By Omar AziziNew York – I had never before flown first class on Royal Air Maroc, and had always been one of those people who avoided flying with RAM whenever possible.As a young man without children, I flew RAM many times. Each time I flew them between 1990 and 2008, they were invariably late, their planes filthy, and, the most inexcusable part was that the flight, the attendants were beyond rude. Asking for a glass of water on RAM was not the same as asking for a glass of water on any other airline. The flight attendant would simply glare at you, pretend she heard you, and not return. When you asked a second time, she would act like getting a glass of water for you was not part of her job description. Ultimately, when the food arrived, which, to be fair, was always of very high quality (pre-2008) – you would get your glass of water. As if that was not bad enough, I once flew to Mauritania, and prior to boarding the plane, I confirmed with the woman working at the gate that a visa was not needed to fly to Mauritania (I was travelling on an American passport). Since I knew that airlines are the ones who are penalized if people go to a country without a visa, I had no reason to doubt her word. You can only imagine my shock at being refused entry to Mauritania and put back on a plane as soon as I arrived. The next two days were spent frantically trying to get a visa so that I could complete my trip to Mauritania. The shock was that RAM not only refused to refund the cost of my ticket, they were not even remorseful about it.I went to the RAM office in Rabat and they were beyond useless. I filed a complaint with the airline in the Centreville Rabat location, too. I then decided to go to the very top, because I truly believed that top management would not want customers to have this kind of horrible experience. I was certain that if they knew what had happened, they would personally act to make things right. This is when I discovered that RAM was run by two brothers. This is also when I found out that despite having a monopoly, RAM was still not making a profit. When I realized that RAM was not generating ANY profit and was run like a family business, this is when I understood that complaints to RAM would always fall on deaf ears.RAM acts like a Mafia. They do not sell drugs, engage in murder for hire, and other kinds of activities we associate with the Mafia, but they are a Mafia in that they have a captive market in the form of a legalized monopoly, and although they receive bailouts and cash from government tax coffers, the “leadership” of the company (for lack of a better word) is completely and absolutely unaccountable to its customers. In other words, they couldn’t care less about how their customers felt. They know their control over the company is solid, and heaven and Earth can’t change that.I took my anger online and wrote several scathing editorials and reviews about the airline, and resolved to NEVER fly RAM again in my life. Then I had kids. Once you have kids, especially young kids, you become acutely aware of how important it is to NOT take indirect flights. Paying an extra few hundred dollars to have a direct flight is a must. Consequently, I was forced to take RAM, as they have the monopoly on direct flights between Morocco and the US. So what happened?The service had actually gotten better. The female flight attendants who previously lacked any kind of social graces had been replaced with young male and female stewards who at least made an effort to be polite. The airplanes were cleaner than I remembered. The only real negative was that the food had decreased in quality.Fast forward to last year: I took a RAM flight from Tunisia to Morocco, and because I needed to take extra luggage, it actually worked out to be cheaper for me to buy a first class ticket one way than it would have cost to pay for the extra bag and fly economy. Thus went my first flight on RAM First, and this is when I realized that business in Morocco, all high level business, for that matter, was not run in a way that had any resemblance to what I grew up with in the United States. In the US, the CEOs want their customers to be happy and look for opportunities to engage their customers. As luck would have it, on my flight back from Tunis, who would be sitting in the first class seat right behind me other than the CEO of Royal Air Maroc? I looked at this man and expected him to be 40 to 50 pounds overweight smoking a cigar, in line with how I assumed all Mafia godfathers would dress. Unfortunately, this was not the case at all. As the alcohol was passed around the first class cabin, he did not drink. This also surprised me, as I assumed that someone who cared so little for the interests of the Moroccan people would have the same kind of vices associated with other types of gangsters. Unfortunately, he did not live up to my expectation of pure evil, so what did that leave?The CEO did not engage people, even in the first class cabin, much less the economy section, to enquire about their comfort during the flight (there was significant choppy air turbulence) – he just did not seem to care one way or another. Now, to be fair, he could have recently had a very difficult situation in his family. He could be going through a divorce, facing health issues, etc… so it is not really fair to make too much out of his seeming lack of interest in getting the opinions of people who had paid good money to use his company’s services. However, taken in concert with the complete lack of accountability I and countless thousands who have flown RAM in the past have experienced, here we had further confirmation that RAM was run like a personal piggy bank – the CEO, far from being concerned with improving the services of his carrier, far from fearing for his job, simply did not seem to care.Did you know that it is illegal in Morocco for Moroccan Muslims to serve alcohol? Did you know that consumption of alcohol by Moroccan Muslims is illegal? Yet, on all RAM flights, you have Moroccan “Muslims” (whether they pray or not, I don’t know) – but they certainly don’t eat/drink in public during Ramadan. These people serve alcohol to Moroccan customers. In other words, criminal activity takes place on every single RAM flight that takes off and lands every single day, yet nobody has been held accountable.If nobody has been held accountable for breaking Moroccan law on ALL RAM flights, what makes anyone believe that anyone will be held accountable for customer complaints? RAM has a monopoly: a monopoly that finally reported a profit for the first time in its history this year! Samir Gas, Alliance, CGI, and a long line of other Moroccan companies are similarly given “preferential” treatment by the government, and the management of these companies is miraculously never held accountable either.I hope that this time is different, but if the powers at be were to react differently to RAM, it would set a very dangerous precedent. It would rock to the core the lynchpin that holds Morocco’s delicate patchwork of interests and moving parts together.I would be absolutely shocked to see RAM start complying with Moroccan law and stop serving Moroccans alcohol on flights. I would also be shocked to see RAM’s bosses stripped of their control of the company. The reason I would be shocked to see any action taken against the CEO of RAM is that this would represent the arrival of accountability in Morocco. In order for the “system” to survive, it depends on two things, NO accountability for members of the oligarchy and no absolute rule of law. Thus, the criminal justice system will always be a place where injustice reigns supreme and top level business leaders in Morocco have no interest in generating revenue or being accountable to their customers. They just take their piece of the pie and try not to make waves. If accountability were to find its ways to the shores of Morocco, it would represent instability to some, and though it would likely be welcome by the masses, it would threathen the interest of the oligarchy.There are no easy answers, but one thing is certain: the CEO of RAM will not be going anywhere without a seriously large golden parachute. The survival of the clientelist system depends on it.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permissionThe views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
Why Royal Air Maroc CEO Is Never Held Accountable
Spanish Coast Guard Abandons Search for 35 Missing Migrants
Taroudante – Spain’s Coast Guard said on Friday that it has called off the search for 35 missing migrants after having rescued 15 migrants whose boat was shipwrecked off the coast of Morocco on Thursday, according to AFP.The same source said that the Spanish Coast Guard vessel rescued two women and 13 men who were clinging to the remains of their boat, which sunk some 39 nautical miles northwest of the town of al Hoceima in northern Morocco.“The search has ended and it will not be resumed,” a coast guard spokeswoman was quoted by AFP as saying.“One of the rescued women said the boat had lost its floor at around two in the morning, and many people who were travelling in it were lost,” the statement said. Helena Maleno of Caminando Fronteras, the NGO that first sounded the alarm, said that most of the migrants on the boat – about 54 in total – were from the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, and Cameroon.The activist criticized the way Spanish authorities treated the migrants who were “presented before a judge on Friday and deported from Spain without taking into account that “they just had a huge shock.”“They are people who have been displaced due to tragedy and conflict. They are not met with the respect of international conventions,” said Maleno.“If they had been French victims of a bus accident in Spain, they would not be treated like this.”Thousands of migrants have died in Mediterranean Sea in attempts to reach Europe.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission
Moroccos election to AUs Peace and Security Council is a diplomatic
By Tamba Francois KoundounoRabat – In January last year, Morocco joined the African Union after three decades of absence.“It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long”. Such were the words of King Mohamed VI as he spoke to his African counterparts on the “historic day” that marked Morocco’s readmission to the continental body. And one year later, it seems that it is indeed “good to be back home.” Morocco, in effect, just one year after its readmission, was elected, earlier today, to North Africa’s seat in AU’s Peace and Security Council.Morocco will take over Algeria’s place in AU’ Peace and Security Council, as the latter, which held North Africa’s seat in the organ from 2016-2018, chose not to run for the renewal of a mandate that ends this month.Speaking to the press after this election to one of “AU’s most strategic organs”, Nasser Bourita said that Morocco’s election is a vibrant testimony to the trust that African leaders have in their Moroccan counterpart, a result, he added, “of the king’s commitment to solidarity” in the continent.In what was his first public reaction to the election, Bourita stressed that “this important election” evinces the expanding credibility that the kingdom has secured in the continent. That credibility, Bourita said, is the culmination of “King Mohamed VI’s genuine and constructive implication” in vital policy concerns for Africa.The election is, Bourita further explained, “an acknowledgement of Morocco’s unfailing reliability in humanitarian and peace-keeping actions in Africa.”“Morocco is one of the rare countries to have participated in many peace-keeping operations”, Bourita said, upbeat, while adding that Morocco will use its two-year mandate to ensure stability and security across the continent.Bourita spoke of some “opposing forces” that had tried to block Morocco’s accession to the seat, stressing that winning this “strategic seat” will allow Morocco to “impede all manipulations and instrumentalizing strategies” that “some parties” have been deploying for the past years.This win has a particular significance considering Morocco’s very recent return to the Panafrican organization, Bourita also said, underlining that, as the king Mohamed said while joining the AU, “Morocco is not joining to divide, but to share and contribute.” It is this “royal orientation” towards peace and cooperation that will be the driving force of Moroccan diplomacy in AU’s Peace and Security Council, Bourita concluded.Meanwhile, some specialists and concerned actors have saluted Morocco’s presence in the Panafrican organization, calling the kingdom “a positive force”.Adama Gaye, a renowned Senegalese journalist, scholar and political commentator, said that Morocco’s presence in Africa’s strategic affairs can prove fruitful in meeting the continent’s economic and security concerns.
Hondas profit drop on air bag recall expenses flat sales
TOKYO — Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. reported a 71 per cent decline in its fiscal third quarter profit as air-bag recalls and flat vehicle sales offset gains from cost cuts.Tokyo-based Honda reported Friday that its October-December profit was 168 billion yen ($1.5 billion), down from 570.3 billion yen a year earlier. Quarterly sales were unchanged at 3.9 trillion yen ($36 billion).Honda suffered in recent years from a massive global recall of Takata air bags.The maker of the Accord sedan and Asimo robot said it is facing various class action lawsuits in the U.S. related to the air bags.Honda said its settlements for April-December totalled 53.8 billion yen ($493 million). It warned it expects more of such expenses.The Associated Press
Saudi Arabia Softens Air Travel Policy Allows Flight Service to Israel
Rabat – Air India flight AI 139 from New Delhi landed on Thursday on Tel Aviv airport via Saudi Arabia, ending a long-standing ban of flights from Saudi Arabia to Israel, according to The Times of India.The decision is spurring many observers to query the implications of such a move in light of the Saudi Kingdom’s new regional aspirations.Though the flight may seem banal, Saudi Arabia’s permission to flyover en route to Tel Aviv is a major diplomatic event, especially considering the fact that many Arab and “Islamic countries” do not recognize Israel, and are therefore adamant about banning flight services to and from Israel. “This is a really historic moment. We are in a new era,” said Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin, who spoke to the press in terms of strengthening and rekindling India-Israel relationships.But this “historic” diplomatic moment may raise—in fact it already has— eyebrows in many predominantly Muslim countries. Hinting at the ongoing Gulf crisis, some observers and commentators are now raising concerns about Saudi Arabia’s softening stance towards a decades-old ban of flight services to Israel, while the Kingdom has been blockading Qatar since last June.“The Air India flew over Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to reach Israel,” The Times of India reported, adding that “The permission to fly over Saudi Arabia will save Air India almost 2 hours and 10 minutes compared to the longer route taken by Israel’s national carrier EI AI.”Israeli authorities are however cautious, however, as to the overall excitement that followed this “historic moment.” “We have to be very cautious. This is really a first step—a very important one. I hope with time we have more and more normal relation with our neighbor in the region,” Mr. Yariv told reporters.
Tens of thousands uprooted by violence in northern Central African Republic
14 September 2007Increased violence has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) near the border with Chad, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. Increased violence has driven tens of thousands of people from their homes in the north of the Central African Republic (CAR) near the border with Chad, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.Some 12,000 people – the entire population of the area between the towns of Markounda and Silambi – have been uprooted, according to UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR Toby Lanzer.Civilians have been caught in fighting between various armed groups, including both State and non-State factions from CAR and neighbouring Chad, in recent months. Late last month, it was reported that the population had escaped the violence into the bush.The UN expressed concern for the 12,000 living along the Markounda-Silambi axis, approximately 500 kilometres north of the capital Bangui. In July, less than half of that number of people was displaced in the area, but now the entire population of the axis has been forced to flee their homes.“Conditions are abominable – marked by constant driving rain and night-time temperatures dipping to 15 degrees Celsius,” said Mr. Lanzer, who led a UN mission to the area from 7 to 10 September. “All this comes at the height of the lean season, when people are at the end of their ropes.”These internally displaced persons (IDPs) have no shelter, safe water, health care or basic necessities such as cooking utensils and soap, and a marked increase in acute respiratory infections has been reported among the displaced.“We are approaching the harvest in the coming weeks, and people need to get to their fields. If not, hunger will inevitably follow,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who called for all parties in the country’s north to create an atmosphere conducive to the IDPs returning home.The UN and its partners’ $83 million appeal to assist those in need is only half funded, and Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is considering allocating Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) resources to the CAR.Appealing for increased assistance, the UN highlighted the limited capacity of local authorities to protect and help those impacted.In the past 18 months, nearly 300,000 people have been uprooted from their homes because of conflict within the CAR’s borders, and problems in both Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan threaten to further destabilize the situation in northern CAR.
UN Human Rights Council to hold special session on Myanmar next week
28 September 2007The United Nations Human Rights Council has announced it will hold a special meeting on 2 October to discuss the situation in Myanmar, amid growing calls for authorities in the Southeast Asian nation to exercise restraint in dealing with ongoing protests. Myanmar has recently witnessed a wave of peaceful demonstrations, which began last month in protest against a surge in fuel prices and more recently have included many of the country’s monks.The 47-member Council, which today suspended its sixth session until 10 December, decided to hold the emergency meeting following a request by a number of countries.This will be the fifth special session convened by the Geneva-based Council since it was set up in June 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights.The deteriorating situation in the country prompted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to dispatch his Special Envoy to the region earlier this week. Ibrahim Gambari held meetings at Singapore’s Foreign Ministry today and is expected to arrive in Myanmar tomorrow. Mr. Ban’s call for restraint by Myanmar authorities in responding to the demonstrations has been echoed by a number of the world body’s officials.Today the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned the killing of Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai, who was shot dead on 27 September while covering a demonstration in Rangoon. Decrying the use of violence against journalists and protesters in Myanmar, Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura called on the authorities to respect the professional work of reporters regardless of their country of origin. “Freedom of expression and press freedom are basic human rights and allowing the media to express different views can only help achieve the national reconciliation we all wish for Myanmar,” he stated.Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today it was deeply concerned about the situation in the country, especially the effects of the violence on women and children. UNICEF’s Veronique Taveau told reporters in Geneva today that with much of the Myanmar’s population already struggling to survive – with a significant number of children malnourished – the current violence could only lead to a further deterioration and restrictions on UNICEF’s ability to reach the most vulnerable.
WTO chief says members within reach of a major step toward new
Referring to the Doha Round of negotiations on international trade which began in 2001, WTO Director General Pascal Lamy said that members are “within reach of a major step in our drive to conclude the Round this year” and added that he could think of “no stronger spur for our action than the threats facing the world economy across several fronts, including rises in food prices and energy prices and financial market turbulences.”“There is widespread recognition that a balanced outcome of the Doha Round could in these circumstances provide a strong push to stimulate economic growth, providing better prospects for development and ensuring a stable and more predictable trading system,” Mr. Lamy stressed.In his opening remarks to the Committee Mr. Lamy said that the aim of this week’s negotiations was to establish formal blueprint agreements for trade in agriculture as well as industrial products.After Mr. Lamy’s address, 30 ministers from participating countries addressed the informal session of the Committee, with more delegations from the WTO’s 152 members expected to speak tomorrow. 21 July 2008The head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) today said he was convinced that the organization’s member states would be able to reach agreements on international trade, as this week’s meeting of the Trade Negotiations Committee got under way this morning.
Huge challenges remain in Darfur and Chad UN aid chief tells Security
3 December 2008Both the Government and the rebels in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region bear responsibility for the immense humanitarian challenges there, while the rapid deployment of an enhanced United Nations force in neighbouring Chad is vital for improving the lot of refugees, the top UN relief official said today. “There is plenty of room to criticize the Government of Sudan for continuing human rights violations, for not disarming the militias, for not always facilitating humanitarian relief, or for declaring a ceasefire [and] then almost immediately violating it,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told the Security Council in a briefing on his recent visit to both Sudan and Chad.“However the rebel movements have neither declared a cease-fire nor shown great readiness to engage in a political process, and are also not helping relief efforts. They have a lot to answer for, too.”More than five years of fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militia and rebel groups have killed an estimated 300,000 people and driven another 2.7 million from their homes, over 260,000 of them into Chad. A joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), slated to reach 26,000 personnel but now only 10,500-strong, is being deployed in the region. Mr. Holmes said his discussions overall with the Sudanese authorities, “while frank at times,” took place in a constructive spirit. “We now need to see rapid results on the ground. We are also intensifying our contacts with the rebel movements to persuade them that they too must respect humanitarian personnel and aid efforts,” he added.With the billion-dollar humanitarian operation in Darfur still the largest in the world, he said the critical humanitarian challenges were access and protection of civilians amid the uprooting of a further 315,000 people this year alone and “the dramatic increase” in attacks on humanitarians and their property.As of 30 November, 261 vehicles had been hijacked and 172 compounds broken into. Rebel movements, or those linked to them, appear primarily responsible for the majority of “these terrifying incidents” in rural areas, but many also occur in main towns in Government control.“I call on both the Government security forces and rebel leaders to put a stop to this banditry once and for all,” Mr. Holmes said. “It seriously damages the quality of assistance – just as one example, (UN) World Food Programme rations are still only at 70 per cent because of attacks on their convoys – and it damages the credibility of their promises to ensure our safety.”He added that throughout his trip in Darfur, he was confronted with the pervasive risk of sexual violence. “I met many women who had the courage to speak out,” he said. “It was therefore particularly disturbing that programmes aimed at preventing or responding to this violence are under increased pressure from Government authorities.”Turning to Chad, where 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 57,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as 263,000 Darfurians, are receiving humanitarian assistance, Mr. Holmes called for rapid deployment of the enhanced 6,000-strong UN Mission in CAR and Chad (MINURCAT) to replace the 3,000-strong European Union Force (EUFOR).EUFOR is due to leave eastern Chad, which has suffered from internal strife, rebel activity and a spill-over from the Darfur conflict, by March. Mr. Holmes said banditry had worsened and posed a significant threat to IDPs, refugees, aid workers and the local population.But overall, he added, “I left Chad with slightly more optimism about future prospects, including in terms of our efforts to provide life-saving humanitarian aid, than I had expected. However, the risks of rapid deterioration remain high. The international community, and this Council, cannot afford to neglect Chad.”Mr. Holmes also visited southern Sudan where a peace agreement in 2005 ended the north-south civil war that killed at least 2 million people and displaced 4.5 million others. Although the region is no longer a humanitarian emergency as such, it still has some of the worst child and maternal health indicators in the world, with maternal mortality twice as high as in Darfur and one child in seven dying under the age of five.“The good news is that some 12,000 kilometres of roads have been de-mined, 3,000 water points rehabilitated, 2.4 million former IDPs and refugees returned, and primary school enrolment rates have risen dramatically,” he said. “Some of the “peace dividends” hoped for on the signing of the peace agreement have begun to appear. But there is a long way to go.”In oil-rich Abyei in central Sudan, still contested by north and south despite the peace agreement, an estimated 50,000 people fled violence in May. Mr. Holmes stressed that most of the population would not return due to fear of renewed violence without progress on setting up local joint implementation and police units.Asked by reporters afterwards about concerns over the impact of a possible arrest warrant from International Criminal Court (ICC) against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur, he repeated what he told the Council – that it is in everyone’s interests to ensure the safety of humanitarians and to sustain the relief operation.“I took every opportunity to remind the Government of Sudan of their fundamental responsibilities in this context. For our part we will do everything in our power to maintain our operations to help those in need.”
UN and Haiti to investigate prison riot deaths in the wake of
25 May 2010The United Nations and Haiti will look into a deadly prison riot in the southern city of Les Cayes shortly after January’s deadly earthquake, it was announced today, amid allegations that unarmed inmates were shot by local police officers. The independent commission will be a joint UN-Haiti effort, a UN spokesperson told reporters. The commission is being set up under an agreement reached between Haitian President René Préval and Edmund Mulet, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and the head of the UN peacekeeping mission, which is known as MINUSTAH.Media reports say that more than one dozen people were killed and dozens of others were wounded during an attempted prison escape in Les Cayes on 19 January, with questions raised about the role played by the Haitian National Police (HNP).
Sri Lankas failure to prevent disruption of UN work unacceptable – Ban
“The Secretary-General finds it unacceptable that the Sri Lankan authorities have failed to prevent the disruption of the normal functioning of the United Nations offices in Colombo as a result of unruly protests organized and led by a cabinet minister of the Government,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said. The protests in the capital, in which hundreds of people took part, were led by Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa, who reportedly said today he will not eat until the UN disbands the advisory panel it set up last month.Mr. Ban set up the three-member panel to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict that ended last year between the Government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). “The Secretary-General calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to live up to its responsibilities towards the United Nations as host country, so as to ensure continuation of the vital work of the Organization to assist the people of Sri Lanka without any further hindrance,” said the statement. It added that in light of the evolving situation, Mr. Ban is recalling the UN Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Neil Buhne, to New York for consultations. He has also decided to close the Regional Centre in Colombo of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). 8 July 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that the United Nations can carry out its work in the country without disruption, after a cabinet minister announced he is staging a hunger strike outside its offices in Colombo which have been the scene of protests for several days.
UN allocates 41 million to boost aid operations in nine underfunded crises
The money from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will help cover funding gaps in key humanitarian projects in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Yemen, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Central African Republic (CAR), Djibouti, Eritrea, Republic of Congo and Nepal. Humanitarian actors in Chad and the DRC received the largest individual portions of some $8 million apiece. Agencies working in Yemen will receive $7 million, while the humanitarian country team in DPRK has been allocated some $5 million. Humanitarian agencies in the CAR, Djibouti, Eritrea and the Republic of Congo will each receive $3 million in funding, while $2 million will go to help the UN Country Team in Nepal address humanitarian needs in the South Asian nation.Countries were selected to receive grants based on an analysis of the funding levels of their aid programmes, and the severity of the humanitarian needs. Earlier this week, Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, announced that UN agencies and their partners are facing a nearly $5 billion shortfall this year in responding to humanitarian crises spanning the globe.He appealed to donors to persist in their efforts to ensure that “people struck by disaster or conflict receive the help they need for the rest of the year to stay alive, avoid recoverable harm, and restore dignity and basic self-sufficiency.” Since it was established in 2006 to speed up relief operations for humanitarian emergencies and make funds available quickly after a disaster, CERF has disbursed more than $1.7 billion to help victims in more than 76 countries and territories. The Fund is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations, local governments, the private sector and individuals. 16 July 2010United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today allocated some $41 million in emergency funding to boost humanitarian operations in nine countries where people are suffering the effects of hunger, malnutrition, disease, and conflict.
UN agency releases list of medicines vital for saving mothers and children
The list of the top 30 medicines includes oxytocin, a drug used to treat severe bleeding after childbirth, the leading cause of maternal death, as well as simple antibiotics to treat pneumonia, which kills an estimated 1.6 million children under the age of five every year.Access to appropriate medicines is vital to achieving global health goals, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which noted that almost all of the maternal and child deaths occur in developing countries. “The vast majority can be prevented when the right medicines are available in the right formulations and are prescribed and used correctly,” it stated in a news release. Other medicines on the list include those for treating high blood pressure and sexually transmitted infections among women, as well as diarrhoea, malaria and AIDS-related illness among children.WHO added that most priority medicines are not available where needed, pointing out that surveys conducted in 14 African countries show that children’s medicines are available in only 35 per cent to 50 per cent of public and private centre pharmacies and drug stores.The availability of medicines in developing countries for maternal and child health is compromised, the agency said, by poor supply and distribution systems, insufficient health facilities and staff, low investment in health and the high cost of medicines.“We know that basic, cheap oral rehydration salts and zinc stop children from dying from diarrhoea, and we recommend that all countries make them accessible. But our surveys show that, at present, ORS is available in less than half of pharmacies and kiosks in African countries and zinc is not available at all in many places,” said Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO’s Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.“This list is designed to help countries prioritize, so that they focus on getting the most critical things available and save the most lives,” she added.WHO said that medicines appropriate for children are often not available, partly because of a lack of awareness that children need different medicines from adults. As a result, health workers are forced to adapt medicines intended for adults. Tablets are crushed into imprecise portions and dissolved into unpalatable drinks that are difficult for children to swallow and are potentially ineffective, toxic or harmful.The agency recommends that medicines for children should be provided in doses that are easy to measure and easy for children to take. A newly developed artemesinin combination tablet for malaria is dissolved in liquid and is sweet tasting, making it easier for children to swallow and ensuring that they receive correct and effective doses.The top 30 list also features five urgently needed medicines that do not currently exist for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, particularly in HIV-infected children, and for newborn care.Treatment guidelines for tuberculosis in children have been developed recently by WHO but the recommended dosage requires a child to swallow many tablets a day over a long period of time. Combining the essential ingredients into one tablet results in a pill around the size of a one-euro coin – too large for a child to swallow. Therefore, WHO is calling for more research to develop appropriate, palatable formulations for children. 21 March 2011The United Nations health agency today released its first ever list of the most vital medicines for saving the lives of mothers and children, and stressed the need to ensure their availability in developing countries.
UN pledges full support for Guineas security sector reform on path to
29 March 2011The United Nations has pledged its “enthusiastic” support for security sector reform in Guinea as the West African country transitions into a democracy after decades of dictatorships, coups and bloodshed. The UN reiterates its desire “to work very closely with the Government and other partners to assure its full success,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit told a three-day national seminar on security reform, which opened yesterday in Conakry, the capital. “The United Nations supports the new Guinea in other efforts, too, for reform and institutional and economic rebirth to meet the legitimate aspirations of its people for change and well-being,” he said. He paid tribute to President Alpha Condé and his Government for their commitment to see “crucial” security reform through to a successful conclusion in a country that only a year and a half ago suffered an explosion of violence when soldiers shot, raped and attacked hundreds of civilians, killing at least 150. Mr. Condé’s election in November was the final stage of an interim Government’s efforts to set the stage for democracy after the forces of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a coup in 2008 after the death of long-time president Lansana Conté, carried out that massacre in September 2009. Mr. Conté himself became head of State in a military coup after president Ahmed Sékou Touré, Guinea’s leader since its independence from France in 1958, died in 1984. Mr. Djinnit heads the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the world Organization’s first regional conflict prevention and peacebuilding office, which was set up in 2002 to better address the cross-border impact of conflict and harmonize UN activities in the sub region. Addressing the Security Council in December, he urged other troubled West African States to learn from Guinea’s example. Efforts by the international community, regional organizations and the UN to restore stability in Guinea have “ultimately succeeded in pushing back the frontiers of political scepticism and despair in this country,” he said.
UN chief condemns deadly arson attack in Mexico
26 August 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today deplored the arson attack that left 53 people dead in Monterrey, Mexico, yesterday and voiced solidarity with the country’s people, the families of the victims and the country’s Government. He condemned the “deplorable act of violence” and expressed his condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones.“The United Nations stands with the people of Mexico at this difficult moment,” said a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General.According to media reports, gunmen stormed a casino, sprinkled it with fuel and set the building on fire.Local authorities suspect that organized crime may have been responsible for the attack, the deadliest act of violence since the country launched a crackdown on drug cartels in 2006, according to the press reports.
Zimbabwes orphans to benefit from UNbacked cash grant programme
Donors have mobilized $45 million of the $75 million needed for the Child Protection Fund for the next three years, but the gap needs to be filled to ensure full national coverage of the programme, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a news release.“Protecting children from poverty, harm and abuse begins with reducing their vulnerabilities; cash transfers are one of the critical components that will contribute to the realization of children’s rights,” UNICEF’s representative Peter Salama said of the initiative, which was launched yesterday.The national action plan, led by the Zimbabwean ministry of labour and social services, combines action to help families cope with risks and shocks through three main interventions: cash transfers to the poorest families; basic educational aid; and protection services for child survivors of abuse, violence and exploitation.It aims to reach more than 80,000 households. With the support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), at least 25,000 children will benefit from access to quality child protection services.Child-headed and grandparent-headed households, and those with large numbers of dependents and with chronically ill people or persons living with disabilities, will be cushioned with social cash transfers of up to $25 per month to enable families to meet immediate needs for food and health care. HIV is a significant contributor to household poverty and child vulnerability in Zimbabwe, resulting in youngsters lacking access to adequate basic social services and being increasingly exposed to violence, abuse and exploitation, UNICEF noted.There are over a million orphans in Zimbabwe and only 527,000 of these currently have access to external support. Traditional family and community mechanisms to support orphans have been under considerable financial strain resulting in more children facing difficulties accessing health care, education and other basic amenities.The international donor community involved comprises the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Commission. 28 September 2011Tens of thousands of Zimbabwean orphans and otherwise vulnerable children will benefit from cash transfers, educational aid and protection services under a new Government programme launched in partnership with the United Nations and international donors.
UNESCO ready to boost assistance as Myanmar moves ahead with reforms
10 February 2012The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is already assisting with a number of initiatives in Myanmar, voiced its readiness to work even more closely with the South-East Asian nation as it moves forward with planned reforms. “UNESCO welcomes the Government of Myanmar’s comprehensive programme of democratization and reform and we are determined to accompany this process in our fields of competence,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.Ms. Bokova’s comments came as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), received the 2002 UNESCO-Mandanjeet Singh Prize for Tolerance and Non-Violence today. The award was presented to her by Ryuhei Hosoya, head of the Office of the Director-General of UNESCO, who is on an official visit to Myanmar. Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was unable to receive the award in 2002 because of her detention under house arrest. “I look forward to the day when Burma and UNESCO can work together more closely than they have done until now,” she said as she accepted the prize. Last year Myanmar’s President Thein Sein decided to grant amnesty and to set free a significant number of prisoners of conscience as part of a series of reform measures that also included dialogue between the Government and Ms. Suu Kyi.Ms. Bokova welcomed the country’s “ambitious” reform programme, the agency stated in a news release. She noted that the agency is already working on projects in education, culture and media development, sectors which are essential for dialogue, reconciliation and development.Among other projects, UNESCO, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is helping Myanmar’s new civilian government deliver educational reforms as well as supporting projects to strengthen HIV prevention among youth and drafting new media laws that promote freedom of expression and a free and independent media. Cooperation in culture is being revived with a UNESCO project to mobilize international expertise for the protection of Myanmar’s heritage sites. The country has also expressed interest in proposing properties for inscription on the World Heritage List.
Closing TSX Open 15,242.90 Close 15,266.04 Low 15,234.74 High 15,325.90 Change +73.50 Volume 290,090,825 Value 5,556,753,331
LTTE was able to acquire weapons with ease
He noted that with the eradication of terrorism, efforts are being taken to make a fresh analysis on small arms and light weapons particularly in the areas that were unlawfully occupied by terrorists. He also said that action is being envisaged to take steps nationwide to recover illicit weaponry and ammunition. The LTTE was able to acquire weapons from overseas with ease during the war, Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Major General Shavendra Silva has said.Silva told a UN Conference on preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, that in the post conflict phase, Sri Lanka is beginning to uncover not only the extensive overseas networks that have facilitated the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons but also the extensive arsenal that terrorists had been able to acquire. “The massive stockpile of weapons which were recovered from the terrorists during and following the end of the conflict bears testimony to the ease with which terrorists could procure such weapons globally and reiterates the urgent need to eliminate this illicit trade,” Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the UN quoted Major General Shavendra Silva as saying. “Sri Lanka is a country which has experienced, first hand, the destruction that can be caused by the illicit trade in such weapons. For a period of nearly 30 years, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a terrorist outfit, which unlawfully occupied areas in the North and East of Sri Lanka, made ample use of the easy access to small arms and light weapons globally to procure and use such weapons with lethal repercussions on a democratically elected Government and its people,” he said.
Miliband pushes UK to act on Lanka
Nor are concerns about the actions of the Sri Lanka government merely historic. The leading opposition candidate in the 2010 presidential election was jailed soon afterwards. The chief justice of Sri Lanka has been impeached and dismissed, neutering the independence of the judiciary. The president has reneged on his pledge to expand local autonomy – a key element in post-war reconciliation. In early 2009, as foreign secretary, I travelled to Sri Lanka with Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, so that we could see for ourselves the situation at the end of the brutal 26-year civil war. We met the president and his ministers in Colombo, and then travelled to refugee camps further north. I will never forget what I saw, and in particular the pleading of Tamil women carrying slips of paper with the names of their husbands and sons who had been taken away for “screening”. A film, No Fire Zone, using personal testimony from civilians caught up in the latter stages of the conflict, is putting the Sri Lankan government on the spot. And this month Sri Lanka is being called to account in the UN human rights council by the United States.The Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) is due to take place in Sri Lanka in the autumn. Canada, which is Conservative-led, has robustly called for the meeting – which the Queen would normally open – to be moved from the country. The Labour government took this course when we were planning for the 2011 meeting. It is time for the British government, which has trumpeted its priority of making the Commonwealth a model of good governance and democratic values, to make its voice heard.The insistence on justice and accountability is not legalistic nitpicking. It’s about the message that is sent to those who violate human rights. Just think about the insouciance of President Assad and his supporters. Miliband wrote: Sri Lanka is not being victimised or picked on. UN conventions are the civilising product of the wars – and unstopped slaughters – of the 20th century. They are a universal badge of humanity. Our government should be standing up for them. Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband says the British government must support calls for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be moved out of Sri Lanka over human rights concerns.Writing for the British Guardian newspaper today, Miliband also insisted that Sri Lanka is not being victimized or picked on by the international community. Faraz Shaukelty, a Sri Lankan/British journalist who writes for the outspoken Sunday Leader newspaper, was shot in the neck by three gunmen last month. Human Rights Watch says that several thousand people are locked up without charge, and that state-sponsored abuse of Tamil activists is widespread. Other UN investigations record over 5,000 outstanding cases of enforced and involuntary disappearances; and nearly 100,000 internally displaced people remain without proper protection. This is not the path of reconciliation promised by the Government after the civil war.In 2005 the whole of the UN endorsed the idea of a “responsibility to protect” – the notion that governments and the international system should take active measures to protect civilian life. That doctrine is breached by authoritarian governments, but it is no excuse for the rest of us to stay silent.This is a moment to show that calls for justice and democracy have teeth. Britain needs to back the call for Chogm to be moved. For it to go ahead in Sri Lanka would be a mockery of Commonwealth values and UN authority, and a further invitation for its government to ignore international pleas for decency and accountability. And it would be a nail in the coffin of the vision of a pluralistic Sri Lanka, respectful of the place of all its peoples. The last phase of the government offensive involved squeezing anything up to 330,000 people into the Vanni region, south of the Jaffna peninsula. A report in March 2011 by a special UN panel laid bare the scale of human suffering. Tens of thousands had been killed by government shelling, which had targeted no-fire zones, UN food distribution lines and hospitals. The report also detailed appalling behaviour by the LTTE, the “Tamil Tigers”, alleging that civilians were prevented from escaping and used as hostages. The UN report found credible allegations of serious violations of international law by the Sri Lanka government and the LTTE, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.An internal UN review reported last November that the government obstructed the provision of aid and assistance to civilians, did not protect humanitarian workers, and was largely to blame for the shelling of heavily populated areas and the deaths of civilians. And a further report last month, by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, criticises the progress made on accountability and reconciliation and, significantly, the commissioner, Navi Pillay, reaffirmed her “long-standing call for an independent and credible international investigation” into alleged human rights violations “which could also monitor any domestic accountability process”.