Donors pledge over 400 million for 2015 UN rapid humanitarian response fund

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, had encouraged Member States to donate $450 million to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) ahead of the coming year as proliferating crises and sustained conflicts continue to push global humanitarian needs to unparalleled heights and place growing demands on the UN. “Humanitarian assistance is one of the most important functions of the United Nations,” Mr. Ban told delegates gathered at UN Headquarters in New York today. “When natural disasters strike and conflict rages, it is our duty to do everything we can for the women, children and men caught up in crisis.”2014 has been a particularly difficult year dominated by “very severe humanitarian emergencies,” the Secretary-General noted. In Syria and Iraq, millions were surviving on a “bare minimum” while hundreds of thousands of others lived in “harsh conditions” at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya – the largest of its kind in the world. Other crises in South Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as in the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak were pushing the humanitarian system to its limits, he explained. “The depth and severity of humanitarian crises is rising, due to the effects of climate change, urbanization, population growth and competition for resources,” Mr. Ban continued. “When the Central Emergency Response Fund started in 2006, some 30 million people were in need of aid. Now that number is more than 100 million.”CERF has grown to become one of the largest and most reliable sources of humanitarian funding available, according to its website. In particular, it makes money available “at the beginning of a crisis, when time is of the essence and it is critical that emergency relief operations get under way quickly.” Since 2006, it has disbursed more than $3.6 billion to emergencies in 88 countries. In 2014, however, the majority of CERF funding went to assist with crises in South Sudan, Sudan and the Central African Republic. Another $280 million went towards funding rapid response projects, including efforts to provide shelter for displaced communities in Pakistan and to meet the urgent needs of families affected by floods in Bolivia, Burundi and the Solomon Islands. At the same time, $170 million in allocations helped humanitarian responses in 22 of the world’s most neglected crises – from Chad to Yemen to Haiti. The largest amount for an underfunded emergency, $20 million, went to Somalia. Meanwhile, CERF funding also helped kick-start the emergency response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.To that point, Valerie Amos underscored the impact of the response funding, noting that in “truly challenging times” with humanitarian needs reaching “unprecedented levels,” the UN and international community needed to ensure that CERF “continues to be effective and serves the needs of the most vulnerable.”“The Central Emergency Response Fund is one of the most effective tools we have to help people face the immediate, devastating effects of natural disasters, armed conflict and chronic emergencies,” agreed Mr. Ban. “It is fast. It is reliable. It saves lives.” In addition, although he pointed out that new disasters could not be predicted, Mr. Ban reminded Member States that millions of people would inevitably continue to need help into 2015. “Now, more than ever, it is essential that every dollar spent on humanitarian aid is spent to maximum effect. The needs are huge. There are millions of lives at stake,” he said. “I urge you to dig deep, and to contribute generously to this proven life-saving fund. With your support, we will once again exceed our $450 million dollar target for the coming year.” Updated: 05:06 PM ET read more

Senior UN official in Afghanistan condemns killing of civilian family in bomb

“The use of indiscriminate, victim-activated bombs in civilian populated areas is an outrage,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Nicholas Haysom. “The use of indiscriminate weapons must stop immediately.”The family group was composed of a husband and wife, as well as two sons and a daughter aged between 4 and 12 years-old.Next month, UNAMA will next month release its 2014 annual report on the Protection of Civilians, including detailed reporting on civilian casualties. Improvised explosive devices were the second largest cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2014, with numbers up from 2013.Mr. Haysom stressed that international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits the use of weapons whose effects may not be limited and attacks which are not directed at a specific military objective.UNAMA extends its condolences to the families of all of those killed in the explosion. read more

Security Council renews DR Congo Mission reduces troop numbers by 2000

Among recommendations contained in the strategic review of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the country (MONUSCO) the Council endorsed were those on transforming the force to become more efficient and effective in implementing its mandate and the Council fully endorsed them.It also endorsed the recommendation to reduce the MONUSCO force by 2,000 troops, while maintaining an authorized troop ceiling. The intention was to make the troop reduction permanent but “significant progress” regarding the priorities of the force’s mandate would first be necessary, the resolution said.With regard to future reconfigurations of MONUSCO and its mandate, the Council decided that consultations should take place between the DRC Government on the basis of the situation on the ground and progress on reduction of the threat posed by Congolese and foreign armed groups and the stabilisation through the establishment of functional, professional and accountable State institutions.The resolution authorizes MONUSCO to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective protection of civilians under threat of physical violence and of UN personnel, and to work with the Government on identifying threats to civilians and implementing existing prevention and response plans. It is also authorized to arrest and bring to justice those allegedly responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of human rights in the country.Under the terms of the resolution, the Mission is also authorized to carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade in cooperation with the whole of MONUSCO, either unilaterally or jointly with the FARDC, and is responsible for monitoring implementation of the arms embargo.The text requests MONUSCO to take fully into account gender considerations and child protection as cross-cutting issues throughout its mandate and to assist the Government in doing the same, and it encourages the Mission to enhance its interaction with the civilian population to raise awareness and understanding about its mandate and activities.The Mission is also authorized to contribute support to the Government on action against armed groups, on implementing the revised International Security and Stabilisation Support Strategy and Provincial Stabilisation Plans, and on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration processes. It is also authorised to support promotion of human rights and the fight against impunity, and to support the action plan to prevent and end the recruitment and use of children by the FARDC.Reiterating the importance of implementing the Peace Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework to the achievement of long term stability of eastern DRC and the region, the resolution urges prompt implementation of commitments, calling on the DRC Government to make further meaningful progress on its commitments under the Framework.It also authorises the Mission to support the Congolese authorities and their efforts to deliver the reforms called by the PSC Framework and stabilisation in eastern DRC on promoting peace consolidation and political dialogue, monitoring, reporting and following-up on human rights violations, and supporting security sector reform efforts.The resolution noted with deep concern the lack of progress in fields essential for DRC’s stabilisation and reiterated its call to the Government of the DRC to take immediate steps to uphold its commitment to security sector reform.The text calls on the Government of the DRC and its national partners to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process, welcoming promulgation of the electoral law and the publication of a comprehensive electoral calendar, and calling on the Government of the DRC to put swiftly in place an adequate electoral budget and an electoral code of conduct, and conduct a credible update of the electoral register, to ensure the successful and timely holding of elections.Strongly condemning all armed groups operating in the region, the resolution demands that the FDLR, the ADF, the LRA, and all other armed groups cease immediately all forms of violence and other destabilizing activities, including the exploitation of natural resources, and that their members immediately and permanently disband, lay down their arms and release children from their ranks.It continues, demanding that the Government of the DRC fulfils its commitments under the Nairobi Declarations, to implement its DDR plan, focusing on reintegration of former combatants in coordination with the United Nations, international organizations and neighbouring countries where former M23 combatants have found refuge.While demanding full cooperation with MONUSCO in the DRC, the resolution stressed that MONUSCO’s exit should be gradual and progressive, and should be tied to specific targets to be jointly developed by the Government of the DRC and MONUSCO. It encouraged regular strategic dialogue with the UN and noted the need for a clear exit strategy for the Intervention Brigade. read more

Millions in Iraq need greater humanitarian support warns top UN relief official

“It’s imperative at this critical time we do more to mitigate the suffering of the Iraqi people. Much has been done, but the needs continue to increase and more is needed,” stated Mr. O’Brien, who assumed his post as UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the beginning of June.The humanitarian situation in Iraq is dire. Since January 2014, more than three million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes and over eight million people are in need of assistance that aid agencies cannot always provide them with, due to lack of access or because of funding challenges.On his first mission in his capacity as Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. O’Brien yesterday visited Baghdad, where he met people recently displaced from Ramadi. Today, exactly one year after Mosul fell, causing mass displacement, he visited a camp for internally displaced people in Erbil, as well as refugees from Syria.”All the families I spoke with had heart-breaking stories of fear, flight, loss and grief. International humanitarian law obliges all those engaged in fighting to protect civilians during hostilities, including by refraining from targeting them,” urged the Under Secretary-General.During his meetings, he discussed progress and challenges in delivering aid with governmental representatives in Baghdad, including the Iraqi President Fuad Masum and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al Jafaari, among other senior officials. In Erbil, he held similar discussions with Kurdistan Regional Government officials, including the Prime Minister Nichirvan Barzani.“I emphasized the commitment of the United Nations and partners to work closely with the authorities in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. We are committed to meet the most urgent needs, wherever they arise,” noted Stephen O’Brien. As fighting continues, he expressed fear that the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate, encouraging the Government “to continue the generosity displayed so far”, including by ensuring the freedom of movement of all Iraqis fleeing violence.Despite the very challenging security conditions, the United Nations and partners are delivering essential aid to people who depend on it for survival. However, without urgent and generous contributions from the international community vital supplies and services will have to be cut.“We urgently need $497 million to provide shelter, food, water and other life-saving services over the coming six months. This is the bare minimum to cover the most basic needs in Iraq. In actuality, the needs are far greater and we wish we could ask for – and receive – the full amount we need,” said Mr. O’Brien. “It is my job to remind the international community that behind every statistic stands a child, woman or a man. We must not let the people of Iraq down,” he declared.To this end, just last Thursday, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) joined international partners and agencies in Belgium to launch the 2015 Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan in response to critical funding shortages as the conflict in Iraq escalates, with the number of people in need of life-saving assistance over the past year having increased by some 400 per cent. read more

Top UN refugee official thanks Greece and frontline islands for improved response

“It is amazing that on a small island, you are managing, whereas in a big Europe, with half a billion people, they are finding it so difficult,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, told Lesbos Mayor Spyros Galinos and other Greek officials.“We are always saying this crisis is manageable at the European level, but to be manageable, it needs to be much better managed.”The chief of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was assessing conditions on the Greek island of Lesbos, the main landing spot for tens of thousands of people taking smuggler boats from the nearby Turkish coast. He said European governments had yet to match the “gigantic effort” that the island and its people had made in trying to cope with the huge influx.Indeed, without a Europe-wide approach and an effective strategy in dealing with the influx, Mr. Guterres warned, criminal networks would continue to thrive. “When States are not able to organize the orderly movement of refugees, smugglers take charge, exploiting people further and adding to their suffering,” he stated.Describing his island as “frontline,” Mayor Galinos said the main issue “is not the numbers, but the lack of a European policy to respond.” Nevertheless, he said, Greeks would continue to do whatever they could to address the crisis and combat smugglers, “who not only exploit the people, but who put their lives at continuous risk.”“Above all, we are all human beings,” the Mayor added. “We must all recognize the position of these people because we might all find ourselves in this situation one day.”UNHCR has deployed an emergency team to Greece and now has some 120 staff in the country to support the Government in its effort to address the continuing crisis. The island of Lesbos, which according to the last census in 2011, had a population of 85,000 people, but is probably now several thousand higher, has received over 220,000 people in nine months. UNHCR figures put the number of arrivals in September alone at 160,000, while the Greek coast guard records show 110,000 people.According to the agency, the majority of the refugees and migrants arriving on Lesbos are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. The rest, about five per cent, are migrants and refugees from 21 countries as varied as India, Bangladesh, Togo, Niger, Columbia, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.The Greek Coast Guard on Lesbos reportedly receives between five to 10 distress calls a day, and then sets out to rescue people in overcrowded boats.Meanwhile, Deputy Harbour Master, Antonio Sofiadellis, a leader in the Greek Coast Guard effort that has saved between 240-400 refugee and migrant lives every day, said that more people are being packed onto the flimsy boats these days – around 60 when 50 used to be the limit.“The engines are very cheap and the smugglers don’t care that they don’t know how to operate the boats,” Mr. Sofiadellis explained. “This is something no country in Europe has faced. If we weren’t there to rescue them, half or more than half would drown. The boats capsize, some fold, when the floor breaks.”Mr. Guterres also visited the north of Lesbos, where most refugee boats land. The beaches were strewn with hundreds of bright orange life jackets and deflated rubber boats, soaked shoes and pieces of clothing. Some 1,050 people had arrived overnight and volunteers helped them to an assembly point nearby, where they found food and a warm place to sleep in a large UNHCR shelter.Some Syrian refugees he met told him they had fled directly from Aleppo, Damascus or Homs. Other Syrians said they could no longer make ends meet in neighbouring countries amid cuts in humanitarian aid and restrictions on work. Most people said they felt now was their chance to find safety in European countries where refugees were welcome. read more

With winter closing in UN relief wing races against time to reach

“It is of critical importance to deliver supplies to the trailheads by end of October as the passes in the Himalayas will be at increased risk of being blocked by snowfall,” said a statement issued late last week by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal.Available land access trails, especially to high altitude regions, will be cut off soon with the onset of winter, thus making the humanitarian agencies rush to safeguard distribution of urgent relief of food and shelter items, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).However, the recent monsoon has limited road and air delivery, leaving a backlog of 1,200 metric tonnes of shelter and non-food items pending delivery to the earthquake-struck communities.While most supplies are in local storage, the serious fuel shortage delays scheduled deliveries to affected villages with mules and porters as further transportation through trailhead.“The humanitarian community is implementing contingencies to address the fuel shortages and to increase its capacity to deliver the supplies within an ever decreasing window of opportunity,” said the statement. read more

UN agricultural agency accord on illegal fishing set to enter into force

Collectively, the 29 countries and the European Union – which signed as a single party – that have formally committed themselves through their instruments of adhesion to the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) account for more than 62 per cent of worldwide fish imports and 49 per cent of fish exports, which were $133 billion and $139 billion, respectively, in 2013, FAO said in a press release. “This is the dawn of a new era in the effort to combat illegal fishing. By denying unscrupulous fishers safe haven and access to markets, the PSMA will drive the seafood industry towards greater sustainability and have significant ripple effects throughout the entire fisheries supply chain,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva. “Let no port State be known and targeted by [illegal, unregulated and unreported] IUU fishing operators as a shelter for non-compliance,” he added, urging more countries to ratify the treaty. Now that the required threshold has been reached, with 30 members having formally deposited their instruments of adherence, the agreement is set to enter into force on 5 June. Each year, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is responsible for annual catches of up to 26 million tons, with a value of up to $23 billion, FAO said. How the treaty will work The new treaty requires that parties designate specific ports for use by foreign vessels, making control easier. Those ships must request permission to enter ports ahead of time, and provide local authorities with information, including on the fish they have on board. The ships must also allow inspection of their log book, licences, fishing gear and actual cargo, among other things, FAO said. The agreement calls on countries to deny entry or inspect vessels that have been involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and to take necessary action. To support this, the agreement also includes the obligation for parties to share information regionally and globally, regarding any vessels discovered to be involved in such fishing. The agreement applies to any use of a port, so even vessels that are just refuelling will have to comply with inspection requirements, FAO said. “Preventing unscrupulous fishers from landing their ill-gotten hauls makes it much harder for such catches to enter national and international markets,” FAO stressed. Support for implementationIn some cases, developing coastal countries and small island developing States, which often host some of the world’s most attractive fishing areas, face difficulties in implementing the agreement, the agency said. Accordingly, FAO said it has invested substantially in capacity-building projects to support the application of port state measures. FAO added that it is launching a series of national, regional and inter-regional initiatives, including a global programme on capacity development for implementation of the agreement. The following States and regional economic integration organizations are Parties to the agreement: Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, European Union – Member Organization, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, United States, Uruguay and Vanuatu. read more

As Iraqi military prepares to enter Mosul ISIL forcibly relocates thousands of

A young girl stands outside her family home in al Houd, a town outside Mosul, which was retaken by Iraqi security forces. Photo: UNICEF/Sharon Behn The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that early this morning, ISIL attempted the forcible transfer of some 25,000 civilians towards locations in and around Mosul. While coalition flights patrolling the area foiled the effort, some buses did reach Abusaif, 15 kilometres north of Hamam Al-Alil City, south of Mosul. “We have grave concerns for the safety of these and the tens of thousands of other civilians who have reportedly been forcibly relocated by ISIL in the past two weeks,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva, explaining that ISIL brought dozens of long trucks and mini-buses to Hamam al-Alil City – most of which were prevented from proceeding towards Mosul by coalition flights. Responding to questions, she said OHCHR had observed a pattern: ISIL was taking people closer and closer to Mosul city, and putting them close to their offices and to military installations which could be targets.“That would support the assertion that they are planning to use those people as human shields, and to make sure the area was heavily populated with civilians to frustrate a military operation against them,” she said, noting that ISIL is also killing some people that they are abducting, particularly those having formerly belonged to the Iraqi Security Forces. “Using civilians as human shields is a war crime,” she explained, citing relevant Articles of the Rome Statute, founding document of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which state, respectively, that taking hostages in a non-international armed conflict is a war crime, and that ordering civilian displacements for reasons non-security or imperative military reasons is also a war crime.“We urge parties to the conflict to ensure that international law is strictly observed,” continued Ms. Shamdasani, “in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid and minimise the loss of civilian life and injury to civilians.” The OHCHR spokesperson elaborated on further reports of mass killings by ISIL, noting that this past Saturday, 40 former Iraqi Security Force soldiers were killed and their bodies thrown in the Tigris River. The soldiers were reportedly among the civilians who had been abducted earlier from al-Shura sub-district of Mosul and from villages surrounding Hamam al-Alil.According to Ms. Shamdasani, there have also been reports that ISIL has been threatening relatives of people they suspect are supporting the Iraqi Security Forces. read more

Small and sustainable Tiny Houses could be solution to worlds housing problems

Measuring just about 22-square-meters, or some 200-square-feet, a demonstration unit for the eco-friendly and affordable housing, debuted on the UN Plaza in New York this week.This structure is a type of “tiny house” which is traditionally comprised of one room with a loft or pull-out bed, complete with hidden storage, and condensed amenities, such as a kitchen, that maximize the space available to live in.The design, created by UN Environment and the Center for Ecosystems in Architecture at Yale University in the United States, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, is meant to get people thinking about decent, affordable housing that limits the overuse of natural resources and helps the battle against destructive climate change.The design is created specifically to be compatible with New York’s seasonal climate of cold winters, and hot summers. New designs have also been drawn up to suit the climate in Quito, Ecuador, and another major world capital, Nairobi, in Kenya.    The design was created in collaboration with Gray Organschi Architecture.Can modern living be sustainable? This “tiny house” could revolutionize how we live. @UNEnvironment, @UNHABITAT, @YaleArch #YaleCEA #HLPF— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) July 17, 2018 read more

12 million stateless people globally warns UNHCR chief in call to States

Echoing that message, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi appealed for “decisive action” from governments to eliminate the problem, noting that it is the right thing to do, “humanly, ethically and politically”.Every person on this planet has the right to nationality and the right to say I belong – Filippo Grandi, UNHCR chiefStateless people “still face huge barriers to exercising fundamental human rights”, such as education, medical care or legal employment, the High Commissioner said, before calling for States to tackle discrimination in nationality laws, which is regarded as the biggest driver of the problem.Only 25 countries around the world retain gender discrimination in their legislation that prevents mothers from conferring their nationality to their children on an equal basis as men.Madagascar and Sierra Leone are the most recent countries to change these laws, UNHCR said.Mr Grandi’s appeal comes four years after the launch of a 10-year campaign to eradicate statelessness globally, in recognition that millions remain stateless and living in limbo around the world, with the majority in Asia and Africa.  Nine states have established or improved statelessness determination procedures, six states have reformed their nationality laws and another two have eliminated gender discrimination that prevents women from passing on their nationality to their children.National plans to end statelessness have also been formally adopted in nine countries.“States like Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Thailand are paving the way,” Mr Grandi said, “showing that with political will and commitment, and concerted national efforts, the lives of tens of thousands of people can be transformed through the acquisition of nationality.”Insisting that statelessness is a man-made problem and “relatively easy to resolve and prevent”, UNHCR has published a handbook called “Good Practices in Nationality Laws for the Prevention and Reduction of Statelessness” which offers examples of legislation that States can use to avoid childhood statelessness, eliminate gender discrimination from nationality laws and establish procedures to identify stateless persons and facilitate their naturalization. © UNHCR/Roger ArnoldA family poses for a portrait at home after attending a UNHCR stateless workshop in Skopje, Macedonia. Most stateless persons in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia originate from other former Yugoslav republics. 2017. “Today I call on politicians, governments and legislators around the world to act now, to take and support decisive action to eliminate statelessness globally by 2024,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “Humanly, ethically and politically it is the right thing to do. Every person on this planet has the right to nationality and the right to say I BELONG.”Some countries have hundreds of thousands of stateless persons and there is no region of the world that is untouched by statelessness, UNHCR said.The very nature of statelessness means it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected, or at risk.In 2017, approximately 70 countries reported 3.9 million stateless individuals. But UNHCR estimates that this is only a fraction of the total and the true number could be three times higher.There has been progress since UNHCR’s #IBelong campaign began, however, with more than 166,000 formerly stateless people now with a nationality.In addition, 20 states have acceded to international accords on statelessness since November 2014, bringing the total number of parties to the 1954 Convention to 91 and 73 to the 1961 Convention.  © UNHCR/Roger ArnoldKombo Asumani Kombu and his family, attended a UNHCR workshop in Shimoni, Kenya to share their experience of statelessness. (June 2017) read more

Despite progress towards peace Afghanistan facing daunting challenges ahead of presidential vote

“But even these figures do not capture the full human cost of the war,” Mr. Yamamoto told the Council, noting that over half the population in the country lives under the poverty line and that 13.5 million people “survive on less than one meal a day,” a situation compounded by last year’s severe drought.Although last year, the world mobilized for the international humanitarian response in Afghanistan – 78 per cent of the funding requirements were met – this year’s humanitarian response is only 4 per cent funded to date.Finally, Special Representative Yamamoto mentioned the illicit trafficking of opiates as “another major socio-economic challenge” threatening stability in the country. It is estimated that 10 per cent of the adult population is addicted to narcotics.“In order to tackle this complex issue, the whole demand and supply chain needs to be addressed,” he stressed, adding that “the United Nations family remains committed to supporting the country s humanitarian and development goals”. ”This year is likely to bring both numerous challenges and unprecedented opportunities,” said Mr. Yamamoto, briefing Council members on the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security. “Addressing the challenges, and taking advantage of the opportunities, will require the concerted efforts of the international community, with Afghanistan in the lead”, he added. Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and the head of UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA), briefs the Security Council. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe“Tangible progress” on the peace processVarious talks aimed at ending years of conflict have taken place in past weeks, notably between the United States Government and senior Taliban officials, as well as some Afghan representatives and the militant group.“Despite such engagements, the Taliban have not yet accepted to engage in direct talks with the Government,” lamented Special Representative Yamamoto, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in the country, UNAMA. “I stress the imperative need for the Taliban to directly talk with the Government,” as “inclusiveness, coherence, and representativeness in negotiations are critical for success.”Commending the efforts made by the Government to establish a “negotiating structure, including a negotiating team,” and a consultative assembly of traditional leaders, Mr. Yamamoto insisted on the importance of ensuring all efforts towards peace are “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.”He stressed that the “peace process must be inclusive of the meaningful participation of groups representing all segments of Afghanistan’s diverse society including women, youths, ulemas (Islamic legal scholars), and community and political leaders,” adding that the rights of the victims also need to be taken into consideration.‘Daunting challenges’ ahead of presidential electionsAfghanistan is set to hold a presidential election later this year, a critical step in further consolidating the country’s representative political system.“The holding of the presidential election on schedule, however, will be very challenging,” noted Mr. Yamamoto, citing “widespread reports of irregularities during last October’s parliamentary elections”, and “increasing scepticism” towards the country’s two election commissions mandated with delivering “credible and timely” elections.The Special Representative explained that new members are being selected for these two commissions and called on all candidates and political actors “to commit to respecting the independence of the two commissions to enable them to work without any interference”.With less than five months until election day, he warned that the remaining “technical and political challenges are daunting,” including the implementation of the new Election Law, along with the holding of three other elections (provincial council elections, district-council elections, and parliamentary elections for the province of Ghazni).“The United Nations will continue to work with Afghan stakeholders to help them ensure that the electoral process is conducted in a credible, transparent and inclusive manner. It is important, however, that Afghan institutions and stakeholders fully realize that the ultimate responsibility and ownership for elections rests with the people of Afghanistan,” said Mr. Yamamoto.The impact of conflict on civiliansIn February, the UNAMA released devastating figures showing the direct impact of the conflict on the civilians. Fighting and brutal violence claimed 3,804 civilian lives in 2018, the highest number recorded since the UN started keeping records ten years ago. In addition, 7,189 people were injured in 2018, 5 per cent more than in 2017.UNAMA reportNumber of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, 2009-2018. read more

Ford dealers to save millions through energy efficiency

Ford has embarked on a project with the Carbon Trust that aims to save millions across its dealer network through a simple energy efficiency implementation programme.Working with SMMT, Carbon Trust identified that most dealerships can make savings on their energy bills of up to 10% through minimal or zero-cost activities. While modest investment could save as much as 25%.The co-branded energy efficiency service will see Ford’s UK retail network reduce costs, improve environmental performance and enhance the customer experience. The campaign builds on Ford’s continuous work to reduce the environmental impact of its vehicles and manufacturing sites, which includes the introduction of wind turbines at Ford’s Dagenham plant and solar panels at the Bridgend plant in Wales.Mark Ovenden, Ford of Britain Managing Director, said, “In a challenging economy, the opportunity for improving energy efficiency and reducing costs is important to Ford, its dealers, and the UK motor industry as a whole. We are looking forward to working with the Carbon Trust to deliver Ford of Britain’s lowest ever carbon footprint.”SMMT and the Carbon Trust stated that by taking the opportunity to install new energy-efficient equipment such as lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling, the returns on investment can be surprisingly quick. For example, with new LED lighting, capital returns can often be realised in just one to three years, and ongoing maintenance savings will continue to accumulate throughout the longer lifespan of the lamps. To find out more, click through to read SMMT’s detailed Dealer Efficiency Guide. Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more

Nissan expands UK school engagement programme

Nissan has announced that it is to expand its schools engagement activities in the UK, to encourage British schoolchildren to consider careers in the automotive industry.The manufacturer is increasing the activities of its Nissan Skills Foundation to include several new initiatives focusing on electric vehicles, motorsports and manufacturing innovations. More than 15,000 young people will take part in a range of workshops, competitions, facility tours and practical activities as part of the programme, which coincides with this year’s See Inside Manufacturing campaign. Each year, Nissan’s See Inside Manufacturing activities see 2,500 schoolchildren visit its Sunderland Plant over the fortnight.Commenting on the Nissan Skills Foundation, Skills Minister Nick Boles said, “Alongside the See Inside Manufacturing scheme, the Nissan Skills Foundation will help children and young people to understand the value of careers in this sector and ensure that businesses have the skills they need to grow.Nissan’s new initiatives include:The F1 In Schools programme, which will give children the chance to run their own motorsport team, learning about the engineering, design logistics and management required to get a car on the road, as well as racing model cars.The Nissan Blue Citizenship Eco Schools Programme, originally launched in Japan, this teaches students about how electric vehicles work by building a model EV and windfarm, followed by a ride in the all-electric Nissan LEAF.Monozukuri Caravan workshops, a hands-on interactive workshop for year 6 pupils which will be expanded following the 1,000 children that attended in 2013.Nissan will also be running several smaller programmes including the Industrial Cadets for pre-GCSE pupils and the Engineering Education Scheme, both of which offer students the chance to tackle hands-on real life industrial and science-based challenges.Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, said, “The Nissan Skills Foundation has been created to inspire the next generation of British design, engineering, and manufacturing talent. There are many elements of this wider programme, which will be the focus of our community activity in North East England and will excite many thousands of young people about science and engineering.”The Nissan Skills Foundation will have a dedicated team based at the Nissan Sunderland plant, supporting schools by explaining the careers available in manufacturing and the different activities available for schools to access. Teachers can get more information by contacting Heather Corrigan via email at or on 0191 4152035.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more

Temporary closures planned for Tower corridor

The temporary corridor connecting Schmon Tower to Thistle Complex east will see intermittent closures Thursday and Friday.As part of the Brock LINC project, large steel beams will be moved and installed overtop of the temporary corridor. For safety reasons, the corridor will need to be closed as the work takes place.The walkway will be closed Thursday, Oct. 19 from 7 to 8 a.m. and intermittently throughout the day. On Friday, the corridor will be closed from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.Project Manager Scott Roper said, as work continues on the atrium structure, occasional closures of the corridor will be required over the next few weeks.Access to the Schmon Tower elevators and stairs will continue to be available through the Learning Commons. read more

Earthquake in Haiti prompts fundraising effort

John KaethlerA fundraising drive is underway for relief efforts in Haiti.Various University groups will meet Friday morning to discuss the best ways to raise money for the Canadian Red Cross, which is supporting emergency work in Haiti. The impoverished Caribbean country was devastated by a deadly earthquake Tuesday. The death toll is estimated to be at least 100,000 people.International Services is spearheading Brock fundraising efforts. The Brock community raised $25,000 for Red Cross Indian Ocean tsunami relief efforts in 2005. John Kaethler, director of International Services, hopes this drive inspires a similar outpouring.“It’s a human disaster there, so it’s something all of us are interested in helping with,” Kaethler said.There will be fundraising over the next month, although much of it is still in the planning stages. Kaethler foresees posters and coin boxes, and a way to involve the greater community. A web portal for Brock donations has been established through the Red Cross.“Because Haiti is in the western hemisphere, it is our brother and sister. I’m hoping people will be generous in a time of fiscal restraint,” he said.There are currently no Haitian international students at Brock, although there have been several in the past, Kaethler said.The Canadian government announced Thursday that it will match citizen donations to the relief effort. That means any money Brock raises will be doubled.Stay tuned to The Brock News for updates on fundraising activities.Related links:CBC News – Disaster in HaitiRed Cross responds to devastating earthquake in Haiti read more

Alumnus honoured for coop support

Brock alumnus Fred Barzyk (BAdmin ’88, BA ’89) has seen the impact the University’s co-op programming can have on students.That’s why the director at Statistics Canada is so passionate about advocating for Brock co-op students to work with the federal government agency.His efforts have not gone unnoticed. To recognize the work he has been doing to help promote Brock Co-op as well as the University itself, Barzyk was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Brock University Alumni Co-op Award.“The letters of support and feedback I received during the nomination process for this award was really touching,” Barzyk said. “To be recognized and appreciated for my hard work by Brock University for this award is such an honour. I feel emotional and to say I appreciate it would be an understatement as my heart has always been with Brock.”Barzyk has been instrumental in developing quality opportunities for Brock co-op students at Statistics Canada in Ottawa. He has earned a reputation as a champion of co-op programming within his organization, while also serving as a mentor to students and going above and beyond to help promote Brock co-op opportunities.The Brock University Alumni Co-op Award will be presented to Barzyk jointly by Brock Co-op and the Brock Alumni office during a special ceremony held in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Barzyk will also be recognized as the award’s inaugural recipient during a celebration of National Co-op Education Week at Brock in March.“I am such an advocate for Brock students because the University’s co-op program gives them the opportunity to grow within the organization during a longer, more strategic work term and allows them to become engaged in their co-op workplaces,” Barzyk said.Throughout his Statistics Canada career, he has proudly advocated as a Brock graduate and encouraged his colleagues to hire the University’s students.“His efforts are noteworthy and his willingness to go above and beyond to help students and advocate on behalf of his alma mater are admirable and make him the ideal recipient for this award,” said Dana Tonus, Senior Employer Development Manager for Co-op Education. “His efforts should serve as the benchmark for all Brock alumni.”Barzyk often acts like a mentor to students, offering personal and professional guidance on career and workplace success.“Seeing the impact I have had on so many students and to be appreciated by Brock University in this way is truly humbling,” he said.Join Brock alumni in Ottawa to congratulate Barzyk and present him with his award at the National Museum of Science and Technology on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at 5:15 p.m.Registration for the free event is available online. read more

Brock experience is on the bill at Canadas pivotal recruiting event

The challenge is a big one: How do you sell one of Canada’s best on-campus experiences from the floor of a trade show?It all starts with the people.More than 250 Brock University faculty, staff and students from across nearly every department, program and service will spend some time at this weekend’s Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) in downtown Toronto.Running from Friday, Sept. 28 until Sunday, Sept. 30, OUF is the biggest exhibition of post-secondary institutions in Canada, with more than 130,000 people expected to attend over the three days.Only weeks after announcing record 2018-19 enrolment of more than 19,000 students, Brock is now turning its attention to future years. Recruiters have fanned out across the country and around the world in an effort to tell the Brock experience story, and OUF is the single-most-important event on the promotional calendar.“This is all in a push to ensure that Brock is top of the list when students are completing their applications in early January,” said Beth Natale, Director, Recruitment. “Our momentum is evident — we hope to see our market share of first-choice applicants continue to grow and grow.”Natale said the OUF audience is an informed one.“The depth of questions we get is always astounding. Students and their supporters take the decision-making process very seriously and this is one opportunity for us to translate that Brock experience in a GTA setting,” she said.That experience starts in the Brock booth, where video screens show what the St. Catharines and Hamilton campuses have to offer, and friendly staff members are ready to answer whatever questions may come up.“We try to recreate the campus vibe and the sense of personalized attention you’ll get at Brock,” said Carly Dugo, Recruitment Officer, Campus Initiatives. “We tell the full story about the Brock experience being second to none and what that looks like in terms of academics and student life.”Natale said brand awareness in the GTA has been bolstered by the continuation of Brock’s ‘Experience’ marketing campaign in downtown Toronto. This again includes a complete takeover of the Skywalk area of Union Station, a key thoroughfare between the city’s main transit hub and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where OUF is held, major entertainment venues such as the Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Centre as well as the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium.“The GTA as a region is incredibly important to us. It’s one of the few regions in Canada that is growing, so it’s important for us to have that brand awareness,” Natale said. “If you aren’t familiar with us, the Brock takeover certainly makes you want to learn more. If you’re among our 100,000 alumni, it certainly makes you feel proud to see Brock’s name in lights there.” read more

Cobb out again for Packers with hamstring injury

MINNEAPOLIS — Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb will miss his sixth game this season because of a hamstring injury.Cobb was sidelined Sunday at Minnesota for the third straight week, along with cornerback Kevin King (hamstring). Defensive end Mike Daniels (foot) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin) were also out. Safety Kentrell Brice (ankle) returned from a one-game absence. Tight end Jimmy Graham (thumb) was in the lineup after being listed as questionable.For the Vikings, linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring) returned after a three-game absence. The previous time Minnesota hosted Green Bay, Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers broke the quarterback’s collarbone.Safety Andrew Sendejo (groin) missed his seventh straight game. Wide receiver Chad Beebe (hamstring), linebacker Ben Gedeon (concussion) and tight end David Morgan (knee) were also out.___More AP NFL coverage: and Associated Press read more

Titans CB Malcolm Butler cleared from concussion protocol

NASHVILLE — Tennessee cornerback Malcolm Butler has been cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol and is expected to play Sunday when the Titans host the New York Jets.Butler suffered a stinger in Monday night’s 34-17 loss to the Houston Texans, and he was limited on Wednesday and Thursday while in the concussion protocol. Butler practiced fully Friday.“Malcolm cleared protocol, so he should be available,” coach Mike Vrabel said after practice.Butler, who signed a five-year, $61 million contract in the off-season, has been inconsistent this season and been used recently as the third cornerback with Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan starting.“My mental toughness has been tested to the fullest (this year), but I think I’ve handled it and I think I’ve responded,” Butler said. “I’m not giving in. I’m still working hard and playing hard and I’m going to finish strong.”Only safety Dane Cruikshank (knee) and running back David Fluellen (knee) did not practice Friday and are out against the Jets.___More AP NFL: and Associated Press read more

Cal Baptist makes 18 3s beats Mississippi Valley St 10771

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Milan Acquaah made six 3-pointers and scored 30 points to lead Cal Baptist to a 107-71 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night.Cal Baptist (4-4) has won back-to-back games since snapping a four-game skid. The Lancers shot 54 per cent from the floor, and were 18 of 36 from long range as eight players made at least one shot from distance.Acquaah was 10 of 15 from the floor, made all four of his free-throw attempts, and had five assists and two steals. Mikey Henn added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Lancers. Bul Kuol and Zach Pirog had 11 points apiece, and De’jon Davis chipped in with 10.Dante Scott scored 16 points and Tereke Eckwood added 13 for Mississippi Valley State (2-7).Acquaah and Henn made consecutive 3-pointers and Cal Baptist led 30-15 about eight minutes into the game. The Lancers led 57-37 at halftime.The Associated Press read more