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'Unprecedented' conference on rights of persons with disabilities gets under way at UN

INTERNATIONAL, 13 June 2017 – A major intergovernmental meeting got underway at the United Nations today, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the full implementation of a landmark treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities.

“The Convention [on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD] is one of the most progressive human rights treaties, recognizing the role of the people it is trying to impact,” Georgi Panayotov, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the UN and the President of the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to CRPD, said at a press conference today at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“This is the beginning of the second decade of the CRPD, in the first decade it saw nearly universal ratification [and now] we will have to achieve universal ratification,” added Theresia Degener, the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – a body of independent UN human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention by its states parties – calling on all stakeholders to protect the normative standard set by the Convention.

Upholding these normative standards and ensuring legal capacity, institutionalization, medical treatment, as well as laws and policies to ensure non-discrimination and full participation of all persons with disabilities are extremely important, she highlighted.

In the same vein, Collin Allen, the Chair of International Disability Alliance, expressed commitment on behalf of organizations of persons with disabilities to work with governments and States parties on the implementation of the Convention.

“We want to ensure that persons with disabilities are heard, and most importantly, involved so that we have meaningful participation and full inclusion,” he said, assisted by sign-language interpreter.

We want to ensure that persons with disabilities are heard, and most importantly, involved so that we have meaningful participation and full inclusionCollin Allen, Chair of International Disability Alliance

“When we say – nothing about us, without us – it is very significant,” he added, recalling the major achievements of the CRPD over the last decade and highlighting that persons with disabilities “as the experts” on the issue are critical to realizing the aspirations of the Convention.

Held under the theme of 'inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the implementation of the Convention,' the current session of the Conference of the States Parties will also discuss addressing the impact of multiple discrimination on persons with disabilities and promoting their participation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in line with CRPD.

It will also seek to ensure inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, as well as promoting inclusive urban development and implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

Also speaking today, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities termed the Conference as an “unprecedented” one and hailed the efforts of its bureau to ensure that has full and direct participation of persons with disabilities.

However, she also expressed concern over the lack of accurate and complete data on persons with disabilities, calling for a clear recommendation on ensuring disaggregated data as well as methodology to collect it.

“Without baseline data, we will not be able to measure any impact of important tools [such as the SDGs and CRPD on] advancing the cause of persons with disabilities,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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At EXPO 2017, UN agencies highlight benefits of clean energy for all

INTERNATIONAL, 13 June 2017 – Showcasing the centrality of the energy sector to address global sustainable development challenges, United Nations agencies in Kazakhstan at EXPO 2017 have urged the global community for new momentum to ongoing efforts towards transition to clean energy.

“I hope EXPO 2017 will advance dialogues between governments, climate scientists and engineers to find practical solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions while generating energy,” said Cihan Sultanoðlu, the UN Commissioner-General for the Organization's participation at the EXPO, currently underway in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

“We need to maintain, strengthen and support the transition in all possible ways,” she added.

At the EXPO, which kicked off on 10 June, UN entities have been highlighting the importance of ensuring universal access to energy, global best practices in reduction of carbon emissions, greening the economy, and adaptation of innovative technologies. They have also setup interactive models of energy and irrigation systems that are powered by hydro-, solar and the wind power for visitors to get a first-hand experience on how these work.

The energy sector, accounting for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions is at the heart of efforts to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, as envisioned in the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Furthermore, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by all UN Member States in September 2015 also calls including a specific goal (Goal 7) on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

These are the bases for a clear roadmap, drawn by the international community towards a clean and sustainable future, noted a news release issued by the UN team at EXPO 2017.

The release also highlighted the role that cities around the world are playing in shaping the evolution of energy markets.

“The influence of cities ranges from support for smart grid investments in urban infrastructure, to the setting of ambitious renewables targets in cities like San Diego and Copenhagen,” it added.

This is all the more important given that experts have forecasted that renewable energy could become cheaper than fossil fuels within a few years, freeing resources for use in other initiatives.

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Students visit the Minister of VROMI Emmanuel as part of career path

POND ISLAND - Students from various primary schools had the assignment to take pictures that display the career path they would like to go in as they get older.

Ian Dangleben-York, age 12 attending the MAC Primary School, Georgeley Williams, age 14 attending the MAC Primary School and Jearime Chase, age 12 attending the Sister Borgia Primary School, decided to shadow the Minister of VROMI C. Emmanuel for a couple of hours.

Minister Emmanuel would like to wish the young men, as well as fellow students, a safe summer and prosperous upcoming school year. 

All students should remember to stay focused on their end goal. The journey may not be easy and may not be the same as your neighbor, however gaining knowledge is always worth it in the end.

min vromi inside one

min vromi inside two

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Liviticus by Kamau Brathwaite, distinguished Barbadian poet publishes in St. Martin

GREAT BAY - At age 87, the distinguished Caribbean poet/scholar offers up Liviticus, his newest poetry book, published here in June by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), said Lasana M. Sekou of the indie press. 

Liviticus is “a monument to sorrow that cherishes our origins as we live our lives of Modern distraction,” according to Garrett Hongo, the Pulitzer-nominated USA author.

While the poetry could also be cast as a priestly testament, it has a chilling quality that fits Brathwaite’s description of the freshly minted Liviticus as, “The first poem of the Burning of the Body / and the Tearing of the Flesh.”

One reviewer connects to what has been identified elsewhere as the sustained “global importance” of Brathwaite’s works. “Even as Kamau Brathwaite writes eloquently and heartbreakingly about his ‘Cultural Lynching,’ there remains the poet’s steadfast desire to connect to the pasts, presents, and futures of a seemingly indifferent world,” said Kelly Baker Josephs, editor of the literary platform sx salon.

Liviticus is available at Arnia’s, Van Dorp, Amazon.com, and SPDbooks.org.

The poetry is written in Brathwaite’s Sycorax Video Style (SVS). The book’s 8.5 x 11 size accommodates the SVS wide spacing, punctuations, and font varieties. At times this aesthetically unique style has amounted to a challenge if not a point of editorial contention with major publisher’s eager to publish the Bajan poet but may find themselves at odds with the requirements of his SVS brand, said Sekou.

According to his publisher, Kamau Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex. The co-founder of the Caribbean Arts Movement in the UK has lived and worked in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the USA.

Brathwaite has worked at the Ministry of Education of Ghana and served on the board of directors of UNESCO’s History of Mankind project as a cultural advisor to the Barbados government. 

Among the 20 and more books by Brathwaite that have maintained his international standing as a distinguished poet, scholar, and dramatist are The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), X/Self (1987), Middle Passages (1992), The Zea Mexican Diary (1994), Words Need Love Too (2000), Born to Slow Horses (2005), and Elegguas (2010). Words Need Love Too was published by HNP.

Brathwaite has taught at the University of the West Indies, Harvard University, and New York University. Awards and honors include the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Americas Prize for Literary Criticism, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, said Sekou.

Brathwaite is a recipient of the International Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada), the President’s Award (St. Martin Book Fair), and the Frost medal from the Poetry Society of America, said his St. Martin publisher. Kamau Brathwaite lives in Barbados.

Liviticus was launched as the “main book” at the closing ceremony of the 15th anniversary of the St. Martin Book Fair, June 3, 2017.

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All hands on deck: UN Ocean Conference wraps up with actions to preserve clean oceans, marine life

INTERNATIONAL, 9 June 2017 – The first-ever United Nations summit on oceans today wraps up with a global agreement to reserve the decline of the ocean's health, and more than 1,300 pledged actions for protecting the blue.

“The bar has been raised on global consciousness and awareness of the problem in the oceans,” the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, told journalists in New York.

Mr. Thomson, whose native Fiji co-sponsored the event along with Sweden, said the organizers got what they wanted from the conference: “I'm 100 per cent satisfied with the results of this conference. Our aim was high. Our aim was to start the reversal of the cycle.”

The Ocean Conference ends today with the adoption by consensus of a 14-point Call for Action where the participating Heads of State and Government and senior representatives “affirm our strong commitment to conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources tor sustainable development.”

Speaking alongside Mr. Thomson, the Secretary-General of The Ocean Conference, Wu Hongbo, said the negotiated document lists specific measures “to galvanize global commitment and partnerships” for the oceans.

The main points from the political document and this week's discussions will be part of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN's central body for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015. The HLPF is scheduled to meet next month in New York.

In addition to the political Call for Action, participants – who also included thousands of civil society representatives, academics, artists, financial institutions and other practitioners and activists – pledged actions to conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources. This is the goal of SDG14.

By Friday afternoon, more than 1,300 voluntary commitments had already been registered.

Calling the figure “truly impressive,” Mr. Wu, who is also UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored that the commitments were just for this conference and now comprise “an ocean solution registry.”

'It's all of us or nothing'

The week-long conference, where some 6,000 people participated, was the first time that the UN brought everyone together to discuss the challenges facing the world's oceans.

“When it comes to the ocean, it's the common heritage of humankind. There's no North-South, East-West when it comes to the ocean,” Mr. Thomson said. “If the ocean is dying, it's dying on all of us.”

The senior official underscored that by “getting the wheels turning” on SDG 14, the conference helped push forward action on all 17 SDGs.

Topics that were discussed ranged from plastic pollution in the oceans and seas to ocean acidification and illegal fishing – which tie in with topics of alleviating poverty, ending hunger, promoting health, ensuring access to water and sanitation, and so on.

Mr. Thomson attributed the success of the conference to the “wonderful way” in which all the different participants came together to discuss and work together.

He lauded the “openness to civil society, to the science sector, to private society” in breaking down the typical divisions between governments and other sectors. “There's no them and us. It's all of us or nothing.”

In addition to eight plenary meetings and seven partnership dialogues, The Ocean Conference included 150 side events, 41 exhibitions and interviews at the SDG Media Zone.

These included events with New Oceans Advocate and globally-acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, as well as Marine biologist Douglas McCauley, Aboriginal artist Sid Bruce Short Joe and Spanish philanthropist Álvaro de Marichalar, for example.

The mix of personalities and strong support for action brought “creativity and a sense of unity” to the action for oceans, said conference co-chairwoman, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Isabelle Lovin.

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UN agencies explore nuclear applications to combat food fraud and contamination

INTERNATIONAL, 9 June 2017 – Through a joint project, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are exploring mobile tools to combat food fraud and contamination, which result in global annual in the billions and pose a serious public health threat.

Traditional, professional laboratories have the ability to detect different types of fraud and contamination in food relatively quickly but such capacity is often limited in many countries and by their nature not very portable. The FAO-IAEA initiative is trying to fill this gap.

“The goal is to make available low-cost devices and methods for food authorities to use directly in the streets and markets, particularly in developing countries,” said Simon Kelly, a Food Safety Specialist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, who leads the project.

The project seeks to build on the opportunities created by advances in field-deployable analytical equipment, such as adapting ion mobility spectrometry – a nuclear-based technology used by border police agencies to detect illicit drugs and explosives – to perform point-of-use screening tests to check for adulterants, contaminants and mould in food.

“The development of high performance hand-held computing devices, such as smart phones, has enabled a new generation of instruments that can be used outside the traditional laboratory environment,” added Iain Darby, head of the IAEA's Nuclear Science and Instrumentation Laboratory.

The project will also develop methods to use such hand-held devices to test food authenticity given that labels and paperwork – which countries often depend on – can be easily forged.

“We need to rely on science to provide assurances,” said one of the project participants, Jose Almirall, Director of the International Forensic Research Institute at Florida International University, from the United States.

Syahidah Muhammad, Head of the Stable Isotope Laboratory at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, another participant pointed to the fact that many food fraud cases remain “hearsay” due to lack of proof.

Portable tools and standard operating procedures will allow authorities to respond faster at critical checkpoints, and protect the food supply chain from being inundated with tainted products, she said.

The project will initially focus on devising methods to quickly analyse milk powder and vegetable oil, two commodities that are particularly vulnerable to adulteration. In many countries, gutter oil – the waste cooking vegetable oil recovered and recycled back into the food chain – has raised alarm.

The FAO-IAEA project – part of the two organizations' efforts to help their member states with nuclear and related techniques for science-based solutions to improve global food security and sustainable agricultural development – kicked with a meeting in the Austrian capital, Vienna, last month and the first results are expected with the next two years.

The countries participating in the endeavour include Austria, Belgium, China, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Russian Federation, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uganda and the United States. The projected has been supported through contributions from Germany.

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Super Dads: New UNICEF campaign spotlights fathers' critical role in children's early development

INTERNATIONAL, 6 June 2017 – As more than 90 countries prepare to mark Father's Day later this month, prominent figures in sports and entertainment have joined 'Super Dads,' a campaign launched today by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that celebrates a father's essential role in a child's early cognitive development.

The Super Dads initiative is a part of a larger campaign called #EarlyMomentsMatter, which aims to bring awareness to the significance of early childhood experiences on a child's future.

Mahershala Ali, David Beckham, the All Blacks, Daniel Cormier, Novak Djokovic, Lewis Hamilton, Hugh Jackman, Sachin Tendulkar, Thalía and Chris Weidman are among the celebrities who will be featured for their “super dad” moments on UNICEF's Instagram and Twitter. These UNICEF ambassadors and supporters have also shared their thoughts on the importance of their own fathers in their childhoods.

“When I was a young child, my father gave me the right amount of love, freedom and support to shape who I am today,” said UNICEF Ambassador Sachin Tendulkar. “Every kid needs protection, love, good food and play to support growth and development, and it's up to both parents to provide these.”

Stars are not the only super dads that will be featured. Moving stories of fathers raising their children under difficult circumstances will be also posted alongside pictures and videos of celebrity dads.

One such story is of South Sudanese refugee Idro, a father of three daughters in Uganda's Bidi Bidi refugee settlement. “If I can't fulfil for my family, I am not happy,” said Idro, reflecting the fatherly compassion that the campaign advocates for. Idro fled from violence with his family in order to protect his daughters and continues to provide them with as much support as possible. He tries to provide a stable environment by playing games and comforting his daughters despite their hardships.

“Good parenting for young children living in highly stressful conditions like conflict or extreme poverty can even provide a buffer, helping them to fully develop despite adversity,” said Pia Britto, UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development. Children's brains form important neural connections within the first 1,000 days, which could decide their health, learning abilities, and income in later years.

Research also shows that positive interactions with fathers allow children to have better psychological health and life satisfaction in the future. Britto urges the private sector and governments to “break down the employment and societal obstacles” that prevent parents from giving their children the highest starting point possible.

Super Dads calls for families across the world to join in by sharing photos and videos of their own with the hashtag #EarlyMomentsMatter, which will be featured in a gallery for the campaign. Additionally, UNICEF will post the best submissions on its various digital platforms.

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INSEL AIR, STOP WHINING AND FOCUS!

SINT MAARTEN/COMMENTARY - Who would have thought that when in 1961 Capt. Georges E. GREAUX, an adventurous St. Barth owner/pilot of a small 5 seat Piper Apache airplane approached and convinced colleague St. Barth pilot Hypolyte (Faustin) Ledee and St. Maarten business friend Chester Wathey to start up WINDWARD ISLANDS AIRWAYS INTERNATIONAL (WINAIR), the airline would not only survive the next 56 years, but THRIVE and continue to grow in 2017!

Newest routes added just last Saturday, June 3, 2017 are SXM – HAITI and SXM – CURACAO, utilizing MD-83 jet aircraft under a so-called ACMI arrangement with PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS DOMINICANA (PAWA).

For 56 years WINAIR’s lights have been kept on by its unbelievably tenacious and dedicated employees headed subsequently by Managing Directors Capt. Georges Greaux, Rob Volgers, Robert Cors, Erwin Romer, Sydney de Weever, Eugene Holiday, John Strugnell, Capt. Edwin Hodge and now Michael Cleaver (CEO) and Roberto Gibbs (CFO).

Overseen and supported by a lean 3 man Supervisory Board headed by Capt. Greaux’s son, Georges Greaux Jr., WINAIR has to-date outlived airlines like: ALM, Air ARUBA, Air BVI, ANTILLES AIR BOATS, CARIBAIR, CARDINAL AIR, CARIBBEAN STAR, CARIBBEAN SUN, DAE, DCA, EASTERN AIRLINES, EXECUTIVE AIRLINES (AMERICAN EAGLE), PRINAIR, SEA & SUN AIRLINES.

TIARA AIR, VIASA and others I cannot recall right now. And all the while with NO cash injections by ANY of its various Government owners. So INSEL, instead of whining about OUR National Airline, FOCUS on what you want for yourself and do the best for the CURACAO hub you operate out of.

In the meantime, we Windward Islanders are immensely proud of and grateful for the foresight of Capt. GEORGE EMILIEN GREAUX and his partners and are convinced that for a long time to come WINAIR WILL TAKE US THERE!

Michael J. Ferrier

COMMENTARY: The comments expressed are the sole responsibility of the author.

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Sustainable production a 'powerful engine' for decent work creation – UN labour chief

INTERNATIONAL, 5 June 2017 – Emphasizing the potential for 'greening' the world of work, the top United Nations labour official told delegates at the International Labour Conference today that job creation and the protection of the planet can and must work together to ensure a sustainable future for all.

Decent “green” jobs are the future and they must be placed at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said, adding that: “Nothing will more clearly distinguish the first hundred years of the ILO's history from the second than the necessary greening of the world of work.”

Mr. Ryder made this plea during his opening address to the 106th session of the Conference –running in Geneva through 16 June ¬¬¬– as he introduced his annual report which is on Work in a changing climate: The Green Initiative and provides a roadmap for a just transition to a green economy.

“Today, the Paris Agreement and the national commitments made under its terms, together with the 2030 Agenda, provide a unique opportunity to translate the tripartite consensus we have constructed into large scale practical ILO work with member States,” Mr. Ryder said, stressing that the greening of production could be a powerful engine for decent work creation, and strong and balanced growth and development.

As such, he told the 5,000 delegates at the Conference that: “We need the right policies to make transition happen and to make it just. And like any process of change at work that will require the combined efforts of governments, employers and workers through social dialogue.”

Along with green jobs and sustainable development, the 2017 edition of the Conference will also consider labour migration, transition to peace and fundamental principles and rights at work.

Committees of workers, employers and government representatives will be considering how best to promote peace and stability through a possible revision of the Employment (Transition from War to Peace) Recommendation, 1944 (No.71). The promotion of Decent Work opportunities is key in countries emerging from crisis, conflict and disaster.

Other committees will discuss fundamental principles and rights at work as a follow up to the ILO's Social Justice Declaration. The Conference Committee on the Application of Standards will address the situation of labour rights in countries around the globe and focus particularly on occupational safety and health (OSH).

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Sint Maarten represented at United Nations Session In Geneva for Human Rights

SINT MAARTEN/GENEVA - Sint Maarten was again called to Geneva this month to defend its Human Rights record. Carol Voges (right), Head of Economic Affairs and Finance in the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague represented Sint Maarten at the recently concluded 61st Session of the Committee on the for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

In her opening statement Ms. Voges stated that the Government of Sint Maarten remains committed to ensuring that all persons, regardless of any distinguishing characteristics, are guaranteed their fundamental human rights.

The intervention touched on issues related to labour and unemployment, sexual and reproductive health, and human trafficking. More specifically, matters related to the progress made on decreasing the unemployment rate, which now stands at 6.21% (down from 12.2% in 2009), pension related issues, the status and legality of abortions, and criminalization of human trafficking and awareness were addressed and followed-up with related questions from the Committee.

Sint Maarten received a number of questions regarding the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence and what efforts the government was making to bring about awareness and legal and physiological protection and support to victims.

Questions also came regarding the language of instruction and the status of technology in the curriculum and in the general population. The Sint Maarten delegation in their concluding remarks to the Committee promised to continue the work being undertaken, reiterating the point that mainstreaming Human Rights is part and parcel to an inclusive and responsible development agenda.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966, and in force from 3 January 1976.

It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights to all, in particular the Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories and individuals, including labour rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living.

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