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Archive for September 26th, 2012

Norway requests WTO to appoint panellists in seal case against EU

Posted by African Press International on September 26, 2012

Norway and Canada have today requested the WTO to appoint the members of the dispute settlement panel established to consider whether the EU legislation on trade in seal products is consistent with its obligations under WTO rules.

The EU legislation effectively bans all trade in seal products from Norway.

“We consider the legislation to be inconsistent with the EU’s obligations under WTO rules, and are looking forward to the start of the panel process,” said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

The EU legislation sets very strict requirements for trade in seal products. It is not possible for Norwegian seal products to meet these requirements, and they can therefore no longer be placed on the market in the EU.

“For the Norwegian authorities, this issue involves important principles, such as our right to sustainably harvest our living marine resources and to sell products derived from hunting and fishing,” said Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs Lisbeth Berg-Hansen.

Norway, like Canada, considers the EU’s ban to be groundless. The seal stocks from which Norway harvests are not threatened, and the Norwegian seal hunt is strictly controlled and required to maintain satisfactory ethical standards that safeguard animal welfare.

The WTO panel process is likely to take about a year to complete.

The dispute settlement panel was established in April 2011 at Norway and Canada’s request, to provide an independent assessment of the EU regulation on trade in seal products (Regulation 1007/2009/EC), which entered into force on 20 August 2010.




source mfa.norway

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Anguished relatives: Refugees have found shelter in Zaatari camp in northern Jordan

Posted by African Press International on September 26, 2012

Refugees have found shelter in Zaatari camp in northern Jordan

MAFRAQ,  – Ahmed Hurani* sits distraught in a dusty tent in Jordan’s Al Zaatari refugee camp, just a few kilometres from the Syrian border, after learning that his father and two brothers have been arrested by Syrian security forces. His injured mother is in Dera’a. For all he knows, she has been taken too.

Hurani is by no means the only refugee in Jordan worried sick by the detention of, and lack of communication with, relatives in Syria.

According to the latest report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Commission of Inquiry, no exact numbers of detainees or “disappeared” are known. In June opposition groups put the number of those imprisoned at 26,000. The government says at least 3,267 people (including security officials) were kidnapped by armed groups between March 2011 and June 2012.

“We have completely lost hope, because we believe no one will help us,” said Nura*, a young woman. “Three months ago, [President Bashar al-] Assad’s forces came and arrested men at random. My brother was shot and carried away on a gurney [wheeled stretcher]… We begged for him in Assad’s name. They said he would be released, but we have still not heard anything.”

Nearby, two small boys – children of the missing man – play in the dirt. Every time a new bus comes into the camp, they run and look for their father, Nura told IRIN.

A crime against humanity?

A recent Human Rights Watch report on torture in 27 different Syrian detention centres says that in most cases families have no information on the fate of detainees. It says their cases are enforced disappearances, which if systematic or widespread represent crimes against humanity. Amnesty International says forced disappearances in Syria are not a recent phenomenon, but have been going on for over 40 years.

Another woman’s husband and brother have been missing since winter. “We have been here only four days. I have two young children. I tried to find my husband in hospitals and everywhere… My heart is so heavy… I don’t even have a photo of him. My brother was arrested twice… but he was not a fighter in the Free Syrian Army. They got his name mixed up… My father tried the prison and elsewhere but there was no information. We have lost hope. We don’t expect to get them back alive… [and] even if someone is killed, they do not give us back their bodies.”

The father and brother of another refugee at the same camp, Mohammed Al Kurani, are confirmed dead, killed in Dera’a. His other brother disappeared with a cousin on the fourth day of Ramadan. “He called from Damascus… the streets were empty except for the army. There were a lot of checkpoints. After that, we lost all contact. We don’t know anything about them. We are not sure if they were arrested; if they are dead or alive. We made inquiries with the police, army branches and hospitals, but no news. My mother is still hoping to find him alive. At first I had such hope, but now I have none. We are all in shock. My mother is always crying and is in bad health. I would rather not know if my brother is dead because my mother cannot take any more bad news. Better not to know.”

ICRC tracing efforts

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which traces people missing in armed conflict and visits the detained, is in the process of establishing an office in the camp to trace missing relatives.

''We don’t expect to get them back alive… [and] even if someone is killed, they do not give us back their bodies''

Once the tracing office opens in the camp, refugees will be able to give the names of the missing to the ICRC which then passes the information to its delegations in Syria and other countries. The delegation in Syria either contacts the government directly or in some cases asks the Syrian Red Crescent Society to take up the case.

Betrand Lamon, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Jordan, said the tracing process means refugees can search for relatives missing inside Syria, those in third countries or those who have found shelter at other locations inside Jordan.

However, many families are afraid to submit tracing requests for fear of retaliation. “Fear is a major obstacle that must be addressed by providing clearer information about tracing,” Betrand Lamon, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Jordan, told IRIN, adding that if the ICRC decides a tracing request could endanger the missing person, it does not proceed with it.

In the meantime, more people are going missing, giving rise to further anguish.

Sabeen* who found shelter in the nearby Jordanian city of al-Mafraq, is eight months pregnant with her first child. Her 26-year-old husband went missing two months ago. “My sisters, my brothers are all in a bad situation in Syria. There is no way to contact them. We try calling all the day and all the night. `Mafi’ – nothing. We have no idea where they are. I don’t know what to do. Bashar (al-Assad) has destroyed us, he has destroyed us.”

*not a real name

dp/kb/cb source


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A convoy of WFP trucks in Masisi, North Kivu: Thousands of displaced out of reach

Posted by African Press International on September 26, 2012

Photo: WFP
A convoy of WFP trucks in Masisi, North Kivu

GOMA,  – Weather conditions and continued insecurity are hampering aid agencies’ efforts to reach hundreds of thousands of people displaced by armed conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The onset of the rainy season has made many roads impassable, cutting off large populations from assistance. UN World Food Programme (WFP) officer Laura Parker told IRIN that a convoy of trucks that WFP sent to Walikale territory in North Kivu province in early September took 11 days to cover 250km.

WFP has faced a series of setbacks in its attempts to help the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Walikale.

“We got the alert in February that there were 86,000 newly displaced in the territory needing assistance,” said Parker. “We had already started to mobilize our trucks at that time, but due to security and weather conditions we were not able to get trucks out there till July, and the recent rains are a severe hindrance.”

The agency is now considering other transportation options for Walikale. Parker said air transport might be a possibility, though it would be expensive. The convoy of trucks will be driven to Kisangani, about 600km further west, and might be used to supply Walikale from there.

Many without help

UN agencies are also concerned about 129,000 newly identified displaced people who have fled massacres in Masisi territory in the past few months. WFP is planning operations to assist this group in the very near future, said Parker. Most are at ‘spontaneous sites’ in Masisi, rather than at officially recognized camps. Some of these sites can be reached by lorry from the provincial capital, Goma.

Displaced people visited by IRIN in Rubaya, about 50km from Goma, on September 15 said they have had had no outside help since arriving there on July 23. Many in the crowd looked undernourished and in poor health. “We live like birds,” said Charles Matito, a spokesman for the IDPs. “It’s people here in Rubaya who give us something, a few potatoes now and then.”

A camp of stick-and-grass huts was being erected in a field next to the main settlement. Some of the shelters were covered with plastic sheets, which Matito said the IDPs had brought from another camp at Katoyi. Many of the Rubaya IDPs had been at the Katoyi camp until it was attacked and emptied by the Raiya Mutomboki militia in July.

Some of the displaced were sleeping in classrooms or a church at night but lacked shelter from the rain during the day. Devote Nyiranziza, who is at least six months pregnant, said she was worried about giving birth in these conditions.

About 7km further west from Rubaya is another spontaneous site at Kibabi. A spokesman for the IDPs there, Innocent Bahati, said on September 15 they had nothing to eat and no shelter. Aid agencies had visited, distributed vouchers for relief supplies and built eight latrines, but there has been no other assistance, he said.

IRIN has since learned that the NGO CARE has done a food distribution for 3,900 households at Rubaya, Kibabi and another settlement Kinigi.

Photo: Samuel Okiror/IRIN
Thousands of people have fled fighting in eastern DRC (file photo)

Reaching spontaneous sites

According to its latest figures, WFP is giving food aid to 265,000 IDPs in North Kivu, out of a total displaced population of about 680,000. The food has been concentrated on the 31 camps in the province that are officially recognized by the government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Most of these are in Rutshuru and Masisi, densely populated areas with a history of frequent displacements. Only two are in Walikale.

Agencies find it much easier to assist people at official camps, but many of the recently displaced have gathered at spontaneous sites.

“There are many reasons for this,” said Parker. “It might be proximity to their village of origin, or ethnic composition at the site or at organized camps. It’s a big challenge to assist those people because they don’t go through official registration processes, so it’s very difficult to get accurate numbers on them.”

UNHCR’s Christophe Beau, head of the North Kivu Protection Cluster, a humanitarian network, suggested many IDPs head for areas they know because they lack information about security conditions in official camps, several of which have been attacked in recent months.

“It’s important that IDPs know, as soon as possible, where they can go to find security, and that the authorities know where the security conditions can be offered,” he said.

WFP is now working on ways to reach the spontaneous sites. Road conditions rather than security are the biggest issue, a staff member indicated. The agency’s own workers have not been targeted by armed groups in recent months, except when a team was detained for a few hours by the Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain (APCLS), an armed group that controls part of western Masisi.

nl/rz source


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Scientists gather to discuss opportunities and threats to root and tuber crops in the face of climate change

Posted by African Press International on September 26, 2012

Researchers, donors, and policymakers across the world working on root and tuber crops (RTCs) are meeting at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria, to discuss and share experiences on new breakthroughs, build collaboration, and develop strategies that will contribute to sustainable development.

The one-week event—which begins today, 24 September 2012, has the theme: The Roots (and Tubers) of Development and Climate Change—is being organized by the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) as part of the Society’s 16th triennial symposia.

Tropical root and tuber crops are essential to meeting global food security and sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people. Individually, cassava, potato, sweet potato, and yam rank among the most important food crops worldwide and, in terms of annual volume of production, cassava, potato, and sweet potato rank among the top 10 food crops produced in developing countries. However, constraints such as low productivity, limited added value, and climate change are still insufficiently addressed, according to Prof Lateef Sanni of FUNAAB, who is the chair of the local organizing committee.

Climate change, specifically, provides both opportunities and challenges for attaining the potential contribution of RTCs for sustainable human development, and strategies are needed to address key issues in productivity—crop plant-soil/water/energy resources management, postharvest utilization, nutrition and health value addition, and trade and commercialization—so that the role of RTCs in ensuring sustainable development could be enhanced.

Prof Sanni said, “This year’s symposium provides an opportunity for experts from around the world to meet and address this agenda.”

“We see the event as an excellent platform for drawing the way forward for RTCs,” said Dr Robert Asiedu, Director of Research for West Africa at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

Participants will reflect and take stock of sustainable policies for enhancing the contribution of RTCs to global development, trade, and technology commercialization.

The event will serve as a unique platform for interaction among scientists working on all tropical root and tuber crops (sweet potato, cassava, potato, Andean roots and tubers, yam, and aroids) from various backgrounds and from around the world to share experiences.

At the moment, more than 200 delegates from 32 countries have confirmed attendance. The keynote address will be presented by Nigeria’s Honourable Minister for Agriculture & Rural Development, Dr Akin Adesina.

The Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, will also speak at the event.

The symposium activities will be mainly conducted in English, with all publications in English. Oral presentations can, however, be done in English or French, with simultaneous translations.

Subthemes of the symposium include:

A.     Policies favourable to enhancing the contribution of RTCs to development – (1) poverty reduction and food security, (2) enterprise development and income generation and export development, (3) impacts of climate change and variability, (4) impacts of the global food crisis, global economic downturn and urbanization, (5) opportunities provided by biofuels, (6) intellectual property rights (IPR).

B.      Global scenario on production, utilization, and marketing of root and tuber crops – trade and technology commercialization;

C.      Progress in science and technology for enhancing the contribution of tropical root crops to development – crop improvement and genomics; biodiversity, conservation, and evaluation; biotechnology and biofortification; characterization of resistance to biotic and abiotic stressors; plant, water, and nutrient management.

D.     Applying new scientific and technical knowledge on RTCs to contribute to development. Technology development and transfer processes and systems; value addition for food, nutrition, and health; regional exchanges and technology transfer; roots and tubers for feed and industry.




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