Marrakech – Here follows the full text of the Royal message addressed by King Mohammed VI to the 31th session of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, held on March 12-13 in Marrakech The message was read on the Monarch’s behalf by interior minister, Mohammed Hassad.May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and KinYour Highnesses, Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen, I should like, first of all, to welcome you to the Kingdom of Morocco, your home away from home, which is honored to host the 31st session of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers.The convening this important meeting in Marrakech reflects Morocco’s strong commitment to supporting Arab joint action, especially that which involves officials in charge of home affairs, considering the key role they play. To this end, mechanisms for consultation and coordination should be reinforced in order to enhance our officials’ ability to craft innovative strategies that can help keep pace with current shifts and changes, and meet the requirements of security and social stability.In this regard, we respectfully remember His Royal Highness Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the Honorary President of this august Council – may he rest in peace – who played a pivotal role and had the great merit of ensuring the continuity of the Council’s meetings, right from the first session, which was held in Casablanca in 1982.Ladies and Gentlemen,The convening of this session of the Council, amid significant changes and far-reaching reforms under way in the Arab world, will no doubt provide a chance to get to the heart of the concept of security, which has profoundly changed. This will contribute to enhancing the security of our Arab countries, making them immune to the perils of extremism and terrorism and to all types of organized crime, including arms smuggling and trafficking in human beings and drugs.Your meeting today attests to your strong will to preserve the security and stability of our Arab world, and to uphold the values of cohesion, peace and cultural openness, which form the bedrock of our communities. It will also enhance your contribution to meeting the legitimate aspirations of Arab peoples for further progress and development.You are therefore called upon to adopt rational, forward-looking and far-sighted approaches that can effectively contribute to the development of creative plans based on coordination and cooperation. The aim is to be able to deal with anything that could compromise the security and stability of our countries, or the safety of our citizens.Needless to say, successful security policies and effective pre-emptive measures hinge on the involvement and contribution of the citizens, who fully realize their constructive role in ensuring security and serenity, in the same way as they play an active part in the development process and in creating the right conditions for investment and the achievement of progress.Seen from this perspective, the concept of real security is much broader than the narrow meaning it is usually given. Security primarily means putting the citizen at the heart of public policy, capitalizing on an effective social partnership in which the State and the citizens mutually supplement and reinforce one another – a partnership in which security imperatives, development requisites and respect for human rights go hand in hand.Your Highnesses,Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,Considering the crucial role played by the citizens not only as key partners in the achievement of security and stability and in the promotion of the development process, but also as active contributors to the creation of the right social environment imbued with democratic values and respect for human rights, I was keen to lay the foundations for a new concept of authority. It is built around preserving and expanding liberties, safeguarding peoples’ dignity and rights in a state based on the rule of law, and promoting a democratic system close to the citizens as well as a participatory approach in the management of public affairs.In the same vein, I launched the National Initiative for Human Development in 2005, which makes the citizen the central element of the development process as well as its main goal. Indeed, I firmly believe that political and civil rights cannot have tangible meaning in the citizen’s everyday life unless they are supported by economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.I have seen to it, at the same time, that a new territorial system based on decentralization is established. This has led to the launching of the advanced regionalization project, which aims to consolidate territorial good governance and pave the way for a democratic management system of local affairs. The ultimate goal is to achieve integrated social and economic development.To make sure we capitalize on the positive results achieved and the far-reaching reforms undertaken in the fields of human rights and development, I have seen to it that the Kingdom’s Constitution includes a comprehensive charter of social, economic, cultural and environment rights.Building on the same approach, I have made sure our efforts also address the issue of migrants, particularly those from Sub-Saharan countries. Thus, a comprehensive, multidimensional migration and asylum policy has been adopted. It is rooted not only in Morocco’s time-honored tradition as a welcoming, hospitable land, but also in our record as a nation that lives up to its international commitments, respects migrants’ rights and takes into account their humanitarian situation.All of the above projects and reforms are based on honoring man and on making the citizen the cornerstone as well as the ultimate goal of public policies. As such, they set the stage for a holistic approach in which democracy, development, security and stability are closely intertwined.Aware of the importance of this integrated approach, and in order to promote a comprehensive perception of security based on respect for human rights, the preservation of social peace and the creation of an environment conducive to development, Morocco has introduced this approach in the training curricula of security colleges and institutions.This can be seen through the implementation of the security governance strategy, which makes it possible for security college graduates to be more open to the citizens and to have a greater ability to listen to and respond to people’s needs, not to mention the capacity to participate actively and pragmatically in finding solutions to the citizens’ real problems. They also contribute to creating the right environment for the promotion of investment and development, and to encouraging private and community-based initiatives aimed at fostering solidarity and social peace.Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a summary of the Moroccan experience, which I wanted to share with you at this important meeting.Your Highnesses,Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,Today, the adoption of an Arab security charter will only be possible through a unified, common Arab perception of the concept of security, with its constantly evolving economic, social and human rights dimensions.I am sure this meeting which brings together a fine group of Arab officials and international experts will adopt a set of practical recommendations that will pave the way for effective solutions which fulfill our Arab peoples’ aspirations for further security, peace, stability, progress and prosperity, in an environment where freedom and dignity prevail.I should like to take this opportunity to commend the outstanding action carried out by your Council to serve this goal through various strategies and specific plans as well as through a number of workshops. These efforts contribute to raising Arab awareness. They also strengthen the commitment to constructive security action and to the pivotal role it plays in bringing about the environment where values and rights are preserved and the development dynamic promoted.I see the Marrakech meeting as a fresh start for the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, particularly in light of the sweeping changes in the region and the overall situation in the Arab world. You have tremendous responsibilities in the areas within your remit. You are therefore called upon to agree on your one and the same approach and enhance coordination and constructive consultation because they are conducive to promoting development and ensuring security and stability.Once again, welcome to your second home. May Almighty God grant you success for the benefit of Arab peoples.“And say: work (righteousness): Soon will Allah observe your work, and His Messenger, and the Believers”True is the word of God.Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
Rabat – Maghreb Confidential site has reported that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been urgently hospitalized Tuesday in Paris. The plane transporting the ill president landed at Bourget Airport (Paris).The Algerian President would subsequently be transferred to Val de Grace Hospital.This is the second time in just over a month that Bouteflika is being treated in France, after being hospitalized in a clinic in Grenoble last November. In the last few weeks he was shown on Algerian television hosting foreign dignitaries to portray that his illness does not prevent him from running the country. The Algerian opposition is asking for early elections, as the current president is no longer fit to govern. Their demands fall on deaf ears. Many predict that the new president has already been chosen behind closed doors and he will be introduced as soon as Bouteflika is no longer in the picture.Although reported by various Algerian media outlets, the information is still not confirmed by official sources.
Tunis – Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi praised, on Saturday, the efforts led by King Mohammed VI to promote the values of peace and tolerance in the region.President Caid Essebsi made the statement during an audience in the presidential palace in Tunis with Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar who delivered to him a message of condolence and solidarity sent by HM King Mohammed VI in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis.Speaking to MAP following the audience, Mezouar said that President Caid Essebsi highlighted the longstanding bilateral relations, noting that “Morocco is a friendly and brotherly country that shares with Tunisia strong centuries-old ties and a common future.” On the situation in the region, the Tunisian President reiterated his commitment to press ahead with efforts to achieve integration in the Maghreb.President Caid Essebsi also sent an invitation to the Sovereign to visit Tunisia, recalling the positive impact of the latest visit by HM King Mohammed VI to Tunis.Mezouar expressed to Tunisia’s President “the solidarity of the Moroccan King, government and people with Tunisia following the despicable terrorist attack that violates all universal human values and the precepts of our religion.”On the same occasion, the minister transmitted relayed to President Caid Essebssi an invitation from HM the King to visit Morocco.Mezouar also expressed Morocco’s support to the democratic transition process in Tunisia.
Madrid – The number of Moroccan nationals in Spain was estimated at 800,000 by the end of 2014, Spanish general secretary in charge of immigration and migration, Marina Del Corral Téllez said on Wednesday.Moroccans are thus the largest legally residing non-EU community in Spain, Del Corral Téllez said at a meeting of the immigration network in Spain.The Brits came second with 270,000 nationals, followed by Italians 200,000 and the Chinese 190,000, the Spanish official said, noting that Romanians came first in the ranking with 900,000 immigrants.According to the national statistics institute (INE), Spain’s population by July 2014 reached 46.5 million, including 4.538,503 foreigners.
New York – Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, declared his support for Muslims in an open letter he wrote on Friday, via Medium, a blog platform.The latest Islamophobic acts and hate speech against Muslims in America has reached a dangerous level of fear and intolerance, made worse by instigation of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who plans to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.Meanwhile, other key figures in business and politics, like Internet giant Google’s CEO, have expressed their support for the Muslim community. In a letter titled “Let’s not let fear defeat our values”, Pichai denounced discrimination and intolerance, while indirectly referencing to Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.“That is why it’s so disheartening to see the intolerant discourse playing out in the news these days — statements that our country would be a better place without the voices, ideas and the contributions of certain groups of people, based solely on where they come from, or their religion,” Pichai wrote.Born in Madras, India, Sundar Pichai opened up about his life when he immigrated to the U.S. with his family and spoke of all the support and opportunities he found that made them feel welcome.“I came to the US from India 22 years ago. I was fortunate enough to gain entry to a university here, and time after time, I saw that hard work opened other doors. I have built a career and a family and a life here. And I’ve felt as much a part of this country, as I felt growing up in India,” he said.Google’s boss called America the “land of opportunity”, a country built by millions of immigrants.“And it’s not just about opportunity. The open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance of new Americans is one of the country’s greatest strengths and most defining characteristics. And that is no coincidence — America, after all, was and is a country of immigrants,” Pichai affirmed.As CEO of the third “World’s Most Valuable Brands” and the number one “America’s Best Employers” company, according to Forbes magazine, Pichai stressed that the “mix of races and cultures” in his company is key for its success.“I firmly believe that whether you’re building a company or leading a country, a diverse mix of voices and backgrounds and experiences leads to better discussions, better decisions, and better outcomes for everyone, he said.Pichai leads an enterprise of nearly 54,000 employees from all around the world.He urged everyone to stand up against intolerance and hatred, while sending a message of hope and support to those who feel oppressed.“But I feel we must speak out — particularly those of us who are not under attack. Everyone has the right to their views, but it’s also important that those who are less represented know that those are not the views of all,” the famous CEO concluded.Last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement supporting Muslims that no one should be “persecuted for the actions of others” and “we must stand up against attacks on all communities.”
Skhirat – Climate change is a potential source of tensions, intra-community and interstate wars, President of COP22 Steering Committee, Salaheddine Mezouar, said Wednesday in Skhirat (Rabat outskirts).Speaking at the opening of the 2nd International Conference “Defence and Climate Change,” Mezouar stressed that “climate disorder causes a security disorder,” noting that climate change “represents a major risk for peace and security.”“Because of the expected doubling of Africa’s population by 2050, climate change will have catastrophic effects on the continent with a decrease of 4.7% of GDP, mainly due to the deterioration of the agricultural sector, which is likely to undermine the stability of States by increasing unemployment, particularly within the youth, and promote radicalization,” he stressed. Mezouar also noted that defence departments are already contributing to climate action by using space technologies to measure emissions and observe weather and climate phenomena.He said that the time is ripe “to bring together advanced and development researches in order to propose solutions and alternative to deal with climate change.”“This requires initiatives to improve investment, research and development programs,” he said, stressing the importance of early warning systems to establish a resilient security environment.”Mezouar also hailed the announcement by the International Civil Aviation Organization of the draft resolution aiming at establishing a market-based measure for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.
Madrid – The EU must clarify its position and put an end to differences over the agricultural agreement with Morocco, said on Monday agriculture and fisheries minister Aziz Akhannouch.In an interview with Spanish News Agency “EFE”, Akhannouch said he regretted the differences among the different EU bodies concerning this matter, while Morocco is awaiting a strong political signal acknowledging the Kingdom’s role and huge effort in the Union’s southern border.The EU must state clearly and seriously if she wants a robust and credible partner to work with, he said. Noting that actions seeking to hinder the entry of Moroccan products to European markets do harm national exporters, the minister underlined that Moroccan farmers want to dispel doubts over the fate of their agricultural and fisheries products once they arrive at the EU borders.He underlined that the current situation is the result of disagreements over Morocco between the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Court of Justice and the European parliament, adding that the problem must be solved within the EU.
Rabat – Spain’s national police on Saturday detained a young Moroccan who interrupted a wedding ceremony in Valladolid, north Spain, while shouting “God is greatest”. The 22 year-old man approached the altar with the intention of taking down the cross and various other religious objects. Valladolid’s Government Subdelegation has reported that the man has since been accused of disturbing public order, making threats and “crimes against religious feeling”.The man seen in the video is a Moroccan residing in Spain with a student permit, and the video of the incident has been widely shared on social media. On June 3, a 47 year-old Moroccan man was arrested in Madrid following an international warrant for his arrest. He is suspected of belonging to a terrorist group, helping prepare terrorist activities, and finding funds to finance these activities.Born in Tetouan, and now a resident of Parla in Madrid, the man was investigated by police in 2004 following terrorist attacks in the city on March 11, 2004.Research conducted this year by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that Moroccans make up the largest foreign community in Spain, numbering 747,872.
DETROIT — Starbucks will have to tread carefully while its former CEO Howard Schultz decides whether he will run for president.Schultz spent more than 30 years at Starbucks, growing it into a much-admired global brand. But if he runs, Starbucks could lose customers.Some Democrats are already boycotting the chain because they fear Schultz will run as an independent and tip the 2020 presidential election to President Donald Trump. A campaign could also remind conservatives of Schultz’s outspoken support of gay marriage.Marketing experts say Starbucks needs to distance itself from Schultz through clear social media messages.In a letter to employees, Starbucks’ current CEO Kevin Johnson said he wishes Schultz well, but emphasized that Starbucks doesn’t get involved in national political campaigns and that employees should respect customers’ diverse opinions.Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press
Rabat – Casablanca Finance City (CFC) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Lujiazui Financial City to promote green and sustainable finance between Africa and China.Lujiazui Financial City Authority is the institution in charge of developing Shanghai’s financial district.The new MoU aims to lay the foundations for sustainable cooperation between the two parties, by promoting the development and sharing of best practices and knowledge in the field of green and sustainable finance, according to a statement by CFC published October 19. The MoU also aims to facilitate the exchange of information and expertise and to develop education, training and research programs.With this new partnership, CFC will extend its cooperation network with the world’s leading financial markets.The new partnership shows “China’s interest in the African market and the attractiveness of CFC as an access point to investment opportunities in the continent,” CFC said in a statement.In May, the CFC signed an MoU with the the Chinese Xicheng Financial District Development Promotion Center (XDFDPC), the public institution responsible for the development of the Xicheng Financial District.CFC has already partnered with financial centers in Singapore, London, Luxembourg, Montreal, Paris, Astana, and Busan.CFC is a Moroccan business hub and a leading financial center in Africa.Casablanca Finance City and Lujiazui Financial City sign a partnership agreement in Shanghai to promote cooperation between Africa and China and scale up green investments in the continent. @lujiazui_china @FC4SNetwork #GreenFinance #SDGs. pic.twitter.com/HEWQOMqiut— Casa Finance City (@CasaFinanceCity) October 19, 2018
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa county treasurers said Thursday that they are reviewing whether to continue a college scholarship program funded by two key vendors that benefits their own children and grandchildren.The review comes one day after The Associated Press reported that two treasurers recently vacationed to Florida with the CEO of GovTech Services, which runs the tax collection website used by 88 counties.GovTech and another vendor used by dozens of counties, SRI, Inc., for years have sponsored four $500 scholarships that are open only to the children and grandchildren of treasurers and their employees.The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board issued an advisory opinion in 2015 finding that the program violated an ethics law that bars public employees and their immediate family members from accepting gifts from vendors. The opinion warned that taking the scholarships would violate the gift law since they are funded by vendors and not open to the public.After that finding, the executive board of the Iowa State County Treasurers Association decided to continue the program with minor changes that members thought would make it legal.One key change called for the group to raise more private donations so that the scholarships would not be funded solely by two vendors. But the companies continue to provide the bulk of the funding.Just last week, association board member Kelly Busch sent treasurers an announcement from SRI vice-president Joe Edwards saying that applications are due April 26 and scholarships will be awarded at their May conference. The announcement, obtained by AP, noted that SRI and GovTech “are pleased to offer, again this year, four $500 scholarships to children or grandchildren of treasurers or your staff.”“SRI and GTS are happy to be able to sponsor this scholarship and other association activities,” Edwards wrote. SRI operates tax auctions for about half of Iowa’s 99 counties.Busch, the Union County treasurer, said Thursday that the association hasn’t determined whether scholarships will be granted this year amid questions about their legality. She said only that “we are following up on details prior to awarding further scholarships.”Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon told the AP he would make “some preliminary inquiries” into the program’s legality.Floyd County Treasurer Frank Rottinghaus, whose inquiry prompted the 2015 advisory opinion, has complained to the ethics board and fellow treasurers on multiple occasions that the program continued even after it was deemed unlawful.The Iowa State Association of Counties will discuss the program with the treasurers’ association, which is one of its affiliates, said executive director Bill Peterson. He said his group, which administers the scholarships, wants to ensure that changes it recommended after the 2015 ethics board opinion were implemented by the treasurers.“If we’re unsatisfied, I would say that we would refuse to assist them further with the administrative details of how they handle their scholarship funds,” he said.Meanwhile, Peterson said that Dubuque County Treasurer Eric Stierman and Winneshiek County Treasurer Wayne Walter have asked the ethics board to review their relationship with GovTech CEO Marc Carr, whom they have helped secure the lucrative and long-running tax website contract. The two vacationed with Carr in Florida last November and stayed for two nights free of charge at a beach condominium he owns — an apparent violation of the ethics law. Both said they had vacationed with Carr previously, calling him a longtime friend.Peterson said that the two veteran elected officials do not believe they did anything wrong.“But there are nuances to the ethics law and they probably weren’t really thinking about that in this case,” he said. “I think they have taken the right steps to clear that up and pay any penalty or correct things that they should have done differently.”Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press
BEND, Ore. — A Blockbuster Video in Bend, Oregon, is the last one on the planet after the only other Blockbuster, in Australia, announced it’s closing on March 31.Running the dated franchise has its challenges.The computers must be rebooted using floppy disks, and employees write membership cards by hand because the dot-matrix printer broke.But the store is now booming with business from long-time locals as well as tourists from as far away as Taiwan who snap selfies and buy souvenirs.The store manager has ordered T-shirts and other souvenirs that say “The Last Blockbuster on the Planet,” and orders are already streaming in.General manager Sandi Harding says the location has several years left on its lease and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.Gillian Flaccus, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local):9:35 a.m.Banks are leading stocks higher in early trading on Wall Street as bond yields rise above their recent lows.Citigroup rose 1 per cent in early trading Thursday. Higher bond yields are good for banks because they can earn more income from the bonds they hold and they can charge higher interest rates on loans.Watch maker Movado jumped 14 per cent after reporting strong earnings last quarter, and Calvin Klein parent company PVH soared 15 per cent after turning in solid results of its own.The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 59 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 25,682. The S&P 500 index rose 3 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 2,821.The Nasdaq edged up 7 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 7,698.Bond prices fell, sending yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.39 per cent.The Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers are poised to approve a framework for a $214.8 billion operating budget on Thursday, the first step in a spending package that seeks to address the teacher shortage, expand health care to some adults living in the country illegally and bolster the state’s top firefighting agency following the most devastating wildfire season in state history.State law requires lawmakers to pass the framework by midnight Saturday. If they don’t, they don’t get paid. Lawmakers reached an agreement on Sunday night and scheduled a vote for Thursday, days ahead of the deadline.“I do think it’s a good budget,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. “In every budget there is good and there is could be better.”The massive bill, totalling more than 900 pages, directs tax dollars in the state’s most populous state. But lawmakers must still pass more than a dozen other bills to implement the budget. These “trailer bills” could contain important details, including implementing a monthly fee on cellphone bills to pay for upgrades to the 911 system.The spending plan is the first under Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has positioned himself as resistor-in-chief to Republican President Donald Trump’s administration.The Trump administration has sought to weaken former President Barack Obama’s health care law by eliminating a tax on people who refuse to purchase private health insurance. The budget under Newsom would bring that tax back, using part of the money to make California the first state in the country to help middle class families pay a portion of their monthly health insurance premiums.While the Trump administration continues to crack down on illegal immigration, the budget lawmakers are set to vote on Thursday would make California the first state to give some adults living in the country illegally government-funded health insurance.Health care for people living in the country illegally is part of Democrats’ plan to eventually get everyone in California to have health insurance. But the policy has angered Republican lawmakers, who argue it’s not fair to tax people in the country legally for not buying health insurance while making people living in the country illegally eligible for taxpayer-funded health insurance.“I just don’t get the prioritization,” said Republican state Sen. John Moorlach of Costa Mesa, who noted he legally immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands in 1960.The budget includes increases in public education, bringing the state spending to $12,018 for every student in K-12 public schools. It would give students studying to be teachers grants of up to $20,000 if they promise to teach subject matters impacted by the teacher shortage, including science, technology, math and engineering.And following the states deadliest wildfire season in history, the spending plan includes $40.3 million for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to buy 13 new fire engines and hire 131 people to operate them. It also includes $13.1 million to accept seven used C-130 air tankers from the federal government. The air tankers are free, but the state must pay to maintain and operate them.Adam Beam, The Associated Press
9 February 2007The people of Côte d’Ivoire now have “an historic chance” of ending the long stalemate in its peace process, the outgoing United Nations envoy to the divided country said today. Pierre Schori, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, told journalists that the current dialogue being organized by the African Union (AU) and mediated by Blaise Compaore, President of neighbouring Burkina Faso, offered the Ivorian Government and the rebel Forces Nouvelles an opportunity to resolve their differences. “Don’t blow it this time,” Mr. Schori said, pointing out that the peace process is Côte d’Ivoire is “still at square one” despite 22 resolutions and 20 presidential statements on the subject from the Security Council in the past four years. Mr. Schori, who is ending a two-year stint as Special Representative and head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), briefed the Security Council today on the latest efforts to find peace in a country that has been divided between the Government-controlled south and the rebel-held north since 2002. Commending Mr. Schori on his work, the Council later issued a presidential statement welcoming recent pledges by President Laurent Gbagbo and Forces Nouvelles Secretary-General Guillaume Soro to participate in the talks with Mr. Compaore, which it stressed must take place within the framework of earlier Council resolutions. Last month in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a one-day summit to try to find ways to revive the peace process. National elections originally scheduled for last October had to be postponed for a year because of the tensions, which have been exacerbated by partisan media outlets. One of the key disputes has been over the identification of citizens, which will help determine voter lists. Today’s Council statement, read out Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency this month, said that “neutral and impartial official media” as well as the disarmament of armed groups and a programme of citizen identification “are necessary to create the conditions for the organization of free, fair and credible elections” by 31 October this year. Mr. Schori said an estimated 3 to 4 million people who live or work in Côte d’Ivoire have been artificially excluded from access to some forms of political life because of a lack of identification papers. Reflecting on his term in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Schori said that while it had been rewarding, he had also felt frustrated by some elements of the UN and the mission itself, such as the presence of an “old-boys network,” a lack of awareness about gender issues and an excessive reliance on hierarchical structures. He found “some lack of sense of urgency and crisis awareness. This is a mission under Chapter VII [of the UN Charter], dealing with peace and security, life and death. Then you can also work on Saturday mornings, for instance. That was not appreciated by all,” he said. Mr. Schori added that it was “a difficult but a noble cause to be sent out to work for peace and development and democracy, and it’s not like in ordinary jobs.”
1 November 2007As crisis worsens in Somalia, where 88,000 people fled their homes in recent days adding to a total displaced population nearly ten times that amount, the top United Nations humanitarian official there today called on all parties to facilitate access by aid workers to civilians in need of assistance. “It is high time for Somali leaders and representatives of all parties involved to do everything in your power to minimize the suffering of the civilians and facilitate humanitarian access,” said Christian Balslev-Olesen, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, in an open letter.He called on Somali leaders and all parties, including the Ethiopian forces, to respect the distinction between civilians and combatants, not target predominantly civilian structures, and ensure safe and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations.The Coordinator said the recent fighting comes at a time when the country is facing one of the worst humanitarian situations in years. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that up to 88,000 people have fled Mogadishu this past weekend alone due to increased fighting – more than have left the Somali capital in the past four months.There are now roughly 450,000 people who have been displaced by fighting this year, bringing to 800,000 the total displaced population in Somalia, according to OCHA.Many of those fleeing are seeking protection in the town of Afgooye, where some 100,000 people have found temporary shelter and continue to be assisted by UN agencies. This weekend’s fighting is the latest among the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other parties in the Horn of Africa nation, which has had no functioning central government since Muhammad Siad Barre’s regime was toppled in 1991.Mr. Balslev-Olesen expressed concerned about the safety and well-being of those remaining in Mogadishu, as their ordinary livelihoods have been disrupted and access to basic necessities and services is shrinking. He noted that many humanitarian organizations are unable to reach all persons in need, with distributions prevented by insecurity and checkpoints and ad hoc “taxation.”
2 April 2008The leaders of Haiti and the international community must persevere in their efforts to help restore stability to the impoverished country, which has made significant strides but “the potential for regression remains,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report released today. The leaders of Haiti and the international community must persevere in their efforts to help restore stability to the impoverished country, which has made significant strides but “the potential for regression remains,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report released today.“It is imperative that all those involved in the stabilization of Haiti redouble their efforts to enable the country to seize this historic opportunity to emerge from the destructive cycles of the past,” Mr. Ban writes in his latest report on the activities of the UN Stabilization Mission for Haiti (MINUSTAH).In the report, Mr. Ban notes that collaboration among the political leadership has led to progress in judicial reform, an agreement on the establishment of a new Provisional Electoral Council and other compromise measures.The security situation, he says, has also improved considerably, thanks in part to the support provided by the UN to the Haitian law-enforcement authorities. In addition, the economy is at its best in decades. However Mr. Ban cautions that tensions between political actors and among branches of the Government have distracted from the reform agenda. “The institutions of governance continued to suffer from a lack of qualified personnel, poor infrastructure and limited resources,” he says.And, despite the improvement of security since 2007 – when major operations were undertaken against gangs – the potential for volatility remains, he stresses, citing an increase in criminality in the capital, Port-au-Prince.According to the report, the average number of reported kidnappings per month for the period from December 2007 to February 2008 reached 28, up from 11 six months earlier. There are also indications that gangs may be trying to reorganize themselves. In addition, the report says that anti-Government demonstrations have increased, many of them focusing on the rising cost of living.Because of these challenges, Mr. Ban says that MINUSTAH’s assistance in security, rule-of-law reform and other key areas remains central to the successful strengthening of State institutions. He adds that institutional reform cannot succeed without extensive bilateral support, expressing hope that the establishment of a “rule-of-law trust fund” will be useful for channelling assistance in this area. The coordinated efforts of donors, together with those of the UN country team and the international financial institutions, are also vital to improve socio-economic conditions, which are inextricably linked to the achievement of stability, he maintains.To keep the international community engaged in Haiti – and avoid a reversal of recent gains – the Secretary-General says that he will soon introduce a plan for the next phase of work, with measurable benchmarks.
The growing food crisis around the world, the situation in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism efforts, preventive diplomacy and regional cooperation were on the agenda today during talks between General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and the leaders of Turkmenistan. Mr. Kerim began his official visit to Central Asia today by holding meetings in Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and Parliament Chairperson Akja Nurberdjeva. One of the key themes was food security as a growing number of countries worldwide experience public protests and riots over the surging cost of basics such as rice, wheat and corn. Janos Tisovszky, a spokesperson for Mr. Kerim, told reporters today that the Assembly President has been closely watching developments in the food crisis and has voiced concern about their economic, social, political and security impact. Mr. Tisovszky said the Ashgabat meetings also focused on Turkmenistan’s cooperation with the UN and its contribution to the current priority issues of the 192-member Assembly, such as climate change, UN reform and efforts to accelerate progress towards the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Tomorrow Mr. Kerim is scheduled to visit the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia and to meet with the UN Country Team in Turkmenistan, before he heads to neighbouring Kazakhstan later in the week. 21 April 2008The growing food crisis around the world, the situation in Afghanistan, counter-terrorism efforts, preventive diplomacy and regional cooperation were on the agenda today during talks between General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and the leaders of Turkmenistan.
27 August 2008Thousands of refugees in Asia will continue to be inspired by the heroism of athletes at the Beijing Olympics, even though the curtain has fallen on the Games, thanks to a United Nations-backed campaign in which competitors donated their surplus sportswear. Some 30,000 pieces of sportswear – mainly from the National Olympic Committees of Australia, Japan, New Zealand and China – were donated during the Games, bringing the total collected so far in the “Giving is Winning” programme, run jointly by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to 82,000.“For the refugees, these are not only useful items of clothing, but a symbol that people in the world beyond the refugee camps – especially famous athletes from the Olympics – care about them,” said Veerapong Vongvarotai, UNHCR regional representative in China.Every athlete’s room in the Olympic Village contained biodegradable plastic bags to allow them to make contributions, which poured in from competitors from teams both large and small, including Andorra, Armenia, Bermuda, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mauritius and Turkmenistan.The clothing received prior to the start of the Games was distributed to refugees in Rwanda, Tanzania, Chad, Moldova, Georgia and Panama, while the latest donations are headed for Asia.The “Giving is Winning” campaign, which will run until the end of the year, originally started during the 2004 Athens Olympics, during which 30,000 articles of clothing were collected to inspire young refugees in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Eritrea, Kosovo and Tanzania.
3 September 2009The top United Nations envoy to Iraq has met with senior Government figures, lawmakers and other UN officials during a two-day visit to the northern region of Kurdistan aimed at boosting the world body’s engagement in the region. Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), held productive meetings with a range of officials, according to a press release issued by the mission. They included President Massoud Barzani; Barham Salih, the Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister; Kamal Karkouki, the Speaker of the Kurdistan Iraqi Parliament; other senior officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG); and representatives of UN agencies, funds and programmes that provide support in the region. In July the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq held regional, parliamentary and presidential elections, recording a high and peaceful voter turnout.