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Soualiga (10318)

21st century ‘hottest’ on record as global warming continues, world weather agency warns

SINT MAARTEN/GLOBAL – Devastating weather patterns and increasing temperatures will last into the foreseeable future as global warming is expected to continue, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Monday, February 2 as it explained that 2014’s ranking as the “hottest year on record” is part of a larger climate trend.

“The overall warming trend is more important than the ranking of an individual year,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud clarified today in apress release. “Analysis of the datasets indicates that 2014 was nominally the warmest on record, although there is very little difference between the three hottest years.”

High sea temperatures, the UN agency has said, have contributed to exceptionally heavy rainfall and floods in many countries and extreme drought in others. Twelve major Atlantic storms battered the United Kingdom in early months of 2014, while floods devastated much of the Balkans throughout May. The monthly precipitation over the Pacific side of western Japan for August 2014, meanwhile, was 301 per cent above normal – the highest since area-averaged statistics began in 1946.

At the same time, crippling droughts have struck large swathes of the continental United States while Northeast China and parts of the Yellow River basin did not reach half of the summer average, causing severe drought.

The diverse climate impact which afflicted nations around the planet throughout 2014 were, in fact, consistent with the expectation of a changing climate, Mr. Jarraud continued.

In addition, he warned that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have all been in the 21st century, adding the UN agency’s expectation that global warming would continue “given that rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the increasing heat content of the oceans are committing us to a warmer future.”

Around 93 per cent of the excess energy trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and other human activities ends up in the oceans, the WMO press release noted, as it pointed out that global sea-surface temperatures had reached “record levels” in 2014, even in the absence of a “fully developed El Niño” weather pattern. High temperatures in 1998 – the hottest year before the 21st century – occurred during a strong El Niño year.

The WMO has released its latest findings regarding its global temperature analysis in advance of climate change negotiations scheduled to be held in Geneva from 8 to 13 February. These talks are expected to help pave the way towards the December 2015 conference scheduled in Paris, France, where a new universal UN-backed treaty on climate change will be adopted.


Sint Maarten Tourism Stakeholders attend Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2015 in Puerto Rico

SINT MAARTEN/PUERTO RICO – Approximately 1,100 delegates from 29 countries including destination Sint Maarten participated in the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association’s (CHATA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico which concluded last Friday.

This meeting has been considered one of the most important for the Caribbean region’s tourism industry.

Puerto Rico tourism authorities indicated that they were very pleased to host and co-sponsor the event which brought tourism stakeholders together to sell vacation packages for the Caribbean.  

According to Ricardo Perez, Executive Board member of St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA), participating in the Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2015, is a great networking opportunity for Sint Maarten to meet with other representatives of associations to see what challenges they are encountering and what one could learn from their successes and apply them to the country.

Perez, who is also General Manager at Oyster Bay Beach Resort (OBBR), said it is very important for Sint Maarten to have a presence at the Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2015, as it would allow the destination to stay a step ahead with new trends in the industry.  “We can always learn from what our major competitive markets are doing and help provide input to the Tourist Board accordingly,” Perez noted.

Perez added that being present allows a destination to meet most of the important players in the Caribbean at one event, and if you are not present you lose a major opportunity to touch base with existing suppliers and forge relationships with new ones.

There were 282 suppliers and 106 buyers that also took part in the Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2015.  Among the suppliers, there were approximately 300 hotels.



At African Union Summit, UN promises support to build back Ebola-hit countries

INTERNATIONAL –Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon today assured African leaders gathered for a summit in Addis Ababa of the support of the United Nations in helping the countries affected by Ebola “build back stronger than ever,” while the head of the UN development agency tasked with leading the Organization's recovery efforts urged the world to stay the course in aiding hard-hit West Africa.

“Ebola must be confronted as both a health crisis and a crisis that has stopped development in its tracks,”saidUN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark at a briefing she hosted in New York Thursday for UN Member States. “It is incumbent on us all to support the three countries make the serious development setbacks as short lived as possible.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General, who had tasked UNDP with leading the initiatives of the UN system on Ebola-related recovery,addresseda roundtable on the Ebola outbreak on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit which opened today in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Lauding the AU for being on the frontlines of the Ebola response, Mr. Ban told the participants that: “We are now at a critical stage. Some may even call it a turning point.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the number of new Ebola cases recorded last week in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone fell below 100 for the first time in seven months, as it announced that the battle against the deadly virus has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.

The UN chief today reminded the world that “Ebola will not be gone from any country, until is gone from every country,” and that “success in the affected countries will also mean repairing the damage caused by Ebola.”

“Children need to go to school, farmers need to return to their fields, markets and businesses must reopen,” he added.

Saying he was “greatly encouraged by the solidarity shown by Africa – its Governments, businesses and people,” Mr. Ban wished every success in the AU's efforts to defeat Ebola and help the affected countries build back stronger than ever. “I assure you of the United Nations' support,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER)reportedthat the Director of Operations for Humanitarian Affairs, John Ging, visited Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to assess existing emergency coordination structure. There, he met with UNDP and UNMEER colleagues, as well as representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other response partners to discuss details of a potential intervention to enhance humanitarian response in the Ebola-hit countries.

UNMEER also said efforts were underway to re-open schools in Liberia next week.

“Preparation of school infection prevention and control kits to facilitate the safe reopening of more than 4,000 schools in Liberia began in advance of their opening scheduled for next week,” according to the Mission.


UN chief welcomes African Union's decision to combat Boko Haram

INTERNATIONAL – United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon today welcomed the decision of the African Union to join forces to stop the advancement of the “murderous campaigns” waged by Boko Haram, as he stressed the importance of the continent's collaboration with the UN, emphasizing that “many lives depend on preventive-diplomacy and peacekeeping.”

Mr. Ban is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this weekend for the African Union (AU) Summit, a gathering of the continent's 54-nations, to discuss daunting challenges including the growing threat of Boko Haram. At the Summit's closing today, African leaders pledged to join forces to fight the terror group, which has in recent weeks attacked villages in Cameroon, displacing thousands to neighbouring countries and sparking fears that its insurgency was expanding beyond Nigeria.

Speaking to reporters today, the UN chiefsaidhe supported the AU's plan to fight the terror group with the establishment of a Multinational Joint Task Force, which must remain consistent with UN human rights due diligence policies.

“The murderous campaign waged by Boko Haram demands stronger and more coordinated action from us all,” Mr. Ban said.

“Regional and international efforts must focus on protecting communities in northern Nigeria and across borders. More than a million internally displaced people and refugees must be able to return home,” the Secretary-General added, reiterating his call for the immediate release of those who have been abducted, particularly the girls from Chibok.

Collaboration on peace and security is essential to the UN's partnership with the AU in that more than 80 per cent of UN peacekeepers are deployed on the continent. Mr. Ban said that through the UN-AU partnership, progress has been made in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan. More, however, could be done by working “even more closely together”.

Such close partnership has paid off in the fight against the Ebola epidemic, Mr. Ban continued, commending the AU for being on the “front lines” of fighting the deadly virus. Efforts are paying off and while “we are beginning to turn the tide,” Ebola is far from over.

“We must continue to demonstrate the same solidarity until Ebola is gone from every country, and throughout the next phase of recovery,” the UN chief said.

After all, he continued, peace and development go hand-in-hand. Africa has made substantial progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and has the opportunity this year, like the rest of the world, to commit to a new post-2015 development agenda and a universal agreement on climate change.

“African families, communities and economies have much to gain from both these historic agreements,” Mr. Ban continued, urging leaders of the continent to “listen to their people and respect their wishes and aspirations”.

Several African countries will hold elections this year, he said, pledging that the UN and AU will work together to support nations to organize peaceful and credible polls. Mr. Ban also urged leaders to respect constitutional and legal limits on their terms of office.

Mr. Ban also strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in North Sinai, earlier this week which killed dozens of people, including civilians, and injured scores of others.

In his remarks to a meeting on ensuring peace and security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Secretary-General said that despite progress made in “stamping out” the activities of armed groups, scores of civilians have been killed in recent months in the Beni area.

This only underscores the importance of eradicating all illegal armed groups from the region, Mr. Ban told the Fifth Meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and region. Welcoming the use of military force against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or the FDLR, he added, that while “military action will not resolve this issue,” it is vital to eliminate the threat posed by the FDLR once and for all.

The Secretary-General also expressed concern at the slow progress in implementing the Nairobi Declarations. More than a year after those accords were signed, the amnesty and repatriation of eligible former fighters from M23 and other armed groups have not been completed. Governments of the DCR, Rwanda and Uganda must to intensity efforts to complete this process.

Also today in a meeting with Mali's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Ban deplored the recent incidents in Gao, in the northern part of the embattled country. He reiterated the UN's commitment to work closely with the Malian Government to find out exactly what happened and encouraged the Government to continue to lead the peace process. Meanwhile, the Malian Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, reiterated his Government's support for the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MINUSMA.


Haiti: Security Council visit shed important light on situation as elections loom, members say

HAITI - Members of the Security Council heard briefings today, January 29 from the co-leads of a trip taken by the body to Haiti, where they saw first-hand the critical work being done by the United Nations Mission there in support of a better future for the country’s people.

Ambassador Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States, said the visit, which Council members carried out from 23 to 25 January, included meetings with political leaders, civil society and United Nations representatives, and had shed important light on the situation as the country headed towards elections.

“Checks and balances are key,” Ms. Power said, as she described how encouraged she was by President Michel Martelly’s efforts in leading a multi-party Government and noted that Council members had been impressed by the newly-formed provisional electoral council’s commitment to independence.

She said she remained concerned about the loss of the check on presidential power and called on all sides to redouble their efforts for constructive dialogue with an aim to ensure free and fair elections.

Ambassador Cristián Barros Melet, Permanent Representative of Chile, which holds the Council presidency for January, echoed Ms. Powers’ views on the contribution made by the UN stabilization mission (MINUSTAH) through its various projects to the prospect of a brighter future for Haitians.

He said the “fundamental goal” of the Council’s trip was to underscore the importance of an inclusive atmosphere for stability and to promote the prevention of conflict. Council members urged the various actors to work together to hold legislative elections that were free, fair, inclusive, transparent and in the interests of the people of Haiti.

Members also had the chance to assess initiatives undertaken to strengthen the national police of Haiti and to promote more responsibility in the State and national authorities. They had recognised progress achieved while also stressing that it remains one of main areas where challenges remain, with particular significance as elections approach.

The visit to a women’s prison in Pétionville showed Council members how clear the need for progress in guaranteeing the rule of law, including access to justice, was for Haitians, Mr. Barros Melet said, noting that the trip had also given members a chance to evaluate the implementation of resolution 2180 (2014).

Both briefers discussed the visit to the country’s national memorial for all those who lost their lives during the 2010 earthquake, with Ms. Powers noting how moving the tribute – “a large piece of rubble which stands as a stark symbol of all that was destroyed” – was, and Mr. Barros Melet stressing how the Haitian people had shown resilience in the five years since the devastation of the earthquake.


With recorded Ebola cases reaching new lows, UN health agency targets ending epidemic

INTERNATIONAL – This week, the number of Ebola cases in West Africa has fallen below 100 for the first time in seven months, the World Health Organization reported today, January 29 as it announced that the battle against the deadly virus has shifted from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.

“To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials, and community engagement is used as effectively as possible,” WHO said in itslatest update containing data up to 25 January 2015.

The WHO announcement came as the United Nations focused on recovery aspects of the Ebola epidemic that affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone the most.

The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Ebola, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, was to participate in a UN-African Union stakeholders meeting in the Ethiopian capital on the reconstruction of the affected countries, as the Executive Boards of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) was meeting today on Ebola Recovery at UN headquarters.

According to WHO, the response to the Ebola epidemic has now moved to a second phase, “as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic.”

The agency in its update, said “for the first time since the week ending 29 June 2014, there have been fewer than 100 new confirmed cases reported in a week in the 3 most-affected countries.”

“A combined total of 99 confirmed cases were reported from the 3 countries in the week to 25 January: 30 in Guinea, 4 in Liberia, and 65 in Sierra Leone,” according to the WHO update.

“Case incidence continues to fall in Liberia and Sierra Leone,” it said, but noted that “Guinea reported 30 confirmed cases in the week to 25 January, up from 20 confirmed cases in the previous week.”

The number of total cases was reported at more than 22,000 with some 8,800 deaths.


Greater protections needed for ‘inland fisheries’

INTERNATIONAL – The world's network of lakes, rivers and streams that provide fish and fresh drinking water to millions of people must be better managed in order to safeguard their ongoing contribution to healthy diets and the global economy, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urged on January 29.

“Inland fisheries provide a valuable but often overlooked source of nutrition and employment around the world,” Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, explained in apress release.

“But to date, the international effort to effectively integrate inland fisheries into the broader development agenda has fallen short of what is needed.”

Mr. Mathiesen's appeal comes as the UN food agency and international stakeholders – from researchers to indigenous groups – wrapped up the Global Conference on Inland Fisheries, concluding that a dearth of data and sound policies had resulted in development decisions which failed to take into account adverse impacts on inland fisheries.

According to the FAO, lakes and rivers are an “essential source” of protein, micronutrients, vitamins and fats for millions of people, particularly in developing countries, where more than 60 million people rely on them for their livelihood. An estimated 71 low-income countries, in fact, currently produce nearly 7 million tonnes a year, or 80 per cent of so-called global inland captures.

In addition, much of the nutrition garnered from inland fisheries is ultimately critical in supplementing the incomplete diets of many of the world's poor. Some 800,000 children die each year from zinc deficiency; 250 million children worldwide are at risk of vitamin A deficiency; and almost a third of the world's population is iron deficient.

At the same time, the UN agency noted, these bodies of water are frequently impacted by other human needs, including energy creation, tourism and competition for freshwater, which can damage the delicate ecosystems in play.

“We hear a lot about the threats to coral reefs, but freshwater fish are the most threatened group of vertebrates used by humans,” Mr. Mathiesen continued.

“If a country upstream dams a river or drains a wetland, fisheries management downstream is fairly useless,” added FAO Senior Fishery Resource Officer, Devin Bartley.

Currently, less than half of international or shared inland water bodies have international agreements on their management and only 11 per cent have a mandate covering fish, the FAO said.

Experts who attended the Global Conference called on the international community to boost the number of accords aimed at ensuring freshwater resources are used “sustainably and smartly.”


UN ‘blue helmet’ killed near site of Lebanon-Israel cross-fire

INTERNATIONAL - A United Nations (UN) peacekeeper with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed today, Wednesday, January 28 near the border with Israel but the precise cause of death is as yet undetermined and remains the subject of investigation, according to a statement issued by the mission.

“At around 11:30 am this morning, UNIFIL observed six rockets launched towards Israel from the vicinity of Wazzani north of Maysat in the UNIFIL area of operations,” the peacekeeping operation said in a statement. “The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] returned artillery fire in the same general area.”

“During the course of the developments, a UNIFIL peacekeeper deployed at a UN position near Ghajar sustained serious injuries that resulted in his death,” according to UNIFIL. “The precise cause of death is as yet undetermined and remains the subject of investigation.”

The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, expressed deep concern over the serious deterioration of the security situation in South Lebanon following the exchange of fire. She urgently called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could destabilize the situation further.

Ms. Kaag strongly urged all parties to continue to abide by their obligations under Security Council resolution 1701, which called for the full cessation of hostilities in the month-long 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon.

UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major-General Luciano Portolano was in immediate contact with the parties to help control the situation and prevent further escalation, it said.

The Force Commander has strongly condemned this serious violation of UN Security Council resolution 1701. He is maintaining continuous contacts with the parties and has urged both sides to exercise utmost restraint.

UNIFIL has launched an investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of the incident.

UNIFIL also reported that at around 1:30 p.m. today, five rockets were fired from the general area of Kafer Shouba towards Israel, and the IDF fired artillery rounds towards the source of fire. UNIFIL said it has been informed by the IDF that they incurred casualties as a result of fire from the Lebanese side.

The 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon has further reinforced its presence on the ground and intensified patrols across the area of operations in coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces.


South Sudan: UN welcomes demobilization of child soldiers amid signs of peace

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is celebrating the release of some 3,000 South Sudanese child soldiers on January 27 in what is being hailed as one of the largest ever demobilizations of children in a zone of conflict.

“These children have been forced to do and see things no child should ever experience,” UNICEF South Sudan Representative Jonathan Veitch stated in apress release. “The release of thousands of children requires a massive response to provide the support and protection these children need to begin rebuilding their lives.”

An initial group of 280 children – ranging from 11 to 17 years of age – were released by the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra Faction at the village of Gumuruk in South Sudan's eastern Jonglei State. The release was marked by a ceremony overseen by UNICEF and the South Sudan National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission during which the child soldiers reportedly surrendered their weapons and uniforms. Further phased releases of the other children are planned over the coming month.

According to the UN agency, some of the child soldiers have been fighting for up to four years and many have never attended school. In the last year alone, 12,000 children, mostly boys, have been recruited and used as soldiers by armed forces and groups in South Sudan as a whole.

The security situation in South Sudan deteriorated steadily over the past year since political in-fighting between South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, started in mid-December 2013. The hostilities subsequently turned into a full-fledged conflict that has sent nearly 100,000 civilians fleeing to UNMISS bases around the country. The crisis has uprooted an estimated 1.9 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease.

Nonetheless, a recent peace deal between the warring factions has fostered hope of a definitive end to the year-long conflict.

In its press release, UNICEF explained that it is currently working to trace and reunify the children with their families, a “daunting” task due to the more than 1 million children who have either been displaced internally or have fled to neighbouring countries since fighting broke out.

In the meantime, the UN agency is supporting the former child soldiers with basic health care and protection services and necessities such as food, water and clothing to help them get ready to return to their families. Moreover, counselling and other psychological support programmes are urgently being established as well as access to education and skills training programmes.

Mr. Veitch warned, however, that the successful application of such programmes demanded significant resources.

UNICEF, in fact, estimates the costs for the release and reintegration of each child at $2,330 for a two-year period. Although some funding has been forthcoming, the agency is appealing for an additional $10 million.

For her part, Leila Zerrougui, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, celebrated the demobilization, adding that the release of the child soldiers was “a step in the right direction.”

“Helping them take back their lives must be a priority,” she declared in a statement. “I call on the international community to provide sufficient resources to ensure they have access to the support that will help them heal and return to a peaceful life.”

South Sudan is one of seven countries highlighted in the UN's ongoing “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign which aims to end the recruitment and use of children by Government armed forces in conflict by the end of 2016. During the Special Representative's visit to South Sudan in June 2014, the Government recommitted to the full implementation of its action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children in the Sudan People's Liberation Army. In May, Riek Machar, signed a commitment with the Special Representative to end all grave violations against children.

“Today's release of children is a step in the right direction, but we cannot forget that thousands more have been recruited by all parties to the conflict,” Ms. Zerrougui continued. “I urge the Government of South Sudan and the opposition led by Riek Machar to honor their commitments. The release of children in their ranks is long overdue.”


World must 'wake up' to enormity of Central African Republic crisis, warns relief official

INTERNATIONAL – The top United Nations humanitarian official in the Central African Republic (CAR) is calling for increased protection of displaced communities in the northern town of Batangafo, where relief agencies are working hard to ease suffering as the country's ongoing conflict drives a steady stream of terrified people into the area seeking safety.

Senior Humanitarian Coordinator Claire Bourgeois visited Batangafo over the weekend to assess the increasing protection needs in the area caused by a continuous influx of newly displaced persons (IDP). There are now more than 30,000 IDPs in the main site of the city, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

After visiting the overcrowded displacement site in Batangafo – which daily receives hundreds of people driven from their homes by violence – Mrs. Bourgeois, in a press release today,stressedthe urgent need to restore State authority in the town.

While impressed by the way the humanitarian response is organized by the Danish Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières Spain, and by the active role played by the Committee of Wise Men and the Transhumance Committee, she nevertheless emphasized that immediate action is needed to ensure the safety and protection of civilians who are at severe risk of attacks in the region, especially in the western area.

"This will stop the daily influx of hundreds of displaced people arriving at the site searching for safety; it will facilitate the return to their places of origins; and, at the same time, will enable humanitarian actors to reach people in need in areas where activities are now interrupted due to safety concerns,” Mrs. Bourgeois said.

Mrs. Bourgeois was accompanied on her visit by representatives of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN refugee agency (UNHCR), World Health Organization (WHO), and other humanitarian partners.

The delegation met with the Committee of Wise Men, representatives of the Pheul community, non-governmental organizations and IDPs themselves in Batangafo, to discuss their basic needs and the challenges impeding their return to their places of origin.

OCHA notes that the most urgent needs identified were: improvement of the security and protection of civilians, and assistance to newly arrived displaced people. The mission participants called on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians and humanitarian workers in CAR.

“The world needs to wake up to the enormity of the crisis in CAR. This is one of the most serious humanitarian emergencies in the world. We urgently need more action and more commitment. Action to protect civilians must be the top priority for all actors,” Mrs. Bourgeois added.

Her strong call comes following the launch last Friday by UNHCR of its latest funding appeal to help more than 450,000 Central African Republic refugees struggling to survive across the region. The $331 million appeal presented seeks to provide safety, food, clean water, shelter, health and other basic services to people, which the agency expects will be seeking refuge in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Republic of the Congo by the end of the year.

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian CAR faces a humanitarian crisis of major proportions. Nearly a million people have been displaced and 2.7 million people, over half of the population, are in dire need of immediate assistance.

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