Rabat – Roughly 60 percent of Germans believe Islam does not belong in their culture, while around 34 percent affirmed that Islam has a place in Germany, according to a poll conducted by Infratest dimap and released on Thursday.The new poll shows that rejection of Islam is gaining more ground in the Germany. A similar poll by the Forsa institute in 2014 said 52 percent of respondents opposed the inclusion of Islam in Germany, while 44 percent of those surveyed supported the presence of Islam.Fifty-three percent of Germans said Islamophobia should be treated as seriously as anti-Semitism in the same survey. Over the past year, Germany has welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Muslim world, causing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s to be at risk to lose her position during upcoming elections and leading some citizens to wrongly believe she practices Islam herself.The effects of the refugee crisis will allow Islam to have “too much” cultural sway in Germany, 52 percent of the participants in Thursday’s poll said.After the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, many Germans fear their country is next in line for a deadly attack by the so-called “Islamic State,” known as ISIS.Seventy-two percent of Germans worry that a terrorist attack may the Federal Republic, while 25 percent said this will not happen.Xenophobic right-wing political parties have gained traction in recent months. Pegida, an Islamophobic movement that started in Dresden has attracted thousands of adherents, and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), has had success in local elections while calling for a ban on minarets.AfD voters almost unanimously agreed that Islam does not belong in Germany. read more

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Rabat – Mustapha Ramid, Minister of State in charge of Human Rights, took to his Facebook page yesterday to answer the accusations held against him for calling homosexuals in Morocco “trash.” If Ramid’s statements sparked the outrage of many local NGOs and a part of the public opinion, his latest response is very far from soothing the tension, referring to homosexuality as a “perversion” that “disgusts the public opinion.” The original incident occurred on September 28, when Ramid was walking out of an official meeting at Rabat’s library.  The minister was stopped by a journalist who asked him about the condition of homosexuals in Morocco. The minister’s reaction was immediate: “Why are you asking me about [homosexuality] too?” he asked. Trying to dismiss the journalist, Ramid kept repeating, “This is too much. Too much. It’s a shame that homosexuality has a value now. Why is everyone asking me about it?”Upon the insistence of the journalist, Ramid will finally gave in. “Listen, we are in Morocco, if we keep talking about [homosexuality] we will give them value. [They’re] trash.” The minister used the insulting Arabic term “Awsakh,”  which can be translated as “trash,” “scum,” or “vermin.”Ramid’s statement sparked the outrage of many NGOs and human rights associations that addressed a petition to the head of government compelling him to take action against Ramid. On social media, the outlash was even fiercer, with many internet users not shying away from accusing Ramid of homophobia and hate speech against a sexual minority. Under the media and public pressure, Ramid decided to come out with a response.For the minister in charge of human rights, his comments on homosexuality were based on “the kingdom’s constitution and its laws and the international conventions it has signed,” as well as the “national consensus,” which “only the perverts deviate from.” Based on this legal and social framework, Ramid writes that “sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality] stays a crime punishable by the Moroccan legislation, and one that disgusts the public opinion.”“And let everyone know that the Moroccan government has made its position clear in its response to the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, as it categorically and unequivocally refuses to decriminalize sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality]. But at the same time, [it] refuses any kind of discrimination against any citizen, no matter their conditions,” Ramid continues. “If I have said that sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality] is filth or obscenity, it is only to describe certain actions and behaviors, and the terms do not necessarily apply to people no matter their orientation may be.”For Ramid, “it is clear then, that those who opposed me were blinded by their disagreement and drunken with their hatred.” Nothing NewAziz Idamine, head of the Moroccan Rights and Freedoms Youth Center, told Morocco World News that Ramid’s use of these “degrading terms against a minority in Morocco is nothing new to the vocabulary of the minister; he already called journalists ‘traitors’ once and described human rights activists as ‘hateful’.”Idamine has three remarks to deliver about the minister’s response. The first, is that “Ramid thinks that being a minister of state of all Moroccans is the same thing as being the leader of a small community or political party.” Second, Ramid’s “insistence on using the term ‘trash’ to describe a Moroccan minority, whether we adhere to the latter or not, proves how saturated the minister is by a narrow and close-minded interpretation of Islamic thought. Idamine goes on to explain that “what the minister is wording through his statement are readings and interpretations of the Islamic texts and the constitution through the political perspective of the Justice and Development Party, and not those agreed upon by all Moroccans.”   Finally, Idamine believes that Ramid is overstepping his jurisdiction. “The exegesis of a religious text is the specialty of Morocco’s High Council of Religious Affairs, [and] as for the explanation and interpretation of the constitution, it falls under the mandate of the constitutional court.”“As for the international conventions Moroccan had signed and agreed upon,” continues Idamine, “it is publically known that the human rights movements in Morocco are seeking to reform the penal code in several areas, to abolish any violation of individual freedoms.” For the activist, “the minister has every right to hold on onto the legal jurisdiction that criminalize homosexuality, but he has absolutely no right to call homosexuals ‘trash’.” read more

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Rabat – The coach of Morocco’s national football team, Herve Renard, still wishes to fulfill his childhood dream: coaching the French football team Saint Etienne in the future.Interviewed on a show by French television channel TF1 on Sunday, Renard said that “the club that rocked [his] childhood is Saint-Etienne.” “I was ten years old when I went to Geoffroy-Guichard [stadium] … I was a kid from 1968, I dreamed football, I lived football. I can still mention all the Saint-Etienne players of those years,” said the coach. Renard just realized one of his goals, after he helped the Moroccan team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Prior to becoming the Moroccan coach, the Frenchman has also helped Zambia and Côte d’Ivoire win the African Cup of Nations title.The coach is also determine to achieve big wins with his Atlas Lions during the 2018 World Cup. After Morocco’s win over Cote d’Ivoire during the tournament qualifiers, Renard expressed his pride and thankfulness to the national football team who played a wonderful game against the opponent.“The combativeness and selflessness of the players have been key to qualifying and winning against Ivory Coast,” said Renard.Before the victory, Renard’s contract with the Moroccan team was extended to 2022. read more

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Rabat – French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Monday, November 19.Called “Bienvenue en France” (Welcome to France), the international education reform bill is meant to “increase France’s attractiveness” as a study destination.Starting from the 2019-2020 academic year, international students at French universities will pay higher enrollment fees, namely the equivalent of 30 percent of the total cost of their degrees. For bachelor degrees (which cost €10,000), students will be charged €2770, instead of the current €170 registration fee.Read Also: Moroccans, Largest Foreign Student Community in FranceAnd for Master’s and PhD degrees, whose registration fees were €234 and €383 respectively, students will pay €3,770. Even with the increase, international students in France will still be “paying significantly less than they do in North America, Netherlands, Great Britain, and most of European countries.”‘Competing with North America and most of Europe’France, one of the few Western countries where access to education has until now been nearly free of charge and subsidized by the government (except for a tiny number of elite schools called Grandes Ecoles), is now bidding to join other European and North American institutions in the scramble for international prestige.In a global education system where prestige is associated with the amount of university fees, the size of research budgets, and the quality of education facilities, Philippe argued, it is “unfair” to have “rich international students” pay the same fees as their low-income French counterparts whose parents pay taxes.The prime minister said that the increase will serve to fund more education-related projects. The plan includes renovation works as well as establishment of new scholarships to attract low-income students from the developing world.According to French newspaper Le Figaro, France is the fourth country (behind the US, Great Britain, and Australia) with the highest number international students. Students come from developing and emerging countries, especially francophone Africa, North-east Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world.“We can do much better,” Phillipe said, as he explained how the increase can help French learning institutions be more competitive.The funds will be used in building more facilities to accommodate students and invest more in foreign language learning, he said. For Philippe, France should benefit from its status as a prized destination for higher education.The move has come under heavy criticism from education syndicates, however. They argue that many of the concerned international students are not as rich as the prime minister claimed. Instead, the reform will “reinforce social precarity” for students for many of the targeted students.Fage, a students’ rights advocacy group, said in a statement that “it is not students’ job” to help rekindle France’s “underfunded education system.”The bill will only be applied to students who are not citizens of an EU country. read more

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ATHENS, Greece — Greece says it is planning a benchmark 10-year bond issue, in its second market test since the country officially exited its international bailouts in August.The Public Debt Management Agency said Monday that the issue would be launched “in the near future” subject to market conditions. In January, Greece raised 2.5 billion euros with a five-year bond.The decision follows Friday’s two-notch upgrade of Greece’s credit rating by Moody’s ratings agency, from B3 to B1. Although that is still well below investment grade the upgrade offers a considerable boost to market confidence.Greece last issued a 10-year bond in 2010, shortly before the country’s first bailout.The Associated Press

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Rabat – Police at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca have arrested arrested a 51-year-old Chinese woman, who was under an international arrest warrant filed by the French judicial police for kidnapping.A statement from the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN), said that the police arrested the suspect on Monday.The Moroccan police arrested the suspect upon her arrival from Abu Dhabi. She was the subject of an Interpol red notice after being convicted in absentia by the French court for kidnapping her minor son, who she took out of France without the  permission of her ex-husband.Police put the suspect in custody for further investigation, pending the extradition procedure.The arrest is part of the DGSN services to reinforce international cooperation mechanism in security.Throughout the year, Moroccan police arrested a number of suspects under international arrest warrants. The latest operation took place in Marrakech on May 11, when DGSN members arrested a Danish national.The 30-year old suspect was arrested for his involvement in a fraud.In addition to its action against international wanted suspects, Morocco is also involved in several counter-terrorism projects in collaboration with the international community.Moroccan law enforcement is also working with international bodies on operations including tracking suspects involved in undocumented migration networks, and the fight against illegal psychotropic drug traffickers. read more

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LAS VEGAS — Officials in Las Vegas report that McCarran International Airport handled more than 4.4 million passengers in March, up 2.6% compared with the same month a year ago.Airport data released Friday show that domestic airlines handled a little more than 4 million of the total number of passengers.International carriers transported 305,000 people. More than 97,000 travellers and tourists were served by helicopters.Southwest Airlines remains the busiest carrier at the airport. It reported 1.6 million passengers in March.Of the top five airlines serving McCarran, only American Airlines saw a decrease in passengers in the year-to-year comparison.The Clark County Department of Aviation tallies more than 10.8 million passengers so far this year, up 2.1% from last year.The airport set a record high 49.7 million passengers in 2018.The Associated Press read more

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5 March 2007The top United Nations humanitarian official, whose tenure began on 1 March, said today that he is eager to see first-hand the dire humanitarian situation in western Sudan, as well as visit Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), which are both hosting refugees who have fled the war-torn Darfur region. “I want to get onto the ground soon to see for myself what is happening in some of the critical areas,” John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in his first press briefing since taking office.In the region, the problems regarding the safety of the displaced as well as of humanitarian workers “are increasing and unacceptable and the problems of access, if anything, are worsening,” he added.To this end, Mr. Holmes, who now heads the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is currently in discussions with the authorities of the three countries regarding a trip scheduled for 20-31 March, during which he hopes to meet with Government officials, humanitarian workers and those living in camps.In his new position, Mr. Holmes will wear “three separate hats,” each with “various goals.” In his capacity as the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, he said that he believes he will play a significant advocacy role to emphasize such issues as the significance of access in humanitarian relief, highlighting neglected crises and the sexual violence in conflict.As the Emergency Relief Coordinator, he hopes to build upon reforms and innovations initiated in recent years, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which helps countries cope with underfunded emergencies.Finally, of the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction which he will lead, Mr. Holmes noted that he wants to increase the public’s awareness that “money spent on prevention is a better investment than money spent on response after [a disaster].”The new Under-Secretary-General, who replaces Norway’s Jan Egeland, also described what he believes will be his dual approach to his position. “What I will try to do is combine a certain amount of quiet diplomacy if necessary… but also I will have absolutely no hesitation of speaking up in a striking and passionate way.”Aside from Sudan, Chad and the CAR, other countries high on his agency’s agenda are Somalia, where OCHA hopes to increase its activities in the south and centre of the country, Uganda, where the government is currently in talks with the rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and Mozambique, which has been ravaged by both floods and a tropical cyclone.Mr. Holmes also mentioned Iraq as a country whose humanitarian situation OCHA is closely monitoring. Approximately 1.8 million Iraqis have been internally displaced, while the same number of Iraqi refugees now reside outside the country’s borders. OCHA is opening an office in Amman, Jordan, to help coordinate humanitarian efforts to assist the refugees.Mr. Holmes, a veteran diplomat from the United Kingdom, most recently served as his country’s ambassador to France prior to assuming his current position at the UN. In his career with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he has covered and been posted in many regions, including the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 1999, he was awarded a knighthood, largely for the role he played in the Northern Ireland peace process and the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. read more

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6 June 2007The United Nations Security Council today urged justice for the victims of Iraq’s 1990 invasion and subsequent occupation of Kuwait. Council members strongly condemned the execution of Kuwaitis and others by the previous Iraqi regime, said Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium, which holds the presidency of the 15-member body, in a statement to the press.“Security Council members agreed that those responsible for these horrendous crimes should be brought to justice,” he said.The statement noted the recent positive identification of further human remains and the repatriation of others from Kuwait to Iraq.A total of 233 mortal remains have so far been identified, according to the Secretary-General’s latest report on the issue. Council members welcomed the work of the Tripartite Commission, which includes Iraq, Kuwait and the United States, and is dealing with the issue, “including provision of mutual assistance among them.” Security Council members issued the press statement following a closed-door briefing by Ambassador Yuri Vorontsov, the Secretary-General’s High-level Coordinator on Kuwaiti persons and others as well as property harmed during the invasion.Ambassador Verbeke said the members were “confident that all parties, in particular Iraq and Kuwait, could work towards constructive arrangements to enable a satisfactory solution to all of the outstanding humanitarian aspects covered by Ambassador Vorontsov’s mandate.” read more

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7 September 2007Thousands of people recovering from last month’s devastating floods in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) require immediate and continued food aid, including nutritional support for children and other vulnerable people, and more donations are needed, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today. Thousands of people recovering from last month’s devastating floods in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) require immediate and continued food aid, including nutritional support for children and other vulnerable people, and more donations are needed, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.”Hundreds of thousands have taken a big hit from these floods,” WFP Asia Director Tony Banbury said of his agency’s latest food security assessment report. “They need our help now just to get by, and they will need our help in the future to recover lost livelihoods.” Immediately after the floods, the Government gave WFP extensive access and cooperation to assess the disaster’s impact and international agency staff undertook rapid assessments between 17-26 August in six provinces. WFP and the Government agreed last month on food distributions to 215,000 people over three months.The latest findings confirmed that villagers and farmers suffered extensive losses of food stocks, livestock and private kitchen gardens — all critical sources of food in the upcoming winter months.”WFP is providing emergency food assistance in 37 of the hardest hit counties, but we are also concerned that children and pregnant mothers are able to receive adequate food as these areas struggle to recover,” WFP Country Director Jean-Pierre DeMargerie said. “We will work closely with the government in monitoring the nutritional status of vulnerable persons and we will seek to increase food supplements for children who live in these areas,” he added.The floods caused severe damage to agricultural areas, with the greatest impact on the so-called “Cereal Bowl” lowlands of North and South Phyongan, and North Hwanghae and South Hwanghae provinces, representing 76 percent of the DPRK’s total arable land.Estimates by the Ministry of Agriculture indicate that the damage to arable land cultivated with rice, maize, soybean and other crops totals 223,381 hectares — 16 per cent of total arable land.”WFP is committed to helping them as long as the Government provides the conditions we need to do our job,” Mr. DeMargerie said. The Government has indicated acceptance of WFP conditions allowing for ongoing visits and assessments by agency staff of food distribution at district and community levels.An existing WFP operation provides nutritional aid to 1.9 million especially vulnerable people across 50 counties, including many now hit by the floods, with vitamin- and mineral-enriched foods processed at local factories for young children and pregnant and nursing women. With stocks now being drawn down for flood relief, more donor aid will be needed to ensure continuation of the broader aid programme. The emergency flood response alone will cost $5-6 million, according to preliminary estimates. read more

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3 February 2008India has played a vital and long-standing role in helping the people of Nepal and also in supporting the efforts of the United Nations across the South Asian region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says. In a statement issued by his spokesperson on Friday, Mr. Ban clarified comments to the press made by Matthew Kahane, the UN’s Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal, on 24 January.“His comments were not intended to suggest that the Government of India has influence over Nepalese groups that have recently been limiting the steady flow of essential goods into the Terai region of Nepal, such as food,” the statement noted.“India is an important partner in the region and we appreciate very much the unfailing and long-standing assistance and support that India has provided to the United Nations and, more importantly, to the people of Nepal.” read more

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4 March 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the leadership of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, in the mediation efforts to bring an end to two months of post-election violence in Kenya. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the leadership of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, in the mediation efforts to bring an end to two months of post-election violence in Kenya.“His role has brought not only peace and stability in Kenya but also the whole region,” said Mr. Ban, adding that the United Nations will continue its engagement in the process.The two men held talks in Geneva, and during a photo opportunity afterwards, Mr. Ban appealed to President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the rivals in last December’s disputed elections, to faithfully implement the agreement reached last week.That ‘Acting together for Kenya’ deal contains principles for a coalition Government and was announced in Nairobi on 28 February.The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York from Geneva, where he met this morning with High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and her deputy Kyung-Wha Kang; Margaret Chan, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO); and Sahana Pradham, Nepal’s Foreign Minister.Yesterday, Mr. Ban addressed the seventh session of the UN Human Rights Council, calling on its members to ensure that all nations are held equally accountable for the protection of rights as the new body begins its first-ever universal review of their performance.“No country, however powerful, should escape scrutiny of its record, commitments and actions on human rights,” Mr. Ban said, hailing the start of the Universal Periodic Review, under which all UN Member States – at the rate of 48 a year – will be reviewed to assess whether they have fulfilled their human rights obligations. read more

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A Mexican reporter who has been a target of death threats, sabotage and police harassment because of her work uncovering prostitution and child pornography networks was today designated the laureate of a press freedom prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, will award the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Lydia Cacho Ribeiro in a ceremony to be held on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, in Maputo, Mozambique. A freelance reporter based in Cancun, Mexico Ms. Cacho is a contributor to the daily newspaper La Voz del Caribe, frequently covering organized crime and corruption. In 2006, she reported on the violent death of hundreds of young women in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez. The jury of 14 professional journalists and editors from all over the world was impressed by Ms. Cacho’s courage and persistence, according to Joe Thloloe, jury president and Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa. “For me, a journalist who knows the antagonistic environment in which he or she operates and continues to do the right thing by keeping readers, listeners or viewers informed about their society deserves recognition for their contribution to freedom of expression around the world,” Mr. Thloloe said. “Lydia Cacho is such a laureate.” The $25,000 prize, financed by the Cano and Ottaway family foundations, is named after Guillermo Cano, the Colombian newspaper publisher assassinated in 1987 for denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country. The prize has previously been received by the following laureates: Anna Politkovskaya (Russian Federation, 2007), May Chidiac (Lebanon, 2006), Cheng Yizhong, (China, 2005), Raúl Rivero (Cuba, 2004), Amira Hass (Israel, 2003), Geoffrey Nyarota (Zimbabwe, 2002), U Win Tin (Myanmar, 2001), Nizar Nayyouf (Syria, 2000), Jesus Blancornelas (Mexico, 1999), Christina Anyanwu (Nigeria, 1998), and Gao Yu (China, 1997). 9 April 2008A Mexican reporter who has been a target of death threats, sabotage and police harassment because of her work uncovering prostitution and child pornography networks was today designated the laureate of a press freedom prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). read more

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2 December 2008United Nations relief officials are continuing to assist authorities in the conflict-wracked north of Sri Lanka respond to flooding that has displaced more than 70,000 people and affected 300,000 others. A UN inter-agency assessment of civilian needs in Northern province’s Jaffna district – the district hardest hit by the floods – has been carried out, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.In Jaffna alone, about 62,000 people have been forced to flee their homes because of the floods, which followed days of heavy rains, and are now living in nearly 250 separate camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). More than 5,900 houses have been badly damaged and another 13,300 are partially damaged.OCHA said the number of Sri Lankans known to be affected by the floods continues to grow as some areas were previously inaccessible and new information is being received.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are among the UN agencies already distributing relief supplies or coordinating assistance.Relief operations in northern Sri Lanka are complicated by the ongoing violence in the region between Government forces and members of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). read more

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26 October 2009As just over one month remains before nations converge in Copenhagen to ‘seal the deal’ on a new climate change agreement, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has laid out his four benchmarks for success at the negotiations in the Danish capital. Firstly, he wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times published yesterday, every country – developed and developing – must do all it can to slash emissions from all sources, including deforestation and shipping.“A successful deal must strengthen the world’s ability to cope with an already changing climate,” Mr. Ban added, stressing that “support for adaptation is not only an ethical imperative; it is a smart investment in a more stable, secure world.”Thirdly, any deal must be backed by funding to allow poorer countries to transition to a low-carbon economy.Lastly, the Secretary-General wrote, nations must agree on an equitable global governance structure. “All countries must have a voice in how resources are deployed and managed. That is how trust will be built.”Despite the gridlock at the last round of climate change negotiations held in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this month, “the elements of a deal are on the table,” he underscored.All that is needed to put them in place is political will, Mr. Ban said. “We need to step back from narrow national interest and engage in frank and constructive discussion in a spirit of global common cause.”The leadership of the United States in this endeavour, he said, is vital, noting that he is encouraged by last week’s bipartisan initiative in the US Senate.“We cannot afford another period where the United States stands on the sidelines,” Mr. Ban emphasized, adding that an “indecisive or insufficiently engaged” US will result in unnecessary and unaffordable delays in tackling global warming.With the last round of negotiations before the start of the Copenhagen conference kicking off next week in Barcelona, Spain, “we are now at a rather critical juncture,” Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, told reporters today in New York.There is a flurry of activity in the world’s capitals, with this uptick in activity expected to continue during the final stretch before the December summit, he said. “This is a good development as it is only governments who can make the deal and bring us success in Copenhagen.”When leaders assemble in Denmark, they have the ability to “deliver an agreement on a range of fast-track implementation measures for which credible resources are needed and which governments need to make available,” Mr. Pasztor stated.The Secretary-General, he said, is serving as a “neutral broker” among all 192 UN Member States, pressing for an ambitious multilateral deal to ensure that global temperature increases remain within safe levels. read more

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16 April 2010United Nations officials have called on Member States and private donors to support a trust fund to pay for a permanent memorial at United Nations Headquarters in New York to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, and Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships (UNOP), made the appeal yesterday while receiving a donation of $250,000 from India, which is currently the largest single contributor to the fund.In 2007 the General Assembly commemorated the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade by designating 25 March as an annual day of remembrance and endorsing the idea of constructing a permanent memorial at UN Headquarters “in acknowledgment of the tragedy and consideration of its legacy.”The trust fund was launched in May last year to pay for the memorial construction and India’s donation means that about $700,000 has been raised so far – less than a quarter of the $4.5 million that is estimated to be needed if the memorial is to be erected by 2012.Ambassador Raymond Wolfe of Jamaica is heading efforts to erect the memorial, while a committee of interested States is also participating in the trust fund.At a ceremony yesterday to mark the Indian donation, which was handed over by Ambassador H. S. Puri, Mr. Akasaka stressed that the memorial should serve as a living reminder to the international community of the need to maintain momentum in combating the legacy of slavery, including pernicious contemporary forms of the practice. read more

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25 April 2011Peace and SecurityA new United Nations report voices serious concern about the continued recruitment of children by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) and calls for measures to address the ongoing “protection crisis” in the country. In his latest report to the Security Council on the issue of children and armed conflict in CAR, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notes a number of factors contributing to the protection crisis, which affects women and children in particular. These include sporadic fighting between Government forces and armed groups – despite the signing of a peace agreement in June 2008 – and widespread banditry, as well as extreme poverty and the lack of capacity of the defence and security forces and the judiciary.“In spite of the Government’s commitment to end the use and recruitment of children, their mobilization into the ranks of rebel groups and self-defence militias throughout the country continued during the reporting period,” Mr. Ban says in the report, which covers the period from December 2008 to December 2010.The report notes continued grave violations, such as the killing of children, sexual violence, attacks on health centres and the denial of humanitarian access. In addition, in the south-east of the country, the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continues to abduct and forcibly recruit children and use them as combatants, spies, sex slaves and porters.The lack of systematic birth registration exacerbated challenges related to addressing grave violations, according to the report, since it is often not possible to prove the age of an individual. Official statistics show that only 49 per cent of births were registered nationally in 2010.Mr. Ban notes that during the visit of his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, to the CAR in May 2008, the leadership of the two groups that signed the peace agreement with the Government – the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la République et la démocratie (APRD) and the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR) – committed to preparing action plans to stop child recruitment. A draft action plan to halt child recruitment by the APRD and ensure the release of all children associated with the group has been ready since June 2008, Mr. Ban points out. However, the Government has delayed its signature, arguing that a comprehensive action plan should be signed with all parties to the 2008 peace agreement instead. Meanwhile, disagreements between the UFDR and the Government on the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process for adults have impeded the completion of an action plan to halt the recruitment of children.Mr. Ban voices concern about the delays regarding the action plans and urges the Government to facilitate their preparation, as appropriate.He also urges the Government to ensure that grave violations against children, especially child recruitment, sexual violence and abductions, are addressed through the rigorous investigation and prosecution of those responsible for such crimes.In addition, the Secretary-General calls on the Government to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all children associated with local self-defence militias. As an immediate priority, he urges the Government to issue clear orders, including at the local level, prohibiting the recruitment and use of children by these groups. “In order to ensure the durable separation of children from armed groups in the Central African Republic, I call on United Nations agencies, funds and programmes to support the Government in the development and implementation of long-term reintegration programmes for children formerly associated with armed forces and groups,” he adds. read more

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New Brunswick industrialists James, Arthur and the late Jack Irving came in at No. 3 with a combined net worth of $8.07-billion, while the media barons in the Rogers family sat in fourth place at an estimated $6.41-billion.Vancouver’s Jimmy Pattison came in fifth with wealth of $6.14-billion, while Montreal eBay founder Jeff Skoll jumped up the list to No. 6 from No. 8 last year as his worth grew 21.3% to $4.55-billion.Paul Desmarais Sr., owner of Power Corp. of Canada sat at No. 7 with a net worth of $4.4-billion, while Montreal’s Saputo family, owners of the cheese empire, came in eighth with $4.23-billion.Carlo Fidani, owner of Toronto-area construction  and development company Orlando Corp., shot into the Top 10, ranking ninth at $3.6-billion, growing 13.5% from a year ago when he ranked twelfth.Rounding out the top 10 was Vancouver’s Chip Wilson, founder of trendy yoga wear maker Lululemon Athletica Inc., who jumped up in the rankings from No. 15 last year as his wealth shot up 23% to $3.51-billion. [np_storybar title=”Top 10 richest Canadians” link=””] 1. Thomson family – $20.1B 2. Galen Weston, 72 – $8.2B 3. J.K., Arthur and estate of John Irving, 84, 81 – $8.07B 4. Rogers family – $6.14B 5. Jimmy Pattison, 84 – $6.14B 6. Jeff Skoll, 47 – $4.55B 7. Paul Desmarais Sr., 85 – $4.4B 8. Saputo family – $4.23B 9. Carlo Fidani, 58 – $3.6B 10. Chip Wilson, 57 – $3.51BSource: Canadian Business [/np_storybar]TORONTO — The influential Thomson family is still atop the list of richest Canadians, though their wealth dropped from a year ago, while most other members of the Top 10 made gains.The family that owns media conglomerate Thomson Reuters as well as Woodbridge Co. Ltd., which has a majority stake in the Globe and Mail newspaper, is worth about $20.1-billion, according to Canadian Business magazine’s annual ranking of Canada’s wealthiest.However, the family’s worth fell about 5.7% as some of its media-focused properties struggled in trying economic times.Meanwhile, retail mogul Galen Weston, 72 — the highest ranking individual — saw his wealth improve by three per cent to an estimated $8.2-billion, remaining in the No. 2 position.Weston is the main power behind food processor George Weston Ltd., Canada’s largest grocery chain, Loblaw Cos. Ltd., and luxury retailer Holt Renfrew.Mark Blinch/Reuters files read more

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OTTAWA — The heads of Canada’s leading business lobby groups are urging the federal government to get on with negotiating a free trade deal with Europe.The groups issued a letter to assure Trade Minister Ed Fast that they will stand behind the deal, once it is negotiated, and help sell it to workers and communities across Canada.[np_storybar title=”Canada’s banking sector protections under attack in EU trade talks, document shows” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2013/02/27/canadas-banking-sector-protections-under-attack-in-eu-trade-talks-leaked-document-show/”%5D A leaked draft of part of the Canada-Europe trade talks shows that Canada’s vaunted banking system is on the negotiating table.Continue reading. [/np_storybar]“You can count on our full support,” concludes the letter, signed by the heads of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business and the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters.Opponents of a Canada-EU trade and investment agreement are also galvanizing forces.On Monday, Canadian civil society groups wrote French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is visiting Canada, to express their opposition with a special emphasis against the investor protection chapter, which allows firms to sue governments over restrictive policies.Jayson Myers, who heads the manufacturers and exporters group, said in an interview that the business community is anxious that a deal be signed quickly because it will take many months and even years to ratify.He notes that provinces will likely need to sign on, as will the 27 member countries of the European Community.But an insider in the business coalition says there is real concern that negotiators have taken the talks about as far as they can go, and that it’s now time for political leaders to make the needed decisions.“We want to give groundcover to the politicians so they can then make some brave decisions,” said one insider.Since negotiations began almost four years ago, the talks have missed several deadlines including the most recent pledge to complete an agreement by the end of 2012.The longer it takes, the longer we have to wait to get that economic benefitAlthough progress has been made, the two sides are still apart on the controversial issues where compromises will likely come with a political price back home.For Canada, opposition has formed around European demands that government procurement at the provincial and municipal level be opened up, that drug patents be extended, agricultural quotas be reduced and on the issue of investor protection.Complicating the matter is the announcement that the United States will seek a similar agreement, which some believe may lessen the appeal of a deal with Canada for the Europeans.A spokesman for Fast denied that talks are stalled, noting negotiators are continuing to meet in Brussels this week. But he said there is no new formal or informal target date for agreement.Myers says he is still optimistic a deal with be signed by the end of the spring, although he has some concerns.“Yes we are concerned,” Myers aid. “Part of this is to re-energize both the European economy and Canadian economy so the longer it takes, the longer we have to wait to get that economic benefit.”He added there are also political hurdles to overcome, including European parliamentary elections, national elections and provincial votes in Canada.The EU is currently Canada’s second largest trading market after the United States, representing about 10% of Canada’s exports. In turn, Canada is the EU’s 12th largest market, representing about 1.6% of its exports.The Canadian Press read more

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TORONTO — Falling oil stocks helped pull the Toronto stock market lower Wednesday as further signs of rising crude inventories in the U.S. sent oil prices tumbling.The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 67.23 points to 14,995.65, paced by a four per cent drop in the energy sector.The Canadian dollar — a big beneficiary of the recent rally in oil prices — tumbled 1.08 cents to 79.59 cents US after rising two cents over the previous two sessions.U.S. indexes were mixed amid positive news on the employment front two days before the release of the U.S. government’s jobs report for January. Payroll firm ADP reported that the American private sector created 213,000 jobs last month. Overall, economists are expecting the government data to show the economy created 233,000 jobs in January.Other data showed greater expansion of the U.S. service sector last month. The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index rose to 56.7 from 56.5.The Dow Jones industrials gained 6.62 points to 17,673.02, the Nasdaq was down 11.04 points at 4,716.7 and the S&P 500 index shed 8.52 points to 2,041.51. Crude prices gave back a chunk of the 19 per cent surge registered over the previous four sessions, down $4.60 to US$48.45 a barrel. Prices started heading higher late last week following a string of cutbacks in capital spending by oil companies — and in some cases production cuts — raising hopes for relief from a huge imbalance in demand and supply.However, data released Wednesday by the Department of Energy showed U.S. inventories last week rose by 6.3 million barrels, much higher than the 2.8-million-barrel increase that analysts had expected.Crude prices have plunged about 50% since last summer amid a glut of supply on world markets.Analysts have warned that oil prices could retest lows of $44 or even move lower. In the meantime, investors are trying to look past the volatility in the markets.“You look through the valley, as we say. The thing that you have to remember is that equity markets look six months ahead,” said Chris King, portfolio manager and vice-president at Morgan, Meighen and Associates.He pointed out that the U.S. is dramatically cutting shale production while many Canadian companies have announced substantial cuts in spending plans.“The big (energy) names are pricing in high $70s, low $80s for oil because they are looking through (to) the other side.”The other big TSX decliner was the base metals sector, which advanced over the last few days on a run-up in copper prices. The sector gave back 2.65% even as March copper added a penny at US$2.59 a pound.The gold sector was the leading advancer, up 2.7% as April bullion climbed $4.20 to US$1,264.50 an ounce.The TSX was also supported by strong gains in the consumer staples and tech sectors.In earnings news, General Motors Co. posted quarterly profit of US$1.99 billion or 66 cents per share. Earnings adjusted for non-recurring costs were $1.19 per share. The average estimate of analysts was for earnings of 85 cents per share. GM also reported that revenue of $39.62 billion, missing expectations for $40.1 billion but its shares were ahead 5.45% to $35.83. read more

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