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UN agency unveils new online tool to reduce risks to aircraft in conflict zones. Brings comfort to Sint Maarten travellers and others

INTERNATIONAL/SINT MAARTEN - The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has launched a new website issuing warnings about risks to aircraft in conflict zones, which aims to serve as a single source for up-to-date assessments from States and relevant international organizations to reduce risks to civil aviation arising from armed conflict.

Sint Maarten travellers from the homeland who are planning to travel this summer for the school holidays can be rest assured and fly with comfort after ICAO has put in place a new system that alerts airlines and other travel authorities with respect to conflict zones and not to fly over them.  This comes after the latest downing of a Malaysian aircraft carrying more than 100 Dutch passengers that were shot down over Ukraine.

This news will also be relevant for the Sint Maarten diaspora who reside around the world.

“The new repository is accessible via ICAO’s public website homepage for representatives from States, airlines and the general public,” the agencysaidin a press release. “As it becomes populated with submissions, it will provide up-to-date information on potential risks to civil aviation arising from armed conflict.”

The move comes in direct response to recommendations made in February by Member States at ICAO’s 2015 High-Level Safety Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Under theChicago Convention, each State is responsible for assessing civil aviation conflict zone risks in their territories, and for making that information promptly available to other States and airlines.

“Only authorized State officials will have the right to submit risk information under the procedures agreed to by the ICAO Council,” according to the press release. “In all cases, the identity of the State submitting information to the repository will be clearly indicated, and States being referenced in a risk submission will also have the opportunity to review and approve the related information prior to public posting.”

ICAO, a specialized UN agency tasked with coordinating and regulating international air travel, sets rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and undertakes compliance audits, performs studies and analyses.

At its February High-Level Conference, ICAO’s member States Member States recommended the adoption of a 15-minute aircraft tracking standard that the agency applauded at the time as an important first step in providing a foundation for global flight tracking.”

Concerns over aircraft tracking and risks to civil aviation arising from conflict zones were brought to the fore in the wake of the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight MH17over eastern Ukraine, and the disappearance of another Malaysian Airlines flight upon take off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Postal conference aims to begin work on global strategy reflecting new challenges, opportunities. An Opportunity for PSS Sint Maarten

INTERNATIONAL/SINT MAARTEN – In a message delivered to delegates at the World Strategy Conference for the United Nations postal agency,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon underlined the essential role to be played by postal services in global efforts to build a sustainable future.

“As the world shapes a new sustainable development agenda and strives to address the threat posed by climate change, postal services can and must be part of the solution,” said Mr. Ban.

“Postal administrations offer essential communications and logistical support. They provide important financial services and make other contributions to social advancement and human well-being.”

Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) will definitely be interested in the information that comes out of this conference.  It will be beneficial to the long-term sustainability of the government-owned company when looking at what new services it can offer the Sint Maarten community.

In anintroductory messagetothe Conference, wraps up today 14 April, he looked forward to commencement of the process of drafting the next world postal strategy for the Universal Postal Union (UPU), which will be delivered at the Universal Postal Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016, and he said he hoped delegates would grasp the opportunity to consider what could be done to help improve the lives of people all over the world.

The Conference seeks to take stock of the UPU's current four-year roadmap – the 2012Doha Postal Strategy– and discuss the issues and trends that will shape the organization’s future blueprint. The UPU’s chief, Bishar Hussein urged the 750 delegates attending the Conference to take a critical look at how postal services are created and delivered and to consider how the 21st Century is forcing public postal services to redefine themselves.

“Let’s step out of our comfort zone and test new ideas upon which we can build the future of the Post,” he said as he launched the discussions. “The roadmap that guides our actions and decisions reflects the global postal environment, an environment marked by profound changes and tipping points representing both challenges and opportunities for the postal sector.”

Traditional mail has declined in importance for postal services in recent years, while logistics and financial services have grown in importance. E-commerce has boomed and parcel volumes have increased, too, fuelled by changing consumer behaviours, brought about by new technological applications.

“The modern consumer is digital, concerned with sustainable development, and has a totally different gauge for the value of a product or service,” said Hussein. “Clients today want to access services anywhere, any time. They want products tailored to their preferred method of consumption, and they want those products to be delivered at home.”

Letter-post volumes have traditionally accounted for the bulk of postal revenues but in 2013 they dipped below 50 per cent of total revenues for the biggest 20 Posts in the world. In addition, UPU data shows that Posts are increasingly handling more merchandises than documents, an indication of the impact of e-commerce on the postal business. The Director-General underlined the importance of seeing the new reality as an exciting opportunity, rather than as a constraint.

“E-commerce, the digitization of financial services, new mobile payment solutions and big postal data are all major assets that position the postal sector at the heart of the technological revolution,” said Mr. Hussein.

Posts must explore new delivery models to meet customers’ expectation to receive their goods when and where they want them, especially as business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce is expected to generate $2.4 billion in 2018.

Among the 135 UPU member countries are represented at the Strategy Conference are 20 ministers as well as many regulators, postal executives, leaders of labour, trade and migration organizations and representatives of United Nations and other international organizations.

Established in 1874, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) has its headquarters in Berne, Switzerland’s capital. It is the world’s second oldest intergovernmental organization and has been a United Nations specialized agency since 1948.

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Nearly 800,000 children forced to flee violence in Nigeria and region – UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL – A new report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals that least 800,000 children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the conflict in northeast Nigeria between Boko Haram, military forces and civilian self-defence groups.

Released a year after 200 girls were abducted in Chibok, UNICEF’sMissing Childhoodsreveals that the number of children running for their lives within Nigeria, or crossing over the border to Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has more than doubled in just less than a year.

“The abduction of more than 200 girls in Chibok is only one of endless tragedies being replicated on an epic scale across Nigeria and the region,”saysManuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Scores of girls and boys have gone missing in Nigeria – abducted, recruited by armed groups, attacked, used as weapons, or forced to flee violence. They have the right to get their childhoods back.”

The Missing Childhoods report outlines how the conflict is exerting a heavy toll on children in Nigeria and across the region in an increasing number of ways. As well as being killed, maimed and displaced, children are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram – as combatants, cooks, porters and look-outs.

Young women and girls are being subjected to forced marriage, forced labour and rape, while students and teachers are being deliberately targeted. More than 300 schools were damaged or destroyed and at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed by the end of 2014.

In response to the crisis, UNICEF has stepped up its humanitarian response over the past six months, providing over 60,000 children affected by the conflict in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad with counselling and psychosocial support to help them ease the pain of their memories, reduce stress and cope with emotional distress.

The agency is also working with partners to provide safe water and life-saving health services, to restore access to education by creating temporary learning spaces, and to deliver therapeutic treatment to malnourished children.

In order to maintain its relief efforts in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, UNICEF is urging international donors to ramp up their financial support, as the agency is facing a severe funding shortfall. It has received only 15 per cent of the $26.5 million required for its humanitarian response in Nigeria for 2015, and no more than 17 per cent of its appeal for Cameroon, 2 per cent for Niger and one per cent for Chad.

UNICEF has released its report at the same time as it makes efforts to draw attention to the devastating impact of the conflict on children across the region using the hashtag#bringbackourchildhood. As part of that drive, UNICEF is using Snapchat – a social platform where messages appear briefly – to highlight the plight of the hundreds of thousands of children who are missing out on their childhoods as a result of the conflict.

To tell the stories of the children who have fled the violence, UNICEF and leading Snapchat artists will share images based on drawings made by children in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The artwork reflects what children miss from home and the emotional wounds and suffering they have endured, including seeing their parents and siblings killed, tortured or abducted.

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On Human Space Flight Day, UN spotlights the need to advance boundaries of exploration

INTERNATIONAL – Marking International Day of Human Space Flight, the United Nations today 12 April, spotlighted the contribution of space science and technology to sustainable development and underscored the need to push the boundaries of exploration for the benefit of all people.

“I am confident that the International Day of Human Space Flight will remind us of our common humanity and our need to work together to conquer shared challenges,”Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon said on theDaymarked worldwide on 12 April.

“I hope it will also inspire young people in particular to pursue their dreams and move the world towards new frontiers of knowledge and understanding," the UN chief added.

In 2011, the General Assembly declared 12 April International Day of Human Space Flight to reaffirm the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development. The Assembly also expressed interest in promoting and expanding the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

This day, 12 April back in 1961 was the date of the first human space flight, carried out by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet citizen. This historic event opened the way for space exploration.

“Yuri Gagarin's journey as the first human in space 54 years ago has inspired us all to advance the boundaries of exploration”, said United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Director, Simonetta Di Pippo.

To mark the day, UNOOSA has launched the fourth edition of its 'Messages from Space Explorers', a collection of messages from Space Explorers serving as a memorabilia of their contribution and inspiration to future generations.

“Recording the messages of the many men and women who have travelled into space allows us to commemorate the role these people have played as Ambassadors for humankind,” said Ms. Di Pippo.

The new edition – available on UNOOSA's website in six different languages - contains messages from space explorers from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States. One of the featured explorers, Scott Kelly is currently on a one year mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which started on 28 March 2015.

The autograph album also contains a copy of the signed sheets received from 57 other space explorers from 20 nations, among which Valentina Tereskhova of Russia, the first woman in space, and Charles F. Bolden, the current NASA Administrator, and copy of the autographs of Yuri Gagarin, and Edward H. White, the first American to walk in space.

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Human rights, rule of law vital for sustainable development, UN Crime Congress told

INTERNATIONAL – As the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice opened in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday 12 April,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon and other high-level UN officials said that preventing crime and promoting the rule of law are crucial to support sustainable development.

“All societies need fair criminal justice systems, effective, accountable institutions, and access to justice for all”, Mr. Bansaidin a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Crime Congress.

“Accountable security services can go a long way toward ending cycles of violence. Strengthening legal rights helps to address inequalities,” he added.

“There can be no sustainable development without human rights and the rule of law”, the Secretary-General declared.

Hundreds of policymakers and practitioners in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice, as well as experts from academia, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, specialized agencies and other UN entities, and the media are attending the forum, which is held every five years.

The DohaCrime Congress, which will run through 19 April, was opened by the Prime Minister of Qatar, Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani. It is happening a few months before a major summit in New York in September on the future global development agenda.

The Congress adopted on Sunday the 'Doha Declaration', a political document that puts an emphasis on important aspects of fighting transnational organized crime and strengthening criminal justice systems and crime prevention.

“This September, Member States will consider a post-2015 development agenda that can pave the way to a better future for billions of people”, Mr. Ban said. “Success requires that the new agenda and sustainable development goals reflect the centrality of the rule of law”.

The UN Secretary-General said that “international cooperation and coordination are critical, particularly in areas such as combatting transnational organized crime and terrorism”.

“I encourage every country to ratify and implement the conventions against drugs, crime and corruption, and the international instruments against terrorism, and to support the important and varied work of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime”, he added.

“We must also adapt to changing times. Cybercrime has now become a business which exceeds billions of dollars a years a year in online fraud, identity theft, and lost intellectual property. It affects millions of people around the world, as well as businesses and Governments. We must also address the growing links between organized crime and terrorism”.

During the ceremony, three representatives of the Youth Forum, which took place before the Congress, delivered to the participants the Doha Youth Forum statement, which includes their recommendations on the main themes that will be discussed at the Congress.

UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesasaidthat the Crime Congress is “an important forum to focus on crimes affecting the ability of millions of people around the world to realize a life of prosperity and dignity”.

Mr. Kutesa called the participants of the Congress “to use this forum to generate concrete ideas that can positively contribute to the on-going negotiating process for the post-2015 development agenda in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice”.

UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Martin Sajdik and UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov also delivered remarks at the opening of the Crime Congress.

“We are all gathered here to further advance our united response to crime”, Mr. Sajdik said. “Although planned already years ago the timing of our congress cannot be better. After the Sendai conference on Disaster Risk Reduction of last March our congress here is another landmark meeting in this absolutely crucial year for global development”.

Mr. Fedotovsaidthat “the 13th Congress offers a timely opportunity to further advance global action, and promote a holistic approach that integrates effective crime prevention and criminal justice measures into the wider UN agenda, including in work on human rights, gender equality and protection of children”.

“The Congress is an excellent opportunity to extend and enhance international cooperation to counter transnational organized crime, terrorism and illicit financial flows, and to ensure that our responses are fast, smart and able to cope with new threats”, he added.

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Yemen crisis ‘getting worse by the hour’ – humanitarian official

INTERNATIONAL – The humanitarian situation in Yemen is “getting worse by the hour,” the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the country warned today 10 April, saying that the escalating conflict has put millions of people at risk of physical injury or death.

“We should not forget that the current conflict in Yemen takes place against the backdrop of a humanitarian crisis of a protracted nature and of a size and a complexity which is amongst the largest in the world,” said Johannes van der Klaauw told the press in Geneva.

“That was already the case before, and this current conflict has aggravated the situation and has made the population increasingly vulnerable,” he added.

The ground attacks and airstrikes which has now spread to most of the country is quickly unravelling “anything there was left” of basic services including health care, safe water and availability of food.

Already before the latest escalation of the conflict, 16 million of the 25 million Yemenis required, and are requiring, humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs. As I said, the conflict is aggravating the needs of the most vulnerable and putting others at grave risk.

“Ordinary Yemeni families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel –commodities that are basic requirements for their survival,” the Humanitarian Coordinator said.

Thousands of Yemeni families have had to flee as a result of the fighting, and we see now the regional dimension of the flows out of Yemen into Djibouti and the autonomous parts of Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland.

Civilian infrastructure, including schools, health facilities, markets, power plants and warehouses has been damaged and disrupted by the fighting. Shortages of food and fuel are now being reported across the country. Many areas in the country are also experiencing frequent power cuts, shortages of water and fuel. In the second city of the country, Aden, one million people risk being cut off from access to clean drinking water within a matter of days.

Health facilities are also under great strain: they lack fuel for the generators and water necessary to maintain basic operations. There is an urgent need for support to mass casualty management, including trauma kits and other medical supplies.

“We do our utmost to deliver life-saving assistance and protection services, to the extent possible, through our national UN staff and the national staff of international NGOs [non-governmental organizations], as well as through a strong network of national community-based NGOs,” Mr. van der Klaauw said.

Thus far, humanitarian partners have provided medical supplies and trauma kits for 18 hospitals throughout Yemen. And Yemeni national staff working for the United Nations and international organizations are risking their lives to deliver life-saving assistance to people in need. Three Yemeni aid workers were recently been killed in crossfire in Aden while trying to save lives.

The Humanitarian Coordinator urged all parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians are protected and that the civilian infrastructure is protected.

“We must be able, as aid workers, to safely deliver this life-saving assistance in all affected areas in Yemen. To this end, I have been calling, and doing it again this morning, on all the parties for an immediate humanitarian pause in this conflict,” he said.

At the same press conference, several UN agencies briefed journalists on the situation in Yemen regarding health facilities, the status of refugees, children and food security. Ahmed Shadoul from the World Health Organization (WHO), via the telephone from Jordan, said that according to the latest figures, at least 648 people had been killed and 2,191 people had been injured since the fighting in Yemen has escalated in recent weeks. WHO has appealed that all parties to the conflict to keep health facilities safe. With a shortage of medical equipment and teams, WHO is doing its best to provide more than 20 hospitals with supplies but the fuel shortages remains a major problem.

Adrian Edwards, for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), reported a rise in people fleeing by boat across the Gulf of Aden to countries in the Horn of Africa – historically a major route travelled by refugees and migrants headed in the opposite direction. The announced that it is making plans to be able to receive up to 30,000 refugees in Djibouti over the next six months and up to 100,000 people in Somaliland and Puntland, Somalia. Inside Yemen, UNHCR's operations to protect and assist the 250,000 refugees continue where possible.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that the conflict continues to exact a heavy toll on children. Thousands of families across the country had left their homes in search of safer places and hospitals and are under increasing pressure as they struggle to manage mass casualties with little supplies. Reinforcements brought in today could make the difference between life and death for children and their families, but they were not enough and UNICEF plans more airlifts.

The conflict is also threatening the country’s already fragile food security, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned, expressing alarm that food and fuel shortages could push even more people into hunger in a country where more than 10 million people are already suffering from food insecurity. WFP is continuing to work where through its 185 national staff and its partners to reach those most in need. Despite security challenges, the Programme and its partners distributed food assistance last week to nearly 30,000 internally displaced people.

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Refugee agency, IKEA campaign to brighten lives of thousands of refugees

INTERNATIONAL – A global campaign launched by the big-box retailer Ikea has raised millions of dollars to help the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in its efforts to provide refugees with renewable energy devices and educational opportunities, the agency announced today 10 April.

The campaign – called “Brighter Lives for Refugees” and unveiled throughout February and March – saw the IKEA Foundation donate €1 to UNHCR for every light-emitting diode (LED) bulb purchased by an IKEA customer. The €10.8 million raised during the two-month initiative will now help improve the lives of 380,000 refugees in Bangladesh, Chad, Ethiopia and Jordan.

IKEA’s campaign comes at a time of record-breaking displacement around the world amid proliferating crises and conflicts.

According to UNHCR’s Mid-Year Trends 2014 Report, released earlier this year, war across large swathes of the Middle East and Africa in the first six months of 2014 forcibly displaced some 5.5 million people, bringing the number of people being helped by UNHCR to 46.3 million as of mid-2014 – some 3.4 million more than at the end of 2013 and a new record high.

“The number of displaced people worldwide has, for the first time since World War II, exceeded 50 million people, including 13 million refugees who are under UNHCR’s care,” UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff confirmed in apress release.

“In this context, the engagement of the public worldwide through our long-standing partner the IKEA Foundation has never been more important.”

At night-time, a lack of light in refugee camps can severely impact the safety and security of refugees, particularly women and children, who remain vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse perpetrated under the cloak of darkness.

In Jordan, the UN agency noted, some 11,000 Syrian refugees living in Azraq camp would now be able to move around safely after 500 solar streetlights and LED streetlights were installed. In refugee camps around Dollo Ado in Ethiopia, 40,000 solar lanterns – one per refugee family –and 240 streetlights are being delivered. Meanwhile, in Chad, over 13,000 refugee children have been enrolled in primary school.

“I greatly appreciate the efforts of IKEA co-workers and the support of the customers who participated in this global campaign so that we can make the lives of thousands of refugees better and brighter,” concluded Mr. Aleinikoff.

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Projects presented showing how ‘Big Data’ can save lives, fight hunger

INTERNATIONAL – Anonymized data – information from which the identity of the sender has been stripped – from mobile telephone usage could provide vital support in efforts to achieve sustainable development and to respond to humanitarian crises, according to insights derived from a study by the United Nations.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) andUN Global Pulse– an innovation initiative of the Secretary-General – have teamed up on research projects exploring the link between mobile phone usage and hunger and they are presenting their findings at the Netmob Conference for Scientific Analysis of Mobile Phone Data at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, United States.

“This is a new frontier for humanitarian assistance,”saidArif Husain, WFP Chief Economist. “As agencies begin adopting these new techniques, information collection will become cheaper and faster, making relief programmes much more responsive to the needs of hungry poor worldwide.”

The joint projects focused on ways anonymous mobile phone data could be analysed to understand household hunger and vulnerability patterns, and doing so in real-time helps humanitarian agencies pinpoint areas of acute need with a level of speed and precision that have never been achieved before.

They uncovered a new method for estimating household expenditures on food based on mobile phone spending patterns in Africa, along with a technique for potentially identifying households for assistance during floods in Mexico and a method to quantify population mobility patterns in relation to the agricultural and livelihood cycles based on calling patterns in Senegal.

“New technologies are leading to an exponential increase in the volume and types of data available, creating unprecedented possibilities for improving humanitarian aid,” said Makena Walker, Deputy Director of Global Pulse, the UN body that explores how new, digital data sources and real-time analytics technologies can help policy-makers gain better understandings of changes in human well-being and emerging vulnerabilities.

In particular, “big data” generated by mobile and online communications offers major opportunities to complement more traditional data sources, such as face-to-face surveys and satellite imagery, used by humanitarian agencies. The difference is that call data records offer the opportunity to do analysis in near real-time and at very low cost.

While the big data revolution offers tremendous opportunities, agencies are extremely mindful of the pitfalls that using such information sources implies.

“Protecting people’s privacy is of utmost concern as we develop these new approaches,” said Walker.

UN Global Pulse and WFP are appealing to telecommunications companies to join the effort in making this type of information available to the humanitarian community, where it would be used for the common good.

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Women have ‘very important role’ in Libyan peace process, says envoy

INTERNATIONAL – Libyan women have a crucial role to play in resolving the crisis in their country, a senior United Nations official said in an address to 250 Libyan women gathered in Tripoli, at a dialogue aimed at including women from all walks of life in the political process.

“We count on Libya women, who were active during the 17 February revolution, to continue to advocate for peaceful solution … We count on you to spread the culture of peace in your communities and to talk and engage with all who have a role to play in brining stability to Libya,”saidSpecial Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino León, via Skype on Saturday.

Mr. León briefed the audience about the progress of the ongoing political dialogue and answered questions regarding the ceasefire, timeframe for agreement and addressed concerns about spoilers seeking to derail the process.

He also stressed that efforts to bring peace to Libya must continue regardless of the obstacles, adding that quick solutions were necessary due to the humanitarian and economic difficulties the country is facing and the increasing terrorist attacks by Daesh also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Libyans, particularly women, have paid and continue to pay a high price in the North African country’s armed conflict, said Mr. León, adding that the role of women in pushing for the dialogue process is crucial, as it is also crucial in ensuring the implementation of any political agreement resulting from these talks. Women must get involved in talks at the municipality and tribal level.

“Women have a very important role in following up on the political process and in participating in the new unity government,” the Special Representative said, adding thatSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon has stressed the importance of women’s participation in the transitional process.

The dialogue was facilitated by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) in collaboration with various Libyan women groups. Mr. Leon acknowledged the role of the two women participants in the political dialogue, Ms. Nehad Meiteeg and Ms. Naima Jebril, for their efforts to reconcile the differences among the other participants.

More specifically, he commended their communication with and briefings to civil society and women’s groups at gatherings in Tunisia and Jordan in recent weeks in support of the dialogue were of tremendous importance.

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Despite major gains, world's education goals far from achieved – UNESCO

INTERNATIONAL – Just one third of countries have achieved all the measurable education goals set in 2000 and only half of all countries have achieved universal primary enrolment, the United Nations agency mandated with promoting learning spotlighted today, urging countries to bridge the $22 billion annual finance gap needed to achieve quality basic education for all by 2030.

“The world has made tremendous progress towards'Education for All'…however the agenda is far from finished,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the heels of the key findings produced in the2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR).

Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges, produced by UNESCO tracks the progress of a set of six goals ranging from improving quality of education to ensuring equal access to learning. Released today, the report found that 47 per cent of countries reached the goal of early childhood education, and another eight per cent were close. Twenty per cent were very far from the goal. Yet, in 2012, nearly two-thirds more children were enrolled in early childhood education than in 1999.

“Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions more children are in school than would have been had the trends of the 1990s persisted,” Ms. Bokovasaid. “However…we need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritize the poorest – especially girls – improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap so that education becomes meaningful and universal.”

As far as achieving universal primary education, particularly for girls, ethnic minorities and marginalized children, 52 per cent of countries met this goal, 10 per cent are close and the remaining 38 per cent are far or very far from achieving it. This leaves almost 100 million children not completing primary education in 2015. And the world's poorest children remain five times less likely to complete a full cycle of primary education than the richest.

At current rates, only half of all children in low-income countries are expected to complete lower secondary education by 2030. In many countries even the core goal of achieving universal primary education will remain out of reach without concerted efforts.

And yet UNESCO point out that there has been some important progress. Around 50 million more children are enrolled in school now than were in 1999. While education is still not free in many places, cash transfer and school feeding programmes have made a positive impact on enrolment for the poor. Forty-six per cent of countries reached universal lower secondary enrolment. Globally, numbers in lower secondary education increased by 27 per cent and more than doubled in sub-Saharan Africa.

In terms of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in levels of adult illiteracy by 2015, only 25 per cent of countries reached this goal, and 32 per cent remain very far from it. While globally the percentage of illiterate adults fell from 18 per cent in 2000 to 14 per cent in 2015, this progress is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood. Women continue to make up almost two-thirds of the illiterate adult population. Half of sub-Saharan African women do not have basic literacy skills.

Gender parity will be achieved at the primary level in 69 per cent of countries by 2015. Child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder girls' progress in education as does the need for teacher training in gender sensitive approaches and curriculum reform.

The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 121 of 146 countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed to get all children into school. Trained teachers remain in short supply in one third of countries; in several sub-Saharan African countries, less than 50 per cent are trained.

In many countries, funding remains a major obstacle, the report finds. Governments must find ways to mobilize new resources for education and international partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.

“Unless concerted action is taken and education receives the attention that it failed to get during the past 15 years, millions of children will continue to miss out and the transformative vision of the new sustainable development agenda will be jeopardized,” said Aaron Benavot, the Director for today's report.

The report recommends that governments and civil society develop programmes to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged so no child is left behind in the post-2015 development targets for education, which must be specific, relevant and realistic.

Education should be free for all children and fees for tuition, textbooks, school uniforms and transport must be abolished. Policy makers should identify and prioritize skills to be acquired by the end of each stage of schooling. Literacy policies should link up with the needs of communities. Teacher training should be improved to include gender-focused strategies. Teaching styles should better reflect student needs and the diversity of classroom contexts.

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