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UN chief says he is engaged in bringing about India-Pak dialogue

UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Antonio Guterres has said he is engaged in bringing about a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue through his meetings with the prime ministers of the two countries.

"Why do you think I met three times the Prime Minister of Pakistan and two times the Prime Minister of India," Guterres said with a laughter, responding to a question during a press briefing here whether he is engaged in bringing about dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

"For someone accused of doing nothing, it is quite a number of meetings," the Secretary General said, referring to criticism that he has been shying away and is reluctant to act to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.

Guterres, addressing reporters at his first press conference at the world body's headquarters since assuming office in January, was asked about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control and the ceasefire violations since he assumed office.

Guterres did not elaborate further but through his response he did not make any indication that he will act as a mediator between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.

Modi and Guterres had met in St Petersburg earlier in June on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. During the meeting, Modi had stressed on multilateralism to address global challenges such as terrorism.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the UN chief had met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at Davos in January and again this month in Astana on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when asked at press briefings about the Secretary General's response to the situation in Kashmir, has repeatedly said that Guterres is following the situation in the region closely.

The UN Chief has not made any direct intervention to resolve the issue, reiterating his call for India and Pakistan to find a peaceful solution through engagement and dialogue.

Pakistan continuously raises the Kashmir issue at the UN seeking the world body's intervention in the dispute with India. But New Delhi has always maintained that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Islamabad.

Falling aid for education putting global goals at risk, warns UN agency

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 6: Against the backdrop of aid allocations to education falling for the sixth year in a row, the United Nations agency mandated with promoting education globally has called on the donor community to focus more attention on the vital sector, especially in countries where needs are the greatest.

According to a policy paper by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Global Education Monitoring Report, total aid to education stands at $12 billion – 4 per cent lower than the figure in 2010.

“Aid remains far short of what is needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, putting our commitments at risk,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO, in a news release announcing the findings.

“[Resources] need to be multiplied by at least six to achieve our common education goals and must go to countries most in need,” she cautioned, calling on donors not to shift their attention away from the poorest countries.

Based on newly released data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee, the study revealed that aid to basic education, such as support to pre-primary and primary education, as well as adult education and literacy programmes – stands at $5.2 billion, 6 per cent lower than the amount in 2010.

It also noted that, while humanitarian aid to education reached a “historic high” – increasing almost 55 per cent from 2015 to 2016 – education received only 2.7 per cent of total aid available and less than half (48 per cent) of the amount needed.

In terms of national contributions, the United States and the United Kingdom were the two largest donors to basic education, but their allocations fell by 11 per cent and 9 per cent respectively in 2014-2015.

In contrast, contributions from Norway and Germany increased by 50 per cent and 34 per cent respectively, noted the UN agency.

The UNESCO policy paper, Aid to Education is Stagnating and Not Going to Countries Most in Need also voiced concern over skewed allocations by donors leading to aid not reaching places it is most needed.

Sub-Saharan Africa, home to over half of the world's out-of-school children currently receives less than half the aid to basic education it used to in 2002, and only 26 per cent of the total aid to basic education globally.

This contrasts to the 22 per cent allocation to the northern Africa and western Asia region, where 9 per cent of children are out of school.

Calling for urgent action to rectify the problems, UNESCO urged donors to “reverse the move away from education” and focus their attention on campaigns such as the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment campaign which is seeking to raise $3.1 billion between 2018-2020 and programmes such as the Education Cannot Wait fund (established in 2016) that aims to raise $3.85 billion by 2020, with the potential to transform the delivery of education in emergencies.

After 50 years of Israeli occupation, 'now is the time' to create Palestinian state: UN chief

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 5: Marking 50 years since the start of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in Israel's occupation of the Palestinian Territory, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today reiterated a call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“Now is the time to end the conflict by establishing an independent Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel,” Mr. Guterres said in his statement on the 50 year occupation.

The occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan, which displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians, has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people, he said.

Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow-up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children, he added.

Ending the occupation that began in 1967 and achieving a negotiated two-state outcome is the only way to lay the foundations for enduring peace that meets Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, he stressed.

“Now is not the time to give up on this goal” but is the time to return to direct negotiations to resolve all final status issues on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, agreements and international law, Mr. Guterres said.

He warned that continued settlement construction and expansion, violence and incitement and the illicit arms build-up and militant activity in Gaza risk creating a one-state reality that is incompatible with realizing the legitimate national and historic aspirations of both peoples.

He recalled that in 1947, the world recognized the two-state solution and called for the emergence of “independent Arab and Jewish states” on the basis of UN General Assembly resolution 181.

On 14 May 1948, the State of Israel was born, but almost seven decades later, “the world still awaits the birth of an independent Palestinian state,” he said, offering once again to work with all relevant stakeholders to support a genuine peace process.

 

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