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Treat fleeing Venezuelans as refugees, UN urges world

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Treat fleeing Venezuelans as refugees, UN urges world

Refugees

Some 3.7 million people have left Venezuela, including three million since 2015 as the economy has imploded causing widespread shortages and hunger, and anti-government street protests have brought waves of violence and deaths.

Venezuelans continue to leave at the rate of 3,000 to 5,000 a day, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, giving updated guidance on how to handle the exodus.

“UNHCR … now considers that the majority of those fleeing the country are in need of international refugee protection,” agency spokeswoman, Liz Throssell, said at a news conference.

“It is incredibly important given the situation in Venezuela that there aren’t deportations, expulsions or forced returns.”

UNHCR noted that there had been some deportations from Caribbean islands, including by Trinidad and Tobago last year.

Only 460,000 Venezuelans had sought formal asylum as of the end of 2018, mainly in Peru, the U.S., Brazil and Spain, while others have legal stay arrangements in countries including Colombia, Chile and Ecuador, it said.

The UN children’s agency said that deteriorating conditions inside Venezuela had left vulnerable children with limited access to health, education, protection and nutrition services.

The agency had provided nearly 190,000 children with access to nutrition programmes but cannot do all it wants to in Venezuela, UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, said.

Dozens of nations around the world now recognise opposition leader, Juan Guaido as interim president, saying President Nicolas Maduro rigged a 2018 election and is behaving like a dictator.

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5 Saudi officials handed prison terms for corruption, bribery

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Five Saudi officials have been sentenced to jail after they were convicted of bribery, wasting public funds, misusing power and acquiring illicit wealth, a statement said on Friday.

The five received sentences adding up to a total of up to 32 years.

The public prosecutors had gathered more than 300 pieces of evidence against the defendants and presented them to the court, the statement, published by the Saudi Press Agency, said.

They were also ordered to pay fines of more than nine million riyals (around 2.4 million dollars). The court also ordered the confiscation of funds in their personal bank accounts.

Among those convicted is an official who was arrested while taking a bribe to approve some irregular measures, besides participating in the falsification of documents.

He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and ordered to pay a fine of one million Royal.

Some commercial entities were also fined and banned from making deals with any public body for a certain period, the statement said.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has vowed to crack down on corruption, as the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to diversify the country’s economy and make it less dependant on oil.

Mohammed was seen as spearheading what Riyadh described as an anti-corruption drive in 2017 to 2018, when dozens of high-profile royals and former state officials were detained for three months.

Many reached financial settlements with the authorities, which the kingdom said were worth more than 100 billion dollars.

Edited by Halima Sheji/Maharazu Ahmed

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UN agency says extreme poverty, inequality remain Africa’s top challenges

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The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said on Friday that Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing existing inequality have remained the African continent’s biggest challenges.

Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the ECA made this known while addressing a high-level continental meeting of the committee on gender, poverty and social policy, in Addis Ababa.

“Eradicating extreme poverty and reducing inequality remain some of Africa’s biggest challenges,  which the ECA is trying to help member States tackle through various policy recommendations and actions,” Ruzvidzo told the meeting.

The policy which aimed at looking into the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division that was reformulated to address gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.

“Inspite of  strides the continent has made in reducing the incidence of poverty, under the current trajectory, it is unlikely that extreme poverty will be eradicated by 2030,’’ the ECA director said.

“Global extreme poverty is predominantly concentrated in Africa, and is declining much slower in the region compared to the rest of the world,’’ she added.

“In Africa, this megatrend has largely not been translated into diversification of the economy, structural transformation, and the creation of productive jobs away from substance agriculture, in manufacturing and modern services,’’ she said.

Figures from the ECA show that more than 50 per cent of urban residents in Africa live informally, increasing by 4.5 million annually and an estimated 210 million live under conditions of poverty in urban slums, excluding North Africa, a figure which is projected to rise to 256.4 million in 2020.

In half of African countries, less than 35 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation facilities, less than 76 per cent has access to potable water, and the urban housing deficit stands at 20 billion U.S. dollars to 25 billion U.S. dollars, according to the ECA.

“These figures suggest that extreme poverty in Africa is moving from rural to urban areas,’’ the ECA said in a statement issued on the margins of the meeting, adding the situation is equally challenging in terms of inequality in the region.

“The interaction between poverty and inequality requires urgent attention in order to resolve human ill-being, fulfill everyone’s human rights, and achieve collective peace, prosperity, and genuine democracy,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

“Poverty and inequality do not only mean human deprivation, they often lead to social unrest and uprisings, growing radicalisation, worsening of polarisation within countries and communities, risks, and sometimes actual conflicts and wars,’’ she added.

According to the ECA, particularly relevant to the new priorities of the newly-formed Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division is urbanisation.

The reformulated division is said to be home to sub-programs that seek to address emerging issues impacting the lives of African women and girls, promote and support African countries in their work to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It also envisaged contributing to Africa achieving inclusive and equitable sustainable human and social development, it was noted.

“The principal rationale for its recent reform was to re-affirm that the Commission was re-oriented to effectively implement its mandate, including effectively supporting the implementation of, and follow-up to, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA noting existing “uncertain and volatile global environment, slower growth in the region, and rising inequality, had to embark on reforms to ensure it remained in touch with Africa’s development efforts,’’ Ruzvidzo said.

The ECA’s new strategic direction, which focuses particularly on 23 African countries, aspires to increase its ability to make impactful interventions and remain forward-looking, it was noted.

Experts in the fields of urbanisation, planning, social policy and gender, research institutes, UN specialised agencies and civil society are attending the two-day meeting to evaluate the core role of the ECA’s newly-formed division.

Which envisaged addressing gender, poverty and social policy as key African priorities.(Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Halima Sheji/ Sadiya Hamza

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AU refutes report of China spying on its headquarters

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A senior official of the African Union (AU) on Friday rejected media reports that China has been spying on its headquarters and transferring data from servers in the building.

Victor Harison, the AU commissioner for economic affairs, said he had respect for the response of the chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who refuted a report the French newspaper Le Monde.

The French paper had earlier claimed that China had bugged the AU conference centre it had built and gifted to the AU in 2012.

Harison said, “I think the chairperson of the African Union has responded in this issue. I respect the response of my hierarchy chairperson.’’

Mahamat told the press in China that they were totally false allegations, reiterating that ties between China and the AU are unwavering, and such reports could not damage their relations.

According to a recent report by Reuters, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios has criticised countries that open their arms to Chinese 5G networks and artificial intelligence technologies.

Citing the Le Monde report in 2018 that Beijing had transferred data from the AU headquarters to China for five years using Huawei IT equipment.

Reuters also recalled that the AU had previously rejected claims that Huawei was involved in any cyber security breach.

Harison said that the AU and China are enjoying fruitful cooperation, with the AU office complex and conference centre a tangible example in this regard.

“This building is the fruit of collaboration between AU and China,’’ he said.

Refuting the rumour, Liu Yuxi, head of the Chinese Mission to the AU, told reporters on his part that the relationship between China and the AU is based on mutual respect and benefits. (Xinhua/NAN)

(Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Emmanuel Yashim)

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Kenya pledges support for green finance to combat climate change

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Patrick Njoroge, the Governor of Kenya Central Bank, on Friday pledged support for green finance to combat climate change.

Njoroge said in Nairobi that “now is the time to build a truly sustainable financial system that works for the banking sector as well as the environment’’.

“In the future, all finance must be green,’’ he told a ceremony for sustainable finance catalyst awards.

Kenya is experiencing extreme climate events such as droughts and floods, which hurt the country’s key sources of livelihoods, Njoroge said.

He said Africa, which contributes the least to emission of harmful gases, is bearing the greatest burden of climate change.

“The financial sector has been identified as one of the sectors that can lead the country’s transition toward low-carbon development pathways,’’ Njoroge said.

Habil Olaka, CEO of Kenya Banking Association (KBA), said the banking industry had tremendous potential in aiding the country to transition into a green economy.

He said the country needed an estimated 2.4 trillion shillings ($24 billion) to implement the Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Green bonds have also been identified as one of the innovative tools that can lead the country toward the green transition, Olaka said. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde

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South African Airways reintroduces some flights after strike

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South African Airways (SAA) on Friday  announced that it would reintroduce international flights on Sunday, but would extend its cancellation of regional and domestic flights after a labour strike brought operations to a standstill.

The airline said it was aiming to operate all international flights leaving from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport from Nov. 17.

“Departures from SAA’s international stations, including London, New York, Washington, Munich, Frankfurt and Hong Kong, are expected to operate from Monday, Nov.18,” the statement read.

The beleaguered airline cancelled almost all flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday ahead of the strike which saw staff walk off the job and protest outside major airports.

SAA check-in desks were empty and many travellers were caught unawares when they arrived to catch their planes on Friday.

The airline said it would assist as many passengers as possible to get alternative flights although not everyone could be accommodated, it warned.

The cancellations are a result of ongoing industrial action by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).

On Thursday, the airline said it would not be able to go higher than its offer of a 5.9 per cent salary increase and that a no work no pay principle would apply to employees participating in the strike.

Workers had asked for an eight per cent raise.

SAA has long faced financial difficulties.

In June, its board of directors announced the national carrier needs an additional four billion Rand (268 million dollars) in immediate funds to survive the current financial year.

Edited by Halima Sheji/Tajudeen Atitebi

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German Bundestag passes large sections of climate package

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The German parliament passed large parts of a climate policy package hammered out in September on Friday, providing for a price on carbon dioxide emissions to take effect from 2021.

The legislation imposes obligations on the different government departments and will force a rise in the costs to the consumer of fossil fuels used for transport and heating.

The price of rail tickets is set to fall from the start of 2020 as a result of a cut in the value-added tax applie, with a view to reducing travel by air and car.

The tax on air tickets to short-haul destinations is to rise as well from April 1 next year.

The Bundestag also passed measures to finance commuters and to refurbish homes.

The measures were criticised by environmental groups for not going far enough, but also by economists saying they would hit less well-off people hardest.

The tax aspects of the package have yet to be approved by the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament where the 16 states are represented.

The Bundesrat is to discuss the package at the end of this month, amid indications that it could press for changes.

Baden-Wuerttemberg Premier, Winfried Kretschmann, a member of the Greens, has described the proposals as “neither rapid enough nor sufficiently effective.”

With the Greens being in coalition in nine of the states, they are able to block or delay legislation.

Edited by Fatima Sule/Tajudeen Atitebi

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