first_imgTaroudant- After the success of Moroccan Resource Centers of English Network (MoRCE-Net) 1st conference held in Agadir, April 16-19, 2013, the 2nd conference under the theme “Promoting Lifelong Learning through Enhancement Activities and Project Work” took place November 16-18 in Marrakech in collaboration with the Ministry of National Education, the US Regional English Language Office (RELO) and the British Council.The event was not only an opportunity for more than 125 teachers from different regions of Morocco to meet and share their best practices in teaching English, but also a historic event that marked the announcement of 100 resource centers in varied locations around the kingdom.The event was held as a platform exclusively for ELT professionals (trainers, supervisors and teachers) to share practical and inspiring experiences that will help them create and run efficiently English resource centers in their schools. For this reason, the board of MoRCE-NET made it clear in their booklet that “Participation in this conference is limited to ELT professionals who have already established a resource center or have decided to create one”This promising national project aims to equip 100 resource centers all over the kingdom with educational equipments, tools and devices that will help the learners develop their linguistic, communicative, and cultural competencies. “Creating an English club is the first step to creating a healthy environment for teachers and learners to meet outside of the classroom to practice English,” Mohamed Bakkas,  a teacher of high school, told MWNThe MoRCE-Net president Mr. Abdellatif Zoubair said that MoRCE-Net is a qualitative addition to the rest of the associations and centers that operate in the field of teaching and learning English in Morocco. Its main purpose is to provide spaces within educational institutions all over the kingdom to engage students in various activities and provide resources for learners in order to help them refine their talents and develop their linguistic, communicative and creative competencies. “As a novice teacher, I didn’t have a clear idea about the procedures of setting up an English club and how to efficiently manage it,” said an ELT participant to MWN “The workshops and presentations given by professional practitioners were of great importance to me,” she added.The participants were very satisfied with the higher level of professionalism in the presentations and workshops of all the speakers, and most of them showed considerable enthusiasm for creating a resource center in their school where they will put into practice the activities and skills they learned during the event.Photo credit: Rachid Tagoulla© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributedlast_img read more

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first_imgOUARZAZATE, Morocco – Ouarzazate in southern Morocco was once dubbed the “Mecca” of the film industry for its studio facilities and the stark beauty of its locations, with many Hollywood blockbusters shot there.“Laurence of Arabia” (1962, Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif), “The Sheltering Sky” (1990, Debra Winger, John Malkovich), “Kundun” (1997, Martin Scorcese),  “Gladiator” (1999, Russell Crowe, Oliver Reed) and “Babel” (2006, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett)…All of them feature scenes shot at Ouarzazate, which lies at the foot of the scenic High Atlas Mountains. But that was then and this is now. Its film industry is in the doldrums, needing fresh winds to get it moving again. The famous town lost its appeal to international film-makers as economic crisis and the turmoil of the Arab Spring swept across the region.As the North African winter ends, and some snow still graces the mountain peaks, a small group of people attends a casting call at Studio Atlas, one of the town’s largest. Ouarzazate’s lengthy affair with showbiz has life in it yet. “I began going to the cinema in 1967,” says Larbi Agrou, who was in “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” in 2000.“For the past three or four years there’s no longer been a rush by producers to get their films shot. “Most people who work in films here also have other trades to keep them going- farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters. But without tourism and the cinema, Ouarzazate would be dead,” he says.‘More crows than film-makers’Agrou says the first encouraging signs of a revival appeared last year, and that 2014 “is starting rather well”. Ouarzazate is known for attracting big-budget historic epics with large casts, and already Nicole Kidman and Tom Hanks have visited since the beginning of the year.“Let’s hope it lasts,” says Aziz, another hopeful at the casting call, rubbing his hands. “There are already four films in production here.” And that means work for hundreds of people in Ouarzazate.In 2005 alone, mega-productions such as “Indigenes” (Days of Glory) by  Rachid Bouchareb, and Robert Dornhelm’s “The Ten Commandments” were filmed there.Fast forward to 2010, the year the Arab Spring broke out with an uprising  to oust a dictator in Tunisia, and nothing on a similar scale was shot at  Ouarzazate between then and last year.A major factor behind that, according to Moroccan film critic Adil Semmar,  was the rising insurance costs caused by security problems in the region, notably after the Arab Spring uprisings.“It has made the cost of filming in Morocco more expensive for big companies, so some films were shot in places like Israel and Spain instead,”  Semmar said.In an almost lunar landscape dotted with small oases, the imposing Tifoutout Studio, built by Italians in 1994, “is now a ruin,” says resident Said Soussou.Robert M Young’s 1995 film “Solomon and Sheba” starring Halle Berry and Jimmy Smits was shot there, but the Italians then “sold it to our tribe when they left in 1997.Because of the crisis of recent years, some parts are dilapidated,” says another commentator, Mohamed Hbibi.“There are more crows here now than film-makers.” With a decrepit wall as a backdrop, Soussou looks up at the ceiling of a half-destroyed dome that was used for David Betty’s TV movie “The Bible Project” in 2009.“Tifoutout can look like the architecture of ancient Jerusalem,” he says.”But there is little value in that anymore.”Diversity of locations“Even when a film-making company does arrive, it fixes the bit it’s interested in, gives the tribe five or six hundred euros and then leaves again,” he says. Most of the movie income has gone on “building a mosque and irrigationditches.”Ouarzazate’s fortunes contrast with the boom Morocco’s own, heavily state-funded movie industry is enjoying, with 22 feature films made in the past year, compared with around five a decade ago.Celebrated recent productions include “God’s Horses” by the French director  of Moroccan origin Nabil Ayouch, which won a prize at Cannes in 2012.Another was “They are the Dogs” by director Hicham Lasri, which won a special jury prize for Arab features at the Dubai International Film Festival  in December.Like most Moroccan films, however, these are low-budget movies about the gritty realities of life in the North African country, with little need for expensive desert studios, says Semmar, the film critic.Abderrahman Drissi, deputy president of the Ouarzazate Film Commission,  grouping representatives of the Moroccan Cinema Centre and the tourism ministry, believes the authorities have a responsibility “to save this  beautiful plateau.”But he also remains optimistic about the future. “The diversity of locations means it’s easy to sell to major producers,” he says.Photo by: Douglas Pearson/Getty Imageslast_img read more

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Marrakech – Aammori Mbarek, one of the pioneers of Amazigh song and a lover and singer of freedom, alienation and continuous traveling, was born in a rural area in Taroudant, (88km southeast of Agadir), in 1951 and brought up in a very cruel environment within a charity.Mbarek’s story is like a fairy tale: he was born and raised away from the love and warmth of his family, but he discovered the world of art. He created his own way and several singers took after him, becoming the face of all Amazigh song lovers.Mbarek devoted much of his life developing the Amazigh song. After creating the Souss band, which sang not only in Tamazight but in French and English as well, he moved and took part in community service work. He joined the Moroccan Association for Research and Cultural Exchange, which was the motive behind Mbarek’s ‘Yah’ group, and which turned into the band Ussman in 1975. Ussman then became one of the first Amazigh groups that joined the world of famous groups in Morocco alongside Nass Al ghiwan ,Iznezarn and Jil Jilala. Thanks to Mbarek’s group, the Amazigh song shifted from the classical style, such as that of Rouaiss and Ahwach, to a modern style. As a result, the new style, which maintained the authenticity of Amazigh song but embraced modernity, was born. New instruments were also used for the first time in Amazigh songs, including the harp, violin, and accordion.Ussman owes a large part of its success to the Moroccan Association for Research and Cultural Exchange for training and providing space for them to meet a large audience. Moreover, thanks to their settlement in Rabat, the group started being well known all over the world, especially after their concert in the famous “The Olympic” in Paris.Since 1977, Ussman has separated into individual singers. Thus, Mbarek continued his artistic career and met several famous people in the Moroccan art such as the poets Ibrahim Akhyyat, Ali Sidky Azaiko, Mohammed Messtawi, and others.Mbarek, the owner of the song “Janbi,” which won first prize at the first Festival of the Modern Moroccan Song in Mohammedia, (31 km from Casablanca), in 1989, is now unfortunately fighting cancer. Because of his own character, Mbarek never liked to be in the spotlight. He once said to those around him in the clinic where he is being hospitalized in Casablanca, “I want to coexist with my disease alone.”Thanks to Mbarek’s creativity and talent, Amazigh songs and culture will remain always great witnesses to all his efforts towards developing and enhancing the Amazigh art.“Janbi” Song by Aammori Mberak read more

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Rabat – 191 new hotels were built in Morocco in 2014, according to official figures released on Monday.Investments in the tourism sector have contributed to the creation of 9,000 additional beds in 2014 to reach a total of 40,000 beds since the launching of the national strategy for tourism, said Imad Barrakad, President of the Moroccan Company for Tourism Engineering (SMIT).Speaking to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) on the sidelines of the 19th edition of the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, Germany, Barrakad said that thanks to the presence of international tourism institutions, a significant number of projects in the tourism sector are underway in Morocco. Barrakad said that investing in the Moroccan tourism sector is not only limited to foreign investors. He added that Moroccan nationals have also invested in hotel projects that would provide high level services.He said that the SMIT has signed five regional programs agreements to promote Moroccan cities including, Casablanca, Rabat, Tangier and Tetouan.The 2015 edition of the International Hotel Investment Forum is marked by the participation of destinations with high tourism potentials such as Ecuador, Italy and Brazil, said Barrakad, adding that this requires investors to make a great effort.IHIF is a global gathering of tourism professionals and a meeting place for the hotel industry.  The event is attended by over 2,000 delegates from over 70 countries and attracts major hotel CEOs, influential global tourism ministers and the largest group of investors and hotel owners. read more

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Rabat – Expectations are high for Morocco’s attacking midfielder Sofiane Boufal. The 24-year old doesn’t seem to be worried about facing the 2018 World Cup future opponents.The footballer, who is currently playing for English club Southampton, said in an interview with BBC that “the most important thing now is to have a good World Cup.” For Boufal, all that the Atlas Lions have to do is to “play without pressure.” “We have nothing to lose.” The youngster expressed his will to do well with his Premier League club in order to enhance the possibility of being part of the World Cup selection.“I want to have a good session and help my club (Southampton)  to be in better position and also have a good season to be part of the World Cup team.”Boufal has scored twice during his 18 appearances with Southampton. The English club signed Boufal in August 2016 on a five-year contract for a GBP 16 million from French team, Lille.The French-born player did not make his debut with the English club until October due to his knee injury.“I passed the difficult moment and all is behind me now. I want to focus on the future now that I am feeling better,” Boufal told BBC.Boufal added that he feels fit, expressing his hope to continue to progress. “But the most important thing is the team.”The footballer made his debut with the Moroccan national team in March 2016 in a 1-O African Cup of Nations qualification victory against Cape Verde. He also made two appearances with the Moroccan team in 2017 in two friendly matches against Tunisia and Burkina Faso.Before World Cup qualifier game against Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco’s football team manager, Herve Renard called up the youngster to serve his national duty.Boufal is expected to take part in the world tournaments’ next phase, which is scheduled to take place in Russia next summer.  Morocco was placed in Group B along with Spain, Portugal and Iran. International football figures have called this pot “the deadly group.”Moroccan footballers and their coach, however, are determined to make greater achievements during the next phase of the tournaments. Renard said after the World Cup final draw, which took place in Moscow on December 1, that although the Atlas Lions are going to play against “monsters,” his team needs to beat the best in order to grow up.” read more

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TOKYO — Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony is reporting a 45 per cent surge in fiscal third-quarter profit on tax reductions, a favourable exchange rate and gains in its music segment.Tokyo-based Sony Corp. reported Friday a October-December profit of 429 billion yen ($3.9 billion), up from 295.9 billion yen in the same period a year earlier. Quarterly sales fell 10 per cent to 2.4 trillion yen ($22 billion).Other sectors such as games and semiconductors eroded profits, but its movie division, helped by the strong performance of “Venom,” and imaging solutions, used in digital cameras, worked as perks.Sony raised its profit forecast for the fiscal year through March to 835 billion yen ($7.7 billion) from an earlier 705 billion yen ($6.5 billion). That’s up from 491 billion yen recorded last year.The Associated Press read more

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LONDON — With Brexit just 47 days away, the British government is asking lawmakers to give Prime Minister Theresa May more time to rework her divorce deal with the European Union.Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said Sunday that Parliament would get to pass judgment on May’s Brexit plan “by no later than Feb. 27.”The promise is a bid to avert a showdown on Thursday, when Parliament is set to vote on the next moves in the Brexit process. Some lawmakers want to try to steer the country toward a softer exit from the bloc.Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 but Parliament has rejected May’s divorce deal, leaving the prime minister to seek changes from a resistant EU.The impasse risks a chaotic “no deal” departure for Britain.The Associated Press read more

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Rabat – The results of the 2019’s second quarter household survey, conducted by the High Commission for Planning (HCP), show that the overall index of household confidence has continued to fall since last year.The index of household confidence (ICM) has dropped to 74.9 points compared to 79.1 points recorded the previous quarter, and 87.3 points recorded a year earlier. The decline in household confidence levels during this quarter stems from the decline of all its sub-indicators (standard of living, unemployment, opportunity to purchase durable goods, and financial situation). Evolution of confidence index in MoroccoStandard of living46.2% of households reported a decline in living standards over the last 12 months. 32.9% reported that the standards maintained the same level, while 20.8% noticed an improvement.Over the next 12 months, 27.3% of households expect a decline in their standard of living. 40.6% believe they will maintain the same level, and the remaining 32% expect to improve their living conditions.In 2017, the World Bank published a Morocco Economic Memorandum entitled “Morocco 2040- Emerging by investing in intangible capital.”The memorandum explains that “historically speaking, it is interesting to note that the French had the Moroccans’ current standard of living in 1950, the Italians in 1955, the Spanish in 1960, and the Portuguese in 1965.”The same source added that between 2007 and 2014, subjective poverty, i.e. one’s own perception of poverty, increased from 42% to 45% across the country, affecting more than 54% of the rural population.UnemploymentThe survey shows that 83% vs. 6.1% of households expect a rise in unemployment levels over the next 12 months.Despite  the fact that Morocco has received millions of euros in loans to address the problem, unemployment in Morocco specifically affects young diploma-holders. “Many educated young people leave Morocco to look for better opportunities, 600 engineers leave the country every year,” said Said Amzazi, Minister of Education, in 2018.Purchase of durable goods61.4% compared to 20.1% of households participating in the survey consider that the time is not opportune to purchase durable goods. They consider the economic situation unfavorable to such purchase.Financial situation of households: deterioratingRegarding income vs. expenses, 62.4% of households estimated that their incomes cover their expenses. 34.2% reported going into debt or using their savings, and 3.4% affirmed being able to save a part of their income.31.2%, compared to 12.9% of households in 2018, expect an improvement in their financial situation over the next 12 months. read more

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A new study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows that community-based interventions aimed at halting violence against women can yield significant results, the agency said today. Rape in Mauritania, domestic violence in Mexico and Romania, child marriage in Bangladesh, and female genital mutilation or cutting in Kenya are just a few of the abuses explored in “Programming to Address Violence Against Women,” which offers 10 case studies that show how carefully targeted and planned interventions can actually reduce gender-based violence, the agency said. “What is unusual about this manual is that we have actually demonstrated how entire communities can change their attitudes to violence against women as a result of a few, specifically targeted interventions,” said UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid in a news release. “In many of these cases, the extent of violence against women was so prevalent and so entrenched that it first seemed impossible to budge the prevailing mindset,” she said. “What we learned is that persistent advocacy targeting community leaders and the larger public can bring about huge changes in a relatively short time.” The lessons from the 10 case studies are distilled in a companion booklet, Ending Violence Against Women: Programming for Prevention, Protection and Care, as well as an online multimedia exhibit. “Communities can and will change, but the dire consequences associated with gender-based violence constitute a human emergency that requires global and local action,” said Ms. Obaid. “We need to treat it as such.” 26 February 2007A new study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shows that community-based interventions aimed at halting violence against women can yield significant results, the agency said today. read more

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Media reports say two human rights defenders were attacked and beaten by a large group on 18 April at Oakpon village in Hinthada Township, which is about 100 kilometres northwest of the former capital of Yangon.Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, and Hina Jilani, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, released a joint statement in Geneva voicing “deep concern over the brutal attack.”The statement added that the reports received so far by Mr. Pinheiro and Ms. Jilani “have highlighted the level of violence and the absence of intervention by the local police to protect the victims and remind us of the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident of Depayin in 2003.”Members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) were killed and dozens of others were arrested and detained during a violent incident in Depayin in May 2003, which was described by Mr. Pinheiro in a report to a General Assembly committee later that year as “a regression in the area of human rights.”In today’s statement Mr. Pinheiro and Ms. Jilani called on Myanmar’s Government “to take all the necessary steps to protect human rights defenders and to guarantee the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms by the people of Myanmar.” 25 April 2007Two independent United Nations human rights experts issued a statement today voicing deep concern about last week’s attack against rights defenders in Myanmar, calling on authorities in the Asian country to conduct a thorough investigation. read more

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Climate change, financing for development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), management reform and counter-terrorism should all receive priority attention from the General Assembly over the next year, the incoming president Srgjan Kerim said today as he opened its sixty-second session.In an address to Assembly members at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kerim urged them to help strengthen the 192-member organ to ensure it is well placed to deal with the world’s most pressing problems.“More than ever before, global challenges demand multilateral solutions,” he said. “The United Nations is the appropriate multilateral forum to take action. That is why the revitalization of this General Assembly deserves our highest attention.”Previewing next Monday’s meeting on climate change, which will be attended by heads of State from around the world, Mr. Kerim called on Member States to dedicate themselves to devising a collaborative, global response to the phenomenon, which he noted was now causing developmental as well as environmental problems.“The science has spoken; the time for action has come,” he said, adding that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should remain at the centre of international action.Mr. Kerim said he would convene an informal plenary meeting on Thursday to discuss innovative approaches for the upcoming high-level dialogue on financing for development.He stressed that the world is running out of time to achieve the MDGs, the set of eight targets for reducing social and economic ills, such as extreme poverty, all by 2015.“Achieving the MDGs is not solely a test of our ability to deliver on our promises: it is above all a test of our moral obligations, and the values that are enshrined in the [UN] Charter.”The new President called for greater efforts to promote peace, human rights and the rule of law, such as by strengthening the Peacebuilding Commission, which was set up last year to help countries emerging from conflict avoid sliding back into chaos or war.On 4 October, Mr. Kerim will also convene at UN Headquarters a two-day, high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding.“Progress on these issues, and on development, will reduce instability and the threat of terrorism. This is a win-win situation for us all.”In addition, Mr. Kerim called for reform of the UN, “both operationally at the country level, and management at Headquarters,” as well as “the courage to move to a new stage leading to concrete results on Security Council reform.”Earlier, speaking to reporters, he said that since he was elected in May, he has been holding consultations with Member States and various political groupings on all of these issues in a bid to spark progress.Mr. Kerim, who is from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, served as his country’s Ambassador to the UN from 2001 to 2003 and in several other positions with his national Government. 18 September 2007Climate change, financing for development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), management reform and counter-terrorism should all receive priority attention from the General Assembly over the next year, the incoming president Srgjan Kerim said today as he opened its sixty-second session. read more

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8 October 2007Participation of over 80 countries and groups in the General Assembly’s high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding showed the importance Member States place on the issue, the 192-member body’s president said today at the close of the first event of its kind at the United Nations. Participation of over 80 countries and groups in the General Assembly’s high-level dialogue on interreligious and intercultural understanding showed the importance Member States place on the issue, the 192-member body’s president said today at the close of the first event of its kind at the United Nations. Srgjan Kerim urged participants to “go forth and strive to build a new culture of international relations based on human rights and security, mutual cooperation and respect for international law.”The high-level dialogue is “an important avenue to achieve this goal,” he said in his closing remarks to the event, which drew the participation of over 80 Member States and representatives of civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith groups and the private sector. While the UN is an excellent forum for dialogue, he emphasized that it must not stop there. “If we want to promote this dialogue we should go back and spread the message in our communities and neighbourhoods throughout the world,” he stated, noting that the success of a global dialogue rests not only on Governments but on the active involvement of the private sector, civil society, faith groups, NGOs and the media. Representatives of these groups, in their discussions with Member States, highlighted practical measures to advance interreligious and intercultural understanding and cooperation including adapting school curricula and teacher training to emphasize multicultural knowledge and awareness, increasing global student exchange programmes, and promoting respectful and inclusive dialogue, especially for minority communities. A spokesman for Mr. Kerim issued a statement today affirming that the event “clearly demonstrated that the General Assembly had an important role to carry this dialogue forward” and pledging the President’s efforts to achieve that end. read more

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Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that there is an urgent need to address issues – such as violations of socio-economic rights, land issues, large disparities between classes, marginalization and exclusion – at the root of the violence after the disputed polls in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga.“Durable solutions to these problems will take the determination and require broad participation from all sectors of Kenyan society,” she said.Reforming the constitution and the police system, as well as the adoption of new laws including on witness protection, will be crucial, Ms. Kang noted.“Implementation and action must replace evasion and denial,” she said, adding that she was encouraged to hear during meetings with Mr. Odinga and other senior officials of their commitment to put the recommendations of a report by the Commission of Inquiry on Post Electoral Violence into practice.Realizing these suggestions, especially the creation of a credible Special Tribunal to bring those behind the most serious crimes committed after the elections, “will be a critical test of the Kenyan political leadership in the struggle to end impunity,” the Commissioner said.While in Kenya, she also visited Dadaab refugee camp, home to nearly 200,000 people, mostly Somalis fleeing violence in their country.“Somalia is not a lost cause,” Ms. Kang emphasized. “It is a long-term cause, and one that will require stamina, creativity and a concerted effort by the international community, civil society, and above all, Somali political leaders.”She pointed to a conversation she had with a 17-year-old who has spent his entire life at the camp in north-eastern Kenya, who told her that “we are the ones” who must solve the conflict in Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.“Any lasting peace in Somalia must be based on accountability and justice for the serious violations of human rights committed by all sides throughout the Somali conflict,” the official said. 24 October 2008The problems that sparked the crisis following last December’s contested Kenyan presidential elections must be dealt with, a top United Nations human rights official said, wrapping up a visit to the East African nation. read more

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Nearly half the African continent – where 60 per cent of the population depends on agriculture – is affected by land degradation, with sub-Saharan Africa facing threats to its food production capacity.The seventh session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC7) to tackle desertification will take place from 3-14 November.The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) entered into force in December 1996 and currently has nearly 200 States Parties. Along with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it is one of the outcomes of the historic environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.“The impact of natural resource degradation is potentially even more devastating in financial terms than the current global meltdown,” said Christian Mersmann, Managing Director of the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, which provides advisory services on sustainable land management. “The socio-economic cost of inaction on people’s livelihoods is colossal.”The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that desertification has an annual price tag of $9 billion in Africa alone.“The triple scourge of poverty, climate change and high food prices constitutes a set of global challenges which require a fully coordinated global response to deal with today’s short-term needs and meet the medium to longer term imperative of higher and sustainable agricultural productivity and production,” said Kanayo Nwanze, Vice-President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).According to that agency, one quarter of the world’s topsoil, one-fifth of the agricultural land and one-third of forests have been degraded or lost in the past five decades. 4 November 2008With some 12 million hectares of land lost every year to degradation and other environmental causes, a United Nations gathering kicks off today in Istanbul, Turkey, to tackle a problem which risks being forgotten due to the current global financial crisis. read more

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In a message marking World Diabetes Day, Mr. Ban noted that the illness can make other diseases worse, and can have a terrible impact on maternal and child health. “In some countries, the rapidly rising burden of diabetes is a factor in faltering progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the pledges world leaders made to slash a host of social ills, including extreme hunger and poverty, infant and maternal mortality, and lack of access to education and health care – all by 2015. At the same time, the Secretary-General noted that Type 2 diabetes is preventable. It is among the so-called “lifestyle diseases” – along with cardio-vascular disease and some cancers – attributable to unhealthy diets, a lack of exercise, tobacco use and the abuse of alcohol play. “This means that effective strategies and plans of action will not be limited to the health sector alone,” he said. “Rather, they should involve many areas of government and a wide range of actors, including civil society and the private sector. “Prevention can help reduce poverty, promote economic productivity and keep countries on track in their efforts to achieve the MDGs,” he added. More than 220 million people worldwide have diabetes, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), which adds that a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use can prevent or delay the onset of the disease. 14 November 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for greater support to developing countries in preventing diabetes, which kills at least one million people every year, and in increasing access to health care. read more

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18 November 2009The head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) warned today that Africa must overcome the obstacles to boosting industrial production and gaining a larger share of world trade to benefit from the global economy. The head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) warned today that Africa must overcome the obstacles to boosting industrial production and gaining a larger share of world trade to benefit from the global economy. Although UNIDO Director-General Kandeh K. Yumkella noted that the continent’s six per cent annual growth rates between 2003 and 2007 mark a slow but positive course, he said there are a number of barriers in its path to developing its manufacturing sector. “Africa’s pursuit of industrialization continues to be hindered by many challenges which must be addressed urgently,” said Mr. Yumkella, ahead of Africa Industrialization Day, observed annually on 20 November. “These challenges include limited industrial skills and technological capabilities, weak support from institutions, inadequate financing and underdeveloped internal and regional markets.” He stressed that the global financial and economic turmoil has also disrupted African efforts to industrialize. He added that for Africa to benefit from a predicted recovery and increase its share of world trade, it must “focus on industrialization as a critical engine of economic growth and development.” Pointing to the African Union Action Plan for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa, Mr. Yumkella said there are positive initiatives already underway aimed at transforming the continent’s economy to become more prosperous, competitive and sustainable. He also stressed that greater regional integration benefits production competitiveness through economies of scale and scope, increases trade opportunities through larger markets, provides more opportunities for large investments, and strengthens bargaining power. “Coupled with integration, industrial development will allow African nations to speak with one voice and accelerate the process of achieving stronger political and economic cooperation,” he added. On 20 November, UNIDO will organize a symposium in Vienna under the theme of “Industrialization for integration: A strategy for continental development and effective participation in the global economy.” read more

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23 February 2010More than 7 million people in Niger, which last week saw its Government overthrown in a coup d’état, are facing food insecurity, the United Nations health agency warned today. Some 2.7 million, or one in five households, were severely food insecure and another 5.1 million were moderately food insecure, Paul Garwood of the World Health Organization (WHO) told reporters in Geneva. “More than half the population [of 7.7 million] was estimated to have less than two months worth of food stocks to survive until the next harvest in October,” he stated. Mr. Garwood added that in the first weeks of 2010, nearly 29,000 cases of global acute malnutrition had been reported. In response, Niger’s authorities had recently launched a support plan to improve food safety and prevent malnutrition and to treat cases of malnutrition of children aged under five. Acute malnutrition affected more than 12 per cent of children in this age group in Niger, he noted, adding that WHO is seeking around $659,000 for emergency nutrition intervention for children under five. In addition, WHO is supporting the training of seven trainers in Agadez on the new protocols on the treatment of people with acute malnutrition, and these trainers will in turn train almost 80 people.Meanwhile, the UN is working closely with its partners, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU), to help resolve the crisis in the country which began when renegade soldiers stormed the presidential palace last Thursday with the stated aim of returning Niger to democracy. read more

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“Some simple blood tests, consultation with a doctor and qualified help at the birth itself can make a huge difference,” Mr. Ban said in an address to an international conference in Washington aimed at finding solutions to problems affecting women and girls worldwide.“Add some basic antibiotics, blood transfusions and a safe operating room, and the risk of death can almost be eliminated,” he told delegates attending the gathering known as the “Women Deliver” conference.Mr. Ban said women’s health in the developed world had come a long way in his lifetime, noting that he was himself born at home in the Korean countryside and not in a hospital.“There was nothing strange or special about that fact,” Mr. Ban said. “I remember as a child asking my mother why women who were about to give birth would gaze at their simple rubber shoes, which they left at the back door as labour drew near.“My mother explained that the women wondered if they would ever step into those shoes again. Giving birth was so risky. They feared for their lives,” he said.“Her answer started me on the journey that has brought me here today. A journey to help every woman step back into her shoes after giving birth,” he added.The Secretary-General said women were the “glue that holds our societies and our nations together.” They make “the world work,” hence the need to ensure that they did not face undue health and social challenges.While noting that the world had too often let mothers down, he acknowledged that there was currently a global movement for an end to the “silent scandal” of women dying in childbirth. “No woman should have to pay with her life, for giving life,” Mr. Ban stressed.Stressing the importance of global partnerships to improve the lives of women and girls, he said the United Nations was committed to helping governments deliver for mothers and children.The new UN Joint Action Plan aims to accelerate progress on women’s and children’s health to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.“This plan calls for every part of the world’s health infrastructure to work together, towards one goal. Governments and health services in developed and developing countries alike, international organizations, businesses and private foundations, non-governmental organizations and civil society,” Mr. Ban said.“Invest in women – it pays. This is one of the best investments we can make for this and future generations. Working together, we aim to make 2010 a turning point for women’s health,” he added.The Secretary-General said that efforts to alleviate health problems that bedevilled women cannot succeed if they are not accompanied by work to end gender discrimination of all kinds, a priority of the UN.“First, we are working to combat the worldwide epidemic of violence against women. Women can never fulfil their potential or participate fully in society when they live in fear… Fear of rape as a weapon of war… Fear of domestic violence… Fear of being trafficked for sex.“I have launched a global campaign aimed at raising awareness. Wherever I travel, I tell leaders that this is a matter of moral leadership… a matter of political will. All of us must see it as our business to put an end to these practices,” Mr. Ban said.He noted that UN Member States had last year agreed to unite the functions and mandates of multiple UN bodies that deal with women’s issues into one. “Women and girls will have a powerful new champion, both on the world stage and within the UN,” he added.“Since I became Secretary-General, the number of women in the top posts at the UN has increased dramatically. Many of these are the first women appointees to positions that have been held by men for the past six decades. And let me tell you, it does make a difference.“Women more than hold up their half of the sky the world over. The United Nations should be no exception. Indeed we must lead,” the Secretary-General said.The three-day conference in the United States capital is the largest-ever gathering on maternal health, drawing 3,500 participants from 140 countries, according to organizers.While in Washington, the Secretary-General also addressed the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a group of more than 220 members dedicated to maintaining the fight against the diseases a global priority.He then spoke to the UN Association for the United States’ National Convention, before lunching with the National Association for Evangelicals and meeting US Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry.The Secretary-General’s trip to Washington coincides with a related visit by Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). She took part in a live webcast today in Washington on “Women and Power,” along with actress and humanitarian Ashley Judd, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, and US President Barack Obama’s Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.Miss Clark spoke about how highly successful women change makers have dealt with their power – getting it, keeping it and using it wisely. 7 June 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for concerted efforts to end what he described as the “scandal” of women dying in childbirth, saying even simple clinical procedures such as clean delivery rooms and the presence of a trained midwife could greatly reduce pregnancy-related deaths. read more

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9 August 2010The head of the United Nations agency mandated with upholding press freedom today spoke out against the murder of the chairman of a community radio station in western Nepal, calling on the country’s authorities to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice. Devi Prasad Dhital, who headed Tulsipur FM in the Dang district, was shot in the chest while riding his motorcycle on 22 July and died later that night in the hospital. The motive for the murder is not yet known.Known as Hemraj, the 45-year-old is the third media owner to be killed this year in Nepal, according to Reporters Without Borders, a non-governmental organization (NGO).“Acts of violence against journalists are attacks on freedom of expression, a fundamental human right,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “They cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.” read more

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“It will be substantially more than the original appeal,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos told a news conference in New York today, a month after the UN and its humanitarian partners sought nearly $460 million in a first response to what she called “an immense and still unfolding crisis.”She declined to disclose the exact figure of the appeal until its official launch on Friday to respond to the devastating impact of the rolling floods which, though they have killed fewer than 2,000 people, have exposed 21 million others to homelessness, malnutrition, risks of epidemics and loss of livelihood as the waters have steamrollered down the country from north to south. Different parts of the country are experiencing different stages of the crisis “and each of these is a big disaster in its own right,” she said. In some areas the waters have receded and the relief effort is focusing on early recovery, while in others to the south the floods are still spreading “and a new disaster is happening literally every day.” Ms. Amos, who visited the flood-stricken areas last week, underscored the expanding requirements. “This is a disaster which is bigger than one which the UN can deal with alone. It’s bigger than the humanitarian community can deal with on its own. It’s one of the biggest disasters we have ever faced… We can and we must continue to save lives and alleviate suffering,” she said.It has been “over a period of time – it’s actually nearly two months now – that the water has been moving from north to south, so it’s the equivalent of a new crisis every few days. It is putting a huge strain on the capacity that we all have to manage that.”After seven weeks of devastation and human suffering the crisis is no longer new but “we have to work very hard to change that,” she stressed. “People are still hungry and we’re all very worried about malnutrition levels. Skin diseases are on the rise because there’s a lack of soap and clean water for washing. Diarrhoea is on the rise and we need to make every effort to avert a potential health crisis.”As of 10 September more than 700,000 cases of acute diarrhoea, at least 800,000 acute respiratory infections, nearly 1 million cases of skin disease and almost 183,000 suspected malaria cases were reported.“An immense tragedy continues to unfold,” Ms. Amos said. “The human implications of what will happen if not enough is done are terrible. Many millions have already lost everything and have nothing to go back to… What I will be doing [on Friday] is asking our supporters to dig deeper and to do more.”Ever since the floods struck UN agencies have been striving to bring succour. Three of them – the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) – announced today that they are accelerating aid to millions people who are vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.Together, the agencies are ramping up complementary programmes such as emergency food and nutritional assistance, distribution of agricultural inputs such as seeds, animal feed and veterinary supplies, rehabilitation of damaged land and infrastructure and microfinance activities.WFP reached 3 million flood victims with food rations during August and is scaling up to reach 6 million this month, particularly through an expansion of operations in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh, which remains largely under water.With 80 per cent of the flood-affected population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, loss of stored seeds, grains, and animals has rendered farming families extremely vulnerable. FAO is currently reaching 1.6 million people with distributions of wheat seed, fertilizer, vegetable seed kits, animal feed and veterinary supplies for livestock. With increased donor support, it could double the number of beneficiaries in the coming months.IFAD, which seeks to improve the livelihoods and productivity of poor rural people, currently has five projects in the country; four of these, worth over $100 million, have been affected by floods. The agency will play an active part in the post-flood rehabilitation and reconstruction. Meanwhile UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, whose agency (UNHCR) also provides assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs), is on a two-day visit to flood-devastated areas. 15 September 2010The United Nations is seeking a further half billion dollars or more for 21 million Pakistanis beset by weeks of flooding, which a top official said was spawning a new disaster every day. read more

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