King Mohammed VI Thanks AU for Leaving Western Sahara to UN

Rabat – King Mohammed VI has thanked the UN and the AU for their resolve to find a political settlement in Western Sahara.Speaking last night in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, King Mohammed VI highlighted his resolve to invest more efforts and resources to solve Morocco’s youth issues, especially the quality of education and job opportunities.Despite the speech’s focus on a domestic agenda, the King also made a special mention of the recent international developments in the territorial dispute in Western Sahara. Morocco ready to negotiateThe King pointed out Morocco’s readiness to “confidently and responsibly” engage with the UN Security Council and the international community in the search of an agreed upon and mutually acceptable solution to the territorial dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Moroccans have always been galvanized by values of “unanimity, cohesion and sacrifices” when it comes to upholding the country’s territorial integrity, the King said. He explained that he is “pleased to note that there is increasing compatibility between these principles and the stances adopted by the international community.”“Indeed, the recent resolutions of the UN Security Council and the African Union confirm, without a shadow of a doubt, that the United Nations Organization has exclusive authority to manage the political process relating to this question.”AU’s ‘positive reaction’ to MoroccoThe King’s mention of the United Nations’ “exclusive authority” was a direct reference to the African Union’s recent decision to refrain from having “a parallel agenda” in the Western Sahara territorial conflict.In the AU Western Sahara report presented on July 1, the continental organization said that it would respect the “required cohesion” with the UN’s stance by “prioritizing and supporting” the UN-led negotiations in Western Sahara. The report was delivered by AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at the 31st AU Summit for Heads of States in Nouakchott, Mauritania.“The AU Conference of Heads of States and Chiefs of Governments will lend effective support to the UN-led peace process based on the relevant proposals of the UN Security Council,” the report said. It noted that the AU would act in harmony with the UN framework to push towards a “fair, sustainable, and mutually acceptable political solution.”The AU’s new stance has been perceived as a historic nod to Morocco’s position. It was the first time that the AU took such a direction in the decades-long dispute in Western Sahara. King Mohammed VI underscored his “appreciation” of the move.“I should like to take this opportunity to express my thanks and appreciation to the leaders of African sister nations who have reacted positively to Morocco’s principled stances and responded to the call of the Security Council, which invited the members of the international community to support its efforts,” the King said yesterday in his speech. read more

Morocco’s Safi to Introduce Eco-Friendly Buses in 2019

Abdeljalil Labdaoui, president of the Council of the Urban Commune of Safi, announced the new transportation system. A Spanish bus company will oversee the new project, which aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of transportation in Safi, according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).  Safi’s council initially adopted the plan to integrate eco-friendly buses into Safi’s transportation system during a council session in May 2017. The new buses, engineered in Germany, are equipped with wifi and surveillance cameras. They also accommodate individuals with special needs. Starting on January 1, 2019, 45 eco-friendly buses will be introduced to Safi’s transportation system, while 25 of the city’s buses belonging to the Autonomous Urban Transport Authority are currently undergoing repair. Safi plans to acquire new buses each year, reaching 135 buses in five years. read more

Morocco’s Islamic ‘Participatory’ Banks: 71 Agencies and MAD 1.1 Billion in…

Rabat- Since the launch of Islamic “participatory” banks in July 2017, more than 71 agencies have joined the non-interest banking program throughout Morocco.“We are at more than 71 participating agencies. They are continuously multiplying,” said Abdellatif Jouahri, the governor of Bank Al Maghrib (Morocco’s central bank), after the second quarterly meeting in 2018 of the bank’s board. The participating banks have granted a total of MAD 1.1 billion in loans, he added.Jouahri highlighted the special interest that murabaha (Islamic financing) is especially attractive for both real estate and automobile customers. “People are more and more interested in the real estate murabaha and even the automobile murabaha.” Similarly, the governor stressed that Morocco is preparing to issue its first sukuks (Islamic bonds) in July 2018 which will complement the services offered by participatory banks.Meanwhile, Jouahri said that Morocco’s central bank has already begun to receive the first sharia compliant reports of Islamic “participatory” banks, ensuring that the central bank keeps notifying “banks that have not yet released their reports” and that “things are progressing and setting up little by little.”While the order approving the takaful (Islamic insurance) circular has already been finalized, the legislative texts are still being finalized. Jouahri said, “The takaful is in its final phase, which is to change certain provisions of the insurance code.” He ironically added “We assure you that we have even made the Ulema [Islamic scholars] work on Saturdays and Sundays to speed things up.”After reviewing the participatory banks’ achievements, Jouahri praised the various steps taken by this major project, in particular the validation of many legislative texts by Morocco’s Higher Council of Ulema. read more

Conservative leaders to attend pro-pipeline rally in Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press MOOSOMIN, Sask. — Federal Tory leader Andrew Scheer and the conservative premiers of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are to speak today at a pro-pipeline rally near the Saskatchewan-Manitoba boundary.The event at a pumpjack facility is to draw attention to concerns about Bill C-69 — federal legislation that proposes major changes to how energy projects are reviewed.Rally organizer Sinclair Harrison says if the bill passes it would be detrimental to future pipeline development.He also wants to encourage TransCanada Corp. to reapply to build Energy East, a pipeline that would have transported oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to New Brunswick and Quebec.The company scrapped the $15.7 billion project in 2017.Energy East would have featured a tank terminal in Moosomin, Sask., near where the rally is taking place.“We’re here to speak for the silent majority that are in favour of pipelines,” said Harrison.There were also plans for additional pipelines to be built further south.He said the area already sees tax revenue coming in from the existing TransCanada mainline and is reaping the benefits from construction taking place on another nearby pipeline.“The more pipelines, the better off we are,” he said.“If everyone could see the economic benefit that these construction companies have on the area, it’s phenomenal.”Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is attending the rally out of concern for the “harmful” policies coming from Ottawa that affect the energy sector, a spokesman said.Scheer is taking part to share his Conservative vision for Saskatchewan and to “send a clear message in the buildup to the October election,” said press secretary Daniel Schow in a statement.New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he continues to fight for Energy East and will bring that message to the protest.The rally comes as a truck convoy that started in Red Deer, Alta., is making its way to Ottawa as part of a protest in support of the energy sector. read more

CVS Health: 4Q Earnings Snapshot

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) _ CVS Health Corporation (CVS) on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter loss of $419 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier.On a per-share basis, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based company said it had a loss of 37 cents. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $2.14 per share.The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $2.07 per share.The drugstore chain and pharmacy benefits manager posted revenue of $54.42 billion in the period, which also topped Street forecasts. Ten analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $53.71 billion.CVS Health expects full-year earnings in the range of $6.68 to $6.88 per share.CVS Health shares have climbed almost 7 per cent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has increased 11 per cent. The stock has dropped nearly 3 per cent in the last 12 months._____This story was generated by Automated Insights ( using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on CVS at Associated Press read more

Hajj 2019: Morocco Wants to Ensure ‘Better Conditions’ for Pilgrims

Rabat – The minister of Islamic affairs, Ahmed Taoufiq, flew to Mecca on Sunday to discuss the preparation for the next hajj season with the Saudi minister of pilgrimage, Mohamed Saleh Bin Taher Benten.During the meeting, the two officials agreed on the preparations required for the next pilgrimage season for Moroccans, according to a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Pilgrimage quoted by Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).This meeting is part of consultations with the heads of delegations to prepare the next season of pilgrimage, to provide the best services to pilgrims, and to allow them to perform their rituals in the best conditions, added the press release. Read Also: Morocco’s Islamic Affairs Recognizes ‘Suffering’ of Pilgrims in HajjThe Saudi minister also held meetings with the president of religious affairs of Turkey and the minister of religious affairs of Indonesia, the statement said.In the 2018 pilgrimage season, several Moroccan pilgrims complained about their struggles in Mecca due to lack of management, transport, and shelter.Videos posted online showed Moroccans complaining about the bad conditions.Several Moroccans also said that they had missed major hajj rituals, such as the “stoning of the devil.”Pictures of Moroccan pilgrims also featured elderly men lying weakly on the floor. The Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs, however, denied the allegations in a statement. The ministry said that “some allegations reported by some media outlets” were “lies dating back to previous years,” claiming that information about pilgrims losing their way in Mecca was also false.The ministry also described the 2018 hajj season as “positive.” read more

UN welcomes New York Citys green initiative

23 April 2007Plans unveiled by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Earth Day to reduce the strain on natural resources such as water, air and land were warmly embraced by officials with the United Nations department that promotes sustainable development. “This is exactly the type of initiative that we would like more cities and communities to undertake,” says UN Director of Sustainable Development JoAnne DiSano. “Real development has to allow for economic growth and social development in an environmentally balanced way. We are strongly encouraged by this proposal.”The proposal unveiled on Sunday calls for a more energy-efficient city, including by rebuilding aging water mains, fostering greater support for mass transit, putting limits on vehicular congestion, and creating more energy-efficient buildings.Energy issues, climate change, air pollution and industrial development are all key matters up for consideration by the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), that will open in New York next Monday and run from 30 April-11 May. More than 2,000 delegates and citizen groups will attend the meeting, which makes recommendations that affect all countries. The CSD is unique among UN commissions in that it involves participation from all sectors of society and it is the place where countries and organizations showcase new ideas and innovations for sustainable development. According to UN statistics, about 50 per cent of the world’s population is living in cities today. By 2030 this percentage will be over 60 per cent. To ensure a viable future, Ms. DiSano said cities can take a leadership role in addressing the strain on the environment caused by urbanization and a growing population.“The issues that New York City is addressing are the key issues that all countries and communities must address,” Ms. DiSano said. “If we are going to make a difference on air pollution and climate change, if we are going to have cleaner cities, we need to take a different approach.”She said that the fact that more cities from around the world were adopting sustainable development policies was particularly encouraging.“More and more people have come to understand that sustainable development makes sense,” she said, “and it is a process that can help more people enjoy fuller and more productive lives.” read more

UN report spotlights socioeconomic challenges posed by ageing populations

As the proportion of older persons continues to increase at unprecedented rates worldwide, countries will need to examine and adapt national policies, particularly those relating to pension systems and health care, according to a new United Nations report launched today.The number of people aged 60 years and older is expected to increase from 670 million in 2005 to nearly 2 billion in 2050, and some 80 per cent of them will live in developing countries, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs José Antonio Ocampo told a press conference in New York to mark the launch of the 60th anniversary edition of the World Economic and Social Survey. Designed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, and entitled Development in an Ageing World, the 2007 report notes the “profound impact” ageing has on economic and social development. It also offers suggestions for addressing expected challenges relating to national health care and pension systems in the next four and a half decades. The report emphasizes that pension systems in developing countries are “significantly underdeveloped,” and that without urgent pension reform there could be 1.2 billion people without income security by 2050. Mr. Ocampo noted that the report presents “very strong evidence” of the association between the development of pension systems and poverty at old age. “Countries that have very well developed pension systems are also countries that have lower poverty rates of older people, while those countries that do not have well developed pension systems have high poverty rates of older people, and older people are sometimes forced to work beyond their working life,” he said. While the report does not advocate a one-size-fits-all solution, Mr. Ocampo stressed that future pension systems should aim at universal access, be equitable and ensure enough benefits to avoid old-age poverty.The report also notes that health and long-term care systems need to be reformed and adapted to fit ageing populations. At the same time, it states that ageing is not the most important factor in driving up the future cost of health care. Rather, rising costs can be attributed to inefficiencies in the delivery of health services, the introduction of new medical technologies, and price increases of pharmaceuticals and health insurance policies. Mr. Ocampo added that addressing the economic challenges related to ageing will have to be tackled through “a mix of solutions,” which should include increasing the participation of women in the labour force, lengthening the working life and improving worker satisfaction – all aimed at improving labour productivity. “It is quite clear that if there is no increase in labour productivity in rapidly ageing societies, there will actually be a slowdown in economic growth that will affect everyone,” he said. 19 June 2007As the proportion of older persons continues to increase at unprecedented rates worldwide, countries will need to examine and adapt national policies, particularly those relating to pension systems and health care, according to a new United Nations report launched today. read more

United States official chosen for senior post at UN antihunger agency

Mr. Butler, who is expected to assume his new post in January 2008, succeeds David Harcharik, who has held the number two position at the FAO since the start of 1998.In a statement announcing the appointment, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said Mr. Butler has worked at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture since December 2005 and before then served as a senior official with the US Department of Agriculture. 19 June 2007The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today that James G. Butler of the United States has been appointed Deputy Director-General of the Rome-based anti-hunger agency. read more

UN mission welcomes unveiling of presidential poll date in Côte dIvoire

14 April 2008The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) today welcomed the announcement that the country’s much delayed presidential elections will now be held on 30 November this year. The publication of the poll date “is one of the greatest achievements in the Ivorian peace process since the outbreak of the crisis more than four years ago,” UNOCI said in a press release issued in Abidjan.Côte d’Ivoire became divided in 2002 between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north, but last year’s Ouagadougou Peace Agreement paved the way for an end to the conflict and included a provision calling for free and fair elections to be held.Presidential polls were to be held as far back as 2005, but have been delayed several times since then.In its statement UNOCI encouraged all Ivorian parties “to consolidate the current momentum by demonstrating the same will to move ahead and the same commitment to public interest.”However, in a mid-term report to the Security Council that was released today, the Côte d’Ivoire Group of Experts said it had gathered credible information that members of the defence and security forces of both the Government and the Forces Nouvelles are being trained in the territories of other UN Member States, a breach of a 2004 Council resolution.The Group also voiced deep concern that UNOCI has been unable to inspect sites held by the Garde Républicaine to monitor the arms embargo established by the Council, and that Ivorian authorities routinely deny access to such sites, claiming that inspections are outside UNOCI’s mandate.Turning to the area of customs, the Group said the major weakness of the embargo stemmed from the failure of Ivorian authorities to sensitize customs staff to be vigilant and not allow the export or imports of prohibited goods.During the reporting period the experts were also informed by Mali that an attempt was made last December to export 31 rough diamonds, purportedly of Malian origin, through Bamako airport.Exporting rough diamonds from Mali is illegal as the West African country is not a member of the Kimberley Process, the system set up in 2003 to prevent rebel groups and others from profiting from diamond sales.The Group said the diamonds may be of Ivorian origin, it recommends that the Kimberley Process send a technical working group to Bamako to examine the seized diamonds. read more

South African judge appointed to head new UN internal justice body

Justice O’Regan was appointed a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa in 1994, and has worked as an attorney and a law professor, specializing, among other areas, in labour law, race and gender equality, and constitutional law. She was chosen by consensus by the four other members of the Internal Justice Council, whose appointments were approved by Mr. Ban in April. The two members nominated by staff, following a process inclusive of all staff unions, are Jenny Clift of Australia and Geoffrey Robertson of the United Kingdom and Australia. The two members nominated by management are Maria Vicien-Milburn of Argentina and Sinha Basnayake of Sri Lanka.UN spokesperson Michele Montas said the Internal Justice Council “will play a critical role in establishing the UN’s new system of administration of justice, due to enter into effect on 1 January 2009.”The five-member body will advise the Assembly on suitable candidates for judges on the future UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal. It is also tasked with drafting a code of conduct for the judges, and for providing its views on the implementation of the new system to the Assembly. The Council’s establishment was recommended in 2006 by the “Redesign Panel” of external judicial experts, and is modelled on similar mechanisms at other international public organizations. 11 June 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Justice Kate O’Regan of South Africa as the fifth member and chairperson of the Internal Justice Council – established by the General Assembly to help ensure independence, professionalism and accountability in the new system of administration of justice at the United Nations. read more

UN agency wraps up Asia telecom conference looking to the future

The United Nations telecommunications agency closed the door today on their annual conference, attended by government ministers from the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on new business opportunities to sustain growth in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry. ‘New Generation, New Values’ was the theme for Telecom Asia 2008, organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Bangkok.“This week has seen enormous energy focused on ITU Telecom Asia 2008, shedding light on the issues which confront the ICT sector – issues which we sought to explore through the notion of new generation, new values,” ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said.Dr. Touré added, “Business opportunities flourished within the exhibition and at high-level exchanges with ministers. It is evident that win-win public/private partnerships are a reality.”The Asia-Pacific region has made remarkable progress in recent years. It now has over two billion telephones, including 1.4 billion mobile phone subscribers, and over 40 per cent of the world’s internet users. It also has the world’s largest broadband market – some 39 per cent of the global total – as pointed out in a new report released this week. During the conference, which began on 2 September, ministers from the region discussed the future of the enormous ICT sector, and dialogue with industry and business leaders focused on investment, the market environment, government and industry interests, as well as the future of public/private sector partnerships.The conference also tackled issues related to the needs of the “connected” generation, including the regulatory environment for next-generation networks, security, privacy and trust in cyberspace, greening ICTs and new business models for the sustainable growth of ICTs.“Developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region are deeply engaged in the issues highlighted at the ITU Telecom Asia 2008,” Dr. Touré said.“And they have expressed their commitment to supporting the contribution of the ICT industry towards a greener environment, strengthening emergency communications in an effort to save lives in the event of natural disasters and building the synergies to operationalize cybersecurity,” he added. 5 September 2008The United Nations telecommunications agency closed the door today on their annual conference, attended by government ministers from the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on new business opportunities to sustain growth in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry. read more

Number of Somalis uprooted by violence in capital tops 200000 – UN

More than 200,000 people have now been forced to flee the Somali capital Mogadishu since fighting broke out between the Government and opposition groups in early May, in the biggest exodus from the troubled city since Ethiopian forces intervened in the Horn of Africa nation in 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.By yesterday, the eight-week offensive led by the Al-Shabab and Hisb-ul-Islam militia against the Government had driven a “staggering” 204,000 people from the capital, agency spokesperson Ron Redmond said.“The escalating conflict in Mogadishu is having a devastating impact on the city’s population, causing enormous suffering and massive displacement,” he said.UNHCR’s local partners have reported that clashes in the past week have claimed 105 lives and injured 382 people.Neighbourhoods affected by the violence “have hitherto been islands of peace, escaping much of the conflict and destruction,” Mr. Redmond pointed out.Many Mogadishu residents are fleeing their homes for the first time since the start of Somalia’s civil war in 1991.Many of those uprooted by the current crisis fled to the Afgooye corridor, west of the capital and already home to 400,000 displaced people. The majority are now headed further afield to the Lower and Middle Shabelle, Galgaduud, Bay and Lower Juba regions.The UNHCR spokesperson said that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has climbed to 1.2 million, out of a total population of over 9 million.Although the Somali-Kenyan border is officially closed, with Kenyan authorities not allowing asylum-seekers to cross, the number of people arriving at the UNHCR-run Dabaab refugee complex in Kenya – the world’s largest, hosting over 280,000 refugees – continues to rise.Since May, over 11,000 Somalis have been registered at Dabaab, bringing the total that has arrived at the site since the start of the year to 36,000.But UNHCR said that the number of Somali refugees arriving in Kenya is far higher, since many of them have made their way to urban centres such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Garissa. 7 July 2009More than 200,000 people have now been forced to flee the Somali capital Mogadishu since fighting broke out between the Government and opposition groups in early May, in the biggest exodus from the troubled city since Ethiopian forces intervened in the Horn of Africa nation in 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today. read more

Two UN agencies team up to keep Afghan villagers away from heroin

12 April 2010United Nations agencies have distributed 60 metric tons of food to 700 villagers in western Afghanistan in a programme designed to rehabilitate an irrigation canal that is the lifeline of Khosan district and stop locals from working in the heroin industry. Though the district is considered poppy-free, drug trafficking remains a problem and those who cannot find work in Khosan, near the Iranian border, travel to Farah or Helmand, where they receive about 500 Afghanis a day for harvesting poppies, the raw material of opium and heroin. Some 90 per cent of the world’s heroin supply comes from Afghanistan. At the request of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World UN Food Programme (WFP) has compensated the canal workers by distributing daily rations.To ensure that the improvement lasts, UNODC has simultaneously planned an ambitious land-stabilization programme to counter the effect of the past years of drought and the ensuing deforestation as farmers cut the already meagre vegetation for cooking and animal fodder, aggravating the precarious condition of their environment. As a result, sand blew onto the fields and into the canal.Three years will be needed for the stabilization and 40,000 saplings have already been planted. Meanwhile, 70,000 seeds have been sown on 2,000 square metres of land, to be transported to the desert once grown.WFP also distributed food to those who planted the bushes and those who will be watering them during the coming year. The sapling bushes, selected for their resistance to drought, will grow and scatter their seeds to generate new vegetation. read more

On eve of South Sudan independence vote UN ramps up its multiple

In a referendum eve statement today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the National Government and the Southern Sudanese regional authorities for their efforts to ensure that the vote is held as scheduled in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation. In a separate report to the Security Council on the nearly 10,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), set up in 2005 to support a peace agreement that ended 20 years of war between North and South Sudan, culminating in next week’s vote, Mr. Ban hails the conciliatory statements by both sides to respect the outcome as well as progress made on post-referendum arrangements.But he also warns of the disastrous humanitarian consequences of renewed conflict, noting that the UN has prepared contingency plans for the period up to June, with a possible reinforcement of UNMIS to prevent any deterioration in security.“In the unlikely event that the referendum leads to large-scale violence, approximately 2.8 million people could be internally displaced and another 3.2 million affected by breakdowns in trade and social service delivery,” he writes. “In this scenario, as much as $63 million might be required to provide emergency assistance to those in need.”UNMIS has already increased its presence in hot spots, particularly in the oil-rich Abyei region, which was meant to hold a concurrent referendum on whether to join the North or South, but agreement on the modalities for such a vote has not been reached.“The continuing stalemate over Abyei and the Abyei referendum is a cause for alarm,” Mr. Ban stresses, noting that tensions are building up on the ground and political sensitivities and historical complexities make it difficult for either party to consider options that may be seen as concessions by their constituents.“In this charged environment, any major security incident could be damaging for the last stages of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement process,” he adds, referring to the 2005 accord that ended the civil war.UN humanitarian agencies are also preparing for all eventualities. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has pre-positioned enough food in more than 100 strategic locations to feed 1 million people for six months. This is in preparation for a potential influx of returnees to a newly independent state and the possibility that people will be displaced.Meanwhile, by barges and buses laden with beds, mattresses, sofas, chairs, tables, cooking utensils, corrugated iron sheeting, radios, TV sets, fridges and small generators, southern Sudanese are already returning at the rate of 2,000 a day, bringing the total already to 120,000. “We anticipate that many more will return in the coming months following the referendum,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today. “Many of the returnees who have lived in the North for years say they have left for fear of the unknown and the opportunity to start afresh in their native South.”With 1.5 million to 2 million southerners at present living in the north, Mr. Ban stresses in his report the need to work out post-referendum citizenship, residency and labour issues. “We are concerned about the spectre of a significant number of southerners in the north having uncertain citizen status, possibly becoming stateless,” said UNHCR. At referendum ground zero, a three-member UN panel headed by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa will travel around the country to monitor the 9-15 January polling and the counting and aggregation of results. They will also meet with relevant officials.Mr. Ban’s report is suffused with the historic dimensions of the referendum. “The coming weeks will determine the future of the Sudan for decades to come. The determination of the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to sustain peace, stability and coexistence will be the deciding factor in setting that course,” he writes. “The United Nations and the international community must continue to stand firmly behind their commitment to support the parties, the relevant institutions, and the Sudanese people through this process and beyond,” he adds, calling on the parties to agree on key post-referendum issues, including wealth-sharing, the management of assets and debts, citizenship and border security arrangements in order to ensure “a soft landing.”He stresses that the presence of UN troops alone will not be enough to prevent a return to war, should widespread hostilities erupt. “Only a demonstrated commitment by the parties to refrain from inflammatory statements, uphold the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ceasefire mechanisms and engage in dialogue to settle differences will succeed in maintaining peace,” he declares.“As events in the early days of 2011 will be unique in the history of the Sudan, I urge all partners to intensify their efforts and provide support to all Sudanese in order to ensure the successful holding of the referendum and respect the choice made by the people by endorsing and implementing its outcome.” 7 January 2011As Southern Sudan gears up for a week-long independence referendum starting on Sunday that could split Africa’s largest country in two, the United Nations is ramping up its multiple roles, from monitoring the vote to providing aid to returning southerners to preparing options for a worst-case scenario, however unlikely, of renewed warfare. read more

DR Congo UN deplores murder of five humanitarian workers

6 October 2011The United Nations today called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to capture and try those responsible for the murder of five non-governmental organization (NGO) staff in the deadliest ever single assault on humanitarian workers in the vast country. The United Nations today called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to capture and try those responsible for the murder of five non-governmental organization (NGO) staff in the deadliest ever single assault on humanitarian workers in the vast country.The five, along with several other people, were killed on Monday in Malinda in the strife-torn east of DRC on the same day that another assault was launched against an NGO in nearby Uvira, the latest in a growing number of attacks in recent weeks targeting humanitarian workers and impeding the delivery of vital aid.“We deplore with all our energy this aggression and all the other acts which hamper humanitarian work in DRC,” the UN acting coordinator in the country, Pierrette Vu Thi, said in a statement, stressing that it is primarily the Government’s responsibility to protect both Congolese citizens and members of national and international organizations.“We call on the Government to immediately open an inquiry to find the perpetrators of this odious act so as to bring them to justice,” she added.The attacks, ranging from extortion to hostage taking to using humanitarian vehicles to carry military equipment, are linked to the persistent fighting in eastern DRC and have aroused a growing sense of vulnerability in humanitarian organizations. Since August there have been 25 such incidents in North Kivu province and 15 in South Kivu, where Malinda and Uvira are located. Since January the two provinces have suffered nearly 140 such attacks.“This aggression, which plunges the humanitarian family into mourning and causes the utmost alarm, far from diverting us from our vocation, will strengthen even further our resolve to always bring to the least privileged the aid which they need,” Ms. Vu Thi said.Since 1999 and under various names, the UN has maintained a peacekeeping mission of up to nearly 20,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC to oversee the vast country’s emergence from years of civil war and factional chaos, culminating most notably in 2006 with the first democratic elections in over four decades. A measure of stability has returned to the country, which is as large as Western Europe, but fighting has continued sporadically in the east, where the bulk of the UN mission, currently known as MONUSCO, is deployed. read more

Bombardier gets German 226million order for 35 trains

BERLIN — Montreal based Bombardier says it has an order to supply Germany’s Abellio Rail with 35 of its Talent 2 trains in a deal valued at US$226 million.Bombardier announced in a release Monday morning that it will supply 20 three-car and 15 five-car trains, with the vehicles due to enter service in December 2015.The company develops and manufactures the Talent 2 trains at its site in Hennigsdorf, Germany.Bombardier says the units will be equipped with its MITRAC 1000 propulsion and control system.It says one of the advantages of this system is that it allows the train to accelerate quickly to a constant speed. read more

Why 2015 will be a tipping point for smartphone payments

TORONTO — More Canadians will be reaching for their cellphones instead of their wallets to pay for purchases this year, predicts a report by global professional services firm Deloitte.[np_storybar title=”Nine must-have (and free) financial apps for 2015″ link=””%5D If one of your resolutions is to get on top of your finances, here are a handful of financial apps that will make you a money whiz for 2015. [/np_storybar]The report, released Tuesday, sees 2015 as a “tipping point” for retailers, banks and telecom companies to adopt the technology, which allows consumers to make relatively small payments within seconds with their smartphones.Duncan Stewart, a director at Deloitte Canada, said there now are more phone models with the technology, called near field communication, and more retail locations that can accept the payments.The familiarity Canadians already have with using credit cards to tap and pay, whether in a coffee shop or at the drugstore, will make it easier for consumers to transition to using the same technology with their smartphone.If I’m doing it with my credit card, why not do it with my phone?“They think: ‘If I’m doing it with my credit card, why not do it with my phone? It’s basically the same,’” said Stewart.Deloitte’s annual report named smartphone mobile payments as its top technology trend of 2015 — beating out other emerging trends such as 3D printers, click-and-collect retail locations and the Internet of Things — a term used to describe devices that communicate with each other.It estimates that, this year, about five per cent of the world’s 600 million equipped smartphones will be used to make an in-store purchase at least once a month, a 1,000 per cent increase over 2014. By the end of the year, it expects one in 20 smartphone owners to have made a mobile payment with their phone.Although usage will be up, it is not yet “mainstream.”“It will be a long while before the majority of us can jettison our physical wallets,” said the report, although it noted the attraction of a higher spending limit for such payments using smartphones, around $100 versus $50 for credit cards.‘I once made my own laundry detergent:’ Tips from Canada’s most frugal bloggersIt only took Apple three days to sign up one million credit cards on Apple PayStewart said adoption will be driven by retailers who see benefits to promoting contactless smartphone payments, such as the ability to process transactions and to integrate loyalty programs and special in-store offers seamlessly.“The real benefit to the retailer is speed,” he said. “They don’t need to handle cash, or customers typing in a PIN. It moves people through the stores faster.”But the report also noted that one of the impediments for retailers may be the cost of installing new point-of-sale machines equipped to handle the new technology.In addition to smartphone payments, Deloitte forecasted that the popularity of physical books will continue its resurgence in 2015 with more consumers demonstrating that they’re still willing to pay for print books after the sales of ebooks plateaued or fell last year in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.It also noted that those aged 18 to 34 years will spend an average of US$750 a year on traditional and digital content this year. The report said that translates to nearly US$7 billion in sales for the Canadian media industry for pay TV, music, computer games, books, live sports, streaming video and newspapers.Deloitte’s report is based on interviews and research conducted with more than 8,000 clients, industry analysts and global leaders from June to December. read more

Competition Bureau of Canada gives 44B CoucheTard deal green light

LAVAL, Que. — The Competition Bureau of Canada is giving the green light to Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX.ATD.B) to purchase its American fuel and convenience store rival CST Brands Inc., provided the company sell some of CST’s Canadian assets to Parkland.In a statement Tuesday, the company based in Laval, Que., said the Competition Bureau gave them the clearance for the acquisition of CST Brands, and the transaction with Parkland Fuel Corp. (TSX: PKI).Couche-Tard says the closings of both transactions are expected Wednesday.The Competition Bureau says Couche-Tard’s proposed deal would lessen competition in numerous markets in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.But the government agency says to address the concern, Couche-Tard agreed to sell 366 gas stations and gasoline supply contracts to Parkland and one gas station to Philippe Gosselin & Associes Limitee.The Competition Bureau says Parkland has also agreed to sell nine gasoline supply contracts to MacEwen Petroleum Inc. or McDougall Energy Inc. in Ontario.On Monday, Couche-Tard won approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to buy CST Brands on condition that it sell up to 71 stores in the U.S. The stores are located in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas.Empire Petroleum will also have the opportunity to purchase an additional site owned by Couche-Tard. This transaction is expected to be finalized by the beginning of September.Couche-Tard is the largest convenience store operator in Canada and has more than 8,000 convenience stores throughout North America, which are mostly branded as Circle K and Mac’s. read more

JHU led protest against UN team

Hundreds of Sri Lankans protested Thursday against a visit by U.N. officials to discuss human rights issues during the country’s civil war.Monks led about 300 protesters from the Buddhist nationalist National Heritage Party during the demonstration opposite a local U.N. office. They complained Sri Lanka is being unfairly criticized for alleged abuses as the war was ending in 2009. They alleged the visit was a step toward subjecting Sri Lanka to an international war crimes investigation. Three representatives from the U.N. human rights commission have met Sri Lankan government officials and ethnic Tamil politicians and seen areas ravaged by war on their visit. A U.N. report found evidence the government and Tamil Tiger rebels committed rights violations during the war. A U.N. document said earlier at least 7,000 people were killed in the last five months of the fighting alone.The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution earlier this year urging Sri Lanka to investigate alleged war crimes committed by both sides. The visits are seen as a follow-up to the resolution, which also asked Sri Lanka to accept expertise from the office of U.N. human rights commissioner. (AP) read more

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