Diplomatic briefs

07-06-2013 04:12 PM

Mary Fikry -Antoun Milad

Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity
The Near East and North Africa Region (NENA) faces the challenge of addressing a wide range of complex and intertwined issues associated with the management of natural resources,

particularly land and water, and to securing food supply for a growing population. To address these challenges, FAO has launched a regional “Initiative on Water Scarcity in the Near East”. The overall goal is to support member countries in streamlining priority areas of action in agriculture water management that can significantly contribute to boosting agriculture productivity, improving food security and sustaining water resources, by highlighting the specific areas that require action and building partnerships to move the process forward.
On 4 June a workshop was held in Cairo to discuss the initiative. Participants pointed out that the NENA includes 5.4 per cent of the world population, whereas its water resources are only 0.5 per cent of the global resources.
The initiative will inject fresh thinking into the process of finding sustainable solutions to water scarcity and food security problems through facilitating the implementation of cost-effective water investments and management practices, based on FAO’s publication “Coping with Water Scarcity: an Action Framework for Agriculture and Food Security”. 
US criticises Egypt sentencing of NGO workers
The US secretary of state has harshly criticised the sentencing of dozens of non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers in Egypt. John Kerry described the conviction and sentencing by an Egyptian court last week of 43 foreign nationals as “incompatible with the transition to democracy”, and said the trial was politically motivated.
“The decision to close these organisations’ offices and seize their assets contradicts the government of Egypt’s commitments to support the role of civil society as a fundamental actor in a democracy,” Kerry said.
The court sentenced the group of Americans, Europeans, Egyptians and other Arabs in a case against democracy promotion groups. 
Beginning in late 2011, Egypt’s crackdown on organisations which included US-based groups linked to America’s two main political parties caused outrage in Washington, which supplies Cairo with USD1.3bn in military aid each year.
The government said the NGOs were operating illegally in Egypt and complained that, following the 2011 Revolution, the US government had diverted USD150m from its Egypt aid budget to these NGOs, breaking bilateral agreements.
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Saudi dates for Egypt’s WFP
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has delivered more than 561 tons of dates to the United Nations World Food Program in support of the program’s projects in Egypt.
In a statement, the program’s Egypt office said Saudi Arabia was always a forerunner of providing assistance to Egypt’s WFP office, saying that dates offered will help provide yet another food full of nutrition to the needy in Egypt.
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French firm modernises Egyptian railways
The French firm Thales has signed with the Egyptian National Railways a contract valued at over 109 million Euros for the modernisation of the signalling systems on the Cairo-
The Cairo-Alexandria railway line is approximately 208 km long and is currently the busiest section of the Egyptian Railways network, carrying more than 25 million passengers per year.
Thales signed a turnkey contract including the design, supply, construction, phasing, commissioning and maintenance services. It covers the modernisation of the signalling as well as the telecommunication system and centralised traffic control. The Thales signalling solution will enhance the safety and the capacity of the line, allowing an expected 32 million passengers to use it every year. The speeds of the trains will increase from 140 km/hr to 160 km/hr, the headways between trains will decrease from 10 to 5 minutes. The construction will take four years.
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 UN honours Egyptian peacekeepers
As part of International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the United Nations has honoured four Egyptian peacekeepers among more than 100 blue helmets killed in the line of duty in 2012.
Themed “UN Peacekeeping: Adapting to New Challenges,” the day marked the fifth successive year the UN has honoured its peacekeepers who died while serving the cause of peace, read a UN statement on Saturday.
Three of the Egyptian servicemen were killed while serving the UN in Congo and one was killed in Darfur.
“To meet emerging threats and rise to new challenges, United Nations peacekeeping is adapting its policies to better fulfil its mandates to bring lasting peace to war-torn countries,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
According to the statement, there are nearly 80,000 military personnel, 12,500 police officers and 17,000 international civilian and national staff serving in 15 peacekeeping operations on four continents.
“We salute their bravery and mourn their passing,” said Ban. “[And] we acknowledge that peacekeeping will always carry risks.” UN honours Egyptian .jpg
“I tell you a poem”
On Monday 3 June, the Theatre of the Italian Cultural Institute in Zamalek, Cairo hosted the Italian writer and poet Dacia Maraini who took part in the workshop “I tell you a poem”. Maraini read her poems to groups of students, young poets from Cairo and the general public. The workshop was held within the framework of the project “Kalam le-l shabab/Words of Youth: Youth, Creativity and Poetry in Today’s Egypt”, co-funded by the European Union, 
On Tuesday 4 May, also at the Theatre of the Italian Cultural Institute in Zamalek, 
Maraini presented the Arabic version of the book La lunga vita di Marianna Ucrìa edited by Sharkiat and published in Italy in 1990. With this book Maraini was awarded the “Supercampiello” and “Book of the year 1990” prizes. The Arabic translation of the book was presented by Khairy Douma, professor of Contemporary Arabic Literature at Cairo University.
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WATANI International
7 June 2013
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