Polisario Front Attempts to Incite Chaos in Morocco

Rabat – The Polisario Front is hoping to drag Morocco into an atmosphere of chaos and crisis through urging separatist students to escalate their struggles against the Moroccan government as well as increase their mobilization across universities in the country.Along with the Human Rights card it uses against Morocco in the Western Sahara conflicts, the Polisario Front strives to use separatist students to incite chaos in Morocco.According to Hespress, during a recent assembly of the Saharawi Students Union, attended by Polisario leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, separatist students expressed their intention to “escalate their struggles against the Moroccan government,” in order to defend what they described “their national identity’’ after the Polisario leader urged them to do so. The Saharawi Students Union expressed its loyalty to the Polisario leader, Mohamed Abdelaziz, stressing that it is moving forward to promote the Polisario’s agenda and increase its propaganda against the Moroccan Autonomy Plan.Far from it, the Saharawi Students Union goes as far as to call upon all the separatist students to join the Polisario’s “Popular Army.“The final press statement on the assembly said that the Saharawi graduate students’ call to join the Popular Army has become necessary, in the current context,” the same source noted.As for the undergraduate Saharawi students, the Polisario Front urged them to specialize in the scientific and technical sectors so that they can develop the Polisario Front’s military later after graduating.The document also urged the separatist students to take into consideration violating the ceasefire agreement with Morocco in 1991, and resume the Polisario’s “armed resistance.” read more

Morocco Wellpositioned to Attract Indonesian Investors Minister

Rabat – Minister for Energy, Mines, Water and the Environment, Abdelkader Amara, called on Wednesday in Rabat Indonesian investors to explore the investment opportunities offered in Morocco, notably in the sector of energy.The call was made during a meeting between Amara and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Morocco Endang Dwi Syarief Syamsuri, the Ministry said in a statement.In this regard, Amara said that Indonesian enterprises are welcome to respond to the international tenders in the field of energy in Morocco. He said the sector of energy will offer investment opportunities worth 36 billion dollars in the upcoming years.The meeting was also an opportunity to overview the national strategy for energy and the rehabilitation of the mines sector. read more

Driss Lachger Denounces Corruption Ahead of Municipal Elections in Morocco

Rabat – Secratery General of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces Party (USFP)Driss Lachgar has openly denounced corruption in Morocco’s electoral process on Wednesday.Driss Lachgar made this statement in a press conference held in  Wednesday in order to present USFP’s electoral program for the upcoming municipal elections.“Morocco witnessed the highest level of corruption during the recent Elections for members of professional chambers,” argued USFP leader. He went on to add that some political parties used money in order to buy votes and even for “the purchase of candidates so that they cancel their participation”.In this regard, Lachgar called on Morocco’s Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Justice to fight this phenomenon with the same manners and approach used in the fight against terrorism.According to him, there is no difference between “votes trafficker and a terrorist…Both of them should be fought.”Leader of the opposing party also criticized the government for scheduling the parties’ election campaigns ahead of the municipal elections in August.“No Nation that respects itself schedules the election campaign in the month of August when streets across Morocco remain empty and voters are on summer vocations,” he explained.“This date which was set by the majority will have a negative impact on the municipal elections;” Driss Lachgar concluded.lachgar has also unveiled  the amount of money that his party will allocate to finance the election campaign, saying it has been estimated at MAD 11.5 million.He added that MAD 6 million of this amounts was received from the Ministry of Interior, pointing out that the party” has rejected an additional sum estimated at MAD5.5 million.”In February, the Moroccan government announced that the municipal elections, originally slated for June, would be postponed until September.The rescheduling of the elections was requested by the opposition and approved by the government. read more

Rare Sand Kittens Discovered in Southern Morocco

Rabat – A team of researchers have discovered a rare species of cats, called the Sand Cat, in Western Sahara, sharing the discovery in a video on social media.The Sand Kittens were filmed by a team of researchers during an expedition on April 27 in the Moroccan Sahara. The video was posted on Youtube on September 18 by the team, who said that it is “the first video of this species to be captured in nature.”The Sand Cat Sahara Team, a group researching the species in the south of Morocco, captured three Sand Kittens hidden between bushes and inspecting the camera. Between 6 to 8 weeks old, the kittens belong to the species Felis margarita, the only cat living in true deserts.Grégory Breton, the general manager of Panthera France, an NGO that works for the conservation of felines, explained to Moroccan news outlet Yabiladi that the animal is not very well known. “Few researchers have conducted studies on this species until now,” he said.The Sand Cat Sahara Team has been conducting research on Morocco’s Sand Cats since 2013 under the patronage of the High Commission and other organizations.To study the species effectively, the team observed 29 different specimens, capturing 13 cats and installing transmitter collars on their necks to gather information about their life habits.“I want to point out that these are not dangerous for the animal. The collars will emit a small signal, which allows us to follow them. This is the first time in the world. Nobody has done that so far,” said Breton.The video of the sand kittens is part of ongoing research, in which the team produces documentaries on local carnivorous species, including the sand cat, the fennec (Vulpes zerda), Fox Rüppel (Vulpes rueppell), the African wolves (Canis anthus), the striped wild cat (Ictonyx lybica ), and the African wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica). read more

Colombian Actress Invites Fans to Visit Morocco

Rabat – Colombian actress Maria Fernanda Yepes invited her compatriots to visit Morocco to discover the beauty of the country’s landscapes and its historical heritage.The actress was in a one month stay in Morocco, where  she filmed her exclusive Colombian telenovela “ Maria Magdalena.”  The Colombian star made her remarks on Morocco to the Colombian magazine 15 Minutos.The actress commended Morocco’s charm and the beautify and the magic of the southern landscapes of Morocco. The actress was also fascinated by the richness of Morocco’s heritage and historical monuments. During her interview with the 15 Minutos, Fernanda Yepes said that her telenovela offered fulfilled her Moroccan dream, stating that she has been always dreaming of visiting the North African country.In the interview, which was reported by Maghreb Arab Press, Fernanda Yepes said that she had made a 10-day climb with her sister and mother to discover the places and the typical landscapes of Morocco.The Colombiano said that her best experience was in the dunes of Merzouga, where she spent the night in a bivouac, underscoring the rich musical heritage of the region. The list of the places the star recommended for her compatriots includes: Jamaa El Fna square, the El Badii Palace, the Mohammed VI Museum of Water Civilization and the Menara Gardens in Marrakech.A delegation of 39 cineasts has completed the filming of the telenovela “Maria Magdalena” in the southern regions of Morocco, especially in Marrakech, Ouarzazate and Erfoud. read more

Southwest blames mechanics union for surge in cancellations

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines is lashing out at the union representing its mechanics, suggesting that they are purposely grounding planes in order to gain leverage in new contract negotiations.Southwest had cancelled more than 400 flights — 10 per cent of its schedule — by midmorning Wednesday.Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven says the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association has a history of work disruptions and says the airline is considering all options to fix its operations.The union says that Southwest is “scapegoating” mechanics, and warned that the conflict “does not bode well” for safety at one of the nation’s biggest airlines.Southwest has tangled with the union before — it has two pending lawsuits against it.David Koenig, The Associated Press read more

Made in China Icelands sweaterknitters are unhappy

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Trouble is rattling one of Iceland’s most distinctive industries: the production of the thick, hand-knitted “lopi” sweaters adored by tourists and worn with pride by locals.The individually produced, very warm sweaters have become a symbol of Iceland. But local knitters are upset at seeing their profit margins diminished by the appearance of sweaters actually made in China, albeit from authentic Icelandic wool.Containers full of local yarn are shipped from the North Atlantic island nation, made into sweaters in China, then shipped back again, labeled as “hand-knitted from Icelandic wool”.Knitting co-ops around Iceland, struggling to compete, last month urged the government to ban companies from branding woolen sweaters as “Icelandic” unless they are made locally.The Associated Press read more

French government unveils tough reform of jobless benefits

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has unveiled plans to make it more difficult for the unemployed to claim benefits.Labour minister Muriel Penicaud said Tuesday that the reform was “tough yet important.”Unions have denounced the plans as unfair and damaging to the country’s social security system.The planned changes extend the period people will have had to work to be entitled to unemployment benefits and reduces the amount wealthier workers can receive after six months out of work.The government expects the reform to save 3.4 billion euros ($3.8 billion) over three years and hopes it will reduce unemployment.Unemployment in France fell to 8.7% in the first quarter of the year, its lowest in a decade — yet it remains among the highest in Europe.Associated Press, The Associated Press read more

Latest LAPD reviewing officers actions in Costco shooting

LOS ANGELES — The Latest on a fatal shooting at a Costco Wholesale warehouse store in Southern California (all times local):12:45 p.m. MondayLos Angeles police say an off-duty officer who shot and killed a man inside a Southern California Costco store won’t have any contact with the public during a criminal investigation and separate department review.Police in the city of Corona are investigating the shooting Friday night that left Kenneth French dead and his parents critically wounded. Rick Shureih, French’s cousin, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that the 32-year-old was a “gentle giant” who had mental disabilities. He declined to give specifics about his condition.Investigators say the off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer claims French attacked him without provocation as the officer held his young child.LAPD Officer Norma Eisenman says Monday that the officer, who has not been identified, has been assigned administrative duties during the investigations. She says the officer works at the LAPD’s Southwest station.___9:58 p.m. SundayThe Los Angeles Police Department is gathering evidence and video footage in an administrative investigation into an off-duty officer who shot and killed a man authorities say attacked him inside a Southern California Costco Wholesale warehouse store.Authorities did not respond Sunday to requests for comment about what provoked the Friday night confrontation and whether anyone but the officer was armed. Two others were critically injured in the shooting in Corona, which is about 40 miles (64 kilometres) east of Los Angeles.The officer opened fire after Kenneth French, 32, of Riverside, “assaulted” him “without provocation” as the officer held his young child, Corona police said Saturday.Bullets struck French and two of his family members, police said.Rick Shureih, French’s cousin, told The Press-Enterprise that he was a “gentle giant” who was mentally disabled. Shureih also identified the other two victims as French’s parents, Russell and Paola French, and said they remained in an intensive care unit Sunday.The Associated Press read more

Lebanon new commander of UN peacekeepers takes over

2 February 2007Italian Major General Claudio Graziano today took over command of the enhanced 12,000-member-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon overseeing the cessation of hostilities agreement that ended last summer’s 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah. “We have come through some difficult days together. I leave with the conviction that we have together laid new foundations for a solid and, I hope, lasting stability,” outgoing UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Commander Major General Alain Pellegrini of France said at the ceremony in front of a cenotaph dedicated to fallen UNIFIL peacekeepers in the mission’s headquarters in the Lebanese coastal town of Naqoura. Maj. Gen. Graziano expressed his appreciation to his predecessor, underscoring his own determination to ensure that UNIFIL accomplishes its job. “I am taking command of a well-established and strong mission that is in good shape,” he said. “UNIFIL has in recent months successfully transformed itself to meet new challenges and is ready to face them.” Dignitaries attending included Lebanese officials, Lebanese Army officers, Ambassadors of troop contributing countries, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Personal Representative for Lebanon Geir Pedersen, senior officials of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) and UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Syrian Golan Heights. UNIFIL, first created by the Security Council in 1978 to confirm an Israeli withdrawal after an earlier incursion, was greatly enhanced last August to monitor the cessation of hostilities in the latest conflict, support the Lebanese armed forces as they deployed throughout south Lebanon, and extend assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons. Its new strength was set at a maximum of 15,000 troops under Council resolution 1701, which mandated a complete Israeli withdrawal, together with Lebanese army deployment in southern Lebanon. The peacekeepers have provided medical, dental and veterinarian aid to the local communities, and UNIFIL de-miners have destroyed many thousands of explosive devices, including rockets, grenades and cluster bombs, left over from the conflict. read more

Critical funding shortfall threatens UN food lifeline for 500000 Zambians

WFP needs $29 million to fund its operations across the Central African country until the end of the year, but with food stocks dwindling, it has already begun reducing some rations and is planning for a series of massive cuts to its aid operations. It is calling for cash donations so that food can be bought in Zambia and the region. “WFP’s resources are rapidly running out,” agency Country Director David Stevenson said today. “In March or April we will be forced to stop distributing food to some of the most disadvantaged people in Zambia, such as orphans and patients undergoing treatment for AIDS. “Tens of thousands of Zambians are now much healthier and more productive thanks to our food aid but without continued assistance, their lives and livelihoods will once again be put at risk,” he added. The crisis is looming at a time when widespread flooding threatens to increase the number of people in need of food assistance. “WFP is committed to helping Zambians hit by natural disasters but our resources cannot cover our current programmes let alone the increased demand from flood victims,” Mr. Stevenson said. “Obviously the widespread flooding across the region is further stretching donor funds and assistance for the needy is crucial.” Without new contributions, WFP will stop distributing nutritious daily meals in schools to over 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children in March, undermining attempts to keep them in school and jeopardizing their nutritional health. At the same time, it will stop providing food to 130,000 people in needy households headed by children, widows or grandparents as well as 28,000 households enrolled in livelihood support activities. In addition, WFP will halt critical food aid in April to 6,000 HIV/AIDS patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and their family members as well as to 9,500 chronically ill people receiving home-based care, many of whom are also on ART. “It is staggering that essential food aid for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS might have to be cut just when so much is being done by the Zambian government and others in the fight against the pandemic,” Mr. Stevenson said. “With extra funds, WFP can continue to support thousands of ART patients, giving them and their families a chance of a healthier and brighter future.” On a more positive note today, WFP said it would be able to help millions of vulnerable and chronically needy people in 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America thanks to a $20.8 million contribution from the Japanese Government, with two-thirds of the package earmarked for agency social protection programmes in nine African countries. 27 February 2007Because of a critical shortage of funds, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would be forced to cut the vital food aid rations it currently provides to around 500,000 of the most vulnerable people in Zambia over the coming weeks. read more

Nepalese children need more protection after years of suffering say UN officials

4 April 2007The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN’s human rights chief in Nepal today issued a joint appeal for the introduction of protective measures for the Himalayan country’s children, saying they suffered widespread violence, indoctrination, manipulation and abuse during the 11-year civil war that ended last year. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Representative Lena Sundh and Gillian Mellsop from UNICEF proposed that the electoral code of conduct being drawn up ahead of this year’s planned polls include specific child protection measures so that children are protected from violence and arrest. In particular they urge that this code of conduct commit political parties and other political actors to keep schools free of political meetings or other activities and to “not ask, encourage or force children in schools to participate in any political gathering or demonstration.” “Children might face further violence and manipulation, if necessary precautionary measures are not adopted… The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which Nepal has signed… guarantees children a number of rights, including the right to express their views on any matter affecting them,” the joint statement said. It also calls for laws and regulations banning the use of schools by all political actors; the use of children at schools in political activities; the enrolment/involvement of otherchildren in such activities without their parents’ prior consent, and the use of schoolbuses for transporting political activists. In addition, the statement presents 10 specific action points, covering the Government’s responsibility to safeguard children from exploitation and a call for all political parties to prevent political manipulation, along with other recommendations. The joint statement also highlighted that both the Nepalese Government and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) endorsed provisions in February committing them to “ensuring that children who are released from or have left armed forces or groups are not used for political purposes by any party, including for political propaganda.” read more

More must be done to lift fisherman out of poverty and preserve

27 April 2007The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that greater efforts must be made to lift fishermen out of poverty and reduce the overexploitation of threatened fish stocks. “While fishing’s role in helping people in the world’s poorest communities feed themselves and stave off destitution cannot be understated, our studies reveal that despite the food and income that fishing provides many fisherfolk still live in poverty,” said Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.Fishing communities are often overcrowded and are characterized by sub-standard living conditions, with residents having low levels of education and lack of access to services, such as schools and health care, and infrastructure, such as roads and markets. Many fishers also do not have the rights to the property on which they live.Opportunities for employments in fields other than fishing – an extremely hazardous occupation – are limited.Due in part to their poverty and vulnerability, fishing communities also face problems such as a high rate of HIV infection. In developing countries in Africa, Asia and Central America, the rate of infection is as much as five to 14 times greater in fishing areas than in the general population.“Stronger efforts to tackle the diverse factors underlying this reality are needed, or else these communities will simply continue to tread water, surviving from day to day, living in poverty, and not managing local fish stocks as well as they might,” Mr. Nomura said.FAO asserts that poverty also contributes to poor fishing management, resulting in the shrinking coastal and inland fish stocks.“Poor people can rarely afford to defend their long-term interests of securing access to healthy fish stock,” Mr. Nomura noted.According to the agency, greater strides to bolster education, income and health issues in fishing communities will not only help combat poverty and social problems, but will have the added benefit of solving problems related to fish stocks.In addition, by granting small-scale fishermen legal access to fishing sites, increasing their responsibility in managing local fisheries and providing training, the issues of poor management and stock degradation could be addressed.The topic of poverty and social problems in small fishing communities was discussed by 131 countries participating in FAO’s Committee on Fisheries meeting last month, who called for the “adoption of human rights principles” in social development and a “rights-based approach to managing small-scale fisheries.” read more

Ban urges Sudan to cooperate with prosecutors probing Darfur war crimes

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was “deeply concerned about the reported lack of cooperation” of the Sudanese Government with prosecutors at the ICC, which is based in The Hague.“There can be no sustainable peace without justice,” the statement said. “Peace and justice go hand in hand. Impunity for the serious crimes committed in Darfur cannot be accepted.”A Security Council resolution from 2005 requires Sudan to fully cooperate with the ICC and obliges the country to arrest and surrender those indicted by the Court.In his address to the Council earlier today, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo issued a strong warning that without increased assistance from the international community people in Darfur will be “eliminated.”Addressing an open meeting of the 15-member body, he said that “citizens from the Sudan are being deliberately attacked by Sudanese officials…. The entire Darfur region is a crime scene. Despite promises and denials, over the last five years, millions of civilians have been targeted by officials who vowed to protect them. Impunity reigns.”Despite arrest warrants being issued last April for Ahmad Harun, former Sudanese Minister of State for the Interior and now the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, and Ali Kushayb, a leader of a pro-Government Janjaweed militia, the two men – accused of committing war crimes – have yet to be apprehended. “The Sudanese Government tolerates the firefighters and promotes the arsonists at the same time,” the Prosecutor said, calling on both the international community and the Council to widen efforts to bring the two men to justice.“The Council must make publicly clear that the two fugitive indictees and those who protect them will not benefit from any lenience, any support from the international committee,” he told the debate, which included more than one dozen speakers.This year alone, the Janjaweed, who are “integrated into the Sudanese security apparatus and stationed in the vicinity of camps,” have forced over 100,000 people from their homes using “systematic” attacks – including rapes and land usurpation.He also voiced concern over attacks against peacekeepers and aid workers in Darfur, where more than 2.7 million people have become displaced since 2003 because of the fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen and another 300,000 people are estimated to have died through combat, disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy. The Prosecutor informed the Council that he will present a second case to the Court next month. It will concern “the use of the entire state apparatus for the past five years to attack the civilian population in Darfur,” he told journalists after the Council meeting. 5 June 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Sudan to cooperate with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure justice for the victims of crimes committed in the war-torn Darfur region after the Court’s Prosecutor reported that the country is “deliberately” attacking civilians. read more

Darfur military component of UNAfrican Union force reaches over 60 per cent

23 December 2008The joint African Union-United Nations mission in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan received an additional 45 troops today, bringing the number of military staff to 12,242 – just over 60 per cent of the total military component of the force. However, this is still far short of the 26,000 uniformed personnel, including police, expected at full deployment. The peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, was set up by the Security Council last year to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been displaced from their homes since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, in 2003. While the Council authorized a force of about 26,000 uniformed personnel, only some 10,000 have been deployed so far, and senior UN officials have repeatedly called on countries to supply the remaining troops and equipment needed. In his latest report on UNAMID, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that fighting on the western flank of Sudan “and displacement continue, humanitarian operations are at risk, clashes between the parties occur with regrettable regularity and the parties have not reached a negotiated peace agreement.” In this environment, he added, the peacekeeping mission is hampered by a severely under-deployed force.The 45 members of the Ethiopian Medium Transport Company that arrived in West Darfur will primarily support the distribution of cargo between sector logistics bases, the movement of bulk cargo, including water and fuel tankers, and provide transport capabilities. The remaining 80 personnel are expected to arrive later this week. Ethiopia’s contribution to UNAMID includes an Ethiopian Engineering Unit, one Infantry Battalion and one Multi-Role Logistics Company. read more

SecretaryGeneral empowering women promotes peace

“We are still far from turning this understanding into universal practice,” Mr. Ban said in a video message to the “Women for Peace” dinner in New York.Women are still under-represented in decision-making positions – especially when it comes to peace-making, peace-building and peacekeeping – in most nations, he said.Their informal work towards peace is rarely ever reflected in formal peace processes, the Secretary-General lamented. The concerns of women, who are among those who suffer the most in conflicts, are most often reflected in negotiations.“When women participate in peace negotiations, and in crafting a peace agreement, their societies are the winners,” he stressed, pledging the UN’s continued support to promote the role of women in peace-building. 17 April 2009Empowering women is essential to build better lives for all, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for greater efforts to achieve gender equality. read more

Expanded UN feeding scheme targets schoolchildren most vulnerable Iraqis

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced it is expanding its food aid operation in Iraq to reach the country’s most vulnerable groups and to begin providing free school lunches to children. WFP Iraq Country Director Edward Kallon noted that the move marks a “significant transition” in the agency’s efforts to assist vulnerable Iraqis, which until now was focused on those who have moved around the country to escape civil strife and lost access to government food rations. “Now we are moving to address the needs of all the most vulnerable people in the country with problems of access to sufficient food,” he stated. WFP’s current Iraq operation began in January 2008 to supply some 750,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) with emergency food rations, as well as 362,000 displaced Iraqis in Syria.The programme will now be extended to the end of 2009, and will provide food aid to an additional 577,000 people in Iraq, including pregnant and nursing women, malnourished children, orphans, disabled people, female-headed households and small-scale farmers in 41 food-insecure districts in 14 governorates. The operation will now also include a new school feeding programme, under which WFP will pilot the provision of free school meals to some 170,000 primary schoolchildren in eight extremely food-insecure districts in Diala, Ninewa, Sulaymaniya and Wassit Governorates.WFP is appealing to donors for an additional $42.7 million – of which it has so far received $16 million – to fund the expanded operation. A food security analysis conducted last year by WFP and the Iraqi authorities found that an estimated 930,000 people were currently food insecure in Iraq, with a further 6.4 million at risk of becoming food insecure in the event of the failure of the Public Distribution System (PDS). Mr. Kallon said the expansion of the existing operation in Iraq would pave the way for a new two-year relief and recovery operation to start next year. 26 May 2009The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced it is expanding its food aid operation in Iraq to reach the country’s most vulnerable groups and to begin providing free school lunches to children. read more

Senior UN official pays tribute to SouthEast European music at culture summit

23 June 2010The head of the United Nations agency responsible for cultural issues is paying tribute today to music as a cornerstone of understanding in South-East Europe at a gathering of the leaders from nearly a dozen regional countries in Istanbul, the 2010 European Capital of Culture. The meeting on the theme of “Music as metaphor of cultural dialogue” focuses “on the role of music as a vehicle for peace and as a key element of region’s intangible heritage, testifying to the wealth of cultural diversity and mutual influences in the region,” according to a statement from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).The heads of State or their representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, as well as the Secretary-General of the European Council, are taking part.Ahead of the meeting, experts from the various countries met to sketch out a draft of a declaration which the heads of State will finalize as the Istanbul Declaration. The draft “will focus on the role of music as a vehicle for peace and as a key element of region’s intangible heritage, testifying to the wealth of cultural diversity and mutual influences in the region.”Today’s meeting, the eight such summit held by heads of State in the region, is being staged under the auspices of the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, which was approved by the UN General Assembly and is being led by UNESCO.In a related development, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will also participate in the South-East European Cooperation Process organized in parallel by the Turkish Government. read more

Distribution of key school supplies starts in Zimbabwe with UN and donor

8 September 2010A major distribution of school supplies got under way today across Zimbabwe in an effort by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Government and international donors to ensure that every primary school student receives a textbook for all core subjects. A major distribution of school supplies got under way today across Zimbabwe in an effort by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Government and international donors to ensure that every primary school student receives a textbook for all core subjects.All 5,575 primary schools in Zimbabwe will receive the supplies thanks to support from the Educational Transition Fund (ETF), a multi-donor funding mechanism launched a year ago to mobilize resources for the education sector with a view to improving the quality of schooling for the country’s children, UNICEF said in a press release.The fund responds to numerous shortages of teaching and learning materials, textbooks and supplies in schools. Currently, around 10 pupils share every text book, while 20 per cent of primary schools, have no textbooks at all for English, mathematics or local languages.“This week children went back to school because of this visionary partnership between the Inclusive Government, international donor community and the UN. Children will go back to school with books and learning materials for the first time in years,” said David Coltart, the country’s Minister of Education, Sports, Arts and Culture. “It is a profound recognition that education is the foundation of Zimbabwe’s recovery.”Over the past decade, Zimbabwean communities managed to keep their children and maintained high national enrolment, despite a declining economy, rising unemployment, an orphan crisis and an under-resourced education sector, which was near collapse.The ETF is the first large-scale, external support to the education sector in the past decade and will provide learning resources to every primary school.The distribution will see a total of 12,000 tons of school supplies, including stationery and 13 million textbooks, distributed in the next three months.Some 20 per cent of the textbooks are being printed in Zimbabwe and the remaining in other countries in Southern Africa. A supply chain will ensure that textbooks, stationery and other school supplies from the UNICEF distribution centre are distributed to 22 hubs across the country and further transported to every school.“The distribution exercise we launch today is undoubtedly an enormous endeavour. Yet, we relish the challenge as it is a crucial first step to restoring Zimbabwe’s education system to its former glory as well as restoring the pride Zimbabweans have in educating their children,” said Peter Salama, UNICEF’s Representative in Zimbabwe.The next phase of the ETF will focus on providing teacher guides and textbooks for marginalized indigenous languages approved by the education ministry, as well as Braille texts. read more

With final voters list in place Ban hopes delayed Ivorian polls will

24 September 2010Noting the certification of the final list of voters in Côte d’Ivoire, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that he hoped this crucial step will enable the West African nation to move ahead with the holding of its long-delayed presidential elections next month. Noting the certification of the final list of voters in Côte d’Ivoire, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that he hoped this crucial step will enable the West African nation to move ahead with the holding of its long-delayed presidential elections next month.Earlier this month, President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, and the heads of two political parties reached agreement on the list, which was established by the Independent Electoral Commission and later certified by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Y. J. Choi.“The Secretary-General calls on all Ivorian political actors to build on this consensus in order to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the elections, with a view to bringing a peaceful and expeditious conclusion to this process,” his spokesperson said in a statement. Elections were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005 in the country, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south. However, they have been repeatedly postponed, most recently from March, and are now slated to be held on 31 October.Mr. Ban commended the Ivorian people for their patience and hoped “this crucial step forward” of the certification of the voters list will lead to the holding of open, free, fair and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections. The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire, known as UNOCI, has been providing logistical and technical assistance for the preparations for the presidential polls. Established in 2004, it is also tasked with facilitating other aspects of the peace process, including those related to disarmament and the reunification of the country. read more