At UN Holy See hails Millennium Development Goals document with reservations

“It is important to underline that the goals (MDGs) will not be attained without activating two great moral imperatives,” Secretary for Relations with States Dominique Mamberti told the General Assembly. “On the one hand it is necessary that rich and emerging countries fully realize their aid commitments for development and immediately set up a functioning financial and commercial network favourable to the weaker countries.“On the other all, rich and poor, must ensure an ethical turn in politics and economy that guarantees good government and eliminates every form of corruption. Otherwise, there is the risk of arriving in 2015 with only insufficient results, except perhaps – and that would be sad and paradoxical – in the fields of population control and promotion of minority lifestyles, which have been introduced in some paragraphs in the recent summit’s document.“In that case the MDGs will have become a veritable fraud for the integral human development of peoples.”He stressed that the major guarantee that the UN will continue to fulfil its historic mission of uniting all States for the common goals of peace, security and integral human development will be given by “a constant reference to and effective respect of the dignity of all men and women, beginning with the right to life – even the weakest like the terminally ill and the yet unborn infants – and of religious freedom.”He also welcomed the entry into force of the treaty banning cluster munitions and the new START nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia.Also speaking on MDGs at the Assembly was Abubakr Al-Qiribi, Foreign Minister for Yemen, who said that his country’s progress towards achieving the targets had been set back by the financial crisis.He pointed to low oil prices, which account for 75 per cent of Yemen’s national income, along with overpopulation, scarce water resources and limited help from development partners as serious challenges. 29 September 2010The Holy See today hailed the efforts to eliminate poverty at last week’s United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but voiced concern at paragraphs on population control and minority lifestyles in the outcome document. read more

SecretaryGeneral to address European security summit in Kazakhstan

23 November 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Kazakhstan this weekend to address the summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations announced today. The meeting in the capital, Astana, will be the first OSCE summit in over a decade and brings together heads of State and government of participating States.During his visit to Kazakhstan, the Secretary-General will hold several bilateral meetings with top officials on the sidelines of the summit to discuss various issues, including UN-OSCE cooperation.With 56 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE forms the largest regional security organization in the world. It is a primary instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation in its area. read more

UN refugee chief and European official begin joint visit to Yemen

During their three-day joint visit, High Commissioner António Guterres and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva, will travel to the north, where they will press for greater humanitarian access to those affected by recurring fighting between Government forces and Al-Houthi rebels.Despite the February 2010 ceasefire signed between the Government and the rebels, nearly 300,000 civilians forced to flee their homes by successive conflicts since 2004 remain displaced.The two officials plan to meet with displaced Yemeni civilians as well as those who have returned home, according to a news release issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The joint mission also reflects international recognition and support for Yemen’s policy of granting refugee status on arrival to Somalis fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland, UNHCR pointed out. There are more than 170,000 registered Somali refugees in Yemen, of which some 16,000 arrived last year alone, often after making a perilous voyage across the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.While in Yemen, Mr. Guterres and Ms. Georgieva will meet with top-ranking Government officials and representatives of UN agencies and partner non-governmental organisations. 13 January 2011The United Nations refugee chief arrived in Yemen today along with the European Union’s top humanitarian official to assess assistance to civilians displaced by conflict in the country’s north, as well as challenges posed by the continuing influx of refugees on its shores. read more

UN housing expert voices concern about violent evictions in Argentina

In a news release issued at the end of her week-long visit to the country, Raquel Rolnik said she heard countless testimonies about violent evictions, often carried out by the State and on public land and without the possibility of relocation or compensation for affected families. The evictions, she said, are increasing in both urban and rural areas and affect in particular the residents of informal settlements, as well as peasants and indigenous peoples. “I’m very concerned about violent evictions taking place in various regions of the country and the lack of more comprehensive promotion of adequate housing in Argentina,” said Ms. Rolnik, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.She said that the “informal occupation” of land has become the main form of access to housing in the country due to the lack of affordable housing. In addition, there is a growing phenomenon in various parts of the country of criminalization of people who occupy lands or buildings, and who are victims of growing stigmatization. “Despite the significant budgetary commitment adopted by the Government since 2003 in response to the housing crisis, and the participation of provinces and municipalities in this effort, the imbalance between supply and demand has continued to increase,” she noted. “This is partly due to State neglect of housing issues in previous decades. But the situation has deteriorated recently due to the economic growth that Argentina is experiencing and its direct effect on price increases for land, including urban land, housing and rents which have grown proportionately more than the income of most of the population.”She also voiced concern about the weakness of the allocation system of the social housing programmes, which opens the door to discrimination, and has made the issue the object of political disputes. 21 April 2011An independent United Nations human rights expert today voiced concern about the increasing rate of violent evictions taking place in Argentina and called for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the country’s housing crisis. read more

Palestinian unity deal must promote peace says UNs Middle East envoy

28 April 2011Reacting to reports of a unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, the top United Nations envoy for the Middle East today said that reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions should take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace. UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have been urging Palestinian factions for some time to put their differences behind them, put national interest first and find a way forward so they can address the many challenges they face. Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after ousting the Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that controls parts of the West Bank. On Wednesday, representatives of Hamas and Fatah announced that they struck a deal to form a national unity government and hold elections within a year. “Reunification is essential for achieving a two-state solution that should be reached through negotiations,” Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said in a statement issued in Jerusalem. Mr. Serry “notes with much interest” the agreement announced in Cairo, the statement added. “He hopes that reconciliation will now take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace and will continue to follow developments closely.” In a related development, a two-day UN seminar that opened today in Helsinki, Finland, is focusing on mobilizing international efforts in support of Palestinian State-building activities.In a message to the meeting, Mr. Ban noted that the Palestinian Authority has accelerated progress in improving its governmental functions in the limited territory under its control and despite constraints on the ground.“However, the institutional achievements of the Palestinian State-building programme are approaching their limits within the political and physical space currently available. Time is of the essence and serious efforts must now be exerted by all to bring the parties back to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” he added in the message, which was delivered by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).He said that along with the continued impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, constraints on Palestinian urban development and obstacles to free movement and access in the West Bank remain among the most substantial impediments to Palestinian economic viability.“While Israel has taken measures to facilitate movement, it must roll back its measures of occupation and facilitate continued economic and institutional progress in order to match the Palestinian State-building achievements,” he stated.Abdou Salam Diallo, the Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, also remarked that the Palestinians are reaching the limit of what is realizable unless the measures of occupation are rolled back, noting that the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza, which was imposed after Hamas took over the territory, continues to impede economic development.Meanwhile, he added, in the West Bank, “onerous and highly unpredictable” movement and access restrictions, settlements, house demolitions and displacement of residents and the separation wall have put a “chokehold” on investment and opportunity.“The Gaza blockade must be lifted completely, and measures of the occupation in the West Bank must be reversed, including a complete stop to all settlement activity, to allow socio-economic development to take root,” stated Mr. Diallo. read more

UN official urges Senegal to review reported intention to extradite exChadian leader

Government of Senegal reportedly informed officials in Chad that the former Chadian dictator would be sent back to Chad tomorrow, according to a statement issued by the office of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.“I urge the Government of Senegal to review its decision and to ensure that Habré’s extradition is carried out in a way that ensures his fair trial rights will be respected and he will not be subjected to torture or the death penalty,” said Ms. Pillay said.“As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Senegal may not extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. At the very least Senegal must obtain fair trial guarantees from the Government of Chad before any extradition takes place,” she added.Ms. Pillay said extraditing Mr. Habré in the present circumstances, in which those guarantees are not yet in place, may amount to a violation of international law.She stressed that it was essential that Mr. Habré faces a trial that is fair and adheres to due process. His physical safety must be ensured at all times, Ms. Pillay said.“Justice and accountability are of paramount importance and must be attained through a fair process in accordance with human rights law,” she added.Mr. Habré ruled Chad from 1982 to 1990, when he was overthrown and went into exile in Senegal, and it is alleged that during his rule thousands of Chadians were tortured and unlawful killings and other serious human rights violations took place. Although he was charged in February 2000 by a lower court in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, an appeals court later ruled that Senegalese courts did not have the legal competence to try such cases if they were perpetrated in another country.But then in April 2008, Senegal’s National Assembly adopted an amendment to the constitution that, along with previous changes, allowed the country’s legal system to deal with such cases.In May 2009 UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order leaving former Chadian Mr. Habré in the custody of Senegal where he has lived under house arrest.Belgium had lodged a request to the ICJ in February 2009 to bar Mr. Habré from leaving Senegal while his trial is pending. It had also sought to have him extradited to face charges in Belgium, citing among other things procedural delays in Senegal’s handling of the case.In its order, the ICJ found that “there does not exist, in the circumstances of the present case, any urgency to justify” Belgium’s bid. 10 July 2011The United Nations human rights chief today expressed deep concern over an announcement by the Senegalese Government that former Chadian president Hissène Habré would be extradited to his country where he has already been sentenced to death in absentia. read more

UN and diplomatic partners urge Security Council to unfreeze Libyan assets

“We have decided to start a process to unfreeze the frozen Libyan assets in an expedited manner,” members of the Libya Contact Group said in their final communiqué after a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. “In that regard, participants urged the UN Security Council to pass the resolution currently under discussion,” they said.The Contact Group urged Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi and his “inner circle” to turn themselves in immediately to face justice to prevent further bloodshed and destruction of property. Media reports indicate that forces supporting the National Transitional Council (NTC) have taken control of most of the country.Members of the Group – the UN, European Union, NATO, the League of Arab States, Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, Gulf Cooperation Council, and, by invitation, the African Union – declared that the NTC was, currently, the sole representative of the Libya people.“While expressing satisfaction for the ever ever-widening international recognition of the NTC, they underlined the need to empower the NTC with the legal, political and financial means necessary to form an interim government of Libya,” members of the Group said in their communiqué.They stressed that the reconciliation process in Libya should be based on the principles of inclusiveness and avoidance of retribution and vengeance and welcomed NTC’s commitment “to “win hearts and minds of the entire Libyan people and respect for human rights.”The group also agreed that the UN should lead all international efforts aimed at helping Libya in the post-conflict period.Earlier, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on post-conflict planning for Libya, Ian Martin, told the Group that delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially medical aid, is the most urgent priority, adding that the world body and its partners are finalizing a 30-day assistance plan.He said the that UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners were striving to ensure quick delivery of medical assistance to the wounded and other vulnerable groups, as well as food aid and water to those in need.He also pointed out that the NTC had shown commitment to moving quickly towards democratic legitimacy through the drafting of a constitution and early elections.“We stand ready to bring the extensive experience of the United Nations has developed from so many post-conflict contexts to the unique challenge of a country which lacks living memory of an election, let alone electoral institutions and political parties,” said Mr. Martin.He stressed that any UN role would be in support of national efforts. “The purpose of initial deployment [of UN support] would be to engage with the Libyan authorities and actors regarding their needs and wishes, in order to design longer-term support where requested,” said Mr. Martin.He stressed the need for effective coordination of international assistance for Libya, in response to a common understanding of the country’s priorities.“The international community will do hard-pressed transitional authorities no favour if it presents itself in Tripoli as multiple interlocutors or assessment missions demanding their scarce time, or seeks their participation in multiple forums outside Libya, when their own country demands their leadership,” said Mr. Martin.He pointed out that the UN, the World Bank and European Union have an agreed process for tripartite post-conflict assessment and will be discussing with the NTC when and how the that process can best be applied in Libya.Meanwhile, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, urged the people of Libya, as well as international art and antiquities traders, to protect the country’s cultural heritage, warning that invaluable cultural property could be damaged or stolen in times of social upheaval.She stressed that the looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural property would contravene UNESCO’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.“The heritage of a nation is essential to the ability of its citizens to preserve their identity and self-esteem, to profit from their diversity and their history and build themselves a better future,” said Ms. Bokova.She warned that buying stolen artefacts or their fragments encouraged the looting of cultural property. “It is therefore crucial that the international antiquities market be particularly wary of objects from Libya in the present circumstances.”She offered UNESCO’s assistance in assessing reports of damage to some of Libya’s five World Heritage sites, adding that the agency would also prepare plans to safeguard the sites.The five heritage sites in Libya are the Archaeological Site of Cyrene; Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna; Archaeological Site of Sabratha; Old Town of Ghadamès; and the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus. 25 August 2011The United Nations and its diplomatic partners seeking a resolution to the Libyan crisis today urged the Security Council to release assets frozen under United Nations sanctions to the country’s transitional authorities to help them set up a government in the North African nation. read more

Loonie up amid hopes for central bank action strong US factory orders

TORONTO — The Canadian dollar advanced Tuesday, supported by strong gains in commodity prices as traders looked to central banks to take action to keep the fragile global economic recovery on track.Prices for oil and metals also ran ahead following a strong report on U.S. factory orders.The loonie rose 0.54 of a cent to 98.76 cents US from the close on Friday before the Canada Day holiday.The U.S. Commerce Department said factory orders increased 0.7 per cent in May after two consecutive months of declines. Core capital goods, such as machinery and computers, rose 2.1 per cent. That’s better than the 1.6 per cent estimated in a preliminary report a week ago and is a good measure of companies’ plans to invest.However, manufacturing has slowed so far this year, hurt by declining consumer and business confidence and weaker global demand.Some analysts expect the European Central Bank to cut lending rates by 0.25 of a point later this week and the Bank of England to boost money in circulation. There are also hopes that Japan and China will announce new stimulus measures.Oil prices made a particularly strong gain as traders also closely watch the impact of tighter sanctions starting July 1 by the U.S. and Europe against Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran, OPEC’s second-biggest producer, is finding fewer countries willing to buy its crude, which could pinch global supplies.The August crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ran ahead $3.61 to US$87.36 a barrel.Copper futures jumped eight cents to US$3.55 a pound while bullion gained $22.90 to US$1,614.50 an ounce. read more

Kinross Gold hit with net loss after 32B mine writedown

TORONTO — Kinross Gold Corporation (TSX:K) is reporting a multi-billion dollar net loss in its fourth quarter after taking a $3.2-billion impairment charge, mostly on its Tasiast mine.The Toronto-based miner reported a net loss of $2.989-billion, or $2.62 per share for the three months ended Dec. 31, compared to a net loss of $2.79-billion, or $2.45 per share in the year earlier period.On an adjusted basis, Kinross reported net earnings of $276.5-million, or 24 cents per share — beating analyst estimates by a penny.Revenue for the quarter came in at $1.186-billion, compared with $919.8-million year over year.Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected revenue of $1.23-billion.For the full year, Kinross posted a net loss of $2.5-billion, or $2.24 per share, compared with a net loss of $2.1-billion, or $1.84 per share, year over year. Full-year revenue was $4.3-billion compared to $3.8-billion in 2011.Full-year adjusted net earnings were $879.2-million, or 77 cents per share.Kinross also said its cutting its capital expenditures for 2013 compared to 2012. It forecast total capital expenditures of approximately $1.6-billion for the year, down $325-million last year.Gold production for the quarter was 724,510 gold equivalent ounces, compared with 622,507 ounces in the year earlier period. Full-year production was 2.6 million gold equivalent ounces, which the company said exceeded guidance, compared with 2.5 million gold equivalent ounces for 2011.The company expects to produce approximately 2.4 to 2.6 million gold equivalent ounces in 2013 at a production cost of sales per gold equivalent ounce of $740 to $790.The Tasiast mine in Mauritania accounted for $3.09-billion of the $3.2-billion after-tax non-cash impairment charge and was due to several factors, including a reduction in the valuation multiple for Tasiast and industry-wide increases in capital and operating costs, the company said.The remaining $111.3 million impairment charge for its Chirano operation in Ghana was “related entirely to goodwill,” the company said.“While we recorded a non-cash impairment charge related to our Tasiast project, our pre-feasibility study work and recent exploration results continue to increase our confidence in Tasiast’s potential, and confirm its importance as part of our long-term future,” CEO J. Paul Rollinson said in a release.“Our planning and outlook for 2013 reflects our continued focus on cost control, margin improvement and free cash flow.”The Tasiast mine was acquired in 2010 as part of a US$7.1-billion deal for Red Back Mining.Last August, Kinross launched a company-wide cost cutting initiative.Then earlier this year, Kinross replaced chief executive Tye Burt with Rollinson in an effort to improve the company’s lagging performance. Rollinson had been executive vice-president of corporate development for the Toronto-based gold miner.Kinross has mines and projects in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Russia, Ghana, and Mauritania.Shares in Kinross, which reported after the close of markets, closed down nine cents to $7.91 Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. read more

Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would be disastrous Vancouver mayor

VANCOUVER — New evidence proves the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline presents a grave threat to the City of Vancouver’s health, economy and environment, said Mayor Gregor Robertson.The city commissioned expert reports on the potential impacts of the $5.4 billion proposal and the findings were presented to council on Wednesday.“Today we heard overwhelming evidence that the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal and the oil tankers associated with it are incredibly disastrous for Vancouver,” said Robertson outside council chambers after the meeting.“My mind is clearly made up. I think this is a bad deal for Vancouver.”The mayor entered a motion to reaffirm the city’s opposition to the project, but council agreed to defer the vote for two weeks after Coun. Elizabeth Ball requested more time to review the findings.The National Energy Board is considering Kinder Morgan’s plan to triple its bitumen-carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels a day by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe near an existing line between Alberta and Burnaby, B.C.The city submitted its expert evidence to the energy board on Wednesday, including critical reports on the project’s economic viability, risk assessment and potential spill impacts.A Metro Vancouver-commissioned report on health and air quality concluded a spill could expose up to a million people to toxic benzene fumes and kill up to 100,000 birds.The report said benzene, a component of diluted bitumen, can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, respiratory problems, coma and even death. People on the Stanley Park seawall next to the water could suffer irreversible health effects, it said.Another report found that Vancouver’s “green brand” is worth about $31 billion and it’s economy could suffer a $1.2 billion loss in the event of such a disaster.Spokeswoman Ali Hounsell said Kinder Morgan shares the mayor’s concerns about spills and has proposed in its application additional measures for prevention and response.“The mayor has to remember that the Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tankers have been safely operating in this community and through this harbour for the past 60 years,” she said.“We believe the expansion will bring benefits to not only Vancouverites, but to all Canadians. Safety is a top priority. None of us want an oil spill.”She said public health is also a priority and the company will carefully review and respond to the city’s evidence, in particular examining whether the spill scenarios in the reports are credible.Hounsell said Kinder Morgan is open to sitting down with Vancouver to find common solutions, as well as with North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation, which vowed Tuesday to fight the project.Robertson’s motion seeks to reaffirm the city’s stance opposing the expansion, a declaration it first made in December 2013 before the expert evidence was collected. Several councillors said the motion should be passed immediately and only reluctantly agreed  to defer the vote.Coun. Kerry Jang, a professor of psychiatry at the University of B.C., said the pipeline expansion poses an urgent public health risk to Vancouver.“In my mind it’s absolutely clear that it’s an emergency,” he said. “This is something we need to make a very clear statement on.” read more