Swiss canton becomes second to ban burqas in public

Voters in the northeastern canton demanded tightening the law to punish those who cover their faces in public. (Reuters)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Swiss canton becomes second to ban burqas in public

  • Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burqas are a polarizing issue across Europe
  • The clothing has already been banned in France and Denmark

ZURICH: Voters in St. Gallen on Sunday approved by a two-thirds majority a ban on facial coverings such as the burqa, becoming the second Swiss canton to do so.
Full-face coverings such as niqabs and burqas are a polarizing issue across Europe, with some arguing that they symbolize discrimination against women and should be outlawed. The clothing has already been banned in France and Denmark.
Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, voters in the northeastern canton demanded tightening the law to punish those who cover their faces in public and thus “threaten or endanger public security or religious or social peace.”
The regional government, which had opposed the measure, now has to implement the result of the vote, which drew turnout of around 36 percent.
Switzerland’s largest Islamic organization, the Islamic Central Council, recommended women continue to cover their faces. It said it would closely monitor the implementation of the ban and consider legal action if necessary.
The Swiss federal government in June opposed a grassroots campaign for a nationwide ban on facial coverings.
The Swiss cabinet said individual cantons should decide on the matter, but it will nevertheless go to a nationwide vote after activists last year collected more than the required 100,000 signatures to trigger a referendum.
Two-thirds of Switzerland’s 8.5 million residents identify as Christians. But its Muslim population has risen to 5 percent, largely because of immigrants from former Yugoslavia.
One Swiss canton, Italian-speaking Ticino, already has a similar ban, while two others have rejected it.


Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

Updated 1 min 15 sec ago
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Global hunger crisis set back 15 years, UN report reveals 

  • The heads of the five UN agencies called for transformative measures in agrifood systems, equitable access to resources, and enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition
  • FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu: Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years

RIYADH: The 2024 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, or SOFI, report, jointly published on Wednesday by five UN agencies under the theme “Financing to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” highlighted the deepening global food crisis. 

The heads of the five UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Programme, and UNICEF — emphasized the urgent need for increased and more efficient financing to address these complex challenges. They called for transformative measures in agrifood systems, equitable access to resources, and enhanced international cooperation to mitigate the impacts of food insecurity and malnutrition.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: “Transforming agrifood systems is more critical than ever as we face the urgency of achieving the SDGs within six short years. FAO remains committed to supporting countries in their efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food security for all. 

“We will work together with all partners and with all approaches, including the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, to accelerate the needed change. Together, we must innovate and collaborate to build more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agrifood systems that can better withstand future challenges for a better world,” Qu added.

The report, unveiled during the G20 Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty Task Force Ministerial Meeting in Brazil, underscored that the international community is falling significantly short of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, zero hunger, by 2030. Highlighting a setback of 15 years in progress, the report compares current undernourishment levels to those last seen in 2008-2009.

In 2023, approximately 733 million people worldwide faced hunger, marking a continuation of the high levels observed over the past three years. This equates to one in 11 people globally, with the situation particularly dire in Africa, where one in five individuals grappled with food insecurity.

While there have been some gains in specific areas such as reducing stunting and promoting exclusive breastfeeding, the overall number of undernourished people is at a constant, ranging between 713 and 757 million in 2023. Regional disparities persist, with hunger increasing in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and several African subregions, while remaining stable in Asia and showing improvement in Latin America.

The report’s projections for 2030 suggest that around 582 million people will continue to suffer from chronic undernourishment, half of them in Africa. This mirrors levels observed in 2015 when the SDGs were adopted, indicating a plateau in progress.

Beyond hunger, the report highlights broader challenges in food security and nutrition. In 2023, 2.33 billion people faced moderate or severe food insecurity, worsened by various factors such as economic decline and climate change. 

The affordability of healthy diets is also a critical issue, particularly in low-income countries where over 71 percent of the population cannot afford adequate nutrition.

Despite gains in exclusive breastfeeding rates and reductions in child stunting, the world is still faced with many challenges. Rates of wasting among children and adult obesity are concerningly high, states the report, and indicate a double burden of malnutrition affecting global populations.

“The fastest route out of hunger and poverty is proven to be through investments in agriculture in rural areas. But the global and financial landscape has become far more complex since the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015,” said IFAD President Alvaro Lario. 

“Ending hunger and malnutrition demands that we invest more — and more smartly. We must bring new money into the system from the private sector and recapture the pandemic-era appetite for ambitious global financial reform that gets cheaper financing to the countries who need it most,’’ Lario added.

The report urges unified global action to achieve SDGs by 2030 by adopting and prioritizing innovative solutions and substantial investments to ensure that all people have access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

The SOFI report is an annual assessment providing insights into global progress toward ending hunger, improving food security, and advancing nutrition under the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its findings are intended to guide policymakers, international organizations, and the public in addressing these pressing global challenges.


10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

Updated 5 min 42 sec ago
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10 migrants drown in rushing river crossing Darien Gap in Panama

  • The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current
  • Their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto

PANAMA CITY: Ten migrants drowned trying to cross a rushing river in Panama’s Darien Gap that borders Colombia, Panamanian authorities said Wednesday.
The National Border Service said in a statement that the victims were swept away by the strong current and their bodies were later seen near the Indigenous community of Carreto.
An agency official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case said on condition of anonymity that the drownings were believed to have occurred on July 16, but the area was so remote that they were only now able to release the information.
The prosecutor’s office was investigating details, including the victims’ nationalities, the official said. More than half of the migrants crossing the Darien come from Venezuela.
More than 500,000 migrants made the treacherous crossing through the jungle-clad border in a record-setting 2023. So far this year, more than 212,000 have entered Panama through the Darien.
It is the rainy season in Panama, making the numerous rivers that migrants have to cross more dangerous.
New Panamanian President José Raúl Mulino has pledged to stop migration through the Darien with assistance from the US government.


‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

Updated 26 min 25 sec ago
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‘Competent, experienced’ Harris could win US election: Scholz

  • Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide“
  • He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically“

BERLIN: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Wednesday that it was “entirely possible” that US Vice President Kamala Harris will win November’s presidential election, describing her as “competent and experienced.”
Following 81-year-old President Joe Biden’s stunning decision to exit the race for the White House on Sunday, Harris has emerged as the virtually unchallenged frontrunner for the nomination of their Democratic party.
Scholz told reporters at his annual summer press conference in Berlin that “I think it’s entirely possible that Kamala Harris wins the election but it will be American voters who decide.”
Scholz said that Harris was “a competent and experienced politician who knows exactly what she’s doing.”
He said his own exchanges with Harris had been “conversations where she put forward her views authentically” and was not simply “saying something prepared beforehand.”
He added that Harris had “clear ideas about the role of her country in the world and the challenges that confront us.”
The US presidential race is being keenly watched by Washington’s allies in Europe, particularly due to the possibility of victory for the combative and often isolationist Donald Trump.
“What happens there is of the greatest importance for all countries in the world and of course especially for the close allies of the US in Germany and in Europe,” Scholz said.
He made clear that the relationship “cannot depend on who the president is,” saying it was his job to work with whichever administration was elected.


1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

Updated 46 min 24 sec ago
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1,000 tourists evacuated after fire in southern Italy

  • Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze
  • According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved

ROME: Around 1,000 tourists were evacuated on Wednesday after a wildfire broke out in the southern Italian region of Puglia, firefighters said.
Three Canadair water bombers and a helicopter were deployed to try to contain the blaze in a wooded coastal area in the Gargano sub-region.
“The fire is being tackled from the land and from the air,” a fire service spokesman told AFP, confirming that around 1,000 tourists had been evacuated.
According to reports, tourists from a complex near the bay of San Felice are among those moved.
Puglia attracts tourists from around the world with its clear waters, white sandy beaches and distinctive architecture.
The area hit by the fire is dominated by the Gargano National Park.
“The situation is critical,” the mayor of nearby Vieste, Giuseppe Nobiletti, had earlier told reporters, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He expressed concern that the winds were pushing the flames toward the tourist complex.
After weeks of hot weather, fires have broken out almost daily across Italy, particularly in the south and on the islands.
Two firefighters died last week fighting a blaze near Matera in Basilicata, a region that neighbors Puglia.


UAE economy ministry holds investment talks in southern India

Updated 24 July 2024
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UAE economy ministry holds investment talks in southern India

  • Investopia launched its first international event in India in 2022
  • 300 people attend sessions in Chennai on Wednesday

NEW DELHI: The UAE Ministry of Economy and the Confederation of Indian Industry on Wednesday held the Indian edition of Investopia Global Talks — a series of sessions in Chennai aimed at boosting cooperation in the new economy sectors.

Launched in 2021, Investopia is a global investment initiative by the UAE government to connect investors, business leaders and government officials and identify economic and investment opportunities. Its first global talks were held in India in 2022 and the latest sessions are the third to be held there.

UAE Economy Minister Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri led a 70-member delegation to the event. He told the 300 participants that the UAE was “at the gate to collaborate with our international partners.”

“It is imperative that we leverage our strength, we capitalize on emerging trends, embrace innovation and as a catalyst for sustainable growth, it’s imperative that we remain agile, adaptive and forward thinking.”

UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship Alia Abdulla Al-Mazrouei, who was part of the delegation, urged both UAE and Indian stakeholders to take advantage of the opportunity to explore partnerships in both markets.

“To those Indian businesses operating in new economy sectors, I invite you to capitalize on the UAE’s highly incubating environment … to grow and scale at a global level and champion technology and knowledge transfer within the ecosystem,” she said.

India-UAE relations have grown considerably since 2022, when they signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement to boost trade and investment.

Since then, the number of exchanges between the two countries has increased and trade has grown by more than 16 percent year on year, mostly in the energy, infrastructure and construction, technology and innovation, pharma and healthcare, tourism and cultural sectors.

India’s Ambassador to the UAE Sunjay Sudhir said relations between the two countries had seen “rapid progress” over the past decade, resulting in a “paradigm shift in bilateral ties.”

“Investopia has already become an important event in the calendar of Indian businesses,” he told Arab News.

“As we continue to work together, I am confident that our strategic partnership will enable our two nations to navigate complex global realities and will leave a lasting impact on regional and global stability, economic growth and governance frameworks.”

Chennai is located in Tamil Nadu, which is India’s second-largest exporter of software, after Karnataka, and known for its automobile and engineering industries. Manufacturing contributes 33 percent and agriculture 13 percent to the state’s economy.

Home to about 1.9 million small and medium-sized enterprises, the CII said Tamil Nadu could be the starting point for new collaborations.

“With the world acknowledging MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) are the backbone of the world economy and startups are the future, it is imperative we naturally collaborate on these domains,” Dr. R. Nandini, CII southern region chairperson, said.

“It is evident that the strengthening ties between India and the UAE are leading to a new era of trade and investment opportunities, innovation and sustained economic growth for both countries.”