications and media group has offered to give customers a better selection of internal and external advertising so long as they give permission to analyse their behaviours.To do that, Bell requested that its customers give permission for it to track everything do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services.It’s an opt-in program, in accordance with Canadian privacy guidelines, and Bell says there’s no impact on service for customers who opt-out — unlike some services that won’t work unless consumers give a blanket consent.“In our view it’s a positive service, it’s entirely optional, customer information is fully secure and never shared outside the company,” a company spokesman said.But Sweeney said he only learned of Bell’s new initiative through a news report in early January. He immediately called Bell customer service on two separate days, after failing to find more information on his own, but call centre representatives seemed unaware of the program, and couldn’t answer his questions.Sweeney said he’s very sensitive about the collection and use of his personal information as well as the potential for it to be stolen by hackers.“I used to get (Bell) TV but I returned it because they started telling me they were going to be tracking my viewing habits. That was about a year ago,” Sweeney said.Now, he’s preparing to cut ties with the company entirely as soon as he selects alternative suppliers, because of short-comings in the way Bell has informed him and other people he knows.“I’ve definitely decided to stop my service, both telephone and internet,” Sweeney said.He’s not alone. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that people are generally more aware that their personal information has a monetary value — and they want a bigger share.A report by consulting firm Accenture states that in 2019, “organizations must clearly show the payback for users sharing their data, drawing a straight line from the act of sharing to receiving relevant products and services in return.”“They’ll need to demonstrate what’s in it for the customer, enduring that the data value exchange is fair to them.”In Accenture’s estimation, however, there was an “overinflated” understanding of the value of personal information by late 2018.“While many people assume their individual data set is desirable in its own right, organizations actually want it most when it’s part of aggregated data,” the report says.Scott Weisbrod, who leads the Canadian team at Accenture’s Fjord consulting practice, wouldn’t discuss Bell or other Canadian companies specifically.But Weisbrod said in an interview that attitudes about sharing personal information shifted because of two events.One was Facebook’s revelation in March 2018 that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica, at the time a little-known data-analysis firm that had provided consulting services to the Trump campaign during the U.S. presidential election.The other event was the European Union’s enactment of the GDPR privacy law in May, which sparked a flood of requests for access to personal information.“Between those two things . . . people were suddenly worried about how our data was being used or misused,” Weisbrod said.Now, people are becoming more selective about which products and services they incorporate into their daily lives, he said.“They are choosing to unsubscribe, or opt out, if the value exchange is not mutual.”In general, he said, “we’re suggesting, that organizations need to get really good at setting expectations and then living up to them.” Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE)David Paddon, The Canadian Press read more

Amara Appointed Minister of Economy Replacing Sacked Boussaid

Rabat – Morocco’s Minister of Equipment, Transport, Logistics, and Water Abdelkader Amara has replaced the recently dismissed minister of economy and finance.Morocco’s King Mohammed VI sacked Mohamed Boussaid from his position as minister of economy and finance on August 1. The government’s spokesperson refused to give any details behind the King’s decision.In accordance with royal decree No. 1.17.07, issued on April 7, 2017, concerning the appointment of government members, the King relieved Boussaid, of the National Rally of Independents (RNI) party from his ministerial duties and assigned Amara, of the Development and Justice (PJD) party, to take over the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Both decisions came following consultation with the head of government, and the appointment was published on the Moroccan official gazette on August 6.According to the royal cabinet’s statement, the decision to dismiss Boussaid is part of “efforts for accountability and holding authorities to responsibility,” which the King attempts to apply to all officials “regardless of their status and affiliations.”Abdelkader AmaraAmara was born January 28, 1962, in Bouarfa, in the far eastern Figuig province. In 1986, he obtained a PhD from Hassan II Agricultural and Veterinary Institute of Rabat. Since then, he was professor at the Agricultural and Veterinary Institute Hassan II of Rabat until 2002.Amara held the position of minister of industry, trade, and new technologies from January 2012 to October 2013. He then became minister of energy, mines, water, and environment, a position he held from 2013 to 2016.King Mohammed VI appointed Amara as minister of equipment, transport, logistics, and water on April 5, 2017.According to the ministry of equipment, Amara oversaw many projects, including the establishment of Bombardier in Morocco and the launch of Renault Tangier’s second production line. He also developed and implemented structural reforms in the energy and mining sectors, particularly a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project and the reform of artisanal mining activity.Amara was behind the creation of the Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security Agency and the Electricity Regulatory Agency.On the political level, Amara is a founding member of the PJD party and was the first vice-president of the PJD group to the first Chamber in charge of Communication. He is also a founding member of the association of Moroccan parliamentarians against corruption.Why was Boussaid sacked?The government spokesperson has not revealed any specific information concerning Boussaid’s dismissal, saying that “he has nothing to add to the Royal Cabinet’s statement.”According to Lesiteinfo, Boussaid travelled with his family to Marbella in Spain just a few hours after the King announced he had discharged Boussaid from his duties.Boussaid refused to comment to Lesiteinfo: “I’m very busy and I’m not going to talk about this issue.”According to speculations, King Mohammed VI fired Boussaid as a “follow-up” to the 2017 political earthquake when he sacked four ministers for irregularities in development projects in Al Hoceima.Boussaid’s dismissal can also be referred to the recent report on Morocco’s economic situation which Ahmed Jouahri, governor of Morocco’s central bank, presented to the King on July 29.Jouahri stated that investment is still limited in Morocco despite incentives.As for the business climate in Morocco, Jouahri affirmed that some constitutional institutions are not performing their functions as expected to provide convenient conditions for investment and creating job opportunities.“The two sectors are suffering stagnation because of delay in some constitutional institutions’ decision-making.”Jouahri also said there are enduring social disparities, especially in rural areas, despite social and economic programs, namely the National Initiative for Human Development’s programs.Mohammed BoussaidBoussaid was born in September 1961. He became minister of economy and finance in 2013. The King re-appointed him to the same position on April 5, 2017.In 1986, Boussaid earned a degree in engineering from the École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) in Paris.In 2004, he was appointed Minister of Public Sector Modernization and in October 2007, Minister of Tourism and Handicraft.In March 2010, Boussaid was appointed governor of Morocco’s southern Souss-Massa-Draa region. A former minister of RNI told Telquel that Aziz Akhannouch, minister of agriculture, was behind Boussaid’s appointment.“Thanks to Aziz Akhannouch [Boussaid] could make a comeback as governor of Souss-Massa-Daraa region, the stronghold of Akhannouch.”In May 2012, Boussaid became governor of the Prefecture of Casablanca. read more

Royal Bank hikes dividend as it reports 32B net income in first

The Canadian Press Companies in this story: (TSX:RY) TORONTO — Royal Bank of Canada raised its dividend as it reported quarterly net income of $3.17 billion, up from $3.01 billion a year ago.The Toronto-based lender hiked its quarterly payment to common shareholders by four cents to $1.02 per share.The bank’s dividend increase came as the lender reported strong earnings from its personal and commercial banking and insurance divisions for the quarter ended Jan. 31.However, RBC also reported flat results from its wealth management arm and lower results in capital markets and investor and treasury services due to challenging market conditions.Canada’s biggest lender by market value reported net income for the three-month period ended Jan. 31 that amounted to $2.15 per diluted share, compared with $2.01 one year ago.After adjustments, RBC earned $2.19 per diluted share, matching the $2.19 per share expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.“Our strategy and unwavering focus on delivering value for our clients and shareholders continues to underpin our ability to consistently deliver solid results, even against a challenging market backdrop,” said Dave McKay, RBC’s chief executive, in a statement.“We remain focused on prudently managing our risks and balancing our investments for long-term growth as we transform the client journey.” read more

Markets Right Now Solid gains for stocks in early trading

NEW YORK — The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local):9:35 a.m.Stocks are broadly higher on Wall Street in early trading as banks and media companies move higher.JPMorgan Chase jumped 3.5% early Friday after reporting a solid increase in earnings, and Disney soared 10.5% after unveiling a new video streaming service to go up against Netflix. Netflix was off 3.1%.Chevron sank 4.6% after announcing a deal to buy Anadarko Petroleum for $33 billion. Anadarko skyrocketed 32.5% higher.The S&P 500 index rose 18 points, or 0.6%, to 2,906.The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 256 points, or 1%, to 26,410. The Nasdaq rose 38 points, or 0.5%, to 7,985.Bond prices fell sharply, sending yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury rose to 2.55% from 2.50% late Thursday.The Associated Press read more

GMP Capital selling capital markets business to US firm Stifel Financial

Companies in this story: (TSX:GMP) The Canadian Press TORONTO — GMP Capital Inc. has signed a deal to sell its capital markets business to Stifel Financial Corp. in a deal worth roughly $70 million.Under the deal, Stifel, which is based in St. Louis, Missouri will pay the tangible book value of the business, less cash, plus $45 million.GMP chief executive Harris Fricker and other key personnel have agreed to join Stifel once the deal closes.The company said assuming the successful completion of the transaction it plans a one-time return of capital distribution of 27.5 cents per share.The sale and the return of capital payment require approval by a two-thirds majority vote by shareholders.GMP says it plans to make its wealth management business the core of its growth strategy going forward. The firm, which holds a 33 per cent stake in Richardson GMP Ltd., says it is in talks with Richardson Financial Group Ltd. to acquire the stake it does not already hold. read more

UN forum spotlights situation of children in 11 countries

The Geneva-based Committee of the Rights of the Child monitors the implementation by States of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified international human rights instrument, with 193 States parties. Composed of 18 independent human rights experts, the Committee also monitors implementation of two optional protocols to the Convention: one on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the other on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.During its just-concluded three-week session, the Committee examined the situation of children in Slovakia, Maldives, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, the Sudan, Guatemala, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Monaco, Norway and Sweden, based on national reports submitted to it.In a set of conclusions issued today, experts expressed concern over several issues, including continued abductions of children for forced recruitment, forced labour and sexual exploitation in several countries, and especially in Darfur and South Sudan.Among the other issues of concern to the Committee were high levels of violence against children, discrimination against children born out of wedlock and the plight of refugee children.The Committee, which holds three sessions per year, will meet again in September to examine the situation of children in Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Qatar and Syria. 8 June 2007A United Nations expert body today urged 11 countries to take steps to improve the situation of children and young people, noting continued discrimination and violation of their rights. read more

Spiralling violence in far eastern DR Congo leads UN mission to send

31 August 2007The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sent in reinforcement troops and stepped up the diplomatic pressure on both sides of the opposing factions of the armed forces in the volatile far east of the country in a bid to stop the fighting there that has forced thousands of Congolese to flee their homes. The mission, known as MONUC, reported today that it has dispatched 200 reinforcement troops to the area around the town of Katale in the Masisi district of North Kivu province, where the worst clashes have been taking place. These troops have been transferred from elsewhere in the two Kivu provinces, which have remained unstable since the official end of the country’s civil war and last year’s historic national presidential and parliamentary elections. MONUC said it has also increased the number of helicopter overflights so it can both obtain a better picture of the situation on the ground and deter further fighting. It is also exerting pressure on both sides of the national armed forces, known as FARDC, which are supposed to have integrated with soldiers from former rebel groups after the conflict. But elements supportive of renegade Gen. Nkunda have been clashing with regular FARDC forces in recent days, and MONUC is trying to urge the two groups to settle their differences through dialogue. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, is due to arrive in the DRC on Monday for a week-long visit that is expected to include a trip to the Kivu provinces. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that at least 9,000 people have had to flee Masisi and neighbouring Rutshuru districts in the past month because of the spiralling tensions. UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis warned reporters in Geneva that “with heightened tensions and the build-up of military forces, the situation risks turning into a humanitarian and human rights disaster.” More than 20 makeshift camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have emerged in North Kivu since last December as the capacity of local host families to absorb the new arrivals has been overwhelmed. In one camp, at Mugunga, some 15 kilometres west of the regional centre of Goma, some 9,000 people have arrived in the past three weeks, swelling the overall number of residents to 18,000. UNHCR staff in the region report that more IDPs are arriving at other sites each day. More than 650,000 people are now internally displaced within North Kivu, including at least 180,000 since last December. Tens of thousands of others have fled over the border to neighbouring Uganda. The deteriorating security situation means humanitarian agencies have limited access to the IDPs, but UNHCR said it was organizing camp management training for IDP leaders and local authorities in Mugunga. read more

Top UN official in DR Congo visits Kananga to assess security Ebola

26 September 2007Concerned over the political and security situation on the ground, as well the threat to United Nations staff posed by the deadly Ebola virus, the world body’s top official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has just concluded a visit to the city of Kananga in the western Kasai province. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN mission (MONUC) William Lacy Swing impressed upon local officials during his visit to the province yesterday that the decision to move UN troops to the DRC’s troubled eastern region is only for the short term.“The temporary withdrawal of MONUC military from Kananga was a strategic decision to fulfil military requirements elsewhere, but I will not cease making pleas for financial backers to come to the aid of Congo and Kasai Occidental,” he noted.The province’s Governor Trésor Kapuku underscored MONUC’s crucial role in bringing economic prosperity to the area.“If these efforts by MONUC are reduced now, it will have a counter-productive effect for the future of the province,” he said.Mr. Swing presented the Governor with 367 mattresses to be distributed to area hospitals through MONUC’s Quick Impact Projects programme.“One knows one’s friends in times of difficulty,” Governor Kapuku said, expressing his gratitude.Later, Mr. Swing attended a town hall meeting at which MONUC staff aired their concerns regarding the recent Ebola outbreak and security issues.The Special Representative assured UN staff that upon returning to the capital Kinshasa, he will establish a commission to seek out immediate solutions to these issues. Last week, the UN announced that of some 400 cases of illness and 170 deaths reported since April in the Kasai Occidental province, nine cases of the virus, which causes death in 50 to 90 per cent of cases, have been confirmed. read more

Darfur UN envoy hopes all rebel leaders will participate in peace talks

24 October 2007The United Nations Special Envoy to Darfur said today that he hopes as many rebel leaders as possible from the war-torn Sudanese region will eventually take part in landmark peace talks starting on Saturday, even though some of the splintering rebel forces are already signalling they will not attend. Jan Eliasson told reporters that it was still not clear exactly how many rebel leaders will participate in the talks in Sirte, Libya, but he warned that the stakes for the people of Darfur were too high for them to turn down the invitation.“We may have a very dangerous development if we miss this opportunity,” he said, noting that the Sudanese Government, the country’s neighbours, representatives of Darfurian civil society and some local tribal leaders have all said they are ready and willing to take part.“We are now, of course, coming close to the moment of truth. I would say [it’s] the moment of hope for Darfur.”He stressed that substantive negotiations on many of the most contentious issues, such as power-sharing and control of land, will not take place immediately, allowing the rebel groups time to hold consultations among themselves on the sidelines of the Sirte talks.But he said that further delays would only lengthen the suffering in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2.2 million others forced to flee their homes since 2003 because of fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed.The Security Council has authorized the creation of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force, to be known as UNAMID, to try to quell the violence.The lead-up to the talks in Sirte, which are being co-convened by Mr. Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, have been complicated by the proliferation of rebel movements as many of the existing groups, including the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), splinter into smaller factions.Speaking today by videoconference from Asmara, Eritrea, where he has been meeting with senior Government officials to discuss preparations for the negotiations, Mr. Eliasson said there is “very little hope” that rebel leader Abdul Wahid el-Nur will attend, while Khalil Ibrahim of the JEM has also asked for the talks to be delayed. But he said he was still hopeful that other rebel leaders would join the Sirte talks later.Mr. Eliasson said obtaining a formal cessation of hostilities would be a priority of the talks, while arrangements for the return of displaced people can also be given immediate attention. He expects the initial discussions in Sirte will focus on issues of security and wealth-sharing.After hearing a closed-door briefing from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sirte talks, the Security Council issued a presidential statement calling on all parties to engage fully and constructively in the talks and to first agree to a cessation of hostilities.“The Council underlines its willingness to take action against any party that seeks to undermine the peace process, including by failing to respect such a cessation of hostilities or by impeding the talks, peacekeeping or humanitarian aid,” the statement noted.It added that the 15-member body was deeply concerned about delays in the deployment of UNAMID, and urged Member States to make available the aviation and ground transport units still required for the mission.The Special Envoy said the preparations for the talks had been adversely affected by the recent spike in violence in Darfur, particularly the deadly attack last month against AU peacekeepers in the town of Haskanita.Frustration is growing in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), he said, with many residents having spent four years there and some younger IDPs becoming increasingly radicalized. Violence in the camps is rising and arms are starting to flow in.The strained relationship in the National Unity Government, formed in the wake of the end of the separate north-south civil war in Sudan, was also adding to the difficulties, Mr. Eliasson said.In his latest report on the implementation of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that ended that war, Mr. Ban says recent events underline the fragility of the pact and the failure to implement some of its key provisions.Earlier this month, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – the former southern rebel group – suspended its participation in the Government, although it is now holding talks with the National Congress Party on how to resolve their impasse.Mr. Ban urges all sides to implement their commitments under the agreement, calling on the leaders to show political courage.“While the conflict in Darfur undoubtedly had consequences for the rest of the country, we must not lose sight of the fact that the comprehensive peace agreement remains critical to long-lasting peace throughout the Sudan,” the Secretary-General writes. read more

On World Blood Donor Day UN agency stresses value of voluntary donations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is using this year’s World Blood Donor Day, which is being observed today, to highlight the benefits of blood donations that are voluntary – rather than involving payment or family interest.“Access to safe blood is a key component of effective health care and voluntary donors are the cornerstone of a safe blood supply,” Carissa Etienne, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems at WHO, said yesterday in a press statement. “Available, safe blood is particularly crucial to the health of women and children.”Voluntary donors are regarded as the safest source of blood. By donating of their free will, without coercion or payment, they are less likely to hide information about their health status or behaviour that could make them ineligible to donate blood. Regular voluntary donations also ensure a more sustainable blood supply.But only 54 countries have so far achieved 100 per cent voluntary donation, according to WHO, with Thailand, Turkey and Uganda the most recent States to join the list.Less than 45 per cent of the global blood supply is collected in developing or transitional countries, which are home to about four-fifths of the global population. These countries also have the greatest need of stocks of blood and blood products as they bear a disproportionate burden of many diseases.WHO said China and the UAE both deserve credit for making such rapid progress towards an entirely voluntary donation system. In 1990, no donations in the UAE were voluntary, but by 2006 they had reached 97.6 per cent, while China’s rate has risen from 20 per cent to 98.5 per cent in the decade since 1998.The theme of this year’s Day is “Giving Blood Regularly,” an initiative to encourage volunteer donors to return on a regular basis over the long-term. 14 June 2008China and the United Arab Emirates are both close to reaching 100 per cent voluntary donations for their national blood supplies, the United Nations health agency has announced, calling on other countries to use them as models to increase their own stocks of safe blood supplies. read more

UNESCO chief saddened by fire and death at major Ugandan cultural site

17 March 2010The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today expressed her sorrow over the fire that destroyed the Tombs of Buganda Kings, a World Heritage List site in Uganda. The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today expressed her sorrow over the fire that destroyed the Tombs of Buganda Kings, a World Heritage List site in Uganda. Two people were killed during protests sparked by anger at the destruction of the site yesterday. Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, appealed for calm, saying the agency stands ready to help Ugandan authorities to assess damage and take remedial action to restore the religious site. “The Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi is a World Heritage site of great cultural and spiritual significance. The destruction of this site is a tragic loss for the whole world,” said Ms Bokova. “I am also deeply distressed to learn that two people lost their lives in protests that followed the fire, and hope there will be a swift return to calm at this difficult time,” she said. Located on the Kasubi Hill, five kilometres from Kampala city centre, the historic site, including four royal tombs, suffered extensive damage in the fire, whose cause has not yet been established. The site’s buildings were made of dry grass thatch and wood and efforts to put out the fire were unsuccessful. According to media reports, police shot two people in a crowd that staged a protest at the site suspecting that the blaze was an act of arson. The Tombs of the Buganda Kings were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001, recognized as “a masterpiece of human creativity and an eloquent manifestation” of the cultural traditions of the Baganda people, Uganda’s largest ethnic group. The site has been an important centre of religious activity for the Baganda people since it was established in 1860. read more

UNESCO chief speaks out against killing of Pakistani reporter

Ejazul Haq was killed on 28 May in the city of Lahore while reporting through his mobile telephone at the scene of one of the incidents, with television reporters hearing both the shots that killed him and his last words.Dozens of members of the Ahmadiyyah community were also killed in the twin attacks during Friday prayers on two mosques when gunmen armed with grenades attacked two mosques.“It is tragic that [Mr. Haq] paid with his life for his professional dedication,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).She voiced hope that Pakistani authorities enhance the safety of media professionals, “who are being made to pay an unacceptably heavy sacrifice to the fundamental human right of freedom of speech and to our right to be informed of events that concern us.”In the wake of the attacks, which were also condemned by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN human rights experts called on the Pakistani Government to take every step to ensure the safety of religious minorities, noting that numerous early warning signs had not been properly heeded. “Members of [the Ahmadi] community have faced continuous threats, discrimination and violent attacks in Pakistan,” the experts said in a joint statement.In Pakistan and elsewhere, Ahmadis have been declared non-Muslims by authorities in the past and have been subject to a number of undue restrictions and in many instances institutionalized discrimination. This emboldens some opinion-makers who wish to fuel hatred and perpetrators of attacks against religious minorities, the experts said. “There is a real risk that similar violence might happen again unless advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is adequately addressed,” stressed the experts, who comprise the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Asma Jahangir, the Independent Expert on minority issues Gay McDougall and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston. 9 June 2010The head of the United Nations agency tasked with upholding press freedom today condemned the killing of a television journalist in Pakistan, who was shot while covering attacks on the religious Ahmadi community. read more