Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
Speaker of Libyan House of Representatives, UN Special Adviser on Libya and President of Libya's High State Council of State give a press conference at the UN in Geneva. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2022

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
  • Two senior Libyan officials from the country's rival camps have begun talks on constitutional arrangements for elections

GENEVA: Two senior Libyan officials began two days of talks Tuesday on constitutional arrangements for elections, the latest UN effort to bridge gaps between the country’s rivals.
Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of the country’s east-based parliament, and Khaled Al-Meshri, head of the government’s Supreme Council of State, based in the west, in the capital of Tripoli, met at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
According to the United Nations, the talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, said they would discuss “timelines, modalities and milestones to guarantee a clear path to the holding of national elections as soon possible.”
“It is now the time to make a final and courageous effort to ensure that this historic compromise takes place, for the sake of Libya, the Libyan people and the credibility of its institutions,” she said.
The criteria for a presidential candidacy were a contentious point in the talks, according to Libyan media. The Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personal from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are loyal to the east-based administration.
Haftar had announced his bid in elections slated for last December but the vote was not held because of myriad issues, including controversial hopefuls who had announced bids and disputes about election laws.
There are growing tensions on the ground, and sporadic clashes between rival militias recently erupted in Tripoli. Living conditions have also deteriorated, mainly because of fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest field.
The blockade was largely meant to cut off key state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down even though the vote was not held in December.
Now, Dbeibah and another prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, appointed by the east-based parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power. The rivalry has sparked fears the oil-rich country could slide back to fighting after tentative steps toward unity last year.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.


Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services
Updated 10 sec ago

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services

Journalists lament proposed closure of BBC foreign-language services
  • BBC Arabic radio, others face ax as broadcaster moves to digital-first
  • 382 jobs also set to go in $31m cost-cutting exercise

DUBAI: The BBC’s announcement that it is set to end several of its foreign-language services, including BBC Arabic radio station, has been met with disappointment around the world.

Channel 4 News’ international editor Lindsey Hilsum said on Twitter that “people rely on these radio language services for fair and balanced news they can’t get elsewhere.”

This was especially critical in countries where governments restricted internet services, she added.

Yaser Atrash, a journalist at Syria TV, said on Twitter that “the memory of generations is extinguished.”

The reactions follow an announcement from the corporation last week that it is planning to close its BBC Arabic station after 84 years as part of a cost-cutting exercise and move to digital-first broadcasting that will also see the demise of several other foreign-language services.

A total of 382 workers at the BBC World Service are set to lose their jobs amid rising costs, a freeze in license fees and the move to digital platforms, the company said.

The corporation’s international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million, it added.

Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi political affairs expert and founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, said on Twitter: “In May 2000 I visited #BBCArabicRadio for the 1st time & told its manager then Gamon McLellan to plan to shutter radio service & focus on TV.”

Liliane Landor, director of BBC World Service, said the cuts and closures would not mean a reduction in the quality of service.

“We will continue to bring the best journalism to audiences in English and more than 40 languages, as well as increasing the impact and influence of our journalism by making our stories go further,” she said.

The World Service currently operates in over 40 languages around the world and has a weekly audience of about 364 million people. But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online.

The company said it was proposing to stop its radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu.

The language services it is proposing to move to digital-only are: Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu and Yoruba.

Eleven language services — Azerbaijani, Brazil, Marathi, Mundo, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese — are already digital-only.


Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees
Updated 3 min 7 sec ago

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees

Egyptian Presidential Pardon Committee releases 50 pretrial detainees
  • The legal moves have continued as the government and various political forces in the country prepare for a wide-ranging national conversation on political, economic, and social issues

CAIRO: Egypt’s Presidential Pardon Committee has announced the release of 50 pretrial detainees.
The committee said that it had completed its procedures in coordination with the relevant agencies to release a new batch of detainees who are not involved in violence and do not belong to terrorist groups.
The committee confirmed in a statement the continuation of its work during the coming period in containing and integrating the released persons in accordance with the directives of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, which are implemented in coordination with state agencies and institutions.
The names of the list were announced on Twitter by MP Tarek El-Khouly, a member of the committee, which included 50 detainees who received a presidential pardon.
The committee also confirmed its aspiration for more releases.
Tariq Al-Awadi, a member of the committee, said: “We hope to speed up the pace of consideration of the remaining detainees, close this file permanently, and turn this page completely.”
Al-Awadi continued: “All that concerns me is the release of all those imprisoned in opinion cases, and I am not interested in who or what the reason for their release was.”
Last September, Egypt ordered the release of 39 pretrial detainees.
The legal moves have continued as the government and various political forces in the country prepare for a wide-ranging national conversation on political, economic, and social issues.
The committee was one of the outcomes of the first National Youth Conference in 2016, where Egyptian youth addressed government leaders with presidential engagement.
In April this year, El-Sisi said during his speech at the Egyptian Family Iftar that he would reactivate the work of the Presidential Pardon Committee that was formed as one of the outcomes of the conference.
Since the committee’s formation in 2016, a variety of political parties and organizations, including the National Council for Human Rights and parliament’s Human Rights Committee, have submitted the names of prisoners who are eligible for presidential pardon consideration.


Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens
Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens
  • The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels

RIYADH: Saudi occupational safety and health legislation had helped slash the cost to businesses of work-related injuries, the Kingdom’s human resources minister said.

And as a major industry conference opened in the Kingdom, Ahmed Al-Rajhi highlighted efficiency improvements brought about through the implementation of new workplace rules, regulations, procedures, and initiatives.

The minister of human resources and social development’s comments came as the fifth international Conference on Occupational Safety and Health got underway on Monday at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. The gathering is running in tandem with the fourth Arab Conference on Occupational Safety and Health under the theme, Upgrade and Safety. 

Ahmed Al-Rajhi, Minister of Human Resources (center), Abdullah Abu Thunain, Vice Minister of Human Resources (left) and Fayez Ali Al-Mutairi, Director-General of the Arab Labor Organization, during the opening of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Al-Rajhi said: “I commend the private sector’s compliance with occupational safety and health legislation, as well as initiatives that reflect the genuine concern for providing safe, healthy, and sustainable working environments that upgrade the Saudi labor market.”

He praised Saudi government legislation, procedures, and initiatives aimed at improving working conditions and promoting occupational safety and health in the business sector.

“These steps have had a positive impact on reducing the costs of work injuries and enhancing the efficiency of facilities,” the minister added.

The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels. 

Abdullah Abu Thunain, Vice Minister of Human Resources, speaking in the first session of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Specialist working papers, certified training sessions, and interactive simulators form part of the conference events, and it was announced that a number of occupational safety and health training programs would be launched in collaboration with Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University.

A conference statement also revealed that a training and rehabilitation program for certified occupational safety and health supervisors in the construction and building sector would be organized in collaboration with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, in addition to training programs for workers’ accident and injury investigators.

The project will aim to organize the recording and investigation of workplace accidents and injuries, while putting initiatives in place for high-risk occupations.

Sattam Alharbi, deputy minister of human resources and social development for the control and development of the work environment, said the exhibition sought to meet the ministry’s goals of analyzing and exchanging Arab and global occupational safety and health experiences and best practices.

He added that while looking to promote a workplace culture of occupational safety and health by highlighting the latest technical advancements, the Kingdom was also engaged in encouraging research into prevention and helping to strengthen sector cooperation in developing the Saudi labor market.


Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
Updated 03 October 2022

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines

Typhoon havoc triggers calls for urgent climate action in Philippines
  • Typhoon Noru was the most powerful cyclone to hit the country this year
  • Climate-related disasters have been battering the Philippines with growing intensity

MANILA: When a massive typhoon barreled through the Philippines last month, it left behind casualties and destruction, triggering calls for urgent climate action in the cyclone-prone country, where extreme weather events are on the rise.

Super Typhoon Noru, locally named Karding, made landfall on the evening of Sept. 25, sweeping the densely populated island of Luzon and plunging communities in the country’s north underwater.

At least 12 people were killed and over 1 million affected by Noru, according to disaster response officials, who estimate that the landfall caused damages of nearly $51 million, leaving farmland flattened just before the harvest season.

Poor rural communities have increasingly borne the brunt of climate-related disasters, which have battered the Philippines with growing frequency over recent years.

“The stormy season is far from over. We expect our farmers and fisherfolk to face more problems this year from climate change-intensified typhoons,” the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said in a statement.

“We need to improve climate change adaptation mechanisms,” the network’s national coordinator Jon Bonifacio told Arab News. “Typhoon Noru is another wake-up call that we really need to act on the climate crisis.”

With winds of up to 240 kph and heavy rainfall, Noru quickly turned into the most powerful cyclone to hit the Philippines this year.

Emily Padilla, former agriculture undersecretary, who shared on social media photos from devastated areas, wrote after the landfall that it had brought flashbacks of the deadly Typhoon Santi, which struck Luzon in 2013.

“Trembling in fear last night, we had to cling on to God, and work on defending our only sanctuary, when it was being pounded by roaring Karding,” she said on Facebook. “Climate change is real. We must collectively work to reverse the impending death of earth, and so humankind.”

The typhoon had evolved from a tropical storm into a Category 5 typhoon over two days, which was one of the fastest such rapid intensifications ever recorded in the Pacific basin.

“This trend is caused by the effects of climate change, specifically the rising temperatures of the sea surface,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia consultant Jefferson Chua told Arab News.

“More extreme weather events will be coming our way. We are one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, and that won’t stop.”

An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to cyclones. Each year, about 20 typhoons, equivalent to 25 percent of the global occurrence, enter the country and about half of them wreak havoc in its northern parts.

With the changing climate and global warming, the intensity of devastating incidents has increased. Seven of the 11 strongest landfalls in recorded history have occurred since 2006.

Addressing climate change has been high on the agenda of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, who during the UN General Assembly in New York last week said that developing countries had suffered the most from climate change effects.

“This injustice must be corrected and those who need to do more must act now,” he said. “Those who are least responsible suffer the most. The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink, we absorb (more) carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change.”

But as Marcos addressed UNGA, Greenpeace criticized him for not doing enough on the national level to help avert the disastrous effects of the changing climate, which it said will “heavily impact food security, as well as other fundamental issues such as water, energy, health and poverty alleviation.”

Mitigating the impacts of the changing climate should, according to Greenpeace, start with energy transition efforts in the country, which derives most of its electricity generation from coal.

“The introduction of renewable energy into our energy mix, and the gradual and eventual phaseout from fossil fuels, is one of the biggest solutions that governments can implement in the incoming climate crisis. What’s important here to note is that these are not being done at the level of urgency that we need,” Chua said.


Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference
Updated 49 min 21 sec ago

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference
  • Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City takes platinum award at event in Dubai
  • Prize is ‘a culmination of tireless work,’ Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz says

JEDDAH: A specialist healthcare services facility in the Saudi capital was honored at the Patient Safety Conference 2022, which ended in Dubai over the weekend.

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City was presented with a platinum award in the Global Quality and Safety Initiative category after competing with 71 other medical projects in 16 countries across the Middle East.

It was recognized for its high-quality standards that guarantee the safety of surgical and medical procedures provided to patients.

Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, secretary-general of the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Foundation, said: “This award is a culmination of tireless work … to implement the highest quality standards and the best international applicable methods.

“The city’s vision aims to create an exceptional healing and working environment, whether for patients or for the workforce. By this, it contributes to the development of everything that would positively reflect on the growth of programs and the development of medical care, which in turn helps in providing advanced services to the community.”

The prince also praised the Ministry of Health for working with the nonprofit sector and enabling it to better serve the community, and said he hoped the award would motivate other institutions in different sectors to innovate and develop positive working environments.

According to its website, the three-day conference and exhibition aims to highlight key issues in the healthcare field and support the training and education of workers to enhance medical care around the region and globally.

Tom Coleman, event director, said: “Never before has access to healthcare affected so many people, and these kinds of events, bringing together key actors in the sector from decision-makers to caregivers, is critical for us to continue working to bring better healthcare to all.”

He added: “Whether we are speaking to hospital workers or aid workers out in the midst of humanitarian crises, the issues we are addressing, such as patient safety and infection control, remain pivotal, whatever and wherever.”