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Rabat – Less than three years after the inauguration of the first line of the Casablanca Tramway, plans are said to be underway for a second line and an extension to the first line (T1).Line 1 services initially linked Sidi Moumen in the east with Ain Diab and the Facultés district in the west. Works are now underway on a 2-kilometer extension of the first line.A 15-kilometers second line (T2) will run from Ain Diab to Ain Sebaa railway station, via the El Fida and Derb Sultan districts. Construction work will include diversion of underground water networks, electricity, sanitation, telecommunications and transplanting trees. The complete network is estimated to cost MAD16 billion, of which MAD3.7 billion accounted for the second phase. This will be funded by the Casablanca urban commune, the Grand-Casablanca region, in addition to funding from France.As of 2014, the Casablanca Tramway consists of one line, 31-kilometre long with 48 stations. Authorities in Casablanca are foreseeing a final network of four tramway lines, which will increase the overall length of the tram network to 80 kilometers by 2020. read more

Rabat – Former Member of Parliament for the Justice and Development Party, Abdelaziz Aftati, has publicly stated that the decision to dismiss Benkirane is an attempt to divide the PJD. In his comment about the King’s decision to dismiss Abdelilah Benkirane, following five months of unsuccessful negotiations to form a coalition government, Aftati, the former MP known for his audacious statements, declared that the dismissal is an attempt to create disharmony within the Justice and Development Party.Aftati explained that appointing another member of the party to head the government and lead the negotiations “will not change anything about the matter.” He noted that “Benkirane is the Justice and Development Party, and the Justice and Development Party is Benkirane.” The former MP asserted that this decision will take the party back to its previous demands, represented by including the Independence Party and forming the government with a different set of conditions.Reacting to the communiqué from the Royal Cabinet announcing the King’s dismissal of Benkirane, Aftati pointed out that the message of the communiqué clearly states that Benkirane was “the problem” in the political deadlock that Morocco has experienced since the appointment of Benkirane as Head of the Government. He further asserted that this decision is “not reasonable” and that “there is no democratic transition anymore.”Following five months of negotiations with different political parties, Abdelilah Benkirane was unable to break the coalition deadlock and form a government. Following his return to Morocco after his tour of African countries, the King was briefed on the current situation regarding the impasse. It was at that point that the King made the decision to dismiss Abdelilah Benkirane from his position, according to the communiqué from the Royal Cabinet.In his place, the King has decided to appoint another member from the Party of Justice and Development to form the new coalition government, according to the same source. read more

Rabat – One of the most anticipated events of the year, Bank Al Maghrib released on Thursday July 20 its report on financial stability for 2016. Based on a systemic risk mapping, the report assesses the risks of the Moroccan financial system.Non-financial public companies are in hot water. According to the Moroccan central bank’s report, the latter have registered an acute growth of their debt, reaching MAD 716 billion with 3.4 percent increase in 2016, compared to a 2.8 percent decline in 2015. The acceleration of this debt was largely driven by companies in the public sector, whose debt increased by 7.5 in 2016. Analysis of a sample of almost 14,000 public and private nonfinancial companies showed a slight increase in their rate of long-term debt, which stood at 41 percent of their own funds at the end of 2015. BAM’s report also revealed that payment delays, especially regarding SMEs, continued to increase. This phenomenon, says the bank, is “reaching worrisome levels for certain sectors of activity, such as property development, construction, transport and communications and services provided to businesses.”Driven mainly by the external debt of public companies and institutions, the growth of total public debt increased by 4.8 percent to MAD 826.9 billion in 2016, representing 81.4 percent of GDP instead of 79.9 percent in 2015. Its public enterprises component increased by 5.9 percent to MAD 169.6 billion, representing 16.7 percent of GDP instead of 16.2 percent in 2015.The report stressed that growth of nonfinancial enterprises debt comes mainly from public enterprises at 71 percentage. In 2016, public institutions recorded a debt surplus of MAD 17 billion. Under these conditions, the Treasury’s debt has naturally increased from 63.7 percent of GDP to 64.7 percent. Overall public debt also increased to 81.4 percent of GDP, driven mainly by the external indebtedness of public companies and institutions. This situation should nevertheless be reversed as from this year, the bank writes.Bank debt, which represents 19.4 percent of public companies’ financial debt, has increased steadily in recent years according to BAM, registering the largest increase since the end of 2016, which saw a rise of 24.4 percent. For the central bank, this upward trend in bank debts reflects the continuing investment effort of some of these companies.Non-financial companies’ use of external debt continued to be quite robust in 2016, but at a slower rate of growth of 8.3 percent compared to an average growth rate of more than 16 percent over the period 2006-2015. This debt of a relatively high level, which represents 19 percent of GDP in 2016, continues to be concentrated by state-owned companies, which could call into question their hedge against currency risk, under a more flexible regime. read more

Rabat- Saudi Arabia welcomed its first Woman-Only Arab Fashion Week on Tuesday April 10, at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh.The event, which will continue until April 14, brings together big names in fashion such as Roberto Cavalli, Jean Paul Gaultier, Mua Mua Dolls, Aiisha Ramadan, Arwa Al Banawi, and Yulia Yanina in performances banned from photographers and exclusively reserved for a female audience.Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council in Riyadh, joined designers, influencers, and industry insiders from Ukraine to Lebanon for the inaugural event of Saudi’s fashion season. “Fashion has always been an interest of Saudi Arabia,” Princess Noura told AFP at the event.“It is not something that was previously ‘off the table’ or ‘out the picture,’” she added. “Our fashion council is trying to bring the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia to a whole new level, a whole new industry.” The event is part of the modernization program and reforms that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been pushing for the past year. Arab Fashion Week will provide a proper platform to showcase the fashion and arts talents as the vehicle for a comprehensive range of entertainment options in Saudi Arabia. Despite lifting the gender-based driving prohibition, Saudi Arabia continues to enforce discriminatory public restrictions against women, who receive permission from a male guardian in their families to study, travel, and even receive hospital treatment. read more

Rabat – Quoting Moroccan officials, a recent report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), confirmed that Morocco is set to further broaden the dirham currency band when all economic conditions are met.“The authorities remain committed to continuing the exchange rate transition,” reads the report which was made public by IMF on Thursday. The report added that the transition “would consist in a further broadening of the dirham fluctuation band when conditions permit (…) in the context of a well-structured communication strategy.” Read Also: Fitch Ratings: Despite Challenges, Moroccan Economy Stays StableMorocco’s government announced the flexible exchange rate system for its currency in January 2018. The parity of the dirham is determined within a band of fluctuation of 2.5 percent against the previous 0.3 percent. The report included a letter addressed to the head of IMF from Central Bank Governor Abdellatif Jouahri and Morocco’s Finance Minister Mohamed Benchaaboun. In the letter, the Moroccan officials said that “the authorities intend to move to the next phase of this reform for preventative purposes as soon as economic conditions allow them to do so.”According to the authorities, “such a transition will help the economy better absorb potential external shocks, preserve its competitiveness, and support its diversification.”According to the officials,  the government will continue to improve the business climate, including by strengthening incentives and the legal environment for firms” following the “outstanding progress” made in the last few years.Bloomberg reported earlier this month that two Moroccan officials, who requested anonymity, said that the government is likely to wait until “at least 2020 before considering further easing their hold on the currency.”According to the anonymous sources predicted that the system might result in further crisis as Morocco faces debt.Officials, including the Head of Court of Auditors Driss Jettou and President of High Commission for Planning (HCP) Ahmed Lahlimi, warned the government that debt is weighing down Morocco’s economic growth.The overall public debt of the economy will increase to 82.5 percent of GDP, slightly up from 82.2 percent in 2018, according to HCP.Morocco’s economy will also experience a slowdown in growth as the economy is expected to grow at 2.9 percent in 2019. read more

Rabat – FIFA has amended its disciplinary code, under the new rules victims will be heard in person by FIFA judging panels. The new FIFA disciplinary code will go into effect next week.Prior to the reform, FIFA imposed a sanction of five games on players or officials guilty of discriminatory or racist acts. Under the new amendments, sanctions will rise to a 10 game suspension. “Topics like racism and discrimination have been updated, putting FIFA at the forefront of the fight against this appalling attack on the fundamental human rights of individuals,” FIFA said in a statement on Thursday. “FIFA will not let down victims of racist abuse, they may be invited by the respective judicial body to make an oral or written victim impact statement,” explained FIFA.“For a first offence, playing a match with a limited number of spectators, a fine of at least 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000) shall be imposed on the association or club concerned,” the statement continued.In addition to imposing a $20,000 fine, FIFA has decided to open hearings to the public, offer legal counsel to parties, and publish the verdicts online at the request of the victim. read more

Companies in this story: (TSX:GIB.A)The Canadian Press MONTREAL — CGI Inc. reported a second-quarter profit of $318.3 million, up from $274.4 million a year earlier, as revenue improved.The technology consulting firm says the profit amounted to $1.14 per diluted share for the three months ended March 31, up from 94 cents per diluted share a year ago.Revenue totalled $3.07 billion, up from $2.95 billion in the same quarter last year.Excluding specific items, CGI says it earned $324.5 million or $1.17 per diluted share for its most recent quarter compared with a profit of $303.2 million or $1.04 per diluted share a year earlier.Analysts on average had expected a profit of $1.17 per share and $3.06 billion in revenue for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.Earlier this year, CGI acquired Swedish technology consulting company Acando in a deal it valued at $614.7 million, including debt. read more

Rabat – Army General Stephen T. Townsend, the commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) recently met with Moroccan government and military officials to discuss ways of further deepening the evidently strong defense collaboration between the US and its North African allies.During his stay in Rabat on Thursday, August 22, General Townsend met with Abdeltif Loudyi, Delegate Minister in charge of administering national defense-related questions.In their conversation, the two officials touched upon the “diversified” and “dynamic” security connections between Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces (FAR) and the Pentagon. They each praised the successful and “strategic” US-Morocco cooperation on national defense and counterterrorism, expressing confidence about what they mostly presented as encouraging prospects for the bilateral links between the two allies.General Townsend, who visited Rabat “heading an important delegation,” according to Moroccan news outlet MAP, reiterated the US’ satisfaction at Morocco’s reliability as a partner as well as the North African country’s security and stability-linked efforts in the region.The newspaper added that the AFRICOM commander’s visit and subsequent meetings with various Moroccan officials were carried out in the “friendship and privileged alliance spirit” that have been the distinct markers of the US-Morocco defense cooperation.General Townsend and Minister Loudyi both called for bolstering the “dense and multi-faceted” military cooperation.They also spoke about organizing more mixed training sessions between Moroccan and US troops to enhance interoperability and develop a closer cooperation in terms of intelligence sharing.The meeting comes weeks after Washington, through both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, highlighted Morocco’s “strategic importance” in the US’ MENA ambitions. Both officials reiterated America’s commitment to maintaining close ties with its North African ally.Typically seen as security and stability bastion in its region, Morocco has gained a reputation over the years for its counterterrorism and de-radicalization success story.Counterterrorism is also one of the US’ most pressing concerns of both the US domestic and foreign policies, and General Townsend’s visit is seen as part of the US’ bid to further support Morocco’s efforts on that front.“We still have a lot to accomplish together, notably the continuation of our fight against extremism in all its forms, the promotion of tolerance and religious understanding, the promotion of common priorities in Africa…” President Trump said recently of the strong, diversified US-Morocco ties. read more

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is resting comfortably after suffering a stroke.The 57-year-old was hospitalized Sunday after not feeling well and had the stroke while under medical care, Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner said in a statement released Monday night. Gilbert was immediately taken in for a catheter-based procedure at a Detroit-area hospital and then moved to recovery in an intensive care unit.Farner said Gilbert is “awake, responsive and resting comfortably.” He added Gilbert and his family are “immensely grateful to the doctors and nurses whose early intervention is already paying dividends toward his recovery.”Gilbert, who has owned the Cavs since 2005, founded Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online mortgage lender.Farner said the company will update the public as additional details become known.Gilbert is a father of five. He has built his business empire with numerous ventures and helped lead revivals in downtown Detroit and Cleveland.___More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_SportsTom Withers, The Associated Press read more

___Key challenges facing a Fiat Chrysler-Renault mergerMILAN (AP) — Fiat Chrysler’s proposal to merge with French rival Renault has industry executives, analysts and union leaders rushing to figure out how it would reshape the sector worldwide. While Renault has indicated it is open to talks, the plan faces hurdles and questions, including where savings – and job cuts – will come from.___Chinese tourism to US drops for 1st time in 15 yearsChinese travel to the U.S. is falling after more than a decade of rapid growth. And that has cities, malls and other tourist spots scrambling to reverse the trend. Travel from China to the U.S. fell 5.7% in 2018 to 2.9 million visitors, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. It was the first time since 2003 that Chinese travel to the U.S. slipped from the prior year.___Ramadan in Mideast is for fasting and Facebook, data showsDUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The holy month of Ramadan is not only the most important month of the year for Muslims, it’s also the prime time for advertisers. People in the Middle East spend close to 58 million more hours on Facebook during Ramadan. They watch more YouTube videos — everything from beauty tips and recipes to sports and TV dramas — than any other time of year. For Facebook, which also owns Instagram, and Google, which owns YouTube, Ramadan brings a welcome boost of business in the region.___Sports Illustrated magazine sold for $110 millionNEW YORK (AP) — Sports Illustrated magazine has a new owner, though the seller will keep running the print edition and website under a licensing deal. Meredith sold the magazine for $110 million to a company that specializes in managing fashion, entertainment and sports brands, including marketing rights to Shaquille O’Neal and Muhammad Ali. The buyer, Authentic Brands Group, will be look for opportunities to grow Sports Illustrated in digital, TV and social media.___Yellowstone National Park visitors spent $513M in 2018YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — A federal report shows visitors to Yellowstone National Park spent nearly $513 million in neighbouring communities last year. The report last week from the National Park Service indicates the spending by the park’s 4.1 million visitors supported nearly 7,100 jobs in the area in 2018. The park service recorded more than 318 million visitors nationwide. The report shows they spent more than $20 billion across the country.___Trial underway in Oklahoma’s lawsuit against opioid makersNORMAN, Okla. (AP) — Drugmakers being sued by Oklahoma for fueling opioid addiction say the products they manufactured were heavily regulated by state and federal agencies and addressed an important need for pain management. Attorneys for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson gave opening statements Tuesday in the nation’s first state trial against drugmakers blamed in the opioid crisis. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says the drugs led to the nation’s “worst manmade public health crisis.”___US home prices rise at slowest pace in 6 1/2 yearsWASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices rose at the slowest pace in more than six years in March, a sign weaker sales are keeping a lid on price increases. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 2.7% from a year earlier, down from an annual gain of 3% in February.___‘Sideline’ products will be in the spotlight at BookExpoNEW YORK (AP) — Non-book items are standard for Amazon.com and other online sellers, but for physical stores the sideline market is also an established and important source of income. At this year’s national publishing convention, BookExpo, the sideline part of the business will be a main attraction. BookExpo, which runs Wednesday to Friday, will feature such companies as Taza Chocolate, Calypso Cards and Streamline Inc. in an “UnBound” section at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.___Climate activists on trial for taking down Macron portraitsBOURG-EN-BRESSE, France (AP) — Across France, activists have been taking down portraits of President Emmanuel Macron to protest what they consider his “inaction” to fight climate change. And now they face up to 10 years in prison. The first of several trials targeting the activists opens Tuesday in the eastern town of Bourg-en-Bresse. Some 300 activists showed up to support the six defendants, chanting “We’re all portrait-removers!”___US stocks, bond yield slump, signalling market jittersNEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fell broadly Tuesday as anxious investors shifted money into bonds, sending yields to their lowest level in nearly two years. The yield on the benchmark 10 year Treasury fell to 2.26% Tuesday, the lowest level since September 2017. That put it below the 2.35% yield on the three-month Treasury bill. When that kind of “inversion” in bond yields occurs, economists fear it may signal a recession within the coming year.___The S&P 500 index fell 23.67 points, or 0.8%, to 2,802.39. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 237.92 points, or 0.9%, to 25,347.77. The Nasdaq composite dropped 29.66 points, or 0.4%, to 7,607.35. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 10.09 points, or 0.7%, to 1,504.02.The Associated Press read more

In what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a “historic and unprecedented resolution,” Council members unanimously backed the establishment of a force of nearly 20,000 military personnel and more than 6,000 police officers.The hybrid operation – to be known as UNAMID – has an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been deployed across Darfur since 2004. It will become the largest peacekeeping force in the world.By October UNAMID is scheduled to have its management, command and control structures in place, and then by the end of the year it is expected to be ready to take over operations from AMIS.Since fighting erupted between rebel groups, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias in 2003, UN officials have repeatedly described Darfur as the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 200,000 people have been killed and the conflict has spilled into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).“You are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region, and close this tragic chapter in Sudan’s history,” Mr. Ban told the Council after it voted for the resolution authorizing the force.Stressing the need to move rapidly to ensure UNAMID can deploy on time, he called on Member States to contribute troops and police officers and urged the Sudanese Government and the rebel groups to immediately end hostilities and give their “unequivocal and continuous support” to the force.UNAMID is tasked with acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to support the “early and effective implementation” of last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement between the Government and the rebels, and it is also mandated to protect civilians, prevent armed attacks and ensure the security of aid workers and its own personnel and facilities.Command and control structures and backstopping for UNAMID will be provided by the UN, today’s resolution added, and the operation will also have a single chain of command.Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters that “enormous work” would be required between now and the end of the year to make sure that UNAMID can start operations on time.The resolution has been adopted just days before the UN and AU Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, host “pre-negotiation talks” in Arusha, Tanzania, with those rebel groups and militias that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement.Mr. Ban said it was critical that the three-day meeting starting on Friday “yield positive results so as to pave the way for negotiations and, ultimately, a peace agreement. Only in this way can we end the violence and destruction that have afflicted Darfur for more than three years.” 31 July 2007The Security Council today approved the creation of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force to quell the violence and instability plaguing the Darfur region of Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and two million others forced to flee their homes. read more

16 May 2008The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is voicing deep concern about the escalating violence inside eastern Chad, where two gendarmes guarding a refugee camp were shot dead earlier this week and an increasing number of vehicles have been hijacked by bandits. UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told journalists today in Geneva that the agency is also alarmed that last weekend’s attack by Darfur rebels on the outskirts of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, could further destabilize the already fragile security situation in the region.Eastern Chad is home to about 250,000 refugees from neighbouring Darfur, with the majority living in 12 formal camps, as well as 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) because of the ongoing troubles within Chad.Ms. Pagonis said that two gendarmes providing security for the Touloum camp were shot and killed by three armed men on Wednesday, while another two gendarmes were severely injured. The attackers, local Chadians, have since been arrested.A day earlier, also near Touloum, three gunmen hijacked a vehicle belonging to an aid partner of UNHCR and then drove to Am Nabak refugee camp, where they hijacked a vehicle belonging to a local non-governmental organization (NGO). After gendarmes gave chase, the hijackers abandoned the vehicles and escaped.The hijacking of vehicles, particularly involving NGOs and aid agencies, and other security incidents – such as armed robberies of NGO compounds – have become increasingly common in eastern Chad, and earlier this month the country director of Save the Children was killed by bandits. read more

“The science is clear. We need to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect the planet and avoid dangerous temperature rises globally,” stressed Rob Vos, a Director of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). “If we do not significantly reduce emissions the damage to poor countries as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] will be up to more than 10 times greater than in the United States and most other developed countries,” Mr. Vos told reporters in New York at the launch of the 2009 World Economic and Social Survey: Promoting Development, Saving the Planet.Mr. Vos noted that for every rise of one degree in global temperature, the annual average growth in developing countries drops betweens two and three percentage points with little impact on advanced countries.However, to satisfy development needs, energy demands will have to rise in developing countries, posing a challenge in how to combine the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with economic objectives.“To do this we will need huge adjustments in developed, but in particular developing countries,” said Mr. Vos. “The transformation of energy services will be key… This will have to go hand-in-hand with large-scale interrelated investments in order to address simultaneously the climate change and development goals.” The World Economic and Social Survey suggests that market solutions, including the development of a carbon market, through “cap and trade” mechanisms or taxation schemes in developed countries, are not the solution for developing countries. Rather, it recommends a combination of large-scale investments and active government policy interventions for developing countries.Among the possible multilateral measures in support of a global investment programme set out in the report is the creation of a global clean energy fund, a global feed-in tariff regime in support of renewable energy sources, a climate technology programme and a more balanced intellectual property regime for aiding the transfer of clean energy technology.“We are suggesting that we need a globally funded public investment programme to allow developing countries to engage both in cleaner generation of energy and still meet their development objectives,” said Mr. Vos.“The ballpark figure that we think is needed would be one per cent of global output, [or] around $500 to $600 billion per year starting well within the coming decade, and not – as many other studies suggest – that those levels should be reached by 2030 or beyond.” 1 September 2009A United Nations report launched today recommends a new Marshall Plan of more than $500 billion per year, or one per cent of global output, to help developing countries ease the impact of global warming and adjust to its effects while continuing on a path of economic growth. read more

The votes are still being counted from the 20 August polls, which were organized by the Independent Election Commission (IEC). Once the tallying is completed, the process will move on to the adjudication of complaints by the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC).“All of us are keen to see the processes move forward without delay so that a final and just outcome is arrived at,” Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said in a statement issued in Kabul.“I am calling today on the IEC and the ECC to redouble their efforts to ensure full rigour in their work at every stage. This includes excluding from the preliminary count results from ballot boxes where there is evidence of irregularities,” he added.Mr. Eide, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), stressed that the integrity of the elections is of the “utmost importance” to Afghanistan and to its international partners. “I look to both the IEC and ECC to carry out their mandated work to high standards and to ensure that the final outcome faithfully reflects the will of Afghanistan’s voters,” he stated.Forty-one presidential candidates, including two women, as well as over 3,000 candidates competing for provincial council seats, took part in the elections. The largely peaceful polls were hailed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council, both of whom congratulated the Afghan people for exercising their right to vote. 8 September 2009The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today called on national election authorities to ensure the integrity of last month’s presidential and provincial council elections, in light of concerns that have arisen over irregularities in voting. read more

The head of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) today wrapped up a five-day visit to India, during which a major focus of discussions was protecting traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore. Director General Francis Gurry lauded India as a “pioneer” in dealing with questions related to these three issues, according to a news release issued by the Geneva-based agency.In particular, he highlighted the publicly available Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which contains a vast database of thousands of formulations in patent search compatible formats in various languages. The importance of advancing international discussions on the protection of traditional knowledge, genetic resources, traditional cultural expressions and folklore was also the focus of a one-day international conference held today in the Indian capital, New Delhi. In his opening remarks to the meeting, Mr. Gurry applauded India’s achievements in establishing frameworks to protect its ancient traditional knowledge systems, such as the “Indian Systems of Medicine” initiative which covers traditional healthcare systems and medicine. He also noted the enactment of legislation to protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources. WIPO has been addressing these issues through its Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, set up in late 2000. Intellectual property rights allow the creators – or owners of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works – to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of any scientific, literary or artistic work. 13 November 2009The head of the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) today wrapped up a five-day visit to India, during which a major focus of discussions was protecting traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore. read more

At least 32 wild poliovirus cases in Tajikistan have been confirmed as of yesterday, and 139 other cases in the same outbreak are being investigated, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO). So far 12 people have died since March.An estimated 4 million doses of oral polio vaccines, procured by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), reached the Tajik capital Dushanbe earlier this week and are now being distributed to health-care centres across the mountainous country, UNICEF spokesperson Christiane Berthiaume told journalists in Geneva.Starting early next week almost 1.1 million children aged six and under will receive two drops of the oral polio vaccine, according to Ms. Berthiaume. Each child will then receive the same dose twice more during future vaccination rounds.The current outbreak – the first in Tajikistan since 1997 – is concentrated in young children. All but one of the 32 confirmed cases involves a child aged five or under.WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib said genetic sequencing from the confirmed cases indicated that this latest poliovirus is most closely related to a virus from Uttar Pradesh state in India.All cases have been recorded in south-western Tajikistan, close to the border with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Authorities in Uzbekistan and neighbouring Kyrgyzstan have begun planning supplementary rounds of immunization next month to try to avert a possible spread of the outbreak.Polio, sometimes called poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease, and is often marked by acute flaccid paralysis among sufferers. It has been eradicated from much of the world, but experience shows that the virus can travel far relatively rapidly. 30 April 2010Nearly 1.1 million young children in Tajikistan will start receiving vaccines next week against polio, the sometimes deadly disease which has returned to the Central Asian country where it was thought to have been eradicated 13 years ago, United Nations agencies reported today. read more

28 July 2010The United Nations today expressed its deep concern over a helicopter pilot who has been missing for two days in the south of Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region. On Monday, the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, lost contact with one of its helicopters after it landed in Aborjo in South Darfur state. Three commanders from the rebel group known as the Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM), who were being transported in the helicopter, were beaten at the scene, along with the pilot. The passengers and crew – not including the pilot – were later taken to a Government military camp, and following further contacts with authorities and security officials, returned yesterday to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. “However, the pilot is still unaccounted for,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York today, noting that UNAMID is working with the Sudanese Government to locate him. In a related development, the mission reported today that the situation in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) is calm but remains tense following recent unrest over the current state of the peace process. Fighting broke out in the camp over the weekend following the latest round of peace talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at bringing an end to the conflict in Darfur, with some of Kalma’s residents saying they were not fully represented. The gunmen identified themselves as members of the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), one of numerous rebel groups that have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen in Sudan’s Darfur region since 2003. Some 250 representatives of Darfurian civil society attended the Doha negotiations, including 60 people on behalf of IDPs and refugees, with all envoys elected after months of deliberation, community gatherings and training workshops. One person was injured and no deaths were reported following the violence. Sudanese authorities have arrested two people for attempting to assault a sheikh who attended the Doha conference. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others have been displaced in the past seven years in Darfur due to fighting between rebels and Government forces backed by the Janjaweed. read more

Media reports say at least five people in Port-au-Prince have died as a result of the storm, which was brief but sharp and brought heavy rains and high winds to the city, including the many camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been homeless since the quake.At least 1 million Haitians are still living in tent camps or makeshift housing, eight months after the earthquake struck the country, killing around 200,000 people.More than 40 teams comprising staff from the UN, aid agencies and the Haitian Government have fanned out across Port-au-Prince to assess the damage, and a separate aerial assessment is also being conducted.Blue helmets serving with the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSTAH, are also deployed across the city and helping residents who have been trapped by the storm or otherwise need assistance.UN aid workers have started distributing emergency supplies, including food, blankets, tarpaulins and hygiene kits.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced sadness today at the loss of life and damage caused by the storm and offered his condolences to the families of the victims.“The Secretary-General welcomes the generosity of donors who have responded to this and other crises this year, including the devastating floods in Pakistan,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.He stressed the need for donors to continue to support post-quake relief and recovery efforts across Haiti, with an estimated $450 million in additional funding still required. 25 September 2010United Nations aid workers are rushing to provide assistance in Haiti after a sudden rainstorm yesterday swept the capital, Port-au-Prince, whose residents are still trying to recover from January’s catastrophic earthquake. read more

16 December 2010The Security Council today set up a “significantly scaled-down” United Nations operation in Burundi to help the Central African country as it embarks on the latest stage of its recovery from decades of civil war and ethnic fighting. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body mandated the new UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) to run for an initial 12-month period, starting on 1 January 2011, to support the Government in strengthening the independence, capacities and legal frameworks of key national institutions, in particular the judiciary and parliament; promoting dialogue between national actors; fighting impunity and protecting human rights.The new office is the latest in a series of UN operations in a country where hundreds of thousands of people perished in largely ethnic fighting between Hutus and Tutsis even before it gained independence from Belgium in 1962. It will replace the current UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) in accordance with recommendations in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the operation there.In its resolution, the Council urged the Government – with the support of BNUB and other international partners – to redouble its efforts to reform the security sector and political, economic and administrative governance, tackle corruption, and promote human rights by swiftly establishing a National Independent Human Rights Commission. It welcomed the progress that Burundi has made towards peace, stability and development but noted with “great concern” reports of continuing human rights violations, in particular extra-judicial killings and torture, and restrictions on civil liberties such as the freedom of expression, association and assembly of opposition parties and civil society organizations.In his report, Mr. Ban noted that despite significant progress in moving away from its violent past, security, food, human rights and sexual violence remain matters of concern. “I am deeply concerned about signs of a returning climate of impunity, the resurgence of acts of torture, intimidation, extrajudicial executions and arrests of opposition members, as well as restrictions on the freedom of expression and assembly,” he wrote.In recommending the new office, the Secretary-General pointed out that the scaling down of the former UN Operation in Burundi (ONUB) to BINUB in 2006 created significant tension among national staff, with one group of former staff members still demanding reparations for various reasons, including wrongful dismissal, staging demonstrations, destroying UN property and threatening to kidnap UN staff. He urged the Government of Burundi to work closely with the United Nations to assist BINUB national staff in their transition to either the public or the private sector in order to reduce the risk of a similar reaction to BINUB’s closure.Burundi was the first country, together with Sierra Leone, to be targeted by the UN Peacebuilding Commission when it was launched in 2006 to provide financial, economic and other support to prevent countries emerging from conflict from relapsing back into bloodshed. The Council today also welcomed that body’s continued role. read more

Women and youth have the capacity to spur economic growth and reduce poverty in the world’s least development country if given access to education, employment and health, including family planning services, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says in a report unveiled today.Girls are often overlooked when investments in social services, including education and health, are made, according to the report, entitled Population Dynamics and Poverty in the LDCs: Challenges and Opportunities for Development and Poverty Reduction, made public at the ongoing Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Istanbul, Turkey.“Empowering women and girls starts with improved access to reproductive health care and family planning,” said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA’s Executive Director. “Too many teenage girls become mothers, too many die giving birth, too many drop out of school, too many are abused and discriminated against in their daily lives.”“When girls are educated, healthy and can avoid child marriage, unintended pregnancy and HIV, they can contribute fully to their societies’ battles against poverty,” said Dr. Osotimehin. “In a world of 7 billion, every person, especially women and girls, should enjoy human rights and human dignity, and have the opportunity to make the most of their potential.”He stressed that investing in reproductive health services empowers women to make decisions on the spacing and number of their children, and increases their opportunities for employment.“The investments would also reduce maternal death and lead to smaller families with more resources to pour into the health and education of each child. This virtuous cycle helps families, communities and nations escape poverty,” said Dr. Osotimehin.In an interview with UN Radio, Dr. Osotimehin stressed that a link can be made between high population growth and poverty.“What we at the UNFPA advocate with governments is that they should empower women, ensure that girls get good education so they are enlightened to make choices about their lives, and can also ensure that they can have the number of children they can look after,” he said.He also pointed that governments can take advantage of youthful populations to accelerate economic growth by creating job opportunities and supporting their entrepreneurial skills. “Going forward that is my advice and advocacy to governments [in] these kinds of situations,” he added.The world’s population is projected to reach 7 billion on 31 October, of which 855 million will be living in the LDCs, many of which continue to face major challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The LDCs have high infant mortality rates, child and maternal death and high HIV prevalence as a result of lack of reproductive health care, including family planning.High fertility rates means that the number of people living in LDCs will double to 1.7 billion by 2050, making it more difficult for those countries to increase or maintain per capita spending on essential services, such as health and education. 10 May 2011Women and youth have the capacity to spur economic growth and reduce poverty in the world’s least development country if given access to education, employment and health, including family planning services, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says in a report unveiled today. read more