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Gaza: Agencies (13/12/2007):The International Committee of the Red Cross is calling on Israel to lift restrictions in Gaza and the West Bank that it says are causing "enormous humanitarian cost."

The aid organization, which usually refrains from making political statements, said Palestinians have "effectively become a hostage" to the conflict.

closed most crossing points into Gaza, following fighting between Palestinian factions in June. The region suffers from frequent electrical shortages, crumbling infrastructure, lack of medications and soaring food prices.

has defended the closures and other security measures as necessary to prevent militant rocket attacks on Israeli settlements.

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UN:12 December 2007 – The world is counting on a breakthrough at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told delegates today at the summit, calling the fight against global warming “the moral challenge of our generation.”

In a speech at the opening of the Conference’s high-level segment, he said that “what the world expects from Bali – from all of you – is an agreement to launch negotiations towards a comprehensive climate change agreement.”

Mr. Ban underscored the importance of creating a road map to tackle climate change and a timeline to produce a new agreement by 2009 so that it can enter into force after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

“Let us turn the climate crisis into a climate compact,” he said, informing the delegates that they have been given a “clear charge” by the world to produce a breakthrough.

“Not only are the eyes of the world upon us – more important, succeeding generations depend on us. We cannot rob our children of their future.”

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UN: 11 December 2007 – As efforts over recent years to improve the lives of children show both considerable progress and the need for further action, the General Assembly today kicked off a special event at United Nations Headquarters focusing on building a world that is truly fit for every child.

Participants have gathered in New York for an Assembly session to review progress towards “A World Fit for Children” – a landmark plan of action agreed by world leaders in 2002 to improve the well-being of children.

Five years ago governments committed to a set of time-bound and specific goals in four priority areas concerning children: promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV/AIDS.

The Assembly’s two-day high-level meeting, known as “A World Fit for Children+5” will examine advances and setbacks in child well-being, and is expected to conclude with the adoption of a declaration reaffirming global and national commitments to the goals set in 2002.

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UN: 10 December 2007 The freedoms upheld in the historic United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be enjoyed by everyone, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on the occasion of Human Rights Day.

The Day also kicked off a year-long UN system-wide campaign, with the theme “Dignity and Justice for All of Us,” to raise awareness of the Declaration, which turns 60 on 10 December 2008.

“The Declaration remains as relevant today as it did on the day it was adopted,” Mr. Ban said. “But the fundamental freedoms enshrined in it are still not a reality for everyone. Too often, Governments lack the political will to implement international norms they have willingly accepted.”

He said that this year leading up to the 60th anniversary of the landmark document provides an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to ensure that the Declaration’s freedoms apply to all.

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8 December 2007 – Renewable energy is increasingly being used as a mainstream alternative to the fossil fuels which are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says in a new report.

The REN21 Renewables Global Status Report 2007 says that out of a total global power capacity of 4,300 Gigawatts (GW), renewable energy (without large hydro) now provides about 240 GW of clean power, avoiding some 5 gigatonnes per year (Gt/year) of carbon emissions.

“What’s needed now are binding targets in an international agreement to establish polices that can rapidly accelerate the large-scale deployment of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels”, said Mohamed El Ashry, head of the global policy network REN21 that produced the report with the Worldwatch Institute.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which houses the REN21 secretariat, said renewable energy “can make a significant contribution to de-carbonizing the global economy” and called on Governments “to send market signals that will accelerate the use of renewable energy even further.”

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UN: 6 December 2007 – Citing the need for medicines better tailored to children’s needs, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today unveiled plans for further research and development into child medicine.

The agency presented its new initiative at the London launch of the “make medicines child size” campaign. Spearheaded by WHO, the campaign aims to raise awareness and spur action to address the need to ensure that all children under the age of 15 have better access to medicines appropriate for them.

Greater efforts are needed in this area given that many medicines available today are not developed for children or available in suitable dosages or formats. When they are available, they are not reaching the children who need them most, notes WHO.

“The gap between the availability and the need for child-appropriate medicines touches wealthy as well as poor countries,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “As we strive for equitable access to scientific progress in health, children must be one of our top priorities.”

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BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq and the United Nations on Tuesday launched an emergency plan to assist returning refugees, as the Baghdad government appealed to Iraqis living in Europe not to join the homeward flow yet.

The first phase of the Rapid Response Plan, UN special representative in Iraq Staffan de Mistura told a news conference in Baghdad, aims to assist 5,000 families, or around 30,000 people, with an immediate relief package.

"The response can be expanded to assist an increased number of returnees or other vulnerable groups," he said.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner (UNHCR) had joined the effort even though it believed the security situation in Iraq is still too fragile for a widescale homecoming, Mistura said.

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UN: 5 December 2007 – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ( UNESCO) today marked the 75th anniversary of the Index Translationum, a comprehensive database of the world’s translated works.

The discussion will be on the topic “Measuring translation flows: what for?” and is being held with the participation of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (INALCO), according to a press release issued by UNESCO.

The index, which currently has some 1,700,000 entries listing more than 250,000 authors, contains cumulative bibliographical information on books translated and published in some 800 languages in about 130 UNESCO Member States since 1979. Updated every four months, it is now accessible online and used by librarians, archivists, researchers, editors, journalists, translators and others.

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UN: 5 December 2007 – The head of the United Nations probe into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri is “more confident and optimistic than ever that the investigation can be concluded successfully,” he told the Security Council today, explaining that his team has been able to answer many key questions regarding the February 2005 attack.

Serge Brammertz – who will step down later this month as head of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) – said he could not yet predict when the inquiry into the massive car bombing in downtown Beirut, which killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others, would be wrapped up.

“Conducting an investigation is never an exact science,” he said in a briefing on the latest report of the IIIC. “The completion of the investigation will depend on the final results of several ongoing projects and on the cooperation of all States,” adding that it also relied on the willingness of additional witnesses to come forward.

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UN: 3 December 2007 – The United Nations agency tasked with ensuring decent work for all called today for greater efforts to break down the barriers that still prevent millions of people with disabilities from fully participating in the labour market, citing a strong link between disability and poverty.

In a new report entitled “The Right to Decent Work of Persons with Disabilities,” the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that although much has been accomplished in recent years to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, millions around the world continue to suffer violations of their rights.

They tend to experience high unemployment, underemployment, have lower earnings than persons without disabilities and often drop out of the labour market completely, according to the report – released today for the International Day of Disabled Persons, which this year focuses on the goal of decent work for people with disabilities.

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