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.
by Joe McDonald, The Associated Press Posted Jan 24, 2017 8:42 pm MDT Last Updated Jan 25, 2017 at 7:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email China faces political conflicts in moves to cut debt burden In this Nov. 18, 2015 photo, people walk past a sign outside of the SinoSteel Corp. headquarters in Beijing. Drowning in debt, metals trader Sinosteel Corp. got an unprecedented lifeline from the Chinese government, a multibillion-dollar debt-for-equity rescue that could be the first of many for struggling state-owned companies. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) BEIJING, China – Drowning in debt, metals trader Sinosteel Corp. got an unprecedented lifeline last month from the Chinese government — a multibillion-dollar debt-for-equity rescue that could be the first of many for struggling state-owned companies.China’s economy is still growing relatively quickly, but a prolonged slowdown is raising fears that companies in many industries have borrowed and invested too much, too fast, posing a serious risk for the world’s second-largest economy.The government hailed the Sinosteel deal, in which state-owned banks agreed to accept shares in the company to repay half the 60 billion yuan ($9 billion) it owes, as a model for debt reduction. Analysts are more skeptical. They say such manoeuvrs are typical of the ruling Communist Party’s tendency to avoid bold action and support politically favoured state industry.“They are still tinkering at the edge of the problem instead of tackling it head on,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist for Capital Economics.Total debt owed by companies and households in China is estimated by private sector analysts to amount to 270 per cent of annual economic output — high for a developing country and close to the levels of the United States and the European Union before the 2008 crisis.Debt has risen at double-digit annual rates since the crisis as Beijing repeatedly used infusions of credit to shore up economic growth and avoid politically risky job losses.In 2016, lending grew by 17 to 18 per cent, outpacing the rise in savings by China’s famously thrifty households, according to Standard & Poor’s. It said that leaves banks with slimmer “funding buffers.”Explosive economic growth that peaked at 14.2 per cent in 2007 helped China power its way out of previous financial quandaries. That is no longer assured now that growth has tumbled to less than half that level — at 6.7 per cent for the first nine months of last year the weakest since 1990.The bank regulator reported in October that loans on which borrowers have made no payments in 90 days had passed 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion).That is equivalent to a relatively modest 2.15 per cent of total lending, but private sector analysts say the true level is far higher at up to 19 per cent, or nearly 18 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion). They say banks fail to include loans to state companies in their count because they assume the government will bail them out.A banking crisis like those that hit Japan and South Korea in the 1990s is unlikely because both Chinese lenders and major borrowers are state-owned, so as a last resort, the government could order creditors to keep lending and then replenish their balance sheets, economists say.That would keep banks solvent, but might divert money from investment in productive companies or from paying for schools, health care and other public services needed in China’s rapidly aging society.“You can get away without a crisis over the next few years, but you won’t be able to avoid slower growth,” Williams said.The latest plan for Sinosteel calls for transforming some of its debt into “convertible bonds” that creditors can redeem later for stock, according to Bank of China Ltd., which led a consortium of lenders. It said regulators would press the company for “internal reform.”The business magazine Caixin reported that half of Sinosteel’s debt would be turned into such bonds.Lenders that accept Sinosteel stock still can lose money if its finances fail to improve, said Sheng Hong, director of the Unirule Institute in Beijing, an independent economic research group.“Banks should have refused the deal right from the start,” he said.The debt dilemma reflects the leadership’s conflicting desires for the prosperity that comes from free-market competition and for ensuring state companies will still dominate the economy.Under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has pledged to clear up debt and get banks to finance productive activity instead of subsidizing state companies. But the debt burden has kept rising as Beijing avoided taking painful, decisive action.Regulators say they will use market forces to force state companies that control industries including steel, utilities, telecoms, airlines, banking and insurance to become more efficient. But they have ruled out allowing any to go bankrupt: The ruling party’s latest economic blueprint for 2017 promises “financial stability,” which suggests Chinese leaders might be leery of pushing companies so hard they might collapse.Bailing out companies such as Sinosteel that are deemed strategically important could set back efforts to shrink bloated heavy industries.A glut of production in steel, aluminum and other industries where supply exceeds demand has led to price-cutting wars and complaints that low-cost Chinese exports are threatening jobs in the United States and Europe.Instead of state-engineered bailouts, the companies could just sell off equity stakes and use the proceeds to pay debts, Citigroup economists Li-Gang Liu and Xiaowen Jin said in a report.Sinosteel has operations in mining, steel trading and engineering. It came close to defaulting on a 2 billion yuan ($315 million) bond payment in 2015 before regulators intervened and persuaded creditors to wait.Bank of China described the Sinosteel debt-for-equity deal as a model for future debt restructuring.But some companies that get such relief might “lose motivation to improve,” said Zhang Yingjie, research director for China Chengxin International Credit Rating Co. “The key lies in how to select the enterprises.”“They are selling this as dealing with the debt problem and creating viable businesses,” said Williams, “but it seems to me it is aimed at making sure state-owned firms can continue to dominate.”___AP researcher Yu Bing contributed.