first_imgChandigarh: Union Minister and BJP candidate from Amritsar, Hardeep Singh Puri, on Tuesday took a jibe at the ongoing war of words between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, saying, “…the cat is out of the bag”. “All along the campaign one could sense an unease in their ranks. Now the cat is out of the bag!” he tweeted. Along with the tweet, he tagged a post that talked about how Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was facing the ire of his party colleagues. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework According to reports, Cabinet Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot on Monday asked Sidhu to resign from the state Cabinet if he could not work with Amarinder Singh. The reprimand came a day after the Chief Minister himself publicly criticised Sidhu for damaging Congress’ poll prospects with his ill-timed comments against him and the party leadership in the state. “If he was a real Congressmen, he should have chosen a better time to air his grievances instead of just ahead of voting in Punjab,” said the Chief Minister in an informal interaction with reporters here. Also Read – Afghan Taliban frees 3 Indian hostages in exchange for 11 top militant leaders: Reports Sidhu had accused the Chief Minister of being responsible for the denial of ticket to his wife Navjot Kaur from Chandigarh. During the campaigning, he also tried to corner his own government by questioning why no criminal case was lodged against former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal in connection with the 2015 sacrilege and police-firing incidents. “It was not his election alone but that of the entire Congress. It is for the high command to decide on any action against Sidhu, but the Congress, as a party, does not tolerate indiscipline,” Amarinder Singh said.last_img read more

Taroudant, Morocco- Morocco will participate in the 23rd International Food & Drinks Exhibition, the leading international exhibition for food products in Russia, to be held from September 15 to 18, 2014 in Moscow.As part of the implementation of the “Green Morocco Plan”, the Kingdom will participate in the exhibition for the first time, through self-control establishment and coordination of exports (EACCE).According to the official website of the World Food Moscow, more than thirty exhibitors from all regions of the Kingdom will take part in this international exhibition. The Moroccan delegation will include senior officials from the Department of Agriculture and private operators who will present the richness, diversity, and quality of Moroccan products.The government’s objective in participating in the exhibition is to consolidate and strengthen the presence of Moroccan goods in this market and explore opportunities to develop new partnerships in other sectors, such as olive oil and local products.With an area of 256 square meters, the Moroccan pavilion will have a modern and authentic design and will present the diverse products of the Kingdom ranging from saffron, one of the world’s most expensive spices, to fruits, vegetables, drinks, seafood, and much more. read more

Casablanca — An unexpected twist in the SAMIR refinery. The company has received a generous buyout offer of MAD 31 Billion.According to Mohamed El Krimi, who is in charge of the company’s liquidation, the buyout offer amounts to 31 billion dirhams, which might potentially be coming from a foreign stakeholder.“The judge had to decide on the basis of expert reports that were provided to him, and I’ve introduced a concrete offer of a potential buyer in the file,” El Krimi told Telquel in an interview. The company was expected to attend a hearing today to hear what the judge commissioner would rule on the minimum sale prize. That hearing has now been postponed to January 2. El Krimi, however, would not reveal the identity of the buyer, though one thing’s for certain: it’s a foreign entity. All offers I’ve received have come from “foreign countries,” El Krimi adds. “I’ve received no potential Moroccan buyers, but this doesn’t mean they might not manifest themselves when the sale procedure begins,” he continues.Though no Moroccan buyer has so far come forth, rumors swirled in November about Afriquia and the National Office of Mines and Hydrocarbons potentially buying the refinery. Both entities have denied those claims.SAMIR announced it was liquidating in June. read more

Rabat – In Thursday’s Government Council, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani called on his ministers to act on the ground and not just give orders from their offices.El Othmani encouraged his ministers to be in permanent contact with citizens. Moreover, he advised his ministers to “leave offices and go down to the field.”“This is a principle we have agreed upon. The government official cannot just work from his office, review files and give instructions,” he said. He also advocated for a “productive and direct interaction to meet the legitimate expectations of citizens.” El Othmani thinks that the government must communicate its achievements and inform the public constantly. He stressed he would tolerate no laxity in implementing the decisions made by the government. El Othmani also regretted that some decisions and procedures are not implemented by some administrations or are delayed in their application. “I call for taking all the necessary measures for the application of the decree n ° 2-17-410.” The decree specifies how administrations can certify duplicates of original documents.El Othamni also congratulated the administrations that reacted quickly to the provisions of the concerned decree.The head of government reminded ministers that the government takes seriously the guidelines of King Mohammed VI relating to accountability. He stressed the need to provide financial resources to implement government measures.The rebuke is not the first of its kind. On October 26, 2017 just two days after the dismissal of three ministers and a secretary of state, El Othmani urged his ministers to learn a lesson from the royal sanctions. read more

Rabat – The opening ceremony of the Amazigh (Berber) theater world tour took place Monday at the International Mohammed VI Conferences Center in Skhirat, near Rabat.At the ceremony, bands performed a series of Amazigh songs accompanied by dances and also paid tribute to the nationally known Moroccan music icon, Mohammed Rouicha. Nouamane Lahlou performed four of his most popular songs and amazed guests with a duet with Dounia Boutazout. The minister of Moroccans Living Abroad and Migrant Affairs, Abdelkrim Benatiq, gave a speech describing the Amazigh theater tour as a historical moment. He thanked the Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture (IRCAM) for ensuring the success of the tour.In addition to Nouamane Lahlou and Dounia Boutazout, several icons from the Moroccan art scene took part in the launching ceremony, including Mohammed El Jem and popular actor Mohammed Miftah.The objective of the Amazigh theater tour, addressed specifically to Moroccans living abroad (MREs), is to promote Amazigh culture.Read also: El Malki: Tamazight Law May Cause ‘Serious Complications’ in MoroccoThe global theater tour also seeks to preserve the Amazigh identity and consolidate its culture and tradition among MREs.Twelve groups will perform 51 theater performances across the world as part of the ministry’s initiative to strengthen the bond between MREs and their motherland.IRCAM and the Ministry of Moroccans Living Abroad have established the program among other initiatives to promote the Amazigh culture and tradition overseas. The cultural center in Montreal, Dar Al Maghrib (Morocco House), was the first initiative. The ministry is also building a Moroccan cultural center in Paris.The Amazigh theater group performed more than 180 shows in the 2017-2018 season in 15 countries in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. read more

Rabat – Middle East and North Africa expert at the US Institute of Peace (USIP) Thomas Hill expressed satisfaction with the US administration’s decision to sign the 2019 spending bill. The bill reiterates Morocco’s position that Western Sahara should be considered as part of the US aids funds allocated to Morocco.A section on the bill, which US President Donald Trump signed on Saturday, reads that “Funds appropriated under title III of this Act shall be made available for assistance for the Western Sahara.”Hill told Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) that the funding allocated to Morocco’s southern provinces is a “recognition that development programs in the Sahara regions should be carried out through and with the permission of the government of Morocco.” The expert also recalled that Morocco “is already promoting programs in Laayoune and neighbouring regions.”The signing of the bill suggests that diplomatic ties between both nations are moving in a good course. The expert said that Morocco is one of the strongest allies of the US in Africa, in North Africa and in the Middle East.Read Also: Western Sahara: Trump Signs Pro-Morocco Spending BillHill stressed Morocco’s efforts to combat terrorism in the region, pointing out that the country is America’s strongest ally in North Africa, especially on security measures..Morocco’s counterterrorism is well recognized worldwide. Morocco’s efforts to fight radicalization and extremism have traditionally been applauded by American security reports, including the ones issued by US Departments of State.In its 2018 Country Report on Terrorism, the US Department of State warmly spoke of  Morocco’s contributions to international counterterrorism. The report noted that intelligence obtained from Moroccan services helped thwart scheduled terrorist strikes in a number of partner countries, especially in the EU.The State Department said, “Following the August attacks in Barcelona, Morocco assisted the Spanish investigation and promised to expand cooperation to track terrorists of Moroccan origin radicalized abroad.”Hill said that the stability of Morocco is an essential asset for the US and European countries as both regions are facing challenges due to migration, cross-border crime, trafficking of all kinds as well as the instability in the Sahel region.“Morocco is and continues to be a reliable ally of the United States in North Africa,” he added.In addition to the experts, several congress figures and US senior officials urged US administration to further reinforce its diplomatic ties with Morocco.In December 2018, US attorney general of Idaho Lawrence Wasden and Utah’s attorney general Sean Reyes co-wrote an opinion piece, to emphasize Morocco’s efforts as a leading counter-terrorism country.The two officials also called on the US to intensify its support to Morocco’s position in the Western Sahara conflict.Morocco’s efforts in countering terrorism and radicalization, “underscore the need for continued US support to help Morocco resolve the Western Sahara conflict,” emphasized the two officials.Morocco’s government has expressed its satisfaction with the pro-Morocco spending bill.Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that while the bill’s language is reserved, diplomatic, and does not appear to overtly embrace Morocco’s position, its pro-Morocco sentiment is unmistakable, the ministry said in a statement. read more

ST. LOUIS — With the Trump administration again taking aim at the Affordable Care Act, Centene will spend more than $15 billion on rival WellCare Health Plans, both big players in the ACA market.The deal Wednesday comes two days day after the administration attacked the ACA in court, saying that former President Barack Obama’s health care law should be declared unconstitutional after Congress repealed one part of it — unpopular fines on people who remain uninsured.The deal would create a powerhouse medical provider in Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act marketplace with about 22 million members in the U.S. It will have more than 12 million Medicaid and approximately 5 million Medicare members, including the Medicare prescription drug plan.The transaction includes 3.38 shares of Centene stock and $120 in cash for each share of WellCare stock, or $305.39 per WellCare share. That’s about a 32 per cent premium to WellCare’s Tuesday closing stock price. The companies put the deal’s value at $17.3 billion.Shares of WellCare jumped more than 14 per cent before the market open on Wednesday. Centene’s stock declined 5.5 per cent.Centene Corp. shareholders will own about 71 per cent of the business, with WellCare shareholders owning approximately 29 per cent.The combined company’s board will have 11 members, with nine from Centene’s board and two from WellCare’s board. Centene Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff will serve in those roles after the combination.The combined business will be based in St. Louis, where Centene is headquartered. It will continue to support WellCare’s operations in Florida. WellCare is based in Tampa.The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020. It still needs approval from Centene and Wellcare Health Plans Inc. shareholders.The Associated Press read more

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is taking a $3 billion charge as a contingency against a possible fine by the Federal Trade Commission. The agency has been investigating Facebook, but has not announced any findings yet.The one-time charge slashes Facebook’s first-quarter net income considerably, although revenue grew by 25% in the period. The FTC has been looking into whether Facebook is in violation of a 2011 agreement promising to protect user privacy.The social network said Wednesday that its net income was 85 cents per share in the January-March period. Revenue grew 26 % to $15.08 billion from a year earlier. Excluding the charge, it earned $1.89 per share.Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of $1.62 per share and revenue of $14.98 billion.Facebook’s monthly user base grew 8% to 2.38 billion.The Associated Press read more

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Latest on Alaska marijuana regulators (all times local):3:20 p.m.Alaska marijuana regulators will take public comment on proposed tweaks to first-in-the-nation statewide rules for allowing onsite use of marijuana at authorized stores.The proposed changes would allow stores not in freestanding buildings to have onsite consumption of edibles only. They also clarify that special ventilation systems would be required only for onsite use areas allowing smoking.The Marijuana Control Board voted Wednesday 2-1 to seek public comment on revisions to rules that took effect last month. One board member was absent and one seat is vacant.Board Chairman Mark Springer had said that all three members present would have to agree to approve something. But he was corrected at the conclusion of Wednesday’s vote that the motion did pass.___12:35 p.m.Alaska marijuana regulators expressed frustration with the limited co-operation they say they’re receiving with investigations from the state Department of Public Safety.The dispute dates to November, when an acting director of the Alaska State Troopers notified the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office its investigators would no longer have access to certain databases.Office Director Erika McConnell says access to the databases is based on one of two qualifications: being a criminal justice agency or peace officers.She says “for decades” the state considered investigators related to the office’s work peace officers. She says she’s not clear on what changed.A message seeking comment was sent to a public safety spokeswoman.McConnell says she expects a request to be made to the attorney general for an opinion on the interpretation.The Associated Press read more

PARIS — France and Germany have unveiled details of a plan to create a leading electric battery industry in Europe, from the extraction of raw materials to recycling.French Economy minister Bruno Le Maire said about 5 billion euros ($5.6 billion) are to be invested in the Franco-German project, including 1.2 billion euros of public subsidies.A pilot plant will be based in France and two production plants, each of 1,500 employees, will be built in both countries.Le Maire said during a visit by his German counterpart Peter Altmaier to Paris: “This is an example of what Europe can do when united.”European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic welcomed the move as EU production represents only 3% of the world market and wants to compete with the U.S. and China.The Associated Press read more

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela has announced the lifting of foreign exchange controls on banks for the first time in 16 years, but some observers are skeptical the measure will do much to lift the shrinking economy.Few people lined up at money exchange windows in private banks in Caracas on Monday. One man, Rodolfo Gutiérrez, said Venezuela’s hyperinflation is so severe that many people find it hard to buy dollars and are focused on buying whatever food they can.Economist Asdrúbal Oliveros says some private institutions struggle to do international transactions because of U.S. sanctions imposed in a campaign aimed at pressuring President Nicolás Maduro out of office.The exchange controls were imposed by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, following an attempted coup in 2002.The Associated Press read more

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s stock market has opened up 5 per cent, the morning after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called snap general elections following a resounding defeat of his left-wing Syriza party in European elections.Official results from 75% of the vote Monday showed the conservative New Democracy party more than 9.5 percentage points ahead of Syriza, with 33.26 per cent, compared to the governing party’s 23.75 per cent. Tsipras said Sunday he would visit Greece’s president to request the early dissolution of parliament after the second round of local elections on June 2. The likeliest dates for national polls are June 30 or July 7.The result is a resounding defeat for a party that rose to prominence in 2015 on promises of repealing austerity imposed during Greece’s international bailout, but ended up imposing more.The Associated Press read more

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s efforts to fight money laundering are expected to be front and centre today at a special meeting of federal cabinet ministers and their provincial counterparts to discuss national strategies for stemming the problem.The B.C. government says the meeting in Vancouver will highlight new legislative changes already underway in B.C. that could be replicated across the country, including laws to end hidden ownership.Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair have scheduled a news conference after the meeting to provide details on Ottawa’s plans to combat both money laundering and terrorist financing.The province launched a public inquiry into money laundering in May after three independent reviews revealed that billions of dollars are laundered each year through the B.C.’s casinos, real estate market and other sectors.B.C. Finance Minister Carole James says in a statement that money laundering has distorted the province’s economy, fuelled the overdose crisis and driven up housing prices.But she says criminals don’t stop at provincial borders.“This is a national issue, and strong action is required from the federal government and all the provinces to combat money laundering in our country,” James says.Attorney General David Eby says the province is the leading jurisdiction for overdose deaths, luxury car sales and out-of-control real estate — all of which have been linked to a “cancerous” transnational money laundering problem.“At this summit, we will have one message: Without a significant federal financial commitment to increased law and tax enforcement in B.C., hard-working families who play by the rules will continue to be at a disadvantage to criminals and cheats,” Eby says.“That’s unacceptable.”The Canadian Press read more

2 October 2007Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari today met with the South-East Asian nation’s top general on the last day of his mission in response to the deteriorating situation there amid reports of the use of force and of the arrest and beating of demonstrators. The meeting with Senior General Than Shwe in Naypyitaw, the capital, “to discuss the current situation in Myanmar” lasted over one hour, a UN news release from Geneva said. It came as the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva opened a special session on Myanmar amid denunciations of the “the brutal crack-down” by the authorities and calls for decisive international action to prevent a repeat of the massacres that marked a pro-democracy uprising nearly two decades ago. Mr. Gambari, who also met with other members of the senior leadership, later returned to Yangon, the main city, where he met with leading democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for the second time. He has now left Myanmar to return to New York to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the outcome of his mission. When he announced the mission last week, Mr. Ban called on the authorities “to exercise utmost restraint toward the peaceful demonstrations taking place, as such action can only undermine the prospects for peace, prosperity and stability in Myanmar.” He urged the country’s senior leadership to cooperate fully with the mission “in order to take advantage of the willingness of the United Nations to assist in the process of national reconciliation through dialogue.” read more

1 November 2007Responding to the damage caused when Tropical Storm Noël swept over Haiti on 29 and 30 October, blue helmets from the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) helped to evacuate thousands of people, distribute meals and provide medical assistance to those affected. Responding to the damage caused when Tropical Storm Noël swept over Haiti on 29 and 30 October, blue helmets from the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) helped to evacuate thousands of people, distribute meals and provide medical assistance to those affected.Persistent heavy rainfall and strong gusts of wind caused 18 deaths, 14 injured, two missing and rendered over 3,300 people homeless while destroying and damaging scores of homes, MINUSTAH said in a news release, citing official figures. The Government of Haiti immediately began organizing the relief effort, with support from the mission, which helped evacuate thousands of people in Cité Soleil and elsewhere in the country who were threatened by rising waters.Overall MINUSTAH helped evacuate 8,000 people, distributed 4,500 meals, and provided medical assistance to 280 patients, mostly in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne, Jacmel and Les Cayes.“In these difficult circumstances MINUSTAH and the United Nations system reaffirm their total solidarity with the storm victims and remain ready to continue assisting the Haitian authorities with all the resources they have available,” the mission said. Tropical Storm Noël also hit the Dominican Republic, where flooding and landslides reportedly killed more than 50 people and displaced tens of thousands more, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which dispatched a Disaster Assessment and Coordination team to the area. OCHA also provided an emergency cash grant of $50,000 to purchase relief supplies and warned that casualty figures could rise as some areas remain cut off while heavy rains are expected to continue through Friday. read more

Five vehicles belonging to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), its non-governmental partners and Médecins Sans Frontières Suisse have been stolen at gunpoint in the past 72 hours, while the UNHCR compound in Guereda was entered by armed men on two nights this week.Serge Malé, UNHCR’s representative in Chad, said the agency was “left only with one choice, much to our regret, which is to relocate most staff out of the Guereda area, as we cannot continue to perform our activities in favour of refugees.”Four UNHCR staff and 28 local and international staff with the agency’s partners were flown to the regional centre of Abeché today, while a convoy of eight vehicles also travelled from Guereda so that the few remaining vehicles in the town were not attacked.A minimum amount of staff will remain to ensure there is basic support in the two refugee camps, Mile and Kounoungou, operating in the area. The two camps – host almost 30,000 refugees from Sudan’s war-wracked Darfur region – have been officially handed over to refugee leaders to manage while UNHCR staff numbers are reduced.The most serious incident occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, when two armed men wearing military uniforms jumped the wall of the UNHCR compound and threatened the guards with guns so that they can steal two vehicles.Early this morning an unknown man armed with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle entered the UNHCR guesthouse before being chased off by staff members of the agency’s local partner.Tensions between the Chadian National Army and opposition forces have been building in Guereda and the wider region since Monday, while the problems in the town have been exacerbated by ethnic clashes between Zaghawas and Tamas.Jorge Holly, head of the UNHCR field office in Guereda, said the local authorities do not have the necessary means to protect agency staff or other aid workers.“In this area, we have a state of complete impunity,” he said. “Guereda is getting very vulnerable. If humanitarian workers are not around, it is impossible to provide adequate protection to the refugees. But the situation here is getting out of control and we also have to protect our staff and partners.”The security situation is also tense inside the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, in the southwest of the country, with the international staff of both UN agencies and NGOs advised to stay at home.Eastern Chad is currently home to about 240,000 Sudanese living in 12 official refugee camps, which have sprung up since the Darfur conflict began more than four years ago.Meanwhile, about 5,800 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have arrived in several border villages in southern Chad in the past few weeks, fleeing attacks by zaraguinas or cattle rustlers in the north of their homeland.Last year the Security Council authorized the establishment of a multi-dimensional UN presence in Chad and the CAR, including a peacekeeping mission to be known as MINURCAT, to try to stabilize the region.In a related development, a meeting of troop and police-contributing countries for MINURCAT and two other missions – the hybrid UN-African Union force in Darfur (UNAMID) and the force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as MONUC) – was held at UN Headquarters in New York today.General Per Five, a military adviser with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), told the meeting that UNAMID is still lacking helicopters, a key capacity for the mission to operate successfully.Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute said it was vital to move ahead with the deployment of UNAMID as MINURCAT will not succeed if the mission in neighbouring Darfur is failing.In Addis Ababa, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against cross-border instability. “The situation in Chad and the continued military conflict there should not spill over negatively to the peace and security in Darfur,” the deployment of peacekeepers or the ongoing political process in Darfur, he told a press briefing. 31 January 2008The United Nations refugee agency today evacuated most of its staff from its office in a town in eastern Chad after a series of armed attacks this week on the agency and other aid organizations operating in the troubled region. read more

11 March 2008The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are spearheading the world body’s relief efforts in northern and central Mozambique, where Cyclone Jokwe struck the coast at the weekend with winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are spearheading the world body’s relief efforts in northern and central Mozambique, where Cyclone Jokwe struck the coast at the weekend with winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour. At least seven people are reported killed and thousands left homeless after their houses were partially or totally destroyed, while many towns and villages have no electricity because of damage to power line infrastructure. Authorities in Mozambique fear the situation could worsen in some areas as the storm, which is still active, moves south. The northern province of Nampula is currently the most affected, but the flooding is expected to worsen in the central provinces. UNICEF and WFP have mobilized staff to the areas affected, including specialists in water and sanitation, education and social policy. UNICEF is also sending water purification products and plastic sheeting to cover the houses that no longer have their roofs. read more

13 March 2009The Pakistani Government today reached an agreement with the United Nations refugee agency allowing some 1.7 million Afghans to continue sheltering in their country until the end of 2012. The pact sets out measures relating to the temporary stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, their gradual and voluntary repatriation, and international support for hosting one of the largest refugee communities in the world.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative Guenet Guebre-Christof and Pakistan’s Minister of State and Frontier Regions Najamuddin Khan signed the Letter of Mutual Intent at a ceremony in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.“This is a responsible move by Pakistan, which recognizes both the realities on the ground in Afghanistan and the importance of robust systems to legalize and manage the temporary stay of Afghans in Pakistan,” said Ms. Guebre-Christof.Under the agreement UNHCR will raise $140 million from the international community to fund the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) programme, which includes development projects aimed at boosting employment prospects, reviving agricultural and irrigation systems, repairing farm to market roads, improving crop and livestock production, and marketing produce.With some 45 per cent of Afghans camped in refugee villages and the rest scattered among host communities, the RAHA programme benefits both Afghans and Pakistanis in 21 districts of Pakistan, mostly in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province, which have hosted the majority of Afghan refugees.UNHCR has also committed to raise funds for the Registration Information Project of Afghan Citizens (RIPAC) to improve the quality of registration data and to update and correct the Proof of Registration (PoR) cards so that information about the Afghan population remains current.Since 2002, almost 3.5 million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance. read more

“In the midst of the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression, we now have the opportunity and the responsibility to search for solutions that take into account the interests of all nations, the rich and the poor, the large and the small,” Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto stated after the 192-member body adopted a resolution on the 1 to 3 June summit. Mr. D’Escoto has been tasked with organizing the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, which was called for by participants at a financing for development meeting held in Qatar in late 2008.Last month, he travelled to a number of countries to build support for participation at the highest level in the June meeting, and he plans to visit several more in the weeks ahead.“In agreeing to hold this United Nations conference at the highest level, Member States are recognizing the vital importance of assuring that all nations have an opportunity to participate equally and fully in the common search for solutions that meet the concerns and needs of all countries, large and small,” said Mr. D’Escoto.He stressed that, in this effort, it is vital to draw on “technical expertise and practical wisdom” from all over the world, and from countries at every stage of development, as well as from international organizations, academia, private sector organizations, and civil society.In addition to the impact of the crisis on development, the conference will also focus on ongoing discussions on reforming and strengthening the international financial and economic system and architecture.A Commission of Experts appointed by Mr. D’Escoto and chaired by Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has stated that international finance structures must be drastically overhauled in the face of the current global economic crisis. The panel, as well as the meeting later this month of the Economic and Social Council with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), are expected to contribute to the preparations for the June summit. Mr. D’Escoto will likely circulate a draft outcome text for the summit for negotiation in early May. 7 April 2009The United Nations will convene a global summit in June to assess the impact of the world economic crisis on development, it was announced today, after the General Assembly agreed on the arrangements for the conference. read more

22 April 2009Wrapping up a visit to China today, the top United Nations relief official praised the East Asian nation’s disaster preparedness and recovery efforts as the first anniversary of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake neared. During his two-day trip, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, met with top officials and reiterated his sympathy for those affected by the disaster, which struck the country on 12 May 2008 and left nearly 100,000 people either dead or missing.In his talks with authorities, he encouraged the Government to take a greater role in multilateral humanitarian efforts, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).There was agreement on the need to step up UN-China cooperation on curbing disaster risk and bolstering preparedness, especially in the context of climate change, OCHA said.Increased collaboration between the world body and China was another major topic, particularly during a meeting Mr. Holmes had with Chen Jianmin, Director of the China Earthquake Administration.At the closing of the International Conference on Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction held in Beijing, Mr. Holmes stressed that “the poor, especially poor women, suffer the most from the impact of disasters, due both to their greater vulnerability and to their lesser capacity to address the disaster risks they live with.”Mr. Holmes called for greater emphasis to be placed on national and regional capacity-building, calling this a “win-win approach” to tackling cross-cutting humanitarian and developmental issues. read more