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US urged to scrutinise visa waiver programme following Paris terrorist attack. Sint Maarteners fall under the program

SINT MAARTEN/UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - Last week's terrorist attacks in Paris, France could lead to a further tightening of the US visa waiver programme, used by more than 19 million visitors a year. 

Sint Maarteners and other members of the Kingdom of the Netherlands also fall within the aforementioned programme when traveling to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States of America for shopping, vacation or visiting friends and family, according to an analysis by Soualiga Newsday.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein this week described the programme as 'the Achilles heel of America' and called for it to come under scrutiny.

She said there was a danger that terrorists could go abroad for training and enter the US via a country from where they wouldn't need to apply for a visa.

Citizens of several countries, including the UK, can enter the US for up to 90 days without visas, although they are required to fill out a visa waiver form online.

"I think there are sleeper cells, not only in France, but certainly in other countries, and, yes, even in our own," said Feinstein, a former chair of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee. "I think we need to take a look at the visa waiver program again, and see what we can do to prevent this kind of thing from happening, because I believe it will happen, if it hasn't already."

The program has been an effective tool in promoting business and leisure travel to the US.

A congressional report said 19.1 million people used the program in 2012, representing 40% of all overseas visitors. (TravelMole)

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Remove Unnecessary Roadblocks as Private Sector Greatest Source of Jobs says World Bank President. Global Economic Expansion for 2015 Forecasted to be 3 per cent

INTERNATIONAL – After an economically disappointing 2014, developing countries can expect an uptick in growth in the new year as soft oil prices, a stronger United States economy, and continued low global interest rates help fuel their recovery, according to a new flagship study issued by the World Bank Group.

The biannualGlobal Economic Prospectsreport, released recently, projects a global economic expansion of 3 per cent for 2015, 3.3 per cent for 2016, and 3.2 per cent in 2017 – a boost following last year’s anaemic 2.6 per cent growth.

At the same time, the report adds, developing countries are expected to surge from last year’s 4.4 per cent growth to 4.8 per cent in 2015 and then strengthen to a more robust 5.4 per cent by 2017.

“In this uncertain economic environment, developing countries need to judiciously deploy their resources to support social programs with a laser-like focus on the poor and undertake structural reforms that invest in people,” explained World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a news releasemarking the report’s launch.

“It’s also critical for countries to remove any unnecessary roadblocks for private sector investment,” Mr. Kim continued. “The private sector is by far the greatest source of jobs and that can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”

Despite the positive developments, the report paints a largely mixed picture depicting both the growing momentum of economic activity in the United States and the United Kingdom amid healing labour markets and a stuttering recovery in the Eurozone and Japan.

In addition, a number of risks continue to overshadow the potential of full global recovery, particularly weak global trade, possible financial market volatility, the strain low oil prices will place on oil-producing countries, and the risk of prolonged stagnation or deflation in the Eurozone or Japan.

“Worryingly, the stalled recovery in some high-income economies and even some middle-income countries may be a symptom of deeper structural malaise,” cautioned Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. “As population growth has slowed in many countries, the pool of younger workers is smaller, putting strains on productivity.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Basu added, there are “some silver linings behind the clouds.”

“The lower oil price, which is expected to persist through 2015, is lowering inflation worldwide and is likely to delay interest rate hikes in rich countries. This creates a window of opportunity for oil-importing countries, such as China and India,” he said, noting the World Bank’s expectations for India’s growth to rise to 7 per cent by 2016.

The developing world and large middle-income countries are, in fact, expected to benefit from lower oil prices. In Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, the fall in oil prices will help lower inflation and reduce current account deficits. Meanwhile, exporting countries, such as Russia, can expect their economies to contract as a result, prompting opportunities for wide-scale structural reforms.

“Lower oil prices will lead to sizeable real income shifts from oil-exporting to oil-importing developing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, Director of Development Prospects at the World Bank.

“For both exporters and importers, low oil prices present an opportunity to undertake reforms that can increase fiscal resources and help broader environmental objectives.”

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2015 presents historic opportunity to improve people’s lives, says UN Assembly President

INTERNATIONAL – The next several months will present a historic opportunity to agree on an “inspiring” agenda that will directly improve the lives of people around the world, United Nations General Assembly President Sam Kutesa said on January 14 as he outlined his objectives for 2015.

{SOUALIGA NEWSDAY COMMENT ANALYSIS: Sint Maarten as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands should also use its influence within the Kingdom where it concerns international issues being dealt with by the UN which will also impact the country as well such as climate change and the war on terrorism.  The global successes by the UN are also successes for country Sint Maarten besides the 193-member assembly which Sint Maarten not a direct member is of.  The many issues covered in this story directly and indirectly impact the welfare and wellbeing country Sint Maarten.}

“As we embark on the critical task of formulating an inclusive and transformative post-2015 development agenda, I call on Member States to approach the negotiations with a positive and constructive spirit,” Mr. Kutesatoldthe 193-Member Assembly on the afternoon of January 14.

During his briefing, he looked back at the world body’s achievements during the last half of 2014, spotlighting, among others: the unprecedented international response to the Ebola crisis, and the historic establishment of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER); the endorsement of the outcome of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and completion of preparatory work for intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Looking ahead, he said the success of the new development agenda will depend on Member States’ ability to match ambitions with adequate means of implementation, he added, emphasizing that it will be critical to ensure coherence between the elaboration of the post-2015 agenda and the preparatory process for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July.

On climate change, Mr. Kutesa said the 20th session of theConference of the Parties (COP 20)to the landmark UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, Peru, last month, laid the groundwork for a universal and meaningful agreement to be finalized in Paris in December this year.

Meanwhile, the upcomingThird World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, scheduled for Japan in March, is expected to result in a post-2015 framework dealing with that issue, with a view to enhancing preparedness and strengthening countermeasures to climate-related disasters.

The devastating Ebola epidemic is another issue of major concern for the General Assembly, Mr. Kutesa said. “Throughout the crisis, the efforts of national governments have been heroic, as have been those of humanitarian staff, nurses, doctors, burial workers and ordinary civilians.”

But, he added: “We must redouble our efforts and remain seized of the crisis as the most affected countries face the devastating, long-term implications of the epidemic.” It is equally important to foster cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.

Peace and security, which the Assembly President said lies “at the very heart” of the UN’s mission, came under jeopardy in 2014 with the myriad conflicts worldwide serving as stark reminders of the need for peaceful settlement of disputes. To that end, the Arms Trade Treaty’s (ATT) coming into force on 24 December certainly contributed to arms control.

The brutal terrorist attacks carried out by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram; the murders of school children in Pakistan; and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris, Nigeria and elsewhere have put in sharp focus the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, Mr. Kutesa said.

The UN must re-double its efforts to combat extremism and terrorism in all their forms, he said, emphasizing that there is no justification for such attacks.

On the promotion of equal rights, Mr. Kutesa recalled that the current 69th session of the General Assembly marks the 20th anniversary of theBeijing Conference on Women. This would provide a good opportunity to give even greater focus to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 agenda, he added.

Mr. Kutesa said he also looked forward to the unveiling of thePermanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Tradein March, as part of theInternational Decade for People of African Descent, launched by the Assembly last month.

Also this year, the United Nations will celebrate its 70th anniversary. It is therefore critical to consider reform and ways to strengthen the Organization so that is it better able to meet the world’s increasingly complex challenges. Security Council reform remains a priority. On revitalizing the General Assembly itself, Mr. Kutesa said that the recurring challenges in the completion of the work of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) should be addressed.

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Journalism after ‘Charlie’: in Paris, UNESCO hosts day of reflection, free speech debate

INTERNATIONAL – In the wake of last week’s attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the United Nations agency mandated to protect free expression hosted at its Paris headquarters a day of reflection and held a wide-ranging debate on press freedom on January 14.

“The attack againstCharlie Hebdowas an attack against freedom of expression, a pillar of this shared vision, whose flag bearers are journalists,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as she opened the proceedings.

Participating in theeventwere members of French and international media, UNESCO Member States, opinion-makers and journalism schools. The programme was opened by Ms. Bokova and leading French cartoonist Plantu.

This event follows last week’s deadly terrorist assault on the editorial staff atCharlie Hebdo, and the subsequent hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Seventeen people were killed in those attacks.

In her remarks, Ms. Bokova expressed alarm at the deliberate attack on journalists.

“The numbers are staggering. Every seven days, one journalist is killed for doing his or her job. Nine of ten cases go unpunished. This is simply unacceptable,” the Director-General said.

“As the United Nations agency mandated to protect freedom of expression and press freedom, UNESCO stands up every time a journalist is killed and we call for effective justice,” she said.

Today’s event included two roundtable discussions with media companies on the safety of journalists, and on the vital role played by media in nurturing public debate, promoting dialogue and building bridges.

The first discussion featured several media officials, including Swedish journalist Magnus Falkhed, Janine Di Giovani, Middle East Editor ofNewsweek, Georges Malbrunot from the French dailyLe Figaro, John Ralston Saul, President of PEN International, Omar Belhouchet, a journalist withEl Watanand Ernest Sagaga, head of Human Rights and Safety at the International Federation of Journalists.

The second round table on “Intercultural Dialogue and Fragmented Societies” examined ways to advance respect for diversity and freedom of expression and how to build mutual understanding and tolerance across different media.

Participating in that dialogue was President of the French Constitutional Council Robert Badinter, Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia, the Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris Dalil Boubakeur, and Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun.

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Making Cities Resilient – My City is Getting Ready

INTERNATIONAL – Eight cities in Central Asia and the Caucasus, including capitals Tbilisi and Bishkek, have signed on to strengthen community resilience by integrating disaster risk reduction into their national and local policy, representing a big boost for the United Nations initiative which already has over 2,400 participants worldwide.

The global campaign,Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!, launched in 2010 for a period of five years until 2015, is promoted by the Geneva-based UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

“The campaign helps participants to become better organized and to identify key priorities for action for risk reduction. They can also benefit from the shared experience of other participants facing similar challenges. It is a very dynamic and interactive campaign,”saidMadhavi Malalgoda Ariyabandu, UNISDR regional coordinator.

UNISDR’s initiative, now in partnership with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), is titled “Strengthened Disaster Risk Reduction in Central Asia and the Caucasus through greater fostering of the Hyogo Framework for Action priorities.”

The eight cities to sign up are Noyemberyan and Berd in Armenia; Tbilisi and Gori in Georgia; Oskemen and Ridder in Kazakhstan; and Bishkek and Kara-Kol in Kyrgyzstan.

“These cities and towns are committing to a ten-point checklist of actions which help them to become resilient to disasters and to manage their growth in a sustainable way,” said Ms. Ariyabandu.

The worldwide campaign is based on10 essentialsfor developing local resilience, which in turn build on the five priorities for action of theHyogo Framework for Action(HFA), endorsed by UN Member States for the period 2005-2015.

Central Asia and the Caucasus are exposed to a range of natural and technological hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, mud and debris flows, avalanches, floods, drought and extreme temperatures inflicting serious human and economic losses. Risks and exposure to risk are exacerbated by the rapid growth of urban population and climate change.

Over the 30-year period from 1980, 14 million people were affected by 131 major disaster events with economic losses of $3.8 billion. The destructive earthquake in Spitak, Armenia in 1988 and the extreme cold spell across Central Asia in 2008, prove the importance of strengthening communities.

To address these challenges, the campaign will aim to build local capacity to assess risks of natural hazards, update action plans which are disaster risk inclusive, increase accessibility of international expertise in disaster risk reduction, and foster exchange of experiences between municipalities and local governments.

A post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction is expected to be approved at aworld conference, in March 2015, in Sendai, Japan, emphasizing the need to continue to work to strengthen community resilience, particularly in municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants.

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Five years on, Haiti’s earthquake victims honoured, looks ahead to brighter future

HAITI/SINT MAARTEN - Marking the anniversary of the massive earthquake that struck Haiti five years ago on Monday, January 12, 2015,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon has paid tribute to the more than 200,000 victims, including 102 United Nations personnel, who perished, and declared that in sorrow, there is the promise of hope that the progress achieved by the Haitian people in the wake of the tragic event could be built upon.

“I vividly recall the devastation and suffering I witnessed during my visits to Haiti in the aftermath of the catastrophe. The sense of grief remains fresh in our minds,saidthe Secretary-General in a message on the sombre occasion.

“Today, we honour the memories of the daughters and sons, fathers and mothers, friends and loved ones who lost their lives. We also pay homage to those who survived and whose resilience and commitment are a source of inspiration to the world,” he said.

Mr. Ban recalled that last week, he had the honour of unveiling a memorial for UN colleagues who died on that terrible day. “Today, I ask that we join together to celebrate their lives and contributions to Haiti and its people. We remain eternally grateful for their sacrifices.”

Yet the Secretary-General pointed out that in sorrow, there is the promise of hope. Last year, he returned to Haiti and had seen the progress that has been achieved. He commended the Haitian people for their perseverance and urged the international community to continue its invaluable support for the benefit and future of all Haitians.

“Haiti's recovery has not been easy. There have been – and continue to be – setbacks along the way, and there is much work still to be done to ensure political and institutional stability, democratic governance and sustainable development,” said the UN chief.

“However, let today be a day of remembrance and one of hope for a stable and prosperous Haiti. Together, let us strive towards a bright future for Haiti,” he concluded.

In an interview withUN Radio, General Jose Luiz Jaborandy, Jr., Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the country (MINUSTAH), said that throughout its 11 year history, the Mission had always stood with the people and Government of Haiti. In 2010, he said, both the country and MINUSTAH had suffered a great tragedy, and today was a day to celebrate their sacrifice in the name of peace.

“So, we are here, with the people and to [support] the national authorities to regain the path to the future; looking forward in a positive way, for the benefit of the Haitian people,” he said.

On the political situation, General Jaborandy expressed hope that the national authorities would show willingness to build a consensus to overcome the current impasse and to begin working had to provide the stability and resources that the Haitian people need for the future.

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INTERPOL issues Red Notices for former Ukrainian leaders

SINT MAARTEN/LYON, France – At the request of Ukrainian authorities Red Notices, or international wanted persons alerts, have been issued for four individuals including former President Victor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

The Red Notices, for charges including embezzlement and misappropriation, were issued on Monday 12 January 2015 following a thorough review by INTERPOL’s Office of Legal Affairs to ensure that Ukraine’s request for the notices was in compliance with the Organization’s rules and regulations.

Two other Red Notices linked to the case have also been issued for former Minister of Finance Iiuri Kolobov and Georgii Dzekon.

These Red Notices are not connected to a previous request made by Ukraine in March 2014 for a Red Notice to be issued for Victor Yanukovych on charges including abuse of power and murder. This request was assessed by INTERPOL as not compliant with the Organization’s rules and regulations and was refused.

A Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant and INTERPOL cannot compel any member country to arrest the subject of a Red Notice.

Red Notices are one of the ways in which INTERPOL informs its member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual by a judicial authority. A Red Notice seeks the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.

Sint Maarten is a member of INTERPOL since October 31, 2011, and has a National Central Bureau – INTERPOL Philipsburg.  INTERPOL has 190 member countries.

The individuals concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions (or International Criminal Tribunals, where appropriate) and INTERPOL’s role is to assist national police forces in identifying or locating those individuals with a view to their arrest and extradition.

Red Notices are only issued to INTERPOL member countries if the requesting National Central Bureau has provided all the information required by the General Secretariat.

Any request by a member country for INTERPOL to issue a Red Notice is subject to the Organization’s rules and regulations. This includes Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution, according to which it is ‘strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.’ This prohibition is taken extremely seriously by INTERPOL.

Many of INTERPOL’s member countries however, consider a Red Notice a valid request for provisional arrest, especially if they are linked to the requesting country via a bilateral extradition treaty.

INTERPOL’s General Secretariat does not send officers to arrest individuals who are the subject of a Red Notice. Only the national authorities of the INTERPOL member country where the individual is located have the legal authority to arrest.

In cases where arrests are made based on a Red Notice, these are made by national police officials in INTERPOL member countries.

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World Bank says Ebola puts future prosperity of Liberia, Sierra Leone ‘at high risk’

INTERNATIONAL – Job losses and food insecurity are among the far-reaching and persistent socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the results of two new World Bank Group surveys released on Monday, January 12.

“[Ebola’s] socio-economic side effects put the current and future prosperity of households in Liberia and Sierra Leone at high risk,”saidAna Revenga, Senior Director for Poverty at the World Bank Group. “We must pay careful attention to those who are most vulnerable to both health and economic shocks, and ensure that they are supported throughout and after the crisis.”

The Liberian economy continues to shed jobs faster than they are replaced, with nearly half of household heads still out of work despite response-related jobs becoming available in construction and health fields. Most job losses are among private sector wage workers in urban areas, with women reported to be particularly vulnerable to the stagnant labour market, as they are disproportionately employed in non-farm self-employment.

In Sierra Leone, the first round of data collection found wage and non-farm self-employed workers seeing the largest declines in urban employment, with Ebola cited as the main cause. An estimated 179,000 people had stopped working outside of the agriculture sector. Most job losses were attributed to preventive efforts to limit the disease’s spread and to the general economic disruption caused by the outbreak, with quarantined and non-quarantined districts describing similar impacts.

The two reports found food insecurity persisting in both countries, with two-thirds of Liberian households reporting a lack of money to afford rice, regardless of price, three quarters indicating they worried about having enough to eat, and 80 per cent citing lack of money rather than availability or high prices.

No evidence was found on Ebola’s direct negative impacts on agriculture in Sierra Leone but harvest activities there were ongoing and future surveys are planned which will track any Ebola-related effects if and when they arise.

Over 80 per cent of those responding to the mobile phone survey in Liberia reported reduced harvests compared to last year, with the main concern the inability to organize work teams given Ebola fears. The same issue was cited as the main reason for incomplete harvests.

The survey showed some evidence of reduced use of health services for non-Ebola conditions in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, with a much lower proportion of women reporting for post-natal clinic visits there compared to 2013. Elsewhere in the country there was little evidence of such a decline.

“From a poverty perspective, we are particularly concerned about households being forced into coping strategies that may harm their long term prospects to improve welfare, and now we can follow this in almost real time,” said Kristen Himelein, the World Bank Group’s poverty economist for Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“These high frequency surveys have been enormously helpful in bridging the gap between country-level growth analysis and the observations from those on the ground as part of the response,” she added.

The surveys are part of the World Bank’s $1 billion outbreak response and complement previous analysis that pointed to a possible $32.6 billion regional economic impact, which could catastrophic for these already fragile States. The surveys will continue in both countries, monitoring Ebola’s effects on economies and households and aiming to help Governments tackle the most pressing economic issues and plan the recovery.

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Study finds increase in women managers, urges greater efforts for workforce equality

INTERNATIONAL – The last 20 years has seen a surge in the number of women employed in senior and middle management positions, according to a new United Nations report, which notes that although all-male company boards are decreasing in number, more must be done to achieve gender parity.

The study, released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and entitledWomen in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum, covers 80 of the 108 countries for which ILO data is available.

It finds that over the past two decades women have attained 20 per cent or more of all board seats in a handful of countries: Norway, which, at 13.3 per cent, boasts the highest global proportion of companies with a woman as company chairperson, is closely followed by Turkey at 11.1 per cent.

“Our research is showing that women’s ever increasing participation in the labour market has been the biggest engine of global growth and competitiveness,” said Deborah France-Massin, Director of the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities, in apress release.

“An increasing number of studies are also demonstrating positive links between women’s participation in top decision-making teams and structures and business performance,” Ms. France-Massin continued, adding that nonetheless there remained “a long way to go” before true gender equality in the workplace is achieved, particularly in top management positions.

Despite the headway made in equalizing the gender gap at management levels, only five per cent or less of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporation are women, the report points out, adding that the larger the company, the less likely it is that a woman will be at its head.

“It is critical for more women to reach senior management positions in strategic areas to build a pool of potential candidates for top jobs such as CEO or company presidents,” the ILO official explained, indicating that so-called ‘glass walls’ still existed with a concentration of women remaining in certain types of management functions like human resources, communications, and administration.

In addition, the report’s findings show that women own and manage over 30 per cent of all businesses but that they are more likely to be found in micro and small enterprises. As a result, helping women grow their businesses remains not only critical for increasing gender equality but also for overall national economic development.

According to the report, Jamaica has the highest proportion of women managers at 59.3 per cent while Yemen has the least with 2.1 per cent. For its part, the United States is in 15th place in the list of 108 countries with 42.7 per cent women managers while the United Kingdom is in 41st place with 34.2 per cent.

Further action in reducing gender equality is critical, Ms. France-Massin said, warning that without it, “it could take 100 to 200 years to achieve parity at the top.”

The report thus outlines a number of recommendations to close the remaining gender gap, including seeking ‘flexible solutions’ to manage work and family time commitments as an alternative to being subject to special treatment or quotas; providing maternity protection coverage and childcare support for professional women; ‘changing mind-sets’ to break cultural barriers and fight sexual harassment; and implementing gender-sensitive human resources policies and measures.

“It is time to smash the glass ceiling for good to avoid controversial mandatory quotas that are not always necessary or effective,” said Ms. France-Massin. “Having women in top positions is simply good for business.”

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In India, UN commits to promote Gandhi's vision of peace, tolerance, dignity for all

INTERNATIONAL – Growing radicalization, fundamentalism and extremism demand a renewed emphasis of Mahatma Gandhi's ideals – both spiritual and political,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon said in Gujarat on Sunday, January 11th, pledging the ongoing commitment of the United Nations to promote tolerance, and ensure justice and dignity for all.

“Divisive politics and sectarian incitement have no place in our modern world. As Gandhi reminded us, 'There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect the other faiths as our own,'” said Mr. Ban in remarks at Sbarmati Gandhi Ashram, which houses a library and museum chronicling the life, work, and teachings of the legendary leader of India's independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.

Indeed,continuedthe Secretary-General, there is great strength in diversity – and countries that celebrate diversity and embrace every single individual are the ones to shape a secure and stable world, and he looked to India – “a large, diverse and vibrant democracy – to be a champion of the rights, dignity and equality of all people.”

Mr. Ban said that like so many people around the world, he has long admired Mahatma Gandhi and has been personally guided by his teachings, especially his description of “Seven Social Sins”: politics without principles; wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice.

“This vision transcends all borders. Gandhi's compassion embraces all people. I myself have been putting in my best efforts and asking all leaders, far and wide, to live by his teachings,” said Mr. Ban, adding that Gandhi's emphasis on the poor is reflected today in the work of the United Nations to end poverty and build a peaceful world of dignity for all.

“We will succeed only if the memory of Gandhi’s unyielding fights against injustice burns bright in our hearts,” he said, noting that the United Nations marks Gandhi's birthday as theInternational Day of Non-Violence– “and we defend his ideals every day of the year.”

Touching on Gandhi's inspiring and enduring legacy, Mr. Ban said that he would never forget seeing well-worn copies of Gandhi's books at an exhibition of the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Nelson Mandela also deeply admired Gandhi. Mandela said Gandhi symbolized hope that when all South Africans are treated as equals, the country would be at peace.”

“The same holds true for our world,” said the Secretary-General, emphasizing: “Mahatma Gandhi preached and followed the message of peace, non-violence and communal harmony. It is a common value that the United Nations promotes and asks leaders near and far to put into practice – from here in Gujarat to the world.”

The ashram is one of the first stops on his three-day visit to India, and later in the day, as he addressed the 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit, a bi-annual event that brings together political and business leaders, investors, and corporations, Mr. Ban expressed the hope that the participants and all the world's people would be inspired by Gandhi's vision and teachings.

He alsostressedthat 2015 must be a year for global action. “We must change course if we are to avoid even greater damage to ourselves and to our planet,” said Mr. Ban, explaining that like the gathered leaders, he too must emphasize the importance of his mandate, and, as UN Secretary-General, he must spotlight 2015 as “most important and crucial for humanity.”

This is because there are three important priorities that must be achieved during the year, which also marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations: making the final push to achieve the landmark UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); crafting a post-2015 development agenda with a set of sustainable development goals; and agreeing on a universal and meaningful climate change agreement in December in Paris.

With all this in mind, the Secretary-General said the world had a very important enabling factor that would help in reaching those objectives: the upcoming UN conference on financing for development, set to be held in July in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That and other meetings throughout the year would aim at mutually reinforcing goals: to map out a new era of development that strengthens equity and fosters inclusive growth and climate action.

On the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. BanthankedIndia for its significant contribution to UN peacekeeping operations, as well as to the Organizations conflict prevention and humanitarian efforts. The two also discussed, among others, the need for action on climate change, the post-2015 development agenda, and regional issues.

The UN chief also met with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, and the two leadersdiscussed international peace and security issues, including UN efforts to address the crisis in Libya, the urgency of returning to negotiations to achieve a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the need for progress on nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.

Also today, Mr. Ban inaugurated in Gujarat the Canal Top Solar Power Plant, where, looking out over the massive facility, hesaid: “I saw more than glittering panels – I saw the future of India and the future of our world. I saw India's bright creativity, ingenuity and cutting-edge technology. And I saw the leadership on sustainable development of Prime Minister Modi when he was the Chief Minister in Gujarat.”

Speaking to reporters, the UN chief commend India for having made significant strides in meeting MDG targets, particularly in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, in eliminating polio, and in reducing child and maternal mortality. “But…we have to admit, that most of the developing countries have not fully accomplished the [Goals].”

“That's why the Member States are now very seriously working to find another set of goals, what we [call] the sustainable development goals. These…goals [are] aiming to address three dimensions of the world and our lives – the economic dimension, social dimension and environmental dimension. [They] cover all spectrums of our lives,” he said, noting that Member States are shortly set to begin final negotiations on the new targets in the months leading up to a major UN summit in September 2015.

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