Salwa Idrissi Akhanouch to Launch Beauty Product Brand, ‘YAN & ONE,’…

By Sana ElouaziRabat – After three years of work, YAN & ONE, a new brand by Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, president of Aksal group, will be launched on October 28 in the Morocco Mall.The brand suggests a new approach to beauty and will release a multitude of products of different kinds, said a press released issued by the group. Make-up, care, beauty, fragrances, hygiene, accessories, and teas will be offered to both women and men, whatever their skin color, shape, and style. The company said that the project required a “significant investment and allowed to be a real job creator with already 200 young new recruits” who each received a six-month training to “acquire expertise in several areas.”YAN & ONE said it has ensured that all of its products are predominantly free from Paraben, Phenoxyethanol, and PEG (polyethylene glycols). The products were designed by ranking beauty professionals in France and will be offered to the consumer in an interactive and digital way.The group added that the perfumes were created by “greatmasters perfumers of Grasse, theworld capital of perfume.”The brand has also drawn its inspiration from the nature of Morocco, with a new range of “Moroccan Rituals” using natural ingredients such as argan oil and prickly pear oil certified tobe 100 percent natural for both women and men, according to the release.The beauty store will open its doors on October 28 in Morocco Mall in Casablanca, whose director is YAN & ONE’s creator, Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch, the spouse of Aziz Akkhanouch, the Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries. read more

Morocco finalizes military cooperation deal with Czech Republic

Rabat – Following royal instructions, Abdellatif Loudiyi, Minister-Delegate for National Defense, received the Czech Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Martin Tlapa, on Monday, March 5.According to the National Defense Administration, the two officials exchanged views on methods for strengthening cooperation between the two countries in the field of national defense. Aiming to consolidate military and defense technical collaboration, the two countries have finalized a military cooperation deal and discussed means to ensure its smooth implementation.   Martin Tlapa, who is leading a large delegation on a working visit to the Kingdom, has lauded Morocco’s progress and active commitment to international and regional peace.Tlapa also met Mounia Boucetta, the Moroccan Secretary of State to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who indicated that this meeting is an opportunity to highlight the excellent relationship between Morocco and the Czech Republic on political, economic, and social levels.In a previous visit to Morocco in 2016, the speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Vojtech Filip, expressed the Republic’s support for Morocco’s integrity regarding the Sahara issue, saying that his country will strive to find a solution that respects international law. read more

GM restructuring: Production ending at Ohio plant this week

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — General Motors says the first of five North American plants that it plans to close by 2020 will end production this week.A GM spokeswoman confirmed Monday that production of the Chevrolet Cruze will come to an end Wednesday at its sprawling Ohio assembly plant near Youngstown.The plant closings are part of a major restructuring under way for the Detroit-based automaker.GM is shifting its focus to making trucks, SUVs and electric and autonomous vehicles.The plant closings in the U.S. still must be negotiated with the union so some workers at GM’s Lordstown plant in Ohio are hoping it still can be saved .The plant that employed more than 4,000 workers just a few years ago has been down to 1,400 hourly employees in recent months.The Associated Press read more

Basketball star Yao Ming becomes first UN Environmental Champion

9 August 2008The Olympic athlete and Chinese basketball star Yao Ming has become the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) first-ever Environment Champion, the agency announced today in Beijing. Mr. Yao will work with young people around the world to raise awareness about green issues and to try to inspire them to plant trees, use energy-efficient light bulbs, harvest rain water and personally advocate for a healthier environment, UNEP said in a press release.Mr. Yao has become a national icon in his homeland and carried the Chinese flag in last night’s opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, where he will compete. He also plays for the Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States.“I am delighted and greatly honoured to accept” the offer of UNEP, Mr. Yao said, pledging to “work with governments, the private sector and the public to promote good and effective management of our environment so we can preserve the planet for future generations.”Noting the joint efforts of the Beijing Olympics and UNEP, he called on the organizers of all major sports events to ensure they use public transport, build proper waste management systems and use greener forms of energy.“I sincerely believe small actions done by many over a long period of time can really bring about positive change. By doing a little now, we can avoid doing a lot later.”UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner welcomed Mr. Yao’s decision to become an Environment Champion.“As one of the most high-profile athletes in these Games and with a fan base of millions across the world, I am sure he can help us raise public awareness on the environment and climate change issues,” Mr. Steiner said. read more

Failure to reduce maternal mortality rates shames us all Norway tells UN

Addressing the annual high-level debate at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Jens Stoltenberg said it was clear that the world had not taken the issue of maternal mortality – the focus of one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – seriously.“The fact that we have not made any significant progress at all in reducing the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth is appalling,” he told delegates. “There can only be one reason for this awful situation – and that is persistent neglect of women in a world dominated by men.”Mr. Stoltenberg said “all this human tragedy is avoidable by simple means,” and a report issued last week by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) found that more than 500,000 women die unnecessarily every year because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth – nearly all of them in the developing world.“Just think of all these millions of young girls and young women who know, and who fear and dread, that giving life may cause their death,” the Prime Minister said.He noted that “money doesn’t seem to be a problem when the problem is money,” referring to the current crisis on Wall Street and the wider financial markets around the world.“There, unsound investment threatens the homes and the jobs of the middle class. There is something fundamentally wrong when money seems to be abundant, but funds for investment in people seem so short in supply.”Mr. Stoltenberg called for stronger international frameworks so that more funding can be directed to such projects as building schools in Afghanistan, supporting hospitals in Rwanda or providing vaccinations for residents of slums and ghettos worldwide. 25 September 2008The world’s failure to make substantial inroads in reducing the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth is a damning illustration of the wider treatment of women, Norway’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly tonight. read more

Myanmar Ban reviews latest developments with Group of Friends

The Group of Friends on Myanmar, which comprises 14 countries and one regional bloc, also unanimously backed the Secretary-General’s good offices on this issue and its implementation through his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari. The Group’s comments were made in a statement issued by the spokesperson of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who convened and chaired a high-level meeting of the countries in New York today. That statement described today’s meeting as “a useful and constructive discussion,” and noted that the involvement of so many high-level officials indicated “the importance that the international community attaches to the situation in Myanmar.” The participants included the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the High Representative of the European Union (EU), as well as government ministers from concerned countries, according to the statement. “While noting the recent actions taken by the Government of Myanmar, members of the Group also further encouraged it to work more closely with and respond more positively with the United Nations good offices to address key issues of concern to the international community, especially the release of prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the initiation of an all-inclusive dialogue between the Government and the opposition.” Ms. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years and her current period of detention started in 2003. The Group of Friends also “encouraged all parties in Myanmar to seize the opportunity of the UN good offices, while stressing the responsibility of the Myanmar Government to demonstrate its stated commitment to cooperation with the good offices through further tangible results.” The Group, founded in December last year, represents a balanced range of views on Myanmar and was set up to hold informal discussions and develop shared approaches to support UN efforts. The Friends are: Australia, China, the EU, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Viet Nam. 27 September 2008Members of a group of nations helping Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his efforts to spur change in Myanmar today encouraged the Government of the Asian country to work more closely with the UN to deal with issues of concern, including the release of the long-detained political prisoner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. read more

Developed countries hit hard by downturn in foreign investment UN reports

19 January 2009Hitting business in the developed world hardest, foreign direct investment (FDI) dropped by over 20 per cent last year and is projected to fall further in 2009, according to a new United Nations report which warned policy-makers to resist calls for more protectionism to aid recovery. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) publication estimated that flows of investment made by corporations outside of their own country have fallen by an average of 21 per cent worldwide to an estimated $1.4 trillion. Unlike the 1997 financial crisis which originated in Asian nations, the current turmoil began in the developed world, with FDI inflows contracting in Europe in particular, with reductions of almost 174 per cent to Finland, 120 per cent to Ireland and 94 per cent to Italy. However, UNCTAD notes that the present crisis is rapidly spreading to developing and transition economies.The agency points to the credit crunch afflicting corporations, both internally, due to a decline in profits, and externally, due to lower availability and higher cost of finance, as well as a general reluctance to risk investing overseas in a time of global recession as the major causes for the downturn in FDI.In the short-term, the negative impacts of the financial and economic crises on international investment flows are expected to continue and contribute to an additional drop in overall FDI through 2009, which will also roll back gains made by developing countries.However, the report, entitled “Assessing the impact of the current financial and economic crisis on global FDI flows,” is hopeful that various positive factors are at work that will trigger a resurgence in FDI.It cites as reasons for optimism the investment opportunities based on cheap asset prices and industry restructuring, relatively large amounts of financial resources available in emerging countries and cash-rich oil-exporting countries, quick expansion of new activities such as new energy and environment-related industries, and the relative resilience of international companies.UNCTAD underscores that any upward swing in FDI depends on a series of uncertain factors such as the speed of economic and financial recovery, the efficiency of public policy in addressing the causes of the present crisis, the return of investor confidence and the ability to prevent protectionist tendencies.“The effectiveness of government policy responses at both the national and international levels in addressing the financial crisis and its economic aftermath will play a crucial role for creating favourable conditions for a new pick-up in FDI,” the report notes.“The challenge is to restore the credibility and stability of the international financial system, to provide stimulus to economic growth in order to prevent the risk of a spiralling depression, to renew a pragmatic commitment to an open economy, potentially put at risk by rising protectionist tensions, and to encourage investment and innovation.” read more

Plight of conflictdisplaced children deserves greater attention says top UN official

14 October 2009A top United Nations official today urged that greater attention be given to the plight of internally displaced children, among the most vulnerable groups affected by armed conflict. “This is becoming an increasing issue around the world,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, told reporters ahead of the presentation of her annual report to the General Assembly. She noted that annexed to her report is the “rights and guarantees” which should be accorded to children who are among internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the right to education, the liberty of movement, the right to protection against sexual and gender-based violence and the right to basic services.Ms. Coomaraswamy also announced that she is sending Major-General Patrick Cammaert as her representative to Sri Lanka as soon as possible, and that the issue of IDP children “will be among the issues he will raise.” Last month the Special Representative voiced her concern to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council about the fate of internally displaced children who still remain in camps in the north of Sri Lanka following the end of the Government’s military operation against Tamil rebels. “We acknowledge the recent releases of some IDPs from the camps and hope that the others will also be allowed to leave if they wish to do so,” she told the Council. In her briefing to reporters, Ms. Coomaraswamy also welcomed the increased commitment of the international community to combat sexual violence in wartime through the adoption of Security Council resolutions 1882 in August and 1888 in September. She also highlighted a number of other issues contained in her report, including sexual violence against boys, juvenile justice protections – to ensure that children are not prosecuted for war crimes – and the successes with some countries in ending the practice of using child soldiers.In addition, she urged all countries to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child related to the recruitment and use of children, and announced the launch of a ratification campaign which will begin in 2010 towards this goal. read more

African governments on the improve but corruption on the rise – UN

The second edition of the African Governance Report, an overview of the state of governance in 35 African countries, highlighted a 3 per cent decline in the corruption control index.“Corruption remains the single most important challenge to the eradication of poverty, the creation of predictable and favourable investment environment and general socioeconomic development in Africa,” said the report, which was recently released by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).A key finding of the report shows that although elections in Africa are more regular, they are still flawed and in many countries the quality of the elections remains suspect, with incumbent parties remaining hostile to the opposition which is unable to be competitive. Despite a negative performance on issues involving corruption, there has been a two per cent increase on governance indices overall, including in areas of human rights, the rule of law, the effectiveness of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, as well as independence of civil society organizations and the media.Positive trends in the continent’s economies and the role of women in public life were also spotlighted in the report, with indices indicating a six per cent rise in pro-investment policies, up to 3 per cent increase in efficient economic management and tax systems, and more women represented in national parliaments than anywhere else in the world. 16 October 2009African nations have made marginal progress in the core areas of governance over the last four years, according to a new United Nations report, which has expressed concern over a rise in corruption in the continent’s authorities in the same period. read more

Assembly President calls on Israel Palestinians to implement resolution on Gaza conflict

6 November 2009General Assembly President Ali Treki today urged Israel and the Palestinians to heed the body’s call to conduct credible investigations into charges that both sides were guilty of serious human rights violations during the conflict in the Gaza Strip at the start of the year. Mr. Treki noted that the 192-member Assembly yesterday adopted a resolution on the report of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, which found that Israeli forces and Palestinian militants had committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity, during the conflict in December 2008 and January 2009. Assembly resolutions are non-binding.“This vote was an important declaration against impunity, it was a call for justice and accountability,” Mr. Treki told reporters in New York, calling for both the Israelis and Palestinians to carry out independent inquiries within three months as required in the resolution. “While the General Assembly has fulfilled its responsibility and will remain seized over the matter, it is vital that all concerned now devote efforts to implement the resolution and ensure follow up,” he added. Mr. Treki also voiced pleasure at the “smooth” and cooperative discussions in the General Assembly on the Goldstone report, as well as recent reports from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). read more

Spain doubles aid for UN food operation in Horn of Africa

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) received a boost today for its emergency relief efforts feeding millions of hungry people in the Horn of Africa, with the announcement of a $112 million donation from Spain.“This extraordinary contribution brings hope and help to the 20 million most vulnerable people that we are committed to assisting in the Horn of Africa,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. WFP has scaled up aid efforts to people living in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia who have been struck hard by prolonged drought, recurring conflict, stubborn high food prices and the global financial crisis.In September the agency launched an emergency appeal for almost $1 billion over the next six months, to provide millions of people throughout the region with food assistance.“Spain has been a model partner for WFP in spearheading both the response to high food prices and now, in taking the lead on our critical appeal for the Horn of Africa,” said Ms. Sheeran.Having already contributed over $107 million to WFP this year, the latest donation from the Spanish Government practically doubles its contribution and puts it on the agency’s list of top 10 donor nations. 19 November 2009The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) received a boost today for its emergency relief efforts feeding millions of hungry people in the Horn of Africa, with the announcement of a $112 million donation from Spain. read more

UN official pledges continued support for national human rights bodies

23 March 2010The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will continue to support the work of national human rights institutions and their efforts to ensure that international human rights laws are incorporated into domestic legislation, the agency’s head said today. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will continue to support the work of national human rights institutions and their efforts to ensure that international human rights laws are incorporated into domestic legislation, the agency’s head said today.The three pillars of the UN – peace and security, development and human rights – are closely interlinked, and thus there is a need to support national human rights organizations, which often lacked resources, capacity and expertise, said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator.“The denial of human rights and the persistence of exclusion, discrimination, and lack of accountability are barriers to the pursuit of human development and the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals],” Miss Clark told a gathering of national human rights bodies in Geneva.“Global, regional, and national human rights institutions can play and are playing a critical role in overcoming those barriers,” she told members of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.She said that although significant progress and been made in reducing global poverty and child mortality, and there had been improvements in primary school enrolment and access to safe drinking water even in some of the poorest countries, there still remained groups of populations who continued to lag behind.“In particular, women, rural inhabitants, ethnic minorities, and other excluded groups often lag well behind national averages in progress on MDG targets – even when nations as a whole are moving towards the goals,” Miss Clark said.She said the society could learn form human rights approaches which sought to address the root causes of development problems, and quoted former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who once said: “Human rights can be found at the heart of every major challenge facing humanity.” read more

Political reconciliation and basic security the priorities for Somalia new UN envoy

22 June 2010Encouraging reconciliation between warring political groups and boosting basic public security are critical to stabilizing Somalia, the incoming United Nations envoy to the troubled Horn of Africa country said today. Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), told UN Radio that promoting reconciliation and a more inclusive political process must be a priority in a country that has not had a functioning national government in two decades.“But this is predicated upon the existence of a modicum of security in Somalia to enable this Transitional [Federal] Government or a government that brings in other political groupings to survive,” he said.“So I would say the two go together – political stability as a result of a process of reconciliation and inclusiveness, but also a security adequate to permit the government to reach out to the population and perform the functions of a government such as providing humanitarian aid and implementing some basic reconstruction activities and, at some point, to engage in economic and social development projects.”Mr. Mahiga, the former Tanzanian ambassador to the UN, succeeds Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah as the top UN official for Somalia, the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with large sections of the population displaced and fighting continuing between Government forces and Islamist rebels.Responding to a question, he said it was “far-fetched cynicism” to suggest that there will never be peace in Somalia.“The underlying thing is that any conflict to be durably resolved has to pursue a peaceful path and I think this is how even the most protracted and complex conflicts in the world have at the end of the day been resolved peacefully – peaceful resolution in an inclusive way rather than through violence.” read more

Haiti Ban appoints four top medical experts to probe source of cholera

6 January 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today named four top medical experts to an independent panel to investigate the cause of a cholera epidemic in Haiti amid media reports that Nepalese peacekeepers from the United Nations mission there may have been the source. The panel will be chaired by Alejandro Cravioto of Mexico, from the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. The other three members are Claudio Lanata of the Instituto de Investigacion Nutritional in Peru, Daniele Lantagne of Harvard University in the United States, and Balakrish Nair of the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in India.“The members of the panel have been selected based on their global stature, expertise and extensive experience working with cholera in all its aspects,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said, stressing that the panel will operate completely independently of the UN and have access to all UN records, reports and facilities as it probes an epidemic that, as of last month, has killed at least 2,800 people and infected 130,000 others.Widespread media reports have said Nepalese troops from the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were the likely source of the outbreak, with infected water spreading from their base into a nearby tributary of the Artibonite River, used for drinking and washing by many rural Haitians.In announcing his intention to appoint the panel last month, Mr. Ban noted that there were several theories, and not all reports reached the same conclusion, with MINUSTAH and the Government conducting several tests, all of them negative. But he stressed that “there remain fair questions and legitimate concerns that demand the best answer that science can provide.” Today’s statement said Mr. Ban had been deeply concerned by the outbreak since the first cases were detected in October. “Determining the source of the cholera outbreak is important for both the United Nations and the people of Haiti,” it added.The epidemic has struck while Haiti is still reeling from a devastating earthquake that killed over 200,000 people and displaced some 1.3 million others, most of them still living in crowded and unsanitary tent camps as the disaster’s first anniversary approaches on 12 January.MINUSTAH, currently with nearly 12,000 military and police personnel, has been on the ground in Haiti since mid-2004 after then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile amid violent unrest. read more

Ban calls for raising the cost for those who use rape as

31 January 2011Only when rape in armed conflict becomes a liability for armed groups rather than a tool in the struggle for power – a war crime that will bring inevitable punishment – will progress be made in eliminating the scourge, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. “We have to raise the cost of committing atrocities to the point where they harm the perpetrators even more than the victims,” he told a news conference on sexual violence in conflicts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is attending an African Union (AU) summit.“That means that when a peace process begins, perpetrators are never permitted to get or to retain positions of military, political or economic influence. Where sexual violence has been part of the fighting, ending it must be part of making peace.”Mr. Ban noted that Africa has some of the world’s most progressive legal instruments to address sexual violence in conflict and advance women’s rights, including the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, and he hailed the AU’s decision to ensure that its Peace and Security Council holds an annual session on women and children in armed conflict. “The challenge now is to ensure these laudable commitments are felt where they matter most, in the marketplaces where women trade, at water-points, and along the roads where girls walk to school,” he said.“The United Nations wants to work closely with the African Union and African troop contributors to better prepare our peacekeepers to respond to sexual violence as a security threat. We need Africa’s leaders and leaders around the world to support this campaign.”Stressing that prevention is possible, Mr. Ban noted that in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, joint so-called “firewood” patrols by the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have increased women’s freedom of movement and cut the number of rapes. Women were often attacked when they left internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to fetch firewood or water. In Liberia, the presence of female police has improved reporting and response, he added. Just this month, UN officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported at least 120 alleged cases of rape perpetrated by both rebels and the national army in the conflict-rife eastern part of the country, where more than 300 civilians, including some boys and men, were raped in a single weekend last summer by members of rebel armed groups.But Mr. Ban’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström stressed that the scourge is not just African but global. “I have recently been to Sarajevo, where you know 15 years ago, maybe between 15,000 and 16,000 women were held in rape camps,” she said, referring to the 1992-1995 Balkans war between Bosnia and Herzegovina (whose capital is Sarajevo), Serbia and Croatia. “We know reports today from Haiti. From everywhere, we have heard that this is the weapon of choice because it is cheap, silent and very effective… this is an element, a phenomenon that we have to stop. And it takes political leadership, political ownership of this issue and a very strong sense of the line of command. Because it has to start with the political leaders who say: ‘this has to stop, this is an international crime, it is criminal, not cultural or sexual, it is criminal.’” Describing the terrible trauma that befalls rape victims Ms. Wallström recounted the story of a woman she met in Sarajevo who had been raped and held in one of these rape camps: “She said ‘sometimes I wish that they had shot me instead because they took my life without killing me.’ “But it is a kind of invisible war damage, the way she has been wounded. And others with visible wounds, they will become war veterans, they will be honoured by their societies, but [there is no access to justice for the woman]. She meets her rapist in the bank, and he smiles at her.” read more

Libyan Government forces and opposition committed war crimes – UN panel

1 June 2011A United Nations-ordered panel investigating human rights abuses in Libya says that both Government forces and the opposition have committed war crimes during the weeks of fighting following the uprising against the regime of Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi. The three-member International Commission of Inquiry, dispatched by the UN Human Rights Council, submitted its findings to the 47-member body in Geneva today. The report comes as concern grows about the worsening humanitarian situation in the North African country, including dwindling food stocks, and as diplomatic efforts to help resolve the crisis continue.The commission “has reached the conclusion that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed by the Government forces of Libya,” according to a news release issued in Geneva. “The commission received fewer reports of facts which would amount to the commission of international crimes by opposition forces; however, it did find some acts which would constitute war crimes.”The acts falling under crimes against humanity include murder, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and sexual abuse, which the report stated were committed by Government forces “as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.”Serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by Government forces amounting to war crimes include intentionally directing attacks against protected persons and targets such as civilian structures, medical units and transport. The commission said it had received, but was unable to verify, individual accounts of rape. “It notes, however, that sufficient information was received to justify further investigation to ascertain the extent of sexual violence, including whether cases were linked to incitement by the command of either side.”Further investigation is also warranted, it stated, with regard to the use and recruitment of child soldiers, the use of excessive force by Government forces against demonstrators, arrests and detentions that were carried out in a “blanket” fashion, and a “pattern of enforced disappearances.”The commission also found that torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were committed by both the Government and opposition forces in violation of obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.The team, led by Professor Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian jurist and war crimes expert, calls on the Government to immediately cease acts of violence against civilians in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, and to conduct “exhaustive, impartial and transparent” investigations into all alleged violations.It also calls on the National Transitional Council, the umbrella group representing the opposition, to conduct similar investigations into alleged violations, and to ensure the immediate implementation of applicable international humanitarian and human rights law.Also serving on the commission is Asma Khader, a Jordanian-Palestinian lawyer who serves on the executive committee of the International Commission of Jurists, and Canada’s Philippe Kirsch, who was the first president of the International Criminal Court (ICC).The Council is scheduled to consider the report on 6 June, as part of its current session. read more

Sustainable development vital for populations in arid lands Ban says

“The management, conservation and sustainable development of dry forests are central to combating desertification,” Mr. Ban said in a message marking World Day to Combat Desertification, which is celebrated on 17 June. He emphasized that degraded land can be made productive through sustainable practices. The UN General Assembly designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests to bring attention to the value of forests and the social, economic and environmental costs of their loss. The theme of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification is “Forests keep drylands working.”In his message, Mr. Ban advocated for investment in drylands for the betterment of local communities.“Too often, investing in drylands has been seen as unproductive or risky, instead of a necessary avenue for improving the well-being of local communities and national economies,” he said.Through the upcoming events of the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on desertification, land degradation and drought in September and the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012, the Secretary-General urged governments and their partners to “bring greater focus to the quest for solutions to this urgent challenge of sustainable development.”UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner noted the importance of forests for the livelihood of the residents of the world’s drylands. “The analysis indicates that investing an additional $40 billion a year in the forestry sector could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050 and catalyze the creation of millions of new jobs” stated Mr. Steiner.The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is recognizing this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification with an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) in Spain through a ceremony to designate the soccer star Carlos Marchena as a Drylands Ambassador of the UNCCD.In recognition of the Day, Lesotho is celebrating a successful tree-planting effort and revival of previously degraded land in Leribe district. In Senegal, activities include a tree planting ceremony, while events are also being staged in Egypt, Argentina, the Republic of Korea, Iran and Benin.The Day, first observed in 1995, is designed to serve as a reminder that desertification is a problem that can be addressed through community participation and cooperation. 17 June 2011The estimated two billion people living in the world’s arid lands are among those most vulnerable to hunger and climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today, calling for sustainable development to ensure those areas are productive enough to support their populations. read more

UN migrants rights official hails new pact protecting domestic workers

21 June 2011The head of a United Nations expert committee on migrants’ rights today welcomed the recent adoption by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of an international convention designed to protect the rights of domestic workers, millions of whom are migrants. “Migrant domestic workers are at heightened risk of certain forms of exploitation and abuse, due to the vulnerability, isolation and dependence in which most find themselves,” said Abdelhamid El Jamri, head of UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.“Women migrant domestic workers, in particular, face additional risks related to their gender, including gender-based violence,” Mr. El Jamri said. “These risks and vulnerabilities are further aggravated for migrant domestic workers who are in an irregular situation, not least because they may fear deportation if they contact State authorities to seek protection from an abusive employer.” “Speedy ratification and further implementation of the ILO Convention will improve the respect for the rights of migrant domestic workers,” Mr. El Jamri said. The International Convention on Domestic Workers, adopted last week, states that domestic workers around the world who care for families and households, must have the same basic labour rights as those recognized for other workers: reasonable hours of work, weekly rest for at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on payment in-kind, clear information on the terms and conditions of employment, as well as respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The migrants’ rights committee is made up of unpaid, independent experts who report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Gulnara Shahinian, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, also called for a speedy ratification, in a similar message issued yesterday. read more

UN postal union acquires worlds first postage stamp issued in 1840

15 February 2012The United Nations postal union reported today that it has acquired what is probably the world’s best-known stamp – the Penny Black – which was issued 172 years ago and shows a profile image of United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria on a black background. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) now also owns two other Victorian stamps, the Penny Red and the Two Pence Blue, as well as an envelope bearing the Penny Black and cancelled on 22 July 1840, only two months after the famous stamp was officially issued on 6 May 1840.The Penny Black will add to UPU’s vast stamp collection, which contains more than 800,000 stamps. The historic philatelic items were purchased for a total of 1,800 Swiss francs ($1,965), the agency said in a press release.The Penny Black shows a profile image of Queen Victoria looking to the left. Although it is known as the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black is not considered rare.More than 70 million copies of the stamp were issued and it can easily be purchased. The other particular feature of the famous Penny Black are the Roman letters that are printed at the bottom two corners to identify the stamp’s line and column position on the printed sheet. The technique was also designed to discourage counterfeiters.“The Penny Black is unique and its creation is one of the great moments in world postal history,” said UPU Director General Edouard Dayan. “The postage stamp has a certain magic; each stamp is a tiny ambassador that informs about the history, the art, the culture and the national heritage of our member countries.”The acquisition of the Penny Black was the idea of Jean-François Logette, the manager of the philatelic programme at UPU’s International Bureau.“The stamps in the collection are a testimony to great moments in the history of our member countries and the world and constitute an important philatelic heritage,” said Mr. Logette.Before stamps existed, the recipient of a letter paid for the delivery cost, based on a complex tariff scheme. The postage-paid letter bearing a stamp was the brainchild of Rowland Hill, who initiated a reform of the British postal system and was knighted for his services.He apparently proposed the postage stamp’s creation after noticing that the postal service was losing significant mailing revenues because recipients could refuse to take delivery of an item.Switzerland and Brazil followed in the United Kingdom’s footsteps by issuing their own stamps in 1843. Stamps appeared in the United States in 1847 and in France and Belgium in 1849.Today, all countries issue their own. Even the UN Postal Administration issues stamps, 80 per cent of which are sold to collectors, while the rest are used on mail leaving UN offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna.UPU Member States are expected to send a copy of each postage stamp they issue to the International Bureau in Berne.The newly acquired stamps and envelope have been framed and will be displayed in the International Bureau conference room named after Rowland Hill. read more

Class action suit over Bell Mobility prepaid wireless services gets court approval

TORONTO — An Ontario court has certified a class-action lawsuit against Bell Mobility alleging that expiry dates on its pre-paid wireless services should not be allowed.The suit argues that the services should be treated like gift cards and not have an expiry date.The decision Friday by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice allows the case, which has not been proven in court, to proceed.The suit was filed on behalf of anyone in Ontario who had bought pre-paid wireless services since May 2010 from Bell Mobility, Virgin Mobile or Solo Mobile — all brands of Bell Canada.Bell said it complies with the law and looks forward to addressing the case in court.“Keep in mind that the threshold for class-action certification is quite low and doesn’t address whether the claim has any merit,” Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis said in a statement.The Canadian Press read more