Rabat – Morocco will host the 29th session of the Bureau of the 16th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) on April 17 and 18 in Skhirat. The meeting falls  within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2026 in Africa, set by the United Nations.Morocco is the Vice-Chair of the Bureau of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, representing the North African Region for a two-year term (2017-2018). The meeting, which will take place in Skhirat, will reiterate Morocco’s contribution to the sustainable development in Africa.The meeting also aims to review developments on the decisions taken at the 16th AMCEN in Gabon in June 2017, in order to determine the contribution of AMCEN to future global environmental events, including the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention and COP 24 on climate change.The conference executive includes representatives for the different regions from Africa, including Morocco, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, South Africa, and Gabon.The 16th Session of the AMCEN was under the theme “Investing in Innovative Environmental Solutions”  to accelerate implementation of sustainable development in the continent.The conference offered participants the opportunity to discuss climate challenges, as well as the chance to update the ministers of the symposium on the implementation of the “Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, Africa Adaptation Initiative as well as the process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” according to the UN.The ministers and environmental experts also discussed environment-related issues and initiatives related to sustainable development in the continent, including Ocean Governance, “implementation of the action on Illegal Wildlife Trade, migration and environmental security.” read more

SINGAPORE — Asian stocks were mostly higher on Monday as traders watched for developments on a fresh round of trade talks between American and Chinese officials in Beijing this week. Markets in China and Taiwan, reopening after a weeklong Lunar New Year break, posted broad gains.KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite index jumped 1.1 per cent to 2,646.45. The Kospi in South Korea advanced 0.2 per cent to 2,180.73 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.3 per cent to 28,038.09. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 was 0.2 per cent lower at 6,060.80. Stocks rose in Taiwan but fell in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.WALL STREET: Gains by technology and consumer goods companies lifted most U.S. indexes on Friday. They more than balanced out losses by financial stocks and retailers after a mixed bag of quarterly earnings. The broad S&P 500 index climbed 0.1 per cent to 2,707.88 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.1 per cent to 7,298.20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.3 per cent to 25,106.33. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks advanced 0.1 per cent to 1,506.39.U.S-CHINA TALKS: Officials from the U.S. and China will gather in Beijing for trade talks on Thursday and Friday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and trade representative Robert Lighthizer will lead the American delegation at the talks, which are aimed at bringing both sides closer to resolving deep-seated issues such as unhappiness over Beijing’s technology policy. Lower-level negotiations are set to begin Monday, but a resolution isn’t expected before a truce on tariffs expires in early March. Any agreement before then, or a simple extension of the truce, will be viewed as a positive for markets. If not, the U.S. is expected to raise import taxes from 10 per cent to 25 per cent on $200 billion in Chinese goods.ANALYST’S TAKE: “After the worst December and best January in years, it appears that we are back at inflection point across various asset classes, waiting for direction yet again,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a market commentary.ENERGY: U.S. crude lost 64 cents to $52.08 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 8 cents to settle at $52.72 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 48 cents to $61.62 per barrel. It added 47 cents to close at $62.10 per barrel in London.CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 109.95 yen from 109.73 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1328 from $1.1324.Annabelle Liang, The Associated Press read more

Rabat – King Mohammed VI, accompanied by Crown Prince Moulay El Hassan, has launched three humanitarian projects to improve the economic and social conditions of poor women and youth in Kenitra.The King launched a building project to provide housing for families of fishermen in Mehdia, a center for vocational training and job integration in Sidi Taibi, and a center for vocational training in agricultural logistics in Souk El Arbaa.With an expected cost of MAD 26 million, the projects reflect the special interest that the King takes in women and youth as crucial stakeholders to maintain social balances and revive the socio-economic dynamic for local and national development, and his unwavering will to offer them a decent and prosperous lifestyle. MAD 6 million is allocated for the housing project that will provide fishermen’s wives—nearly 250 women yearly—with training in local income-generating trades. The project will ensure supervision and support for the creation of income-generating cooperatives. The project, which is spread over 12 months, will also offer the women literacy, guidance, socio-educational support, and a daycare that offers preschool education for their children.Built on a plot of 1,500 square meters, the future facility will contain workshops for culinary arts, sewing, embroidery, knitting, and handicrafts. It will also include classrooms for literacy, computer, tutoring, counselling, and sale of homemade products, as well as a nursery and playground.Read Also: King Mohammed VI Launches Foodstuffs Distribution Operation ‘Ramadan 1439’The second project, a center for vocational training and job integration in Sidi Taibi, will open new prospects for young people to learn skills to integrate into the job market and improve their living conditions.The humanitarian project, costing MAD 8 million, seeks to increase access to various tools and means of social and vocational integration. The nearly 400 trainees who will benefit per year will learn from cultural and social activities that instill responsibility and encourage citizenship and voluntary work.The future center, which will also take 12 months, will be built on an area of 1,200 square meters. It will include workshops for sewing, painting, decoration, electrical building, carpentry, classrooms, meeting rooms, computer rooms, and a library.As for the center for vocational training in agricultural logistics in Souk El Arbaa, it is the solidarity result of the will of the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity to ensure that youth, primarily dropouts, receive training in sectors that are adapted to the socio-economic nature of the region and to the needs of businesses.The construction work for the center will take place in a surface area of 5,000 square meters and is scheduled to take 18 months for MAD 12 million. The center will guarantee socio-vocational integration for young people and support the agricultural sector’s development by providing technical, skilled, and competitive labor.The facility will comprise workshops for technical training (agricultural machinery repair, packaging, industrial refrigeration, industrial maintenance), training rooms (office automation, business management), classrooms, computer and language rooms, and a library. The project will benefit 600 trainees per year.The center is the fruit of a partnership between the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity and the Office of Vocational Training and Labor Promotion (OFPPT). read more

Rabat – Moroccan authorities have arrested four people in Oujda allegedly in possession of suspicious materials and equipment that could put lives at risk.A statement from the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) said that the Oujda police department conducted a joint-operation on Saturday with the Royal Gendarmerie on the basis of DGSN intelligence. The principal suspect was arrested in Oujda and three accomplices were arrested at a toll station on the highway, in possession of 200 gas bombs and 11 electric batons. The suspects were placed in custody for further investigation to determine other suspects involved in the operation.

Rabat- The Ministry of Equipment, Transport, and Logistics has denounced rumors that it will extend the formally required training period for driver’s licenses to six months, insisting that it is fixed at 30 days.The 30-day training period begins from the application day and lasts until the test period. Some news outlets had reported that driving candidates would be required to wait six months to take their first test.The ministry emphasized that driving permit applicants will benefit from an extended contract period of six months, renewable for a further three-month period. The extended contract is to improve training conditions and ensure transparency between trainees and driving schools. The ministry added that the training hours during the 30-day training period are not required to exceed 20 hours for all license categories and 30 hours for heavy equipment vehicles.The contract will include the number of additional training hours agreed on between the trainee and the driving institution.The ministry also announced that the training fees will be fixed at MAD 2,250: MAD 37 per hour for the theoretical test and MAD 75.5 per hour for the applied training for category B, the license to drive regular cars.Since December 2017, driving candidates must earn 34 points out of 40 to pass the theoretical test for license B. The previous passing score was 30 points out of 40. read more

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon abruptly dropped plans Thursday for a big new headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks promised to what is already one of the world’s richest, most powerful companies.“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York,” the online giant from Seattle said in a blog post announcing its withdrawal.The stunning move was a serious blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the project, competing against more than 200 other metropolitan areas across the continent that were practically tripping over each other to offer incentives to Amazon in a bidding war the company stoked.Cuomo lashed out at fellow New York politicians over Amazon’s change of heart, saying the project would have helped diversify the city’s economy, cement its status as an emerging tech hub and generate money for schools, housing and transit.“A small group politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community,” he said.But Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City’s new liberal firebrand, exulted over Amazon’s pullout.“Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” she tweeted, referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.The swift unraveling of the project reflected growing antipathy toward large technology companies among liberals and populists who accuse big business of holding down wages and wielding too much political clout, analysts said.READ MORE: What people are saying about Amazon dumping NYC HQ plans“This all of a sudden became a perfect test case for all those arguments,” said Joe Parilla, a fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Project.Amazon ultimately decided it did not want to be drawn into that battle.Amazon announced in November that it had chosen the Long Island City section of Queens for one of two new headquarters, with the other in Arlington, Virginia. Both would get 25,000 jobs. A third site in Nashville, Tennessee, would get 5,000.The company planned to spend $2.5 billion building the New York office, choosing the area in part because of its large pool of tech talent. The governor and the mayor had argued that the project would spur economic growth that would pay for the $2.8 billion in state and city incentives many times over.After Amazon backed out, the mayor criticized it for not doing more to try to win over New Yorkers, saying: “You have to be tough to make it in New York City.”In pulling out, Amazon said it isn’t looking for a replacement location “at this time.” It said it plans to spread the technology jobs that were slated for New York to other offices around the U.S. and Canada, including Chicago, Toronto and Austin, Texas. It will also expand its existing New York offices, which already have about 5,000 employees.Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining that the project was an extravagant giveaway — or worse, a shakedown — and that it wouldn’t provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.The list of grievances against the project grew as the months wore on, with critics complaining about Amazon’s stance on unions and some Long Island City residents fretting that the company’s arrival would drive up rents and other costs.Opposition to the deal was led in the Democrat-controlled state Senate by Michael Gianaris, the chamber’s No. 2 lawmaker, whose district includes Long Island City. Initially among the politicians who supported bringing an Amazon headquarters to the city, Gianaris did an about-face after the deal was announced, criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the generous incentives.Earlier this month, Gianaris was appointed to a little-known state panel that could have ultimately been asked to approve the subsidies.It is unclear whether the City Council had any power to scuttle the deal. But City Council members held hearings at which they grilled Amazon officials about the company’s labor practices, its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide facial recognition technology and other issues.Construction industry groups and some local business leaders had urged the public and officials to get behind the plan.Eric Benaim, a realty executive who gets most of his sales and rentals in Long Island City, had led a petition in support of Amazon, drawing 4,000 signatures.“I woke up this morning and I had no clue this would happen. Zero. This news is a shock, and I’m devastated,” he said.A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.Andrew Ousley, a business owner who lives near the proposed site, said he had been considering moving out before Amazon moved in.“Now that they’re not coming, I’m more likely to stay and see how the neighborhood continues to grow and evolve in a more organic fashion,” he said.In recent weeks, a City Council leader whose district includes Long Island City tried to get Amazon officials to agree to remain neutral in the face of any potential union drive. But an Amazon executive would not give such a commitment.___Associated Press Writers Verena Dobnik, Karen Matthews, Kiley Armstrong in New York; Chris Rugaber in Washington; and Chris Carola and David Klepper in Albany, New York, contributed to this story. read more

Rabat – According to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), Kohler issued a statement after the closing of the roundtable, convening Morocco, Mauritania, Polisario, and Algeria.According to the statement, the delegations agreed that the personal envoy would invite them to a second roundtable in the first quarter of 2019.Kohler’s statement added that the “delegations discussed regional issues and the next steps in the Western Sahara policy process.” Read Also: The US Follows UN-led Western Sahara Roundtable in Geneva CloselyAccording to Kohler, all delegations recognized that cooperation and regional integration “are the best way to address the many important challenges facing the region.“The delegations also acknowledged that a solution to the Western Sahara conflict will contribute to the improvement of the lives of the people of the region.Following the roundtable, Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said in a press conference that the Moroccan delegation, especially Sahrawi members gave presentations about the development projects in the region.  The delegation included President of the Laayoune-Sakia El Hamra region Sidi Hamdi Ould Errachid; President of the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region Ynja Khattat; and Fatima Adli, a member of the Smara municipal council.Bourita, who led the delegation, added that Ynja, Adli and Errachid also explained the role of women and youth as a bridge to end the conflict.Bourita confirmed that Kohler talked about his intention to invite the parties to conflict to a second roundtable that will occur in the first three months of 2019.He added that the participation of Sahrawis in the roundtable had an important influence.Bourita added that Morocco emphasized at the end of the roundtable that “a good spirit to end the conflict is good, but not enough.”He said that there should be an “utter determination to find a solution” to the conflict.While acknowledging that the discussions in Geneva were carried out in an atmosphere of optimism, Bourita said that “we should be certain” that this is  translated into a strong willingness to end the conflict.He concluded that Morocco considers this roundtable “as a test to see whether the parties have the determination to move forward toward a solution.” read more

Now there’s one more place where cameras could start watching you — from 30,000 feet.Newer seat-back entertainment systems on some airplanes operated by American Airlines and Singapore Airlines have cameras, and it’s likely they are also on planes used by other carriers.American and Singapore both say they have never activated the cameras and have no plans to use them. However, companies that make the entertainment systems are installing cameras to offer future options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman.A passenger on a Singapore flight posted a photo of the seat-back display this week, and the tweet was shared several hundred times. Buzzfeed first reported that the cameras are on American planes, too.The Associated Press

Rabat – The Moroccan karate delegation emerged victorious from the 2019 Africa Championship, held in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, from July 12th to July 14th. The Moroccan team won a total of 15 medals. The team won 11 gold medals across the competition, as well as three bronze medals.Morocco excelled in multiple categories, with Adnane Hakimi and Sanae Agelmam winning gold in their kata categories. In the individual male Kumite category, Oussama Edari, Oussama Fahssi, Abdesslam Ameknassi, and Yassine Sekouri all won gold in their respective weight classes. Abdelilah Boujdi won a bronze medal in the Kumite category. Moroccan women also dominated female Kumite competitions. Aicha Sayah, Khawla Ouhammad, and Sara Slassi all brought home gold medals, while Btissam Sadini won bronze. The Moroccan delegation also performed well in the team based categories, winning gold in both male and female team Kata, and bronze in male team Kumite. Egypt’s team came second to Morocco with 22 medals; 10 gold, 6 silver, and 6 bronze. Egypt was followed by Senegal with two gold, four silver,  and four bronze medals, and then Tunisia with three medals, two gold, and one silver. read more

VICTORIA — Get ready for higher gasoline prices and shortages in British Columbia and a supply surplus on the Prairies if Alberta Premier Jason Kenney uses a newly proclaimed law to restrict fuel exports to its western neighbour, say industry experts and court documents.“The one wild card factor that we really can’t predict is the political factor: would, in fact, the Alberta government actually put in effect, in practice, the curtailment of gasoline and diesel shipments from Alberta to the West Coast,” Michael Ervin, Kent Group Ltd., senior vice-president, said Thursday.The Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, the so-called turn-off-the taps law, was passed by the former Alberta government a year ago. Kenney’s United Conservatives proclaimed it as law this week and the threat to put the squeeze on B.C. is real, said Ervin, a petroleum market expert.“The possibility of that certainly changed, increased since Premier Kenney has been elected into office,” he said in a telephone interview from Sidney, B.C.RELATED: B.C.-Alberta court battle over oil shipments is different this time: EbyErvin said he expected gasoline prices in B.C. to jump by at least 10 cents per litre if Alberta started restricting fuel supplies. He said oil companies in Alberta may also feel the pinch because their B.C. customers will be cut off, creating a surplus there.The B.C. government immediately moved to have Alberta’s law declared unconstitutional with a legal challenge, claiming “the central purpose and legal effect of the act is to authorize and provide for discrimination against British Columbia in relation to exports of natural gas, crude oil and refined fuels.”An initial hearing is set for May 7 in Calgary.An affidavit filed alongside the statement of claim outlines B.C.’s dependence on Alberta fuel products and the potential impacts of cutbacks.“The threat of refined fuel supply shortages can have rapid price impacts,” Michael Rensing, a B.C. government energy expert, says in the document.He pointed to an anti-pipeline protest in July 2018, where demonstrators hung on lines from a bridge above Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. He said those actions had the potential to cause fuel shortages on Vancouver Island.“They advised me that if the supply of gasoline to Vancouver Island was interrupted for even 48 hours, that could affect the ability of retail gas stations there to remain open,” the affidavit says. “If the volume of refined fuels supplied to B.C. consumers through the Trans Mountain pipeline is significantly reduced, shortages of those products will likely occur.”RELATED: B.C. files legal paperwork after Alberta proclaims Bill 12Rensing’s affidavit says an explosion at an Enbridge natural gas pipeline near Prince George last October saw prices increase by 10 cents within 48 hours. The explosion did not disrupt natural gas supplies to the refinery near Vancouver but the possibility of shortages sent prices upwards, it says.Alberta supplies, directly or indirectly, more than 80 per cent of the gasoline and diesel used in B.C., says the affidavit.“Each day British Columbians consume between 70,000 and 85,000 barrels of gasoline, and between 55,000 and 70,000 barrels of diesel,” says the affidavit. “Approximately 55 per cent of B.C.’s gasoline and 71 per cent of its diesel is imported from Alberta refineries. The majority of these refined fuels are transported to B.C. through the Trans Mountain Pipeline.”Brian Ahearn, vice-president Western Canada for the Canadian Fuels Association, urged Alberta to take a cautious approach on fuel restrictions.“Because certainly the transportation fuels business is a very integrated business with respect to transportation of fuels between Alberta and B.C.,” said Ahearn. “We’re really hoping the government will look at other solutions, other options.”B.C. Premier John Horgan, who’s already facing daily calls to provide relief to $1.70 per litre gas prices in Metro Vancouver, called Alberta’s law regrettable and said the federal government needs to put more fuel in the pipeline.“We’re trying a whole range of factors to reduce costs on people and then the gas price thing comes whack in the middle of that and there’s very little control I have over that,” Horgan said.RELATED: Alberta law allows oil cuts to B.C.; Premier Kenney says won’t use right awayB.C. Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson said he isn’t buying Horgan’s statements about his inability to reduce gas prices. Wilkinson said Horgan can drop some of the estimated 35 cents per litre taxes on fuel prices in the Vancouver area.“It sounds like we’re being told to suck it up,” he said.B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon said concerns about higher gas prices and fuel shortages are causing widespread concern.“That impacts business,” he said. “It impacts families. It impacts the government. It creates a real crisis.”He urged Kenny and Horgan to step back from the dispute and see the strong bonds between their provinces.“We’re the two most integrated economies in the country, on labour, on trade, on the movement of goods, on investment, and there are huge opportunities of things we could be doing to grow our economies, but the Trans Mountain expansion and this energy conflict is in the way of it,” said D’Avignon.The premiers need to find a solution, he said.“People forget that families, friends and companies move back and forth between Alberta and B.C. everyday,” D’Avignon said. “When B.C. gets a cold, Alberta gets sick and vice versa.”Kenny was in Ottawa Thursday testifying before the Senate’s energy committee about the bill overhauling environmental assessments. He told the committee that Bill C-69 violates Alberta’s constitutional right to regulate its natural resources. read more

Rabat – Authorities in the German city of Hanover found on Tuesday, September 3, a 250-kilogram-bomb hidden underground since the WWII. Authorities have evacuated 15,000 people as a precaution while the bomb was defused safely.The inhabitants were subsequently able to return to their homes at around 1 am local time on Tuesday, August 3 (midnight GMT).Bombs dropped during the WWII are often found in Germany, which was a target of intensive Allied bombing at the time. In 2017, around 65,000 inhabitants in the city of Frankfurt were evacuated after the discovery of a huge British bomb with a charge of 1.4 tons of explosives.According to experts quoted by the weekly Der Spiegel, nearly 10% of the millions of bombs dropped on Germany until 1945 did not explode.

13 March 2007Caribbean countries should take advantage of the window of opportunity offered by the rapid transition in the age structure of the region’s population, a United Nations report issued today recommends. The region is undergoing a little-noticed but dramatic demographic shift, says the report, Changing Age Structures of Populations and their Implications for Development in the Caribbean, issued by the Subregional Headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Port of Spain.Increased longevity and declining sizes of younger generations are apparent in the region, where the aging process is occurring much faster and under less favourable conditions than in the more developed world.Successful basic social and health care systems have resulted in longer life expectancy and declining child mortality, the report states. This, along with declining fertility rates, has led to one of the world’s fasted demographic transitions.Two Caribbean countries, the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, with both 17 per cent, are among the top 25 per cent of countries with the highest percentage of persons aged 60 years and over. Eight other countries are on the top half of the world’s countries with regard to ageing: Cuba (16 per cent), the Netherlands Antilles (14 per cent), Barbados (13 per cent), Trinidad and Tobago (11 per cent), Jamaica and Saint Lucia (10 per cent) and Suriname and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (10 per cent).These demographic changes, says the report, will have a major impact on the labour force and on social security, pensions and health care systems. Universal basic social and health care can no longer be financed solely by governments. But while almost all countries recognize this, a comprehensive reform of health care, social protection and pension systems has not yet taken place.Social protection needs to integrate women’s needs, the report says. Women outlive men, but older men seem to be generally healthier than older women. Widows do not generally receive a pension and women are often excluded from the formal labour market – two factors limiting women’s access to social protection.While these challenges may appear insurmountable, windows of opportunity are opening, the report says. The most important is the favourable demographic situation, with the largest labour force in history and the smallest percentage of beneficiaries.Globalization and the need to restructure Caribbean economies provide room for new avenues to diversify the economy, such as health tourism or sustainable agriculture, the report states. Partnerships with the Caribbean Diaspora may offer new business approaches and provide more investment, it notes, calling on Caribbean leaders to pursue these and other windows of opportunity to ensure a prosperous future for the region. read more

The UN estimates that some 20 million people are believed to be affected in India, Nepal and Bangladesh in what is being described as the “worst flooding in living memory.” According to UNICEF, hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, possessions, livestock and fields and will have to begin their lives from scratch when flood waters recede.Among the most urgent needs are shelter and access to fresh water, food, emergency medical supplies and basic household items. Last Friday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it is sending up to three months worth of emergency rations to some 60,000 flood victims in Nepal. However, given the number of families affected and the remoteness of the impacted areas, the agency estimates that it will need some $1.5 million to meet the basic food requirements of the flood victims in the Himalayan country.Severe weather during this year’s monsoon season has wreaked havoc across South Asia in recent weeks. In addition to those suffering in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, some two million people were affected by devastating flooding in Pakistan when Cyclone Yemyin struck the country in late June. 6 August 2007As monsoon rains continue to pound South Asia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the sheer size and scale of the resulting floods, as well as the massive numbers of people affected, poses an “unprecedented challenge” for governments and aid agencies in their relief efforts. read more

The official transfer of authority from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to the hybrid force – with AU troops exchanging their green headgear for the UN’s blue beret – took place at a ceremony in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher, the headquarters of the new UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Authorized by the Security Council in July, UNAMID will have some 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff at full deployment. Currently, there are more than 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 7,000 troops and 1,200 police serving with the AMIS, as well as UN soldiers and police officers serving as part of the UN’s “heavy” and “light support packages” deployed to support AMIS over the last year. In a message to the handover ceremony, Mr. Ban emphasized the need for troop and police contributing countries to deploy their personnel as quickly as possible. “If we are to have a real impact on the situation on the ground within the first half of 2008, these deployments must happen far more swiftly than they have done so far,” the Secretary-General said in a statement read out by Joint UN-AU Special Representative and Head of UNAMID Rodolphe Adada. Mr. Ban added that critical gaps remained in the UNAMID force as no pledges have been received so far for ground and transportation units and aviation assets, which are essential to the mobility of the force and its ability to adequately protect the civilian population in the vast area of Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million forced to flee their homes since fighting began in 2003 between Government forces and rebel groups.While noting that today marks “a new and profoundly challenging chapter in the history of United Nations peacekeeping,” Mr. Ban stressed that UNAMID’s deployment will only be as effective as the political process it is mandated to support. He urged all parties to cease violence and come to the negotiating table to settle their differences. “Only after an inclusive peace agreement is reached will the outstanding grievances of all parties be addressed, and the requirements for a lasting solution to the crisis put in place,” he said.Echoing Mr. Ban’s comments, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan stressed that comprehensive peace can only be achieved when all parts of the country have achieved peace and harmony. “We should all work towards a prosperous, peaceful and united Sudan,” Ashraf Qazi stated, calling on all parties to the Darfur conflict to shun violence and participate in the peace process for the sake of the future generations.Efforts on the political front are being led by the UN and AU Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, who have been pursuing a political settlement to the crisis through negotiations aimed at a achieving a peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Darfurian movements.Meanwhile, in a statement released on Sunday, the Chairman of the Darfur Ceasefire Commission, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, noted with great concern the arrest of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) representative to the Commission, Major General Bashir, and five other JEM members on Sunday in El Fasher.Despite the efforts of the AMIS leadership to prevent the arrest, Government authorities stormed the premises housing the JEM representative early Sunday morning. Gen. Agwai has been in contact with both JEM – one of Darfur’s many rebel groups – and the Government of Sudan to de-escalate the tensions and ensure the safe release of the JEM representatives. 31 December 2007The joint United Nations-African Union force set up to stem the violence in Darfur took the reigns today from the existing AU operation in the war-torn Sudanese region, but Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that critical gaps remain in what will be the world body’s largest peacekeeping operation at full strength. read more

9 May 2008Djibouti has become the first country to launch a joint programme by United Nations agencies to move more quickly to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM). The joint programme, run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), is to begin in a country where nine out of every ten females has undergone the harmful practice.Djibouti’s First Lady, Kadra Mahamoud Haïd, who officially launched the programme yesterday, said that it was “a route towards social progress, a tool to fulfil basic human rights, especially on integrity and dignity for girls and women.” She also noted that, since FGM is gender-based violence, the Government of Djibouti, “has set up legal and institutional mechanisms to eradicate the violence.”A World Health Organization (WHO) study in six African countries found that women who have undergone FGM face significantly higher risks of extensive bleeding, prolonged labour and death when giving birth.UNICEF estimates that around 3 million girls are at risk of FGM every year. Speaking on behalf of the UN, Margaret Thuo said that “every community desires to live in dignity and with security,” but added that this is not possible when the human rights of one segment of society are denied.Djibouti’s Minister of Women’s Promotion, Family Welfare and Social Affairs, Nimo Boulhan, said, “whatever the justifications are, we need to address this problem and stop subjecting girls and women to unnecessary suffering.”The UNFPA/UNICEF Joint Programme and Trust Fund to accelerate the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting aims to build partnerships with Government, donors, foundations, the media and religious leaders. read more

15 December 2009Arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark, today to inject fresh energy into climate change talks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon exhorted nations to ‘seal the deal’ on an ambitious new agreement, warning that the well-being of all of the world’s people is at stake. The two-week summit under way in the Danish capital is “as momentous as the negotiations that created our great United Nations… from the ashes of war more than 60 years ago,” Mr. Ban said at the opening of the conference’s high-level segment.“Once again, we are on the cusp of history.”With the two-week summit set to wrap up on Friday, Mr. Ban underscored that nations cannot be allowed to fail in the home stretch, urging countries to put aside their “maximalist” negotiating positions and “unreasonable” demands.“We do not have another year to negotiate,” he said. “Nature does not negotiate.”Over 130 heads of State and government have confirmed their participation at conference, “clear proof that climate change has risen to the top of the global agenda,” the Secretary-General noted.But he acknowledged that all leaders coming to Copenhagen face domestic pressures.“No one will get everything they want in this negotiation. But if we work together and get a deal, everyone will get what they need.”Talks were briefly suspended yesterday by African nations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, currently the only legally binding pact on climate change.Many industrialized countries are hoping to merge the Protocol and the outcome of the two-week Copenhagen meeting, in its second week, into a single agreement.However, their developing counterparts, among the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, want to extend the Protocol past 2012, when its first commitment period ends, and hammer out a separate agreement this week in the Danish capital.“I also know that the legitimate concerns of the most vulnerable remain,” Mr. Ban said today. “Ambition levels are not sufficient.”An agreement that all nations can embrace must be forged in Copenhagen that brings all countries together with the common goal of reining global temperature rise to within two degrees centigrade and promotes ‘green’ growth, he said.Any deal, the Secretary-General emphasized, must incorporate five key elements: more ambitious mid-term emissions reductions targets from industrialized countries; stepped-up efforts by developing nations to curb emissions growth; an adaptation framework; financing and technology support; and transparent and equitable governance.He also underlined the need for countries to hammer out how to provide medium- and long-term financing to bolster climate resilience, limit deforestation and further low-emissions growth.“We need to set a firm date for completing a new legally binding agreement as soon as possible in 2010,” Mr. Ban said to journalists after meeting with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark in the evening. “As soon as we agree on a politically binding agreement in Copenhagen, this agreement should be translated into legally binding treat as soon as possible. We need to set a date, a deadline. This deadline cannot be left hanging.”Addressing reporters earlier today, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that the process is “not about ramming the interests of a few down the throats of many. This process is about many trying to address all interests.”Complicating the negotiations in Copenhagen are the various interests, he said, including small island nations’ fears that they will be inundated by sea level rise, oil producers fearing the future of the economy and major developing nations which are concerned about economic growth and poverty eradication.Nobel Peace Prize laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai was inducted as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on the environment and climate change in Copenhagen today.“Wangari Maathai is a living example of how much difference one person, with passion and dedication, can make in the world,” the Secretary-General said at the induction ceremony.Professor Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, founded the grassroots group known as the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees on community lands across Africa and worked to improve environmental conservation and reduce poverty.“She was also the first environmental activist to win [the Nobel Peace Prize] – sending an important message that environmental protection is every bit a matter of peace and security as the more traditional diplomatic efforts that usually claim the award,” Mr. Ban said.UN agencies and their partner organizations also took part in raising awareness of the humanitarian toll of climate change, holding a ‘Humanitarian Day’ in Copenhagen.The various events held to mark the Day sought to give a joint voice to humanitarian actors “to put across the message the climate change is not some abstract problem for the future,” John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters.“It’s a problem which is happening right here and now and happening to ordinary people, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable populations around the world.”Mr. Holmes, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, pointed to the humanitarian impacts of climate change, including the increasing number and intensity of disasters, as well as migration triggered by factors such as a rise in sea levels.“We can do something about this. We are not helpless in the face of this,” he stressed, underscoring the importance of disaster risk reduction, early warning systems and others. read more

23 February 2010The response to the catastrophic earthquake which devastated Haiti last month has proven to be a test case for the ability of United Nations peacekeeping to respond with speed and flexibility, a senior United Nations official has said. The world body’s mission in the impoverished Caribbean nation, known as MINUSTAH, was on the front line in both search-and-rescue and humanitarian assistance efforts immediately after the earthquake struck on 12 January, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra said yesterday at the start of the 2010 substantive session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations in New York. The loss of 102 UN personnel – civilian, military and police – has created a “vast gap at the heart of the United Nations,” she said, with MINUSTAH having lost 92 staff members, including its leadership. “Our focus remains on supporting the people of Haiti to continue to implement its mandate, even given the constraints on capacities arising from the earthquake’s aftermath,” Ms. Malcorra emphasized. She noted that the UN Secretariat, together with Member States, is endeavouring to “improve our level of service and to calibrate our tools and procedures to the needs on the ground.” For his part, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy highlighted the “ambitious forward-looking agenda” that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recently put forward. “I hope 2010 will set us on a path towards providing our personnel with the necessary guidance, resources, and political and operational support structures to deliver all of their mandated tasks effectively,” Mr. Le Roy said. A key priority in the Secretary-General’s report is to ensure that mandates are effectively implemented by filling “critical gaps” in peacekeeping operations and that blue helmets are “well prepared, equipped and enabled to deliver against reasonable performance expectations.” More than 20 speakers took the floor in yesterday’s meeting, with the Special Committee’s general debate continuing today. read more

Media reports state that dozens of people may have been killed over the past week in Homs, one of the towns and cities in Syria where tensions have been strongest between demonstrators and security forces.Syria has been swept by deadly unrest this year as part of the broader movement for greater freedom across North Africa and the Middle East, and Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials have repeatedly expressed concern about the way that Syrian authorities have cracked down on the protesters.In a statement issued by his spokesperson today, Mr. Ban “reiterates his call for a credible and inclusive dialogue, which should be carried out without delay and be part of a broad and genuine reform effort.“The mass arrests of protesters are not consistent with serious reform, and should stop,” the statement added, noting that Mr. Ban is also urging Syria’s President Bashar Assad to provide a concrete response to the immediate grievances and longer-term concerns of ordinary Syrians.The statement also stressed that Mr. Ban is urging authorities to allow humanitarian access to areas affected by the violence and to facilitate the visit of a fact-finding mission with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). 20 July 2011Voicing deep concern at the escalating violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the country’s authorities “to stop repression immediately” and urged all sides to refrain from violence. read more

TORONTO — The Royal Bank is increasing several of its residential mortgage rates, including fix posted rates as well as special offer rates.Royal Bank’s announcement Wednesday came a day after the Bank of Montreal raised some of its mortgage rates.For the most part, Royal Bank is increasing the rates by 20 basis points, with its fixed five-year closed mortgage rising to 5.34% and its five-year special rate to 3.89%.The rate changes are effective Thursday.Other rates rising 0.2 percentage points include the bank’s posted three- and four-year closed rates to 3.95% and 4.74% respectively.Royal’s special offer four-year closed rate also goes up 20 basis points to 3.59%, its seven-year special offer closed rate by 20 basis points to 4.19% and its 10-year special offer closed rate to by 30 basis points to 4.59%.On Tuesday, Bank of Montreal boosted two of its rates by 20 basis points.The five-year fixed closed rate and the five-year special fixed closed rate are now both 3.79%.Laurentian Bank followed suit on Wednesday, announcing 20-basis point boosts to its three-year, four-year and five-year fixed rates.The rates are now 3.95%, 4.74% and 5.34%, respectively.The Canadian Press read more

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar drifted lower Wednesday morning amid general U.S. dollar strength.The loonie was down 0.07 of a cent to 91.27 cents US to levels last seen in September 2009.The new year is only two weeks old and the loonie has already fallen 3.1%, making it the worst performing primary currency.The reasons for the decline are many. One is that the greenback has gained in value as the Federal Reserve starts to back away from its massive monthly bond purchases.But recent Canadian economic data has disappointed markets, particularly reports last week showing a rising trade deficit and December employment data showing the loss of 46,000 jobs.The Bank of Canada’s dovish stand on interest rates has also contributed to the fall and traders are particularly looking to what the central bank has to say next week in its next scheduled announcement on interest rates. Governor Stephen Poloz has signalled the bank is in no rush to raise rates and analysts aren’t looking for a hike until next year.“People are starting to get the view the Bank of Canada is certainly not going to be raising rates, but might actually turn more dovish or even open the door to rate cuts,” said David Watt, chief economist at the Canadian unit of HSBC Holdings Plc, by phone from Toronto. “You’re getting to the sell-Canada kind of story.”In fact, some are looking for the bank to cut rates. Mark Chandler, Head of Canadian FIC Strategy at RBC Dominion Securities observes that “there is a significant minority of observers believing that a shift towards an easing bias is in the cards next week and, unless the notion is dispelled, it is hard to imagine the Canadian dollar reversing some of its recent losses.”Traders also awaited the afternoon release of the latest take on the economy by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Fed has already started to taper its massive monthly bond purchases to $75 billion, a decrease of $10 billion a month, and made further tapering contingent on economic performance, particularly jobs data.[np_storybar title=”Get used to it: Weak loonie is new normal for 2014, analysts say” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2014/01/09/get-used-to-it-weak-loonie-here-to-stay-for-most-of-2014-analysts-say/”%5DFind out who are the winners and losers as the loonie sinks. Read on [/np_storybar]Uncertainty about Fed intentions arose after December jobs data released last Friday came far below expectations.In other economic developments, the World Bank said Tuesday that the global economy is slowly picking up steam.The bank’s twice-yearly Global Economics Prospects report says global growth is expected to firm from 2.4 % in 2013 to 3.2 % this year and 3.4 % in 2015. The report said the momentum that countries such as the United States and Japan are building up should support stronger growth in the developing countries.On the commodity markets, February crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 44 cents to US$93.03 a barrel.March copper declined one cent to US$3.32 to US$ a pound while February bullion lost $6.40 to US$1,239 an ounce. read more