08/11/2012 — Uncategorized
By Carolyn Lee
The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries has tripled to over 300,000 within the past three months, but even the donation of € 4.6 million by the EU does not seem to be enough to keep up with the needs of the rising numbers.
The UN, UNICEF, and the international community have tried to provide for the refugees in various ways. According to a video released by the UN, the UN and its humanitarian partners have asked donors for $295million US dollars to fund operations to help the refugees. The UNICEF has opened up 14 school tents in Zaatari, Jordan, according to a press release by UNICEF.
“We arrived yesterday and we found a place, but now we have to leave,” says Om Li who fled to Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, with her four children. According to UNHCR, they had found a temporary shelter, an incomplete house with no water, but the landlord told them to move the next morning.
Om Li is just one out of the thousands of refugees waking up every morning to an uncertain future. According to the BBC, Syrian refugees who traveled to the border with Turkey found themselves trapped as the Turkish government has kept the border closed for several weeks. The poor conditions they are living in, has left many refugees asking why the international community is not doing more to help them. “We are refugees, we have our rights. Even if we are animals, we have rights,” said one refugee to BBC who wished to remain anonymous.
The ongoing civil war between the two forces for and against the ruling of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has driven the remaining citizens to the borders of neighboring countries. This conflict began in the March of 2011 when some teenagers were tortured for painting revolutionary messages on their school wall. This caused a nation-wide uproar, demanding the President step down. Ever since, the frequency of violence and casualties has been steadily increasing with no sign of resolution between the two forces.
“If we don’t help, with much greater attention to the burden being placed on governments here and the local communities, then you could see over time more difficulties in the surrounding countries, which will have an impact on the whole region,” said Mr. Lake, the executive director of UNICEF said to the New York Times.
Despite these efforts by the international community and major organizations, The Jordan Times reported that trying to meet the needs of all the refugees has proven to be a challenge with the constant influx of refugee demand.
“The humanitarian support … does not match the speed at which the situation is unfolding,” Panos Moumtzis, Regional Refugee Coordinator at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Abu Dhabi.
17/10/2012 — Uncategorized
by Grigory Kravtsov. After months of negotiation, Sudan and South Sudan have reached an agreement over oil in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The announcement, earlier this month, came after both sides managed to broker a deal that would allow Sudan to pump oil from its neighbor by using a metering system.
The UN Security Council issued a press release stating that “These agreements represent a major breakthrough for the establishment of peace, stability and prosperity in both Sudan and South Sudan.” The Security Council is optimistic that all other issues including boarder disputes in Abyei can be sorted out.
Both sides have been fighting in a bloody Civil War over land and control of natural resources for over four decades. Oil is one of the contentious issues between the two nations. Most of the ,oil is in South Sudan, whilst the refineries are in Sudanese territory.
Chinese oil firm, Dar Petroleum announced that it would restart production fully in several months. They are expected to pump on average of 180,000 barrels daily. Dar Petroleum President, Sun Xiansheng was jubilant over the breakthrough. Dar Petroleum accounts for 80 to 90 percent of government revenue in South Sudan alone.
Whilst the issue of oil has been settled, there is still a long way to go for the crisis to be resolved. “The agreement to resume oil supply is solely for the economic self-interests of both countries, but it does not stop the growing humanitarian disaster,” said Cherry Leonardi, Sudan historian at Durham University in an interview with World Watch. According to Leonardi, the border dispute will “gain momentum” and the “violence and bloodshed” will intensify due to a lack of compromise on both sides.
Shortly before the agreement was signed, the UNHCR issued a statement on the increase of air and ground attacks, adding to the refugee crisis in the province of Southern Kordufan. The agency is also extremely concerned about the growing violence in other border regions that could affect the refugee camp of Yida, housing over 64,000 refugees.
Border uncertainties have resulted in the deaths of thousands since South Sudan gained independence in July 2011. The UN accuses the Sudanese government of conducting ethnic cleansing in the regions of Southern Kordufan and Blue Nile with the ultimate goal of achieving an Islamist state. However, the Sudanese government justifies the actions, saying that it is simply defending itself from an attack by the South’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on North-Sudanese troops, which they claim is an attempt to overthrow the government in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. The disputed territory of Abyei is also experiencing ongoing violence.
South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir stated that the agreement over oil was a historic day for both nations. Kiir also laid blame on the failure to reach any agreement over borders on Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir. “My government and I accepted unconditionally the proposal of the AUHIP (the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel). Unfortunately my brother Bashir and his government totally rejected the proposal in its totality,” Kiir said.
The oil agreement is a positive first step to long-lasting peace after talks stalled earlier this year, which nearly led to an all-out war. Negotiations for the border could be much tougher as al-Bashir has repeatedly failed to compromise.
According to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed when the two countries were split, the contested territories of Abyei, South Kordufan and the Blue Nile States would need to hold a referendum to decide which side to join. However, Sudan put a halt on these referendums, sparking violence along the contested regions.
Steve LeVine, a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation stated in an interview with World Watch that he thinks that the agreement on oil will act as a force to limit fighting. “Certainly Sudan and South Sudan are going to continue fighting,” he said. “But there’s also a financial upside in keeping it to a managed level.” LeVine is also optimistic that the two sides can resolve all disputes over land through mutual cooperation.
The Defense Ministers of both sides are expected to meet this week to implement the oil cooperation agreement. They are also anticipated to talk in more detail over the implementation of a 10 km wide buffer-zone between the two countries to ease the border disputes.
28/11/2011 — Arab Spring
photo Eng Rimawi
by Eva Tam
More than a month after his death, the Libyan ruling National Transitional Council (NTC)is still investigating who killed him , and how he should have been treated after his capture remains an international debate.
Gaddafi was captured on Oct. 20 with some injuries, but died from a shot in his head later that day. Government officials told journalists that a forensic report concluded that Gaddafi was shot when he was caught in crossfire. Other witnesses said that Gaddafi was shot in an execution-style. The BBC released an amateur video footage that claimed the person who shot Gaddafi was celebrating with others soldiers after his death.
Human Rights Watch said there are strong clues that Gaddafi was killed in custody. The earliest video of Gaddafi in detention shows him alive but bleeding on his face. Another video shows that he was put in the hood of a vehicle and the next one shows him getting pulled from the car into an angry mob that appears to beat him.
“There is ample evidence to open a credible investigation into the deaths of Gaddafi and his son Muatassim. Finding out how they died matters. It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at the Human Rights Watch.
Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the NTC, said in a press conference that the Libyan authorities have already started investigations on Gaddafi’s death.
“We had issued a statement saying that any violations of human rights will be investigated by the NTC. Whoever is responsible for that (Kadhafi’s killing) will be judged and given a fair trial,” said Ghoga.
Human Rights Watch, as with most people in the international community, felt that Gaddafi should have been put on trial.
“(This) deprives the Libyan people of the chance to see him held to account in a fair trial at the ICC for the egregious crimes he allegedly committed while suppressing peaceful demonstrations in February 2011,” said Richard Dicker, the head of International Justice Program in Human Rights Watch.
But some people, like socio-political commentator, Allan Tacca, wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Monitor that a trial was not necessary.
“Ultimately, Gaddafi created the conditions in which only his death could end the chances of his mischief. …no person can be so large or so invincible as to defy even their mortality,” he said.
28/11/2011 — Uncategorized
by A. Yu
567kg of cocaine worth HK$6 00million was seized from a village home in Tuen Mun, in what is believed to be Hong Kong’s largest drug bust.
Working on a tip, officers raided what they now believe to be the storehouse of a transnational drug trafficking syndicate on September 16. Four other locations were also raided, with 50kg seized at residential units in Kwai Tsing and Mong Kok.
Five Mexican nationals, an American man as well as a Chinese man and his Columbian wife carrying Hong Kong residency were arrested in connection with the case.
The drugs were stored in empty plastic automatic transmission fluid containers intended for recycling. Cocaine bricks were wrapped with plastic tape or cling film, then stored in the container through a cut at the bottom. A total of 1,241 containers were found.
Police believe that the warehouse located in Fuk Hang Tsuen, Tuen Mun, had been used as a packing and storage facility for over six months.
“Traffickers have used different ways to disguise their dealings, but this is the first time police have seen recycled materials used,” John Paul Ribeiro, chief superintendent of the narcotics bureau of Hong Kong said to the South China Morning Post.
“We believe we have successfully neutralized the multinational syndicate,” Ribeiro said.
Ribeiro also believes that a small part of the shipment was intended for the Hong Kong market but that he couldn’t ‘rule out [that] the drug would be sold to mainland [China] and other countries.’
Professor Karen Joe A. Laidler of the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong stated in a report for the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute that ‘most of the cocaine coming into Hong Kong is by use of air couriers using body packs and by postal packages’.
Professor Laidler also indicated that cocaine was more commonly associated with Hong Kong’s expat community and is unpopular in Hong Kong due to it’s high price, and thought that the drugs seized may be have intended for further shipment into Southeast Asia.
Dr. Alfred Mak, former executive director of the Society for the Aid and Rehabilitation of Drug Abuse (SARDA) in Hong Kong was surprised by the bust. He agreed that the drugs would have probably gone on to other countries.
“There is a good chance that HK is not the final destination for the distribution of
the drug load in the present case,” Dr Mak says. “Although cocaine use has been reported to have risen gradually in recent years, the increase, and the total consumption [in Hong Kong], is still small.”
Dr. Mak says that the bust would make a significant dent in Southeast Asia’s cocaine market, but he says it’s too soon to officially label Hong Kong has a drug hub.
“Being a free port standing at the door of mainland China, [Hong Kong] is always a coveted bridgehead for international drug smugglers,” said Dr. Mak. “Whether there is a change of drug tactics by shifting its target to Asia is too soon to be concluded. The haul at issue is big enough to trigger concerns from international enforcement authorities, particularly those in China, Hong Kong and nearby countries.”
26/11/2011 — Afghanistan
Downtown Kabul ( photo Qais Musafer)
by David Hetherington
More people die of air pollution in Kabul every year than as a result of the violence in Afghanistan, according to figures released by various agencies. The Afghan National Environmental Protection Agency estimates as many as 3000 people die every year as a result of air pollution in Kabul alone, while the United Nations says that 2,777 civilians were killed in the war across the whole of Afghanistan in 2010.
With Afghanistan as volatile as it is, ‘the last thing on people’s minds here is the air quality and the environment.’ Deputy director of the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) Najibullah Yamin’s words summarise what appears to be an insurmountable problem. The myriad environmental issues Kabul faces have combined to create something of a perfect storm for air pollution. An inadequate public transport system forces many to buy cars that are e old and produce a great deal of smoke. In some cases plastic and other garbage is burned as a fuel source. To make matters worse, the bowl-like landscape of Kabul, with its mountains surrounding the city, acts to trap pollution and many accuse a ‘land mafia’ of buying up areas meant for environmental renewal to develop houses and commercial buildings.
Director General of Afghan Geological Society Atiq Sediqi says because deaths from pollution are not visible ‘does not make any splash in the media’. Sediqi believes the most important obstacles are a combination of poor quality fuels, very dusty roads, trees and bushes being cut down en masse and the unique shape of the landscape. In particular he pinpoints Kabul’s roads saying that they need to be paved to avoid the massive amounts of dust kicked up from them. Trees and shrubberies also need to be replanted and there needs to be a drive towards ‘public education on environmental issues through media’ if Kabul is to see any sort of lasting change. It could take 5 to 10 years before the rate of death by air pollution drops and that’s only if the implementations Sediqi recommends are put into effect.
Sediqi is hopeful that Kabul’s mayor, Muhammad Younus Nawandish, can reduce air pollution if he stays in power thanks to his policies concerning road maintenance and a drive to replant trees but a lack of public awareness lies at the heart of the issue. As Sediqi puts it, ‘the government should realize that the worst enemy of Afghanistan is air pollution, not the Taliban.’
26/11/2011 — Uncategorized
By Hoishan Chan
The recent conviction of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout on charges of conspiracy in attempting to sell weapons to Colombian terrorists demonstrates the need for a comprehensive international arms trade treaty, according to an arms trafficking expert.
Bout’s conviction on Nov. 2, 2011, serves as “a wake up call for nations to learn from past mistakes and put in place the tools required to prevent others like Bout from taking his place,” said Kathi Lynn Austin executive director of the Conflict Awareness Project, in an email interview with World Watch.
Bout was convicted not on charges of selling arms across international borders, but on charges that he conspired to sell weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., according to an AP report.
Albert Dayan, Bout’s attorney, made the argument during the trial that Bout did not violate international law by transporting arms. “He did transport arms … It did not violate the law of any country,” said Dayan in a report by the Huffington Post.
The Arms Trade Treaty is up for negotiations at the United Nations next summer, and human rights groups like the Conflict Awareness Project and Amnesty International have been pushing for states to “negotiate the strongest, most comprehensive treaty possible,” said Austin.
Amnesty International recently published a report titled “Arms transfers to the Middle East and North Africa: Lessons for an effective arms trade treaty.” States have a “moral obligation” to place human rights above business deals, and to correct the “stark failings of existing control regimes,” said Helen Hughes, an arms expert at Amnesty International, in an interview with Al-Jazeera.
“The Bout trial will help … states are already convinced about the need to have a treaty. The question is how deep and how much should the treaty cover,” said Louis Belanger, humanitarian media office for Oxfam International.
25/11/2011 — Uncategorized
by Hoishan Chan
Israel has reportedly sped up plans to install an anti-missile system on its commercial airplanes out of fears of an attack from missiles smuggled out from Libya, according to a Reuters report.
The C-Music anti-missile system will use a laser to “blind” heat-seeking missiles, and will be adopted by all Israeli passenger airliners, according to the report. The Israeli government will cover the $1 million to $1.5 million it will take to fit every airplane with the laser system,.
Plans to install the anti-missile system were prompted by fears that weapons looted from Libya after the collapse of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime would fall into the hands of terrorist organizations like Hamas and al-Qaida.
“This threat is considered more viable than in the past,” said Yoram Schweitzer, director of the Terrorism Project at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
“It’s better to spend the money now than to spend the money later on casualties and the implications of such [an attack],” said Schweitzer.“The most sophisticated missiles have found their way to Gaza so they could be used.”
Libyan weapons were seized by Egyptian authorities in the Sinai, close to Gaza and along the border of Israel last month, as Egyptian military officials told the Washington Post last month. Heat-seeking, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles were among the caches of weapons seized.
“We’ve intercepted more advanced weapons, and these weapons aren’t familiar to the Egyptian weapons markets; these are war weapons,” said an Egyptian brigadier general who spoke to the Washington Post anonymously.
Israel began working on the C-Music anti-missile system after the terror attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002. A car bomb brought down the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel, and a missile aimed at an Israeli passenger airliner narrowly missed, according to a New York Times report.
“It was just luck [that the missile missed] in 2002,” said Schweitzer. “[The Mombasa attacks in 2002] indicates the intent or plans of organizations like al-Qaida or Hamas.”
25/11/2011 — Uncategorized
by A. El Hammar Castano
The Hong-Kong High Court has rejected a Government bid to suspend an earlier ruling to allow Filipina maids from applying for permanent residence.
Government counsel David Pannick had argued that the “status quo should be maintained” pending an appeal against the ruling by the government.
“The concern of the Government is the general implication,” he said.
Earlier the High Court had ruled that Evangelyne Valejo, a Filipina maid working in Hong Kong for more than 20 years, could apply for permanent residence.
The High Court judged that it was unconstitutional to discriminate between different foreigners in Hong Kong. Foreigners working in other areas, for example in the financial sector, can apply for permanent residency after 7 years. Domestic maids were not allowed to do so.
Many maids are believed to have begun applying for permanent residence. “We know that it’s on the right way… We have faith ! “said Julia who has been working in Hong-Kong for 10 years
For Mark Daly, Evangelynne Valejos lawyer, it’s “Definitely a question of equal treatment”. He added on CNN that “There is still a long battle ahead” .
According to one estimate, there are would be 292 000 foreign maids in Hong Kong and 40 % could now apply after more than 7 years of residency in Hong-Kong.
The arguments of filing another appeal for the Government are socio-economic. Current Hong Kong taxpayers would be hit with more than $3 billion in social welfare spending for up to half a million new immigrants, spouses and children. However, it is not clear how many domestic workers would actually bring their families to Hong Kong.
“I miss my family but I’ m working 75 hours a week. My family is taking care of my kids. I don’t want to bring them here. I preferred to send them the money and that they get a good life. They can send my kids to a good school ” said Julia.
25/11/2011 — Uncategorized
by Mandy KY Lai
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has rejected a resolution by the Ugandan parliament’s to delay approval of the UK-based Tullow Oil’s sale of stakes of oil in the country to two foreign partners, the Financial Times reported.
According to the UK-based newspaper, Museveni is set to give the nod to the $2.9 billion deal between Tullow and the France-based Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), after meeting the chief executive of Tullow, Aidan Heavey, to discuss final details of the sale.
The president ignored parliament’s decision last month to halt all new transactions in the oil sector until the investigation into Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Internal Affairs Minister (former Energy Minister) Hillary Onek who allegedly accepted bribes from the oil giants is completed.
The Independent newspaper in Uganda reported last month that Kutesa had been paid by Tullow Oil 17 million Euro ($23 million) from its registered company in Nairobi, while Onek had been paid 5.6 million Euro ($7.57 million) from Tullow’s accounts in Dubai.
A U.S. diplomatic cable in 2009 released by the WikiLeaks showed former U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier believed that Mbabazi and Onek accepted bribes from an Italian oil company Eni, to favour Eni over Tullow Oil in the sale of assets by another firm in 2009. However the deal was overturned and was given to Tullow seven weeks later, under the same terms as Eni.
A committee was established on October 27 by the parliament to investigate this.
The committee also aims to establish all the revenues received by the government from petroleum firms to date, how it was spent and how exploration firms operating in the country were procured, Reuters reported.
Mbabazi and Onek have refused to step aside over allegations of corruption, claiming they are innocent, while Kutesa claimed the documents were “forged” and were designed to implicate him in bribery.
“I am thoroughly hurt by these lies because if such an account really exists I deserve all the punishment on Earth,” Onek said at the parliament meeting last month, in response to the accusations.
25/11/2011 — Afghanistan
by Andrew Swift
UNICEF and the World Health Organisation have drawn up new plans to guide Afghanistan’s polio eradication efforts, after the number of reported cases of the disease doubled over the past year.
The new approach will be run until June 2012. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership between governments, charities and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the new strategy will see the establishment of a specific ‘transmission zone’, wherein efforts will be focused to rapidly boost immunity.
The new approach is a response to recent GPEI statistics announcing that the number of reported cases of polio in Afghanistan has doubled from 18 cases last year to 36 this year.
A leading bioethicist however, thinks that the eradication of polio is the wrong goal. Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that eradication is an unattainable target and only serves to divert funds away from more pressing local problems.
Caplan said that political instability and violence make it virtually impossible to access certain regions and to properly survey the rate of infection.
“Pushing hard to eradicate in a violent warzone seems hugely difficult”, Caplan said, “and it is not consistent with the health care needs or priorities of the people there.”
Indeed in 2009 the WHO reported 386,929 cases of malaria in Afghanistan alone. Leprosy, cholera and tuberculosis also featured far higher infection rates than polio.
According to Caplan, the eradication of polio is a noble goal, but by neglecting other diseases, will eventually lead to disaster. “The best that can be done is to seek to control polio,” he said in article for Project Syndicate last year, “and to hope that politics, economics and ethics allow us to get that far.”
The international community, however, shows no sign of shifting positions in its eradication policies.
Last week, WHO’s Strategic Advisory group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) said that failure to meet the complete eradication deadline, set for next year, would constitute a “programmatic emergency of global proportions for public health”, and would represent “the most expensive public health failure in history.”
“There must be consequences at all levels for individuals, institutions and governments who fail to deliver on their mandate.” SAGE reported.
At present, Kabul will likely do everything in its power to keep the international community on side.