Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Turning the World Downside Up Sun, 25 Jan 2015 23:31:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 General Assembly Holds Informal Meeting on Anti-Semitism Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:59:39 +0000 Alexandra Zevallos Ortiz *By Alexandra Zevallos-Ortiz

Responding to an increase in violence against members of the Jewish faith, the General Assembly Thursday held an informal meeting to discuss concerns about the rise in anti-Semitism worldwide.

Speaking to member states by video message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that a United Nations that wants to be true to its founding aims and ideals has a duty to speak out against anti-Semitism.

The informal meeting, described as the first to discuss anti-Semitism, was scheduled following a request by 37 Member States in October 2014 – several months before the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this month, which raised renewed fears among European and especially French Jews.

Nearly half of the 193-member states did not attend the informal U.N. meeting, but nearly 50 countries were planned to speak.

In a keynote speech, the French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, denounced anti-Semitism as “radical inhumanity.”

“In Paris, just a few days ago, we heard once again the infamous cry “death to the Jews” and cartoonists were killed for cartooning,” Levy said.

One of the reasons the United Nations was created after World War II was to fight this “plague” of anti-Semitism, Levy pointed out.

Ban, who was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, addressed the meeting via video message, expressing his solidarity in the fight against anti-Semitism worldwide.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms of prejudices known to human kind,” Ban stated.

“Our efforts to build a world of mutual understanding are being severely tested today by rising extremism and barbaric acts. The poison of hatred is loose in too many places. Jews remain target, as do Muslims and so many others,” Ban warned.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the world to stand up against anti-Semitism and take action to end “this monstrous global problem.”

On this particular day, which was also the French-German day, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Harlem Désir and German Minister of State for Europe, Michael Roth, came together at the United Nations as a symbol to fight against anti-Semitism, racism and any other form of barbarism.

Désir said there is a need for a European and international legal framework to prevent the diffusion of racist and anti-Semitic speeches: “Terrorists use social networks, they understand that it is the best way to promote a message.”

“We do not want to restrict the use of social media but what we are seeing in the past years and months, is that these networks are being used to promote violence and hatred,” he added.

On Wednesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced “exceptional measures”, more police and intelligence officers to combat terrorism, especially the threat from online jihadism.

Because of Germany’s role in the Holocaust his country will always be in the forefront of fighting anti-Semitism and pursuing “a zero-tolerance policy”, Roth said.

Alvaro Mendonca e Moura, Acting President of the General Assembly, looked ahead to the International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust on January 27, emphasizing the need to remember the tragedies and to learn from the ‘unspeakable atrocities’ committed.

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Global Civil Society Launches Internet Social Forum Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:51:19 +0000 an IPS Correspondent *By an IPS Correspondent
GENEVA, Jan 22 2015 (IPS)

A group of civil society organisations from around the world has announced the Internet Social Forum (ISF), to bring together and articulate bottom-up perspectives on the ‘Internet we want’. Taking inspiration from the World Social Forum, and its clarion call, ‘Another World is possible’, the group seeks to draw urgent attention to the increasing centralization of the Internet for extraction of monopoly rents and for socio-political control, asserting that ‘Another Internet is possible’!

The ISF will inter alia offer an alternative to the recently-launched World Economic Forum’s ‘Net Mundial Initiative’ on global Internet governance.

While the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the ‘Net Mundial Initiative’ convene global elites, the ISF will be a participatory and bottom-up space for all those who believe that the global Internet must evolve in the public interest; a direct parallel to the launch of the World Social Forum in 2001 as a counter initiative to the WEF.

The ISF will reach out to grassroots groups and social movements across the world, catalysing a groundswell that challenges the entrenched elite interests that currently control how the Internet is managed.

The Forum’s preparatory process will kick off during the World Social Forum to take place in Tunis, March 24th to 28th, 2015. The ISF itself is planned to be held either late 2015 or early 2016.

“While the world’s biggest companies have every right to debate the future of the Internet, we are concerned that their perspectives should not drown out those of ordinary people who have no access to the privileged terrain WEF occupies – in the end it is this wider public interest that must be paramount in governing the Internet. We are organising the Internet Social Forum to make sure their voices can’t be ignored in the corridors of power,” said Norbert Bollow, Co-Coordinator of the Just Net Coalition, which is one of the groups involved in the initiative.

The ISF, and its preparatory process, is intended as a space to vision and build the ‘Internet we want’. It will be underpinned by values of democracy, human rights and social justice. It will stand for participatory policy making and promote community media. It will seek an Internet that is truly decentralized in its architecture and based on people’s full rights to data, information, knowledge and other ‘commons’ that the Internet has enabled the world community to generate and share.

Somewhat similar to Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee’s call for a ‘Magna Carta for the Internet’, the ISF proposes to develop a People’s Internet Manifesto, through a bottom-up process involving all concerned social groups and movements, in different areas, from techies and ICT-for-development actors to media reform groups, democracy movements and social justice activists.

This year will also see the 10 year high-level review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in New York in December.

As a full-scale review of a major UN summit, this will be a critical global political event. Since the WSIS, held in 2003 and 2005, the Internet, and what it means socially, has undergone a paradigm shift.

The WSIS witnessed active engagement of civil society and technical groups as well as of business. However, currently, there seems to be an deliberate attempt to sideline this UN-led initiative on governance issues of the information society and Internet in favour of private, big-business-dominated initiatives like the WEF’s Net Mundial Initiative.

The ISF, while remaining primarily a people’s forum, will also seek to channel global civil society’s engagement towards the WSIS +10 review.

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Asylum Seekers at Australian Offshore Detention Facility on Hunger Strike Thu, 22 Jan 2015 09:45:21 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands *By Lyndal Rowlands

A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday outside the Australian Mission to the United Nations in support of more than 900 asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike at Australia’s offshore detention centre in Manus Island, Papua New Guinea for at least nine days.

Participants at the vigil read out a letter from the asylum seekers, “The signatories to the following message clearly express ourselves to all media, organisations and human rights institutes.”

“We are writing to you from the heart of Manus, today 20 January 2015 our hunger strike entered it’s ninth day and it will continue.”

“In here alarm bells are ringing but heartless politicians are still indifferent.”

The letter was released on 20 January, after the Australian and the Papua New Guinean governments had claimed the hunger strikes were over.

The Australian government has not allowed media or human rights organisations access to the detention facilities, despite recommendations to do so from the United Nations. This means refugee advocates are reliant on leaks from staff working at the facilities, which have reportedly increased sharply during the hunger strike.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre in Melbourne Australia told IPS: “We have facilities that have been open for 763 days, ten one-year protection visas, zero people resettled, two people killed and about $2.5 billion spent.”

Karapanagiotidis said that Australia’s refugee policies were setting a dangerous precedent that other countries in Europe and North America were following.

“As a democratic industrialised nation which is a signatory to the refugee convention, the global community should be deeply disturbed and shocked at the fact that Australia is closing its doors to the most vulnerable,” he said.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture expressed concerns in November 2014 about Australia’s mandatory immigration detention practices, including mandatory detention of children.

Describing Australia’s practice of sending refugees offshore, the committee said, “The combination of the harsh conditions, the protracted periods of closed detention and the uncertainty about the future reportedly creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering.”

The Committee described Australia’s offshore immigration facilities as ‘processing centres’, however refugee advocates, including Karapanagiotidis argue they are not processing facilities since no asylum seekers have been resettled from there.

Amnesty International’s report to the Committee, dated October 2014, stated: “In the 15 months since the first asylum seekers were sent to Manus Island under this arrangement, no one has been released from detention on Manus Island. This is despite completion of processing for many, and ‘recommendations’ having been made by Immigration officials that a number are refugees and entitled to protection and settlement.”

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National Census Could Delay Elections in DRC Triggering Protests Wed, 21 Jan 2015 09:54:04 +0000 Global Information Network *By Global Information Network
NEW YORK , Jan 21 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – Plans by President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to hold a national census of the population are inciting critics who say this could delay elections for years. A green light to the census plan by local lawmakers prompted a rock-throwing melee this week in the capital city. National elections are due in 2016.

On Monday, protestors objecting to the census plan were met by live rounds of ammunition and tear gas from security forces in Kinshasa, the capital city, according to witnesses. Opposition parties have been trying to block the move to enable Kabila to extend his stay in power beyond his current mandate which ends in 2016. Protests also erupted in Goma, the main city in eastern Congo.

Though the DRC Constitution demands the census, in 2006 when Kabila was elected for the first term, this Census was not taken. Neither was it taken during the 2011 election when he was re-elected for his second and last term.

Therefore, it is an open secret to everyone that this new bill requiring a census is just a plain and open ploy intended to allow Kabila to remain in power past his constitutional terms, observed Yaa-Lengi Ngemi, president of Congocoalition and an activist.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon weighed in on the growing crisis deploring the loss of lives and injuries and urged both the national security forces and demonstrators to show restraint. He reminded the DRC government that it was necessary to provide political space for the peaceful expression of opinions. “While violence is not acceptable,” he said, “the response to violent protests must also be proportionate.”

The bill to hold the census has already been approved by the lower house of Parliament and is due to be examined by the senate.

One protestor who spoke to the Reuters news agency likened the growing anti-Kabila movement to the one that swept out former President Blaise Compaore in Burkina Faso. “We think the people are getting there little by little and we will replicate Burkina,” he said.

Critics call Kabila’s move a “constitutional coup” but the government insists the census is a necessary part of the electoral process in the vast, mineral-rich country of 65 million people.

Kabila’s rivals say they fear heavy-handed police tactics, and crowds have in the past been easily dispersed. Ahead of Monday’s march, opposition leaders called on supporters to show more resistance and to fight back against police.

A witness in Matonge, a neighborhood near Parliament, said he saw police fire live rounds in the air in a bid to disperse people. Crowds later looted Chinese-owned shops in the area.

Last year, US officials met with Kabila and warned they would not support nor accept changes in the DRC constitution for him to stay on as president of the DRC. France, England and the EU have told him the same thing.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, Etienne Tshisekedi, opposition leader, urged the Congolese people to force a “dying regime” from power.

Tension over the election law comes as Congo’s army and United Nations peacekeepers are preparing to attack Rwandan Hutu rebels that have been at the heart of nearly two decades of conflict in the eastern border zones.

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Ebola Impact on Guinea, Liberia & Sierra Leone Remains Crippling, Says World Bank Tue, 20 Jan 2015 09:06:50 +0000 an IPS Correspondent *By an IPS Correspondent
WASHINGTON, Jan 20 2015 (IPS)

The Ebola epidemic is continuing to cripple the economies of the three worst affected countries in Africa, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, even as transmission rates in the three countries show significant signs of slowing, according to an analysis by the World Bank Group.

The Bank Group estimates that these three countries will lose at least $1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result of the epidemic.

But the new study — released on the eve of the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos — also contains more positive news: the probability of spread and the associated economic costs beyond the three most-affected countries are now much lower than previously feared because of the intensive global and national responses to the epidemic over the past several months.

An earlier World Bank Group economic analysis (from October 8, 2014) found that the West Africa region alone could experience a downside scenario of US$25 billion in economic losses in 2015, but the current report estimates the range for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole to be from a low of US$500 million to a high of US$6.2 billion.

The national and international responses have resulted in a number of public health improvements within the three West African nations, including safer burial practices, earlier case detections, more health workers and treatment facilities, public awareness campaigns and stepped-up contact tracing, the study said.

These policy and behavior responses have contributed to a lower risk of spread across borders. The lower estimates also reflect fast and effective containment measures taken in the neighboring countries of Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, all of which have now been declared Ebola-free.

“Even if Ebola is controlled and further outbreaks avoided,” said the report, “economic costs will be incurred across sub-Saharan Africa in 2015. Consumer and investor confidence has been eroded by the outbreak of the virus, and disruptions to travel and cross-border trade suggest cumulative losses of more than US$500 million across the region in 2015, outside the three directly affected countries.”

The report said the losses could be closer to the higher end of the estimate — US$6 billion – if the Ebola outbreak were to spread through the region, reinforcing the need for a swift end to the epidemic.

“I am very encouraged to see Ebola transmission rates slowing markedly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and that other potential outbreaks have been averted because of swift action by other West African governments,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, who will discuss the emerging lessons from the Ebola crisis with world leaders in Davos this week.

“Yet as welcome as these latest signs are, we cannot afford to be complacent. Until we have zero new Ebola cases, the risk of continued severe economic impact to the three countries and beyond remains unacceptably high.”
The report notes that containment and preparedness efforts dramatically limited the potential impact of Ebola on the African economy, compared to earlier worst-case scenarios. The scope of the report did not include examining the national and international response to determine most effective policies in curtailing the spread of the virus.

One major lesson from the Ebola outbreak, said Kim, was for the world to respond much more quickly to epidemics.

“This report demonstrates why all countries should make investing in pandemic preparedness a top priority for 2015,” said Kim. “It points to the need for a global pandemic emergency financing facility that will enable the world to respond much more quickly and effectively to any future deadly outbreaks, and avoid the tragic and unnecessary human and economic costs that have resulted from the Ebola epidemic.”

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UNODC, Government of Japan Review Joint Action Plan Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:02:05 +0000 U.N. Information Service *By U.N. Information Service
VIENNA, Jan 19 2015 (IPS)

(UNIS) – The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is reviewing a joint plan of action aimed at strengthening cooperation with Japan.

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, met last week with Kenji Hiramatsu, Deputy Vice-Minister and Director General of the Foreign Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry of Japan.

UNODC and Japan pledged to enhance regional cooperation in Africa as well as in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, and Afghanistan and neighbouring countries.

The plan, which was signed in 2013 following the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), also identifies priority areas of cooperation, including terrorism, trafficking in drugs, human trafficking and cybercrime.

“The joint plan of action has further enhanced the strong cooperation between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Government of Japan in addressing the challenges of drugs and crime around the globe,” said Fedotov, following the meeting with Hiramatsu and other officials last week.

“I welcome this initiative and hope we can continue with the practice of an annual review to help ensure that our responses are as effective as possible.”

The Executive Director added: “This review enabled us to assess the results of the joint action plan, in areas ranging from counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics to border control and addressing cybercrime. It also provided an important opportunity to explore further avenues of cooperation, including to strengthen crime prevention and criminal justice action against challenges such as human trafficking and violence against women.”

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Rising Anger Amongst African Muslims Over Offending Cartoons Mon, 19 Jan 2015 13:54:07 +0000 Global Information Network *By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Jan 19 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – While the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, marched in a Paris rally to support the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, anger was rising at home among the country’s majority Muslim population over cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad.

Over the weekend, anger exploded on the streets when about 1,000 young men turned on the institutions of the Catholic community, burning 45 churches. Ten people were reported killed in the melee.

Security forces in the capital, Niamey, used tear gas on Sunday against a banned demonstration. Violence was also reported in Zinder, the country’s second largest city, as churches burned and Christian homes and a French cultural center were looted by mobs.

“The French flag was burned,” said Adily Toro, a national police spokesman, adding that 189 people, including two minors, were arrested by police.

Demonstrators also pillaged and burned numerous premises, including five hotels and 36 bars.

The French news agency, AFP, reported that a Muslim elder, Yaou Sonna, urged people to stop attacking Christians. “Don’t forget that Islam is against violence,” he said on state television. “I urge men and women, boys and girls, to calm down.”

The cartoons, defended as an exercise in freedom of speech, also set off riots in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Algeria, and Gaza.

French President Francois Hollande refused to reconsider his support of the magazine, saying people did not understand France’s commitment to freedom of speech, even in the case of the controversial cartoons of Muhammad.

However, a growing movement of journalists and others are refusing to join the “I am Charlie Hebdo” supporters. One of them was New York Times opinion page writer David Brooks.

“Let’s face it,” Brooks wrote in a recent column. “If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.”

Brooks criticized the crowds that jumped to the defense of the cartoonists for their controversial attacks on the Muslim prophet. A lot of them would be a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home, he said.

He continued: “The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality. The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the National Rifle Association, Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.

“So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.”

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UNIDO, International Finance Institutions Promote Entrepreneurship at Bahrain Investment Forum Mon, 19 Jan 2015 09:03:50 +0000 UNIDO *By UNIDO
VIENNA/MANAMA, Jan 19 2015 (IPS)

The U.N. Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) have agreed to foster entrepreneurship in Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region.

UNIDO has also agreed to work with the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to stimulate the contribution of Arab capital investments and technical assistance in order to develop countries in Africa, according to a UNIDO press release.

These agreements were signed in Manama during the First International Entrepreneurs Investment Forum, which concludes 21 January.

The Forum was opened by Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain, in the presence of the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as representatives of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture for Arab Countries.

“Economic growth is driven by entrepreneurship, as well as by continuous economic diversification, increasing trade, industrial upgrading and technological innovation,” said Li Yong, the Director General of UNIDO.

“The growing number of partnerships established with international finance institutions, such as the IDB and BADEA, reflect the urgent need to enhance South-South cooperation in order to alleviate poverty within the next generation,” he added.

Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the IDB, said: “Partnering with UNIDO is a powerful way to simultaneously address the challenges of entrepreneurship, innovation, gender and access to finance.”

Yusuf Al Bassam, Chairman of the Board of BADEA, added: “It’s a win-win situation – we bring in our financial knowledge and expertise in funding development projects while UNIDO contributes through its technical skills and networks.”

The UNIDO Director General is also expected to sign cooperation agreements with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Intel, the multinational microchip manufacturer. These partnerships are expected to help leverage UNIDO’s role in helping entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises access finance.

The Bahrain Forum, which has as its theme, “Entrepreneurship and Investment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development”, is organized by the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office (ITPO) in Manama. It was attended by some 1000 participants from 80 countries. The event serves as a platform for exploring cooperation opportunities, as well as joint investment and business partnerships with potential partners from around the world.

There were also two side events: the International Green Economy Forum, organized by the Bahrain Supreme Council for Environment and UNIDO; and the Arab Youth Conference, with the theme, “Entrepreneurship and Innovation”, organized by Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan, President of the Arab Thought Forum.

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New Study Focuses on ‘Staggering Inequality’ of Incomes Mon, 19 Jan 2015 07:43:25 +0000 Global Information Network *By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Jan 19 2015 (GIN)

Income inequality, one of the issues that so troubled the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is again front and center in today’s news.

A new report on the topic has come up with figures that even caught the financial community by surprise.

For example: members of the “world’s richest” club earn half-a-million dollars per minute, the report found… Seven out of ten people live in countries where the gap between the rich and poor is worse than thirty years ago.”

Wall Street barons – “predominantly white, male and greying” – include Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett, whose account increased 9% between 2013 and 2014 to $58.2 billion. He’s at the top, followed by Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, worth $33 billion — a 22% gain on the previous year. Carl Icahn is third with a tally of $24.5 billion, up 23%.

It would take Microsoft founder Bill Gates 218 years to spend all its wealth, the researchers observed.

Prepared by Oxfam International, a UK-based development organization, the report goes on: “Today there are 16 billionaires in sub-Saharan Africa, alongside the 358 million people living in extreme poverty… Every year, 100 million people are pushed into poverty because of the rising cost of health care.

“If this trend continues, of an increasing wealth share to the richest, the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of the people in just two years,” said Oxfam.

When Dr. King marched on Washington for jobs and freedom, the federal minimum wage was $1.25 an hour. In today’s dollars, that guaranteed base wage would be $9.54 an hour.

But the federal minimum wage today is just $7.25 an hour.

In other words, low-wage workers are more than $2 behind where they were when Dr. King declared: “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

Ugandan* activist Winnie Byanyima, who heads Oxfam, wrote on her blog: “Extreme economic inequality is out of control and getting worse. “From Ghana to Germany, South Africa to Spain, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing.”

“Across rich and poor countries alike, this inequality is fuelling conflict, corroding democracies, and damaging growth itself. Left unchecked, economic inequality will set back the fight against poverty and threaten global stability.”

“Such stark inequality is not inevitable,” wrote Oxfam on its web page. Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn. concurred. “Workers are falling behind,” he said. “Income inequality threatens our democracy as Jim Crow segregation did in 1963.”

President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union address Tuesday is also expected to be dominated by the issue of income inequality.

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Children’s Protection in Nigeria “Urgent” Says U.N. Official Sun, 18 Jan 2015 07:46:14 +0000 Leila Lemghalef *By Leila Lemghalef

The protection of children in Nigeria’s northeast relies on urgent action, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict concluded during a weeklong assessment in the war-torn country.

Leila Zerrougui’s visit was mandated by the Security Council, following the Secretary-General’s recognition of Boko Haram as a party to conflict that kills and maims children, and attacks schools and hospitals.

The insurgency and the military’s response, have resulted in the displacement of close to 1 million people so far. Zerrougui met with children and women from the conflict zones who have fled their homes.

“I witnessed people’s shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities. I saw trauma in children’s eyes. The scale of the suffering is beyond what I anticipated to find,” said Zerrougui. “The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection,” she added.

Her visit centred on mobilizing efforts to assess grave violations committed against children, in a conflict that has been ranked one of the world’s deadliest for children in 2014, by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, which reports that “relentless violence” is the status quo.

Over 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed, while hundreds of children have been killed, injured, or abducted in attacks on homes, schools, and dormitories. Violence against girls has included forced marriage and rape.

Fatal blows to civilians are unabated in 2015, including a suicide bombing carried out by a young girl in the northeastern state of Borno, where Boko Haram was created in 2002.

“Children are allegedly used for intelligence purposes, tracking movements of the security forces, transporting guns and taking part in attacks, including the burning of schools and churches,” explains a report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council.

“Hundreds of children were killed or maimed by Boko Haram in bomb and gun attacks against anyone who supported democracy or so-called Western values.”

It also indicates that humanitarian access to monitor these kinds of incidents involving minors has become more difficult, especially after the closure of Maiduguri airport in a post-attack by the Islamist militant group in December 2013.

Zerrougui’s visit last week stressed the twin goals of protecting children during armed conflict and promoting accountability.

She met with federal and state authorities, the U.N. (including UNICEF), diplomatic cadres, NGOs and partners such as representatives of the “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, an appeal for the couple of hundred abducted school girls in Chibok in April 2014.

In open dialogue with Zerrougui, Nigerian authorities expressed their commitment to collaborate with the U.N., to investigate allegations of violations committed against children, and to follow up with necessary measures to hold perpetrators accountable.

“I commend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for his willingness to respond to reports of recruitment and use of children by government-affiliated self-defense groups in the three north-eastern states. He has agreed to issue an advisory recalling the prohibition of such a practice,” said Zerrougui.

Meanwhile, Avaaz launched its campaign last week calling on the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to issue a presidential statement on Boko Haram’s ongoing reign of terror, and to move toward comprehensive action. The campaign has been supported by more than 725,000 citizens around the world (and rising), and shared by 50,000 people on Facebook.

Alice Jay, Campaign Director for Avaaz said: “Boko Haram has butchered its way into the global spotlight and finally the Security Council is reacting”.

Today’s presidential statement is a critical start and all eyes are now on Nigeria, its neighbours and the international community to put words into comprehensive action to stop ten year olds being strapped to bombs or kidnapped in the night, she added.

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UNHCR Study on Plight of Syrian Refugees in Jordan Fri, 16 Jan 2015 10:39:23 +0000 Alexandra Zevallos Ortiz *By Alexandra Zevallos-Ortiz

A new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) study “Living in the Shadows” released last week reveals the increasingly desperate conditions of Syrian refugees living in urban and rural areas across Jordan.

The report’s findings are based on data gathered using questionnaires answered by some 150,000 Syrian refugees, carried out during home visits by UNHCR’s partner International Relief and Development in 2014.

Almost half of the households visited had no heating, a quarter had unreliable electricity, and 20 percent had no functioning toilet.

Rental costs accounted for more than half of household expenditures, and refugee families were increasingly being forced to share accommodations with others in order to reduce costs.

The situation is particularly worrying for the most vulnerable populations, such as female-headed households with little or no means to provide for themselves, and children who risk losing out on education opportunities.

According to the study, two-thirds of refugees across Jordan are now living below the national poverty line, and one in six Syrian refugee households lives in abject poverty, with less than $40 per person per month to make ends meet.

In an effort to address this critical situation, UNHCR is providing monthly cash assistance to 21,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian families, or 14 percent of the Syrian refugee population living outside camps.

As of the end of 2014, over 10,000 additional Syrian refugee households have been identified as eligible for such assistance but, due to lack of funds, cannot be provided with support.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, stated that large numbers of Syrian refugees are sliding into abject poverty, and at an alarming rate, due to the magnitude of the crisis and insufficient support from the international community.

Guterres, who was on a two-day visit to Jordan last week, emphasised that this crisis can be mitigated if the international community steps up efforts to alleviate the suffering of the refugees.

“The generosity of the Jordanian people and the Government needs to be matched by massive support from the international community – support for the refugees themselves and for the local populations hosting them, but also structural and budgetary support to the Jordanian Government for education, health, water and sanitation and electricity to enable it to cope with this enormous challenge,” Guterres said.

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, the Government of Jordan, together with humanitarian organisations, has provided Syrian refugees with essential services and support. But as the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year in spring of 2015, the situation for many refugees is increasingly dire as savings and other resources become gradually depleted.

The vast majority (84 percent) of Jordan’s 620,000 registered Syrian refugees live outside the country’s main refugee camps of Zaatari and Azraq.

Funding is running out for the Government of Jordan to sustain free access to health services across the country and the World Food Program is finding it difficult to raise sufficient funds for food assistance, even though the vulnerability of refugees is likely to be even more severe in coming months.

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Partnerships Essential for SDGs, says UNIDO Director General Fri, 16 Jan 2015 10:31:50 +0000 an IPS Correspondent *By an IPS Correspondent
VIENNA/JAIPUR, Jan 16 2015 (IPS)

The Director General of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) sees a critical role for partnerships in the successful implementation of the U.N.’s proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Speaking at the 2015 Partnerships Summit in Jaipur, co-organized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the Government of Rajasthan, Director General Li Yong said: “Partnerships will represent an essential element of the post-2015 development agenda, especially regarding its means of implementation, and thus the full engagement of all sectors of society will be vital to achieving ‘The World We Want’.”

Welcoming the inclusion of “inclusive and sustainable industrialization” in Goal 9 of the outcome document prepared by the Open Working Group, established by the United Nations to formulate the SDGs, the Director General said: “Multi-stakeholder partnerships are indispensable to ensuring the effective implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, with its heavy demands on financing, accountability, universality, integration and data.”

He added that “inclusive and sustainable industrial development has enormous potential to eradicate poverty through economic growth without the accompanying environmental degradation or social inequality.”

Li said that UNIDO, together with the UN Global Compact, co-led the consultations on “private sector engagement”, exploring how to leverage the unparalleled dynamism and creativity of industrialists, private sector companies, entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises to achieve sustainable development objectives.

Those discussions showed the promise of a multi-stakeholder approach to international development goals, incorporating private industry representatives, alongside public sector and civil society partners, he said.

“Triangular and South-South cooperation will form an essential element of any future development paradigm. It strives to complement existing forms of cooperation, rather than supplanting traditional North-South development models. The potential for achieving the economic, environmental and social objectives of development through South-South cooperation is immense. Greater technical cooperation and solid partnership models between developing states, based on recognition of sovereignty and mutual respect, can yield win-win scenarios for all parties,” said Li.

In December 2013, UNIDO Member States ratified the Lima Declaration, giving the Organization a mandate to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development as its vision for sustainable development.

“This approach will be made effective not only at the policy level, but also at the operational level, and this can best be achieved through partnerships with all relevant development actors. Multi-stakeholder partnerships, bringing together governments, private sector representatives, civil society, academia and others, are essential to leveraging shared knowledge and resources,” said Li.

The Director General also visited the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, one of UNIDO’s key partners. TERI’s activities are motivated by the aspiration for promoting environmental sustainability and inclusive growth to realize the goal of sustainable development.

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Finns’ Conception of World Poverty is Gloomier than Reality Thu, 15 Jan 2015 10:36:05 +0000 an IPS Correspondent *By an IPS Correspondent

A survey commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs reveals the Finns’ conception of world poverty is much gloomier than reality.

Nearly eight out of ten Finns (76%) believe that poverty has increased in the world since the year 1990. The survey was carried out by the research company Taloustutkimus.

In reality, the share of the poor among the world’s population has declined by one-half, and the number has dropped by 700 million in the last 25 years. Similarly, only 11 per cent of Finns know that the infant mortality rate has fallen by one-half during roughly the same period.

Finns are the gloomiest when asked to estimate what share of children in developing countries go to school, how well equality between boys and girls is implemented in basic education, and how comprehensively women are able to use effective methods of contraception should they wish to do so.

According to the survey, more than eight out of ten Finns believe that less than half of children in developing countries attend school. In reality, more than 90 per cent of children in developing countries can now start primary school. School attendance has increased the most in Africa: almost 20 percentage points since 2000.

Only two per cent of Finns are able to estimate correctly that for one hundred boys in first grade, there are 95 girls sitting on school benches, which means that gender equality in education has made significant progress. Just as few people (2%) know that more than 90 per cent of the world’s women either use or have the opportunity to use effective methods of contraception.

“The credit and the responsibility for development lie first and foremost with developing countries themselves. Finland, for its part, has supported progress,” Development Minister Sirpa Paatero was quoted as saying.

Finland has promoted the spread of school attendance through bilateral development cooperation in many developing countries and as the chair of the executive board of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF in 2013. Finland has promoted maternal health, among others, as one of the biggest donors of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA).

Finns are best aware of the world’s water situation: 55 percent of Finns were able to estimate correctly that access to clean drinking water has improved since 1990.

“In the water sector, too, development cooperation is the most effective when people themselves get the chance to improve their well-being. Just recently, on a work trip to Ethiopia, I saw for myself how the operating approach developed by Finland decentralizes responsibility for water points to local communities themselves, and how the model has been copied in the country’s national water programme. Already, a total of about three million people have cost-effective access to clean water thanks to Finland’s development assistance,” Paatero explains.

For the survey, one thousand Finns were interviewed between 16 and 29 December 2014. The margin of error in the survey is 2.5 percentage points in either direction, with a 95 per cent level of confidence.

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U.N. Forecasts Moderate Growth for Asia-Pacific Thu, 15 Jan 2015 10:29:39 +0000 Leila Lemghalef *By Leila Lemghalef

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to register a moderate increase in growth in 2015, according to the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The main factors shaping the outlook are structural reform programmes and lower oil prices. And prospects for 2015 will improve on these conditions.

The region’s developing countries are forecast to grow at an average of 5.8 per cent this year, up from 5.6 per cent in 2014, according to ESCAP’s Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2014: Year-end Update.

Structural reforms in India and Indonesia are projected to boost their growth to 6.4 and 5.6 per cent respectively, from the 2014 figures of 5.5 and 5.2 per cent respectively.

China’s growth is expected to be around 7 per cent in 2015, in line with the ongoing economic rebalancing.

Growth in the region remains inferior to pre-crisis levels, and a decrease in regional inflation to 3.5 in 2015 from 3.9 per cent in 2014 will allow some regional economies to loosen their monetary policies in support of growth.

The report was launched by U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar.

“Despite improved prospects many developing economies in the region face structural constraints which have kept them from realizing their growth potential. Infrastructure shortages remain acute and growth has not translated into enough decent jobs,” he was cited in a press release.

The U.S. economy will support growth in Asia-Pacific exporting economies, while the slow growth of the eurozone and Japan, and the moderate growth region of China, will present challenges.

ESCAP has underlined that Asia-Pacific should “brace for capital outflows following an expected raising of interest rates by the US Federal Reserve although this could be buffered to some extent by new financial injections by the eurozone and Japan.”

Thailand’s economy is forecast to see a 3.9 per cent increase as a result of heightened short-term consumer/investor confidence.

While domestic business environments are seen as positive, policy implications will be both positive and negative, according to ESCAP, which estimates that a $10 per barrel fall in the oil price in 2015 will increase GDP growth by up to 0.5 percentage points in energy-importing countries.

The recent fall in oil prices could set off a longer-trend, and the impact of the decline will have a varying impact across the region.

Russia’s growth could go down by 1.1 percentage points, which would deprive the Central Asian vicinity of $1.7 billion in remittances.

Declining global oil prices are a valuable opportunity for Asia-Pacific economies to scale back on fuel subsidies, which ESCAP estimates could free up significant shares of the budget, thus contributing, for instance, to universal access to health and education in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.

“This is a particularly critical and opportune time to decrease subsidies,” said Akhtar.

“Reducing subsidies can raise significant public financial resources for productive investment in the region and could make needed funds available for financing sustainable development.”

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U.N. Demands More Commitment to Humanitarian Aid Thu, 15 Jan 2015 09:40:07 +0000 Alexandra Zevallos Ortiz *By Alexandra Zevallos-Ortiz

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations early this week, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, delivered the Distinguished Sorensen Lecture on the U.N.’s role in global humanitarian crises.

“For the first time ever, the total number of displaced people and refugees across the world has topped 50 million people, for the first time since about 1945; I shouldn’t say for the first time ever. These are huge and significant numbers,” declared Amos.

The United Nations humanitarian affairs chief pointed out the Sorensen lecture comes at a particularly critical time: “This week alone, horrific events in France and Nigeria have led, for example, to searching questions about the nature of terrorism, security, freedom of speech and religion; the limits or otherwise of press freedom, tolerance, racism, inequality, the impact of social media and the Internet, the lack of connectivity between people and cultures, and the quality of global leadership.”

Amos underlined the fact that humanitarian work is under significant pressure. In 2015, more than 78 million people in 22 countries require urgent humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations estimates that it will cost $16.4 billion to provide urgently needed shelter, essential health care, education and food.

Amos, who will step down in March after more than four years, stated the conflict in Syria has been her low point. While over 3.2 million have fled the conflict that has killed some 200,000 people, more than 12 million people in Syria need help.

“We are feeding millions of people, we are getting healthcare to millions of people, but I still feel that we have failed because we have watched a country descend into war and conflict and we have not been able to stop it,” said Amos.

Amos also said that Ebola is probably the most complex coordination challenge that the international community has ever had to face: “This is not just a health crisis, this is a major economic crisis for the countries of West Africa, it is a major social crisis for those countries as well with some big questions and challenges around how communities traditionally operate.”

Humanitarian actors are increasingly being called on to deal with the consequences of crises that essentially have their roots in a complex set of interrelated factors: poor governance, political paralysis, underdevelopment, rising levels of poverty and inequality.

“Too often, humanitarian organisations are called on to fill the glaring gaps that emerge when States neglect to fulfil their duty to safeguard their citizens. Think for example Syria or South Sudan. Or where, as a result of conflict, the state apparatus has become weak, fragmented or almost nonexistent as in the case of Somalia or the Central African Republic,” stated Amos.

But working in conflict zones, where international humanitarian law is violated, is becoming more dangerous. In 2013, violence against humanitarian aid operations hit an all-time high with 251 separate attacks in which 155 aid workers were killed and 134 were kidnapped.

“We need a stronger, and dare I say it, perhaps a more interventionist global architecture to deal with the humanitarian consequences of conflict. I recognise this would come with major risks – given global power dynamics and other differences around the world,” said Amos.

According to Amos the main problem is the lack of implementation of international humanitarian law. She stressed the need for stronger commitment from governments and multilateral institutions as well as from humanitarian agencies.
“It is no longer acceptable that still less than half of one percent of all international aid is spent on disaster prevention and preparedness.”

Reshaping the United Nations’ approaches to humanitarian aid is going to be a priority for the consultations leading up to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the first ever such Summit which has been called for by the UN Secretary-General.

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Development Bank Joins Funders for African “Smart Cities” Tue, 13 Jan 2015 11:46:12 +0000 Global Information Network *By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Jan 13 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – Financing is being arranged for a multi-million dollar ‘smart city’ in Diamniado, Senegal, by the African Development Bank. Similar investments are taking place in the Ivory Coast and other West African states.

The smart city, located on a 25 hectare site, will have broadband infrastructure, smart buildings, data centers and an ICT training facility. The flagship project is designed to make Senegal a tech center for West Africa and to attract investment. Similar hubs are under consideration for Diass, Sebikotane, St. Louis and Ziguinchor.

The Diamniadio Technology Park will be located about 30 kms from the capital Dakar. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and last for five years.

Gabon, an oil-rich Central African nation is planning a Cyber-city in the island of Mandji. And a “digital village” is already under development in the coast city of Grand Bassam in the Ivory Coast. With a pricetag of about $56 million, it should be completed in 30 months’ time, government officials said.

The digital infrastructure will include four fibre optic networks worth over $120 million, adding to an existing network of about 2,000 kms.

Other cyber cities around the continent can be found in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

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U.N. Chief Hails India for Solar & Wind Power Initiative Tue, 13 Jan 2015 09:47:44 +0000 Anil Sharma Ban Ki-moon (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, India January 2015. UNIC Delhi

Ban Ki-moon (left) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, India January 2015. UNIC Delhi

*By Anil Sharma
NEW DELHI, Jan 13 2015 (IPS)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to increase the share of solar and wind power in India’s energy mix, and for his vision in accelerating the development of solar energy when he was chief minister of Gujarat.

“I also commend the prime minister’s ambitious ‘100 Smart Cities’ initiative and encourage the use of renewables and energy efficiency,” he said, speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in Gandhinagar, India.

Ban also urged India to take the lead in Paris where a universal climate change agreement is expected to be adopted in December this year.

“I count on India’s forward-looking leadership as governments around the world seek to adopt a meaningful, equitable and universal climate change agreement.

Ahead of the Summit, Ban visited an Ashram founded by Gandhi and named after the Sabarmati River, one of the biggest in the State. He also visited a solar power plant built on the Narmada rival canal in the town of Vadodara before heading to New Delhi.

Addressing the summit, the secretary-general said: “First, I call on India’s business community to lead the transformation we need to achieve sustainable development and inclusive growth. I ask you to channel your efforts into decisions that will benefit your companies, your country and your children’s future.”

“Second, I call for India’s continued strong leadership in the three negotiating processes which I have mentioned this year for new agreements on sustainable development, climate action and financing.”

“Third, I call on India to come forward with an ambitious national contribution on climate change as soon as possible, one that is consistent with your particular national circumstances.”

He said India is in a unique position to lead the move towards sustainability in the wider world. This year will provide a formidable opportunity for emerging Powers to position themselves in a changing global landscape.

“In your youthful country, nearly half the population of India is under 25 years old. What great potential you have and what great responsibility.”

“After all, half of the global population is under the age of 30. So, we are living in a very young world. So, we have to do much more for our young people,” he declared .

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Boko Haram Commits “Deadliest Massacre Yet” in Baga Mon, 12 Jan 2015 11:56:43 +0000 Global Information Network *By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Jan 12 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – The northern Nigerian town of Baga was devastated over the weekend by a surprise raid conducted by Boko Haram insurgents apparently aimed at a major military base constructed there.

Amnesty International estimates the death toll could be as high as 2,000, though some witnesses cite lower tolls in the hundreds.

Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, a military spokesman, said Monday the evidence available so far indicates a death toll of no more than 150, including insurgents killed in combat with troops.

The military said 14 soldiers were killed and 30 were wounded in the Baga attack, but that “law, order and normalcy” would soon be restored to the area.

Nigeria has often been accused of underestimating casualty figures to downplay the threat of Boko Haram.

It is the second major assault on Baga which was earlier caught in the crosshairs between the Nigerian military and insurgents. Soldiers ransacked the town in April 2013 after Boko Haram militants attacked a military patrol, killing a soldier and wounding 5 others.

Community leaders told Human Rights Watch at that time that soldiers began burning down their homes in retaliation, shooting people as they fled. They counted 2,000 burned homes and 183 bodies. Satellite images of the town analyzed by HRW corroborated these accounts and identified 2,275 destroyed buildings, the vast majority residences, with another 125 severely damaged.

The Nigerian government dismissed the evidence, claiming only 30 homes were destroyed.

“The Nigerian military has a duty to protect itself and the population from Boko Haram attacks, but the evidence indicates that it engaged more in destruction than in protection,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“The glaring discrepancies between the facts on the ground and statements by senior military officials raise concerns that they tried to cover up military abuses.”

Ignatius Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, accused the West of ignoring the threat posed by Boko Haram.

Putting down Boko Haram required international support and unity of the type shown after last week’s militant attacks in France, he said. “We need that spirit to be spread around… Not just when [an attack] happens in Europe, but when it happens in Nigeria, in Niger, in Cameroon.”

His remarks came after some 23 people were killed over the weekend by two teenage girls who blew themselves up at a marketplace in northeastern Nigeria.

Elsewhere in the country, ethnic tensions were stirred up in a Sunday service lead by the prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Samuel Uche. At an event attended by President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate President, and top military brass, the cleric accused the Fulanis and Kanuris of attempting to bring Boko Haram to power.

Archbishop Uche called for the arrest and prosecution of the leaders of opposition over their threats to form a parallel government if presidential elections next month are rigged. Pres. Jonathan has also called for the disqualification of the opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

Presidential elections are scheduled for Feb. 14.

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More Women in Management Positions Over Last 20 Years Mon, 12 Jan 2015 07:24:29 +0000 Alexandra Zevallos Ortiz *By Alexandra Zevallos-Ortiz

A global report on “Women in Business and Management,” released Monday by the International Labour Organization (ILO), shows that the number of women in senior and middle management positions has increased over the past 20 years. In 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available, the proportion of women managers has increased during this period.

The findings are the results of a 2013 ILO survey of more than 1,200 companies in Africa, Asia and Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. The survey was carried out with the assistance of national employers’ organisations in 39 countries.

Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers at 59.3 percent, while Yemen has the least with 2.1 percent. The U.S. is 15th in the list of 108 countries with 42.7 percent women managers, the U.K. 41st (34.2 percent) and the Russian Federation holds the 25th place (39.1 percent), according to the report.

Today, women own and manage over 30 percent of all businesses, but they are more likely to be found in micro and small enterprises. The report underlines the fact that getting more women to grow their businesses is not only critical for equality but also for national development.

“Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness,” said Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, in a press release.

Nevertheless women continue to be shut out of higher level economic decision-making as France-Massin explains: “It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as chief executive officer (CEO) or company presidents. ’Glass walls’ still exist with the concentration of women in certain types of management functions like human resources, communications and administration”.

The report’s statistics show that in the publicly listed companies of the world’s largest stock exchanges, less than 5 percent of CEOs are women. The larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman. All-male company boards are still common but are decreasing in number, with women attaining 20 per cent or more of all board seats in a handful of countries.

“An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision making teams and structures and business performance. But there is a long way to go before true gender equality in the workplace, especially when it comes to top management positions, can be achieved,” the report says.

A global survey quoted in the study shows that Norway has the highest global proportion of companies (13.3 percent) with a woman as company board chairperson, followed by Turkey (11.1 percent).

As for African countries, Ghana occupies 26th place with 39 percent, followed by Botswana ranking 28th (38.6 percent).

In Asia, the highest ranking country is the Philippines in 4th place (47.6 percent), followed by Mongolia with 41.9 percent in 17th place.

With 53.1 percent, Colombia holds the second place at the global level and ranks first in Latin America, followed by Panama in fifth place (47.4 percent).

“Unless action is taken, it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top. It is time to smash the glass ceiling for good to avoid controversial mandatory quotas that are not always necessary or effective. Having women in top positions is simply good for business,” concluded France-Massin.

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Heir Apparent of Hashemite Monarchy Pleads Caution Mon, 12 Jan 2015 07:21:26 +0000 Patrick Fernando *By Patrick Fernando
FRANKFURT, Jan 12 2015 (IPS)

Prince Adel El-Hashemite, who claims to be the heir apparent to the British-sponsored Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq from 1921 to 1958, has criticized French president Francois Hollande for referring to a wave of killings in Paris as the work of (Islamic) “fanatics” and “extremists”.

Seventeen people fell victim to terror attacks across the country that began with a shooting at the weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions, as well as politicians.

In an open letter to the French president on January 11, the day when some 50 government leaders, including Muslim and Jewish, marched arm-in-arm under high security to pay tribute to victims of brutal killings, Prince Adel said, the killers were ”French nationals by birth”. He said, “No religious holy books contain verses that indicate or allow for being ‘extremist’ against other ethnic, cultural or religious groups”.

He added: “Poking fun at a religion or religious leaders by way of degrading the symbols of a religion as part of the so-called freedom of speech or of press should be barred. Because the so-called right to poking fun or right to freedom of speech can be classified as libelous.”

Prince Adel, who is a member of the International Association of Prosecutors in The Hague, added: “. . . we must ask ourselves, what went wrong so that French citizens could be brain washed? Where did the local government fault in letting those young French nationals to be brain washed by sick-minded persons up to the point of committing murder?”

Prince Adel, who lives in Germany, is the eldest son of Prince Mohammed, the only survivor of the July 14, 1958 massacre by a secret Iraqi military group, which assassinated King Faisal II and nearly liquidated the Hashemite monarchy. The then 28-year old Prince Mohammed survived the wave of killings, because he was away, travelling in Egypt.

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