Insider QA Cigna CEO seeks deeper push into patient health

Call Cigna a health insurer, and CEO David Cordani will try to correct you.He doesn’t consider the company a pharmacy benefit manager either, even though Cigna just spent roughly $52 billion on one of the country’s biggest prescription processors, Express Scripts.The 52-year-old executive sees Cigna as a “health service company.” That bulky label reflects insurers’ growing interest in being involved in more than just waiting to handle bills from a claim after people get sick.Cordani spoke recently with The Associated Press about this shift and other topics. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.Q: One of the benefits from acquiring Express Scripts is more patient data. How will that affect a typical patient’s care?A: You could more effectively predict health issues before they transpire. You can predict in many cases a heart attack … a high-risk maternity event, and then seek to engage with the physician and with the individual to effect lifestyle, behaviour or in some cases augment that with medications.Q: You want to use this deal to expand what’s called value-based care, which shifts the financial focus to how a patient does instead of on what kind of treatment they receive. Why is this shift so important?A: Everybody benefits, starting with the consumer: Better quality, better service, better outcome, and the practicing physicians are rewarded more meaningfully. The combined company will be able to expand and deepen those relationships significantly. Those that are creating the most value get rewarded more, and the consumer benefits by getting more personalized, higher-quality care.Q: You talk about working with health coaches and case managers to help people. How would that work?A: It’s lifestyle and physical activity. Figuring out creative ways to get the right physical activity that works for somebody to give them cardiovascular health is a life-changing event. But it’s got to be done in a way that works based on an individual’s lifestyle as opposed to the old archaic ways of incenting a gym membership.Q: Is there a risk here of the insurer encroaching on the doctor’s turf, deciding what care is best for the patient?A: We don’t seek to own the physicians. Our number one strategic imperative is to be the undisputed partner of choice. While that risk exists, we need to acknowledge it but make sure our actions reinforce that we’re trying to lock arms and enable. In some of our larger collaborative relationships, we employ and pay for health advisers, health coaches, nurses and will embed them in the physician’s office at the discretion and direction of the physician. We don’t tell them they have to, we offer it as a service.___Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy .Tom Murphy, The Associated Press read more

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Moroccos National Phosphate Company Ramps Up Production to Meet Demand

Rabat – Morocco’s national company for the mining of phosphate, OCP, has been planning for an elevation in demand for phosphate-enhanced fertilizer as the world population increases by more than 53 percent by the year 2050, according to an article by Alyaoum24. The extra provisions will double the company’s mining capabilities. OCP, which also participates in Meknes’ International Exhibition of Agriculture, said the firm was one of the first African companies interested in reducing the carbon footprint from its activities by reducing its emissions of polluting gases and adopting an environmentally responsible way to manage waste. In 2014, the Moroccan company recycled more than 19 tons of metal waste. OCP’s strategy to improve its operational use of water includes the firm’s desalination plant Jorf Lasfar and initiatives in many Moroccan cities.The company said its plans to continue green practices correspond with King Mohammed VI’s Green Morocco program, which employs farmers in the kingdom and other African countries through its soil study, which has gathered 26,000 samples from 6.8 million hectares of land to evaluate the farmland’s fertilizer needs.Mostafa Terrab, CEO of the OCP, said earlier this year that his company would be the world’s largest producer of fertilizers by the year 2017 as result of contributions from four new complexes tasked with creating the product essential for the world’s agriculture industry.Morocco holds nearly 75 percent of the world’s phosphate reserves, according to the United States Geological Survey.ONP was founded in the year 1920 and its managers run operations from Casablanca. read more

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Government Ministers Have Failed Including Me Othmani Encourages Low Baccalaureate Scorers

Rabat – Prime Minister Saaddine Al Othmani headed the government council on Thursday morning to congratulate the students who successfully passed the baccalaureate examination.“We should congratulate the students who succeeded at passing the baccalaureate tests as well as the parents, teachers and administrators,” he said in a speech at the opening of the government council.Othmani also addressed the students who failed to succeed in the regular session of the baccalaureate exam, saying, that “your failure is not the end of the world, and to by God’s will you might be lucky in the second session.” The head of the government added that the failure is normal, and that most of the ministers of his government have failed at a certain point. “Perhaps not all of them failed,” he clarified,“but I certainly have.” read more

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Moroccan Govt CGEM UN Team Up to Support Refugee Integration in

Rabat – The Moroccan government has signed a tripartite agreement with the United Nations and the General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco (CGEM) to support refugees’ economic integration in Morocco.A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlined the agreement, signed May 18, in which CGEM will work with refugees to develop their professional skills and increase employability in the private sector. As the enterprise leaders’ union in Morocco, CGEM is committed to promoting economic autonomy for all vulnerable populations through workshops and skills development.As the CGEM develops refugees’ professional skills, the UNHCR, also known as the UN Refugee Agency, will bolster training and employment to raise awareness and open employment opportunities within Moroccan businesses. The agreement falls under Morocco’s National Strategy for Migration and Asylum, initiated in 2013, and the broader UN Global Compact for Migration. Morocco’s migrant regularization strategy and socio-economic integration policies constitute key aspects of the national migration strategy. At the international level, the Global Compact aims to foster greater international cooperation and create a multifaceted and coordinated international response response to human migration.The signing of the tripartite agreement was attended by Mr. Ahmed Eskim, Director of Immigration Affairs of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Affairs; Mr. Salah Eddine Qademiri, Deputy General of the General Federation of Moroccan Contractors, and Ms. Bettina Gambirt, Deputy Representative of the UNHCR in Morocco.Migrants in Morocco primarily emigrate from 38 countries, including Senegal, Mali, Cameroon, and Nigeria. The press release noted the extensive knowledge and skills of many refugees and positive impact that their skills could create in the Moroccan private sector. read more

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Autonomous car testing plan aims to boost public confidence

PITTSBURGH — Companies testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh will have to immediately report crashes resulting in any injuries and have three days to reveal those that result in any damage.The guidelines are part of an executive order signed Monday by Mayor Bill Peduto and are meant to help build public confidence in the testing after a deadly accident in Arizona last year.Representatives of the five companies testing autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh — Aptiv, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University and Uber — expressed their support for Peduto’s measure.Karina Ricks, director of the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, says the companies have 30 days to submit initial information, such as neighbourhoods where they expect to conduct testing and times the tests will happen.New companies must submit information 10 days before starting on-road testing.The Associated Press read more

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Israel Cuts Northern Morocco from MENA Region Map

Rabat – On Sunday, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a map to condemn the threat posed by Iran’s missile program, targeting Europe.In a tweet shared on Sunday, the ministry said that “Iran has deployed ballistic missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), placing dozens of countries, including part of Europe, under the regime’s range of fire.”To explain the Iranian threat, the ministry used a map that cuts off northern Morocco. Several internet users condemned the map.Several people commented on the absence of the northern part of Morocco.“The map does not make sense at all … what happened to the northern part of Morocco, disappeared because of the global warming?” one wrote sarcastically.The same commenter also wondered if the graphic designer “has issues with editing layered vector maps or is it just a joke…!”The map doesn’t make sense at all… what happened to the northern part of Morocco, disappeared because of the global warming? or is it your graphic designer that has issues with editing layered vector maps or is it just a joke…!— Simo Ben (@simo_online) February 11, 2019Another Twitter user also asked, “so basically, Iran tried their missiles on Morocco and the country disappeared.”Several other commenters asked Israel to delete the post and share another map with the entire map of Morocco. read more

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Biologists update Montana fish guide with new app

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Biologists have updated a decades-old guide to fish in Montana by creating an app to help people identity species.The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported last week that High Country Apps developed the Fishes of Montana app in collaboration with biologists at Montana State University and state Fish, Wildlife and Parks.The app that launches this month includes photos and descriptions of the state’s more than 90 fish species as well as distribution maps.University professor Chris Guy says they wanted to digitize the book of the same name in a mobile-friendly form to make the guide more available.The app also lists 10 species that biologists don’t want in the state.Guy says officials are trying to use app as a tool to prevent the spread of these invasive species.___Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.comThe Associated Press read more

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Walmart eliminates dedicated president role for Jetcom unit

NEW YORK — Walmart is eliminating the position of president at its Jet.com subsidiary, which it acquired in 2016, as it further merges the rest of its team with its namesake online operations.As part of the changes, Jet.com’s president, Simon Belsham will leave in August. Strategy and management of Jet.com will fall under Kieran Shanahan, who will continue to oversee food, consumables, health and wellness for Walmart.com.Walmart said Wednesday that Jet.com will continue to operate, and there are no layoffs planned.Walmart has been integrating much of Jet.com with Walmart.com since its $3 billion acquisition. Last year, Walmart repositioned Jet.com to focus more on urban shoppers. The acquisition has helped Walmart jumpstart its e-commerce business and has led to new offers like two-day free shipping and next day delivery.Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press read more

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Countries can do more to implement international treaties says UN official

Annebeth Rosenboom, Chief of the Treaty Section in the UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), told reporters that although those figures are impressive, countries should and can do more to ensure they are putting into place all the provisions of the treaties and pacts under which they are now bound.“While significant achievements have been made in the development of the multilateral treaty framework, domestic implementation still needs to be improved,” she said, noting that this year’s theme stressed both participation and implementation.This year’s treaty event, the ninth in the series, will be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly’s General Debate at UN Headquarters in New York on 25-27 September and 1-2 October. The focus will be on 43 treaties that deal with peace, development and human rights.Ms. Rosenboom said “an impressive total of 1,278 treaty actions have been undertaken” during the annual event since it was initiated in 2000, but she added that none of the treaties being featured this year yet enjoyed the participation of all States.One of the featured treaties is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is designed to protect the rights of the estimated 650 million people worldwide who have disabilities.Although it has already garnered 102 signatories since March, the Convention will only take effect 30 days after the 20th country agrees to ratification. So far, five nations – Jamaica, Hungary, Croatia, Panama and Cuba – have ratified.UN official Thomas Schindlmayr, from the Convention’s Secretariat, told reporters that he was confident that the next 15 ratifications would be obtained soon and the treaty will be able to enter into force.He stressed the importance of the Convention given that people with disabilities are often among the most marginalized groups in the world.Several featured treaties this year focus on the need for nations to act decisively to prevent and mitigate violence against women.Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women’s Rights Section of the Division for the Advancement of Women, warned that when States fail to hold the perpetrators of violence accountable, impunity persists and inequality and discrimination are reinforced.She called for the universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women. Some 185 States are party to the Convention, but Iran, Nauru, Palau, Qatar, Tonga, Somalia, Sudan and the United States are not. 20 September 2007More than 40 countries have now indicated they plan to sign, ratify or accede to at least one international treaty over the next two weeks as part of the annual campaign to promote such conventions during the opening of the General Assembly session, a United Nations official said today. read more

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Guinea UN gives buildings at refugee camp to Government

31 January 2008Administrative buildings, health centres, water outlets, schools and other basic social services facilities at two camps run by the United Nations refugee agency in Guinea have been handed over to the Government now that most of the residents there have returned to their home countries. Administrative buildings, health centres, water outlets, schools and other basic social services facilities at two camps run by the United Nations refugee agency in Guinea have been handed over to the Government now that most of the residents there have returned to their home countries.“The infrastructures constitute real opportunities for the population and local authorities, who will use them for the common good,” said Dillah Doumaye, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Guinea.The two camps in south-eastern Guinea, which hosted tens of thousands of refugees from Liberia between 1995 and 2007, were handed over to the Government as part of a continuing UNHCR programme aimed at easing the integration of refugees remaining in the country since the end of the conflict in Liberia. Some 23,000 refugees continue to live in Guinea, including 8,000 Liberians in the two camps.UNHCR said it is working to facilitate the local integration of these refugees through community-based projects. read more

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Myanmar SecretaryGeneral convenes Group of Friends meeting

The Group of Friends – comprising Australia, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and Slovenia (as holder of the European Union presidency) – met today for the second time following their first gathering last December.Mr. Ban’s Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari plans to travel to the region shortly, and will visit Beijing from 18-19 February, followed by stops in Jakarta and Singapore.Earlier this week, the Secretary-General called on Myanmar to ensure that the constitutional referendum scheduled to be held in May represents the views of all of the South-East Asian nation’s people.He “renews his call to the Myanmar authorities to make the constitution-making process inclusive, participatory and transparent in order to ensure that any draft constitution is broadly representative of the views of all the people of Myanmar,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson. 13 February 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today convened a meeting of the 14 Member States known as the “Group of Friends” to review developments in Myanmar, where the Government forcefully cracked down on peaceful protesters last year. read more

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UNs top refugee official urges more support for uprooted Iraqis

15 February 2008In Syria as part of a weeklong visit to the Middle East, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has appealed to the international community to provide greater support for Iraqis who have fled across borders. António Guterres urged help for Iraqis in Syria and Jordan, for more resettlement places in third countries and for the Government of Iraq to be more active in supporting those who have been forced to flee.The High Commissioner met senior leaders in both Jordan and Syria, including Jordanian King Abdullah II and Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. He told reporters that he had received assurances from both governments that Iraqi refugees would not be pushed back against their will and that the “asylum space” will be preserved. “This is a very important guarantee,” he added, particularly in view of the heavy burden both countries are bearing.He said the international response remains disproportionate to the scope of the problem.UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 4.4 million Iraqis are still uprooted, including 2.4 million displaced inside Iraq and 2 million outside – mainly in Syria and Jordan. In addition, more than 41,000 non-Iraqi refugees are in Iraq.”The international community needs to provide more support to Iraqis themselves through the programmes that assist Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan and other host countries,” he said.”Up until now the international assistance has been out of proportion to the challenges that these countries face.”The High Commissioner also asked governments to increase the number of resettlement places for vulnerable refugees. “Some Iraqi families will not be able to go back to their country because they have been tortured or family members were all killed or because of some other situations,” he said. “The number of resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable is very important.”Mr. Guterres urged the Iraqi Government to reach out to its uprooted population, noting that they were not typical refugees fleeing persecution but, rather, escaping generalized violence.”They need to feel that their government is supporting them and assisting them in the difficult conditions they are facing today,” he said. “My appeal to the Iraqi government is for stronger engagement with Iraqis in Syria and Jordan and with the governments of neighbouring countries.”Mr. Guterres said UNHCR had clear global criteria on the conditions needed for the voluntary return of refugees which ” are not met by the situation in Iraq now.”The agency is not promoting returns to Iraq in the present circumstances “because we do not believe the conditions are there for it to be possible on a meaningful scale,” he said.”That does not mean we cannot support people to go back if they decide to do so in the present circumstances. In our operations around the world we see that people are willing to go home even in the most dramatic circumstances.”The High Commissioner, who left Damascus for the Syrian town of Aleppo on Thursday evening, has also met top Government officials in both countries, talked to refugees and reviewed UNHCR operations. He has sought to assure Governments in the region of UNHCR’s continued commitment to, and engagement in, efforts to ease the plight of Iraq’s displaced.UNHCR this year has appealed for $261 million for programmes to support the most vulnerable of the uprooted inside and outside Iraq. read more

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DR Congo UNmandated group finds evidence Rwanda army aiding rival rebels

In its final report to the Security Council the Group of Experts, set up in 2004, said that while there is little documentation available to prove Rwandan material support to the rebel National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP), it had found evidence that Rwandan authorities have been complicit in recruiting soldiers, including children, facilitated the supply of military equipment, and sent their own officers and units to the DRC to support the CNDP.It based its research on dozens of interviews with eyewitnesses, including former combatants and officers of the mainly Tutsi CNDP, members of the business community, regional intelligence officials and local eyewitnesses, all of them “consistent and credible in describing the involvement” of the Government of Rwanda.“Given the nature, however, of the conflict in eastern Congo, much of the financial and military support is informal and does not leave a paper trail,” the Group”s Coordinator Jason Stearns told a later news conference.The Group recommended that the Security Council Sanctions Committee “remind the Government of Rwanda of its obligations” under which it pledged last year to prevent any support to CNDP, entry into and exit from its territory of CNDP members, use of Rwandan telephone networks and banking systems, and holding fund-raising meetings in Rwanda.With regard to the DRC authorities the Group said it had obtained strong evidence that the Government army, known by its French acronym FARDC, collaborated with the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), including through the provision of military equipment and in joint operations against CNDP.FDLR collaborated extensively with FARDC during the December 2007 clashes with CNDP in Masisi and Rutshuru territories and has continued to collaborate with FARDC during fighting that began this August, it added.An upsurge of fighting since August between the two rebel movements, the army, and various other militias in North Kivu province in eastern DRC has driven 250,000 more civilians from their homes, in addition to the hundreds of thousands uprooted in earlier clashes.The Group interviewed over 30 FDLR ex-combatants, of whom 15 provided first-hand, concrete testimony of FARDC-FDLR collaboration. It also interviewed several former and active FARDC soldiers who corroborated this information.“The Group has identified at least three Congolese army commanders who are guilty of providing support to the FDLR,” Mr. Stearns said. “While this collaboration is widespread and regular, the Group has not been able to prove to what extent the top leadership of the army is involved in this practise but it”s cleat that they know and have done nothing to bring it to an end.”The Group has put forward several FARDC commanders for sanctions for supporting FDLR and another group called PARECO, and recommended that the Sanctions Committee request the DRC authorities “to issue clear directives to its troops that collaboration and cohabitation with FDLR and PARECO are prohibited.” Appropriate disciplinary measures should be taken against FARDC soldiers collaborating with these armed groups. The report noted that the FDLR obtains millions of dollars a year from the minerals trade, mostly through taxation of mines and traders, and that many traders are complicit since they know the gold, cassiterite, coltran and wolframite come from FDLR-controlled zones.“We believe that the burden should be on the Congolese buying houses as well as on international mineral traders to conduct due diligence into the source of the product,” Mr. Stearns said of one of the planks in enforcing the embargo.The Group also pointed out that CNDP and FDLR leaders reside or travel through countries in Africa, Europe and North America where they rally support and funds. “The Group believes that such political support is essential for their fund-raising and constitutes a violation of the arms embargo,” Mr. Stearns said. 12 December 2008A group of experts monitoring a United Nations arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported today that it had found evidence that the Rwandan authorities and the Congolese army have aided opposing rebel groups in the war-ravaged east of the country. read more

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South Darfur fighting must cease for sake of suffering civilians – UN

3 February 2009The top United Nations human rights official today voiced her alarm at reports of the worsening conditions for civilians in the South Darfur town of Muhajeria, where fighting between Sudanese Government forces and rebels has led to at least 30 deaths and uprooted some 30,000 people. The top United Nations human rights official today voiced her alarm at reports of the worsening conditions for civilians in the South Darfur town of Muhajeria, where fighting between Sudanese Government forces and rebels has led to at least 30 deaths and uprooted some 30,000 people.“I’m extremely concerned at the impact the fighting is having on the already dire humanitarian situation in Muhajeria,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.The fighting which broke out on 15 January in the area between Government forces and the Sudanese Liberation Army/Mini Minawi faction (SLA/MM) against the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has exposed tens of thousands of civilians to violence, destroyed an aid agency’s office and forced the UN to relocate its staff. Ms. Pillay called on the Government and both the armed groups involved to allow access to humanitarian relief, in order to prevent a further deterioration of the situation in Muhajeria. The violence has led to at least 30 deaths, including women and children, with dozens more wounded, according to a news release from the High Commissioner’s Office. Of the 30,000 people uprooted by the fighting, about 5,000 have sought refuge in the vicinity of an African Union-UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID) military camp in Muhajeria, while many others have fled to other destinations on the outskirts of the town.UNAMID reported that aerial bombings were conducted this morning around Muhajeria, and civilians are still gathered outside the mission’s camp seeking refuge. UNAMID officials were prevented by Sudanese national security from undertaking an assessment visit to Muhajeria, due to the current security situation in the area, the mission added.Briefing the Security Council today, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet stressed it is critical that the Government ensures access for UNAMID personnel.Ms. Pillay reminded all parties that international humanitarian law is binding on both State and non-State actors, including armed groups, and called on them to respect their obligations, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians.“The fighting is reported to have involved ground offensives and indiscriminate aerial bombardment by Government forces that failed to distinguish between civilian communities and military targets,” Ms. Pillay said. “JEM forces are also reported to have deliberately placed themselves in areas heavily populated by civilians, thereby jeopardizing their safety.” The High Commissioner added her voice to the call made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued on Sunday, urging all parties to the conflict to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities. “The fighting must stop, and the warring parties need to join the peace process,” she stressed.The Joint UN-AU Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, is engaged in diplomatic and political consultations with the Sudanese Government and is scheduled to travel to Chad tomorrow.Meanwhile, leaders from Labado, about 60 to 80 kilometres from Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, met with UNAMID officials to discuss the prevailing security situation in the town. They indicated that people from surrounding villages have started moving towards Nyala. read more

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Ban urges calm in wake of Fijian court ruling

9 April 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for calm in Fiji following the ruling by the Pacific archipelago’s Court of Appeal that the December 2006 removal of the elected Government was unlawful and the appointment of the interim Government unconstitutional. Mr. Ban “urges full respect for human rights, the rule of law and the judicial process,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.He noted that a meeting convened today by Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, who serves as Prime Minister, included a number of political parties, but excluded many major ones.Last year, the UN was requested to mediate an “inclusive, independent and time-bound” political dialogue, also brokered by the Commonwealth, after parliamentary elections scheduled for last month were postponed.“The United Nations, in consultation with the Commonwealth, will be reviewing its role in mediating a national dialogue in light of these developments and the prior understanding that the dialogue must be broad-based, inclusive, time bound and without prejudice as to its outcome,” the Secretary-General said in today’s statement.The island chain has suffered prolonged internal tensions between its indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities, and had four coups since 1987. Mr. Bainimarama, commander of Fiji’s military forces, came to power in a coup in December 2006, sparking criticism from the UN at the time. read more

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Tackling impunity and discrimination among top priorities for UN rights chief

15 September 2009Discrimination remains a “scourge” that affects every country, the United Nations human rights chief said today, adding that combating it has become one of her office’s top priorities, along with tackling impunity for various rights violations. “Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order,” Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her opening address to the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council.She said there were “huge gaps” between the “lofty pledges” made by States and the realities of daily life for many of their inhabitants, pointing out that “no country in the world can claim to be free of human rights violations.”Ms. Pillay, who has just completed her first year as the world body’s top rights official, gave a wide-ranging speech to the Geneva-based body in which she named 47 different countries and territories in connection with themes ranging from the effect of the recession on the world’s poorest people to the brutal suppression of criticism to the toll of conflict on fundamental rights. Highlighting her point that no country is immune from discrimination, she listed 17 European countries where violence or discrimination against Roma has been recorded, ranging from fatal attacks and police brutality to forced evictions and systemic discrimination. In Latin America, she noted positive developments with regard to the approach taken by some States to indigenous peoples, but added that “land grabs, the suppression of traditional customs, outright violence and deadly attacks continue to take place.”Turning to China, she urged the authorities there to respect human rights in their efforts to uphold the law, and to “reflect on the underlying causes” of incidents such as the recent disturbances in the Xinjiang and Tibetan Autonomous Regions which include discrimination and the failure to protect minority rights.Ms. Pillay also highlighted the fact that the human rights of women continue to be denied or curtailed in many countries. While noting some improvements in the Gulf region, she stated that the overall situation of women there “falls well short of international standards.” The High Commissioner issued a strong call to governments to combat impunity for crimes committed during armed conflicts, and in particular those directed against civilians. “I urge the international community, including this Council, to insist on full accountability for all violations and to ensure assistance to the victims,” she said. “I also urge all those States contributing to military operations, whether it be in their own country or in other countries, to enhance their efforts to prevent civilian casualties, which in Afghanistan and elsewhere remain at unacceptably high levels.” She noted that an “intolerable” number of displaced people continue to live in camps, adding that in the case of Sri Lanka “internally displaced persons are effectively detained under conditions of internment.”Another area requiring action by States is addressing the “alarming global trend” of governments, or other powerful forces, persecuting or even killing peaceful opponents and critics, she stated.“In too many countries, brave human rights advocates, journalists and dissidents face abduction, arbitrary detention, torture and even death to defend their rights and freedoms and those of the communities they serve or represent,” said Ms. Pillay. In particular, she cited “the unfair and arbitrary detention” of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners, which she said “makes a mockery of Myanmar’s commitment to democratic transition.” She also noted the 20-year prison sentence imposed on Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who had criticized the army’s treatment of Tamil civilians, and the detention and ill-treatment of a prominent human rights defender in Zimbabwe, as well as the recent murders of human rights defenders in Mexico and Russia. She also called on the Government of Iran to release those detained for peaceful protest in the wake of the recent elections, and to investigate reports of their ill-treatment.In addition, Ms. Pillay said that “democratic deficits” remain a significant obstacle to the protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law, noting that “constitutional order has been subverted” in places like Honduras and Fiji.In a related development, the 47-member Human Rights Council today decided not to let Honduras’ Geneva-based ambassador attend its proceedings, after determining he represents the post-coup government that few countries recognize as legitimate. The action came after other Latin American States said the ambassador represented an “illegal” regime and not the administration of President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by the military in June. read more

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UN urges increased social spending in AsiaPacific to sustain robust economic growth

“Governments must embrace this opportunity to secure the gains of the economic rebound by investing in social programmes that directly benefit people hardest hit by the crisis, act to reduce poverty, and create a more sustainable economy,” said Noeleen Heyzer, Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), when she launched the report in Bangkok.The Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2010 report, an annual publication of ESCAP, provides governments in the Asia-Pacific region, where 62 per cent of the world’s population live with a road map towards a more inclusive and sustainable development path.According to the survey, even at the height of the economic crisis, Asia and the Pacific was still the fastest-growing region in the world, a trend supported mainly by fiscal stimulus packages made available by the region’s biggest economies.The economic growth outlook for 2010 has improved significantly, with the region’s developing economies forecast to expand by seven per cent. China will be ahead of the pack with 9.5 per cent growth followed by India’s 8.3 per cent, according to the report.The survey, however, points out that rising inflationary pressures, especially concerning food products, and asset price bubbles in a number of countries make 2010 a complex year for policy makers who will have to balance sustaining the momentum of growth with financial stability.While monetary tightening measures may be necessary to restrain inflationary pressures, policymakers must be cautious about withdrawing fiscal stimulus packages lest the fledgling recovery process is disrupted, according to the report.It also recommends the use of capital controls to moderate short-term capital inflows – the result of a massive expansion of liquidity in Western countries – which have created asset bubbles, inflationary pressures and exchange rate increases in the region’s developing economies.“We know from experience following the 1997 Asian financial crisis that it may be years before the poorest people are able to recover from the past two year’s global crisis; governments need to maintain programmes to help people recover their assets and livelihoods,” Dr. Heyzer added.According to the survey, a sustained, long-term development for all economies within the region will have to rely on creating new engines of growth by rebalancing the region with greater regional consumption through increased intra-regional trade, accelerating the development of an Asia-Pacific consumer market.“This is the moment when the Asia-Pacific region can assure the long-term benefits of the recovery by creating a sustainable, inter-connected, greener, regional economy, while reducing the social and economic disparities which left it vulnerable to such [a] crisis,” said Dr Heyzer. “The region has the opportunity to strengthen its economy, its environment, its society, and better connect itself,” she added.The report makes a number of regional policy recommendations for inclusive and sustainable growth, such as strengthening social protection and enhancing financial inclusion.Increased social spending would directly support income security for households by providing food security, education and access to health care, reducing the need by poorer families to maintain precautionary savings to protect against adversity. These families would then be able to contribute more to local economies and invest more in their own development, the report notes.“The region has close to one billion people living in poverty at this very moment. The more people we lift out of poverty today, the larger consumer class and developed markets we create for the future,” said Dr. Heyzer.Jomo Kwame Sundaram, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, said Asian and Pacific countries also needed to invest more on the improvement of their infrastructures..He noted that more social spending should go to programmes aimed at boosting food production and to projects that promoted the use of environmentally-friendly technologies..Mr. Sundaram also called for initiatives that promoted “financial inclusion” to ensure that poorer people were benefiting from the economic growth. Microcredit lending schemes would help make capital available to the poor, he told reporters in New York. 6 May 2010Governments in Asia and the Pacific should raise spending on social programmes to sustain the region’s robust economic recovery and ensure that the benefits of the revived growth trickle down to people most affected by the global financial crisis, according to a United Nations report released today. read more

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UN rights expert calls Myanmar election process deeply flawed

21 October 2010An independent United Nations human rights expert expressed disappointment today that Myanmar’s process for its upcoming elections – the nation’s first in two decades – is “deeply flawed,” urging the release of all prisoners of conscience, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, told reporters in New York today that “conditions for the general elections are limited under the current circumstances,” adding that the potential for the polls to bring meaningful change remain uncertain.“I believe that the Myanmar Government needs to send a strong signal to the international community about its commitment to hold genuine elections, and the unconditional and immediate release of prisoners of conscience would be such a signal,” he said.Yesterday, the expert presented his report focusing on the landmark 7 November elections, only the third multiparty poll in more than 60 years since independence, to the General Assembly.He told the 192-member body that the freedoms of expression and assembly have been further restricted through the implementation of election laws, while party registration requirements and the high cost of registering candidates have hampered parties not backed by the Government.“It is clear that the process has not been inclusive,” Mr. Quintana stressed.The Government, he said, has rightfully pointed out that elections are only one step in Myanmar’s transition to democracy. “We must remember that true national reconciliation and a commitment to protecting and promoting human rights are also necessary for any real transition.”The Rapporteur, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, underlined the key role played by justice and accountability in this transition. “We have seen too many cases in the world of incomplete transitions that have sacrificed justice for the mistaken notion that this would achieve peace and stability,” he said. “Now is the time to end the widespread and systematic violations of human rights that have been occurring in Myanmar for decades.”Since assuming his position in May 2008, Mr. Quintana has visited Myanmar three times, meeting with prisoners of conscience and senior executive and judicial authorities.He expressed regret that his last request to visit the country in August was not granted. “I strongly believe that direct dialogue with the authorities and other stakeholders through country visits is indispensable for the conduct of my mandate.” read more

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Lifting of aid restrictions vital ahead of impending drought UN envoy stresses

The Horn of Africa nation is already facing a dire humanitarian crisis in which 3.2 million people, more than 40 per cent of the population, is in need of aid.This situation is likely to be compounded by the impending drought, which is already having a severe impact on the lives of people and livestock, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In an update issued last week, OCHA noted that the harsh dry season continues to affect many parts of Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland.Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, who just visited the capital, Mogadishu, yesterday, said the drought is just beginning but it is going to increase, and that people in some of the areas controlled by Al-Shabaab Islamic militants are demanding that international assistance be allowed to reach them. “The only answer to hunger is to get food,” he stated in an interview with UN Radio, adding that food is available but it is being denied to the population by the various restrictions.While some of the restrictions stem from insecurity, there also seems to be an “ideological rejection” of assistance from Western countries by Al-Shabaab. “We hope there will be a relaxation of this restriction to avert what is an impending crisis and a catastrophe of really serious proportions,” said Mr. Mahiga. Somalia – which has not had a functioning central government since 1991 – has been torn apart by decades of conflict and factional strife, more recently with Al-Shabaab. While in Mogadishu, Mr. Mahiga met with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as well as Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, with whom he discussed the road map prepared by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).Under the Transitional Federal Charter, the interim authority’s mandate is set to expire this August. Several tasks remain to be completed such as continuing initiatives on reconciliation, building civilian and security institutions and the completion of the constitution-making process. 5 January 2011The top United Nations envoy for Somalia today urged that restrictions on aid delivery, partly owing to a rejection of Western assistance by Islamic militants, be lifted so that those who need help amid an impending drought can receive it. read more

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Asylumseeker numbers fall to almost half levels of a decade earlier UN

The report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) finds that 358,800 applications for asylum were lodged last year in 44 developed countries – a drop of 5 per cent on the 2009 figures and about 42 per cent below the levels of 2001, when nearly 620,000 applications were made.Unveiling the report, High Commissioner António Guterres said the global dynamics of asylum had changed in recent years.“We need to study the root causes to see if the decline is because of fewer push factors in areas of origin, or tighter migration control in countries of asylum,” Mr. Guterres said.Serbia – including Kosovo – provided the biggest number of asylum-seekers in 2010, with 28,900 claims lodged, compared to only 18,800 the previous year. UNHCR said the sharp rise was probably due to the European Union’s December 2009 decision to grant visa-free entry to holders of Serbian passports.The other leading countries of origin of asylum-seekers were, in order: Afghanistan, China, Iraq, Russia, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.Mr. Guterres noted that the developing world is still “carrying the lion’s share of responsibility for hosting refugees,” with countries such as Liberia and Tunisia playing host to asylum-seekers despite their own problems and challenges.Within the developed world, the United States was the biggest recipient of asylum claims, with 55,500 lodged last year, due in part to an increase in applications from Chinese and Mexicans. France was second, with 47,800 claims, drawn largely from Serbian, Russian and Congolese asylum-seekers. Germany, Sweden and Canada rounded out the top five recipient nations.UNHCR defines an asylum-seeker as an individual who has sought international protection and whose claim for refugee status has not been determined. A person is considered a refugee if he or she fulfils criteria set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention.The 44 recipient countries used for the report were the 27 members of the European Union, as well as Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Liechtenstein, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, the United States and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. 28 March 2011The number of asylum-seekers seeking to live in the industrialized world continues to fall and is now almost half the level it was a decade ago, the United Nations refugee agency reported today as it released its annual snapshot of asylum trends. read more

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