10 Ways Information Technology is Changing the World of Business

New York – In the late twentieth century, there was a popular saying among many business owners and professionals that went, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This saying has never been more true since the advent of the Internet. Communications have become more essential in everyday business practices thanks to online networking. Many entrepreneurs, such as Ehsan Bayat of Afghan Wireless, continue to expand the possibility of communication networks even in the most remote areas. How can the development of information technology benefit the future world of business?1. Sending DocumentsIn the past, it could take days to receive letters and/or business correspondences by mail. Many business owners even paid for next-day delivery of important documents. In today’s market, those documents can be sent via email almost instantaneously. Whether these forms are stored on a local server, in the Cloud, or on a smartphone, people can now share these documents in a much faster and affordable manner. According to many business owners, the days of spending $20 to $30 for next-day air are numbered. 2. Marketing ShiftsMany small businesses may not be able to afford televised advertisements. However, nearly one-third of these companies utilize paid online marketing. In many ways, online marketing can be more valuable to the small business than a perfect spot on primetime television. These advertising methods may also be far less expensive than many local real-life alternatives.3. Social MediaOne of the most profound changes in the digital world has been that of social media. Since 2005, more and more people have been flocking to sites like Facebook and Twitter in order to stay connected with friends and family. Many business owners have seen the potential for engaging their audience and developed strategies for social marketing practices. Since approximately 10% of all online sales originate from these websites, the potential for income is extraordinary.4. Expanding Target ConsumersThe Internet gives business owners the opportunity to greatly increase their target audience without an excessively high marketing campaign. Companies in the smallest of towns may still access millions of people through online channels. This can include people living in nearby cities to those on the other side of the globe. It all centers around what kind of business you operate and how you can engage those consumers.5. Mobile Marketing ImprovementsOnline interactions are not the only things that have been affected by changes in information technology. The devices themselves offer potential to engage consumers as well. Many companies have invested heavily into mobile marketing platforms, with the majority of owners stating they will spend more in this area next year. This demonstrates how influential mobile devices have become for communication and enhancing sales.6. Productivity EnhancementsMany people have experienced the efficiency of online business practices. As such, developers are continuing to create the perfect Internet-based platform for various organizations. Nearly every aspect of almost any business can be controlled through the Cloud. The Cloud and other enhancements like it increases productivity, as employees and other workers can work from virtually anywhere. Online tools and applications play a significant role for online freelance professionals or employees who work from home.7. Professional Social NetworkingPrior to the development of the Internet, creating a professional network required a great deal of legwork and phone calls. Today, people can meet and interact on sites such as LinkedIn. Professional Social Networking has incredible potential for creating a vast professional network, allowing people from around the world to intermingle without the need to travel.8. Greater Levels of OpportunityBusiness owners used to spend days searching for distributors and suppliers. Thanks to the Internet, these people can now spend an hour or two on sites like Google to find the products they’re looking for. This has the potential to greatly increase product availability, as well as reduce overall operational costs of a brick-and-mortar store. Organizations no longer have to settle for what’s available locally, since many suppliers can now ship across seas.9. Increasing RevenuesMany businesses offer online customers products through eCommerce sites while selling goods locally at the same time. In some cases, simple advertisements on company blogs have the potential to produce a steady revenue stream. Businesses small and large no longer have to rely on walk-in customers thanks to online methods. It’s like having a second store without the overhead costs.10. Disaster RecoveryHistory has demonstrated that disasters can come in any form. Many companies have been affected by storms, earthquakes, and man-made catastrophes. Information technology gives users the ability to recover from such disasters very quickly. In fact, it’s even possible for a company that had its physical store completely destroyed to continue functioning from someone’s garage. All that’s needed to do business is an Internet connection.Information technology is more than just the desktop computer system in your home or the smartphone that resides in your pocket. It’s an industry that encompasses virtually all digital modes of communication. Using services that are available today may greatly improve your business practices tomorrow. Keep your fingers on the pulse of technology and take advantage of the tools that work for your organization.Edited by Michael Joseph read more

French Group Makes Major Industrial Investment in Morocco

Rabat – The French group Derichebourg has decided to invest MAD 27 million  to manage the cleaning services of the El Jadida city market following its takeover. After winning the contract to manage the delegation of cleaning services launched by the city of El Jadida in early November, French player in the provision of services for businesses as well as local and municipal authorities, Derichebourg, has allocated a budget of MAD 27 million for the management of waste in the city.According to a French-speaking news source, the company’s contract will run for a period of 7 years. It began November 5th of this year and will involve the management and treatment of waste. The company, which treated 75 000 tons of waste last year, has bought thirty vehicles and a multitude of bins. Guarantees have been provided by the company that all personnel are Moroccan. The CEO of Derichebourg Morocco told Moroccan news source, Usine Nouvelle:“I am the only expatriate of the group. There are competent people in Morocco who are very well trained, know our trades and want to belong to an international group,” Thomas Derichebourg pointed out.The French group has allocated a total of MAD 160 million for all its business in Morocco. It is currently operating in Rabat and Marrakech. Aside from the contract it won in the city of El Jadida, Derichebourg also won a contract in Bab Ighli.According to the same source, the company recorded a profit of MAD 233 million last year and is on track to secure a ten percent increase this year.Edited by Connie Guidon read more

King Mohammed VI Inaugurates MedicalPsychoSocial Center in Casablanca

Rabat – King Mohammed VI inaugurated, Friday in Casablanca, a Medico-psycho-social center, a solidarity project dedicated to people suffering from psychological disordersCarried out by the Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity for a total budget of MAD 7 million, this center stems from the Sovereign’s resolve to make the right to health services one of the major pillars to consolidate citizenship and achieve sustainable, comprehensive and integrated human development.It is part of the Foundation’s action plan to support the national medical sector by strengthening the existing medical supply, improving access to health care for the poorest populations, and integrating a complementary social approach into the mechanisms of accompanying patients and beneficiaries. As part of the local socio-medical program for the Casablanca-Settat region (2016-2020), initiated by the Foundation, the Center whose construction works were launched by the Sovereign on June 18, 2016, responds to the deficit in the medical infrastructure dedicated to the psycho-social care of psychologically unstable persons.This center will treat mental illnesses by developing the patient’s relational and learning abilities, as well as strengthening their autonomy, their sense of responsibility and their feeling of well-being and self-esteem.Built on a plot of 1,429 m2, this center has a medical hub with consulting rooms in general medicine, psychiatry and psychology, a community center housing halls for read more

Visa for Music 4th Edition Kicks Off in Rabat

Rabat – Rabat is welcoming the fourth edition of Africa and Middle East music show “Visa For Music” from November 22 to 25. An opening parade took over the streets of the capital yesterday.The international exhibition of music of Africa and the Middle East, initiated in partnership with the Hiba Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and Communication, brings together artists, professional organizations, record companies, and cultural institutions from the regions.As planned for this edition, Morocco will be represented by alternative music names such as rapper Mobydick, also known as Lmoutchou, Khansa Batma to illustrate Moroccan rock, singer Fayçal Azizi, musician and instrumentalist Farid Ghannam, Amazigh group Inouraz, Black Jaguar, the Saharawi fusion collective DaraaTribes, the artist Jihane Bougrine, the International electro pop project MAcAM and the band Gnawa Racines. As for the Middle East, Egyptian musician Hisham Kharma, the Iranian groups Ali Asghar Rahimi & Roohafza Ensemble and Aïda & Babak Quartet, the Jordanian group El Morabba3, and the Lebanese band The Wanton Bishops will perform on stage. Also  Palestinian composer and pianist  Faraj Suleiman and the Palestinian collective TootArd will be present, and finally the troupe Kardes Turkuler from Turkey.The purpose of this event is above all to highlight intercultural exchanger in order to create a music market that offers better visibility to artists. read more

EU Council Renewing of EUMorocco Fisheries Deal Essential for Western Sahara

Rabat – The European Council has decided that the scope of the fisheries deal between Morocco-EU “should be defined so as to include the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara” in southern Morocco.On November 27, the Brussels-based council shared a document to announce its decision on the fisheries deal.  The council also recalled that it had authorized the EU Commission to start “negotiations with the Kingdom of Morocco with a view to amending the Agreement agreeing on a new Implementation protocol.”The decision of the EU and its council brushed aside Polisario’s repeated claims that Morocco exploits the natural resources of Western Sahara. In July, the EU and Morocco agreed to renew their fisheries agreement, which expired on June 14. Read Also: Spain Calls for Speeding up EU-Morocco Fisheries AgreementThe council said that the agreement aims to enable the two partners “to work together more closely on promoting a sustainable fisheries policy.” It also seeks to promote the fisheries sector and a blue economy.The council added that the fisheries deal should benefit the people concerned, “owing to the positive-economic impacts on those people, particularly in terms of employment and investment.”The council also decided that the agreement has a positive impact on the development of the fisheries sector and fish processing sector because the fishing activities are in line with the “best scientific advice and recommendations.”The council also said that “extensive consultations” took place in Western Sahara and in Morocco with the attendance of socio-economic and political actors who were “clearly in favor of concluding the Fisheries Agreement.”The council also reaffirmed its support for the UN-led political process in the face of claims by the Polisario that the EU is siding with Morocco’s position.The agreement added that “it should be possible for Union fleets to continue the fishing activities they had pursued since the entry into force of the Agreement.”It also stressed that the renewal of the agreement is “essential in order for that territory to continue to benefit from the sectoral support provided under the Agreement.”Morocco and the EU are also set to renew their agriculture agreement. On November 21, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) adopted the Morocco-EU agriculture deal. For Morocco, the vote reflects the positive position of political groups that represent the commission and the EU Parliament. read more

White House ends California talks on mileage standards

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says it has broken off talks with California in a dispute over mileage standards, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to roil the auto industry.The White House announced Thursday it was ending the talks.The administration wants to block tougher Obama-era mileage standards for vehicles. It has threatened to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own mileage standards as part of that.Lawmakers and automakers have urged the two sides to settle, warning that a split could divide the auto market, bring years of court battles and raise costs for automakers. California says the administration never offered any compromise.The administration has also been feuding with Democrat-led California over President Donald Trump’s border wall and funding for high-speed rail.Ellen Knickmeyer And Tom Krisher, The Associated Press read more

Whitmer will use current incentives to aid Fiat Chrysler

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that Michigan’s incentives for Fiat Chrysler to add 6,500 jobs in the state will not require legislative approval.She said the state will use existing economic development programs to assist the automaker’s planned $4.5 billion expansion, which was announced Tuesday. Details will be provided at an upcoming, yet-to-be scheduled meeting of the Michigan Strategic Fund, which gives companies money in exchange for job creation and investment, she said.A memorandum of understanding between Detroit and Fiat Chrysler calls for state and local incentives “consistent with those provided to other major assembly plants” in the U.S. One option specifically mentioned is waiving or reducing a state tax assessed on manufacturers’ equipment.Whitmer and the state’s economic development agency have said little about the incentives that will be offered to the automaker, which, like fellow Michigan-based carmakers General Motors and Ford, qualifies for generous state tax credits that extend through 2029.Fiat Chrysler subtracts from its business taxes certain amounts for each job it adds or keeps in the state, with higher deductions for higher-paying jobs. Under a 2015 deal that capped the total value of the automaker’s future credits after state officials were caught off guard by higher-than-expected redemptions that affected the budget, Fiat Chrysler can claim an increasing number of jobs, including 25,000 this year — up from 21,000 in 2018 — and 27,000 in 2029.It is unclear if the company or state officials will seek to restructure that agreement. State incentives are supposed to be ironed out within the same 60-day window in which Detroit will assemble land so Fiat Chrysler can reopen an engine plant in the city and convert another in the same complex into a future assembly plant.Whitmer, a Democrat who took office last month, said of the state incentives: “Everything will be public. My philosophy’s always been that we need to have tools in our toolbox. We also need to insist on accountability and transparency and that we get a benefit for the people of Michigan. There’s no question that 6,500 jobs (paying) $58,000 a year is going to be an enormous boost for all of us in Michigan.”One potential option for state economic development officials is the “Good Jobs” incentive program, which was enacted into law in 2017 in a bid to attract large-scale business expansions. Companies can keep all or half of the income taxes associated with new jobs for up to 10 years, if the jobs pay at least the regional average.Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Jeff Mason said last month that about a quarter of the maximum $200 million in “Good Jobs” incentives, or $50 million, had been authorized for three projects to date.___Follow Eggert on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00David Eggert, The Associated Press read more

Wynn leaders questioned about response to misconduct claims

BOSTON — Massachusetts gambling regulators are questioning Wynn Resorts leaders about what they knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn.The state’s gaming commission is resuming its questioning of new CEO Matt Maddox on Thursday. Maddox is a close confidant of company founder Steve Wynn. It’s also expected to question Wynn’s ex-wife Elaine Wynn, who is a major shareholder.It’s the third and potentially final day of public hearings as regulators weigh whether the company is still suitable to hold a state casino license. A written decision is expected later and has implications for Encore Boston Harbor, the Boston-area resort the company hopes to open in June.The commission received a 200-page investigative report Tuesday that concluded company executives concealed allegations against Steve Wynn. He has denied the allegations.The Associated Press read more

Iraq UN experts call on authorities to suspend execution of Saddams codefendants

25 January 2007The Iraqi authorities should suspend without delay any further executions until it is ensured that a fair trial is provided following major concerns over shortcomings in the trial and hanging of former president Saddam Hussein and two of his co-defendants, United Nations human rights experts have warned. “International law allows the imposition of capital punishment only within rigorous legal constraints, including respect of fair trial standards,” Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Leandro Despouy and Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Leïla Zerrougui said in a statement. “However, these standards were not guaranteed by the Iraqi High Tribunal,” they added, referring to the forthcoming sentencing of former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was convicted in connection with the same crimes against humanity for which Mr. Hussein and the other two co-defendants were hanged. The Tribunal’s Appeals Chamber ruled that the life sentence imposed on him was too lenient and ordered the court to re-sentence him. Among the main concerns cited over the trials is the violation of a number of international human rights standards on the right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal and on the right to defence, including numerous reports of external pressure on the judges that appear to have led to the removal and resignation of some of them. The right to an appropriate and independent defence was also severely undermined, in particular by the “extremely serious attacks” against defence lawyers, some of whom were killed. “The assassination of defence attorneys appearing before the Iraqi High Tribunal threatens the entire procedure, since the role of defence lawyers is critical to a fair trial,” the statement said. It noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour had both called on the Government to refrain from carrying out the death sentences imposed on Mr. Hussein and the other two co-defendants. “In light of the gravity of the shortcomings of the trial against Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants, the experts strongly call upon the Iraqi authorities to suspend without delay any further executions until it is ensured that a fair trial is provided to those accused under their jurisdiction, in full respect of all due process guarantees required by international human rights law,” it concluded. read more

Security Council members stress need for free and fair elections in Lebanon

“Members of the Security Council reaffirmed their strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, unity and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders and under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon,” said Ambassador R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency. “They recalled the need to hold free and fair presidential elections in conformity with the Lebanese Constitution and without any foreign interference and influence,” he said in a press statement following a closed-door briefing by Terje Roed-Larsen, the Special Envoy for the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which was adopted in 2004. Council members “reaffirmed the need for all parties to resolve all political issues on the basis of reconciliation and national dialogue,” said the Council president, voicing support for the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy in their efforts to facilitate and assist the implementation of the resolution. The Council’s deliberations were based on a recent report of the Secretary-General, who said security conditions and political stalemate are combining to create a “climate of ongoing crisis” in Lebanon and called for the holding of free and fair presidential elections next month without any foreign interference. “There must not be a constitutional void at the level of the presidency, nor two rival governments,” Mr. Ban warned in his latest report on resolution 1559, adding that political dialogue must enable the election of a new president before the constitutional deadline of 24 November. His Envoy, Mr. Roed-Larsen, told reporters after today’s closed-door meeting that “it is the duty of everybody here to call for presidential elections within the defined time frame which expires on 24 November” consistent with Security Council resolutions, including 1559. He emphasized the need for Member States to raise the issue with all relevant parties. “If there are no elections or if we indeed – worst case – end up with having in principle two presidents or maybe two governments, that would be not good news for Lebanon and not good news for the region,” he warned. 5 November 2007The Security Council today reaffirmed the need to hold free and fair presidential elections in Lebanon, in conformity with the country’s Constitution and without any foreign interference and influence, the 15-member body’s president said. read more

Caribbean coral reefs under increasing threat warns UN agency

Warming temperatures and increasing storms are posing serious threats to Caribbean coral reefs and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today. During the last 50 years many Caribbean reefs lost up to 80 per cent of their coral cover, according to the Paris-based agency, which noted that 2005 was especially disastrous for Caribbean corals. Worldwide, nearly 500 million people depend on healthy coral reefs for sustenance, coastal protection, renewable resources, and tourism, with an estimated 30 million of the world’s poorest people depending entirely on the reefs for food. Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems and current estimates suggest that nearly two thirds of the world’s coral reefs are under severe threat from the effects of economic development and climate change, such as coral bleaching, a direct result of global warming. The agency’s warning came ahead of next week’s launch of “The Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs after Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005,” by Clive Wilkinson, Director of UNESCO’s Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, a report assessing the damage caused to the reefs by high temperatures and numerous storms of three years ago in the wider Caribbean, home to over 10 per cent of world’s reefs. The report notes that the warmest year since temperature records began in 1880, 2005 witnessed massive coral losses through severe bleaching, up to 95 per cent in several islands including the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cuba, and the French West Indies. There were also 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes, that year. Tackling the threats will require controlling further warming by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years and managing the direct pressures such as pollution, fishing and damaging coastal developments, the report states. The report, co-sponsored by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and written by 80 coral reef scientists and managers, kicks off the International Year of the Reef 2008, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value of coral reefs and the threats they face, and to spur action to protect them. 28 January 2008Warming temperatures and increasing storms are posing serious threats to Caribbean coral reefs and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today. read more

UN refugee agency registers uprooted Pakistanis in urban areas

21 April 2009The United Nations refugee agency has kicked off its registration of thousands of Pakistanis who are seeking shelter in the capital, Islamabad, and other cities after fleeing in the South Asian nation’s rugged north. The registration drive by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) comes at the request of the Pakistani Government and seeks to ascertain the number of people who have moved to urban areas after escaping clashes between the army and militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Swat district of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP).According to a preliminary survey last month, over 82,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in key cities, with nearly 8,000 in Islamabad. Most of the uprooted live in rented accommodation or with host families, while some are sheltering in camps.The agency began its two-month exercise yesterday, registering displaced families, in the Bahara Kahau suburbs near the capital.Along with its partners, UNHCR will work with community elders to identify and register uprooted people in Islamabad, Lahore and other cities in Punjab province, moving on to Karachi at a later date.Although the displaced are seeking refuge in cheaper areas of cities, rents are still high, given that they are away from their families and traditional support networks, the agency said.“From our preliminary assessment, it seems that in addition to the newly displaced, longer-term settlers from FATA have recently been joined by their families who are fleeing the current conflict,” said UNHCR Assistant Representative in Pakistan Kilian Kleinschmidt. read more

UN food agency pays tribute to father of Green Revolution

14 September 2009The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today paid tribute to Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist who the agency credits with having helped to avert mass famine during the population explosion in recent decades. As the father of the Green Revolution which produced enough food to feed the global population – which doubled between 1960 and 2000 – Mr. Borlaug, who died over the weekend, “was a towering scientist whose work rivals that of the 20th century’s other great scientific benefactors of humankind,” FAO said in a statement.The scientist, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, “will be doubly missed today, as we face the new challenge of feeding a world population set to increase from six billion in 2000 to more than nine billion in 2050, a task made that much harder by climate change and competition from the bioenergy sector.”His work with FAO dates back decades, and most recently, the agency worked with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, which he founded in 2005 to fight a highly virulent strain of wheat stem rust in East Africa which has the potential to devastate wheat production.Today’s statement highlighted Mr. Borlaug’s preference to field work over office work, having received the news about his Nobel honour while toiling in the wheat fields of Toluca, Mexico.“He trained thousands of scientists from all over the world in wheat breeding and production, always emphasizing the use of sound science to solve problems of hunger and malnutrition,” it added.In a separate statement issued yesterday, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) mourned Mr. Borlaug’s passing, thanking him for being the agency’s “great champion in the battle against hunger.” Mr. Borlaug, who died yesterday, “saved more lives than any man in human history,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security for millions of people and for many nations,” she noted. “His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world.” “FAO will work tirelessly to ensure that that dream of Dr Norman Borlaug becomes a reality.” read more

In Afghanistan UN staff remember the quiet heroes killed in mob attack

In a solemn ceremony held in Kabul and repeated at each of the 22 regional and provincial United Nations offices across Afghanistan, UN staff paid tribute today to the colleagues who lost their lives on Friday when they were killed by a mob of protesters that had stormed an operations centre.Three UN international staff and four international security guards were slain in Mazar-i-Sharif when a crowd of around 3,000 people protesting against the burning of a Koran in the United States unleashed their anger. It was the third direct attack against UN personnel in Afghanistan in the past 18 months.Hundreds of UN staff, diplomats and Afghan Government representatives gathered in Kabul for the main ceremony, where Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, lauded the “dedication to reduce the suffering of our fellow global citizens” shown by the seven who were killed.“This is a steady aspiration,” he said. “It breeds in us a long-term commitment to provide hope when there is despair [and] some measure of comfort when there is none. Sometimes we are overwhelmed but our cause is not just a future cause but a present one. Humanity depends on it today more than ever.”Mr. Nambiar said senior UN officials would look again at how to strengthen and improve the conditions for the Organization’s staff, particularly in dangerous locations.“We cannot allow the situation to endure where we are either so open that we are vulnerable to those who target us or so secure that we cannot be effective.”The three UN staff killed – described by colleagues as “our quiet heroes” – all worked for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA): Joakim Dungel, a human rights officer from Sweden; Filaret Motco, a political affairs officer from Romania; and Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, a military adviser from Norway.Four Nepalese Gurkhas who were guarding the UN centre were also killed – Dil Prasad Gurung, Chhabi Lal Purja Pun, Narayan Bahadur Thapa Magar and Min Bahadur Thapa.Staffan de Mistura, the head of UNAMA and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Afghanistan, paid special tribute to the guards during his remarks to the memorial ceremony.“Some people call them contractors. For us they are colleagues. They’ve been risking their lives for us… And they’ve been dying with us, and for us,” he said.Rangin Spanta, a security adviser for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told the ceremony that “even for those of us who have known decades of suffering, what happened in Mazar-i-Sharif is beyond comprehension.”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a letter to staff expressing his shock and sadness at the killings in Afghanistan, as well as yesterday’s fatal plane crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and incidents in Côte d’Ivoire and Haiti that also resulted in the deaths of UN staff in the past week.“Our fallen colleagues were working in the best tradition of the United Nations, far from home in dangerous places,” he wrote. “They gave their lives in the service of humanity; their dedication will continue to inspire us.”Mr. Ban will lead a wreath-laying ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York tomorrow, and UN offices worldwide will fly the UN flag at half-mast. 5 April 2011In a solemn ceremony held in Kabul and repeated at each of the 22 regional and provincial United Nations offices across Afghanistan, UN staff paid tribute today to the colleagues who lost their lives on Friday when they were killed by a mob of protesters that had stormed an operations centre. read more

Malawi Ban speaks out after deadly antiGovernment protests

21 July 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern today at the deadly violence in Malawi, where up to 18 people have reportedly been killed and many others injured during clashes between anti-Government demonstrators and security forces this week. Media reports indicate that the clashes took place in the country’s main cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu, with protesters demonstrating against shortages of fuel and foreign exchange and calling for greater freedoms and human rights.In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was “saddened by the loss of life and reiterates his call for all differences to be resolved through peaceful means.” read more

Libya UN mission to Tripoli finds areas in urgent need of humanitarian

“Although the mission observed aspects of normalcy in Tripoli, members identified pockets of vulnerability where people need urgent humanitarian assistance,” said the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Laurence Hart, in a press release following the conclusion of the mission on Saturday.The assessment mission, the fourth to Tripoli since the beginning of the crisis, was intended to further look into the needs of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable groups, and to ensure that they received assistance. The mission also assessed the humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians.The health sector is under strain, having lost thousands of foreign workers at the beginning of the conflict, according to the press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Medical supplies, including vaccines, are rapidly running low, and the mission received reports of heavy psychosocial impact of the conflict, mainly on children and women.Although basic food items are available in the markets, prices are rising and there are concerns over the sustainability of supplies into the city especially as the holy month of Ramadan approaches, if the conflict persists.Outside Tripoli, the team also visited Al-Khoms and Zletan, east of Tripoli and close to the frontline, as well as Gharyan, in the Western Mountains area. All those towns have seen a significant influx of IDPs.Fuel shortages have become a pressing problem, and the UN team observed long queues at gas stations, some of which had closed down. A fuel consumption quota system is now in place since, and Libyan oil trade experts warned that fuel stocks could run out in two weeks. Public transport costs have tripled, making access to services, including hospitals, challenging.Reduced availability of cash is also a serious concern because many Libyans withdrew their savings from banks at the beginning of the crisis. Banks are restricting cash withdrawals for individual account holders.The mission, which was made up of representatives from OCHA, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Food Programme (WFP), UN World Health Organization (WHO), as well as staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), reported that water is still available, but people are experiencing significant power cuts.Libya has been engulfed by fighting since a pro-democracy movement opposed to the regime of Muammar al-Qadhafi emerged in February following similar protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries across North Africa and the Middle East.Meanwhile, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Libya, Abdel-Elah Al-Khatib, today held talks in the city of Benghazi with members of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) in his continuing efforts to find a political solution, the office of the spokesperson of the Secretary-General said in a note to reporters. Mr. Khatib is expected to visit Tripoli tomorrow for further discussions with officials there. 25 July 2011United Nations humanitarian agencies said today that they have identified areas of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, where residents urgently need humanitarian assistance, including medical treatment for injuries caused by the ongoing conflict in the North African country. read more

UN agency alarmed by series of blasts in camps for Somali refugees

Three Kenyan police officers have been killed in blasts near the refugee settlements in the Dadaab area of Kenya’s North-Eastern province, including the one who died in the latest explosion on Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a press release.Yesterday, another improvised explosive device went off near the market in the vicinity of Ifo refugee camp. There were no casualties, but a police vehicle was damaged. Four Kenyan police officers have been injured in the attacks since October.“We are deeply concerned for the well-being and safety of Somali refugees in Dadaab, most of whom are women, children and elderly,” said António Guterres, the High Commissioner for Refugees. “For the sake of refugees and those who are there to help them, it is of paramount importance to preserve the peaceful and civilian character of the camps.”Conflict, violence against civilians, drought and famine, have forced an estimated 295,000 people to flee Somalia this year. More than half of than number have found shelter at the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, while others sought refuge in Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.In Dadaab, the development of new sites, registration, delivery of emergency assistance and services continued uninterrupted throughout the year.However, since October, when two expatriate aid workers were abducted, growing insecurity has mean that aid agencies are only able to deliver life-saving assistance – mainly food, water and health services. UNHCR and its partners are exploring options to enable full operations to resume.The situation in Dadaab has been further complicated in recent months by an outbreak of cholera, believed to have started among new arrivals who were infected in Somalia or en route to Dadaab. Although the outbreak is now on a downward trend, UNHCR has registered 897 cases, and three deaths, since August.Somalia remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, according to UNHCR. More than 950,000 Somalis live as refugees in neighbouring countries, while another 1.46 million are internally displaced.Meanwhile, a UN-supported reconciliation and constitutional conference for Somalia got under way today in the city of Garowe in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, marking another step towards the implementation of the agreed roadmap to end the current transitional governing arrangements.Representatives from the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs), including the President, civil society, members of parliament and officials from the UN and regional organizations, among others, will discuss the constitution-drafting and adoption process over a three-day period.A constitution for Somalia is central to a wider series of reforms and actions to be implemented under the roadmap. They fall under the four headings of Security; Constitution; Good Governance; and Outreach and Reconciliation, according to the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).In a related development, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly today that Somalia’s peace process requires sustained and well coordinated international engagement. He said he looked forward to attending the high-level meeting on the country, which United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron intends to convene in London early next year.“We must continue to develop a common approach to ending the transition in Somalia and looking beyond August 2012 [when the transition ends],” Mr. Ban told the Assembly, as he briefed the 193-member body on his visit to Somalia and Kenya earlier this month.“Change will not happen overnight. But we have an obligation to build on the progress to date. Windows of opportunity are not open for long. All of us who care so deeply about the future of Somalia must make the most of this moment for the people of Somalia and the stability of the region,” the Secretary-General added.Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, who accompanied the Secretary-General on the 9 December visit to Somalia, said there is a “window of opportunity” for the international community to step up assistance.“This is our opening to be able to support Somali efforts to promote national reconciliation and an inclusive political process. Now is the time to act and to make this process happen for real,” said Mr. Al-Nasser.He said the visit had sent an important message of support and goodwill to the people of Somalia from the Assembly and the entire UN system.“I believe that we are all working towards the same goal, to make Somalia a safe and secure country. So let us all join our efforts to achieve peace for Somalia and the Horn of Africa,” he added. 21 December 2011The United Nations refugee agency today voiced alarm over a spate of deadly attacks using explosive devices in camps in Kenya that shelter more than 460,000 refugees, the majority of them from Somalia. read more

UN agency welcomes court decision on responsibility to migrants at sea

23 February 2012A court decision that found Italy was wrong to intercept and return a boatload of African migrants without first determining whether this would jeopardize their lives is a turning point regarding national responsibilities to migrants, the United Nations refugee agency said today. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement welcoming what it called the “landmark” judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, sitting in Strasbourg, France, in the case known as Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy, in which the agency acted as an intervener.The court ruled that Italy’s decision to intercept and return the boatload of migrants to Libya in 2009, without examining whether this constituted a real risk to their lives, violated its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights.A group of Somali and Eritrean passengers on the boat had taken the case to the court.UNHCR said the judgment “provides important guidance to European States in their border control and interception practices, representing a turning point regarding State responsibilities and the management of mixed migration flows.”During the case, UNHCR had highlighted the obligation of States to not forcibly return people where they face persecution or serious harm – otherwise known as the “non-refoulement principle.”The agency told the court that, given the situation prevailing in Libya in 2008, so-called “push-back” policies undermined this principle.“UNHCR appreciates the challenges that irregular migration poses to Italy and other EU [European Union] countries and acknowledges the significant efforts made by Italy and other States to save lives in their search and rescue operations,” the statement stressed.“UNHCR advises that people rescued or intercepted at sea are, very often, more vulnerable than other asylum-seekers, both physically and psychologically, and therefore unable to declare their intention to apply for asylum immediately after their interception at sea. UNHCR recommends that border control measures should provide for access to the territory of persons in need of international protection.” read more

Sri Lanka to challenge British travel advisory

After Indian tourists, the UK is the second single largest inbound travel market for Sri Lanka.Tourism infrastructure development is a key area of the island’s economic development since the war with the LTTE ended three years ago. (PTI) “We will seek information as to how they had come into conclusions which had led to the issuance of the travel advisory concerned,” a senior official of the public communication division in the ministry said. The travel advisory however claims that violent crimes against foreigners are not frequent but seeks to warn resident Britons to be careful on the move. Britons were asked to carry alarms as there was a steep increase in rape and sexual molestation cases.Earlier, a British tourist was killed last Christmas in a southern resort while his girl friend was assaulted. A local ruling party politician is under arrest for the murder. Sri Lanka today said it will challenge the latest UK travel advisory to British citizens warning them of an upsurge of nationalism, sexual offences and anti-western rhetoric in the country.The external affairs ministry said that the matter will be taken up with the British authorities and enquiries would be lodged in the country as well as in London. read more

Two Koreans killed by lightning

Two Korean tourists were killed when they were struck by lightning in Haputale this evening, police spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana told the Colombo Gazette.He also said that another three foreign nationals were injured in the incident and had been admitted to hospital. Meanwhile the Disaster Management Center said that  initially it was believed the victims were Chinese nationals.However a spokesman at the DMC clarified that further investigations had confirmed that the victims were from Korea.