At Johannesburg Summit Annan urges concrete action to help safeguard environment

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today rallied national leaders attending the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, with an urgent plea for action to preserve the global environment.Illustrating the pressing nature of the problems at hand, the Secretary-General pointed out that the very region where the meeting is being held faces the looming peril of widespread hunger. “Not far from this conference room, in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 13 million people are threatened with famine,” he pointed out. “If any reminder were needed of what happens when we fail to plan for and protect the long-term future of our planet, it can be heard in the cries for help from those 13 million souls.”The Secretary-General called on his audience, which included numerous heads of State and government from across the world, to take responsibility for all people, “especially the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, as fellow members of a single human family.” While pointing to the natural beauty, spiritual sustenance and material bounty provided by the environment, Mr. Annan cautioned against complacency. “Let us not be deceived, when looking at a clear blue sky, into thinking that all is well — all is not well,” he said, calling attention to such problems as climate change, desertification and pollution.Urging political courage, the Secretary-General said participants must face “an uncomfortable truth: the model of development we are accustomed to has been fruitful for the few, but flawed for the many.”Noting that governments could not meet environmental challenges alone, he said civil society groups have a critical role “as partners, advocates and watchdogs.” In addition, commercial enterprises must play their part in achieving sustainable development. “We are not asking corporations to do something different from their normal business; we are asking them to do their normal business differently,” he said.Sounding a theme he has been repeating since well before the Summit opened last week, Mr. Annan called for concrete action in five areas — water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.”The world today needs to usher in a season of transformation, a season of stewardship,” he said. “Let it be a season in which we make a long overdue investment in the survival and security of future generations.” read more

UN Commission on Sustainable Development ends 12th session

“The international community is not on track and efforts must be scaled up. Achieving the targets is doable,” the chairman, who is also the Norwegian Minister of the Environment, Børge Brende, said in his concluding summary. “The time-bound targets are specific, practical and realistic. They are technically feasible and financially affordable. For too many years we have had too little action.“Let us all embark on a decade of implementation.”The agreed Millennium Development Goals would have governments worldwide provide 1.6 billion people with safe drinking water and 2 billion people with basic sanitation by 2015. By 2020, the living conditions of 100 million slum dwellers would have to be substantially improved. The Commission was the first substantive review of the progress made to reach targets set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, which include many of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Challenges identified by the more than 80 government ministers in attendance included improving access to safe drinking water, ensuring effective water management and infrastructure investment, improving regulatory frameworks and strengthening local governance. The role of women in making water policies was also seen as essential, Mr. Brende said. Many delegations stressed the need for governments to include sanitation in the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSs) submitted to the World Bank and in their national development plans. Improved regulatory standards, increased development aid to build sanitation infrastructure and transfer of relevant technologies to developing countries were also seen as important needs, he said. In the area of human settlements, ensuring security of property tenure for the poor was a prerequisite for people to access funding to improve their homes. Women needed legal recognition of their rights to property and inheritance, he said. Speakers also emphasized the importance of cooperation between slum communities and local authorities in upgrading existing slums, Mr. Brende said. Some delegates said paying more attention to the development of rural areas might reduce the pull of the rural poor to urban slums. The Commission elected Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda as chairman of its next session. read more

Nigerian state to resume polio immunization scheme next month – UN agency

The Governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau, has asked WHO to help plan and implement the immunization campaign, which the UN agency says is critical to helping contain the epidemic that has infected 10 previously polio-free countries. Kano and several other northern Nigerian states suspended polio immunization schemes late last year after local religious and community leaders said they had concerns about the safety of the oral vaccine. Every other state has resumed vaccinations and Mr. Shekarau had told WHO officials that he now accepts the vaccine is safe. WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook said the ongoing suspension in northern Nigeria has placed thousands of African children at risk of paralysis from polio. Referring to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a mass immunization programme which started in 1988 and has cut the number of polio-endemic countries from 125 to six, Dr. Lee said it was vital to restart operations in Kano and swiftly increase the population’s immunity. “If the campaigns were not resumed in Kano, a 20-year, $3 billion effort involving 20 million people to eradicate polio would be in jeopardy,” he said. WHO is holding talks with polio experts about what other measures could be taken to try to rein in the continuing spread of the latest epidemic. Last week, authorities in the Darfur region of Sudan confirmed a child has been paralyzed by polio, the first such case in the country in three years. Cases have also been confirmed in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. WHO is also warning foreign travellers to northern Nigeria that they remain at high risk of contracting polio, and urged them to make sure they have updated vaccinations. read more

Afghan opium cultivation dropping according to preliminary UN survey

Introducing the study at a UN news conference yesterday in Kabul, the capital, Afghan Minister of Counter Narcotics Habibullah Qaderi noted that the Rapid Assessment Survey carried out jointly last month by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and his ministry gives trends of cultivation rather than figures.”But the main finding of this survey is a falling trend in opium poppy cultivation in the majority of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces,” he said. “This is notably in the main poppy growing provinces of recent years, such as Nangarhar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces. However, in five provinces, there has been an increase in poppy cultivation, such as Kandahar and Farah provinces.”The Survey was carried out by local field surveyors in more than 200 villages in over half of the country’s districts. Work will start in April for the detailed annual UNODC Opium Survey of 2005, which will be conducted countrywide through August and published in the autumn. read more

Security Council calls for cooperation with probe of Lebanese exPremier murder

In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Kenzo Oshima, of Japan, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for August, Council members expressed satisfaction that the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) had “significantly advanced” the course of its probe. The statement added that greater cooperation would help expedite the work of the Commission, which was set up to find out who was behind the bomb attack in Beirut which killed Mr. Hariri and 20 others, and ultimately led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from its smaller neighbour. Earlier, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari briefed the Council on the Commission’s work. He later told reporters that more than 200 witnesses had been interviewed so far. The Commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis and established by the Council on 7 April, became operational on 16 June. An initial UN fact-finding mission found Lebanon’s own probe seriously flawed and declared Syria, with its troop presence, primarily responsible for the political tension preceding the assassination. read more

Security Council urges DR of Congo to meet next Junes election deadline

“Lots has been done but there is still a lot to do for elections to take place by June 30th next year,” the delegation leader, Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, said on arrival in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, at the start of the visit on Saturday. “The Security Council puts a lot of effort into the process so we will be very vigilant for any obstacles that might block it,” he added.The Council has said electoral laws must be adopted right away, a constitutional referendum must be held in December and the demobilization and community reintegration of ex-combatants must be accelerated. Some 20 million Congolese have registered to vote in the elections, which will be the first national polls to be held in the former Belgian colony for more than 40 years.The delegation met with President Joseph Kabila, who “stressed the irreversible nature of this process,” Mr. Sablière said. “We also elaborated the reform of the security services and the President underlined his determination to ensure that this is about to happen.”The delegation also met with other senior officials, leaders of the ruling parties and members of civil society, as well as with leaders of opposition parties, including Etienne Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS).Despite being among the signatories to the transition agreement on transition, the UDPS has not yet decided to take part in the electoral process. It gave the Security Council delegation a memo addressed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan calling for a dialogue and “political readjustment” to give “the necessary credibility and legitimacy to the results coming from the ballot boxes.”The Security Council delegation then left for Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of DRC’s south-central Kasai-Oriental, and Kamina, in south-eastern Katanga province.During the 10-day visit, the delegation will also visit Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, which have had conflicts, and Tanzania, which has both acted as mediator and hosted many refugees. read more

Iran Annan welcomes release of journalist Akbar Ganji

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he is pleased at the freeing of Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji following a six-year prison sentence.Mr. Ganji received his term in 2000 after returning from a human rights conference in Berlin where he reportedly expressed views critical of the Iranian authorities and the country’s Supreme Leader. He was charged with “harming national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” In August 2005, the Secretary-General appealed to the Iranian authorities to grant Mr. Ganji’s release on humanitarian grounds following a prolonged hunger strike, spokesman Stephane Dujarric recalled today.Following Mr. Ganji’s arrest in 2000, various mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights had repeatedly appealed to the Iranian authorities to review his situation, as well as the situation of other intellectuals and journalists imprisoned for press and opinion-related offences. In a separate development, Asma Jahangir, an expert with the Commission, today drew attention to a letter in which the Supreme Leader of Iran asked governmental agencies to identify persons who adhere to the Bahá’í faith and collect information on them. Ms. Janhangir, the UN Special Rapporteur on religious freedom, expressed concern that the information gained as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against, members of the Bahá’í faith, in violation of international standards.“Such monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities,” she said in a statement released today.The Bahá’í community has an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 adherents throughout Iran but is not recognized as a religious minority in the country Ms. Janhangir, who is unpaid and serves in an independent capacity, called on the Government of Iran to refrain from categorizing individuals according to their religion and to “ensure that members of all religious minorities are free to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear.” read more

UN political official leaves for Nepal to build on recent positive steps

Tamrat Samuel of the UN Department for Political Affairs will visit the mountain kingdom following the 24 April proclamation of by King Gyanendra to reinstate the legislative body, along with the reciprocation by the government formed by the reinstated parliament of a three-month unilateral ceasefire previously announced by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been calling for the restoration of “democratic freedoms and institutions” ever since the King dissolved parliament, imposed a state of emergency and suspended civil liberties in February 2005, citing the threat of the Maoist rebellion.When the seven-party alliance of political opponents of the Government called for protests early last month to restore the democratic institutions, the Government banned demonstrations in the capital, Katmandu, and reportedly arrested many opponents. Weeks of mass demonstrations throughout the country ensued, along with reportedly violent reactions – in many cases, from police and armed forces – that UN human rights monitors say resulted in multiple fatalities. read more

Canadian dollar lower traders avoid risk following Greek elections

by Malcolm Morrison, The Canadian Press Posted May 10, 2012 4:31 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Canadian dollar lower, traders avoid risk following Greek elections TORONTO – The Canadian dollar closed lower Thursday as traders continued to shun risk in the wake of elections in Greece last weekend that failed to produce a winner.The commodity-sensitive currency failed to benefit from rising prices for oil and metals, dipping 0.08 of a cent to 99.83 cents US. It had earlier run as high as 100.23 cents.Traders also took in the latest snapshot on the country’s trade performance which, while improving month-over-month, came in slightly below expectations.Statistics Canada reported that the trade surplus increased from $273 million in February to $351 million in March. Exports edged down 0.4 per cent while imports decreased 0.6 per cent during the month.“The fall in two-way trade suggests that even after soft activity in February, there wasn’t much of a snap-back in trade in March,” observed CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor.The currency has lost almost a full US cent over the past three days as traders avoided riskier assets such as commodities and resource-based currencies like the loonie.Markets were nervous Thursday as talks to form a Greek government dragged into a fourth day after no party won enough votes to form an administration.Analysts expect these talks will go nowhere and that Greeks will go back to the polls in June.There are some hopes in the markets that in new elections some Greeks who want the country to remain in the euro currency bloc will support the main pro-euro parties, facilitating the creation of a moderate coalition government.In the meantime, Greece is being held together by an international bailout. And analysts warn that Greece could run out of money as soon as next month without a government to negotiate the next level of its bailout.Meanwhile, the June crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 27 cents to US$97.08. Greek uncertainty and worries about slowing economic conditions have pushed oil down sharply from US$106 at the beginning of this month.Copper prices were up three cents to US$3.69. Demand concerns had pushed the metal down almost five per cent from May 1.Bullion prices gained $1.30 to US$1,595.50 an ounce.Traders also took in Chinese data showing slower than expected exports and imports in April, which raised fears the world’s second-biggest economy wasn’t doing enough to stimulate domestic demand amid an economic slowdown.Imports edged up 0.3 per cent to US$144.8 billion in April while exports rose 4.9 per cent to $163.3 billion, leaving a surplus of $18.4 billion, according to customs data released Thursday.That compared with a surplus of $5.35 billion in March and a deficit of $31.5 billion in February.China has been an important prop for a global economy still in the midst of a fragile recovery from the 2008 financial collapse and subsequent recession. Its huge appetite for energy and metals has boosted commodity prices and oil and mining stocks on the TSX. read more

Oil hovers below US83 a barrel in Europe ahead of OPEC policy

by Pablo Gorondi, The Associated Press Posted Jun 14, 2012 8:40 am MDT Oil hovers below US$83 a barrel in Europe ahead of OPEC policy meeting AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email The price of oil hovered below US$83 a barrel Thursday as markets awaited an announcement from OPEC, where some members of the cartel were pushing for the group to cut crude production amid falling prices.By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery was up 11 cents at US$82.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 60 cents to settle at $82.62 in New York on Wednesday.In London, Brent crude for July delivery was up 10 cents at US$96.82 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which accounts for about 40 per cent of global crude output, is scheduled to hold its quarterly meeting later Thursday with the 12-member cartel split on whether to cut production quotas.After a 22 per cent drop in crude prices from early last month, some OPEC members such as Iran and Venezuela will likely support an output reduction to help push prices higher. However, Saudi Arabia, the group’s biggest producer, is expected to call for quotas to remain unchanged.“We do not expect any change in the official production target of 30 million barrels a day set in December 2011, given the very different interests of the parties and consequent difficulty in achieving a common consensus,” said a report from JBC Energy in Vienna.Also complicating the issue is that OPEC’s current output is significantly higher than the official target.“OPEC is already producing between 31.6 million and 31.9 million barrels per day at present,” said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. “Any attempt to reduce the overproduction is likely to be blocked by Saudi Arabia and its allies, so the most probable outcome is that the status quo will be maintained.”Analysts say they don’t expect OPEC to cut supplies unless global economic growth shows signs of a sharper slowdown.“If things remains as now and the global economy muddles through, the case for a sharp immediate change in oil output policy looks questionable,” Barclays said in a report. “However, should those fundamentals worsen sharply the margin of disagreement within OPEC is likely to narrow significantly.”Crude has hovered in the low $80s for about the last two weeks after plunging from US$110 in February. Barclays estimates that if prices were to stay where they are, the U.S. and Europe would each save US$100 billion on their annual crude import bills.In other energy trading, heating oil was down 0.21 cent at US$2.6088 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres) while gasoline futures fell 0.73 cent to US$2.6481 per gallon. Natural gas added 2.5 cents to $2.21 per 1,000 cubic feet.(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS.UN), (TSX:CVE) read more

Business Report with Mike Eppel

Dec. 14: Senior business editor Mike Eppel discusses Chinese stock markets’ reaction to positive manufacturing news. business news|business report|mike eppel|tsx AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by News Staff Posted Dec 14, 2012 9:31 am MDT Business Report with Mike Eppel