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Yemen talks: Truce agreed over key port city of Hudaydah

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Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (left) and Head of Ansarullah delegation Mohammed Amdusalem (right) shake hands on a ceasefire in and around the Yemeni port of Hudaydah photo: Government Offices of Sweden/Ninni Andersson

The announcement of a ceasefire between Yemen’s warring parties in and around the key port of Hudaydah, was hailed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday as a deal which would improve the lives of millions of people.

Speaking on the last day of UN-led talks in Sweden to decide the future of the war-torn country, where its people are in the grip of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Mr. Guterres told those present that they had “the future of Yemen” in their hands.

“You have reached an agreement on Hudaydah port and city, which will see a mutual re-deployment of forces from the port and the city, and the establishment of a Governorate-wide ceasefire,” he said, noting that the UN would play “a leading role” in the port.

“This will facilitate the humanitarian access and the flow of goods to the civilian population. It will improve the living conditions for millions of Yemenis,” he insisted.

Nearly four years after fighting escalated between the Government of Yemen and Houthi opposition movement, known officially as Ansar Allah, more than 24 million people – three-quarters of the population – need some form of assistance and protection.

Some 20 million are food insecure and 10 million of these people do not know how they will obtain their next meal.

While noting that “pending issues” have yet to be resolved, the UN chief said that representatives from the internationally-recognised Government of Yemen and the opposition had made “real progress” which had yielded “several important results”.

These included a “mutual understanding to ease the situation in Taizz”, Mr Guterres said, in reference to the country’s third largest city.

“We hope this will lead to the opening of humanitarian corridors and the facilitation of demining,” he added.

On the previously-agreed issue of a mass exchange of prisoners, the UN Secretary-General noted that both delegations had drawn up a timeline and provided further details on when it might happen.

This would allow “thousands – I repeat, thousands – of Yemenis to be reunited with their families,” Mr Guterres said, with UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, at his side.

Breakthrough over talks framework

Looking ahead to a new meeting between both parties in the new year, the UN chief insisted that another “very important step for the peace process” had been agreed, namely a willingness to discuss a framework for negotiations.

“You have agreed to meet again to continue to discuss this further at the end of January during the next round of negotiations,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that it was a “critical element” of a future political settlement to end the conflict.

“We have a better understanding of the positions of the parties,” he added, noting their “constructive engagement”, while also crediting the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait for their “concrete support” in making the meeting happen.

Welcoming the announcement on the Hudaydah ceasefire, the World Food Programme (WFP) underlined that the Red Sea port was “key” to importing some 70 per cent of Yemen’s humanitarian and 90 per cent of its commercial needs.

“Any progress towards peace is good progress, as long as it helps the Yemeni people who have suffered so much in this conflict,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley, noting that what Yemen needed most was lasting peace.

“Today’s announcement gives us hope that the World Food Programme’s work to feed 12 million severely hungry Yemenis may be made easier in the coming weeks and months.”

Owing to the conflict, in recent weeks imports have decreased by about half at Hudaydah’s docks, WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said.

“In November, our target in Hodeidah Governorate was to reach 800 000 people in need of food assistance. This ceasefire will of course help us in our daily activities as the region is one of WFPs priorities.”

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Making Globalization Work: Climate, Inclusiveness and International Governance Top Agenda of the WEF 2019

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The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 will take place on 22-25 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The meeting brings together more than 3,000 leaders from business, government, civil society, academia, arts and culture, and media, as well as the foremost experts and young leaders from all over the world.

Convening under the theme, Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the purpose of the meeting is to identify new models for peace, inclusiveness and sustainability to suit a world where further global integration is inevitable and where existing models of global governance struggle to foster concerted action among the world’s powers.

“This fourth wave of globalization needs to be human-centred, inclusive and sustainable. We are entering a period of profound global instability brought on by the technological disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the realignment of geo-economics and geopolitical forces. We need principals from all stakeholder groups in Davos to summon the imagination and commitment necessary to tackle it,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

The programme of this year’s Annual Meeting expands on the theme in depth and breadth across more than 350 sessions, nearly half of them webcast. Sessions are organized in a series of global dialogues:

A global dialogue on geopolitics in a multiconceptual world to enable candid and constructive discussion on how to drive future cooperation along with a global dialogue on peace and

A global dialogue on the future of the economy to better reflect the structural changes inherent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and achieve sustainable growth and long-term societal well-being

A global dialogue on industry systems and technology policy to define the principles for new and emerging technologies to ensure that they are underpinned by a values-based framework

A global dialogue on risk resilience to promote systems thinking to radically improve our collective management of the key environmental systems and to ensure adequate digital cybersecurity

A global dialogue on human capital and society to revisit the notion of work and well-being and to move away from consumption and materialism to a more humanistic focus.

A global dialogue on institutional reform to rethink the global institutional frameworks that emerged in the 20th century and adapt them to ensure relevancy for the new political, economic and social context

Top political leaders taking part are: Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation 2019 and Federal Councillor of Finance of Switzerland; Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil; Angela Merkel, Federal Chancellor of Germany; Wang Qishan, Vice-President of the People’s Republic of China; Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy; Pedro Sanchez, Prime Minister of Spain; Barham Salih, President of Iraq; Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Sebastian Kurz, Federal Chancellor of Austria; Ivan Duque, President of Colombia; Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minster of Ethiopia; Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland; Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel; Faiez Al Serrag, Prime Minister of Libya; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacinda Ardem, Prime Minister of New Zealand; Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway; Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Martin Alberto Vizcarra Cornejo, President of Peru; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Cyril M. Ramaphosa, Prime Minister of South Africa; Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda; Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Viet Nam; and Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of Zimbabwe.

Leaders from International Organizations include: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations; Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); Kristalina Georgieva, Chief Executive Officer, World Bank; Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Roberto Azevedo, Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF); and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Leaders from civil society are: Yasunobu Aihara, General Secretary, Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Jtuc-Rengo); Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC); Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International; Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director, Greenpeace International; Denis Mukwege, Founder, Panzi Foundation, 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate; Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch; Marco Lambertini, Director-General, WWF International; Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair, Transparency International; Maria Ressa, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Editor, Rappler.com; Elizabeth H. Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Peter Sands, Executive Director, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GF); Debbie Stothard, Secretary-General International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); and Luca Visentini, General Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

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Is Haiti better prepared for disasters, nine years on from the 2010 earthquake?

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Half a capital city destroyed, 220,000 reported dead and 1 million residents displaced. This was the toll of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which struck on 12 January, nine years ago.

Staff at the UN Mission in Haiti were also affected, and there were 102 UN casualties, including the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Hédi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa. It was the “biggest single loss of life in the history of UN Peacekeeping,” the then-President of the UN Staff Union, Stephen Kisambira, said at the time.

One of the survivors was Sophie Boutaud de la Combe, today the head of communications for the UN Mission for Justice in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), who was seven months pregnant at the time and just a few days away from home leave. She had been in the headquarters of MINUJUSTH’s predecessor, the UN Stabilisitation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), when the quake hit.

The building completely collapsed, but Ms. Boutaud de la Combe managed to escape through a collapsed wall. For many hours, she and her surviving colleagues searched through the rubble, looking for anyone still trapped under the building. Two days later, she reluctantly left Haiti, a situation she describes as “a trauma,” her instinct being to help the UN and the people of Haiti. She eventually returned to the country in 2013, happy to be able to play a part in the rebuilding of the country, and honour her lost colleagues with her work.

Some nine years after the earthquake, the situation in Haiti is very different. The government, says Ms. Boutaud de la Combe, is now much better prepared for similar natural disasters. “A few months ago there was an earthquake in the north of the country. The state was prepared and they sent their people to support those affected, without MINUJUSTH involvement. It was not a major earthquake, but now the population knows how to react. And most importantly, we hear regularly how important it is to build better, to build strongly in case an earthquake would hit, not to endanger the people.”

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UN welcomes progress in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia naming dispute

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The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the naming dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, has welcomed the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament’s decision to ratify an agreement on a new name for the latter country, following a dispute that has lasted some 28 years.

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Nimetz congratulated the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament and the country’s citizens – who approved the name change in a referendum held in September 2018 – for the move, and the democratic manner in which the process was undertaken: “this historic Agreement between two neighbours opens the door to a new relationship between them and to a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans. I look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement,” said Mr. Nimetz, adding that the United Nations remains “committed to working with the two Parties in finally resolving the difference between them.”

However, in order for the country to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, the Greek parliament must also vote to ratify the deal. On Sunday, it was reported that the issue has led to a Greek government crisis, with the governing coalition split over the name change: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly planning to call a confidence vote, which is expected to be held on Wednesday.

The dispute stretches back to 1991, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and announced its intention to be named “Macedonia.” Neighbouring Greece refused to recognise the name, insisting that only the northern Greek region of the same name should be called Macedonia, and arguing that the former Yugoslav Republic’s use of the name was a challenge to Greek sovereignty.

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