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UN announces launch of ‘ground-breaking’ school feeding analysis

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations today announced the release of a major analysis of global school meal practices, which offers guidance on how to design and implement large-scale sustainable national school feeding programmes that can meet globally approved standards.

Produced by Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Bank, the Global School Feeding Sourcebook: Lessons from 14 countries was created in response to demand from governments and development partners.

The Sourcebook documents and analyzes a range of government-led school meals programmes to provide decision-makers and practitioners worldwide with the knowledge, evidence and good practice they need to strengthen their national school feeding efforts.

With school meals’ proven ability to improve the health and education of children while supporting local and national economies and food security, WFP reported that school feeding programmes exist in almost every country in the world for which there is data, for a total annual global investment of $75 billion.

This provides an estimated 368 million children – about one in five - with a meal at school daily. However, too often, such programmes are weakest in countries where there is the most need, the UN agency warned.

With high-level collaboration with government teams from 14 countries (Botswana, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Chile, Cote D’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria and South Africa), the Sourcebook includes a compilation of concise and comprehensive country case-studies. It highlights the trade-offs associated with alternative school feeding models and analyzes the overarching themes, trends and challenges which run across them.

In a joint foreword, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said that the research showed how school meals programmes help to get children into the classroom and keep them there, “contributing to their learning by avoiding hunger and enhancing cognitive abilities.”

“Today, national school feeding programmes are increasingly embedded in national policy on poverty elimination, social protection, education and nutrition,” the UN system officials added.

Meanwhile, lead Editor and PCD’s Executive Director Lesley Drake said the overall message from this research is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ for school feeding and there are many routes to success.

“Context is key,” she noted. “This sourcebook will act as a valuable tool for governments to enable them to make evidenced-based decisions that will improve the effectiveness of their school feeding programmes.”

The Sourcebook follows Rethinking School Feeding and The State of School Feeding Worldwide as the third in a trilogy of agenda-defining analysis produced by the World Bank, WFP and PCD global partnership. These have reportedly shaped the way in which governments and donors alike approach school feeding.

“Helping countries to apply this knowledge [in the Sourcebook] to strengthen national school feeding programmes will contribute to reducing the vulnerability of the poorest, giving all children a chance for an education and a bright future and eliminating poverty,” said Dr. Kim and Ms. Cousin.

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Appeal Court postpones Energizer tax case until October 5

PHILIPSBURG - The appeal case against S.M. and his company Energizer N.V. has been postponed again, according to a press statement from the Public Prosecution Service.

The proceedings will take place onOctober 5 the Joint Court of Justice decided on Thursday June 9. It was also decided that onAugust 25 a preliminary hearing will take place to evaluate the progress of the hearing of witnesses by the investigative judge.

The Solicitor General urged the Joined Court of Justice to see to it that the proceedings will finally take place. The three judges of the Joint Court of Justice decided on a time frame in which the witnesses should be heard.

S.M was sentenced in 2015 to 24 months in jail 18 of which suspended, three years’ probation period and 240 hours of community service. His company Energizer was sentenced to pay NAf 4.5 million in back taxes.‎

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On World Day, UN urges meaningful action to protect future health of oceans

INTERNATIONAL – Healthy oceans are critical to sustaining life on Earth, by regulating the climate and providing a wide range of services, including natural resources, nutritious food and jobs that benefit billions of people, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, as the UN kicked off its celebrations to mark World Oceans Day.

“Healthy oceans are essential for a healthy planet and a healthy future for us all,” the Secretary-General affirmed in his message for the Day, which is observed annually on 8 June.

This year’s theme, Healthy oceans, healthy planet, spotlights the threat of plastic pollution, which degrades very slowly, polluting waterways and impacting the health of aquatic animals, which mistake the microbeads for food, as well as the health of humans.

In his message, the Secretary-General underscored that in order to protect the health of oceans, it is crucial to know their current state, and also understand the impact that human activities and climate change are having on them.

He recalled that this past December, the UN General Assembly had welcomed the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, a global scientific evaluation of the state of the world’s oceans.

“We now know that although the oceans are seemingly endless, their capacity to withstand human activities is limited, particularly as they also cope with the threats posed by climate change,” Mr. Ban said.

“Urgent action on a global scale is needed to alleviate the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face, and to protect them from future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity,” he added.

The Secretary-General also recalled that this past year, in adopting the landmark 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Member States underscored that healthy and productive oceans will play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Healthy oceans will also play an essential role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, as we strive to implement the Paris Agreement,” Mr. Ban said.

Echoing those remarks, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that 2016 is the year when the world starts to implement the promises made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“UNESCO’s message on World Oceans Day is clear – the ocean is essential to moving forward,” she stressed.

Ms. Bokova highlighted that despite the increasing impacts of human activities on the marine environment, the ocean remains an important driver in eradicating the greatest global challenge facing the world today: extreme poverty.

“The ocean is an integral part of our planet, and an absolutely essential component of human lives, livelihoods and the environment that sustains us. From fisheries and tourism to transportation and climate regulation, the ocean is key to implementing the new global agenda,” she said.

Especially for developing countries, coasts and the ocean provide multiple economic opportunities to ensure that no one will be left behind in the pursuit of a more equitable, sustainable development, the Director-General said.

“Whether on the coast or in the high seas far away from all, safeguarding biodiverse marine sites is vital for ensuring the sustainable long-term use of precious natural resources,” Ms. Bokova said.

For its part, UNESCO, through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, is working to support its Member States in implementing SDG 14 on oceans, and all other relevant objectives and targets, in ways that are inclusive and based on an integrated scientific approach.

She emphasized that the development of national capacities in marine scientific research is a precondition for understanding and preserving the ocean, its environment and the many resources it provides.

“Our message is that a healthy ocean is a healthy planet, and a healthy planet is absolutely vital for the well-being of generations to come. Whether in eradicating poverty or regulating the climate, the bottom line is that the ocean matters,” Ms. Bokova said.

“World Oceans Day is our opportunity – as decision-makers, industry, civil society, science, and you and me – to tip the balance and move from agreement to meaningful action,” she added.

Among the events that will be held to mark World Oceans Day 2016 include “He Lei Holo Puni Honua,” a ceremonial presentation of declarations and sail of friendship in Long Island City, New York, during which the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe from the Pacific, Hokule‘a, will arrive at the UN for the first time in history.

As part of this event, Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator, will present Mr. Ban and Gyan Chandra Acharya, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and the President of Palau, Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., with ocean protection declarations that Hokule?a voyagers have collected from the public on their worldwide journey promoting sustainable oceans.

At UN Headquarters in New York, an event on “Voyaging to a Sustainable Planet: A Talk Story Uniting Leadership on Oceans” will be held in the afternoon to discuss the UN’s Ocean Agenda and link the voyage of the Hokule?a with SDG 14.

In the evening, a reception will be held at the UN General Assembly hall, where the winners of this year’sWorld Oceans Day Oceanic Photo Competition will be announced. That event will also feature several musical performances.

In addition, the Empire State Building in New York will be lit in the evening in white, blue and purple, representing the different layers of the ocean. White at the top represents the most shallow, sunlit waters and also the polar ice cap. Blue represents the slightly deeper ocean waters, and purple is for even deeper waters. The unlit portions, or black, represent those parts of the ocean where the sun does not reach.

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Unity at the core of global peace and security, top EU official tells Security Council

INTERNATIONAL – In order to face and overcome the various political and humanitarian crises occurring around the world, working together in a spirit of cooperation and multilateralism must be a priority for both the United Nations and the European Union (EU) – and indeed, all countries worldwide – a top EU official told the Security Council today.

“In times like these, we need each other,” said Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, at a Security Council briefing on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security.

“We need all nations to come together, united. We need the United Nations. Because only together can we draw the way forward, and make sure that tomorrow will be better than today,” she added.

Addressing the 15-member body at UN Headquarters in New York this morning, Ms. Mogherini, who is also Vice-President of the European Commission, highlighted that she had participated in numerous meetings and events with UN agencies around the world since taking office as the EU’s High Representative.

“I believe this is the only way we have – as Europeans, as responsible members of the international community – to face these difficult times in the history of the world,” she stressed.

Indeed, she recalled that a year ago she had told the Council that the EU believes in multilateralism and in the UN.

“Today I can add that multilateralism will be one of the core principles and priorities in our new Global Strategy for foreign and security policy, which I will present in the coming weeks,” Ms. Mogherini said.

“This is not time for global policemen. This is no time for lonely warriors. If we want to finally put an end to the many crises we face – and prevent new ones before they explode – our only hope is to work as truly United Nations,” she added.

Middle East peace process

Turning to the conflict in the Middle East, the High Representative emphasized that the proliferation of conflicts and crises in the region is not a reason to forget about the fate of the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Instead, the new security threats in the region should “push everyone to renew our efforts towards ending this conflict,” she said, as a further escalation, especially around the holy sites in Jerusalem, would have grave consequences for the entire region.

For this reason, she had made the Middle East peace process a top priority for action, at the very moment when the perspectives of two states was getting “beyond reach.”

“The possibility of a secure State of Israel and a viable State of Palestine living side by side is fading away,” Ms. Mogherini said. “And together with the perspective of the two states, peace would also get beyond reach.”

She noted that the upcoming Quartet Report will describe the immediate obstacles to direct talks, and the policies that threaten the viability of a two-state solution. It will also make clear recommendations on the way forward, with the main goal of recreating confidence between the two sides and the conditions to return to meaningful negotiations, she said.

Conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Libya

Regarding the conflict in Syria, Ms. Mogherini noted that Europe was “doing its part,” including reopening its humanitarian office in Damascus, engaging on the ground as the first donor to the country, and playing a role in encouraging and accompanying the political track.

Iraq must also remain high on the agenda, as a centrepiece for stabilization in the broader region, the High Representative said. In that regard, the liberation of areas must be followed by rapid stabilization and restoration of services, while the campaign against Da’esh needs to be framed by an adequate political settlement, she stressed.

“All political players must seek a swift resolution to the current political impasse. We remain committed to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq,” Ms. Mogherini said.

Unity is also central for Libya, the High Representative said, highlighting that among the EU’s work in that sense was a re-statement of support to the Government of National Accord. In addition, the EU had started to mobilize a package of 100 million euros to allow Libyans to “live their lives in safety and dignity,” she said.

Ms. Mogherini also reiterated a request for the Council to adopt a resolution on authorizing Operation Sophia – a naval operation launched this past spring against traffickers’ networks – to enforce the UN arms embargo on the high seas, off the coast of Libya.

“This is the course of action that our European Union has chosen: constant coordination with the United Nations, to best serve our collective interests. This is the place where international action should be discussed and authorized. And I can only hope that this Council will once again do the right thing, and help us make the Mediterranean a safer place, for everyone,” the High Representative said.

Global governance

Ms. Mogherini’s briefing also touched on international cooperation and the EU’s efforts in relation to Afghanistan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine and Yemen.

She noted that the EU and the UN share the “very same approach” to security and development.

That same approach has now become an integral part of the EU’s response to migration and the current refugee crises, she said.

She noted that, for that reason, she planned to present in Strasbourg tomorrow, together with her colleagues in the European Commission, a plan for a new “migration partnership” with “friends in our region and in Africa.”

“Migration and displacement are one of the great challenges of our era. Our response is the measure of our very humanity,” she said, adding that she looked forward to the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants in September.

Ms. Mogherini also noted that stronger partnerships are the building blocks of foreign policy.

“Despite all setbacks, despite all the stops and goes, multilateralism has shown its strength,” she said.

“Formats can change, and institutions must be reformed. But in our conflictual world, where power is scattered and diffuse, global peace and security only stands a chance if our nations and our regions are united,” she added, concluding that the EU “will always come back to the United Nations, to the core of the international multilateral system, to the stubborn idea of a cooperative world order.”

The High Representative also met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, discussing the Israeli-Palestinian question, Syria, Libya, Yemen, migration, Afghanistan, and the situation in various parts of Africa.

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UN urges collective action ahead of forum to fast-track AIDS response over next five years

INTERNATIONAL – While much has been done over the past few years to halt and reverse the AIDS epidemic, the international community is set to gather for a three-day meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York later this week in order to propel the global response on a fast-track approach and chart the way towards ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Ending the AIDS epidemic is a crucial part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ahead of the 2016 High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, which will take place from 8 to 10 June in the UN General Assembly.

“The 2016 United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS can help close the gap between needs and services and advance our efforts to leave no one behind,” he added.

Participants at the forum will include Governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and communities of people living with and affected by HIV.

In 2015, the global community delivered on the AIDS targets of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 – which included halting and reversing the AIDS epidemic – marking the first time a global health target has been met and exceeded.

Indeed, data show that the number of people accessing antiretroviral therapy more than doubled to an estimated 17 million from 2010 to 2015, according to the Global AIDS Update 2016 recently released by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The lessons learned in responding to HIV will be crucial to achieving many of the SDGs – a universal set of targets adopted in 2015 that build on the MDGs and which are being used as a framework for the agendas of UN Member States over the next 15 years – and particularly SDG 3, which focuses on good health and well-being and calls for, in particular, ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

An integral part of achieving that target will require countries to take a fast-track approach during the next five years in order to ensure that global efforts are accelerated during that time, as highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, On the fast track to ending the AIDs epidemic.

“We are at a unique moment in history,” stressed UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.

“Over the next five years we have a window of opportunity to shift gear and put the global HIV response firmly on the fast-track to end the AIDS epidemic. This meeting will be critical to harnessing the momentum we have built since 2011 and securing global commitment to break the epidemic for good,” he added.

At the High-Level Meeting, UN Member States are expected to draft a new political declaration on Ending AIDS that will include a set of time-bound targets to scale up the pace of progress. They will use the zero draft of the political declaration as a basis of negotiations.

The meeting will feature a series of four panels as well as a number of side events and round tables covering diverse topics.

Participants will take into account analysis of global data showing that the world has a window of opportunity in which to deliver focused and effective action by fully funding and front-loading HIV investment. Countries and the private sector must come together to increase overall investment in HIV prevention and treatment from the $19 billion available in 2014 to $26 billion annually by 2020.

At the same time, investment in outreach services that ensure that key populations have access to HIV prevention, care and treatment in low- and middle-income countries must increase to about seven per cent of total HIV investment in 2020.

The UNAIDS Fast-Track approach to the AIDS response during the next five years will aim for achieving such targets as fewer than 500,000 people newly infected with HIV; fewer than 500,000 people dying from AIDS-related illnesses; and eliminating HIV-related discrimination.

“I call on all United Nations Member States to unite at the high-level meeting on ending AIDS. Together we can fast-track the end of the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly, which is hosting the meeting.

The meeting will be co-facilitated by Jürg Lauber, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, and Patricia Mwaba Kasese-Bota, Permanent Representative of Zambia to the UN.

Ahead of the high-level meeting, a global meeting of mayors on ending AIDS in cities by 2030 is being held at the New York Public Library today. The event, featuring Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, and about 30 other mayors from major cities, was convened in collaboration with UNAIDS and the Fast-Track cities partners, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care.

Tomorrow, 7 June, an event on HIV and Security: Past, Present and Future, will be held at UN Headquarters in New York, will focus on achieving the Fast-Track targets as well as gender-based violence prevention in humanitarian emergencies and conflict situations.

On Wednesday, 8 June, an event on Delivering an AIDS-free generation, also to be held in New York, will highlight the achievements of the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive and priority actions to fast-track that response and the goal of ending paediatric AIDS by 2020.

Also on Wednesday, another event to be held in New York, on Breaking the silos: integrated services for adolescent girls and young women, will showcase examples of adolescent-centred policies and programmes and establish commitment to mobilize stakeholders and resources for responses, particularly towards adolescent girls.

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Benefits of technology and innovation must be shared ‘with those who stand to gain most’ – Ban

INTERNATIONAL – Speaking at the first multi-stakeholder forum on science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged leaders to share their benefits with those who stand to gain most.

“Over the next 15 years, progress in science, technology and innovation will be key to delivering on all the SDGs – from poverty eradication to agriculture and food security, to energy, to water and sanitation, and climate change,” Mr. Ban told delegates, business leaders, and innovators at the event organized at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Linking science, technology and innovation with progress in sustainable development at the ground level is the greatest challenge. That is the gap this Forum is expected to close. You have a critical mission to accomplish,” he underlined.

Convened by the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the two-day Forum aims “to ensure a life of dignity for all, with greater shared prosperity on a clean and healthy planet.”

“Innovation is embedded in the Sustainable Development Goals, together with advancing science and technology, as Goal 17,” the UN chief recalled. “But science, technology and innovation must not be limited to SDG 17. They cut across all the SDGs as an important element of implementation.”

He cautioned that science, technology and innovation cannot be confined to the use of new technologies or software, but rather, innovation is a mindset and an attitude: “It means questioning assumptions, rethinking established systems and procedures, and introducing new strategies. New technologies are important, but as a means to an end,” he explained.

The Secretary-General indicated that the multi-stakeholder Forum will take place each year until 2030, to pool ideas, and find ways to incentivize, scale up and adopt breakthrough solutions.

“I hope it will be a new way of doing things at the United Nations. We will need ownership, participation and active involvement from all sectors of society, for sustainable development to become a global reality within the next 15 years,” he declared.

Adding that the defining pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is that no one will be left behind, he also informed Member States that it is the chosen theme for this year’s first High-level Political Forum on the agenda, which will be held in New York from 11 to 20 July.

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Americas: Regional meeting aims to aid overall UN disaster reduction efforts

INTERNATIONAl – With efforts under way to assist countries to take up a comprehensive strategy with achievable targets, the United Nations is seeking to drastically reduce the number of people affected by natural and man-made disasters from the 100 million who suffered last year.

Those people include more than 50 million who faced drought. Flooding, earthquakes and hurricanes brought devastating consequences to millions of others in all parts of the world.

According to figures from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) some 22,773 people died in 346 major reported disasters in 2015.

That includes more than 8,800 who perished in the earthquake that hit Nepal in April.

Experts are meeting in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay from 8 to 9 June to discuss how to reduce the risks of disasters in the Americas and to consider how the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction can be best implemented.

The framework, named after the Japanese city in which it was adopted in March 2015, aims to substantially reduce losses in lives, livelihoods and damage to the environment and focuses both on natural and man-made disasters.

Robert Glasser who heads up UNISDR and who is due to attend the High-Level Ministerial meeting on the Implementation of the Sendai Framework said that “addressing disaster risk is the single most tangible way we can make a difference in the lives of people, vulnerable people around the world, whose vulnerability is generally increasing because of climate change because of population growth and because countries are not incorporating risk in the choices for the investments they are making.”

Experts from the Americas and the Caribbean meeting in Asuncion are due to discuss their own experiences and explore strategies to reduce the risk of disasters and the inevitable deaths that accompany them.

Reducing vulnerability to future disasters is a key element of any strategy.

In 2004, a category three hurricane, known as Hurricane Charley, wrought destruction in Cuba.

Jose Rubiera the Director of the National Forecast Centre on the Caribbean island, said the authorities there decided to reduce the risk of future extreme weather events by moving people away from vulnerable coastal areas.

“What is done in Cuba is to prevent reproducing vulnerability,” he said. “Let’s say you have a town that was destroyed in Hurricane Charley. Well, what has been done is to build the town again away from the coast.”

When a disaster like a hurricane, flood, drought or earthquake strikes, it’s often the poorest people who are hit hardest as they are the most vulnerable.

A landslide in Guatemala in October 2015 killed 627 people and floods in India in the second half of the same year led to more than 600 deaths.

Fadi Hamdan, the Managing Director of the Disaster Risk Management Centre in Beirut, Lebanon said that “disaster risk reduction should be very important for everyone as it is trying to address some of the main challenges facing humanity including the rise in inequality.

“Inequality is manifesting itself in so many different ways,” he added “and these inequalities can only be addressed by also addressing the inequality in the exposure to disasters, inequality in the vulnerability to disasters and inequality in the distribution in disaster losses.”

The High-Level Meeting, to be known as #SendaiAmericas, is the first gathering of Ministers and High-level Authorities on the implementation of the Sendai Framework.

The Framework is a key element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which has at its centre 17 targets known as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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UN-backed report finds increase in international transfers of small arms

INTERNATIONAl – Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are the most transparent top and major small arms exporters, a new report backed by the United Nations has found.

The Small Arms Survey’s Trade Update: Transfers and Transparency, which was released today at UN Headquarters in New York, also found that Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the least transporting exporters.

At a press conference on the launch of the survey, Olivier Marc Zehnder, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, highlighted that the “arms trade treaty and its reporting obligations play a crucial role in promoting responsible arms transfers,” and stressed that “universal ratification remains vital and reporting obligations must be fulfilled by State parties.”

The report provides an overview of the international trade in small arms and light weapons in 2013, identifies the world’s top and major exporters of small arms and light weapons, and assesses changes in trade patterns from 2012 to 2013. The update also presents the 2016 edition of the Small Arms Trade Transparency Barometer, which scores key exporters from the most to the least transparent.

Among the report’s main findings include that data reported to UN Comtrade – a repository of official trade statistics and relevant analytical tables – reveals international transfers of small arms by top and major actors worth an estimated $5.8 billion in 2013, a 17 per cent increase compared with 2012.

The report found that in 2013, the top exporters of small arms and light weapons – those with annual exports of at least $100 million – were, in descending order, the United States, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Austria, South Korea, Turkey, the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic, Israel, Belgium, Croatia, China, Switzerland, Japan and Spain.

The survey’s analysis of trade data going back to 2001 reveals that 2013 witnessed the largest number of top exporters, with Croatia surpassing the $100 million mark for the first time.

In 2013, the eight top importers of small arms and light weapons – those with annual imports of at least $100 million – were, in descending order, the United States, Canada, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Australia, France and Norway.

The United States imported more than $2.4 billion of small arms, maintaining its record high since 2001.

Also speaking at the report’s launch was Nicolas Florquin, the survey’s research coordinator, who indicated that the United States, Germany and Italy represent “almost 40 per cent of all recorded exports in 2013.”

In addition, he noted that “imports by top importers increased markedly by 23 per cent between 2012 and 2013.”

Mr. Florquin also said that new top importers in 2013 include Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“One of the key findings in the report is that trade with the Middle East increased markedly in 2013. Imports by major importers in the region nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013,” he said.

The average score in the 2016 Transparency Barometer, which scores key exporters from the most to the least transparent, was 11.16 out of 25 available points, representing less than 50 per cent of a perfect score.

The survey concluded that once again in this year’s barometer, information on export licences granted and refused remains especially scarce. Of the countries under review, about one half provided no information on approved licences, while almost two thirds did not report on the ones they denied.

More than one third of the countries under review improved their scores since the last edition of the barometer. Among these, South Africa experienced the largest increase (+7.75 points), followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had an increase of 4.25 points.

The report’s launch today was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN, and took place during the Sixth Biennial Meeting of States to consider implementation of the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.

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Ban 'deeply saddened' by passing of Muhammad Ali, 'world champion for equality and peace'

INTERNATIONAL – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Muhammad Ali, and extended his condolences to the Ali family and the many millions of fans mourning his death in every corner of the world.

“Mr. Ali was far more than a legendary boxer; he was a world champion for equality and peace. With an incomparable combination of principle, charm, wit and grace, he fought for a better world and used his platform to help lift up humanity,” Mr. Ban highlighted in a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998, Mr. Ali travelled the globe to support children and others caught up in conflict, and to promote reconciliation between people and nations. Well before taking on this role, he came to the United Nations in the 1970s to campaign against apartheid and racial injustice.

“The Secretary-General was honored to join Mr. Ali as a flag bearer at the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. He recalls Mr. Ali's strength, humour and ability to bring people together,” the statement indicated, adding that the United Nations is grateful to have benefitted from the life and work “of one of the past century's great humanitarians and advocates for understanding and peace.”

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UN agency welcomes announcement of refugee team to compete at Olympics

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations refugee agency has warmly welcomed today’s announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the refugees who will compete as a team in the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The team includes two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and six runners from Ethiopia and South Sudan, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) highlighted in a press release, noting that all of the members of the team have fled violence and persecution in their countries and sought refuge in places as wide-ranging as Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Kenya and Brazil.

“We are very inspired by the Refugee Olympic Athletes team – having had their sporting careers interrupted, these high-level refugee athletes will finally have the chance to pursue their dreams,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families. UNHCR stands with them and with all refugees,” he added.

UNHCR stressed that the initiative comes at a time when more people than ever are being forced by conflict and persecution into fleeing their homes, underscoring that the global population of refugees, internally displaced people and asylum seekers reached a record 59.5 million at the end of 2014 and has continued rising since.

“The initiative to send a refugee team to the Rio Games is unprecedented and sends a strong message of support and hope for refugees worldwide,” UNHCR said.

UNHCR also said that the participation of a refugee team in the Olympics represents a major milestone in its long-standing partnership with the IOC.

“This relationship, which dates back 20 years, has been instrumental in promoting the role of sports in the development and well-being of refugees, particularly children, all over the world,” UNHCR said.

In addition, UNHCR noted that, through joint projects, the organizations have supported youth programmes and sporting activities in at least 20 countries, rehabilitated sporting fields in several refugee camps, and provided sports kits to refugee youth.

The announcement of the refugee team coincides with the launch of UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign, which is an integral element of the UNHCR-IOC partnership for the 2016 Rio Games. The cornerstone of the campaign is a petition asking governments to ensure that every refugee child gets an education, that every refugee family has somewhere safe to live, and that every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community, UNHCR said.

The petition will be handed in before the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, scheduled for 19 September in New York.

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