MPs face summer recall for new NAFTA approval if no U.S. progress next week

OTTAWA — The Canadian Press has learned the Liberal government is prepared to recall Parliament this summer to ratify the new North American trade agreement.The government wants to move “in tandem” with the United States toward final legal approval of the new agreement, says a senior government official who wasn’t authorized to speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the process.The source says Canada does not want to get too far ahead of the Trump administration in ratifying the new deal, and that it is not clear obstacles in the U.S. Congress can be overcome before the House of Commons’ session expires next week.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is in Washington today for meetings with U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and she will be on Capitol Hill on Thursday for talks with Republican and Democratic lawmakers.The government expects to have a better sense of the way forward for Canada after those meetings.U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence promised to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement by “the summer” during his recent visit to Ottawa, while the Mexican ambassador to Canada has said his country’s Senate will give final approval at its own extended legislative session this coming Monday or Tuesday.The Canadian Press read more

Melting of mountain glaciers accelerating according to new UNbacked report

Mountain glaciers around the world melted from 2000 to 2005 at 1.6 times the average loss rate of the 1990s and three times that of the 1980s, with much of the accelerated change attributable to human-induced climate change, according to tentative figures in a new United Nations-backed report released today. “This is the most authoritative, comprehensive and up-to-date information on glaciers world-wide and as such underlines the rapid changes occurring on the planet as a result of climate change,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, noting their importance as sources for many rivers upon which people depend for drinking water, agriculture and industrial purposes. “The findings confirm the science of human-induced climate change, confirmation that will be further underlined when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change unveil their next report on 2 February. These findings should strengthen the resolve of governments to act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and put in place the medium to longer term strategies necessary to avert dangerous climate change,” he added. According to the figures, the 2000-2005 period saw an average thickness loss for a set of reference glaciers of 0.6 metre water equivalent, confirming the trend in accelerated ice loss during the past two and a half decades and bringing the average reduction since 1980 of the 30 reference glaciers of nine mountain ranges to about 9.6-metres water equivalent. On average, one metre water equivalent corresponds to 1.1 metre ice thickness. The results come from glacier mass balance measurements collected by scientists all over the world and published by the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in Zurich, Switzerland. The WGMS collects standardized glacier data which are considered to be among the best natural indicators of climate change. Scientific measurements relate to the so-called ‘net mass balance’ of glaciers, which can be seen as their overall ice thickness change. The long-term monitoring of glacier mass balance produces one of the most essential variables required for the regular assessment reports on global climate monitoring. As such, the glacier mass balance data are an important contribution to UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report. The preliminary data on glacier change for the year 2005 from 80 glaciers was reported to the WGMS from the majority of the glaciated mountain ranges of the world. Of these, 30 glaciers have continuous mass balance measurement series since 1980. Comprehensive data for the year 2006 are not yet available, but as it was one of the warmest years in many years in many parts of the world, it is expected that the downward trend will continue. “Today, the glacier surface is much smaller than in the 1980s, this means that the climatic forcing has continued since then,” Michael Zemp, a glaciologist and research associate at the WGMS said. “The recent increase in rates of ice loss over reducing glacier surface areas leaves no doubt about the accelerated change in climatic conditions.” 29 January 2007Mountain glaciers around the world melted from 2000 to 2005 at 1.6 times the average loss rate of the 1990s and three times that of the 1980s, with much of the accelerated change attributable to human-induced climate change, according to tentative figures in a new United Nations-backed report released today. read more

UN fund to benefit over 1 million victims of unrest in Central

1 October 2008More than a million people struck by violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), including 110,000 who have been uprooted from their homes, will receive life-saving assistance under funding announced today by the new United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund. “The pooled fund will help to make humanitarian action in the country more efficient and better coordinated,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said of the $2.5 million allocated to 16 priority projects focusing on health care, access to water, the survival of infants and the young, and aid to help those displaced to return home. “Thanks to the fund, aid organizations on the ground can channel the money where it is most needed and respond to a breaking emergency faster than ever,” added Mr. Holmes, who is also Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.CAR has been hit by violence in several regions from rebels and a spill-over of instability in the north from neighbouring Chad and Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, and the new funding will target 110,000 displaced people, 83,000 more who recently returned to their devastated villages and 1 million others affected by the unrest.Overall, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have launched a $114 million aid programme for CAR in 2008, of which donors have so far funded 80 per cent. read more

Sri Lanka heavy fighting resumes after twoday pause – UN

The world body’s top relief official yesterday said that the 48-hour ceasefire in clashes between the Government and separatist Tamil rebels was inadequate in easing the plight of more than 100,000 civilians caught up in the conflict.“Unfortunately, it is also clear that not only did this not allow more civilians to get out, there seemed to be less civilians getting out during the pause than before,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in New York.Over 64,000 people have left conflict areas, with most of them sheltering in camps and some 800 others are seeking treatment in hospitals, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. The International Red Cross said it was able to evacuate close to 1,000 people from the no-fire zone, a 14-square kilometre area in the Vanni region, during the 48-hour ceasefire, bringing the number of people evacuated since 11 February to just over 9,000.A ship carrying more than 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian supplies bound for the no-fire zone is scheduled to depart in three days.In the camps in the Vanni region, efforts to construct shelter, clear sites and provide health care, among others, are continuing, but water and sanitation services have been identified as being inadequate.According to OCHA, the continued use of schools as sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) continues to strain education services in the district, affecting both uprooted students and host students.Mr. Holmes, who said he would have preferred a longer pause in fighting, said yesterday that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) prevented civilians trapped in the no-fire zone from leaving during the ceasefire.“Civilians should not be used as pawns or human shields in this way,” he stressed, calling on the LTTE to allow safe passage out of the no-fire zone to those who wish to leave. 16 April 2009After the end of the two-day lull in fighting in northern Sri Lanka, intense fighting – including small arms fire, mortar fire and aerial attacks – has been reported in the so-called no-fire zone, the United Nations said today. read more

Darfur African UnionUN envoy concerned over surge in factional violence

AU-UN Special Representative Rodolphe Adada called on the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudanese Liberation Army/Minni Minawi wing (SLA/MM) to end hostilities, which flared up over the weekend in the North Darfur town of Umm Baru.Mr. Adada noted that the hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, had transported 26 people injured in the fighting to the North Darfur capital of El Fasher for medical treatment at the military hospital. The Special Representative also held discussions today with the Under-Secretary of the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Mutrif Siddiq, and the Presidential Adviser, Mustafa Osman Ismail, during separate meetings in Khartoum.In a briefing to the Security Council in April, Mr. Adada estimated that around 2,000 civilians have been in killed in Darfur since UNAMID deployed last year. Some 15 peacekeepers have also lost their lives since the UNAMID force was set up by the Security Council to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed in total and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes in more than five years of fighting, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started distributing emergency food supplies for May in areas most affected by the Government’s expulsion of 13 international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).The expulsion as well as the revocation of the permits of three local NGOs came after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant in early March for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes and crimes against humanity.For food assistance beyond June, WFP is preparing to launch a special operation in Darfur, designed to compensate for the gaps in humanitarian relief aid left by the ouster of the NGOs. In North and South Darfur, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has entered into agreements with partner organizations to set up a health clinic and psychosocial activities formerly managed by expelled NGOs in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, in West Darfur three of the 13 therapeutic feeding centres formerly managed by expelled NGOs remain out of action, either due to insecurity or lack of alternative resources. 12 May 2009The joint African Union-United Nations envoy to Darfur expressed concern today over recent armed clashes between various factions in the northern part of the war-ravaged Sudanese region. read more

Urgent action needed to assist over 1 million Central Africans – UN

“It’s not like any other humanitarian situation I’ve run across,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in New York.Ms. Bragg, who visited the country in late July, said the number of people affected directly or indirectly by the effect of conflict in CAR is estimated by the humanitarian community to be more than 1 million people – out of a population of 4 million. She added that the CAR is one of the most impoverished countries in the world – second only to Sierra Leone by one measure – and remains beset by violence and widespread displacement in the north. This is in spite of some progress made last year with the Government embarking on a national dialogue and the signing of a peace agreement with rebel groups. Most of the 1 million people in need of assistance are concentrated in the northern part of the country and amongst the affected population are 125,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 137,000 Central African refugees in Chad and Cameroon. A major concern is the lack of funding for humanitarian work, she stressed, noting that funding has decreased significantly in 2009, compared to previous years. Current requirements amount to $97 million, of which $48 million remains outstanding. “Urgent action from the international community is required to support the efforts of humanitarian organizations,” stated Ms. Bragg.The international community should also be encouraged to support the efforts of the Government to develop a legal framework to assist IDPs, she added. “I was actually struck by the lack of international pressure on the Government in terms of its responsibility to provide both humanitarian assistance and protection to displaced populations.”Another major concern, she said, is lack of access to those in need, not just because of a lack of physical infrastructure, but because many people have fled their villages into the bush, sometimes just a few kilometres from their villages, and they are dispersed. “This is a very traumatized population. Some of them have been displaced repeatedly in the past years,” said Ms. Bragg. “They live in fear of both the Government forces and any armed groups, and they live in totally deplorable conditions in the bush with very little basic necessities – no water, no food, no sanitation, no medical services [and] hardly anything to sustain themselves.”Access is also hindered by the “unpredictable and volatile” security environment and, more recently, outright denial of humanitarian access by the national authorities, which she said were accusing some of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of supporting the rebels through humanitarian activities. More recently, she added, humanitarian needs have increased due to attacks by the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the south-east and a rise in malnutrition in the south-western part of the country. The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator met with some of the IDPs during her visit, which took her to the capital, Bangui, as well as the towns of Birao, Kabo and Paoua. She also met with President François Bozizé and Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadera, and members of UN agencies, international and local NGOs and the diplomatic community. 10 August 2009Urgent action by the international community is needed to assist humanitarian efforts in the Central African Republic (CAR), where conflict has left one-quarter of the population in need of assistance, a senior United Nations relief official said today. read more

TimorLeste praises UN for critical role in securing sovereignty

“It was through the United Nations that a solution was found for what was then tabled as the ‘question of East Timor,’” Timorese Foreign Minister Zacarias Albano da Costa told General Assembly.“It was the United Nations that shouldered the responsibility of finding a just solution to that question and was indeed able to do so with success,” Mr. da Costa said in a speech to the annual General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York.Mr. da Costa noted that the decision to employ the UN to resolve his country’s conflict through peaceful means and to defer to the UN Charter was a wise one.“The engagement with the United Nations continues to be the policy of Timor-Leste today,” he added. “Timor-Leste has benefited greatly from this engagement, through the dedicated work of successive UN missions and through the presence and work of the various United Nations agencies, funds and programmes.”Timorese turned out in huge numbers on 30 August 1999 to vote in a popular consultation on their future. The result – announced five days later on 4 September – was an overwhelming choice for independence over autonomy within Indonesia. UN administrators moved in soon after the vote, which was followed by widespread violence in which 1,500 to 2,000 people were killed, and helped shepherd Timor-Leste to its eventual independence as a State in 2002.“The UN’s current mission in Timor-Leste, UNMIT, is a testament to the need for a longer term engagement by the UN,” said Mr. da Silva, noting that the crisis in 2006 – when tensions within the security sector led to deadly riots – was a reminder of the fragility of peace when State institutions are still weak and need strengthening. 28 September 2009The Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste today paid tribute to the United Nations for the world body’s role over the past decade and more in supporting the South-East Asian nation on its path to independence. read more

New UNbacked scheme to turn trash into cash in AsiaPacific cities

22 February 2010Under a new United Nations-backed initiative launched today, cities in Asia and the Pacific, which are dealing with ever-increasing heaps of waste, will be able to transform ‘trash into cash.’ The scheme – unveiled by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Waste Concern, a Bangladeshi non-governmental organization (NGO) – seeks to help solid waste development strategies become decentralized, pro-poor, low-carbon and self-financing through the sale of carbon credits.Exploding urban populations and economies in the region have resulted in a surge in solid wastes that municipal governments are finding difficult to dispose of, as dumpsites fill up and land for new ones is becoming harder to come by.Even though local governments spend up to 60 per cent of their annual budgets to collect, transport and dispose of solid wastes, not all waste is collected and is often disposed in crude open dumps that pollute the atmosphere and water.The new programme, launched in Dhaka, Bangladesh, seeks to harness the potential of the informal waste collection sector, which has demonstrated that recycling trash can be extremely profitable.Millions make a living from recycling waste, both from inorganic recyclable waste and organic waste, which can be turned into compost and can generate initial start-up costs through carbon credits.Waste Concern was one of the world’s first organizations to acquire carbon credits for composting under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol allowing developed countries to reduce emissions and meet global warming commitments by investing in carbon reduction projects in developing countries.Since 2005, the organization, ESCAP and local partners have tested and further refind the approach in Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. One compost plant serving some 1,000 households and treating 2-3 tons of waste daily has been built in each country, and both sites have financed themselves. read more

Ban issues call for religious leaders to foster dialogue between cultures

In a message to the two-day World Summit of Religious Leaders, which concludes today in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, Mr. Ban said that “when we build a culture of understanding and uphold human dignity, we build a better world.” He noted that “we live in a changing and interconnected world,” where local events can have an impact globally and international events can also have a local impact. “Globalization continues to transform our societies, bringing gains for many but leaving too many others untouched and discontent. These 21st-century facts compel us to strengthen cooperation – to expand the space for dialogue.” The Secretary-General stressed that the entire United Nations system supports efforts to promote dialogue between cultures and religions, adding that the UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative has part of those efforts since 2005. “As religious leaders, you have an essential role to play in ensuring that the values of equality, tolerance and mutual respect, which lie at the core of all the world’s greatest religions, are defended, promoted and used to truly enrich our societies. “You can encourage dialogue that respects the importance of tradition but also embraces change. You can foster contacts and create conditions that will lead to sustainable peace, social justice and cultural cohesion.” The World Summit of Religious Leaders was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 27 April 2010Religious leaders have a vital part to play in promoting dialogue between different cultures and societies at a time when globalization has left many people feeling discontented, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told an international gathering of leaders. read more

Security Council to send more UN troops to Côte dIvoire ahead of

In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan of Turkey, which holds the Council presidency this month, the 15-member body took note of the certification on 24 September of the final voters list of 5.7 million that was agreed on by the parties.“The members of the Security Council urge the Ivorian stakeholders to meet their commitments to organise the first round of the elections on 31 October,” he stated. “They further stressed the need for the parties to ensure calm prior to, during and after the vote.”The UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire, known as UNOCI, has been providing logistical and technical assistance for the preparations for the presidential polls, which were supposed to have been held as far back as 2005 in the West African nation, which became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south.However, the elections have been repeatedly postponed, most recently from March. In response to a recommendation by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Council agreed to deploy up to 500 additional uniformed personnel to UNOCI for no more than six months to reinforce the mission’s capacity to contribute to the security arrangements before, during and after the elections.Established in 2004, UNOCI is tasked with facilitating aspects of the peace process, including those related to elections, disarmament and the reunification of the country.Today’s statement followed a closed-door briefing to the Council by Y. J. Choi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire and head of UNOCI, who told reporters that he did not think violence would be an issue since all the candidates are “committed to democratic principles.“I am confident that the 31 October first round will take place peacefully,” he stated.Under the country’s electoral law, a second round of voting could take place on 28 November if there is no clear winner in the first round. 28 September 2010The Security Council today urged parties in Côte d’Ivoire to ensure the holding of the country’s long-delayed presidential polls next month, and agreed to deploy up to 500 additional United Nations troops to assist with security during the election period. read more