Chance for peace in Sudan must be seized to end human rights

The chance for achieving peace in the Sudan created by the signing of a protocol earlier this year must be seized in order to end human rights abuses in the country, a United Nations expert argues in a report released today. In his report to the UN General Assembly, Gerhart Baum, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan, says the signing of the Machakos Protocol in July could lead to successful peace negotiations. This development “may provide a chance not to be missed to put an end to war-related human rights abuses,” he says. Documenting those violations, the Special Rapporteur says the country’s overall human rights situation has not improved. The population has suffered ongoing military activities, widespread internal displacement and obstacles to the humanitarian relief effort. In addition, the “oil issue” persists, with Mr. Baum receiving “alarming information pointing to the continuation of grave human rights abuses linked to oil exploitation, aimed at depopulating oil-rich areas to ensure their control.” “The Special Rapporteur was shocked to read witnesses’ accounts of scorched earth tactics used by air and ground forces to clear oil-rich areas, chase people out of their villages and ensure that they would not return, including by planting anti-personnel landmines around watering points and along pathways to areas where wild food is available and in emptied villages,” the report states. In considering the possibility of future peace in the Sudan, Mr. Baum stresses that the international community must develop strategies for a post-conflict scenario. Calling for “wealth-sharing” in the country, including for oil revenues, he recommends the creation of an international monitoring mechanism, but adds that “it would not be appropriate for military personnel to be utilized to this end.” The Special Rapporteur also places great importance on the engagement of the UN in helping the Sudan. “Strong political involvement by the United Nations is urgently needed to support the peace process, for the neutrality and objectivity that characterize its action as opposed to single governments’ initiatives and for its potential to bring on board the whole international community in an effective and sustainable way,” he says. read more

UN closes refugee camp in Pakistan in start of consolidation programme

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters today in Geneva that the final 148 residents left Shalman on Sunday to return to Afghanistan. A separate group of 433 people was transferred Friday to another camp at Kotkai.Returning refugees are given food, a small travel grant and some supplies by UNHCR to help them re-adjust to life in Afghanistan.Mr. Janowski said the agency chose to first close Shalman – which lies in a dry valley near the famous Khyber Pass – because of its harsh and isolated conditions and its falling population. At its peak, Shalman had capacity for 26,000 refugees.UNHCR hopes to announce more camp closures in the next few months after holding talks with government officials in the provinces of North West Frontier and Balochistan, Mr. Janowski said. The agency set up 15 camps in the region to shelter Afghans who fled fighting in their homeland following the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.Some 400,000 Afghans are expected to return home this year from Pakistan, while 33,500 people have already returned from Iran since the start of the year. In 2002 and 2003 about 1.9 million Afghans are estimated to have returned from Pakistan. read more

UN envoy urges donors to support rebuilding Afghanistans police force

The top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan has urged international donors meeting in Doha, Qatar, to support the development of an Afghan police force that was better able to restore law and order and combat the misrule of local militias.Speaking at a two-day conference on police reconstruction in Afghanistan, which wrapped up yesterday, Jean Arnault, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said there was a common consensus among Afghans for an expanded and better trained security force.He added that, although much has been accomplished over the past two years, building a police force in Afghanistan remained a key task for the Afghan Government and its international partners.

Sudanese Government agrees to deal to take steps to disarm Darfur militias

A statement issued by a spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the accord – reached Wednesday between Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative – and said Mr. Annan attached great importance to “substantive and verifiable progress” being made during the next 30 days towards restoring full security for the Darfur region. “He looks forward to swift and sustained action by the Government of Sudan to implement the commitments that have been entered into in the action plan and the joint communiqué of 3 July,” the statement added. A formal copy of the agreement will be signed by the two officials and issued Monday, spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York. Mr. Pronk has voiced hope that if the agreement is implemented, the Security Council would see Khartoum was making “substantial progress” towards meeting previously expressed commitments to disarm the notorious Janjaweed and restore security.In a resolution adopted last Friday, the Council said it would consider steps under Article 41 of the UN Charter, which range from imposing economic penalties to severing diplomatic relations, if the Sudanese Government did not make progress on those commitments.Meanwhile, Mr. Eckhard said the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights hopes to deploy all eight of its observers to Darfur’s three regions, as well as in Khartoum, over the next few days.In neighbouring Chad, where about 200,000 refugees have fled to escape the Janjaweed attacks and fighting between Government forces and two Darfur rebel groups, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has started work on constructing a camp at Treguine in the Adre region.About 17,000 refugees are expected to be transferred to the Treguine camp, which is being established to relieve overcrowding in a UNHCR camp at Breidjing. read more

Recalling Holocaust is vital to avoid falling back into the abyss says

“The victims came from different countries and backgrounds. They were ordinary women, men and children. They were like us. Acts of genocide do not merely happen to ‘others,’” Under-Secretary-General Sergei Ordzhonikidze said yesterday at the inauguration of an exhibition entitled “Auschwitz: The Depth of the Abyss” at the UN’s Geneva headquarters. “Even when we find it hard to face the gruesome illustrations of the Holocaust, we need to remember. We need to see – to feel – the depth of the abyss to ensure that we do not descend into it again,” he added. “We must never be complacent when acts of barbarism take place. We must speak up and act whenever and wherever we witness cruelty and violation of human rights. If not, our indifference, or our collective inability to act, will aid the inhumanity. “Sixty years ago, the United Nations was founded on the human family’s collective commitment to ensuring that the horrors of the Holocaust would never re-occur. We owe it to all the victims of the Holocaust – and victims of other acts of genocide – to honour this commitment,” said Mr. Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG). read more

Education is the best road out of poverty for rural African poor

On the eve of an international meeting on development and education, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that education provides the best route for the rural poor in sub-Saharan Africa to work their way out of poverty.”Illiteracy is a correlate of poverty and hunger and is mainly a rural phenomenon which hinders rural development and food security, threatens productivity and health, and limits opportunities to improve livelihoods – particularly for rural girls and women,” FAO education expert Lavinia Gasperini said in anticipation of a ministerial seminar in Addis Ababa that opens tomorrow. “Since the vast majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are rural, and since agriculture is a key sector for rural development and economic growth, more efforts are needed in educating the rural poor and helping them to apply improved technologies to make small-scale farming viable and profitable,” Ms. Gasperini added.The Addis Ababa seminar will focus on the current situation of education for rural people in sub-Saharan Africa and ways and means to improve it. The elimination of gender disparities in education will present an important topic. Ms. Gasperini said the meeting would gather, for the first time, ministers of education, agriculture, fisheries and rural development from several African countries. In addition, representatives from the African Union (AU), civil society organizations and bilateral and multilateral development bodies will attend.The meeting, which will run from 7-9 September, is organized by FAO along with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in partnership with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education and with the support of the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS) and the Norwegian Trust Fund for Education in Africa (NETF). read more

UN Convention against Corruption a tool to recover stolen assets takes effect

The United Nations Convention against Corruption, a major obstacle to development in poor countries, came into force today, providing the first legally binding global instrument for the return of assets illicitly acquired by dishonest officials, as well as preventive steps to detect plundering of national wealth as it occurs.“Time and time again, countries’ assets have been looted by corrupt leaders, while in the corporate world, many shareholders have been robbed by corrupt managers,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which is the custodian of the Convention.“This Convention demonstrates that Governments are no longer prepared to tolerate a destructive practice which is as old as history and as wide as the globe. It gives nations the legal tools they need to transform their economies,” he added. The Convention, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in October 2003, signed by 140 countries and ratified by 38, rests on four pillars: prevention and criminalization of corruption, international cooperation and asset recovery.“The tough new provisions on asset recovery represent a major breakthrough,” Mr. Costa said. “The fact that nowhere in the world will be exempt from the obligation to return looted assets, and that old excuses such as banking secrecy will no longer be an impediment, will be of major assistance in preventing corruption.”Under the treaty, States are required to return money and other assets obtained through corruption to the country from which they were stolen. “This sends a warning to corrupt officials everywhere that they can no longer expect to enjoy the fruits of their crimes by moving stolen assets abroad. It is also a message of hope to millions of people who have grown angry and frustrated at seeing their country’s wealth plundered by criminals,” he added.The 90-day countdown for today’s entry into force was started at the UN World Summit on 15 September when Ecuador provided the required 30th ratification. Mr. Costa appealed to all Member States to ratify the Convention.“This new instrument must be only the beginning of our redoubled efforts to prevent and control corruption. We must all make sure that the momentum that made its negotiation and entry into force possible is not allowed to dissipate,” he declared.Implementation, which rests firmly in the hands of governments, would be a word devoid of meaning if the Convention did not become the global standard that it was intended to be, he said.UNODC has been assisting countries in developing anti-corruption strategies, implementing prevention measures and establishing the institutions they need to fight corruption effectively.To mark the entry into force, a panel discussion on combating corruption will be held at UN Headquarters in New York tomorrow, with the participation of Mr. Costa, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari and Under-Secretary-General at the UN Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) Inga-Britt Ahlenius. read more

UN issues landmark health report on Chernobyl excess cancer cases deaths

Some 5,000 people who were children and adolescents at the time of the world’s worst-ever civil nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine, have so far been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and there may be up to 9,000 excess cancer deaths, according to a new United Nations study, the most comprehensive scientific report so far on the health impact of the disaster. As the world prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the accident on April 26, the landmark report issued the UN World Health Organization (WHO) recommends renewed efforts to provide the public and key professionals with accurate information about the health impact as part of the efforts to revitalize the people and areas affected.“As we work to rebuild futures, we must not forget the families of those who died as a result of the accident, and those who continue to suffer the consequences of radiation exposure and the severe disruption of their lives,” WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said of the report, which covers contaminated regions in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, home to more than 5 million people.“The WHO report on the health effects of Chernobyl gives the most affected countries, and their people, the information they need to be able to make vital public health decisions as they continue to rebuild their communities. WHO is supporting these efforts.” The agency is continuing its efforts to improve health care for affected populations through the establishment of telemedicine and educational programmes, and supporting research.After the accident 116,000 people were evacuated from the area. An additional 230,000 people were relocated from the highly contaminated areas in subsequent years.Relocation proved a deeply traumatic experience because of disruption to social networks and the impossibility of returning home. For many people, there has been a social stigma associated with being an “exposed person,” the report notes.Those who were affected came to be labelled as “Chernobyl victims.” Despite government compensation and benefits for evacuees and residents, some people perceive themselves as victims rather than survivors, with limited control over their own futures.Many of these people have demonstrated higher anxiety levels, multiple unexplained physical symptoms and subjective poor health compared to non-exposed populations. read more

UN workshop examines needs of Iraqi children in detention

The special needs of thousands of Iraqi children held in juvenile institutions and detention centres were the focus of a just-concluded, five-day workshop aimed at improving conditions for young people who have come in conflict with the law, officials with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) based in Baghdad and Amman have reported.”Juvenile justice and protective institutions must take the particular developmental needs of Iraqi children who do not live with their families into account,” stressed Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq. “We know that children can be taught the difference between right and wrong, and go on to lead productive lives that contribute positively to their communities and society.” Twenty government representatives from orphanages, reformatories and ministries in Baghdad and northern Iraq learned more about international standards of juvenile justice and child rights during the five-day workshop, according to UNICEF. Mr. Wright said that improving juvenile justice was, however, only one element of a complex and interrelated scenario. “While it is critical to address how children in detention are being treated, it is also crucially important to focus on reducing the vulnerabilities and circumstances that push children to the edge and into lifestyles which often result in law-breaking and criminality,” he added. The workshop sought to foster a deeper and broader understanding that will guide approaches towards juvenile justice and institutionalization, upgrade and strengthen the existing system as well as provide more child-friendly services, according to UNICEF. The agency plans to provide follow-up training to other personnel, including social workers involved in Iraq’s juvenile justice system, all for the benefit of children in conflict with the law, those in juvenile reformatories as well as in detention, and their families. UNICEF said Iraqi officials have pledged to bring Iraq’s juvenile justice law, as well as the regulations for related institutions, in line with the new Iraqi constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other international treaties. read more

AuRico Gold shares up after deal to sell assets in Mexico for

by News Staff Posted Oct 10, 2012 4:56 pm MDT AuRico Gold shares up after deal to sell assets in Mexico for US$750 million AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email The head of AuRico Gold (TSX:AUQ) says that selling off its troubled Ocampo mine and other assets for US$750 million will help it reduce debt, fund development and return cash to shareholders.President and chief executive Scott Perry said Wednesday that the agreement to sell the select operations to a company owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim will eliminate AuRico’s risk associated with the underground development at Ocampo, which has faced difficulties.“We believe this transaction is a significant value creation opportunity for AuRico shareholders relative to how the asset was being valued in the current share price,” he told a conference call with financial analysts.The deal helped send AuRico shares soaring.AuRico shares closed up $1.34 or about 21 per cent at C$7.60 on the Toronto Stock Exchange as more than 7.8 million shares traded hands, making it the most active issue on the exchange.Perry said the deal will provide AuRico with the cash for further development at its Young-Davidson mine in Ontario, look at expansion opportunities and return a portion of the cash to shareholders.Companies can return capital to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends.Perry said the specific timing and amount of the return of capital to shareholders still needed to be determined, but the company was aiming for the first quarter of 2013.“The company will continue assessing its internal cash flow needs, but we have committed to undertake a significant return of capital,” he said.“The most efficient structure for this one-time capital return is being considered by management and the board.”Under the deal, Slim’s Minera Frisco will acquire the Ocampo property as well as a pair of neighbouring exploration projects in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and a 50 per cent stake in the Orion development project in the Mexican state of Nayarit.The Ocampo mine had been AuRico’s main asset before it acquired Northgate Minerals Corp. in a stock swap last year.AuRico also owns the El Chanate mine in Mexico and the Young-Davidson gold mine in northern Ontario that had been held by Northgate and began commercial production last month.In July, the company cut its production guidance at Ocampo and raised its cost estimates due to problems at the mine.John Ing, CEO of Maison Placements Canada, said the mine has had its troubles.“Ocampo has always been a long suffering mine,” Ing said, citing water shortages and difficulty with the ore body.“Now AuRico is sort of changing focus to the assets of Northgate and selling Ocampo.”Ing noted that AuRico may find it difficult to find high-grade assets to spend its newly acquired cash on once the Ocampo deal closes.“They have been well advertised as acquisitors, but the reality is that there are just so few quality assets around and the low hanging fruit has been acquired many years ago,” he said.“What there are is a lot of medium-grade assets.”The Ocampo deal follows the sale of AuRico’s El Cubo mine and the Guadalupe y Clavo project to Endeavour Silver Corp. for $100 million in cash and $100 million in shares.AuRico also sold the Stawell and Fosterville mines in Australia to Crocodile Gold Corp. for $55 million in cash in May.Perry is the executive who replaced former president and CEO Rene Marion, who stepped down earlier this year for health reasons.AuRico said Marion, appointed CEO in 2007, has a non-life threatening degenerative medical condition that will require his full attention as he undergoes treatment.He remains a strategic adviser to the board of directors. read more