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With better stoves, UN aims to cut risk of murder, rape for women seeking firewood

In schools and other institutions, bigger SAFE stoves are needed to cook enough food for several classes

16 December 2009 – The United Nations today launched a pilot project to provide fuel-efficient stoves to some 150,000 women in Sudan and Uganda to cut the risks of murder, rape and other violence they face in gathering firewood, while at the same time protecting the environment.

The Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (SAFE) stoves initiative organized by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies, will be rolled out next year to reach eventually up to 6 million refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and returnees in 36 nations, where they are forced to walk further and further into the bush into unsafe areas to collect firewood.

“Women and girls should not have to risk their lives and dignity, and precious trees should not be lost, in the simple act of trying to cook food for their families,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said. “The SAFE stoves launch will help protect them and the environment with practical and urgently needed solutions.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the project at an event in Copenhagen held on the sidelines of the UN climate change talks.

He described the initiative as showing “a virtuous circle in action, thanks to technology – environmental protection… improved safety for women… access to clean energy for the poor… enhanced climate security.”

The project “is a simple, inexpensive and win-win solution… [that will] provide immediate, tangible benefits to their users,” he added.

WFP researchers have found that some women spend a full day’s wages on firewood alone. Others sell off food rations to purchase fuel. The SAFE project will scale up distribution of fuel-efficient and “improved mud” stoves to assist almost 100,000 women in North Darfur. These stoves consume less firewood and lower health risks associated with smoke.

In Uganda, WFP will focus on refugees and pastoralists in the drought-hit Karamoja region. It will provide more than 35,000 households and 50 schools with fuel-efficient stoves, as well as helping women to find other sources of income.

Project partners include the Women’s Refugee Commission, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment programme (UNEP).

Athens senses name solution – FYROM – Former Yugoslovian Republic of Macedonia

The words “Northern Macedonia” could be the key to solving a longstanding bilateral dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the latter’s official name but Skopje will have to meet Athens halfway in approving a settlement, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said at the weekend.

“The name ‘Northern Macedonia’ fits with the framework for a settlement that we have set out,” Droutsas told Real News in an interview published on Saturday, referring to what is rumored to be the latest proposal by a United Nations mediator appointed to break the deadlock. According to Droutsas, a rejection of UN envoy Matthew Nimetz’s proposal would not bode well for Skopje’s bid to join the European Union. “He will have to explain to his people why he is depriving them of their European prospects,” Droutsas said of FYROM’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. “Skopje must demonstrate its political will,” he said.

al-Shabab claims credit for Somali food boom

Somalia farm food crops increase. For what reason?

Mercenaries: UN experts: Nissour Square, Iraq killings should not remain unpunished

GENEVA (7 January 2010)

The United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries* calls on the United States and the Iraqi Governments to cooperate to ensure that the Nissour Square incident is fully remedied and, in relation to the crimes that may have been committed, those responsible fully held accountable as appropriate.

The Working Group notes with interest the decision of the Iraqi authorities to sue the American security company Blackwater in United States and Iraqi courts, in connection with a shooting in Nissour Square in Iraq 2007 during which 17 people were killed and a further 20 injured, many seriously. The Iraqi government announced its position after the U.S. Federal District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed an indictment against five security guards of Blackwater, the private firm charged with voluntary manslaughter and firearms violations. On 31 December 2009, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled that evidence against them was inadmissible under the U.S. Constitution. The United States Government can appeal against the decision.

“We respect the independence of the United States judiciary and the requirements for due process, but are very concerned that the recent decision to dismiss the case against Blackwater guards may lead to a situation where no one would be accountable for grave human rights violations” said Ms. Shaista Shameem, who currently heads the Working Group. “After such a decision, the Iraqi Government and the families of victims correctly feel they have no recourse to justice for the alleged human rights abuses that took place in Nissour Square on 16 September 2007,” she added, noting that the Coalition Provisional Authority Order No.17 had granted immunity from Iraqi laws to American contractors operating in that country.

“Credible oversight and accountability of private security companies working on the behalf of the United States and other governments remain essential to avoid these alleged violations to be unpunished in future,” stressed Ms. Shameem. The Working Group is advocating for an international oversight mechanism which would provide an avenue of redress to victims.

(*) The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination is composed of five independent experts serving in their personal capacities: Ms. Shaista Shameem (Chairperson-Rapporteur, Fiji), Ms. Najat al-Hajjaji (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya), Ms. Amada Benavides de Pérez (Colombia), Mr. José Luis Gómez del Prado (Spain), and Mr. Alexander Nikitin (Russian Federation). It was established in 2005 by the UN Commission on Human Rights.

UNAMA, Indo-US nexus not on same page?

By: Sikander Shaheen | Published: February 27,

ISLAMABAD – Although intensified and off-the-curtain deliberations for reconciliation between US and Taliban have been continuing for the last couple of months in Afghanistan, yet the United Nations holds certain disagreements with NATO command over its ‘overstepping’ on some fronts.
United Nations Assistance Missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has been instrumental, throughout, in arranging covert talks between Taliban and NATO command, and some senior Taliban leaders frequently met Kai Eide in the second half of December last and couple of months that followed. However, the inclusion of some wanted miscreants of different terrorist organisations in the ‘dialogue process’ followed by their stealthy visits in Afghanistan, and uncalled for Indian involvement are some of the factors that do not go well with UNAMA.
After UN Afghanistan Chief Kai Eide had faced wide criticism on his failure to play an active role in stopping Afghanistan’s fraudulent presidential elections last year under growing demands for his resignations coming from credible international agencies, the outgoing Envoy wants to quit his responsibilities with some worthy achievements to his credit and his active involvement in initiating dialogue with Taliban is inter-linked to it.
Deeply cautious of his somehow passive role on the occasion of presidential elections and carrying the resolve not to repeat his mistakes, Kai Eide has been critical of Afghan government’s inefficiency and has differences with Karzai’s regime in the wake of massive corruption and drugs trafficking. During his tenure, UN had made public several reports highlighting Afghanistan’s inability to counter indigenous vices, other than terrorism, like lack of transparency, misappropriation of funds, and drugs smuggling. It was under his command that international community, for the first time, started pointing fingers at Afghanistan for its self-created multiple crises instead of using Pakistan as a scapegoat.
While Kai Eide has an individual role in facilitating secretive meet-ups with Taliban leaders, he is equally repulsive of NATO’s overstepping to use ‘fugitive’ Taliban in pursuit of its vested agenda. The outgoing Envoy, who is stepping down the next month, cites some personal reasons and family commitments for his decision to wind up, but informed circles in UNAMA believe that their Chief would have given a serious thought to get his contract renewed “had he not been completely out of line on some issues with US military command in Afghanistan.”

UN and WHO concerned with Gaza healthcare

UN, WHO concerned with Gaza healthcare
Wed, 20 Jan 2010 17:48:06 GMT
Palestinian children hit a poster showing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (R) and the head of Kadima Party Tzipi Livni.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) voice concern about the blows the Israeli-imposed blockade have dealt to the Gazan healthcare system.

“We are deeply concerned about the current health system in Gaza and in particular its capacity and ability to deliver proper standards of healthcare to the people of Gaza,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Max Gaylard was quoted by AFP as saying on Wednesday.

“This adverse situation is not like Haiti. Haiti has been destroyed by an earthquake…. The circumstances here are entirely man-made and can be fixed accordingly,” he added in an apparent reference to the iron-cast Israeli blockade which has deprived the Gazans of their basic needs since mid-June 2007.

The comments were echoed by those of WHO, which says the embargo has made certain medication scarce, delayed or blocked the entry of vital equipment and spare parts, and kept doctors and nurses from pursuing advanced training, AFP added.

Referring to Israel’s refusal to allow many Palestinian requests for decent medical attention, Tony Laurence, the organization’s head for the Palestinian territories said, “If that happened in my country, in the UK, in Europe, in Israel, if an individual who needed urgent treatment was unable to get out because of a bureaucratic obstacle, it would be a scandal.”

“Here it happens to 300 or 400 people every month,” he added.

The WHO figures show that some 231 such applications were denied by the Israeli officials last month. The world body claims 27 Palestinians died last year, queuing up for the permission.

Gaza’s main Al-Shaifa hospital is reportedly in a near-collapse condition, as patients die because of a lack of specialist doctors and basic medical equipment. The hospital is not safe from the threat of Israeli offensives amid claims by Israeli intelligence sources that Palestinian fighters were hiding in its basement.

The three-week-long Israeli raids on the enclave in December 2008-January 2009, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, and the Zionist regime’s sporadic attacks ever since have worsened the humanitarian catastrophe, which threatens the lives of some 1.5 million Gazans.

Last week, Israeli forces attacked a clinic and children’s hospital. The attack on the al-Dorra children’s hospital was in defiance of a UN Security Council call for ceasefire.