As concerns grow over falling ruble Russia moves to float currency takes

As concerns grow over falling ruble, Russia moves to float currency, takes aim at speculators by Vladimir Isachenkov And Laura Mills, The Associated Press Posted Nov 10, 2014 3:04 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email MOSCOW – As an acrobat in one of Moscow’s circuses, Yuri Friyuk is an expert at gyrating without falling on his face. Lately, he’s worried about whether the rubles he’s paid with can be as deft.Plagued by the Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis and by falling oil prices, Russia’s economy is struggling and the ruble is taking a head-spinning drop, losing a third of its value since the beginning of the year and touching an all-time low last week.On Monday, the national central bank on Monday decided to freely float the currency and shield it more from speculators.The move, which aims to spare the central bank from burning billions in reserves on supporting the currency, highlights the extent of Russia’s economic decline. The country appears to be sliding toward recession. Investors are pulling money out or seeking the safety of foreign currencies.For ordinary Russians, the currency’s plunge has fueled fears of a spike in inflation, as imports of goods like European cars or U.S. clothes become more expensive.“With groceries, the prices are rising significantly,” said Friyuk. “It never seems like it’s hitting your pocket that hard, but by the end of the month you can feel the difference.”The decline in most of 2014 seems to have been gradual enough that Russians weren’t overt in their discontent. But a sharp drop this month, when the ruble hit its historic low of 48 to the U.S. dollar on Friday — against 32 in January — may cause anger to rise.Much of the support for President Vladimir Putin hinges on the prosperity that washed over Russia during most of his years in power. Some observers warn that a long-lasting erosion of purchasing power could fuel social unrest and say the country’s financial stability is at risk.Whereas the central bank previously was trying to keep the ruble from dropping by simply spending dollars to buy up rubles, that strategy has hit a wall. The bank had reserves of $510 billion at the start of the year, but they stand at $400 million now. It spent $30 billion last month alone.The central bank said Monday it would stop intervening every day in the market to keep the currency up and instead take aim at speculators.To do that, it said it will limit loans to banks that use the money to go out and buy dollars. Central Bank Chief Elvira Nabiullina also said it will intervene “at any moment in the amount necessary to counter speculative demand.”Investors welcomed the move, as it will spare the country’s reserves and should help limit speculative trades against the ruble. The currency strengthened on Monday’s news, trading up 2.3 per cent at 45.6 rubles a dollar in late trading.Though the ruble rose on Monday, analysts say the free float could in fact see it decline over the longer-term. Western sanctions over the fighting by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine are unlikely to be lifted anytime soon.“The problem is we still have this big shadow of east Ukraine, the threat of sanctions is hanging over the whole economy and the currency,” said Chris Weafer, an analyst at Macro Advisory in Moscow.The ruble is also expected to come under more pressure next year, when Russian companies and banks will have to pay back about $100 billon in hard currency debts, Weafer added.The central bank had originally planned to allow the ruble to trade freely next year in what it had hoped would be a sign of its economic prowess. Instead, the move was made out of a desperate need to stanch spending of the national reserves.Speaking in Beijing, where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced confidence that the central bank’s move will help stabilize the ruble. In a bid to assuage investors, he also vowed that the government won’t impose any capital controls.“We have seen speculative fluctuations of the rate, but I think it will end soon in the face of action taken by the central bank in response to action by speculators,” Putin said.Besides spending money to buy rubles in the market, the central bank has also sought to stabilize its currency by steadily raising its base interest rate from 5.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent last month. The higher borrowing rates have not helped the ruble much however, and are in fact likely to weigh further on the economy by making credit more expensive.In a nod to the challenges ahead, the central bank on Monday revised up its estimates for how much money investors will pull out of Russia this year, from $90 billion to $128 billion. It predicted zero economic growth next year. read more

US manufacturing grew at healthy pace in November though slightly slower than

In this Nov. 11, 2014 photo, Ron Hudgins welds a 2015 Ford F-150 cab at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. U.S. factories were slightly less busy in November, as production and hiring slowed, though the level of activity remained strong. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) by Christopher S. Rugaber, The Associated Press Posted Dec 1, 2014 8:18 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email US manufacturing grew at healthy pace in November, though slightly slower than previous month WASHINGTON – U.S. factories were slightly less busy in November, as production and hiring slowed, though the level of activity remained strong.The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Monday that its manufacturing index slipped to 58.7 last month from 59 in October. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. October’s figure matched a three-year high reached in August.Manufacturing has been a key driver of growth this year in the U.S., even as it has fallen off overseas. Factories in China, the world’s second-largest economy, are barely growing, according to a survey released Sunday by the bank HSBC Corp. And a European manufacturing index fell to 50.1 in November, the lowest in 17 months and just barely in expansion territory. Brazil’s manufacturing sector has contracted for the seventh time in eight months.That has raised concerns among some economists that faltering overseas economies could soon drag on the U.S.“While the U.S. economy is domestically-oriented, a rising dollar in combination with struggling global activity will weigh on economic growth over the next year,” Ksenia Bushmeneva, an economist at TD Economics, wrote in a note to clients. A stronger dollar makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas.In the U.S., other manufacturing data has pointed to a recent slowdown in output, and many economists said Monday that factories are probably not growing as fast as the ISM’s survey suggests. The index has topped 56 since June, up from an average of just 53.9 last year.“Although we remain optimistic about the outlook….we’re not convinced that conditions are quite as good as the ISM implies,” Paul Dales, senior economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.A measure of new U.S. orders rose and order backlogs jumped, both signs that output will likely remain solid in the coming months. A gauge of hiring dipped, but still pointed to steady job gains among manufacturing firms.Lower oil prices are providing a big boost, the ISM found. Its measure of prices paid for raw materials plummeted to 44.5, the lowest in two years. Cheaper oil benefits plastic manufacturers, who use oil as an ingredient, and steelmakers and other manufacturers who use it for heating and shipping.Other recent manufacturing reports have been mixed. Businesses ordered fewer big-ticket manufactured goods in October, excluding the volatile aircraft category, the government said last week. Orders in a key category reflecting business investment plans fell for the second straight month.That’s raised concerns that economic growth could slow in the final three months of this year. The economy expanded at a 4.25 per cent annual rate in the April-June and July-September quarters. That was the best six months of growth for the U.S. economy since 2003.But there have been recent signs that growth is slowing. Consumer spending rose only modestly in October. Many economists now forecast growth will slide to a 2.5 per cent rate in the current October-December quarter.Hiring has been healthy this year, helping propel the economy. Employers had added an average of 229,000 jobs a month this year, up from 194,000 in 2013. That has helped lower the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent, a six-year low, down from 7.2 per cent 12 months ago.But the additional jobs have yet to spur meaningful wage growth. read more

Alberta Energy Regulator to inspect integrity of 65 energy industry dams

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by John Cotter, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 12, 2015 12:53 pm MDT Alberta Energy Regulator to inspect integrity of 65 energy industry dams EDMONTON – The Alberta Energy Regulator says it will inspect the structural integrity and review the safety records of 65 dams used by the oilsands and coal industries in the province.The announcement follows criticism by the auditor general that the provincial government is failing to properly regulate Alberta’s network of dams and tailings ponds.The 65 dams are used to contain industrial waste and the regulator says 32 are classified as posing either “extreme” or “very high” environmental consequences if they were to fail.CEO Jim Ellis said the regulator will apply the same safety standards to these dams that are used on oil and natural gas pipelines in order to ensure the safe, environmentally responsible development of energy resources.“The auditor general has recognized the AER’s pipeline regulation performance, and Albertans can be confident that we will apply that same rigour to all AER-regulated dams,” he said.The regulator took responsibility for regulating energy industry dams from Alberta’s Environment Department last year.Of the 65 dams, 40 are related to the oilsands industry and 25 are related to coal mining.The inspections and review of past safety records are to begin in May and wrap up by October, with the results to be made public.A list of oilsands industry dams that pose either “extreme” or “very high” consequences if they were to fail indicates there is no annual performance report or safety review for Syncrude’s Mildred Lake dam.All of the other dams on the list indicate they have been reviewed or reported on in the last three years, except for two that are still in the design stage.A similar list of the coal mine dams was not immediately available.Two of the coal mine dams are classified as posing a “high” consequence if they were to fail, including the Cheviot mine and the Obed mine, both near Hinton, Bob Curran, a spokesman with the regulator said Thursday.In October 2013 an estimated 670 million litres of waste water gushed out of the earthen dam at the Obed operation, some of it ending up in the Athabasca River.Environment Canada has said the spill contained damaging compounds such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium, lead and manganese.The cause of the breach is still being investigated by the regulator and the federal government. No decision has been made on whether the owner of the mine at the time, Sherritt International, will face charges.In his report released Thursday auditor general Merwan Saher said the Obed mine site in 2013 was not registered as a dam even though it met the requirements.He said most of the mines used by the coal industry have not been inspected since the 1980s or 1990s and there are no safety reviews on file for 22 of the structures. read more

Brown calls Ontario Progressive Conservatives disproportionately young diverse

Brown calls Ontario Progressive Conservatives disproportionately young, diverse Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown smiles after delivering a speech at the Ontario Progressive Conservative convention in Ottawa, Saturday , March 5, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand OTTAWA – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives emerged from a weekend convention confident they will be able to defeat the Liberals in the 2018 election, with a younger and more inclusive party hungry for new ideas.It was the first convention for new leader Patrick Brown, who announced his first major policy position, saying he supported a price on carbon to fight climate change and calling the Liberals’ cap-and-trade plan a $1.9 billion government cash grab.Brown, 37, a former federal Conservative MP who won the PC leadership in May 2015, offered few details on how he’d put a price on carbon _ British Columbia’s carbon tax “is one example” _ and said it must be “revenue neutral” with tax cuts for people and businesses.“Having polluters pay and having that returned as a dividend to taxpayers in broad-based tax relief is a sensible approach to dealing with the environmental challenges of today,” Brown told The Canadian Press in an interview Sunday.Some of the nearly 1,800 Tory delegates muttered complaints at the carbon pricing announcement _ and one lone cry of “No” _ but Brown said there was “practically universal”support” in the PC caucus on the issue.Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray took to Twitter Sunday to attack Brown as a climate change “denier” who never raised the issue once in 10-years in the House of Commons.Brown said he had hoped the Liberals would welcome the Tories’ agreement that something must be done about climate change instead of taking “cheap partisan shots.”The fact there were so many new PCs at the convention, especially from ethnic communities, and a strong showing of youth delegates, shows they’re well positioned to take advantage of the “huge thirst for change” in Ontario, said Brown.“I think the party today reflects the province in a way we haven’t before,” he said. “It is disproportionately young for a political party. It is disproportionately diverse.”Brown, who calls himself a pragmatic Progressive Conservative, told the party it must change if it doesn’t want to lose a fifth consecutive election, and said the next campaign platform would come from widespread consultations of members and non-members, not top down from party brass.“If we have a policy platform that is reflective of the membership, the membership must be a reflection of the province,” said Brown.Former Toronto Argonauts player and coach Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons, who amused delegates with a 40-minute motivational speech Saturday, is expected to be a PC candidate in 2018, and will join the leader on a province-wide tour to “listen relentlessly” to voters.“He would be a great public servant,” said Brown. There are other high profile Ontarians, some not previously engaged in politics, who want to run for the Tories in 2018, said Brown.“There’s lots of Pinballs out there,” he said. “That is a very encouraging sign for our party.”The Progressive Conservatives will begin nominating candidates in January, 2017, 18 months ahead of voting day. As part of their rebranding exercise, they also unveiled a new logo, with a red P intertwined with a blue C, and a green leaf in the middle.Several Tory MPPs who supported Christine Elliott in the leadership race, including Todd Smith and Michael Harris, said they were impressed with Brown’s performance during the convention, especially his Saturday night speech.Brown called claims of infighting in the PC caucus between two eastern Ontario MPPs “exaggerated,” and said Jack MacLaren was not helping another would-be candidate challenge caucus mate Lisa MacLeod for her re-nomination in 2018.“There really is nothing there,” he insisted. “Jack said very clearly that he is publicly supporting his caucus colleagues.”Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter by Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press Posted Mar 6, 2016 9:27 am MDT Last Updated Mar 6, 2016 at 3:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

TSX higher despite lower crude prices as OPEC meeting fails to end

TSX higher despite lower crude prices as OPEC meeting fails to end with deal by Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press Posted Apr 18, 2016 5:38 am MDT Last Updated Apr 18, 2016 at 3:46 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email TORONTO – North American stock markets moved higher Monday as traders shrugged off failed efforts on the weekend by major oil-producing countries to limit production.The S&P/TSX composite index extended added 82.62 points to 13,719.82, supported by energy and base metals stocks. Despite a weak finish, the resource-heavy index added more than 200 points last week.Energy companies were positive despite a 58-cent drop in the May contract for benchmark North American crude oil to US$39.78 a barrel. The more heavily traded June contract gave back 52 cents to US$41.19.Oil weakened after Sunday’s talks in Doha, Qatar, failed to end with a consensus on freezing production to support prices. Major producer Saudi Arabia said it wouldn’t back a deal if Iran, which is trying to ramp up output as international sanctions are lifted, wasn’t involved. Iran did not attend the meeting.Relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent months due to several issues, including their conflicting stances on the wars in Syria and Yemen.Craig Jerusalim, a portfolio manager with CIBC Asset Management, said failure in Doha means some short-term pain for crude but that eventually prices should head higher.“We should begin to see production continue to roll over in North America because $40 is not profitable for producers to continue to produce at levels that they have been,” Jerusalim said.“It certainly is not enough to incentivize any growth in production,” he added, noting that it will result in “a natural stabilization of the supply and demand fundamentals.”OPEC members meet again in June. Oil has fallen in the past two years from above US$100 a barrel to touch 12-year lows under $30 a barrel earlier this year before rebounding in recent weeks.The impact of the Doha talks were also mitigated by news that oil workers in Kuwait are on strike to protest government cutbacks. The work stoppage has temporarily suspended production in that country.Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar also gained strength, up 0.24 of a U.S. cent at 78.14 cents US.Elsewhere in commodities, May natural gas gained four cents to US$1.94 per mmBtu, while May copper added a penny to US$2.16 a pound and June gold added 40 cents to $1,235 a troy ounce.New York markets also rose, with the Dow Jones industrial average up 106.70 points at 18,004.16, while the broader S&P 500 moved 13.61 points higher to 2,094.34. The Nasdaq composite advanced 21.80 points to 4,960.02.In corporate news, shares in e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) rose 1.51 per cent after it introduced a stand-alone video streaming service to rival Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). Its stock gained $9.46 to US$635.35.— With files from The Associated Press.Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter. read more

Woe for stores as shoppers look elsewhere for inspiration

In this Monday, March 20, 2017, photo, customer J.P. Grant, right, confers with Reynaldo Sanchez, a guide at Bonobos, as Grant shops for clothing at the brand’s Guideshop, in New York’s Financial District. “This was the first place I thought of,” said Grant. “Convenience…definitely. I order the product in-store and they send to your residence or wherever you are.” (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) Woe for stores as shoppers look elsewhere for inspiration by Anne D’Innocenzio, The Associated Press Posted Mar 23, 2017 2:56 pm MDT Last Updated Mar 23, 2017 at 3:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email NEW YORK, N.Y. – Erica Dao used to shop at malls once a month, looking in stores and seeing what the mannequins displayed. Now, she mainly looks for inspiration on social media.“I discover brands through Instagram,” said Dao, 33, of St. Paul, Minnesota.Elizabeth Troy says she was the “queen of sales,” going through discounted items at J. Crew and Banana Republic stores at malls near where she lives in Richmond, Virginia. But her go-to source has become the online subscription service Stitch Fix, which lets her try on clothes at home and decide what to keep.“I almost never go out to buy now,” says Troy, 50.Those kind of shifts illustrate the way people are changing how they buy clothing. Shoppers aren’t just showrooming at stores and then buying the same items online if they can find better prices — it’s a more significant separation from the mall.That is spelling big problems for mall chains like The Limited, which has shut all 250 of its stores, and Wet Seal, which filed for bankruptcy. Department stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penney — anchors for the malls — are also closing stores. Sears Holdings Corp. has said there’s “substantial doubt” about its future, but believes its plan to turn around its business should reduce that risk. The number of “distressed” retailers — those with cash problems and poor credit profiles that are facing strong competition — is at the highest rate since 2009, says Moody’s Investor Service.“Retail is increasingly becoming boring,” said James Reinhart, CEO of the used-clothing marketplace thredUP. He says much of the merchandise at stores is homogenous, while online “each day there’s a whole new assortment.”Department stores make regular announcements about the next way they’re going to win customers back, like offering more athletic-inspired clothes or adding tech areas. But they’re fighting a market in which people are already buying fewer clothes, spending online or at discounters when they do, and demanding more personal and convenient ways to buy.Brands like Stitch Fix and Bonobos offer curated selections based on people’s preferences, while companies like thredUP capitalize on shoppers’ increasing willingness to buy secondhand items from mall brands like J. Crew, Anthropologie and Athleta at big discounts. Deloitte estimates that the nation’s top 25 retailers have lost $200 billion to the smaller entrants to the market over the last five years.“These internet-rooted businesses are connecting so well with consumers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market research firm NPD Group Inc. “They’re offering personalization. They offer great value, quality service and a unique look. This is something that the apparel industry has been ignoring, but consumers are gravitating toward them. And they’re becoming a big threat.”While U.S. clothing sales increased 3 per cent overall to $218.7 billion last year, department stores and national mall-based chains saw a drop of 4 per cent, says NPD. Discounters enjoyed a 1 per cent increase, and off-price stores like T.J. Maxx and Ross saw sales rise 5 per cent.Clothes are also a smaller part of people’s personal spending. In January 1990, Americans spent 5.2 per cent of their overall expenditures on clothes and shoes. That compares with 3 per cent in January 2017, according to an analysis by Michael P. Niemira, principal at The Retail Economist research firm. If demand held steady, Niemira says, there’d be an extra $255 billion spent.Even so, retail space rose to 7.76 billion square feet in 2016 in 54 U.S. metropolitan areas — about six times per capita that of countries like Britain, the International Council of Shopping Centers said. Richard Hayne, CEO of Urban Outfitters, likens the retail industry to a housing bubble.“We are seeing the results: doors shuttering and rents retreating,” Hayne said after the company reported disappointing fourth-quarter results. He expects the trend to continue, and says online shopping is only partially offsetting lower store sales.“Digital communities and social media are replacing storefronts and traditional advertising as a preferred means by which brands and customers are connecting,” Hayne said, noting Urban Outfitters’ 7 million Instagram followers.The online startups have their own ways of reaching shoppers.Jason Hairston started his hunting clothing and gear brand KUIU by blogging, and says he generated $500,000 on the first day in business based on interest through the blog. He says by skipping the store step, his Dixon, California-based company can offer higher-quality products at the same price.It was on social media that Dao discovered the online brand Everlane and liked its simple but modern looks. It’s also how she found shoes by Freda Salvador that she spent $300 on — three times what she usually pays.“I am trying to find someone that appeals to me,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Oh, everybody is doing this.’ It reflects my values. It reflects my personal style.”That connection is something shoppers may feel is missing from the brands they’re turning away from. Bill Taubman, chief operating officer at mall operator Taubman Centers, expects more store closures. But as much as shoppers gravitate toward online brands, he has doubts about their sustainability.“Customers forget about them very quickly,” he said. “That’s why the internet guys are thinking of opening stores.”Indeed, online brands like Bonobos, jeweler Blue Nile and eyewear seller Warby Parker have been setting up showrooms. Even KUIU plans a 30-city tour with an 18-foot trailer that expands to a showroom as a test for traditional store locations.The hybrid model is gaining ground, but online retailers are also figuring out whether to go with traditional stores or showrooms where shoppers try on clothes and then have their purchased delivered. “We quickly discovered in the testing days of the Guideshop concept that guys don’t need that instant gratification of walking out of the store with something right away,” said Antonio Nieves, chief financial officer at Bonobos. read more

BC party leaders slamming opponents spending promises on campaign trail

NDP Leader John Horgan listens while taking questions during a campaign stop at a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday April 14, 2017. A provincial election will be held on May 9. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s party leaders levelled criticism at each other’s spending promises as they spent Good Friday campaigning.Liberal leader Christy Clark started the day campaigning in her home riding of West Kelowna, dishing out pancakes to local residents.Although Clark said it wasn’t a day for politics, she did take aim at the NDP’s announcement this week to eliminate tolls on two major bridges in the Lower Mainland.The New Democrat’s announcement came just after the Liberals said they would cap bridge tolls to $500 per year for drivers in a bid to attract drivers in the Surrey and Delta ridings.Clark said the NDP’s “scheme” to use a $500 million fund generated from liquefied natural gas revenues to eliminate tolls on two major bridges will harm future generations.She said tapping into the prosperity fund created by her government would “raid our kids’ inheritance.”At an event in South Vancouver, NDP leader John Horgan responded to the criticism, saying the fund is a fantasy because there haven’t been any LNG revenues to support it.The New Democrats claim the fund was created first with revenues from a medical service plan hike in 2016 and then topped up with revenues from the property transfer tax.Horgan said Clark’s government failed to create jobs in the LNG sector which they promised in the last election.The NDP leader then turned the tables, saying Clark has already failed the province’s children by “starving them of the education they deserved,” a reference to legislation that blocked teachers from negotiating class sizes. The Supreme Court of Canada deemed it unconstitutional last year.“From kindergarten to Grade 12, a whole generation of kids was let down by Christy Clark. I’m not going to take any advice from her on the future,” Horgan said.He maintains his party, if elected, would deliver balanced budgets while freezing hydro rates, implementing a rental housing credit and increasing social assistance rates. by The Canadian Press Posted Apr 14, 2017 5:31 pm MDT Last Updated Apr 14, 2017 at 9:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email B.C. party leaders slamming opponents’ spending promises on campaign trail read more

Transat shows reduced Q2 loss despite higher fuel costs currency fluctuations

by The Canadian Press Posted Jun 8, 2017 7:19 am MDT Last Updated Jun 8, 2017 at 7:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Transat shows reduced Q2 loss despite higher fuel costs, currency fluctuations MONTREAL – Transat AT Inc. (TSX:TRX) says it has made progress on reducing its losses despite difficult market conditions that include higher fuel prices and currency fluctuations.The Montreal-based travel company says its net loss attributable to shareholders was $8.4 million or 23 cents per share in the second quarter of its fiscal year.A year earlier, Transat had a net loss of nearly $25 million or 68 cents per share.Revenue was down marginally at $884.3 million, compared with $888.2 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2016.Founded in 1987, Transat employs 5,000 people and operates in Canada, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. read more

Senior UN official urges confidencebuilding measures to counter global insecurity

“Throughout the history of UN efforts in disarmament, efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction have been pursued in parallel with efforts to regulate and reduce conventional arms. This is because they are mutually reinforcing goals,” High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane told the opening of the annual three-week session of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) in New York.The Commission, whose membership is universal, is a deliberative body mandated to make recommendations in the field of disarmament and to follow up the decisions and recommendations of the General Assembly’s first special session devoted to disarmament, in 1978.The Commission itself was created through Resolution 502 in 1952 due to the General Assembly’s “anxiety as the general lack of confidence plaguing the world and leading to the burden on increasing armaments and the fear of war,” Ms. Kane read. She said the world continues to face a “lack of confidence” today, which feeds instability in the Middle East, South Asia and North-east Asia, while underlying expansion of military budgets and accounting for deeply divided votes in the General Assembly on issues related to disarmament, among others. The first item on the Commission’s agenda concerns non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. In her speech, Ms. Kane said an agreement during this session would help establish a new consensus on nuclear disarmament when the Commission concludes its three-year cycle in 2014. She added that such an outcome would be a “tremendous achievement” given the timing of the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the stalemate in recent years within the UN Conference on Disarmament, the world’s sole multilateral disarmament negotiating forum.The Commission is also due to discuss confidence-building measures in the field of conventional weapons. Ms. Kane told participants that they have an opportunity “to build on the recent progress made last month in negotiating the Arms Trade Treaty.”Member States failed to adopt the treaty last week after two-weeks of negotiations in New York. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply disappointed but remained optimistic that Member States will continue exploring ways to bring the treaty into being.Among confidence-building measures related to transparency, Ms. Kane noted that the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs maintains the UN Report on Military Expenditures, along with an electronic database of information known as the UN Register of Conventional Arms.Ms. Kane encouraged Member States to use these tools “precisely because of their value in building the indispensable confidence needed to strengthen international peace and security.”Between 1979 and 1999, the Commission was able to reach consensus at least 16 times to adopt guidelines or recommendations on disarmament subjects. It has not adopted any new guidelines since 1999. Ms. Kane noted that history will judge the Commission not by the quantity of its work but the quality of its outcomes. She also urged Member States to revive the productivity of the Commission as an international resource for cultivating “seeds of future global disarmament norms – guidelines, standards, and recommendations that someday have the potential to flourish into customary practices.” read more

UN says 81 million urgently needed for food relief to 35 million

“Lack of funding would mean that WFP could resort to decreasing the number of people it currently supports and would halt plans to expand and increase the number of people it plans to feed, depriving hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in need of urgently needed food assistance,” the spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) Elisabeth Byrs said in Geneva.“With very limited alternatives to support themselves, this means refugees will face destitution or could resort to buying on credit adding a burden on their host communities,” she added.In Lebanon, WFP would have to stop providing food vouchers to some 400,000 Syrian refugees. In Jordan, funds for the voucher programme are only sufficient until mid-May, and Ms. Byrs said that the agency would have to reduce the vouchers’ value, which would impact around 175,000 Syrian refugees living with the Jordanian community.Insufficient funds would also delay the transition from receiving food packages to food vouchers for more than 100,000 people who currently live in the Zaatari camp in Jordan.“Food vouchers allow Syrians fleeing from conflict to choose from a variety of food items to feed their families with dignity,” Ms. Byrs said, adding that the delay would not allow people to buy fresh food and have diversity in their diet.The vouchers also boost the host countries’ economy, and suspending the voucher programme could further strain local economies in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, where WFP injected some $12.6 million in the last month alone.More than 70,000 people have been killed and more than three million displaced both within and outside the country since the uprising against President al-Assad began in March 2011.Over the past ten days however, the Office for High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has seen an increase in the number of Syrians returning home from Jordan, with about 300 people are crossing the border everyday into the Syrian governorate of Daraa. This still represents less than one per cent of the total number of refugees.“UNHCR is very concerned that refugees are returning to areas blighted by shortages of food, lack of fuel and electricity and limited services,” said UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming. “The security situation is volatile, with reports of artillery shells and mortars being fired into villages refugees are trying to reclaim their homes and lives in.”UNHCR said it is not facilitating these returns, but is counselling refugees who wish to return on the conditions they will face. The agency is also undertaking regular missions to the border and working with the Jordanian authorities to ensure that all refugees have access to their documentation should they make the decision to return to Syria.The reasons for returning given by refugees include improved security in a number of border villages, a desire to safeguard their property, reuniting with family members who remained in Syria or travelling to collect and bring back vulnerable family members to Jordan, Ms. Fleming said. read more

Cambodias royal pardon for opposition leader a step towards reconciliation – UN

“I was very pleased to learn that the royal pardon was granted by His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia, at the request of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen,” the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, said. “I now hope that with this development, the Government will take the necessary action in order to allow Sam Rainsy to play a full part in the national politics of Cambodia.” Mr. Rainsy, the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was tried in absentia in January 2010 on charges of destruction of property and racial incitement and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in one case and 10 years’ imprisonment in another, and had remained in exile. Mr. Subedi had previously stressed the importance of a level playing field for all political parties to compete on an equal footing, and had called for a solution to allow Mr. Rainsy to play a full role in Cambodian politics.“Today I applaud the Royal Government of Cambodia for having taken this important step towards reconciliation, which is in the interests of stronger and deeper democratization of Cambodia,” he added.Special rapporteurs are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. read more

Security Council decries deadly terrorist attack in Yemeni capital

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the family of the one person killed in today’s attack – a French citizen – and extended their sympathies to those injured, as well as to the Governments of Yemen and France.In today’s statement, the body’s 15 members reaffirmed that terrorism “is criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of its motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed”, and “should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group”.Reiterating their determination to combat all forms of terror, in accordance with the responsibilities listed under the UN Charter, Council members further “urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Yemeni authorities” so that perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism can be brought to justice.In March, the Council condemned an attack in Hadramawt, Yemen, in which 20 soldiers were killed. Yemen has been undergoing a democratic transition, with a Government of National Unity, which came to power in an election in February 2012 following the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.Security Council members have voiced strong support for the political process in Yemen. In February of this year, they set up a sanctions regime that includes an asset freeze and travel ban against potential ‘spoilers’ who would obstruct or undermine the successful completion of the political transition. read more

UN refugee agency African host countries agree on final steps on Rwandan

This ministerial meeting, hosted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, marks the last phase of a comprehensive solutions strategy for Rwandan refugees who fled their country between 1959 and 1998 to escape inter-ethnic violence and armed conflict, the agency said. “In a world where there are more than 21 million refugees, the focus should not just be on providing protection and humanitarian assistance, but on proactively identifying solutions. The meeting today constitutes a crucial step in providing solutions to the many Rwandans who sought refuge between 1959 and 1998, and in bringing one of Africa’s most protracted refugee situations to a close,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The participants, who hailed from Rwanda as well as the major refugee host countries – Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, the Republic of Congo, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe – reaffirmed their commitment to bring the strategy, launched in October 2009, to its conclusion by the end of next year. Highlighting the progress made since the last ministerial meeting on the Rwanda refugee situation, the governments reiterated their willingness to provide an alternative legal status to those refugees choosing to locally integrate and encouraged them to avail themselves of the opportunity. All States confirmed that they will continue to promote the option of voluntary repatriation to Rwanda in safety and dignity, including by providing the refugees with comprehensive information on the conditions of return. At the same time, UNHCR agreed to provide an enhanced return package, and to progressively transition from in-kind support to a more cash-based form of assistance to ensure their sustainable reintegration. The countries that have invoked the cessation clause reassured that any refugee whose refugee status is maintained after an exemption process will continue to receive international protection and be supported. The genocide in 1994, followed by armed clashes in the north-west of the country in 1997 and 1998, caused more than 3.5 million Rwandans to flee in search of safety. All but 268,500 of the refugees have found a solution, UNHCR said. At the meeting today, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Türk, underlined that the agency stands ready to continue working with the States hosting Rwandan refugees to find solutions in accordance with the strategy and within the set timeline of December 2017. read more

Yemen Security Council strongly condemns attack on vessel by Houthi forces

“The members of the Security Council take threats to shipping around Bab al-Mandeb, a strategically important shipping passage, extremely seriously,” a statement issued by the 15-member body said. The Council also stressed that the continued exercise of freedom of navigation in and around Bab al-Mandeb Strait in accordance with relevant international law must be upheld. The members of the Security Council called for such attacks to cease immediately and urged necessary steps to be taken to de-escalate the situation. They also reiterated their support to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to pursue his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. To support the consultations of the Special Envoy, and avoid further loss of life, the members of the Security Council urged all parties to recommit to and fully respect the terms and conditions of the cessation of hostilities entered into on April 10, which will include a complete halt to ground and air military activities. Further, the Council called on all sides to resume working through the De-Escalation and Coordination Committee to facilitate the strengthening of the cessation of hostilities. Yemen has been engulfed in violence for several years now – a confrontation between the country’s Houthis (Ansar Allah) and the Government of Yemen in early 2014 led to a Houthi advance on the capital, and an ensuing conflict which has involved support from outside parties. The UN has been heavily involved in efforts to resolve the crisis. While peace talks between a Yemeni Government delegation and a delegation of the General People’s Congress and Ansar Allah continued, serious violations have occurred in Marib, al Jawf, Taiz and in the border areas with Saudi Arabia. Those UN-facilitated talks ended on 6 August. read more

ESCAP 70 years of UN efforts to advance socioeconomic development in Asia

PreviousNextUN News: Can you tell us about the current socio-economic development snapshot of the region and how this has changed over the past 70 years?Shamshad Akhtar:  Asia-Pacific is a very vibrant and dynamic region. It has come a long way since ESCAP was created in 1947 to assist countries emerging from the devastation of World War II. I have to say that the region has witnessed economic and social achievements beyond expectations – it is the region that led the drive for poverty reduction and is today known for being the driver of the global economic recovery. Asia-Pacific is the region that today accounts for 40 per cent of global trade.UN News: That said, Asia and the Pacific also has its fair share of challenges. Can you elaborate?Shamshad Akhtar:  Of course the region has challenges. Because the region is growing very fast, pollution is a major concern. Greenhouse gas emissions from Asia-Pacific account for over half of the total greenhouse gas emissions around the world [and this is] just based on the performance of few countries.There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index. So reducing poverty is a major issueSecondly, the region has been at the frontier of export-led development. Now it is time for it to move towards domestic-driven growth. Given its potential and the value-added relationships that it has developed, Asia-Pacific has the potential to further stimulate the regional demand.Another challenge is poverty. There are about 400 million people still poor in the region. This number rises to 900 million if measured using the multi-dimensional poverty index, so reducing poverty is a major issue.Furthermore, some larger economies in the region are undergoing rebalancing from excessive structural surpluses to stimulating more domestic demand-led growth.Also, there is the question on how to absorb the growing workforce because there will be significant demographic changes that the region will face – both in terms of further growth in population as well as in terms of the rise in the aging population. A train snakes its way through Seoul, Republic of Korea. Photo: Kibae Park Sala Santithan, the complex that housed the headquarters of the then ECAFE, in Bangkok, Thailand, prior to the construction of its current offices. Photo: ESCAP archives A shopkeeper at a local grain market in Tachileik, Myanmar. Photo: Kibae Park U Nyun, Executive Secretary of the then ECAFE, delivering an address at the twenty-first session, held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1965. Photo: ESCAP archives UN News: In light of these challenges, as well as for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, what has ESCAP been doing to assist its members?Shamshad Akhtar:  For the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP’s intergovernmental focus and work programme has been transformed to support the development of a cohesive, coherent and coordinated institutional framework, which is called the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.Also, our member States have worked with us to develop a regional road-map for implementation of the 2030 Agenda and they have also given mandates to have a regional follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. We are updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable mannerWe will carry on this work while continuing to support the implementation of sustainable development through our second core mandate – Regional Cooperation and Integration in Asia and the Pacific. We are also updating our analysis of regional cooperation and integration to help strengthen the sustainable development agenda. This will in turn, help the region get connected in a much more sustainable manner. At the same time, the 2030 Agenda includes a number of transboundary goals so we hope to leverage regional cooperation and integration to fast-track implementation of these particular goals. We are also supporting the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda: We have a track for financing for development in Asia-Pacific where we are raising awareness on the significance of, as well as on the means of, boosting domestic resource mobilization, in particular the tax-to-GDP ratio as well as formulating tax policies that are supportive of the sustainable development agenda.We also continue to work on infrastructure financing and capacity building, and also looking at climate change, financial inclusion, science, technology and innovation, and a range of other issues.UN News: You mentioned the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is very diverse. How are you able to cover the entire region while operating out of Bangkok? Shamshad Akhtar: The ESCAP region covers a lot of countries. It has 53 member countries and nine associate members. Given the diversity of the region, we have subregional offices across the region: one in Suva, Fiji, for the Pacific; in Incheon, Republic of Korea, for North and North-East Asia; in Delhi, India, for South and South-West Asia; and in Almaty, Kazakhstan for North and Central Asia.These offices both maintain relationships with the countries as well as coordinate and conduct core work programmes in their respective subregions. The work programme of the subregional offices and the functional divisions [at ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok] are aligned, making sure that leadership comes from the principal office in Bangkok and support from the subregional offices.UN News: The Commission will be holding its seventy-third session during the week of 14 May. What are the major issues on the agenda?Shamshad Akhtar: The session will be revolving around issues concerning sustainable development as well as the regional cooperation and integration agenda.  We will also be discussing a thematic report on energy efficiency. Having expanded our work programme to include energy, this will help us promote sustainable energy for all, while enhancing energy connectivity in the region and diversifying energy sources to include renewable sources.We will also be discussing the overall economic and social situation in the region in addition to our core mandate of sustainable development and how they mutually support each other. Representatives from the then ECAFE member States attend the sixth session of the Commission (1950). Photo: ESCAP archives A worker at an integrated resource recovery centre aerates organic waste to speed up the composting process. Matale, Sri Lanka. Photo: ESCAP Delegates attend the seventy-second session of the Commission in May 2016. Photo: ESCAP Video: Ms. Akhtar highlighting progress made by the Asia-Pacific region and the challenges before it. As Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Shamshad Akhtar leads an entity with a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from Russia in the north to New Zealand in the south, and covers a region that is home to 4.1 billion people, or two-thirds of the world’s population.Founded in 1947, as the then Economic Commission for Asia and the Far-East, to assist the region’s countries with economic reconstruction in the devastating aftermath of the Second World War, the Commission’s geographical scope and mandate were expanded in the 1970s to reflect changes on the ground.When ESCAP convenes its 73rd session next week at its headquarters in Bangkok, top government officials will discuss further strengthening the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).In addition, member States will deliberate on regional cooperation for sustainable energy, an issue vital in a region where millions suffer from severe energy insecurity and lack of access. Also on the agenda are exchanges on infrastructure development in least developed, landlocked developing and Pacific island developing countries, applications of space technology for environment and resilience against water-related disasters.UN News spoke to Ms. Akhtar, a Pakistani national and seasoned economist, about development efforts in the region, including ongoing challenges, as well as the work of ESCAP and what is expected during the upcoming session. ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. The UN Conference Centre is in the foreground and the ESCAP secretariat building is in the back. Photo: ESCAP A park in Bangkok, Thailand, where accessibility and assistive features such as detectable guides and warnings have been installed. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe A student at the Tailulu College in Nukua’lofa, Tonga, where broadband internet connectivity has been installed, transforming the way students access information. Photo: Tom Perry/World Bank PreviousNextUN News: What are the major outcomes expected this year?Shamshad Akhtar: Deliberations at the Commission will provide us with greater understanding on what support the region and the countries need from ESCAP. The Commission will guide us on what we can do for the member States to further support them in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and other mandates that have been assigned to us. But the ultimate test will be how we can match the demand with the supply.UN News: Would you like to add anything else?The regional commissions are a very important arm of the UN. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visibleShamshad Akhtar: One thing I would like to mention is that regional commissions are a very important arm of the United Nations. However, because they are not based in New York, they often are not so visible.The technical work done at the subregional level or at the country level is actually being done by the regional commissions. We play a very important role in connecting the global with the national through the bridge of the regional commissions. We are going to be supporting a lot of knowledge-sharing and all kinds of technical work at the regional level, not for the sake of doing it, but to ensure that these are all consolidated with the discussions at the global level. read more

Nature one of most effective ways of combatting climate change

The largest glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Aletschgletscher, is melting rapidly and could disappear altogether by 2100. Geir BraathenThe world’s climate is changing rapidly and these changes are evident on a daily basis. Global temperatures are rising, rainfall patterns are changing and the weather in many parts of the world is more erratic and unpredictable than ever before. The effects are widespread; natural habitats are changing, biodiversity is being lost, farming cycles are being disrupted and water stress is becoming more common than not. Natural hazards such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and heatwaves are becoming more extreme and frequent costing countries billions of dollars and destroying homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. The climate crisis is threatening people’s well-being, food security and worsening poverty.In June this year, the UN Secretary-General said the world needs to create conditions for “harmony between humankind and nature.”What is meant by a nature-based solution?Nature-based solutions are actions that protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that also address societal challenges, thereby simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. So, whether its food security, climate change, water security, human health, disaster risk or economic development, nature can help us find a way. And climate change is a very important part of the solution puzzle. There are many ways to address climate change, but one of the most effective and immediate ways is using what is on our door step… nature.  For example, nature-based solutions can focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and agricultural practices and enhancing the ability of natural ecosystems to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Remember, it is carbon dioxide that contributes to the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit provides an opportune moment to catapult nature-based solutions to the forefront of climate action. What range of solutions are available?Most nature-based solutions for climate change come from strengthening or restoring existing natural ecosystems. For example, forests don’t just absorb carbon, they also defend us from its most devastating impacts. Carefully planted tree species can act as firebreaks, keeping trees next to farmland can protect crops from the erosive forces of intense rain, and forests can alleviate inland floods due to the sponge-like way they absorb water. World leaders will be gathering at the United Nations in New York next week at a Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Ms. Andersen will be there to promote the idea of nature-based solutions to combatting climate change.UNEP is supporting one of the nine summit action tracks designated by the Secretary-General under the leadership of the Governments of China and New Zealand.  UN News asked Ms. Andersen how nature can help to reverse climate change.How is climate change affecting the natural world? Mangroves provide effective and cheap natural barriers against coastal floods and shoreline erosion. Changing our land practices alone could deliver 30 per cent of the emissions reductions that we need to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate action by 2030.Restoring peatlands and other natural ecosystems are also effective nature-based solutions. Find out more here about the benefits of peatlands:  How effective are they and at what financial cost?Nature is available now and we should use it; there are no quick technological fixes that have the same scale of impact that nature-based solutions offer. In fact, these solutions could deliver more than a third of the emissions reductions needed globally by 2030. Crucially, what is urgently required is an increase in investment to unlock the potential of nature. Right now, these solutions receive less than three per cent of available climate funding, even though they are extremely cost effective. And, they offer a very high return on investment potentially adding trillions of dollars to the global economy. For example, the building of the Great Green Wall an ambitious project to reverse desertification in the Sahel region of Africa could create 10 million jobs there by 2030 and have other benefits including slowing migration.These solutions have to be integrated into climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Globally, governments must align their efforts and commit to investing in these solutions as part of their national policies. How important are nature-based solutions in the overall fight against climate change?The bottom line is that we cannot limit warming to 1.5°C (or 2°C for that matter) without natural climate solutions. Nature-based solutions have the potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 12 gigatons each year. This is roughly equal to emissions from all the world’s coal fired plants. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind, firstly, that increasing ambition requires us to commit simultaneously to an energy transition and greater investments in nature.  And secondly, if we don’t act on nature now, then nature’s ability to protect humanity will diminish even more. So, nature is on the table as a solution to climate action, but only just and we have to seize the moment. The good news is nature is forgiving and it’s time we gave it the chance it deserves. Are there enough projects underway right now globally to make a difference? The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, addresses a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP/Cyril VillemainWe are in a period of global emergency, but also in a period of unprecedented momentum. Young people are holding us to account, and every week a government somewhere in the world, commits to climate action. Nature-based solutions are immediately available, cost-effective and can be scaled up depending on need. And every country in the world can act. And we have many examples of success. When the Great Green Wall is completed in 2030, restored land will absorb carbon dioxide equal to keeping all of California’s cars parked for 3½ years. In Niger, farmer-led reforestation has improved tree cover, reducing women’s time in collecting firewood from three hours to 30 minutes. And Medellin in Colombia reduced temperatures by more than 2°C through turning their concrete jungles into urban forests.So, we need to scale up initiatives like this, build on political momentum and deliver at the scale and pace needed to propel us beyond the ambitions of the Paris Agreement because when we give nature a chance, we have a better shot at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. read more

Security Council debates closer links between multilateral organizations in Europe and Asia

His message of support came at the start of a ministerial-level debate in the Security Council, focusing on the role of the three bodies – whose member countries include Russia, China, former members of the Soviet Union, as well as India and Pakistan – in bolstering peace and security, particularly with countering terrorist threats.Mr. Guterres outlined the “unprecedented threat” posed by intolerance, violent extremism and terrorism, including cyber-terrorism which, he said, is constantly evolving and affects every country. The UN, he continued, has a comprehensive framework for action, provided by the Organization’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and related Security Council resolutions.Address root causes, promote gender equality, respect human rightsWhilst security measures to pursue and dismantle terrorist groups are “vital”, they must be complemented by efforts to identify and address root causes, counselled the Secretary-General, such as fear and hopelessness, while always respecting human rights: “We must reinforce the social compact, including the provision of basic services and opportunities, particularly for young people. Most recruits to terrorist groups are between 17 and 27 years old. We need to provide paths that offer a sense of hope and purpose to our young men and women, including education, training and jobs”. The frequent subjugation of women and girls, which is a “foundational” purpose of many extremist and terrorist groups, was raised by Mr. Guterres, who said that gender equality and engaging women and girls must be central to efforts to prevent and counter terrorism: “Terrorist groups share an agenda that is authoritarian, intolerant and frequently misogynistic. Our efforts to counter terrorist ideology must be founded on respect for the dignity and human rights of all”. Turning to the specific role of the three organizations at the centre of Wednesday’s debate, Mr. Guterres noted that countries need to cooperate in order to meet cross-border challenges such as the return and relocation of foreign terrorist fighters, and include private sector and civil society partners in these efforts. The UN chief stressed that the UN is strengthening its institutional links with each of them, establishing frameworks for joint activities, and collaboration on capacity-building assistance. He singled out the UN Joint Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia as showing what can be achieved with collective action, leadership and political will.Sergei Lavrov, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that more needs to be done to work together with regional and sub-regional organizations, such as the three bodies under discussion at the debate (the CSTO, CIS and SCO). These organizations, he said, have a “rich experience of fighting terrorism and contribute to stability in the Eurasian continent. Their activity is a gauge of security of their Member States, and the effective counter-terrorism efforts they undertake help noticeably to stabilize the situation in Central Asia”.Mr. Lavrov expressed concern at ongoing recruitment by various terror groups in the region, and noted that the CSTO is working to close recruitment channels and illegal migration, as well as paying close attention to the role of the internet in spreading extremist ideologies. He welcomed the commitment from all three organizations to further broadening cooperation in the area of combating terrorism with the UN, in order to maintain regional and international peace and security.China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi, said that counter-terrorism is a shared responsibility for all countries, in a world where terrorism, separatism, and extremism are “rampant”, and are becoming increasingly pervasive and home-grown.This requires that international cooperation against terrorism, continued Mr. Wang, be strengthened and not weakened. No country should link terrorism to a particular country, ethnicity or religion, he added.Promoting political settlements is, he said, the best option for addressing “hot spot” issues, and ensuring that different civilizations and religions live in harmony, and mutual respect. read more

Diverse range of speakers in car sales debate reflect on the changing

Presentations from a broad range of speakers debated the changing face of car retailing in the UK, ending with a lively Q&A session at the SMMT International Automotive Summit this afternoon.First on stage were Neel Desor, Commercial Planning Director at Haymarket Motoring and Rob Ellis, Founding Director of COG Research. Desor and Ellis presented new research into buying behaviour conducted between the two companies, which specifically challenged the traditional funnel model, instead stressing to manufacturers and dealers that they’re never really off the shortlist.David Vernon, European Practice Manager at Urban Science, was next at the podium. His presentation focused on the changing attitudes to online automotive retail in the UK, comparing marketing spend and lead generation efforts in this country against the situation in the United States. Vernon’s key points related to the methods that dealers are currently using to prioritise leads from both independent and OEM sites, and how he anticipated this changing over the next few years.The third speaker from the panel was Neil Packham, Sales Director at Manheim Retail Services, who discussed varying approaches to lead management in retailing, analysing in particular the performance of dealers against established benchmarks. One of Packham’s most surprising findings was that some 40% of dealers that they monitored were either using a paper-based system or no system at all when it came to managing and actioning their sales leads.Antony Sheriff, Managing Director of McLaren Automotive, brought the vehicle manufacturer perspective to the panel debate. Whilst McLaren’s franchised dealer approach has been referred to as traditional, Sheriff’s key point was that this model was by no means incompatible with high value sales. Indeed, his own view was that a good franchised network can tick all the boxes in a way that neither company-owned network, nor an automotive agents’ model can.Click through for more information, news and photos from the 2011 International Automotive Summit.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more

New funding for Hot Form technology

Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Impression Technologies Ltd has received a £500,000 investment to help bring to market a revolutionary new technology for forming aluminium, developed by Imperial College London.The funding, awarded by Imperial Innovations Group plc, will be used to support the development of Hot Form Quench (HFQ), a pioneering technology that allows stronger structural aluminium panels to be formed for use in the automotive and transport sectors.Developed by Professor Lin of Imperial College London and Professor Dean of the University of Birmingham, HFQ technology provides a cost-competitive means of producing lightweight, complex aluminium components, opening the door to a new generation of solutions for the automotive, aerospace and rail industries.George Adam, Chief Executive Officer of Impression Technologies said, “HFQ enables the production of lighter, stronger and more sophisticated structures in aluminium than has been possible to date cost-effectively. It creates new opportunities for car manufacturers and others to improve the performance of their vehicles while reducing their carbon footprint.”To find out how SMMT recognises automotive innovation and R&D in the UK, visit the Award for Automotive Innovation website hub. read more

Exports continue to fuel engine production in November

UK engine output rises 3.5% in November, with 209,133 units produced.Overseas demand continues to drive growth as production for exports sees 13.3% uplift in the month.Overall year-to-date volumes stable, with output down 0.9%.Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Demand from overseas was again the main driving force behind UK engine production in November, with a 13.3% rise in production for export outweighing a drop in domestic output. Engine manufacturing for the year so far remains steady, with a minimal fall compared with the same period in 2014.”Click through to download the engine manufacturing press release as a Word document.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) read more