Morocco Peru mark 50 years of diplomatic relations

Lima-   Morocco and Peru are marking this year 50 years of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the visit paid to Peru by King Mohammed VI.Morocco’s ambassador to Peru, Oumama Aouad, stressed in an interview with MAP that the Royal visit gave a new impulse to bilateral relations and helped lay down the foundations of a solid legal foundation, resulting in the signing of a package of cooperation agreements in several fields.The ambassador noted that the two countries have intensified in the last ten years the exchange of high-level visits, especially by legislators who have, thus, showed the dynamism of parliamentary diplomacy between the two countries. Aouad, who was optimistic on perspectives of economic relations, said trade between the two countries has considerably grown but remain below the ambitions of partnership cherished by the two countries.She also applauded Lima’s decision to open a trade office in Casablanca, the first one in Africa and the Arab world, arguing that this initiative shows Morocco’s “strategic interest” as a gateway for Peruvian products to Africa and the Arab world.By the same token, she went on, Peru can also serve as a gateway for Peruvian products to South American and the Andean region.Regarding bilateral cooperation in culture and education, she recalled the exchange of visits by the two countries’ intellectuals and authors, and the cooperation agreement signed the Mohammed V University of Rabat and the San Marcos University, Latin America’s oldest university.At the multilateral level, the ambassador underscored Morocco’s contribution to consolidating South-South cooperation with the Americas, on the occasion of the South America-Arab World and the Africa-South America (ASA) summits.Aouad further recalled that the two countries established diplomatic relations on June 18, 1964, noting that Morocco was the first North African and Arab country to open diplomatic ties with Peru.As part of celebrations of 50 years of diplomatic ties, the ambassador recalled the dedication on June 3rd, of an avenue named Kingdom of Morocco at San Andres in Pisco, some 300 km south of Lima, and the building of some 300 housing units thanks to a donation of HM King Mohammed VI to victims of the quake that jolted the Peruvian region of Ica in 2007.Celebrations, held under the high patronage of HM King Mohammed VI, include a series of cultural and arts activities, including an exhibition of archives related to bilateral ties in the last 50 years, a video and picture exhibition on Morocco, a cinema event and a music concert.Morocco’s minister of foreign affairs and cooperation, Salaheddine Mezouar, started on Sunday an official visit to Peru where he will meet Peru’s Prime Minister Rene Cornejo, external relations minister Eda Rivas, and congress speaker Fredy Otarola.The head of the Moroccan diplomacy will also give a lecture at the Javier Perez de Cuellar diplomatic academy on “Morocco’s foreign policy and relations with Latin America”.The two countries will sign a series of agreements, including an agreement between the Moroccan news agency (MAP) and Peruvian press agency “Editora Peru”. read more

Moroccan Tourism Sleep Walks Into a Crisis

Marrakech- An editorial in the daily newspaper L’Economiste commented that France was panicking over the security situation after the beheading of French citizen Herve Gourdel in Algeria while Morocco is asleep. Nadia Saleh, the editor in chief of L’Economiste, also wondered in a separate editorial why some Moroccan ministers do not anticipate international crises.The tragedy of Herve Gourdel’s ugly and brutal death prompted French tourists to rebook their trips in the Canaries, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, rather than North Africa. After many kidnappings and murders in the Sahel, the ISIS-linked beheading in Algeria was the final straw for French tourists who don’t want to be caught in the wrong place and wrong time and end up as hostages or victims to be executed. But they ignore the fact that Morocco is secure, unlike terrorist-wracked Algeria. . This reaction should have been predictable. In an interview with L’Economiste, the head of the French tour operators regretted that the Moroccan Tourist Office was slow to mount a positive promotional campaign to stress that Morocco was a secure location. He urged Morocco to react quickly.Tourism, unfortunately, is particularly vulnerable to external shocks. The Moroccan tourism industry supports 500,000 Moroccan jobs. The fact that a positive campaign was not immediately launched raises several questions. In addition, Marrakech has become a more expensive holiday location than Spain or Portugal for Europeans.With French tourism to Morocco seemingly in decline, the arrest of an Englishman Ray Cole and his Moroccan companion for an alleged homosexual relationship recently erupted in the Moroccan and British media.Police supervision of personal Facebook accounts violates the Western belief of freedom of expression and privacy. However, Mr. Cole did break the law and was very naive.The failure to anticipate a clash between Western respect for personal liberty and Islamic moral precepts has made gay people realize that they will be targeted if they come to Marrakech, and it that is better for them not to come and risk prison in appalling conditions and an incomprehensible legal system.Islamist politicians like Minister of Justice Mustapha Ramed have made it clear that homosexuals are not welcome.Could it be that Morocco’s closed media scene in Arabic and French and a concentration only on local Moroccan news make Morocco unable to foresee Western reactions to oppressive policing methods?Morocco’s reputation as a country of tolerance has taken a severe hit. Many believe that the ambiguous law criminalizing sexual relations outside marriage needs to be clarified and revised. read more

Saudi Grand Mufti Says Twitter is Source of Evil and Devastation

Rabat – The controversial Saudi grand mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said that Twitter, the micro blogging social media site, is nothing more than “a source of lies” and evil, according to AFP.Twitter is “the source of all evil and devastation,” the mufti was quoted as saying. “If it were used correctly, it could be of real benefit, but unfortunately it’s exploited for trivial matters,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said on his “Fatwa” television show broadcast on Monday. The Grand Mufti argued that most of young people are wasting their time using Twitter only for trivial matters, denying the fact that Twitter could be a source of credible information and news.“People are rushing to it thinking it’s a source of credible information but it’s a source of lies and falsehood.”This is not the first time, he Saudi scholar criticizes Twitter. Last year, he harshly criticized the social media website Twitter, calling it a “council of clowns” and a place for those who “unleash unjust, incorrect and wrong tweets.” With more than 2.4 million active Twitter users, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Twitter users in the region, accounting for 40 percent of all active Twitter users in the Arab world. read more

Vin Diesel in Morocco to Shoot a Film

Rabat – Hollywood superstar Vin Diesel is reportedly in Morocco for the shooting of some scenes of Ang Lee’s upcoming movie “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” The “Fast and Furious” lead actor took to Instagram to share some photos he took in front of a Kasbah in Ouarzazate, one of the world’s filming destinations. Written by Ben Fountain, thefilm follows the story of Billy Lynn, a 19-year-old private who was sent on a campaign along with other soldiers to rally support for the war in Iraq. Hump day… Haha.A video posted by Vin Diesel (@vindiesel) on Jun 10, 2015 at 1:20pm PDT read more

Ministry of Communication to Investigate France 24s VenezuelaAl Hoceima Mistake

Rabat – The Moroccan Ministry of Communication and Culture does not seem to be satisfied with France 24’s apologies, as it is currently making legal consultations to check whether the excuses are enough.France 24’s blunder is far from being over. After the French TV channel apologized for broadcasting footage of Venezuelan protests as demonstrations taking place in Al Hoceima, the Ministry of Communication and Culture is conducting the necessary legal consultations to “determine whether France 24’s response is sufficient as it stands,” a source quoted by the Maghreb Press Agency (MAP) said.According to MAP, the department of Mohamed Laarej, Minister of Communication and Culture, is examining France 24’s apology, adding that “a legal unit has been set up to follow this subject in compliance with the laws in force and the deontology of the profession.” On July 11, the Arabic version of the French TV channel illustrated the events of Al Hoceima with videos of violent clashes in Venezuela. Soon after, Laârej wrote a letter to France Media World CEO Marie Christine Saragosse expressing “Morocco’s indignation,” stating that “what France did 24 is in total contradiction with the rules of the profession, which all media must respect.” The minister demanded an “apology to Morocco and the misled viewers,” which France 24 delivered on Monday.  During its 5 p.m. news bulletin, the channel explained that the diffusion of these images was due to a “technical failure,” adding that it tried to correct its mistake during the news bulletins that followed. read more

Moroccos GDP to Reach USD 1214 Billion in 2017 African Development

Rabat – Morocco’s GDP is expected to reach USD 121.4 billion in 2017 compared to USD 116 billion in 2016, according to the latest projection of the African Development Bank (ADB) published October 12 in Abidjan.For the first time, Morocco’s GDP is forecasted to exceed MAD 120 billion. According to a statistical bulletin of socioeconomic indicators in Africa, the performance of the Moroccan economy almost doubled in the last 12 years, from USD 65.62 billion in 2006 to 121.42 billion in 2017. With this significant growth in the national GDP, Morocco ranks sixth in Africa’s economic powers, following Nigeria with USD 581.5 billion, South African with USD 276.1 billion, Egypt with USD 263.7 billion, Algeria with USD 170.3 billion, and Sudan with 123.9 billion. For the ADB, Morocco’s economic growth is expected to see a significant acceleration in 2017, settling at 4.5 percent and 3.9 percent in 2018, mainly due to a strong rebound in agricultural production. According to the bank, the kingdom will exceed the global, African, and North African average growth rates set at 3.5, 3, and 3.1 percent in 2017 respectively. Globally, the bank is expecting a general improvement of the African economic performance on the medium term, boosted by the efforts deployed by the countries in the structural transformation of their economies, which “must continue with urgency and intensity” in the face of volatile commodity prices.According to the ADB, the dynamics of domestic demand and public investment in infrastructure have also helped support growth in many countries. “Beyond the accumulation of physical capital, the productivity of these investments, which is important for sustainable growth, must remain a political priority,” ADB experts recommend. According to the bank, budgetary and current account deficits are expected to narrow due to strong export performance and increased government revenues. At the regional level, East Africa remains the fastest growing region, with an estimated 5.4 percent in 2017 and 5.8 percent in 2018. read more

Girona FC Names Moroccos Yassine Bounou Best Player of February

Rabat – Spanish football club Girona FC has named Morocco’s international goalkeeper Yassine Bounou as its best player of the month for February.The title recognizes the footballer’s excellent performance with his Spanish squad in some of their most decisive games this season.? Bono guanya el premi “Jugador amb més Ritme” corresponent al mes de febrer.?? El guardó l’atorga @Italicklass, concessionari oficial de Fiat i Abarth a les comarques gironines.? + info— Girona FC (@GironaFC) March 13, 2018The 26-year-old footballer was born in Montreal. He made his debut with Wydad of Casablanca in 2011. On June 14, Bounou moved to Spanish giant Atletico Madrid. He then played with Morocco’s under-20 team from 2011 to 2012 and Morocco’s under 23 team from 2011 to 2012. The footballer joined the Moroccan national football team from 2017 until 2018. Bounou has made the list of Morocco’s national football team Hervé Renard for the pre-World Cup friendlies games, scheduled to take place this month. read more

Business Highlights

___To some market vets, stocks are rallying like it’s 1999NEW YORK (AP) — The furious rally for stocks this year, so quickly on the heels of last year’s scary tumble, is reminding some investors of the market’s rebound in late 1998. Few, if any, analysts on Wall Street are predicting a redux of 1999 and 2000, when the market inflated into the dot-com bubble. But the similarities are plentiful enough that investors are taking note, and some are pushing the idea that stocks can keep rising even with so many recession fears still hanging over the market.___China’s economic growth steady amid tariff fight with USSHANGHAI (AP) — China’s economic growth held steady at 6.4% over a year ago in the latest quarter, raising hopes a slowdown might be bottoming out as efforts to spur growth might be gaining traction. A revival in Chinese growth and demand for imports could help to shore up weakening global economic activity. But the growth in the first quarter was the weakest since 2009.___Sleek new SUVs dominate reveals at New York auto showNEW YORK (AP) — Auto shows may be waning in importance as companies find other ways to introduce new products, but the New York International Auto Show still has a healthy list of new vehicle debuts. In keeping with the dramatic shift from cars to sport utilities, most of the new models are SUVs. Subaru will roll out a new Outback, while Toyota has a new Highlander. Hyundai is offering a new subcompact SUV called the Venue. And Ford’s Lincoln brand will unveil a new small SUV.___US trade deficit narrows to $49.4 billion in FebruaryWASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. trade deficit fell for the second straight month in February, and the politically sensitive deficit in the trade of goods with China narrowed. The Commerce Department says the gap between the goods and services that the United States sells and what it buys from the rest of the world dropped 3.4% to $49.4 billion in February, the lowest since June.___EU threatens to tax $20 billion of US goods over Boeing aidBRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has drawn up a list of $20 billion worth of U.S. products it could tax in an escalating feud over plane industry subsidies. The European Commission said Wednesday it could tax the products, which range from aircraft parts to frozen fish, in retaliation for U.S. financial support to Boeing that it says hurt Europe’s Airbus.___Shop online? Ways to reduce damage to the environmentNEW YORK (AP) — Toothpaste delivered in two days is convenient, but not so great for the environment. Outside of ditching online shopping altogether, there are some small tweaks you can make as a shopper that can lower the impact on the environment, such as slowing down shipping times and not filling up the cart with stuff you know you won’t keep. Other tips: send items to a locker to pick up and return online orders to a physical store, if you can.___Shared electric scooters surge, overtaking docked bikesNEW YORK (AP) — Electric scooters are overtaking station-based bicycles as the most popular form of shared micromobility. According to a new report, riders took 38.5 million trips on shared electric scooters in 2018, eclipsing the 36.5 million trips riders took on shared, docked bicycles. Scooter companies are facing challenges including vandalism, rider injuries and city regulations. Yet venture capitalists, ride-hailing companies and traditional auto manufacturers pour millions into the fledgling companies.___Apple, Qualcomm settle bitter dispute over iPhone technologySAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple and mobile chip maker Qualcomm have settled a bitter financial dispute centred on some of the technology that enables iPhones to connect to the internet. The surprise truce announced Tuesday came just as the former allies turned antagonists were facing off in a federal court trial that was supposed to unfold over the next month in San Diego. Apple had been seeking at least $1 billion while Qualcomm was seeking $7 billion for unpaid royalties for the use of its technology.___Greek PM says he will revive bid for German WWII reparationsATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece’s prime minister says his government will formally revive a long-standing demand for Germany to pay vast reparations for the World War II Nazi occupation. Alexis Tsipras says that now Greece has exited its bailout programs, in which Germany was a key creditor, it can’t be accused of trying to offset its massive debt with the reparation demands. A German government spokesman says the matter has been conclusively settled in legal and political terms.___Health care companies lead US stocks lower; small-caps slumpNEW YORK (AP) — Stocks finished a wobbly day of trading on Wall Street Wednesday with modest losses that erased most of the market’s slight gains from a day earlier. A sharp sell-off in health care companies far outweighed gains in technology and other sectors. Smaller company stocks fell more than the rest of the market. Insurers helped drive the health care sector slide for the second straight day. Qualcomm led the gainers in the technology sector.The Associated Press read more

Coke 1Q Earnings Snapshot

ATLANTA (AP) _ Coca-Cola Co. (KO) on Tuesday reported first-quarter earnings of $1.68 billion.The Atlanta-based company said it had profit of 39 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 48 cents per share.The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 46 cents per share.The world’s largest beverage maker posted revenue of $8.02 billion in the period, which also topped Street forecasts. Five analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $7.89 billion.Coke shares have increased slightly since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has increased 16 per cent. The stock has risen 7 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 KO at Associated Press read more

Markets Right Now Stocks fall on trade Qualcomm ruling

NEW YORK — The latest on developments in financial markets (all times local):9:35 a.m.Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street Wednesday as investors eye developments in the U.S.-China trade dispute and absorb a key ruling in an antitrust case involving chipmaker Qualcomm.Reports say the U.S. may block several Chinese surveillance companies from buying American components. An earlier move targeting Chinese telecom company Huawei led to volatility in technology stocks this week.Qualcomm fell 9% after a federal judge ruled the company unlawfully stifled competition in the market for cellphone chips.Target rose 8% after its profits and sales exceeded expectations in the first quarter.The S&P 500 index fell 7 points, or 0.3%, to 2,857.The Dow dropped 60 points, or 0.2%, to 25,817. The Nasdaq slid 18 points, or 0.2%, to 7,767.The yield on the 10 year Treasury slipped to 2.41%.The Associated Press read more

In Gaza UN resumes full aid operations interrupted by factional fighting

The closing of UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) installations and facilities, including its headquarters and field offices, 83 schools and a food distribution centre, had been a last resort, but the situation had simply become too dangerous for its staff and for the thousands of children in its schools. Full services were restored on Tuesday. In a meeting with head teachers from the worst-affected schools in Gaza City,UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza John Ging delivered a clear message of reassurance of the agency’s continued commitment to deliver humanitarian services in spite of the new and dangerous challenges. “We have to make up the time these children lost in school days, and I assure the wider refugee population in Gaza that through the bravery and dedication of our staff,UNRWA will continue to deliver services as long as it is possible to ensure a measure of safety for our staff,” he said. “Our services are vital: 860,000 refugees depend on our food assistance, 1 million depend on our health services and we have 195,000 children in our schools. We are all hoping that the political leaders meeting in Mecca will have the courage and wisdom to find solutions to avoid a return to the violence of the past days,” he added, referring to a summit meeting between the Fatah and Hamas factions in Islam’s holiest city. Over the past two months Mr. Ging and other UN officials have repeatedly warned that the armed clashes between the rival Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, in which dozens of people are reported to have been killed or wounded, were endangering UN humanitarian operations. UNRWA, created in 1949 to care for Palestinian refugees after the foundation of Israel, now provides education, health and humanitarian aid to over 4 million people throughout the Middle East. 8 February 2007The United Nations agency that tends to Palestinian refugees has resumed full operation of its humanitarian activities in Gaza after they had been interrupted by recent inter-factional fighting. read more

Number of Afghan patients treated for TB doubled since 2001 UN health

In 2006, WHO figures show that 25,443 people, of whom 16,538 were women, were being treated for tuberculosis. In 2001, the number of cases detected and treated was slightly over 9,500.The growing availability of treatment is coupled with a decline in the spread of TB, with WHO saying that the number of new cases every year has been nearly halved over the last two decades.The agency also estimate that there were over 40,000 new cases of the disease last year, and 65 per cent of those newly infected were women between 15 and 45 years old, a highly vulnerable group.These figures come on the heels of World TB Day which was commemorated on 24 March.“Whilst we have seen tuberculosis cases dramatically cut over the past few years, the Afghan Government need to continue to engage donors, partners and civil society organizations to fund and fully support tuberculosis control activities,” said Dr. Riyad Ahmed Musa, WHO’s representative for Afghanistan.The agency called on the Government and international donors to fund the national plan to prevent the disease’s spread and increase detection and treatment.“We have achieved a lot, but we must not become complacent and we must ensure that we have the financial support to prevent the progress we have made being reversed,” he added.WHO considers the Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) courses – a treatment plan which identifies tuberculosis cases and then treats them by closely monitoring patients’ medication intake for six to eight months – the best strategy to combat the disease. DOTS has now been fully integrated into Afghanistan’s primary health care system and covers the entire country. 29 March 2007The number of patients being treated for tuberculosis in Afghanistan has more than doubled since 2001, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today, saying this could be the result of a dramatic improvement in the detection of cases. read more

Indigenous leaders voice hope that UN assembly will soon adopt rights declaration

6 September 2007Indigenous leaders today expressed hope that the United Nations General Assembly next week will adopt a declaration outlining their rights and outlawing discrimination against them. Although the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – which has been drafted and debated for more than two decades – last June, the Assembly deferred action after some Member States raised concerns.A majority of the 16 members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, an advisory body, have agreed to endorse a recently amended draft declaration for adoption by the General Assembly, Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who serves as Chair of the Forum and as the Co-coordinator of the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus on the declaration, told reporters in New York.“We think that this is a historical milestone if it is going to be adopted, and hopefully we would like it to be adopted by consensus. It is a historical milestone, too, for the indigenous peoples who have been doing this work for more than 22 years,” said Ms. Tauli-Corpus, who belongs to the Kankanaey-Igorot people of the Cordillera region in the Phillippines.She noted that States have a “historical obligation and a moral obligation” to adopt the declaration, which she characterized as a “key instrument and tool for raising awareness on indigenous peoples’ situations and indigenous peoples’ rights.”The General Assembly is expected to consider the adoption of the Declaration on 13 September before the conclusion of its current session the following day.This May at the Forum’s annual session, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said that there was a widespread misunderstanding that the declaration places indigenous peoples in a special category.“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – it’s really an instrument that interprets international human rights law in so far as it applies to indigenous peoples,” she said. “So it’s not a document, it’s not a declaration that creates new rights.”The declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.The text prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, as well as their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development. read more

On planned Brazil trip Ban Kimoon to observe efforts to combat climate

2 November 2007As United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon prepares to leave next week for an official visit to Latin America and Europe, his spokesperson today provided details on the itinerary, which includes a first-hand look at Government efforts to combat climate change and deforestation in Brazil. Spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York that while in Argentina, Mr. Ban will have a joint meeting with President Nestor Kirchner, and the President Elect, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.In Chile, in addition to attending the Ibero-American Summit, he will unveil a commemorative plaque – together with Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet – in honor of a Spanish UN staff member who was murdered in 1976 in Chile.“After leaving Chile’s capital, he will head to Punta Arenas, in southern Chile, and Antarctica – for a trip that will allow him to learn more about one of his priority issues: climate change,” Ms. Montas said.“In Brazil, he will see firsthand the Government’s efforts to confront climate change. By visiting an ethanol plant near Sao Paulo, he hopes to see how the use of biofuels has allowed Brazil to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions,” she noted.With his visit to Brazil’s Amazon region, including the Tapajós National Forest, Mr. Ban will take stock of Brazil’s recent achievements in fighting deforestation and promoting sustainable forest management.The Secretary-General is also scheduled to meet Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.On 17 November, Mr. Ban will visit Valencia, Spain, where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be releasing its latest report. The IPCC was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore. Mr. Ban’s trip builds on his previous efforts to push for action ahead of a major climate change conference to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia, where delegates from across the world are expected to try to hammer out a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which contains legally binding targets for reducing emissions but expires in 2012. read more

Cypriots right to have high expectations for a settlement top UN official

B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, told a press conference held in Nicosia that “Cypriots are right to have high expectations” given the positive tone of the Greek Cypriot leader Demetrios Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in recent discussions.Mr. Pascoe said the UN hoped and expected that efforts over the next three months would lead towards full-fledged negotiations on a settlement to the dispute.“We all know that achieving a solution will not be easy… It will require a lot of hard work and compromise, but I am confident in the end the two sides, with our help, can succeed,” he said.In response to questions, Mr. Pascoe said he expected to visit both Athens and Ankara next week for talks with Greek and Turkish officials. He is also scheduled to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the Security Council when he returns to New York.“I have certainly talked with all the interested countries around and all of them have assured me that they are quite enthusiastic about the process moving forward. There is a lot of goodwill that wants a resolution of the Cyprus problem.”The Ledra Street crossing in Nicosia is slated to open tomorrow morning after the two sides reached an agreement late last month that was welcomed by Mr. Ban as a “positive step forward.” 2 April 2008There is a “palpable sense of momentum” in Cyprus toward a lasting solution to the dispute between the Mediterranean island’s two communities, the top United Nations political official said today after wrapping up a visit. read more

Cutting red tape key to improved trade among AsiaPacific nations says UN

Cutting red tape to reduce complex transaction costs is the key to unlocking significant benefits from international trade for economies in Asia and the Pacific, according to a new report from the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “The hidden costs of trade are high – in some cases up to 15 per cent of the value of goods traded,” said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which published the report along with ADB. Designing and Implementing Trade Facilitation in Asia and Pacific states that, despite falling tariffs and the removal of import quotas, there are still major costs to global trade associated with unnecessarily complex customs and border procedures, or with inefficient transit arrangements. Trade facilitation, or “cutting red tape,” can unlock further gains from international trade, especially in Asia and the Pacific, where it takes more than three times longer to complete export procedures than it does in developed countries. Intra-regional trade in Asia could increase by $250 billion, or about 21 per cent, if trade facilitation reforms were successful in bringing countries in the region, with below-average performance, closer to the regional average. “Timely publication of trade regulations, simplification of trade procedures and documents, and improving coordination between relevant government agencies within and across borders can go a long way towards increased connectivity and integration of the region,” said Ms. Heyzer. The report, released today in Bangkok at the first Asia-Pacific Trade Facilitation Forum that brings together about 100 policymakers, traders and trade facilitation service providers from more than 25 countries across the region, provides guidance on how to assess the status of trade facilitation. It also outlines what measures and reforms are necessary, how to design trade facilitation initiatives, how to implement them at national and regional levels, and which organizations can help in this process. Ravi Ratnayake, Director of ESCAP’s Trade and Investment Division, said the report was timely as trade facilitation was vital to the region’s efforts to boost resilience to external shocks, such as the global economic crisis. “Trade facilitation, particularly within and across Asia, is an integral part of the rebalancing required to support increased domestic and regional demand as a source of economic growth,” he stated. “The book is a practical operational guide of what works in getting goods and services moving across our region’s national borders.” 25 November 2009Economic DevelopmentCutting red tape to reduce complex transaction costs is the key to unlocking significant benefits from international trade for economies in Asia and the Pacific, according to a new report from the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). read more

UNICEF aims to bring sense of stability and safety to children after

Since last week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have identified and registered some 200 unaccompanied children found in orphanages and wandering in neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince.Based on the given information and photographs taken, workers will begin to trace the families of these children, if they exist. A similar registry was used after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and more recently in cyclone-hit Myanmar.The Haitian Government estimates that up to 60,000 children have been affected by the earthquake. UNICEF expects to register several thousand children in the coming weeks.“We’ve been working with 29 partner organizations and the Government around the clock. We’re moving forward but it’s going to take some time; this is a long process,” Roshan Khadivi, a spokeswoman for UNICEF in Port-au-Prince, told the UN News Centre.“For teenagers, it’s easy for them to describe where they lived, but for babies it is much more difficult,” Ms. Khadivi said. “Some children have been traumatized so they may not open up immediately. We have counsellors on hand.” There are some success stories. Guy Hubbard, communications officer with UNICEF, wrote online about 11-year-old Sindy, who was separated from her family during the earthquake. Alone and injured, she wandered to a hospital. The hospital contacted UNICEF, which was able to track her relatives and reunite the family. “I was so happy to see them. I hugged them, and they were so happy to see me again,” Sindy told UNICEF. The children without anyone to look after them are then moved to one of five so-called “safe spaces” in Port-au-Prince. Housed in stable buildings safe spaces provide children with access to shelter, food, water and trauma counsellors. Children are taken to medical facilities, if required.UNICEF and its partners now have the capacity to house 900 children and are surveying new locations. The buildings have to provide a safe haven for the children, including an area where the children can play and interact out of view.“There are no signs on our buildings and we keep the locations private. We keep hearing reports of people just showing up at various locations. An older child can speak but babies can become victims,” Ms. Khadivi said.Since the quake, there have been reports in the media of rushed or even illegal adoptions and possible human trafficking. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is conducting investigations into alleged kidnappings.“Are some of the reports true? Yes, unfortunately. This is an issue raised at the highest level in the Haitian Government, with our partners and with the international community,” said Ms. Khadivi. As of 22 January, all adoptions in Haiti have to be approved by Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. As another layer of security, UNICEF has been working with local police known as the Children’s Brigade – to check documents of all children leaving Haiti through the Port-au-Prince airport or the border with the Dominican Republic.This weekend, a United States-based charity group was arrested at the border with 33 Haitian children who allegedly have not had their paperwork approved by the Prime Minister.Meanwhile, families around the world in the process of adopting Haitian children have pressured their governments to speed up the process – to the discouragement of UNICEF.“We are sending a message to the international community that while some adoptions have already been approved, we are asking everyone to hold off and let us register these children, and – if possible – to connect them with their communities,” Ms. Khadivi said. UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has called Haiti a “children’s emergency.”In a statement released on 19 January, she noted that “these children face increased risks of malnutrition and disease, trafficking, sexual exploitation and serious emotional trauma. The race to provide them with life-saving emergency food and medicine, safe shelter, protection, and care is under way.”As a way of proving a sense of stability to children, the Haitian Government today reopened a few of the schools that withstood the earthquake. Only 10 per cent of the schools in Port-au-Prince are functional and about 40 per cent in the southern port city of Jacmel and other localities.“There are families who are afraid of sending kids to school because they’re afraid there will be another quake,” Ms. Khadivi said.She said that she hoped the return to school, along with an immunization programme UNICEF planned to launch this week against measles, diphtheria and tetanus, would give families a greater sense of normalcy.“What I find amazing,” Ms. Khadivi said, “[is that] people are shaken, but we have come across people who have not lost hope. They are working. There is a sense to restart again. There is hope. I wish that would come across more. Children want to go back to school. People want to bring back a sense of normalcy to their lives and their children’s lives, and want to move on.” 1 February 2010Where did you sleep last night? Where did you eat? What does your neighbourhood look like? These are some of the questions United Nations staff are asking hundreds of children in Haiti after launching a new programme to keep track of children orphaned or separated from their families by the earthquake. read more

Fijian leader outlines details of political road map to General Assembly

24 September 2011Fiji is about to enter a formative period that will result in the first ever elections based on common and equal suffrage rather than racial categorization, the country’s Prime Minister has told the General Assembly’s annual general debate. Speaking before the Assembly last night, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama – who took power in the Pacific archipelago after a coup in 2006 – outlined the details of a political road map that is designed to culminate in national elections by September 2014.Between September next year and 2013, Mr. Bainimarama said, a new constitution will be drafted based on principles developed in the People’s Charter for Peace, Change and Progress.“The road map clearly states that in the process the new Fijian constitution must do away with racial categorization and discrimination, so that for the first time in Fiji’s history, Fijians will go to elections in 2014 on the basis of common and equal suffrage.”He added that electronic registration of voters for those elections will begin in January next year.The small country has been marked by recurring tensions between ethnic Fijians and other ethnic groups, and related disputes over the allocation of some parliamentary seats on the basis of ethnicity.Mr. Bainimarama said the road map “will undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from our colonial past and entrenched in past constitutions, which have impeded our nation’s progress.“This is a determined move to create a society based on substantive equality and justice, and respect for the dignity of all Fijians.” read more

Central Asian States boost UNbacked efforts to help endangered species

The meeting in Bergen, Norway, focused on the conservation of the Bukhara deer – a species endemic to Central Asia – which had previously disappeared from forests due to uncontrolled hunting, logging and unsustainable agricultural practices, but which has since been reintroduced as a result of governments’ conservation measures.While efforts in the past few years to protect the Bukhara deer have been successful, the degradation of riparian forest ecosystems still represents a major threat to the long-term survival of the deer species. In addition, the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) stressed that habitat degradation caused by climate change, overgrazing, natural disasters, and unsustainable irrigation systems among other factors are increasingly threatening other species such as wild camels, wild asses, antelopes, gazelles, sheep, goats, yaks and snow leopards.Infrastructure projects linked to exploitation of oil, gas and mineral reserves also threaten migratory species as they divide important habitats and create barriers for animals whose populations are split into smaller groups, exposing them to a higher risk of extinction.UNEP also warned that environmental degradation is affecting people’s livelihoods as well, multiplying its damaging economic and social impact in Central Asian countries.To tackle this issue, governments at the meeting agreed on the development of a new UNEP-backed action plan to protect endangered species. Under the plan, wildlife agencies and park rangers will be trained and strengthened, and economic incentives will be provided to encourage people to manage natural resources responsibly, for example, through sharing income from controlled hunting and eco-tourism in local communities.The plan, which falls under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), also includes protecting the lowland riparian forests that can be found along the river basins of the Amudaria and Syrdaria, which are a critical habitat for the Bukhara deer. It also covers the Pamir and Tian Shan mountain ranges, home to the markhor sheep and the snow leopard, and bans poaching and illegal trade. “The CMS plan provides a first strategy for increased transboundary collaboration among Governments, nature conservation agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities to enhance research, wildlife law enforcement and information exchange,” said CMS Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema. 23 November 2011Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan agreed today at a United Nations wildlife conference to step up their efforts to protect endangered species in their region, such as the Bukhara deer, the Bactrian camel and the Asiatic wild ass. read more