Work-Related Accidents, Illnesses Kill Nearly 2m People Yearly –  UN

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

Work-related illnesses and injuries kill nearly two million people annually, largely due to long working hours, the UN said Friday, warning that the pandemic was likely to worsen the situation.

The first-ever joint assessment by the UN’s health and labour agencies of the global disease and injury burden linked to jobs stretches from 2000 to 2016, so does not include the dramatic shifts in working conditions brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.

Some 1.9 million deaths worldwide were officially linked to work-related causes in 2016, up slightly from 1.7 million at the turn of the century, according to the report, which cautioned these were almost certainly underestimates.

Long working hours “are the single deadliest occupational risk factor” World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference in a video statement.

Exposure to long working hours, defined as working 55 hours a week or more, was deemed responsible for some 750,000 deaths in 2016, the report said.

In all, the study examines 19 occupational risk factors, including exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, ergonomic factors like prolonged sitting and manual handling of loads.

After long working hours, workplace exposure to gases, fumes and other air pollution was seen as the top risk, responsible for some 450,000 deaths in 2016.

“It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs,” Tedros said, describing the report as “a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers.”

Long Working Hours Kill

The report found that non-communicational diseases accounted for a full 82 percent of work-related deaths in 2016, with the greatest cause of death being chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which killed 415,000 people that year.

That was followed by strokes, at 400,000, and ischaemic heart disease at 350,000.

Occupational injuries were responsible for 18 percent of all work-related deaths, and were estimated to have killed 360,000 people in 2016.

“All of these deaths are preventable,” International Labour Organization chief Guy Ryder said in a video message.

“We can and we must ensure safe and healthy workplaces for all workers.”

On a positive note, the global death rate from work-related causes shrank by 14 percent over the 16-year-period covered in the report, although a growing global population meant the number of deaths remained about the same.

The decrease from 39.9 to 34.3 deaths per 100,000 working age people was possibly a reflection of improvements in workplace safety measures, the report said.

But while there was a sharp drop in the number of deaths caused by occupational injuries, deaths linked to long working hours surged over the same period.

The death rate from heart disease associated with exposure to long working hours ballooned by 41 percent, while stroke deaths brought on by excessive work rose 19 percent, the report showed.

While the report did not look at the pandemic impact, the UN agencies have previously warned the crisis appeared to be feeding the trend towards increased working hours, with teleworking blurring the lines between work and home life.

Friday’s report did not provide estimates of deaths from contagious diseases contracted at work, but the WHO said that aspect might be included in future studies to capture the Covid impact.

“We need more epidemiological studies that clearly identify the increased risk for death from Covid as a result of working,” Frank Pega, the WHO’s technical lead on the report, told reporters.

AFP

Hundreds Of Aid Trucks ‘Not Returned’ From Tigray – UN

A file photo of an internally displaced man from Amhara Region talks on the phone at the Addis Fana School where he is temporarily sheltered, in the city of Dessie, Ethiopia. Long confined to Tigray, the conflict in Ethiopia has recently spread to two neighbouring regions, Afar and Amhara, with heavy weapons fire killing an untold number of civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

Hundreds of aid trucks have not returned from Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region, and their disappearance is “the primary impediment” to ramping up the humanitarian response, the United Nations said Friday.

The disclosure from the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) comes amid rising fears of starvation deaths in Tigray, where the UN has previously estimated that 400,000 people faced famine-like conditions.

Since July 12, 445 contracted non-WFP trucks have entered Tigray, but only 38 have returned, WFP spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said in a statement.

“At the moment this is the primary impediment to moving humanitarian aid into Tigray. We are unable to assemble convoys of significant size due to lack of trucks,” Snowdon said.

“We are continuing to work with transporters and local authorities in Tigray for trucks to be released.”

WFP has no information about where the trucks are or what they are being used for, Snowdon said.

Tigray has been mired in conflict since November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to topple the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a move he said came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner promised a swift victory, but the TPLF retook much of Tigray including its capital Mekele in June and Abiy then declared a humanitarian ceasefire.

But the UN says Tigray remains under a “de facto blockade” and has warned of a “looming catastrophe” as fighting has dragged on and spread to neighbouring regions.

The Ethiopian authorities and Tigrayan rebels have blamed each other for obstructing humanitarian convoys trying to reach Tigray.

A government Twitter account on Thursday referred to “suspicions that TPLF (is) seizing trucks for own logistics”.

But TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda cited obstacles drivers faced while entering Tigray from neighbouring Afar region, adding they have “nothing to do” with Tigrayan officials.

“Drivers of trucks that UN has commissioned complain about fuel availability, (security) concerns, harassment at checkpoints, being stranded at Afar for months, etc,” he said on Twitter.

A humanitarian official in Tigray, speaking on condition of anonymity, said many truck drivers were Tigrayan and had faced ethnically-motivated harassment at checkpoints while heading into the region.

Somalia Vote To Go Ahead ‘As planned’, PM Tells UN

(COMBO/FILES): Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble attending the closing ceremony after reaching an agreement for the new elections at the National Consultative Council on Elections in Mogadishu, Somalia, on May 27, 2021.   

 

Somalia’s long-delayed elections will proceed “as planned”, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble told visiting UN diplomats on Sunday, even as a damaging feud between him and the country’s president sparked fresh fears for the troubled Horn of Africa Nation.

The very public spat between Roble and President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, comes as Somalia struggles to organise polls that are months behind schedule and keep an Islamist insurgency at bay.

As senior politicians made frantic efforts to defuse tensions and end the impasse, Roble told a delegation led by United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed that the vote would go ahead as planned.

The increasingly bitter row has threatened to throw an already fragile electoral process into deeper peril.

Farmajo’s four-year mandate expired in February, but was extended by parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles in the capital Mogadishu, with some rivals viewing it as a flagrant power grab.

Roble cobbled together a new timetable for polls, but the process fell behind, and on Wednesday he accused Farmajo of trying to reclaim “election and security responsibilities” from him.

On Sunday, as Roble sought to reassure UN diplomats about the vote, his office released a statement saying: “We are committed to hold the elections as planned, and other existing matters will not have any effect on the elections.”

“The prime minister informed the delegation about the achievements made towards (holding) the election… and how he is committed to (holding) elections that are peaceful and transparent,” the statement said.

Elections in Somalia follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The next phase is scheduled for between October 1 and November 25.

– Security threats –

The row erupted last week when Roble sacked Somalia’s intelligence chief over his handling of a high-profile probe into the disappearance of a young agent.

Farmajo overruled the prime minister, appointing the dumped intelligence official as his national security adviser.

Roble in turn accused the president of “obstructing” the investigation, and in a late-night move on Wednesday, fired the security minister and replaced him with a Farmajo critic.

The spat has raised the political temperature in Mogadishu, with a coalition of opposition presidential candidates on Friday saying it “supports the prime minister… and condemns the actions of the outgoing president”.

The UN Assistance Mission in Somalia last week urged both leaders to stop bickering and focus on the elections.

Analysts say Somalia’s political crises have distracted from more pressing threats, most notably the violent Al-Shabaab insurgency.

The Al-Qaeda allies were driven out of Mogadishu a decade ago but retain control of swathes of countryside and continue to stage deadly attacks.

AFP

Half Of Global Population Without Any Social Protections, Says UN

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

Over half of all people in the world have no social protections, the United Nations said Wednesday, even after the pandemic spurred countries to offer more services to their populations.

In a report on the state of social protection globally, the UN’s International Labour Organization said that 4.1 billion people were living without any social safety net of any kind.

Social protection includes access to health care and income security measures related especially to old age, unemployment, sickness, disability, work injury, maternity or the loss of the main breadwinner in a family, as well as extra support for families with children.

In 2020, only 46.9 percent of the global population benefitted from at least one such protection, according to the report — ILOs first on the subject since 2017.

That low rate came even as access to healthcare, sickness and unemployment benefits have more than ever proved their relevance during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This crisis has revealed the absolutely crucial role that social protection has played in national responses around the world,” ILO chief Guy Ryder told reporters.

“Without the massive and rapid expansion of social protection during the Covid-19 crisis, its impact would certainly have been very much worse than it actually has been.”

– ‘Glimmers of optimism’ –

Ryder said this renewed appreciation for social protections had offered “glimmers of optimism amid the devastation wrought by the pandemic.”

He urged countries to centre their recovery efforts around boosting social protections.

“Countries are at a crossroads,” he said in a statement, stressing that “this is a pivotal moment to harness the pandemic response to build a new generation of rights-based social protection systems.”

But while the pandemic has provided an opportunity for improving social protections, it also laid bare the glaring disparities between the protections currently on offer in different parts of the world.

Ryder said the Covid crisis had acted “as an X-ray for global society,” revealing “large gaps in the coverage, in the adequacy and in the comprehensiveness of social protection.”

Europe and Central Asia have the highest rates of coverage, with a full 84 percent of people covered by at least one social protection, followed by the Americas, at 64.3 percent, according to the ILO.

Some 44 percent of people living in the Asia-Pacific region and 40 percent of people in Arab states meanwhile enjoy at least one social protection, while in Africa only 17.4 percent of people do.

Countries on average spend 12.8 percent of their gross domestic product on social protections, excluding health care, but such spending also varies dramatically.

While wealthy nations dish out 16.4 percent of their GDP for such protections, low-income countries spend just 1.1 percent, the report found.

And the pandemic could easily worsen the disparities.

The ILO report pointed out that the surging need for healthcare services and income security measures during the pandemic has sent the cost of guaranteeing basic social protection services through the roof for many crisis-hit economies.

To guarantee at least a basic level of social security, upper-middle-income countries could expect to invest an additional $750.8 billion each year, equivalent to 3.1 percent of their GDP, the report found.

Low-income countries would meanwhile need to invest another $77.9 billion — equivalent to 15.9 percent of their GDP.

AFP

UN Council Adopts Afghanistan Resolution

FILE Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Monday requiring the Taliban to honor their commitment to let people freely leave Afghanistan, but the measure did not cite a “safe zone” mentioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The resolution — drafted by the United States, Britain and France — was passed with 13 votes in favor and no objections. China and Russia abstained.

The resolution says the council expects the Taliban to allow a “safe, secure, and orderly departure from Afghanistan of Afghans and all foreign nationals.”

It refers to an August 27 statement by the Taliban in which the hardline Islamists said Afghans would be able to travel abroad, and leave Afghanistan any time they want to, including by any border crossing, both air and ground.

The Security Council “expects that the Taliban will adhere to these and all other commitments,” the resolution says.

Macron had raised hopes of more concrete proposals in comments published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche over the weekend.

He said Paris and London would present a draft resolution which “aims to define, under UN control, a ‘safe zone’ in Kabul, that will allow humanitarian operations to continue,” Macron said.

“I am very hopeful that it will be successful. I don’t see who could be against making humanitarian projects secure,” he said.

READ ALSO: WHO Raises Alarm Over Rising COVID-19 Deaths In Europe

But the UN resolution is far less ambitious. It is not clear whether another resolution proposing a “safe zone” will be circulated later on.

“This resolution is not an operational aspect. It’s much more on principles, key political messages and warnings,” a UN diplomat told reporters.

Richard Gowan, UN expert at the International Crisis Group, said the resolution “does at least send a political signal to the Taliban about the need to keep the airport open and help the UN deliver aid,” but is “a pretty thin text.”

“Macron was guilty of overselling the idea of a safe zone at Kabul airport this weekend, or at least not communicating very clearly,” he told AFP.

– Tuesday’s deadline –

The text calls for the Taliban to allow for “full, safe, and unhindered access” for the United Nations and other agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.

It also “reaffirms the importance” of upholding human rights, including of children, women and minorities and encourages all parties to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement with the “full, equal and meaningful representation of women.”

The text also calls for Afghanistan to “not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts.”

Experts said the resolution was watered down to ensure China and Russia would not use their vetoes to block it, including softening some of the language related to the Taliban.

Moscow said it could not support the text because it did not mention the “brain drain” caused by Afghans leaving or the “harmful influence” of the freezing of Afghan financial assets.

Beijing said the current chaos was a direct consequence of Western countries’ “disorderly withdrawal.”

The resolution comes as international efforts to airlift foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans out of the country come to an end after the Taliban swept back into power on August 15, with the United States withdrawing from the country after 20 years.

France ended its evacuation efforts on Friday and Britain followed suit on Saturday.

US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by a Tuesday deadline.

AFP

10-Year Memorial For Victims Of UN House Bombing In Pictures

Photos: Sodiq Adelakun/ChannelsTV

 

10 years after a car explosion rocked the United Nations House in Abuja killing at least 20 persons and leaving over 60 others injured, family members have gathered for a remembrance ceremony at the nation’s capital.

With teary eyes, wreaths were laid in honour of the deceased in front of the UN House on Thursday.

See photos below.

US Warns Citizens Against Travel To France Over COVID-19 Concerns

File Photo

 

The US State Department has advised Americans to avoid all travel to France over rising coronavirus cases in the country.

France is battling a fourth wave of the virus even though Covid-19 hospitalizations are still way off previous highs.

The State Department issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory for France on Monday, based on a parallel warning from the US Centers for Disease Control, the country’s top medical body.

“If you must travel to France, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel,” the CDC said.

France has recorded more than 6 million cases and 111,000 deaths in total, and daily cases have crept back up to around 20,000 a day while deaths remain low compared to the height of the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Tourists Told To Leave As COVID-19 Cases Rise In French Overseas Territories

A total of 74 million vaccine doses have been administered in France, according to the World Health Organization, and over 55 percent of the eligible population have received both vaccine doses.

It has also enforced a Covid pass for routine aspects of life.

Anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial plan to squeeze infections and encourage vaccinations has seen large protests recently, though polls have shown that a clear majority of French back the Covid pass, even including the extension this week to cafes and restaurants.

AFP

World Shudders At ‘Terrifying’ UN Climate Report

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

World leaders, green groups and influencers reacted Monday to a “terrifying” UN climate science report with a mix of horror and hopefulness as the scale of the emergency dawned on many.

US presidential envoy on climate John Kerry said the IPCC report, which warned the world is on course to reach 1.5C of warming around 2030, showed “the climate crisis is not only here, it is growing increasingly severe”.

Frans Timmermans, the European Union’s deputy climate chief said the 3,500-page report proved “it’s not too late to stem the tide and prevent runaway climate change”.

Britain’s Boris Johnson, whose government is hosting a crucial climate summit in November, said the assessment “makes for sobering reading”.

“I hope today’s IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit,” he said.

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed said the document confirmed that climate vulnerable nations were “on the edge of extinction”.

– ‘Suicidal’ –

Saleemul Huq, director of Dhaka-based environmental think tank ICCCAD, said the IPCC report was “the final warning that bubble of empty promises is about to burst”.

He said it showed G20 countries needed to accelerate emissions cuts to ensure their economies are in line with the 1.5C target.

“It’s suicidal, and economically irrational to keep procrastinating,” said Huq.

Dorothy Guerrero, head of policy at Global Justice Now, said the report was a “terrifying warning of our future unless drastic action is taken.”

“There is no denying the science of the climate crisis,” she said.

“But policymakers refuse to face up to the fact that it is rooted in economics and a history of colonial exploitation.”

– Action –

Many interpreted the IPCC’s assessment as a clarion call to overhaul the fossil-fuel powered global economy.

“Where can we start? Almost everywhere,” said Katherine Hayhoe, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy.

“Accelerating the transition to clean energy; reforming our most environmentally-damaging activities; and recalibrating financial flows to accelerate the economic transition.”

Climate wunderkind Greta Thunberg said the report was a “solid (but cautious) summary” of the state of the planet.

“It doesn’t tell us what to do,” she said on Twitter.

“It is up to us to be brave and take decisions based on the scientific evidence provided in these reports. We can still avoid the worst consequences, but not if we continue like today, and not without treating the crisis like a crisis.”

Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate tweeted “Scientists warn time running out on the 1.5C target! World leaders must get serious about climate change!”

– Fossil fall guys –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday’s report “must sound a death knell” for coal, oil and gas and warned that fossil fuels were destroying the planet.

Greenpeace was even more direct.

“Dear fossil fuel industry,” the charity said on Twitter. “We’ll see you in court.”

AFP

Food Aid Convoy Headed For Ethiopia’s Tigray Attacked – UN

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

A convoy bearing food for Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray came under attack at the weekend, the United Nations said Monday, dealing a further blow to aid distribution in a region threatened with famine.

The 10-vehicle World Food Programme convoy was attacked on Sunday about 115 kilometres (70 miles) from the town of Semera “while attempting to move essential humanitarian cargo into Tigray region”, WFP said in a statement.

The agency said it was working with local officials to determine who was behind the incident.

“WFP has suspended movement of all convoys from Semera until the security of the area can be assured and the drivers can proceed safely.”

Semera is the capital of Afar region, which borders Tigray to the east.

The route via Semera into Tigray had become critical for aid delivery in recent weeks after two key bridges along other routes were destroyed in late June.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region’s then-ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

READ ALSO: Germany Vows To Improve Flood Warning System As Death Toll Passes 165

He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

– Fighting spreads –

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory in late November after government forces took the Tigray capital Mekele, but TPLF leaders remained on the run and fighting continued.

Last month the war took a stunning turn when pro-TPLF forces retook Mekele, Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire and the army mostly pulled out of Tigray.

But after rebel leaders launched a new offensive intended to regain control of western and southern Tigray — contested areas that have been occupied by fighters from Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south — Abiy vowed to “repel” them.

Officials from six regions and the city of Dire Dawa have since vowed to send troops to back up government forces.

At the weekend rebel forces carried out what a spokesman described as a “very limited action” in Afar targeting special forces and militia fighters from Oromia region, the country’s largest.

A state media report published Saturday night accused the TPLF, which the government deems a terrorist organisation, of blocking aid into Tigray via Afar using “heavy shelling” and “heavy artillery.”

But rebel spokesman Getachew Reda denied any aid delivery had been disrupted, saying the fighting was not near any aid routes.

A senior UN official told the UN Security Council this month that the Tigray conflict had pushed 400,000 people into famine and that another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine.

AFP

UN Demands Accountability Over Syria Mass Disappearances

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday called for those behind “massive scale” enforced disappearances in Syria over the past decade of conflict to be held accountable.

The resolution, presented by Britain and a number of European countries, along with the United States, Turkey and Qatar, decried that Syria’s crisis had entered a second decade “marked by consistent patterns of gross violations.”

The war in Syria has killed nearly 500,000 people since it started in 2011, with all sides in the increasingly complex conflict accused of war crimes.

Tuesday’s resolution, adopted with 26 of the council’s 47 members in favour, six opposed and 15 abstaining, voiced particular concern about the fate of tens of thousands of people who have vanished.

The text “strongly condemns the continued use of involuntary or enforced disappearances in the Syrian Arab Republic, and related human rights violations and abuses, which have been carried out with consistency, in particular by the Syrian regime.”

It also criticised enforced disappearances by other parties to the conflict, including the Islamic State group, but said the Syrian regime was the main perpetrator.

The resolution voiced alarm at recent comments by the UN’s independent commission of inquiry on the rights situation in Syria indicating that “widespread enforced disappearance has been deliberately perpetrated by Syrian security forces throughout the past decade on a massive scale.”

The investigators had indicated that such disappearances had been used “to spread fear, stifle dissent and as punishment,” and that tens of thousands of men, women, boys and girls detained by Syrian authorities “remain forcibly disappeared”.

Presenting the resolution to the council, British Ambassador Simon Manley slammed the regime’s role in such a massive number of disappearances was “simply inexcusable.”

That regime, he said, “has the bureaucratic means to provide information on these disappeared individuals, the means to end the suffering of the families and loved ones of these people.”

“But it chooses not to employ those means. This is a deliberate act of unspeakable cruelty.”

He echoed a charge in the resolution, accusing Damascus’s forces of “intentionally prolonging the suffering of hundreds of thousands of family members.”

It emphasised “the need for accountability, including for crimes committed in relation to enforced disappearance,” stressing that “accountability is vital in peace negotiations and peace-building processes.”

AFP

Protect 30% Of Land, Oceans As Biodiversity Goals Unveiled, Says UN

In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

The UN on Monday unveiled the first draft text that will form the heart of forthcoming summit negotiations aimed at preserving at least 30 percent of land and oceans and a host of other biodiversity targets.

The draft, the result of months of online discussions, maps out the route for humanity to be “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.

But green groups voiced scepticism that the text will survive the high-level negotiating process at the COP15 biodiversity summit, set for October.

Campaigners have for years called for a global agreement on halting biodiversity loss, similar to what the Paris Agreement lays out for climate.

With more than one million species facing extinction and the world failing to meet existing nature preservation targets, the need for an accord among the nearly 200 nations taking part in the talks is pressing.

The draft outlines 21 targets and 10 “milestones” — to be hit by 2030 — in order to preserve biodiversity.

These include restoring at least 20 percent of degraded ecosystems and ensuring that existing intact wild areas are retained.

At least 30 percent of land and marine species should also be protected through conservation areas, the draft proposed.

The framework also calls for more sustainable farming and fishing practices, as well as “eliminating the discharge of plastic waste”.

“Urgent policy action globally, regionally and nationally is required to transform economic, social and financial models so that the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilise by 2030… with net improvements by 2050,” said the UN’s biodiversity chief, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

– ‘Solid blueprint’ –

The draft lays out specific funding targets, including the reduction of subsidies that are harmful to nature by at least $500 billion annually.

It also calls for at least $200 billion each year in new and additional finance to implement the targets.

Oscar Soria, campaign manager at pressure group Avaaz, told AFP that the figures laid out in the draft were “absolute minimum numbers”.

“If this draft survives the bargaining of the negotiations, the world will have a solid blueprint for biodiversity action,” he said.

The COP15 negotiations were planned for last year in Kunming, China.

They were delayed due to the Covid pandemic and are now set to take place virtually.

Sources close to the conference have said it may end up being delayed until next year.

A session scheduled for August, also online, will allow nations the chance to voice their views on the draft text.

“Much work remains before this draft negotiation text is set in stone as the heart of the new Global Biodiversity Framework,” said Linda Krueger, global biodiversity policy lead at The Nature Conservancy.

She said Monday’s draft was a significant improvement on previous versions.

Organisers “have been listening carefully to the consultations and have strengthened and clarified the text accordingly”, she said.

But others were less positive.

Guido Broekhoven, head of Policy Research and Development at WWF, told AFP that the new text “doesn’t show the urgency and ambition” needed to fight nature loss.

“We really need to have a nature positive world by 2030, that means that there’s more nature in 2030 than there is now,” he said.

AFP

Haiti Asks US, UN To Send Troops As Fears Of Instability Grow

Police are on the lookout for others suspected assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moise outside the Embassy of Taiwan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on July 9, 2021. Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP
Police are on the lookout for others suspected assassins of Haitian President Jovenel Moise outside the Embassy of Taiwan in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on July 9, 2021. Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP

 

Haiti has asked Washington and the UN for troops to secure its ports, airport and other strategic sites after the assassination of president Jovenel Moise opened a power vacuum in the crisis-hit Caribbean nation, an official said Friday.

The United States has already said it will send FBI and other agents to Port-au-Prince, two days after Moise was shot dead in his home.

In the wake of the slaying “we thought that mercenaries could destroy some infrastructure to create chaos … During a conversation with the US secretary of state and the UN we made this request,” elections minister Mathias Pierre told AFP.

The US State Department and Pentagon both confirmed receiving a request for “security and investigative assistance” and said officials remain in contact with Port-au-Prince, but did not specify whether military troops would be deployed.

The UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A UN diplomatic source had earlier indicated that a Security Council resolution was needed to do as the Haitians had asked.

Washington had already signaled its willingness to help the Haitian investigation, and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki added Friday that senior FBI and other officials would be heading to the Caribbean as soon as possible.

The development came as questions swirled about who could have masterminded the audacious assassination, with most members of a hit squad of Colombians and Americans either dead or in custody, and no clear motive made public.

Amid the uncertainty, three men are being touted as potential leaders of the nation of 11 million people, more than half of whom are under the age of 20. There is no working parliament.

After days of paralysis in the capital, Port-au-Prince saw the timid return of people to the streets, shops opening and the resumption of public transport on Friday morning — but under a pall of apprehension.

People scrambled to stockpile basic necessities at supermarkets and queued to buy propane for cooking in anticipation of more instability.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the day after … I am preparing for bad days ahead,” Port-au-Prince resident Marjory told AFP, as she and her husband stocked up on supplies at a store.

Gang violence, rife in the former French colony, also picked up again Friday, with clashes between groups paralyzing a major highway.

The city’s airport, shuttered after the attack, appeared to have reopened, according to Flightradar data.

Contract killers?

As the shock of the killing wore off, many in the poorest country in the Americas were demanding answers.

“Foreigners came to the country to perpetrate this crime. We, Haitians, are appalled,” a resident of the capital told AFP.

“We need to know who is behind this,” he added.

Police have said a 28-member hit squad of Colombians and Americans had carried out the attack, but that they were still seeking its masterminds.

Moise’s security team are in the hot seat and have been summoned to appear before the courts.

Others have speculated on the possible involvement of security agents in the killing, adding to the confusion.

“The president of the Republic, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated by his security agents,” former Haitian senator Steven Benoit said on Magik9 radio Friday.

“It is not Colombians who killed him. They were contracted by the Haitian state.”

Political chaos

One of Moise’s last acts as president on Monday was to appoint a new prime minister, Ariel Henry. He had not taken office when Moise was killed.

Hours after the assassination, Henry’s predecessor Claude Joseph said he was in charge.

While the opposition has accused Joseph of power-grabbing, the United Nations has said he had authority because Henry had not been sworn in.

Late Friday, a third option was floated.

In an attempt to emerge from what it called an “institutional and political vacuum,” the Senate voted on a resolution to make Senator Joseph Lambert the provisional president.

But the announcement is non-binding. While it does have some support among opposition politicians, not enough senators are currently in office to legally pass the resolution.

Haiti was already in the midst of an institutional crisis before the assassination.

Moise had not organized an election since he came to power in early 2017 and the country has had no parliament since January 2020. Moise had been ruling by decree.

Some alleged attackers, including both Americans, have been arrested. Three have been killed, and at least five are still on the run, officers said Friday.

The United States has said it is aware of the arrest of US citizens but declined further comment.

Colombia on Friday said 17 Colombian ex-soldiers were thought to have been involved, and that it will collaborate on the investigation.

 

AFP