Friday, March 31, 2017


US representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley says that the US is no longer prioritizing the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ambassador Haley said yesterday US cannot necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did.
Washington’s priorities in Syria have changed with the new administration, and the US will no longer focus on the removal of President Bashar Assad as a condition for ending the six-year civil war, a top official said.
“Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told a small group of reporters on Thursday.
“Our priority is to really look at how do we get things done, who do we need to work with to really make a difference for the people in Syria.”
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the future of President Assad “will be decided by the Syrian people.” 
Under President Barack Obama, the US said Assad must go and backed the rebels fighting against him. But US resources shifted after the rise of the so-called Islamic state. Speaking during a visit to Turkey yesterday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Mr Assad’s long-term future will be decided by the Syrian people.
A representative for the Syrian opposition called Mrs Haley’s announcement unfortunate, adding that American representatives are sending contradicting messages. They clearly said Assad has no role in the transitional period.
President Donald Trump has vowed to work more closely with Russia, which has been supporting Mr Assad with its military might during the Syrian civil war.


New German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for stronger French-German leadership to ensure the EU’s future one day after Britain triggered its exit from the bloc. Steinmeier said in a joint statement with French president Francois Hollande during a visit to Paris that “whether we want it or not, Germany and France will have to assume a greater responsibility… to build Europeans’ hopes.” He said the EU can be changed but remain “vital, indispensable.” French president Francois Hollande warned against “the trap of nationalism” in Europe and called on member states to show greater solidarity


NATO’s chief says the allies and Russia remain at loggerheads over the conflict in Ukraine but have exchanged briefings on their troop movements elsewhere in Europe to help ease tensions. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks came after ambassadors from the military alliance’s 29 nations met Thursday for the first time this year. Russia briefed the ambassadors about new troop deployments near its western border, while NATO gave an update on forces being deployed to the Baltic states and Poland.


Toshiba shareholders have approved a proposal to spin off the company’s mainstay memory chip business.
The plan was given the go-ahead by a two-thirds majority at an extraordinary shareholder meeting on Thursday.
Toshiba’s US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday. The company says total losses for the current business year could reach 9 billion dollars.
Toshiba wants to spin off its chip unit to cover the deficit and rehabilitate operations.
At the shareholder’s meeting, management faced numerous questions about why the massive losses at Westinghouse weren’t noticed earlier.
Toshiba plans to decide on the successful bidder or bidders by June.
The president of Toshiba says the bankruptcy filing by its US subsidiary Westinghouse is the first step toward turning around the ailing Japanese conglomerate.
Satoshi Tsunakawa spoke to reporters on Wednesday after the US nuclear unit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
He said the filing is indispensable for reviving Westinghouse and is in line with Toshiba’s policy to shut down its risky nuclear operation abroad.
He noted that Toshiba might incur further losses from the bankruptcy. Toshiba’s total losses for the current business year are reported to exceed 1 trillion yen, or about 9 billion dollars.
Tsunakawa said he feels great responsibility and pledged all-out efforts to put Toshiba back on its feet.
He said the company will continue its efforts to raise funds by spinning off its mainstay flash memory chip operation and selling other assets.
He noted Toshiba plans to secure a steady profit flow from its social infrastructure business in order to beef up its financial base.
He said now Toshiba has almost completely withdrawn from the overseas nuclear business.
He pledged Toshiba will continue to decommission reactors in Japan, taking seriously its sense of social responsibility.
Toshiba’s US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The Japanese manufacturing giant is cutting its losses on its US nuclear business as it tries to rebuild its finances.
It faces ballooning costs to meet safety standards at 4 reactors in the US.
The subsidiary received orders for the reactors in 2008.
Toshiba says it could post a net loss of over 9 billion dollars for the current fiscal year.
Just over 2 weeks ago, Toshiba executives announced they would remove Westinghouse from their consolidated financial statements.
They intend to withdraw from the US nuclear business entirely.


China has acknowledged it detained a former Taiwanese ruling party worker for alleged involvement in activities that threaten national security.
A former member of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in his 40s remains missing since he travelled from Macau to Guangdong, southern China, on March 19th.
A human rights group in Taiwan says the man follows human rights issues in mainland China, and has been posting remarks on democratization in Taiwan.NHK
Taiwanese officials have been asking Beijing to reveal the man’s whereabouts.
A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said at a news conference on Wednesday that the man is suspected of endangering national security and remains under investigation.
Beijing didn’t specify the activities he has been allegedly involved with or where he is detained.
China has halted dialogue with Taiwan since the president of the Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen, expressed disagreement with the “one-China” principle.


Park  arrested on Friday morning. The charges against her include an allegation that she received or agreed to receive about 38 million dollars in bribes from the Samsung Group.
She was transferred to a detention center on the outskirts of Seoul.
Prosecutors can keep Park in custody until April 19th. But they are expected to indict her before April 17th, when the presidential election campaign kicks off. This is to minimize the impact of the case on the May 9th election.
Opinion polls show that Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party, the country’s largest party, has a comfortable lead among the presidential contenders.
South Korean court  has approved the arrest of ex-President Park Geun-hye on corruption allegations. Friday’s ruling by the Seoul Central District Court means prosecutors can immediately put Park in a detention facility. Prosecutors can detain her for up to 20 days before formally charging her. Prosecuting attorneys have been pushing for her arrest over allegations that she colluded with a confidante to extort money from businesses in exchange for political favors as well as committing other offenses. The Constitutional Court ruled to dismiss Park over the allegations earlier in March, three months after Parliament voted to impeach her.
Two former South Korean presidents have been arrested in the past after losing immunity from criminal prosecution.
Chun Doo-hwan was president for 8 years from 1980.
He was arrested and indicted in December 1995 for taking bribes while in office, and his armed suppression of pro-democracy citizens and students in the 1980 Gwangju uprising.
A district court issued the death sentence.
The Supreme Court sentenced Chun to life in prison.
Roh Tae-woo served as president for 5 years from 1988.
He was arrested in November 1995 for bribery and his role in the Gwangju uprising. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
Both Chun and Roh were pardoned in December 1997 by then-President Kim Young-sam.
If arrested, Park Geun-hye will be the third ex-president arrested and the first in 22 years.


Focus is on food security and helping poor farmers by enhancing crop resilience and adapting to climate change
ROME, ITALY — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) have agreed to cooperate more closely to support sustainable rice production in developing countries to improve food security and livelihoods while safeguarding natural resources.
An agreement signed today seeks to better pool the scientific knowledge and technical know-how of the two organizations so that they can expand and intensify their work globally.
The partnership primarily aims to enhance sustainable rice-based farming systems through capacity building activities – including assisting governments draw up and implement national and regional policies and strategies – to the benefit of small-scale farmers, especially women.
“The world faces very significant changes over the next few decades to produce the volume and quality of nutritious food to feed a global population heading for 10 billion people,” said IRRI Director-General Matthew K. Morell. “Addressing these issues relies on global partnerships, and today, IRRI is delighted to be reaffirming through this Memorandum of Agreement our commitment to work with FAO to enhance sustainable rice-based production and food systems through awareness raising, capacity development, knowledge exchange, and evidence-based analyses for policy support.”
“With over three billion people across the globe eating rice every day, rice is critical to global food security,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources. “Ensuring sustainable rice production is a key contribution to the global goal of ending hunger. By teaming up with IRRI, already a long-standing partner, we will be able to scale up, complement and amplify our work towards reaching this goal.”
Making the rice value chain more sustainable
In many countries around the world rice is a staple crop for food security and consumption trends are growing. At the same time rice production is vulnerable to the increasing impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events such as droughts and floods.
Both FAO and IRRI are actively promoting more sustainable rice practices throughout the value chain – production, marketing and consumption – to optimize its nutritional properties and as a means of improving livelihoods and tackling poverty, particularly in rural areas.
FAO has developed the Regional Rice Initiative for Asia and Pacific which promotes enhanced crop resilience while increasing efficiency and farmers’ income. In Africa and in Latin America the UN agency is engaged in scientific and technical cooperation including the sharing of technologies and best practices to increase production and productivity, including reduction of post-harvest losses and improved grain quality.
IRRI is engaged in strengthening capacities of all rice sector actors through its capacity development activities, including IRRI Education and the Sustainable Rice Platform.
The Sustainable Rice Platform is a global alliance to promote resource efficiency and sustainability in trade flows, production and consumption operations, and supply chains in the global rice sector. The Sustainable Rice Platform recently established the world’s first standard for sustainable rice. Through the Sustainable Rice Platform, IRRI aims to use environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.
At the same time, IRRI Education works to build capacity through-out IRRI’s extensive partnership network.
Improving varieties, transferring knowledge
FAO and the IRRI will together assist rice producing countries to adopt improved and adapted rice varieties, enhance availability of certified seeds and also the transfer of knowledge — including on pest management — through participatory approaches such as farmer fields schools.
The two organizations also will seek to strengthen partnerships for post-harvest handling, and help farmers and other rice producers add value by developing and marketing rice by-products rich in proteins and micronutrients, and explore the appropriate use of rice by-products to generate energy, animal feed and other agricultural products.
In addition, FAO and the IRRI intend to work together to ensure that women farmers can participate in viable, safe and dignified entrepreneurial opportunities in the rice value chain, and that there is an improvement in work conditions in the rice sector.


New Delhi, March 30, 2017. Before the start of the Second Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the New Development Bank in New Delhi, the Peoples’ Forum on BRICS conducted a day-long convention in New Delhi to look at the various trends in development finance, mechanisms to monitor trade and finance in BRICS countries, and various stakes involved with the emergence of New Development Bank.
The convention titled New Development Bank – Peoples Perspectives was addressed by academicians, economists, environmentalists, journalists and indigenous communities from the BRICS countries. They in unison raised the issues related to the lack of: transparency, accountability, benchmarks about the environmental and social, grievance redressal mechanisms, and spaces of engagement for the civil society organizations and peoples’ movements in New Development Bank.
Ciao Borges, a lawyer representing Conectas, a not-for-profit organization with the consultative status from UN-ECOSOC from Brazil, said “the NDB given its wide implications ought to have an accountability and transparency structure.”
He further said that so far the Shanghai based Bank, which claims to focus on ‘sustainable infrastructure’, has approved seven investment projects in all member countries for a total of over USD 1.5 billion, with 75% investments on renewable energy. Despite this, the Bank has not felt the need to define the concept of Sustainable infrastructure. This leaves the door open for investments which are profit oriented and not completely sustainable in nature. Moreover with lack of transparency and redressal mechanism, the affected communities would have no recourse to file their complaints and concerns.
Soumya Dutta, convener, Climate & Energy Group of Beyond Copenhagen Collective, and one of the founders of India Climate Justice Platform, points out that none of the investment made was related to health, education etc and all has gone to construction of roads, solar and hydropower plants. This leaves one wondering if all money has gone to the needs of the industry where corporates can come into play. Another concern raised by Dutta is that of ‘Climate proofing of infrastructure’ which protects investments from the climate change not the people who are at the receiving ends.  All this achieves considerable significance in the wake of recent statement of Bank’s president KV Kamath, who announced that the Bank would double its lending every year over the next 2-3 years to leverage its USD 10 billion capital in first 6-7 years.
“We are not against renewable energy but it has to be decentralized. The current funding is for the large scale projects, which leads to the large scale displacements. For any project to be sustainable and inclusive the benefits have to be equally distributed,” said Madhuresh Kumar, convener of  the National Alliance of Peoples Movement, who has worked on displacement issues in the Narmada Valley. Susana Barria. Project Coordinator, Public Service International, gives example of the promotion of the rooftop solar panels as a strategy to reduce displacement. She further says that since AIIB and NDB will only facilitate the norms of the dominant global financial systems, we can not expect much from them to work in peoples favor.
The convention was addressed by the subject experts like Nagesh Prabhu, Prof. Biswajit Dhar, Leo Saldhana, Susana Barria, Atul Bhardwaj, Caio Borges, Soumya Dutta, Ram Wangkheirakpam, Himanshu Damle, Benny Kuruvilla, Joe Athialy, Madhuresh Kumar among others. This will be followed by a press conference by Madhuresh Kumar, Soumya Dutta, Caio Borges and Susana Barria. The convention was attended by the civil society organizations from all the BRICS countries and states as far as Manipur, Kerala, MP in India.
The upcoming Second Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the New Development Bank will discuss the strategy plans over three days in Delhi during March 31-April 2, 2017. It was decided during the convention that the Peoples Forum on BRICS will bring out a declaration as a response to the outcomes of Second Annual Meeting.


1 April 2017, Kuala Lumpur/ Hong Kong/Bangkok/ – ABU, CASBAA and UNICEF are calling for entries for the 17th Asia-Pacific Child Rights Award from broadcasters and producers in the region.
Programmes both for children and about children are eligible and can cover any children’s rights issue. Entries can include documentaries that detail the plight of children, dramas that help break down stereotypes and discrimination, or animation that teaches and entertains.
Entries must have been broadcast between June 2016 and June 2017 and must be received by 30 June 2017.  The Award will be presented during the CASBAA Convention in Macau in early November 2017.

Eligible countries/territories: Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Republic of Korea, DPR Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand , Timor-Leste,  Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
This competition is open to all ABU and CASBAA members in the Asia-Pacific region. A full list of countries can be found on the website.
To join the competition, please submit your entries) online at
Brochure of this year’s Award:
For more information, please visit or contact  Details on the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be found at

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Asia–Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU)

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