Security Council deplores recent government overthrow in Mauritania

The Council “opposes any attempts to change governments through unconstitutional means,” Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, said in a statement issued at the end of an open meeting on the issue.Mr. Grauls called for “the immediate release of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and the restoration of the legitimate, constitutional, democratic institutions,” adding that the 15-member panel condemned the actions of the State Council to seize the powers of the presidency after the coup d’état.The statement noted the important role played by the African Union and also the efforts of Said Djinnit, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, to try to help restore constitutional order in Mauritania.Mr. Djinnit and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have voiced similar concerns about the situation in Mauritania as a result of the government’s overthrow on 6 August. 19 August 2008The Security Council today condemned the recent overthrow of the Mauritanian Government by the country’s military and demanded the immediate release from detention of the national president and the restoration of democratic institutions. read more

New UN peacebuilding office opens up shop in Sierra Leone

1 October 2008A new United Nations peacebuilding office opened in Sierra Leone today to assist in the continued recovery following the civil war that wracked the West African country during much of the 1990s. The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), mandated by the Security Council in August to replace the UN political office known as UNIOSIL, is the latest in a series of UN missions over the past 10 years that have helped the country get back on its feet. UNIPSIL will provide political support to national and local efforts for identifying and resolving tensions and threats of potential conflict, whatever the source and will coordinate the work of all UN funds, agencies and programmes. It will also monitor and promote human rights, democratic institutions and the rule of law, including efforts to counter trans-national organized crime and drug trafficking. With a staff of about 70, the new office will work on consolidating good governance reforms, with a special focus on anti-corruption instruments such as the Anti-Corruption Commission. It will support decentralization and review the country’s 1991 constitution as well as the enactment of relevant legislation. UNIPSIL will closely coordinate its work with the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which is already active in the country. Sierra Leone is one of the first two countries, along with Burundi, to receive support from the Commission, which was established in 2005 to help post-conflict countries determine the priority areas for rebuilding out of the vast array of challenges they face. read more

Top officials credit UN for bolstered security in TimorLeste

28 April 2009The leaders of Timor-Leste thanked the United Nations for its support in restoring security, but cautioned that the situation in the small nation remains fragile since it was rocked by violent clashes three years ago. In April 2006, fighting – attributed to differences between eastern and western regions – erupted in the capital, Dili, when 600 striking soldiers, or one-third of the armed forces, were fired. The ensuing violence claimed 40 lives and drove more than 100,000 people, at least 10 per cent of the total population, from their homes.“It’s easy to forget how far we have come in a short time,” President José Ramos-Horta said in the capital, Dili, at an event at the headquarters of the UN Integrated Mission (UNMIT) marking the three-year anniversary of an enhanced UN presence in the country. “For that we must give significant credit to the United Nations Police working together with their PNTL [Timor-Leste National Police] colleagues,” he added.Regarding those who are still living in makeshift shelters three years after the riots, Mr. Ramos-Horta said he aims to “resolve all outstanding issues of those remaining the in last camps in the coming months.”The political, humanitarian and security breakdown in the wake of the 2006 unrest led the UN Security Council to establish a peacekeeping presence, whose mandate was recently renewed to focus on the four critical areas of security sector reform, strengthening of rule of law, justice and human rights, democratic governance and social and economic development.“In only three years since the crisis, people have regained trust and confidence in each other and in State institutions, consolidated peace and stability through national dialogue and reconciliation initiatives,” stressed Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão.Calling for the continued support of the UN, the Prime Minister underscored the need “to work harder to bring economic development to consolidate stability, to create jobs and to improve the lives of the Timorese people.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative to Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, highlighted the need to recognize “the progress made by the people of Timor-Leste in overcoming the dark days of 2006.” The third anniversary of the crisis can be an occasion for optimism, he added, noting that “it becomes a statement about the strong partnership and unique relationship between Timor-Leste and the United Nations.”In a related development, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a campaign working closely with a mix of Government agencies, civil society groups and academia to create public awareness of the adverse effects of climate change in Timor-Leste.The centerpiece of the initiative is the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), a $200,000 two-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility with additional contribution of $ 20,000 from the Government. As the issue of climate change gains prominence in the country, NAPA will advance understanding on how changes in temperature, rainfall and extreme events are affecting people’s lives, and what can be done to help. UNDP Country Director Akbar Usmani applauded the Government for taking the lead in dealing with the issue of climate change in the country in a “rapid and efficient” way, fulfilling its responsibilities since acceding to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2007. “UNDP recognizes the seriousness of global climate change and the threats that it poses to human development. We are calling for a new development paradigm – one which integrates climate change risks into development planning at all levels and, at the same time, helps countries to move towards less carbon intensive economies,” he said. Experts say that Timor-Leste is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and other weather anomalies associated with droughts. The country is also prone to floods, landslides and soil erosion resulting from the combination of heavy monsoon rain, steep topography and widespread deforestation. read more

UN mourns passing of US television anchorman committed to press freedom

20 July 2009The head of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) today paid tribute to the United States journalist Walter Cronkite, best renowned for his work as a television anchorman, who has died aged 92. “Mr. Cronkite was a singular voice in American life for many years and showed an admirable dedication to his craft as a chronicler of news large and small,” Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said.After he retired from his role as a television anchorman in 1981, Mr. Cronkite helped launch the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to press freedom worldwide, and served as its honorary co-chairman.“Both in his own work as a journalist, and later with the CPJ, Mr. Cronkite was an example to others,” Mr. Akasaka said. “Freedom of the press is intrinsic to democracy and good governance across the world, and he was tireless in his efforts to ensure that everyone could enjoy it.”Mr. Cronkite moderated a nationally broadcast “town hall” meeting addressed by then Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.As Mr. Akasaka noted, “with a life spanning decades of key developments on the global stage, Mr. Cronkite was a towering figure in the media world – he carved out a reputation for telling the news as it is and inspired the best in journalistic traditions.”The UN annually commemorates World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, calling on Member States to uphold press freedoms and support the work of independent media. Marking that occasion earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that journalists should be able to do their jobs “free of intimidation and harassment” and reminded that a free press contributed to democracy and stability. read more

Death toll from influenza outbreak nears 800 UN health agency says

Some 160 countries and territories have now reported laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus, but how it could potentially change over the coming weeks is still unknown, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl told reporters in Geneva.Although five isolated cases of anti-viral resistance have been reported, no changes to the virus’ behaviour have been detected for now, he added.Mr. Hartl warned that A(H1N1) is expected to increase this winter in the Northern Hemisphere due to the colder weather, but he underscored that WHO cannot predict the death toll over the coming months.The highest percentages of deaths from the pandemic are among adolescents and young adults, he said, mostly likely because it spreads more quickly in schools and institutions.On vaccines against A(H1N1), the spokesperson said that each manufacturer is working at their own pace, with clinical trials only having been started recently.But WHO still expects the first doses to be ready by early fall in the Northern Hemisphere, he added.Two manufacturers have guaranteed that 150 million doses will be made available, and the agency is pressing other partners to secure more doses, Mr. Hartl noted.WHO plans to send the bulk of them to the least developed countries, with health-care workers, who work on the frontlines and are the most exposed to the virus, to be given priority.Last month, the agency raised the alert level for A(H1N1) to Phase 6, the highest on its pandemic alert scale.However, it stressed that Phase 6 refers to the spread of the virus and not its severity, and that the upgrade means that sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus has spread beyond North America, where it was initially concentrated. 24 July 2009Influenza A(H1N1) is continuing to spread through all corners of the world, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) reported today, putting the global death toll from the pandemic at around 800. read more

Quality health care key to averting unnecessary deaths in childbirth says Ban

8 October 2009Investing in quality health care in poor countries can make a dramatic difference to the survival rates of the estimated 500,000 women worldwide who die each year while giving birth, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an address this evening spotlighting the need to support the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Investing in quality health care in poor countries can make a dramatic difference to the survival rates of the estimated 500,000 women worldwide who die each year while giving birth, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an address this evening spotlighting the need to support the work of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).“Pregnancy and childbirth are inherently dangerous,” Mr. Ban told the Americans for UNFPA Gala for the Health and Dignity of Women, held in New York. “Even a woman with access to the best possible services has no guarantee of an easy delivery, free of complications. But she and her baby are much, much more likely to survive.” Mr. Ban underscored his point by noting that less than one in 17,000 women in Sweden dies in childbirth, while in Sierra Leone, the number rises to one in eight. Statistics from 2005 indicate that more than 500,000 women die each year from complications as a result of childbirth, with almost all of these deaths occurring in developing countries. The quality of care and the placing of maternal health as a priority can mean the difference between life and death for women delivering a baby, said Mr. Ban, praising the audience for standing up for a woman’s right to reproductive health care and for backing their calls with funding. “You are all champions of women,” he said. “You have supported UNFPA in good times and in bad. The resources you raise save lives. Your moral and political backing is just as valuable.” read more

Ban to extend independent probe into Bhutto killing

31 December 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to extend the mandate of the independent United Nations commission charged with examining the facts and circumstances behind the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto by another three months, it was announced today. According to a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban has informed both the Pakistani Government and Security Council of his intention to extend the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate, which began on 1 July.The probe was due to submit its report today, but “because of the substantial amount of information collected by the Commission in Pakistan and further follow up work that remains, the Commissioners requested additional time to complete their report,” the Secretary-General said.Set up following a request from the Pakistani Government, the Commission has met with dozens of individuals and made several trips to the South Asian nation.After wrapping up its work, the probe will submit its report to Mr. Ban, who will also share it with the Government of Pakistan.The Commission is headed by Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, and its other members are Marzuki Darusman, the former attorney-general of Indonesia, and Peter Fitzgerald, a veteran of the Irish National Police who has also served the UN in a number of capacities. read more

Ban welcomes Lebanons increased support for Special Tribunal

1 December 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today Lebanon’s decision to increase its financial support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which was set up to try those alleged to be responsible for the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. During a phone call with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Mr. Ban expressed his gratitude for the Government’s decision to take on 49 per cent of the 2011 budget for the tribunal.According to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said the decision was a very positive step that would allow the tribunal to continue to uncover the truth about the former leader’s assassination, and said he was confident that the Government would continue to respect Lebanon’s international obligations and cooperate with the STL.Today Mr. Ban also visited Bongha, the home town of the late former president of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Roh Moo-hyun, where he paid his respects at a memorial and met his widow. Mr. Ban served Mr. Roh as foreign minister and earlier as diplomatic adviser. Later on, Mr. Ban also visited Seoul, where he met former president Kim Young-sam at his residence.Mr. Ban’s visit to his native country this week included his address to the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. The forum brought together representatives of governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world to discuss how to make aid more effective and helpful to those in need. read more

More funds required to continue nutrition and health projects in Haiti –

10 January 2012The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported today that it will continue to distribute food aid to some 1.5 million people each month through its school meals scheme, mother and children nutrition and food-for-work programmes in Haiti, but insufficient funding remains a concern. Food prices in the country have risen by 50 per cent since 2010, which means that one out of every two Haitians are experiencing some kind of food shortages, WFP’s spokesperson, Gaëlle Sévenier, told reporters in Geneva.The agency’s capacity to respond has been affected by a budget deficit of $18 million for the next six months, she said.According to Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the initial appeal for Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the massive earthquake two years ago that sought $1.5 billion was 75 per cent funded.Last year, humanitarian agencies received only 54 per cent of the requested $382 million, Ms. Byrs said, urging donors not to forget that the country still faces great humanitarian challenges as one of the world’s poorest country’s even before the quake.This year, some $231 million is required to continue efforts against the cholera outbreak and to fund other relief programmes, she added. read more

Tembec takeover could be in jeopardy after two largest shareholders oppose deal

MONTREAL — The takeover of forestry company Tembec could be in jeopardy after the company’s second-largest shareholder said Tuesday it will vote against the US$807-million friendly offer by Rayonier Advanced Materials.Restructuring Capital Associates (RCA), which owns 17.1 per cent of Tembec’s stock, said it will join Oaktree Capital Management in opposing the transaction at a vote July 27.Together, the company’s two largest shareholders control 37 per cent of Tembec (TSX:TMB) shares.The takeover requires support by a two-thirds majority vote of shareholders.RCA said it supports the proposed merger with Rayonier Advanced Materials. But it added that the Florida company must respond more appropriately to several complaints from Oaktree including that shareholders aren’t receiving a fair price and that Rayonier Advanced Materials can sweeten the offer. Rayonier Advanced Materials dismissed such concerns Monday as “misleading.”“The strategic merit of this unique combination can improve profitability exponentially and Oaktree makes a compelling case that Rayonier can and should improve its offer,” RCA founder James Bennett said in a statement Tuesday.A spokeswoman for Rayonier Advanced Materials (NYSE:RYAN) and Tembec said the companies wouldn’t comment on any particular shareholder’s voting intentions before next week’s vote.On Monday, it said it stood by its offer of $4.05 in cash or 0.2302 of a share in Rayonier Advanced Materials, subject to a cap on the total amount of cash and shares that will be issued.The friendly offer is 37 per cent above where Tembec’s shares traded before the proposal, but it is less than the $4.25 the shares traded for in afternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. read more