Somalia Security Council appeals for dialogue towards national reconciliation

Foreign Minister Massimo D’alema of Italy, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, read out a statement urging “all Somali parties to reject violence and… to enter into substantial dialogue aimed at achieving a full and all-inclusive national reconciliation.”The 15-member body lauded last month’s appointment of Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, which “offers a renewed opportunity to make further progress on dialogue and political reconciliation,” as well as on tackling the humanitarian crisis in the country.Mr. Hussein’s appointment, the Council said, also bodes well for the implementation of the National Reconciliation Congress’ outcomes, “leading to a road map for the remainder of the Transitional Period and democratic elections in Somalia, as set out in the Transitional Federal Charter.”The Council also welcomed a briefing it received earlier this week from Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, who warned the body that “the situation in Somalia is dangerous and becoming more so each day.”He cautioned that “business as usual” would have dire consequences for both the country and the greater region, and called for immediate and effective action on the political and security fronts, with the objective of forming a government that can support itself and administer the country effectively.In today’s statement, the Council also took note of the 6 December briefing by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who recounted his recent visit to Somalia and estimated that some 1.5 million people there are in need of aid.“The Security Council expresses its deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, aggravated by the prevailing security conditions in Somalia, and emphasizes again the need for strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Somalia,” Mr. D’alema said.In addition, the Council appealed for unobstructed access for aid workers to vulnerable populations. 19 December 2007The Security Council today called on all sides in Somalia to use peaceful means to consolidate peace in the East African nation that has not had a functioning national government since 1991. read more

UN grants 7 million to assist Kenyan victims of postelectoral violence

9 January 2008The United Nations has authorized $7 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support relief efforts in the aftermath of the post-electoral violence that tore through Kenya last week resulting in the displacement of some 255,000 people. The United Nations has authorized $7 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to support relief efforts in the aftermath of the post-electoral violence that tore through Kenya last week resulting in the displacement of some 255,000 people. This initial allocation from the landmark Fund, designed to make resources available quickly for relief operations, will enable UN agencies on the ground to provide vital aid in the areas of food, health, shelter, water and sanitation to those affected by the violence, which reportedly has killed some 350 people, that erupted after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in the recent election. UN agencies in the country have been working with the Kenya Red Cross Society, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based groups to address the most urgent needs. The humanitarian consequences of the post-electoral violence were “pretty severe,” not only terms of the number of people killed and injured but also in terms of people being displaced from their homes, the UN’s top aid official told reporters in New York. “The best estimate we have at the moment is an official Government figure of 255,000 people having been displaced from their homes in the course of that violence,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes. “We also estimated that up to 500,000 people altogether may be in need of some assistance over the next weeks and months,” he added, noting that one of the difficulties in assessing the scale of the problem is that people are still moving around, including a “steady trickle” of people crossing out of Kenya. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is continuing to monitor the situation in Uganda, where thousands of people from Kenya have taken refuge. The agency reports that some 3,400 people have so far been registered by the Ugandan Red Cross and more are continuing to arrive. Many of the refugees have camped in schools that are set to re-open for a new school year at the beginning of February, and UNHCR is working with the Ugandan Government to find alternative accommodations. The agency has also made available relief supplies for roughly 100,000 people in Kenya. Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that, in a situation that is far more reminiscent of northern Uganda than Kenya, many people in different parts of the country are going to police stations to sleep for the night for fear of attack. “While they go to their homes or to work during the daytime they do not feel safe enough to sleep in their own beds at night,” UNICEF’s Sara Cameron told reporters in Nairobi, adding that about 1,000 people slept at Tigoni police station the other night. The agency is also very concerned about the impact of the recent crisis on Kenya’s children, at least 100,000 of whom are believed to have been displaced. “We know from experience in many countries that fear can have lasting damaging effects on children,” Ms. Cameron said, noting that effects include bedwetting, withdrawal, bad behaviour and difficulty concentrating at school. “We must expect and prepare to respond to the confusion that many children will feel because of this crisis.” She noted that with the right support children can quickly bounce back and recover from trauma. “The best news for children though will of course be an end to aggression and the brutal discrimination and prejudices which far too many have witnessed recently,” she added. With regard to the impact of the crisis on Kenya’s environment, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today noted that the country’s transport system is not currently running at 100 per cent, which may be compromising waste collection. “The build up of wastes raises serious public health concerns as a result of increased levels of pests and risks to the local environment including river systems and water supplies as a result of leakages and the clogging of sewers,” UNEP spokesperson Nick Nuttall warned. The Nairobi-based agency is monitoring the environmental situation in the country. “While there is likely to be little or no significant environmental impact as a result of the current crisis, impacts on areas such as forests, wildlife and water quality cannot be ruled out if the situation persists and significant numbers of people remain displaced over the medium to long term,” he said. Mr. Nuttall warned that this damage “would in the end exacerbate the loss of livelihoods and the humanitarian situation.” read more

Darfur more rapidresponse police join UNAfrican Union peacekeeping force

5 January 2009Two new contingents of Nigerian police officers trained in high-risk operations have joined the joint United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan. The new contingents – each comprising 140 personnel – bring the total number of Formed Police Units (FPUs) serving with the mission, known as UNAMID, to five, following the earlier arrival of units from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal.FPUs are specialized, self-sufficient and fully mobile rapid reaction units that are entirely composed of police officers from a single contingent, with expertise in crowd management and other police tactical operations.The Nigerian police will be deployed in West Darfur, and UNAMID expects to have 19 FPUs once at full strength.Last week, as the mission marked its first anniversary, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that troop levels have exceeded 60 per cent of the full authorized strength.The hybrid force was set up by the Security Council to protect civilians on the western flank of Sudan, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.One year on from transferring the task of suppressing the violence to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), some 12,374 blue helmets are now in place across Darfur, which is 63 per cent of the 19,555 military personnel authorized by the Security Council. read more

Todays students living in pivotal era Ban tells UN forum

14 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a group of students at United Nations Headquarters today that they live in potentially transformational moment in world history, in which a problem facing one country not only affects other nations but is also connected to other challenges. Addressing the Global Classrooms Event, sponsored by the UN Association of the United States (UNA-USA), Mr. Ban said that in the past nations could be considered as boats with some vessels riding rough seas while others coasted on still waters. “A war in one country might not have any effect on another. Hunger in one region would have little to do with hurricanes in another part of the world,” said Mr. Ban. In today’s world, however, “we are all together in the same boat.”Conflict in one country can spark terrorism thousands of miles away, noted the Secretary-General. “Hunger and hurricanes are both affected by global warming, and as we saw recently, a cough in one village can spark fear of a flu pandemic across the planet.”He stressed that it is not enough to realize that countries have to join forces in the face of global threats. “We need to address all of these threats at once.”Poverty, hunger, climate change, energy security, economic prosperity and political security are all closely linked challenges. “That is why leaders must carefully consider the global implications of their decisions,” said Mr. Ban. “If we calibrate actions based on the big picture, then we can get good results.”Investing in “green growth” can stimulate the economy while at the same time protect the environment, and the elimination of weapon would enhance national security and free up money needed to end poverty. “We can empower women so that all of society benefits,” he said. “And we can start making these changes right now.” read more

FEATURE Transition phase after conflict vital for success of humanitarian programmes

18 August 2009By the late 1990s Liberia appeared well on the road to recovery. A disastrous civil war had ended, democratic elections had been held, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) were beginning to return home, emergency humanitarian programmes were winding down and the focus turned to longer-term development. But within a few years a disastrous new civil was raging, the United Nations and other relief agencies had to rush back in again, and the whole raft of humanitarian emergency programmes had to be re-launched. As the UN marks the first annual World Humanitarian Day this month, with much of the focus on continuing emergencies, forgotten emergencies, and those that are under-funded because they have barely registered in the first place, there are also those that have moved beyond the urgent life-saving phase to longer-term development. But it is no easy walk in the park in this crucial transition stage, and the threat of relapse is ever-present. “Once peace has been attained and you emerge from the immediate crisis, the challenges are in a way much more profound because they are more complex and they’re more long-term and in my view that’s where we’ve really got to try and get it right,” UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Officer Sarah Muscroft tells the UN News Centre. “If you suddenly turn the tap off and people go back to their villages where they have nothing, they are left entirely bereft, and that’s when, of course, tensions begin to develop, reintegrating soldiers coming in, ex-combatants; the social cohesion doesn’t work, there’s no proper traditional justice programme set up, there isn’t the strengthening of governance at the local level,” she says. “That’s where you can really make mistakes, and that then of course creates conditions ripe for discontent and rebellion and civil unrest and spiralling back into feeding militia groups, rebel groups,” she adds, citing Liberia as “a classic case in point” and underscoring the UN’s redoubled focus on peace-building in the immediate aftermath of conflict in countries in so-called transition. “In the mid-‘90s we thought we’d solved the crisis and Charles Taylor was elected as the President of Liberia in free and democratic elections, but slowly the country unravelled again back into conflict, and we had to go back in again and rebuild everything again.” Another example is Liberia’s neighbour, Sierra Leone, which likewise spiralled back into exceptionally brutal fighting when the end of one civil war in the 1990s and the holding of elections provided but an illusory, temporary lull. “We see the transition period as the critical period,” Ms. Muscroft says, calling the immediate humanitarian response “very much quick fix, it’s band-aid,” such as when food is rushed in to keep people alive and the focus is on getting social services in place. Early recovery targets much longer-term goals – for instance, using food as part of reconstruction efforts, or rebuilding schools instead of setting up makeshift facilities. “In the height of a crisis the WFP (UN World Food Programme) will be giving basic food rations to the populations that are displaced,” she explains. “As it moves into a longer-term recovery mode, they’ll start shifting their programming and giving food for work programmes, whereby you’ll get community members helping to rebuild villages or roads, and they get food rations as their payment. So they basically reorient their programming, and they do school feeding programmes.” Countries that in the past decade have or are transitioning out of the emergency humanitarian phase include Angola, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and Uganda. read more

Economic crisis drives down applications for patents and trademarks – UN report

A report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) points to weaker growth in patent filings in 2008, after a 3.7 per cent increase in 2007. The slowdown is attributed to a decrease in patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO).The report said Japan has overtaken the US as the largest issuer of grants for the first time since 1998. The number of patents filed in emerging economies is rapidly increasing, with China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) office replacing the EPO as the fourth largest issuer of grants behind offices in Japan, the US, and the Republic of Korea. “History has shown… that companies and countries which continue to invest in new products and innovation during times of economic recession will be those that will be best positioned to take advantage of the recovery, when it arrives,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry.The report also points to a decrease in trademark activity, with China receiving twice as many applications as the US. However, only a fraction of Chinese trademarks are protected in other jurisdictions, whereas nearly 43 per cent of US trademarks are protected abroad.The WIPO-administered Madrid System, which makes it possible to register and renew international trademarks in up to 84 jurisdictions by means of a single application, rose in 2008 by 6.5 percent with nearly 41,000 registrations. Industrial design applications experienced 15 percent growth, due to increased activity in China which accounted for 43 per cent of worldwide application, noted the report.Meanwhile, the two-day Global Symposium for Intellectual Property Authorities concluded today in Geneva with broad agreement on the need to pool efforts at the international level to address the problem of backlogs in patent applications. Addressing the closing session, Mr. Gurry referred to recently published data that showed that the global backlog in unprocessed patent applications around the world in 2007 was a staggering 4.2 million. These backlogs have grown on average at a rate of 8.7 per cent over the past five years. “This is unsustainable,” he said. “We have moved beyond consciousness of the need to address unsustainable processing of patent applications to action,” Mr. Gurry said, noting that the main challenge of the future is to promote coordinated efforts to improve the efficiency of operations and encourage the dissemination of best practices in modernizing the infrastructure, operations and management of intellectual property offices. 18 September 2009Demand for international trademarks and patents dropped last year in the wake of the global economic crisis, with the United States and Europe hit hardest, the United Nations agency entrusted with protecting intellectual property rights said today. read more

Ban calls on parties in Côte dIvoire to resolve difficulties and hold

Originally scheduled for as far back as 2005, the elections have been continually postponed, most recently from 29 November last year to next month, and Mr. Ban urged the parties to preserve the achievements made so far, including the provisional electoral list, and to quickly establish the definitive list. Côte d’Ivoire became split by civil war in 2002 into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south by civil war. “The Secretary-General urges the Ivorian people to remain calm and the Ivorian political actors, authorities and the media to refrain from any action and rhetoric that could result in more violence,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesman said, stressing that deadly clashes today in Gagnoa are a reminder of the volatility of the situation. “He calls on the Ivorian parties to resolve the current political stalemate through dialogue, within the framework of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement,” it added, referring to a 2007 blueprint for political reconciliation forged in the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso. He appealed to all sides to find a rapid solution to the difficulties facing the Ivorian peace process, including the issues of the formation of the new Government and electoral commission, and said his Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire Y. J. Choi would continue to help the Ivorian parties in the search for a solution. 19 February 2010Voicing grave concern at the political situation in Côte d’Ivoire after last week’s dissolution of the Government and the independent electoral authority, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all sides to keep up momentum for the much-delayed elections in the divided West African country. read more

On heels of nuclear security summit UN atomic watchdog seeks more funding

14 April 2010The United Nations agency that plays a leading role in trying to stop terrorists getting their hands on nuclear materials is seeking greater funding to carry out its task following this week’s Washington summit on nuclear security. From protecting nuclear sites against theft and sabotage to enabling secure repatriation of used but still dangerous atomic fuels to helping countries guard against radioactive attacks on major events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games or June’s soccer World Cup in South Africa, the Vienna-based UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is front and centre.“The IAEA needs stronger and more predictable funding to do its job better,” Director General Yukiya Amano, who attended the two-day summit convened by United States President Barack Obama, said of the agency, which has 151 Member States.“I am grateful to all those who have matched their words of support with much needed pledges to ensure that the IAEA has the resources it needs to make all of us more secure.” In a communiqué issued following the Washington nuclear security summit, which ended yesterday, the 47 participating States reaffirmed “the essential role of the IAEA in the international nuclear security framework” and pledged to “work to ensure that it continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise needed to carry out its mandated nuclear security activities.”Mr. Amano thanked the attending leaders for their moral and political support. “I am pleased that the IAEA’s efforts to make nuclear facilities and borders more secure to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism are recognized at the highest levels of government,” he said.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also attended the summit, has proposed a series of high-level meetings to flesh out efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, including a conference to speed up universal adoption of the five-year-old International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which has so far been ratified by only 65 countries – barely a third of UN Member States.Ahead of the summit, IAEA Office of Nuclear Security Director Anita Nilsson warned of the “real threat” that terrorists could construct a nuclear explosive or radiological dispersal device, a so-called dirty bomb, and use it. Agency experts help countries protect their nuclear facilities and transport against sabotage or theft, offering specialized training and backing the installation of radiological monitoring equipment at border crossings. In the past six years the agency has helped Member States repatriate 45 consignments of radioactive materials from developing countries where they were used in medicine, industry or research. In less than a decade, it has trained 9,000 experts in 120 countries on all aspects of nuclear security, improved facility security in 30 states, and supplied 3,000 detection instruments to more than 50 States. IAEA support in securing major public events against nuclear terrorism involves months and even years of planning. The Beijing Olympics involved one and a half years of work in training people to detect radioactive material that might be brought into the venues and to know what to do if that happened.The upcoming soccer World Cup in South Africa is another example where the IAEA is supplying training and radiation detection equipment as were the 2004 Olympics in Greece, the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil.Should a nuclear security incident occur or a nuclear or radiation emergency arise, the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre coordinates 24/7 specialized support and assistance for Member States. read more

Voter registration for Sudanese referenda must start as soon as possible –

17 September 2010Sudan is woefully unprepared for the upcoming referenda on the possible independence for the southern region of Africa’s largest country and the Government has a duty to ensure that all people can vote free from fear or intimidation, a United Nations human rights expert said today. Mohamed Chande Othman, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, also told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that a worrying deterioration of the human rights situation in the war-torn Darfur region exemplified the human rights crisis raging in the country.The 9 January referenda are the final stage of a 2005 peace accord that ended two decades of civil war between the south and the central Government. Inhabitants of southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede or remain united with the rest of the country, while residents of Abyei area in the centre of the country will vote on whether to retain Abyei’s special administrative status in the north or become part of southern Sudan.Mr. Othman said time was the biggest challenge and registration of voters must start as soon as possible, including identifying those who are eligible to vote to avoid post-referendum violence.Turning to human rights he said the institutions in Sudan were incomplete although some progress was made, for example, in establishing the national forum for human rights. The Council must urge the Government to set up the institutions and build up the culture of human rights, he added.Protection of civilians is an area on which the Council should focus. The biggest challenge to the protection of civilians, particularly in Darfur, is access by the UN. Technical assistance and capacity building for the promotion and protection of human rights must go in parallel with other issues, Mr. Othman declared.More needs to be done to bring to justice those who committed crimes and grave violations of human rights in Darfur, and those responsible for the recent killings of peacekeepers there, he added. read more

More needs to be done to ensure gender equality in peacebuilding Ban

Ten years after the adoption of a Security Council resolution calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding, much remains to be done to ensure they can play their part in shoring up peace, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today.“Now is the time for systematic, focused and sustained action, backed by resources and commitments on the part of all stakeholders – national and international, public and private, women and men,” he writes, laying out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.These include ensuring that women are fully engaged in all peace talks and post-conflict planning, including donor conferences, that adequate financing is provided to address women’s specific needs and advance gender equality, and that women participate fully in post-conflict governance as elected representatives or decision makers, including through temporary special measures such as quotas.The plan also calls for rule-of-law initiatives to encourage women’s participation in seeking redress for injustices committed against them and in improving the capacity of security actors to prevent and respond to violations of women’s rights, and for prioritizing women’s involvement in economic recovery, such as employment-creation schemes, community-development programmes and delivery of front-line services.“Ensuring women’s participation in peace-building is not only a matter of women’s and girls’ rights. Women are crucial partners in shoring up three pillars of lasting peace: economic recovery, social cohesion and political legitimacy,” Mr. Ban says, noting that several world economies that grew the fastest during the past half-century began their ascent from the ashes of conflict, based in part on women’s increased role in production, trade and entrepreneurship.“Recognizing the ability of women to contribute to sustainable peace and the obstacles they face in attempting to do so requires an approach to peacebuilding that goes beyond restoring the status quo ante. Rebuilding after conflict is an enormous undertaking, but it also represents an opportunity to ‘build back better.’”Mr. Ban stresses that strengthening national capacity and ensuring national ownership are crucial elements of effective peacebuilding since external support can bring countries only so far in their quest for sustainable peace.“Enabling women to contribute to recovery and reconstruction is integral to strengthening a country’s ability to sustain peacebuilding efforts,” he says. “Similarly, efforts to facilitate an increased role for women in decision-making processes must be based on recognition of the fact that peacebuilding strategies cannot be fully ‘owned’ if half the nation is not actively involved in their design and implementation.”Increasing the confidence of women in the political process requires robust action in the immediate post-conflict period to bring more women into public office, elected and appointed and Mr. Ban says creating a “critical mass” of women officials is crucial, as this will encourage women to engage more substantively within male dominated institutions, especially in the uniformed services. “Increasing women’s political presence must begin even before conflict ceases,” he writes. “Peace negotiations not only shape the post-conflict political landscape directly, through peace agreements’ provisions on justice, power-sharing and constitutional issues, but also indirectly, by lending legitimacy to those represented at the peace table.”He notes that progress made by the UN itself in promoting greater engagement by women in peace processes has been too slow, with women constituting less than 8 per cent of negotiating delegations in UN-mediated efforts and less than 3 per cent of peace agreement signatories. He pledges to appoint more women as chief mediators in such processes and to include gender expertise at senior levels in mediation support activities.With regard to gender equality in the political process, Mr. Ban acknowledges that it is up to sovereign States to choose an electoral system, with the UN proposing and facilitating but not imposing. “But neither may we abdicate our responsibility to remind States of their international commitments, including the need to increase the proportion of women in elected bodies and other public institutions,” he stresses.“We should harbour no illusions, however, about the challenges of implementation [of the action plan],” he concludes. “Revising procedures and designing programmes requires careful deliberation. Additional resources are also needed, and the Secretary-General urges Member States to make substantial, long-term investments in women’s security and productive potential, which act as “force multipliers for lasting peace.” 8 October 2010Ten years after the adoption of a Security Council resolution calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding, much remains to be done to ensure they can play their part in shoring up peace, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a report released today. read more

UNESCO issues alert over artefacts reported stolen from Egyptian museums

Egyptian authorities reported at the weekend that several important pieces, including a gilded wood statue of pharaoh Tutankhamen being carried by a goddess, have been stolen from the museum, and that one of its warehouses had been broken into.“It is particularly important to verify the origin of cultural property that might be imported, exported and/or offered for sale, especially on the Internet,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).“This heritage is part of humanity’s history and Egypt’s identity. It must not be allowed to vanish into unscrupulous hands, or run the risk of being damaged or even destroyed,” she added.Ms. Bokova said UNESCO will work closely with its international partners, including INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization (WCO), the International Centre for the Study and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in an effort to recover the stolen artefacts.“But I would also call on security forces, customs agents, art dealers, collectors and local populations everywhere to do their utmost to recover these invaluable pieces and return them to their rightful home. “Every possible measure must also be taken to provide the security necessary to protect Egypt’s heritage sites and prevent any further thefts,” said Ms. Bokova.She drew attention to UNESCO’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and the 1995 Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects. 15 February 2011Amid reports that important artefacts have been stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and other sites in the country, the head of the United Nations agency tasked with preserving humanity’s cultural heritage today alerted authorities, art dealers and collectors across the world to be on the lookout for the missing relics. read more

Stocks advance as Alcoa boosts optimism

The Toronto stock market held onto a small advance mid-morning Wednesday after resource giant Alcoa Inc. delivered a positive earnings report and outlook.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 12.18 points to 12,516.99, held back by another round of losses in the gold sector, while the TSX Venture Exchange climbed 5.77 points to 1,231.15 amid some major corporate dealmaking.Progress Energy awarded a $5-billion contract to TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) that will see the pipeline company design, build, own and operate the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project. The project will carry gas from northeastern British Columbia to a proposed export facility near Prince Rupert.Progress, recently acquired by Malaysia’s state-owned energy company, plans to export liquefied natural gas from the port to markets in energy-hungry Asian markets. TransCanada shares climbed 73 cents to $47.98.The Canadian dollar was up 0.05 of a cent to 101.4 cents US amid data showing slightly fewer housing starts last month.Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reported that December starts came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 197,976. That was down slightly from 201,376 in November but still higher than the 195,000 that economists had expected.CMHC said the decline was due to fewer starts in rural areas of the country while Canadian urban starts remained stable.U.S. indexes were positive after Alcoa reported results after the close Tuesday, meeting expectations of quarterly earnings of six cents a share. Revenue of US$5.9 billion beat expectations by $300 million and Alcoa predicted a seven per cent increase in demand this year, slightly better than the six per cent increase in 2012.Alcoa is viewed as a bellwether for the overall economy since its products are used in everything from cars to aircraft to appliances. Its shares were off early highs, up four cents to US$9.14 in New York.The Dow Jones industrials gained 83.73 points to 13,412.58, the Nasdaq was up 17.14 points to 3,108.95 while the S&P 500 index was ahead 7.31 points to 1,464.46.In Canadian earnings news, Shaw Communications Inc. (TSX:SJR.B) says it had $235 million or 50 cents per share of net income in the three months ended Nov. 30. Revenue was $1.32 billion. The results beat consensus estimates compiled ahead of Shaw’s quarterly report, which was issued before shareholders of the cable, Internet and media company gather for their annual meeting in Calgary. Shaw shares gained seven cents to $22.61.Industrials led TSX advancers, up 0.55 per cent with Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) ahead seven cents to $3.93 while WestJet Airlines (TSX:WJA) climbed 22 cents to $20.54. Commodity prices were mixed.The energy component was ahead 0.2 per cent while February crude drifted 31 cents higher to US$93.46 a barrel ahead of the weekly U.S. inventory report. Data for the week ended Jan. 4 is expected to show a rise of 1.5 million barrels for crude oil and an increase of 2.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration releases its crude inventories report later Wednesday.Talisman Energy (TSX:TLM) advanced 18 cents to $11.94 and Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) advanced 31 cents to $43.54.The metals and mining sector was also up about 0.2 per cent while March copper on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained three cents to US$3.70 a pound. Turquoise Hill Resources (TSX:TRQ) gained 14 cents to C$9.01.First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (TSX:FM) is sending its takeover offer for Inmet Mining Corp. (TSX:IMN) directly to the copper miner‘s shareholders. First Quantum said last month that it had increased its offer of $72 per Inmet share, half in cash, half in stock, for a total offer worth about $5.1 billion.Inmet’s board rejected the initial $4.9 billion stock and cash offer in November. At the time, Inmet said the “highly conditional offer” was not in the best interest of its shareholders. First Quantum dipped 30 cents to $21.24 while Inmet gained 57 cents to $72.82.The gold sector was down 0.6 per cent while February bullion lost $4.50 to US$1,657.70 an ounce. Kinross Gold (TSX:K) faded 10 cents to C$9.29 and Goldcorp Inc. (TSX:G) declined 55 cents to $35.26.Bullion and gold stocks have suffered in recent days because of uncertainty about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve might end its stimulus program of bond buying in the second half of 2013.Minutes from the Fed’s latest policy meeting showed a split over how long to continue the purchases amid concerns that they could destabilize the economy. The bond buying, known as quantitative easing, has supported bullion prices because of worries the program would drive inflation higher.European bourses were higher with London’s FTSE 100 index up 0.95 per cent. Germany’s DAX added 0.44 per cent after official figures showed industrial production rose less than expected in November. The 0.2 per cent gain was also not enough to offset a two per cent fall the previous month and means economic output in Europe’s largest economy overall likely fell in the fourth quarter. The Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.3 per cent. read more

Closing Bell TSX lower amid heavy slate of corporate earnings news

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed lower Wednesday amid a slew of earnings news and negative moves in commodity prices.Here are the closing numbersTSX — 12,775.28 -13.74 -0.11%S&P 500 — 1,520.33 +0.90 0.06%Dow — 13,982.91 -35.79 -0.26%Nasdaq — 3,196.88 +10.39 0.33%The S&P/TSX composite index declined 13.74 points to 12,775.28 while the TSX Venture Exchange was up 5.28 points at 1,204.23.The Canadian dollar gained 0.09 of a cent to 99.82 cents US.U.S. indexes were mixed as January retail sales met expectations, with the Dow Jones industrials down 35.79 points to 13,982.91.The Nasdaq was 10.39 points higher at 3,196.88, supported by Amazon.com Inc., which has struck a deal with CBS Corp. to expand the networks’s content made available to Amazon’s Prime video streaming service.Amazon stock ran up 4.16% to US$269.47. The S&P 500 index edged up 0.9 of a point to 1,520.33.U.S. retail sales ticked up 0.1% last month after a 0.5% rise in December. January’s increase was in line with expectations and was the smallest in three months after higher taxes cut into the wages of Americans.“However, given continued job gains through the start of this year, we are assuming that this slowing in sales will prove temporary and that greater strength will emerge going forward,” said RBC assistant chief economist Paul Ferley.Analysts think that trading is taking place amid rising caution as a March 1 deadline looms that would see steep automatic spending cuts take effect to the tune of US$85 billion.“I think there is some reluctance to do much. I think that’s why our market has more or less, the last couple of weeks or so, hasn’t done a darned thing,” said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.“It’s teaching everybody to have a little bit more patience than they would like to have.”On Wednesday, Jacob Lew, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, urged Congress to avoid those cuts, warning they would impose “self-inflicted wounds to the recovery and put far too many jobs and businesses at risk.”Talisman Energy Inc. recorded US$367-million or 37 cents per share in quarterly net income, beating forecasts of 16 cents a share. But the gain was mainly due to disposal of some assets and the company continued to feel the effects of low natural gas prices. Talisman posted revenue of $1.6 billion, which was $300 million less than what was expected. Its shares erased early losses and gained 26 cents to $12.82.Thomson Reuters posted US$497-million of adjusted earnings, or 60 cents per share in the latest quarter, compared with US$445-million or 54 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2011. Net income attributable to common shareholders was US$372 million, compared with a year-earlier loss of US$2.6 billion. Thomson’s overall revenue, including discontinued operations, fell to $3.4 million from $3.6 billion, a five% decline. The company’s shares fell 70 cents to $30.02 as the company also forecast slow growth and tightening profit margins in 2013, and announced plans to cut 2,500 jobs.Cheese, dairy and bakery company Saputo Inc. had $130 million or 65 cents per share of net income in the latest quarter, a penny short of analyst estimates. Revenue at $1.8 billion also missed estimates by $100 million and its shares fell $1.12 to $49.70.In the U.S., farm and construction equipment maker Deere & Co. says its first-quarter net income jumped 22% to US$649.7 million or $1.65 per share. Revenue rose almost 10% to $7.42 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been expecting earnings of $1.39 per share on revenue of $6.73 billion and its shares lost $3.29 to $90.68.The information technology sector was the leading decliner, down 3.5% with CGI Group down $1.21 to $27.12 while BlackBerry dropped $1.25 or 8.2% at $14. The stock has lost about 20% since Jan. 24, days before the company unveiled its new BlackBerry 10 product line. However, the stock had rallied almost 200% from its low of $6.10, chalked up late last September.The gold sector fell about 1.65% as April bullion on the Nymex declined $4.50 to US$1,645.90 an ounce, its lowest close since last August. Eldorado Gold shed 35 cents to C$10.68.Consumer and telecom stocks also pressured the TSX.The utilities sector led advancers, up 0.39% as TransAlta (climbed 16 cents to $16.35.The March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gave up early gains to move down 50 cents to US$97.01 a barrel despite a much less than expected rise in U.S. inventories. The U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said supplies rose by 560,000 barrels.A survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., showed crude stocks were expected to have risen by 2.5 million barrels. However, other data released Tuesday had showed inventories declined last week.The energy sector was ahead 0.3% while Canadian Natural Resources gained 25 cents to C$31.80.March copper backed off from early gains and was unchanged at US$3.74 a pound. Still, the base metals sector was up 0.2% and First Quantum Minerals gained 16 cents to C$20.26.Here’s the news investors were watching today:Smart money says it’s time to buy AppleCan the new BlackBerry topple Apple’s iPhone?BCE ranks high in the 17 best stocks for big fat dividendsPrecious metals ruled the fund worldON DECK THURSDAYG20 finance ministers and central bankers meet in Moscow ECONOMIC NEWSBank of Japan announces interest rate decision UNITED STATES8:30 a.m.Weekly jobless claims: Economists expect CORPORATE NEWSCANADABarrick Gold Q4 earnings: Analysts expect $1.06 Goldcorp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 46¢ CI Financial Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 35¢ Encana Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 31¢ Precision Drilling Q4 earnings: Analysts expect $1.15 Cenovus Energy Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 54¢ Canfor Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 14¢ UNITED STATESPepsiCo Q4 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.05 a share CBS Corp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 71¢ Molson Coors Brewing Co Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 64¢ Campbell Soup Co Q4 earnings: Analysts expect 66¢ The J.M. Smucker Co Q3 earnings: Analysts expect US$1.39 Apache Corp Q4 earnings: Analysts expect US$2.30 read more

Financials pull TSX lower after CIBC profit plunge

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market was lower Thursday afternoon amid a poorly received earnings report from CIBC (TSX:CM), while data showed the U.S. economy performing worse than expected earlier this year.The S&P/TSX composite index lost 54.03 points to 14,556.93.CIBC said that poor results in its Caribbean operations were responsible for net income dropping to $306 million from $862 million a year ago. CIBC’s adjusted net income came in at $2.17 per share, beating analysts’ expectations of $2.07 per share and the bank also raised its quarterly dividend by two cents to $1 per common share. However, its shares dropped $1.59 to $97.45.Financials led TSX decliners with all of the major banks, save Scotiabank, giving back some of the gains racked up over the last week as most of the banks delivered strong results.“You’ve seen banks outperform as a group, about 3% over the last week or so — not surprising we’re having a bit of a profit-taking on them,” said Stephen Lingard, managing director of Franklin Templeton Solutions.“There is a slowing momentum in mortgage products and they’re having to be pretty competitive with each other. But they have had other segments that have offset this, notably wealth (management) and business loans so all in all a good quarter.”The Canadian dollar was up 0.27 of a cent to 92.22  cents US.U.S. indexes were higher as the first revision to first-quarter gross domestic product showed that GDP actually shrank at an annualized rate of 1% in the period, largely because of severe winter weather. That was much higher than the 0.5% drop that economists had expected, but they anticipate the weakness to be short-lived.The Dow Jones industrials rose 10.44 points to 16,643.62, the Nasdaq climbed 12.05 points to 4,237.13 and the S&P 500 index was ahead 4.51 points at 1,914.29.In other corporate developments, Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS) is selling more than two-thirds of its interest in CI Financial Inc. (TSX:CIX) in a deal worth at least $2.27 billion, making it one of the largest public offerings in Canada. Scotiabank will sell 72 million common shares of CI at $31.50 per share, reducing its current 37% interest to about 11.4%. CI shares climbed 45 cents to $34.10 and Scotiabank added 13 cents to $68.95.The debut of shares in Encana Corp. (TSX:ECA) subsidiary PrairieSky was a huge success Thursday. The energy giant earlier in the morning announced the completion of the initial public offering of 52 million common shares of PrairieSky (TSX:PSK) at an offering price of $28 and by mid-morning, the shares were trading at $36.51 on the TSX. Encana is spinning off some of its Alberta land holdings through PrairieSky.Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is expected to be elected as board chairman of  media giant Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR:B) next month. Pierre Karl Peladeau stepped down as board vice-chairman of Quebecor in March and chairman of subsidiary Quebecor Media when he announced plans to run for the Parti Quebecois in the April election. The move could signal an attempt by Quebecor to put some distance between itself and Peladeau. Quebecor shares slipped 17 cents to $26.58.Elsewhere on the TSX, the base metals sector dropped 0.9% as July copper slipped three cents to US$3.14 a pound. The energy sector was down 0.07% even as July crude gained 91 cents to US$103.62 a barrel. The gold sector was the leading advancer, up 1.15% as August bullion lost $2.60 to US$1,257.10 an ounce. read more

Another foreign oil company decides to abandon its oilsands project

CALGARY — Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., has decided against restarting an oilsands pilot project that was shut last year during the wildfires near Fort McMurray, Alta.Also known as Japex, the company says it has decided to abandon the project due to low oil prices and technical risks of restarting the steam-injection wells to allow the heavy, sticky oil to flow.The pilot project had been in operation through a subsidiary called Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd. since 1999 and produced a cumulative total of 35 million barrels of bitumen.Meanwhile, Japan Canada Oil Sands has been steaming a commercial oilsands project in the same area since April and reports that it has achieved first oil production.The company, which owns 75 per cent of both projects, says its Hangingstone commercial project is producing about 1,000 barrels per day and will gradually ramp up to capacity of 20,000 bpd by the second half of 2018.The projects are 25 per cent owned by Nexen Energy, a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. or CNOOC.The Canadian Press read more

Maldives opposition confident of fair polls

The Maldives opposition expressed confidence of a free and fair poll as voting got underway on Saturday in bi-elections in the politically troubled nation.International affairs spokesman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Xinhua that his party led by former President Mohamed Nasheed hopes the peaceful conditions will pave the way for an early presidential election. The Elections Commission on Friday said it had received 21 complaints in relation to the parliamentary bi-elections for the Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo and Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi constituencies and the Kumundhoo council bi-election.The Maldives with nearly 1,200 scattered atolls is undergoing political turmoil since former vice president Mohammed Waheed took over the office as president following a controversial power transfer. “Polling is going peacefully and we have confidence with the elections commission that the elections will be free and fair. We are thankful to everyone to help make this peaceful. This shows the conditions to hold peaceful elections exist and thus there is no reason hold back on an early presidential election,”said Ghafoor. Voting in the bi-elections for the Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi constituencies and the Thaa Atoll Gaadhiffushi and Haa dhaal Atoll Kumundhoo island councils began early Saturday and will continue till evening. Former President Nasheed claimed he was ousted by a military- backed coup and is demanding an early presidential election.In a statement last month the European Union noted that agreement on the holding of early elections, on the independent investigation of the transfer of power in February and the reestablishment of the correction functioning of government and parliament is now more important than ever.The United States has also supported an early presidential election and has come forward to assist the holding of a free and fair poll. (Xinhua) read more

Sri Lankas first fully fledged modern high voltage lab opened

A fully fledged modern high voltage laboratory was a long felt need for the university education and the electrical engineering industry of Sri Lanka.  The laboratory has been named after Prof Rohan Lucas as a gratitude for the dedicated long service over 45 years for High Voltage Engineering Education of the university and the country. The laboratory consist of a High voltage Impulse Generator, High Voltage AC Test System, High Voltage DC Test System, Artificial Rain Making Equipment and associated control equipment and auxiliary devices. The laboratory is capable of High Voltage Impulse Tests, High Voltage AC and DC tests up to 500kV and 300kV respectively at different environmental conditions. Sri Lanka’s first fully fledged modern high voltage lab was declared open at the University of Moratuwa today.The modern High Voltage Laboratory and Testing Facility was ceremonially opened under the patronage of the Chancellor of the University of Moratuwa, Prof. K K Y W Perera as the Chief Guest, Chief Executive Officer of LTL Holdings (Pvt) Limited, Eng U D Jayawardana as the Guest of Honour, Vice Chancellor and Prof. Ananda Jayawardna, Dean of the Engineering Faculty. LTL Holdings (Pvt) Limited has joined hands with the university as the industrial sponsor in construction of the laboratory. This is as another CSR project by LTL to up held the university education in Sri Lanka. Cost of laboratory was Rs 35 million appx out of which laboratory renovation and civil construction works around Rs 5 million was sponsored by LTL Holdings (Pvt) Limited.The lab facility will be of immense support to Undergraduate and Post Graduate Engineering students for their laboratory experiments, design and research projects and for the High Voltage Research Group of the University lead by Prof Rojan Lucas and Dr Rasara Samarasinghe. Further the testing facility is capable of carrying out HV Transformer Testing, HV Cable Testing, Meter Testing, HV Insulator and Bushing Testing, HV Switchgear Testing, HV CT/PT/ and CVT Testing which has been a long standing vacuum in the industry.This is the only test facility in Sri Lanka of this caliber with equipment including an impulse generator test set, HVAC test set and HVDC test set that are capable of carrying out most of the testing required by the power industry in the country. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Maldives dismisses UN views insists former President a fugitive

“The Government accepts the conviction of Nasheed as lawful and final. The conviction has reached finality after the decision of the Supreme Court on 27 June 2016. The Government notes with concern that although a detailed submission was filed in response to the complaints, very little, if any, consideration has been given to those submissions,” the Maldives Foreign Ministry said. The Maldives Government has rejected the views adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee regarding the complaints filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed alleging the violation of his civil and political rights.The Maldives Foreign Ministry said that the Government of the Maldives is committed to promoting and protecting the rights enshrined in the Constitution of the Maldives and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as per it’s international obligations, and it wholeheartedly refutes that any of these rights have been violated in the case of the former President Nasheed. “The Government also maintains that the former President Nasheed’s political standing had no bearing, whatsoever, on the charges against him and his subsequent conviction, and reaffirms that the process was free of any and all political influence. As Nasheed has been convicted lawfully, the restrictions on his political participation and association are justified and reasonable under the laws and regulations of the Maldives as well as the rulings of the courts of the Maldives,” the Maldives Government said.The Government notes that Article 109 of the Constitution of the Maldives details the qualifications a person elected as President must hold, and as such, Article 109 (f) states that such a person shall not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced. The UN Human Rights Committee had concluded in a finding made public that the Maldives must restore ex-President Mohamed Nasheed’s right to stand for office, including the office of President. The finding of violations of human rights was made in response to two individual complaints by Nasheed filed in 2013 and 2016. The Maldives Government said that since Former President Nasheed was convicted on 13 March 2015 and sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment, he would not be eligible to run for the Office of the President unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release or pardon.The Government also notes that the Former President was granted permission to travel abroad to seek medical treatment and that following expiry of the medical leave, he has not returned to serve his sentence and therefore remains a fugitive. read more

Mahasohon Balakaya leader several others further remanded

While being brought out of the court premises the suspects said that they do not have money to pay for bail.The families of the suspects who gathered outside court appealed for their release, insisting that they were innocent. The suspects were placed in remand following the violence in Kandy targeting Muslims. (Colombo Gazette) The leader of the Mahasohon Balakaya, Amith Weerasinghe and several others were today ordered to be further remanded over the violence in Digana, Kandy.The Theldeniya Magistrate’s Court ordered 32 suspects including Amith Weerasinghe to be further until May 5th when they were presented before court today. read more