Former French Premier Calls for Political Dialogue on ‘Western Sahara’

Dakhla – Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, said Saturday in the Moroccan city of Dakhla in the so-called Western Sahara, there is an “urgent need” for political dialogue “after 40 years of a painful conflict over the Sahara issue.”“We cannot forget here in Dakhla the urgent need for political dialogue after 40 years of painful conflict around the Sahara issue,” said Mr. De Villepin, who was speaking at a plenary session of the Crans Montana Forum on the theme “An urgent need: to strengthen the dialogue between Africa, North Africa and Europe.”This edition of Crans Montana Forum on Africa and South-South Cooperation was dedicated to energy access through renewable energy, with a special focus on wind farms. The Forum brought together illustrious figures from 36 African, 30 Asian, 31 European and 15 America countries, as well as more than 20 regional and international organizations read more

COP22 Side Event Highlights Economic Importance of Resilient Oceans

Ellen AsermelyRabat – An event held by the Moroccan Agriculture Minister at COP22 this weekend on the topic of Africa in Action for Fisheries and Agriculture in the Context of Climate Change focused on sustainable growth in the maritime industry, or Blue Growth.Participants discussed the importance of oceans as a natural resource for many African states, and of the fisheries sector as a source of economic and social development. Oceans are also very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as rising acidification and declining biodiversity, which are made worse by unsustainable fishing practices. According to the EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs, Karmenu Vella, around 12 million people are employed in the aquaculture sector in Africa. “A successful blue economy depends on maintaining healthy oceans,” he saidThe event highlighted the interconnected nature of the environment and the economy — climate change would have disastrous consequences for the economies of several African states.Many organizations announced their plans to support resilient oceans and sustainable practices.Vella said the EU has set aside 140 million euros in support of the African maritime industry. The Food and Agriculture Organization also announced its cooperation with the World Bank and the African Development Bank to provide a 3.5 billion dollar package for climate resilience in Africa from 2017 to 2020. The National Fisheries Institute also presented the goals of the Morocco-led Blue Belt Initiative.The focus of these programs is promoting resilience to climate change and sustainable fishing practices in order to reduce poverty and improve food security in African states. read more

How to Turn the Moroccan Brain Drain into a Brain Gain

By Dil BolaRabat – It is not uncommon for educated professionals to pursue careers out of state as low salaries, poor work conditions, a lack of funding, and an absence of opportunities motivates the exodus of skilled workers in the Global South. The brain drain of senior executives and engineers has caused recent concern in studies of migration, remittances, and the economic survival of the Moroccan state. Said Amzazi, the Moroccan minister of education, spoke of the painful brain drain, noting that each year, over 600 engineers leave Morocco in search of better conditions and, ultimately, job satisfaction and better pay in a more academically-progressive environment. The phenomenon is not exclusive to engineers. The president of the Moroccan Federation of Information Technologies, Salwa Belkeziz-Karkari, asserted that around 8,000 senior Moroccan cadres leave each year as well. Whether they were trained in the public or private sector, these individuals resign from their position in office to go elsewhere. Further, Belkeziz-Karkari noted that French multinationals make weekly visits with Moroccan executives to persuade them to immigrate and resettle in France. In exchange, they are offered consistent wages, health benefits, and encouraging working environments. Despite migration opportunities, 74 percent of Moroccan professionals living abroad are inclined to return to their country in hopes to put improve and develop working conditions in the state. However, some are still reluctant because Morocco’s atmosphere lacks appeal and thus, many fail to return in the end.Emigration of professionals and academics in Morocco dates back to the 1950s. The ‘flight of human capital’ as it was called, referred to the movement of highly educated individuals to industrialized states. However, there was a  dramatic increase in numbers since the 1970s when other states’ selective immigration policies began to favor skilled workers. Initially, Morocco gained remittances that aided economic survival. But over time, the lack of positive results through these investments aimed at development has caused a decline in remittances. The lack of results prompts emigrants to remain in states offering optimal opportunities. Consequently, the Moroccan economy has slowed down and the jobless are apprehensive of the government failing to facilitate employment.  The solution to this detrimental economic drawback may be simple. In order to accelerate and develop the financial system, halting the brain drain is essential. In order to retain educated individuals, the government could make a good start by improving working conditions, raising salaries, and providing research facilities.If the government monitors emigrants with academic or professional capabilities and implements recruiting programs to facilitate not only their return, but the expertise they have amassed, the Moroccan economy has the potential to improve drastically if not develop to reach new heights of industrial capacity. read more

Renowned Egyptian Actor Gamil Ratib Dies at 91

Rabat – The Egyptian actor of the golden era, Gamil Ratib, died this morning at the age of 91.Ratib’s agent announced the death of the iconic actor in a statement today.The actor’s funeral will take place this afternoon at the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, according to Egyptian local media. The Egyptian-French star was born in 1962 in Cairo. The actor spent 65 years in both Egyptian and French television shows.A lover of theater, Ratib spent some time in the French theater during his early life in France.Ratib graduated from the School of French Law and then completed his education in a university in France. Ratib made his first appearance on screen in “1946,” a movie released in that year.In the mid-seventies, the actor started appearing in Egyptian movies, taking part in multiple Egyptian works, including “No consolation for women,” “Love in the Prison,” “The Beginning,” and “The Birds of the Dark.”Ratib also participated in television dramas, including “The Friends,” “Yawmiyat Wanis,” and “The Face Of the Moon,” according to IMDb. read more

Most actively traded companies on the TSX

Some of the most active companies traded Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange:Toronto Stock Exchange (16,336.45, down 70.84 points).Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA). Energy. Down 42 nine cents, or 4.34 per cent, to $9.26 on 8.3 million shares.Aurora Cannabis Inc. (TSX:ACB). Health care. Down 27 cents, or 2.25 per cent, to $11.72 on 8.1 million shares.Crescent Point Energy Corp. (TSX:CPG). Energy. Up four cents, or 0.8 per cent, to $5.02 on 8.1 million shares.Whitecap Resources Inc. (TSX:WCP). Energy. Up six cents, or 1.14 per cent, to $5.34 on 5.7 million shares.Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Industrials. Unchanged at $2.75 on 4.8 million shares.Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE). Energy. Down nine cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $12.75 on 4.5 million.Companies reporting:Bank of Nova Scotia. (TSX:BNS). Down 19 cents to $71.05. Scotiabank’s chief executive officer pushed back at renewed bets against Canada’s banking sector and the risk posed by the housing market, saying that the lender has “a lot of buffer” in the event of a significant downturn. Brian Porter added during its annual meeting of shareholders in Toronto that the bank stress tests its $205 billion-mortgage portfolio on a regular basis against some “very harsh metrics” such as a 600-basis point increase in interest rates and a huge jump in unemployment.BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE). Down 18 cents to $59.51. Quebecor says it will scramble the signal of its TVA Sports channel for television subscribers of its competitor, Bell, starting Wednesday evening. That means Bell TV’s French-language customers will have to look elsewhere to watch National Hockey League playoff games. They could subscribe to Sportsnet, owned by Rogers Media, CBC or switch to Videotron. According to Bell, the action stems from a pricing dispute with Quebecor wanting to charge Bell more to access TVA Sports than Quebecor and Videotron are willing to pay for Bell Media’s RDS sports network.Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B). Down 91 cents or 3.3 per cent to $26.87. Shaw Communications says it swung to a $155 million profit in the second quarter compared with a loss of $175 million a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter totalled $1.32 billion, down from $1.33 billion a year ago. The dip in revenue came as the company’s wireline business, which includes its traditional cable and satellite TV, internet and phone operations, held steady at about $1.07 billion. Wireless revenue dipped to $247 million compared with $264 million a year ago as a drop in equipment revenue more than offset an increase in service revenue.Canada Goose (TSX:GOOS). Up $2.15 or 3.4 per cent to $65.36. Luxury parka maker Canada Goose announced plans to open six new stores, including two in Europe. The retailer says it plans to open a store in Milan, Italy, and in Paris as well as an additional store in the United States and three more in Canada. The new U.S. store will be in Minneapolis, Minn., at the Mall of America. The new Canadian locations will be in Toronto at the CF Sherway Gardens mall, in Edmonton at the West Edmonton Mall, and in Banff, Alta. Canada Goose currently operates 11 company stores.The Canadian Press read more

Association of tech professionals reverses policy on Huawei

BEIJING — The world’s largest association of technology professionals has reversed a decision that would have excluded employees of Chinese tech giant Huawei and its affiliates from some editorial and peer review activities.The announcement by the IEEE followed a clarification from the U.S. Department of Commerce that employees of Huawei and its affiliates can participate as peer reviewers and editors in the organization’s publication process.The U.S. has put Huawei on an “Entity List,” effectively barring U.S. firms from selling it technology.The IEEE, IEEE, pronounced “Eye-triple-E,”stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.It said all members, “regardless of employer,” can participate in all of its activities.It said an earlier, “more restrictive” stance, publicly condemned by Chinese experts, was meant to protect members from legal risk.The Associated Press read more

DR Congo child soldiers being recruited into integrated brigades UN mission warns

The mission, known by the acronym MONUC, and the Congolese military authorities remain concerned by the problem. Some 150 to 230 such children have so far been identified among the 7,000 to 8,000 elements in the new integrated groups, MONUC military spokesman Lt. Col. Didier Rancher told a news conference yesterday in Kinshasa, the capital. “For MONUC and the whole international community, children should be at school to receive an education in peace and life, and certainly not in arms, war and death,” he said. MONUC “condemns the pressure on some children to conceal their age, their civil status or to stop them from registering with the Military Structure for Integration (SMI),” he added of the enrolment taking place in North Kivu province. The issue of children and armed conflict is a major UN concern, and earlier this month the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the French Government co-hosted a conference in Paris at which 59 countries, including the DRC, committed themselves to putting an end to the unlawful recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts wherever they occur. MONUC has overseen the DRC’s transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, to gradual stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in over four decades last year, the largest and most complex polls the UN has ever helped to organize. 22 February 2007Child soldiers being demobilized from former rebel groups in an eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being pressured to conceal their age and civil status so that they can be enrolled in newly integrated army units, the United Nations peacekeeping mission has warned. read more

Schools in Middle East must be zones of peace UN envoy on

Completing a three-day fact-finding mission to Lebanon, the United Nations envoy for children in armed conflict today called on all sides in the Middle East to respect international humanitarian law and ensure schools are “zones of peace” where children are protected. After visiting the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said she was shocked to see the destruction caused by last year’s conflict between Hizbollah and Israel and its considerable impact on children. “All parties should respect International Humanitarian Law with regard to the protection of children and ensure that schools are zones of peace. For the sake of future generations, a framework for a permanent peace should be negotiated with Israel,” she said. Ms. Coomaraswamy said that she felt very encouraged by the response of the Lebanese authorities, civil society, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the international community to the crisis with regard to children. She also welcomed commitments made by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on behalf of Lebanon’s Government and by Parliamentary Deputy Mohamed Raad on behalf of Hizbollah to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that children should not be used in political mobilization or armed violence. During discussions with these officials, she also raised the issue of cluster bombs and unexploded ordinance and asked Lebanon to take a leading role in the development of and advocacy for an International Protocol on Cluster Munitions. After visiting the Shatilla Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, she expressed concern over refugee children and called for better access to social services, education and employment, while also recognizing the efforts made by the Government to address the issue of living conditions in the camp. “It is crucial for the future of the country to encourage children to continue to go to school especially the most vulnerable and marginalized ones,” she declared. 12 April 2007Completing a three-day fact-finding mission to Lebanon, the United Nations envoy for children in armed conflict today called on all sides in the Middle East to respect international humanitarian law and ensure schools are “zones of peace” where children are protected. read more

New UN handbook aims to help countries in AsiaPacific region respond to

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region today received a new United Nations handbook that focuses on the role of human rights in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.Produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Handbook on HIV and Human Rights is designed to assist the region’s national human rights institutions to integrate HIV into their human rights mandates. Launched at the eighth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, being held in Colombo, the publication provides a basic overview of the role of human rights in an effective response to the HIV epidemic and suggests concrete activities that national institutions can carry out.“This is a critical time for national human rights institutions to engage in the AIDS response,” said Dr. Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director. “We have learned that we will not succeed against HIV unless we address discrimination, gender inequality and other human rights abuses that drive the epidemic. National human rights institutions need to be full partners in the day-to-day AIDS response.”United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour referred to the Handbook as “an essential guide for national institutions in their efforts to ensure that States are held accountable for protecting the rights of people living with HIV.”Also today at the Congress, the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Purnima Mane, emphasized that HIV prevention efforts will be more effective if linked with sexual and reproductive health. “We know what it takes to break the silence about HIV,” said Ms. Mane. “Going beyond the silence into action is the only way we can face the future generations knowing that we are doing our best to ensure an AIDS-free generation. Let us never forget that prevention is for life.” During the International Congress, which is being held from 19 to 23 August in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, OHCHR, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UNAIDS will be co-hosting a satellite event entitled “Unblocking the Barriers to Universal Access: the role of national human rights institutions.” The event, which includes the participation of the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV (APN+), will address how national institutions can work with partners to address critical human rights issues in the AIDS response, and promote accountability, including to universal access. 22 August 2007Countries in the Asia-Pacific region today received a new United Nations handbook that focuses on the role of human rights in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. read more

Ban deeply concerned about proposed Israeli settlement activity in West Bank

24 July 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed deep concern about the announcement today of the initial approval by the Ministry of Defense of 20 residential units in the Israeli military post of Maskiyot in the West Bank. “The Secretary-General has stressed many times before that settlement construction or expansion is contrary to international law,” his spokesperson said in a statement.It is also contrary to Israel’s commitments under the international plan for Middle East peace, known as the Road Map, and the Annapolis process, the statement added, referring to the peace process launched in the United States city of that name late last year.Mr. Ban urged Israel to heed the call of the Middle East Quartet – the diplomatic grouping comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. read more

Land rights of exslave communities in Brazil at risk UN expert warns

26 May 2010A possible court decision in favour of Brazil’s industrial and livestock sector against the land rights of centuries-old communities set up by former slaves could infringe the country’s international human rights obligations, a United Nations expert warned today. Brazil’s Supreme Court will soon decide on the constitutionality of a decree regulating the granting of land titles to over 1,400 so-called Quilombo communities, an effort to compensate them for centuries of subjugation and human rights violations that has been challenged by the Democratic Party with support from the National Confederation of Industry, the National Confederation of Livestock Producers and the Brazilian Rural Society.“If the decree were to be declared unconstitutional, this would undermine the right of the Quilombo communities to have access to land and natural resources,” UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Raquel Rolnik said in a statement.“This may contravene Brazil’s international obligations, particularly under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” she added, stressing that the decree is part of a number of measures “aiming to compensate for the historical debt of the nation to communities affected by centuries of domination and violation of rights.”Although recognized in domestic legislation, the property rights of the Quilombo communities have been secured slowly, leaving them extremely vulnerable to forced evictions and threats by land owners, mining companies and developers seeking to take possession of their lands and natural resources. “The relationship with land and natural resources is at the centre of the lives of Quilombo communities,” said Ms. Rolnik, an independent, unpaid expert who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.“The spiritual and material foundations of their cultural identities are sustained through their unique relationship to the lands they traditionally occupy. Thus land is more than a mere source of subsistence; it is the basis of the continuation of their life and cultural identity.” The decree regulates procedures for granting titles to lands occupied by Quilombos in accordance with international human rights treaties ratified by Brazil, such as the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on indigenous and tribal peoples. read more

UNs global postal agency looks to future in age of technology

“The Strategy Conference is an opportunity to look at the current trends impacting our sector, including those in the areas of technology, customer behaviour, services diversification and postal financial services,” Universal Postal Union (UPU) Director General Edouard Dayan told more than 550 delegates from 116 countries at the opening of the two-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.“We will also look at new economic models and try to better understand the role of postal services in our society. The agents of change are numerous in this period of radical transformation for the postal sector.”Global postal services form the largest physical distribution network in the world, employing nearly 6 million people to deliver some 430 billion letters and 6 billion parcels each year.When the UPU was founded in 1874, only the second international organization after the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), postal services were in their infancy and stamps were its trademark. It became a specialized UN agency in 1948, three years after the latter’s creation, and has 191 members. Now it is updating an action plan adopted in 2008, centred on improving the quality of the worldwide postal network, stimulating a universal postal service adapted to the social, economic and technological environment, promoting the sector’s sustainable development and fostering the growth of the postal markets and services.The postal sector is lifting itself out of an economic crisis that has accentuated a trend of declining letter-post volumes, but also provided new opportunities for national services in business segments such as parcels and financial services.Well before the economic crisis occurred, many postal services around the world had started to diversify, expanding into new areas such as logistics management, e-commerce and e-government. During the crisis, several postal services, especially those managing postal financial institutions, witnessed exponential growth in the number of customers and accounts as a result of consumers’ loss of trust in traditional banking institutions.E-commerce, often responsible for the growth of parcel volumes, also continued to thrive despite the crisis. 22 September 2010The United Nations postal union opened a two-day strategy session today to plot its course in the new age of technological advances and changing consumer behaviour. read more

Security Council voices concern over maritime piracy in West Africas Gulf of

30 August 2011The Security Council today voiced concern over increasing maritime piracy, armed robbery and reports of hostage-taking in the Gulf of Guinea, saying the crimes were having an adverse impact on security, trade and other economic activities in the sub-region. The Council took note of efforts by countries in the Gulf of Guinea to tackle the problem, including joint coastline patrols by Nigeria and Benin and plans to convene a summit of Gulf of Guinea heads of State to discuss a regional response.“In this context, members of the Council underlined the need for regional coordination and leadership in developing a comprehensive strategy to address this threat,” said a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month.The Council urged the international community to support countries in the region, as well as the regional organizations – the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) ¬¬– and other relevant bodies, in securing international navigation along the Gulf of Guinea, including through information exchange, improved coordination and capacity building.The Council took note of the intention by the Secretary-General to send a UN assessment mission to look into the situation in the region and explore possible options for UN support.Members of the Council also stressed the need for the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to work, within their current mandates, with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO), as well as with all concerned countries and regional organizations. read more

UN agencies begin relief campaign as flood waters swamp southern Pakistan

10 September 2011United Nations humanitarian agencies have begun to assist communities in southern Pakistan that have been pummelled by monsoon rains which have claimed the lives of almost 200 people and destroyed or damaged nearly one million homes in an area still recovering from last year”s catastrophic floods. An estimated 4.2 million acres of land have been inundated by floodwaters caused by torrential rains during the annual monsoon season, with Sindh province the hardest hit and Balochistan also badly affected. About 200,000 people are displaced from their homes and require immediate assistance.The Pakistani Government has called on the UN to support its own relief operations and a joint Pakistani-UN humanitarian team has visited some of the affected areas and met with local officials to discuss the disaster.The UN and Pakistan have begun a rapid needs assessment in Sindh, with shelter, food, water, sanitation, hygiene and health care expected to be the priorities.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which said that overall needs remain “huge,” reported that nutrition and promoting an early recovery in affected areas will also be key challenges.Timo Pakkala, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan, said that after “seeing first hand today the devastation and vast amount of flood water in Sindh, now is a crucial time to stand in solidarity with the people of Pakistan, and build on the lessons learned from the recent 2010 floods response to support the Government of Pakistan in their ongoing monsoon relief efforts.”Last year”s floods killed some 2,000 people and submerged about a fifth of the country”s land, affecting 20 million people in total. read more

UN tribunal directs France to arrest former spokesperson

A five-judge appeals panel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) “directed and authorized” France to search for, arrest and detain Florence Hartmann and surrender her to the tribunal, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.Ms. Hartmann – who is a French national – was convicted in 2009 of contempt of court for publishing a book and writing an article which disclosed the contents, purported effect and confidential nature of two court decisions involving the former Serbian leader Slobodan Miloševic.After losing her appeal in July this year, Ms. Hartmann had been ordered to pay her fine in two instalments of €3,500 each by mid-August and mid-September respectively.Ms. Hartmann subsequently wrote to the tribunal saying she is indigent and unable to pay her fine, but that supporters of her have deposited the funds to pay the fine in a French bank account.However, the tribunal’s finance department said it had yet to receive either instalment and the court stated that Ms. Hartmann was obligated to pay the fine in the exact manner prescribed.Deeming the fine to have not been paid, the appeals chamber today decided to convert the fine into a term of imprisonment of seven days. 16 November 2011The United Nations tribunal set up in the wake of the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s today ordered France to arrest a former tribunal spokesperson who has failed to pay a €7,000 fine imposed for contempt of court. read more

UN rights chief says Maldives must take further steps on path to

24 November 2011The Maldives has made “significant advances” during the first few years of its transition to democracy, but a large gap still exists between the rhetoric and the reality on the ground, the United Nations human rights chief said today. Wrapping up a visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told journalists that the Maldives deserved credit for the progress it has made since a reform agenda began nearly a decade ago. Multi-party presidential elections were held for the first time in 2008, ending 30 years of one-party rule, and the country has ratified six of the seven core international treaties. Ms. Pillay – who met with President Mohamed Nasheed, senior Government officials, opposition figures, leading judges, parliamentarians and representatives of civil society during her visit – noted there has been “a dramatic reduction in the incidence of torture” and the country is also promoting dialogue within both South Asia and the Islamic world on the importance of human rights. “Yet, as virtually all my interlocutors have noted, the process of transition is far from over, and some of the achievements still have shallow roots,” she said. “Some of those with whom I have spoken pointed to a large gap between the political rhetoric and actual implementation of reforms on the ground.” The High Commissioner noted that the Majlis, or parliament, is not in session because of a series of disputes and has therefore passed just five bills and three amendments so far this year. “The enactment of some vital human rights-related pieces of legislation envisaged in the constitution have been held up. These include, most notably, the penal code, the criminal and civil procedures, the law on domestic violence and the right to information bill.” While she found bipartisan political agreement on the need for such laws, “their progress has been paralyzed by the political impasse. I urge politicians of all stripes to set their disputes to one side, because these laws are both necessary and overdue.” Women are also severely under-represented in the country’s judiciary and political ranks – only five of the nearly 200 judges and magistrates are female, for example. “For women to fulfil their potential, they need respect, education, and equal rights and opportunities. This is clearly recognized in the Maldives’ constitution. Yet the widespread domestic violence against women in the Maldives indicates a lack of respect – as does the failure to enact the draft law designed to deal with this issue. And the shortage of women in high-powered jobs indicates both a lack of opportunities, and a lack of ambition solidified by deficiencies in the education of girls.” Ms. Pillay said a starting point to improve female representation would be to expand the role of women on the local councils on the islands, “where their practical experience and know-how could bring quick benefits and recognition.” She also voiced concern about the country’s health-care system, which she described as deteriorating the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers, particularly those from Bangladesh the state of religious freedom and tolerance and the continuing practice of flogging some offenders. read more

Closing Bell TSX closes little changed as Hurricane Sandy prompts US market

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed little changed Monday while major U.S. exchanges in New York City cancelled trading for the day as hurricane Sandy lurched towards the Eastern Seaboard.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,312.75 +12.45 +0.10%S&P 500 — Closed.Dow — Closed.Nasdaq — Closed.And as the monster hurricane moved towards arriving on the New Jersey shore Monday night, officials announced the NYSE would be closed Tuesday as well.The S&P/TSX composite index rose 12.45 points to 12,312.75, while the TSX Venture Exchange declined 9.41 points to 1,291.43.“In many ways, we do take our cues from the U.S. market, so certainly it being closed caused Toronto to be somewhat directionless today,” said John Stephenson, portfolio manager at First Asset Funds.The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq said they intend to reopen on Wednesday and will keep investors updated.U.S. bond trading will also be closed Tuesday. The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association called for an early close to bond trading Monday, at 12 noon EDT.Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar closed below parity with the U.S. currency for the first time since early August.The loonie was down 0.28 of a cent to 99.92 cents US.The commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar has lost value lately amid growing pessimism about the global economic outlook, which has contributed to falling prices for oil and copper.The operator of the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Euronext, originally announced late Sunday afternoon trading could carry on through its electronic trading backup even though floor trading would be cancelled due to the storm.But it said Monday morning that “the dangerous conditions developing as a result of hurricane Sandy will make it extremely difficult to ensure the safety of our people and communities.”Lower parts of Manhattan around the Financial District are under mandatory evacuation order.CME Group which operates the New York Mercantile Exchange, halted all electronic and floor-trading activity in equity-index futures and options mid-morning. All other CME Group futures and futures-options markets remained open.The Toronto stock market was already in for a lacklustre showing this week as disappointments over the quarterly earnings season pile up and traders exercise caution ahead of an American election too close to call.“The sense is that things have been pretty slow these days and people worried and this is another thing to add to the wall of worry that seems to be getting higher all the time,” added Stephenson.“In general, people are looking at Europe as an unresolved mess and no end in sight to that problem. China is weak and of course there is all the uncertainty about the U.S. fiscal cliff and the U.S. election. All of that is weighing on sentiment and there is an absence of positive news.”The base metals sector led decliners, down 1% while December copper lost six cents to $3.49 US a pound. Teck Resources shed 26 cents to $30.78 while First Quantum Minerals fell 38 cents to $22.15.The financial sector was off 0.41% after concerns about consumer debt and home prices in Canada prompted Moody’s Investors Service to place the long-term ratings of six Canadian banks on review Friday for a possible downgrade.The ratings agency said high levels of consumer debt and high housing prices have left the banks more vulnerable to downside risks to the Canadian economy than in the past.The agency put Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Caisse Centrale Desjardins, CIBC, National Bank of Canada and Toronto-Dominion Bank under review. TD was down 49 cents to $80.68.Royal Bank, which had already been downgraded by Moody’s earlier in the year, was not included on the list. Its stock slipped 48 cents to $56.35.Insurer Manulife Financial dropped 16 cents to $12.14 after an RBC analyst said Canadian companies who provide reinsurance to property and catastrophe insurance companies could see a drag on earnings in the fourth quarter if damage from hurricane Sandy is significant. Other companies providing reinsurance include Bank of Montreal and Great-West Lifeco.The energy sector was up 0.33% with the December crude contract down 74 cents to $85.54 US a barrel.The Canadian arm of a Malaysian state-owned oil company, Petronas Canada, has extended the deadline for its takeover bid for Progress Energy Resources Corp. in hopes it will be able to convince Industry Canada to reverse an earlier decision and approve the deal. The deadline had been extended to Nov. 30 from Oct. 31. Progress shares ran up $1.45 to $19.81.The gold sector was up about 0.6% while December bullion was down $3.20 to $1,708.70 US an ounce. Goldcorp Inc. edged up 92 cents to $44.65.Defensive stocks also provided the TSX with some lift with the utilities sector ahead 0.6%. TransCanada Corp. and Phoenix Energy Holdings Ltd. are forming a partnership to build a $3-billion pipeline project in Northern Alberta. TransCanada shares gained 50 cents to $44.90.The consumer staples sector was also up as grocer Loblaw Cos. rose 26 cents to $34.32.MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. was a major gainer on the TSX. It jumped $5.25 or 10.46% to $55.43 after it said Friday that it has cleared a U.S. antitrust review of its $875-million US takeover bid for California-based Space Systems/Loral Inc.Here’s the news investors were watching today:Flaherty cuts Canada’s 2013 growth forecastGoogle debuts new tablet, smartphone with Samsung and LGSpain’s economy marches from bad to worse, but still no bailoutON DECK TUESDAYU.S. markets will be shuttered again Tuesday as Hurricane Sandy paralyzes Wall StreetECONOMIC NEWSCANADA8:30 a.m.Industrial product price index (Sept): Economists expect 0.2% gain Raw materials price index (Sept): Economists expect 1.1% gain UNITED STATES7:45 a.m.ICSC Same-store sales 9 a.m.S&P Case Shiller home price index (Aug): Economists expect .5% rise from the month before, 1.9% year over year 10 a.m.Homeownership and residential vacancy rates (Q3) Conference Board consumer confidence index (Oct) CORPORATE NEWSCANADACanadian Oil Sands Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 46¢ a share West Fraser Timber Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 74¢ UNITED STATESLoews Corp Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 72¢ Leggett and Platt Q3 earnings: Analysts expect 38¢ read more

SNCLavalin suspended from right to bid on World Bank projects for 10

MONTREAL — SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (TSX:SNC) said Wednesday a settlement has been reached with the World Bank Group in an investigation into allegations of bribery involving a bridge contract in Bangladesh.A number of terms of the settlement were being withheld, but they included a suspension of the right of a subsidiary, SNC-Lavalin Inc. and its controlled affiliates, to be awarded World Bank Group-financed projects for 10 years.However, the suspension could be lifted after eight years if the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement are complied with fully, SNC said in a news release Wednesday.No financial penalty was imposed and other SNC-Lavalin Group subsidiaries will be able to bid on such contracts if they meet the terms of the agreement, SNC added.The company said revenues generated from projects in the affected subsidiaries that are financed by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks have historically represented about one per cent of the its annual revenues.The RCMP raided a SNC-Lavalin office in Oakville, Ont., in September 2011 at the request of the World Bank, which was investigating a bridge contract that was never awarded in the South Asian country.The accusations of bribery prompted the World Bank to suspend a US$1.2-billion loan and temporarily barred the SNC-Lavalin subsidiary from bidding on other contracts in the country.A Bangladesh newspaper has reported that the country’s anti-corruption commission was investigating allegations that SNC-Lavalin Inc. offered “huge bribes” to at least six influential Bangladeshi officials, including two former government ministers, to obtain the lucrative bridge contract.SNC-Lavalin Group said Wednesday that the company launched an internal investigation when the matter was first brought to its attention and “has worked closely with the World Bank throughout the settlement process.”“The company’s decision to settle signals our determination as we go forward to set standards for ethics in business conduct and for good governance that are beyond reproach,” CEO Robert Card said.“The company has already taken, and will continue to take, measures to ensure rigorous compliance and control procedures are in place,” Card added.SNC-Lavalin Group is involved in engineering and construction projects around the world.Canadian Press read more

Cisco Canada to head 150M fund for startup companies

TORONTO — Cisco Canada plans to invest $150 million over 10 years in a variety of Canadian startup companies, technology development incubators and new technologies that it thinks have the potential to affect the global market.Cisco Canada’s president Nitin Kawale said Canada has many innovative entrepreneurs but that there is a lack of funds and expertise to turn their ideas into commercial products.“This is the void we’re trying to fill,” Kawale said Thursday at a Toronto launch announcement that included federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver.Oliver said no federal matching funds have been allocated to the Cisco Canada Innovation Program.“This is a private-sector initiative. After all, the private sector is entitled to, and should be, pursuing their own initiatives. Government doesn’t have to be everywhere. It shouldn’t be and, in fact, we’re going to achieve our balanced budget next year because we’re going to be acting responsibly with taxpayers money,” Oliver said.However, Oliver said the effort does complement the federal government’s plan for stimulating investment in Canadian innovation.Under the Venture Capital Action Plan announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in January 2013, the government will deploy $400 million over a period of several years and expects to attract nearly $1 billion in new private sector investments in small- and mid-sized innovative companies.About $250 million of the total is to establish large “funds of funds” that will partner with institutional and corporate investors as well as interested provinces.Kawale said that Cisco’s investment program and the federal government’s fund-of-funds approach could be “symbiotic.”“The funds that are created by the federal government could conceivably, and most likely, invest in the same kind of companies that we’re investing in. So we see this as a symbiotic thing, as opposed to a completely separate thing.”Kawale said there have already been investments made under the new Cisco investment program, adding that there are short-lists of potential candidates, but he declined to identify any specific deals.“Today was really about announcing the initiative. Stay tuned, there will be lots of announcements to come.”Cisco has already made a number of investment announcements for Canada, including a 10-year deal with the Ontario government that was signed in December by Premier Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberal party was recently returned to power with a majority government.Under that agreement, Wynne said Ontario would provide up to $220 million over the next decade to support a Cisco initiative that the company says will add up to 1,700 jobs in the province, expanding its current Ontario workforce to 3,000 over six years and to 5,000 within a decade.Cisco later announced in March that it has identified Toronto as one of four new innovation hubs it plans globally. The other cities are in South Korea, Brazil and Germany.Kawale and Hilton Romanski, the Cisco executive who heads the company’s overall venture capital investment program, both told Thursday’s event in Toronto that they see Canada as a source of resource-oriented technological innovation.“If you look at the industries that are material to our GDP — oil and gas, utilities, agriculture, mining, health-care, manufacturing, etc. — these industries are ripe,” Kawale told reporters after the presentation.Romanski, Cisco’s senior vice-president for corporate development, said the Canadian innovation fund will invest both directly in innovative companies with global potential and indirectly in funds that are investing in such companies.“Our direct investment activity will tend to be closer to the core businesses of Cisco, where we have the ability to bring expertise and resources to the table to help those companies,” Romanski said.Cisco — which made its name as the leading global supplier of Internet equipment for large businesses — was at one time considered a potential buyer of Nortel Networks, before the Ontario-based company collapsed. Cisco has continued to thrive and broaden its product lines, including for the home, but it is still largely a supplier of communications equipment.The Canadian Press read more

Report says Labrador hydro project better managed but still facing risks

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A new report says Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown utility Nalcor is doing a better job of keeping track of the cost and the risks associated with its timetable for the $12.7 billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.However, the EY report released Thursday, also says the project still faces a high level of risk because of work complexity and the approach of the winter season.EY also says Nalcor has identified three risks not included in its June forecast, including significant protest unrest, vegetation and soil removal, and unforeseen directives from government.The report follows an interim report released in April 2016 that called for better oversight of a project that was significantly behind schedule and plagued by cost overruns.The hydro project, which is estimated to be about 78 per cent completed as of June, has ballooned in cost by about $5 billion since it was first approved five years ago.The EY report says changes made in planning and forecasting have improved the level of certainty around cost and the schedule to complete the project.Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady says the report demonstrates “significant progress” in managing Muskrat Falls.“Since coming to office our government has worked methodically and diligently to ensure the Muskrat Falls project is managed with greater accountability and transparency,” Coady said in a news release. read more