U.N. Round-Up

People across the world were celebrating World Refugee Day June 20 amid a call on the global community to help the world’s displaced and a warning that their numbers were set to rise. In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his first World Refugee Day message as UN chief that international solidarity was crucial to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of refugees and others forcibly displaced. “As we mark World Refugee Day, let us recall what sets these families, children and elderly apart from others on the move around the globe. The difference is that they cannot go home. To ensure that they are cared for and protected until they can, let us offer them our support and understanding,” he said.

High Commissioner Antonio Guterres was in Africa to celebrate the annual event, while UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors such as Angelina Jolie, Adel Imam, George Dalaras, Muazzed Ersoy and Osvaldo Laport have also lent their support with interviews, appearances and campaigning. There was no specific theme this year, but many countries chose their own. Last year was one of the worst on record for refugees and the crisis is deepening in 2007 thanks to conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan’s Darfur region, Guterres said. But the accelerating return of refugees to their homes in south Sudan in 2007 – some after more than two decades – is one bright spot in the otherwise bad year, he said. “It is a very bad year for refugees worldwide. Now there are almost 10 million who have been expelled from their homes by insecurity, and that number is growing,” Guterres told Reuters.

The UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari says he believed Russia will use its veto to block the UN plan on Kosovo he drafted, but that Kosovo will gain independence this year in any case. “I do not think anything could happen without Kosovo starting to implement in any case the plan I have presented,” Ahtisaari told Finnish YLE television in an interview aired on Tuesday. “This is almost a prerequisite for them to gain support, should they not get it via the UN. Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, said he saw the year-end an “absolute deadline” for the breakaway Serb province to become independent. But he added: “It is starting to feel like Russia will use its veto.”

Dr. Philip E. Nelson of Purdue University was named winner of the USD 250,000 World Food Prize for his innovative breakthrough technologies which have revolutionized the food industry, particularly in the area of large-scale storage and transportation of fresh fruit and vegetables using bulk aseptic food processing. His food science research has significantly reduced post-harvest waste and spoilage and greatly increased the availability and accessibility of nutritious food worldwide, particularly in emergency situations.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a grant of USD 3 million to the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) over three years to support the organization?s poverty alleviation programs in developing countries. “With this donation, IDLO can help put some of the world’s poorest people on the path out of poverty,” said William T. Loris, IDLO’s Director-General. IDLO works to strengthen the rule of law and good governance in parts of the world that are stricken by poverty, a lack of human security, armed conflict and natural disaster. A key number of the ILDO’s activities are designed to provide practical assistance to developing countries in implementing their Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) and meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals.

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