Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Shaken by Taliban Victory in Kunduz, Afghans Flee Another Provincial Capital - nytimes

KABUL, Afghanistan — The test facing the Afghan government now is not just whether it can quickly mount a counterattack and retake all of Kunduz, the northern city that fell to the Taliban on Monday, but whether it can prevent a nearby provincial capital from falling as well.
Accounts from the neighboring province of Baghlan on Wednesday showed that the collapse of government forces in Kunduz against less numerous Taliban forces was prompting a crisis of confidence in the province, where wealthier citizens and those with government connections have been leaving for the relative safety of their hometowns.

In the midst of one of the gravest moments for the American-backed government in Kabul, military leaders spoke Wednesday about launching a decisive counterattack against the Taliban in Kunduz. But it was becoming clear that most of the reinforcements for such an attack had been waylaid in Baghlan.

The reinforcements “will not be able to reach Kunduz without a big fight,” said Ted Callahan, a Western security adviser based in northeastern Afghanistan. - Read More at nytimes

U.S. Struggles for Way to Help Afghans Regain Territory It Thought Was Secure

U.S. Base Seen as Monument to Futility as Afghans Watch Kunduz Fall

Taliban Kunduz attack: Afghan forces 'regain city'

Afghan officials say they have regained control of key areas of the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban.
An operation launched overnight saw forces recapture government landmarks and inflict heavy casualties on the militants, officials said.

There has been no word from the Taliban, but fighting is reported to be ongoing. The city's capture was a huge blow to President Ashraf Ghani, coming on the first anniversary of his taking power.

Kunduz police chief spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told BBC Afghan on Thursday that the military had retaken the governor's office, the police chief's office and the intelligence agency building, adding: "Taliban bodies are lying around." 

The US Army confirmed that American and Nato military advisers, including special forces, were in the area, but denied they were fighting on the ground. "But these are dangerous situations and if they need to defend themselves, they will," said a spokesman.- Read More at BBC
Taliban Kunduz attackAfghan forces regain city say officials

نیروهای افغانستان 'کنترل قندوز را از طالبان پس گرفتند'

نیروهای ویژه ناتو در افغانستان به جبهه جنگ قندوز اعزام شده‌اند

Afghan officials say government retakes Kunduz; Taliban denies - reuters

U.S. troops dispatched to Kunduz to help Afghan forces - washingtonpost

 American Special Operations troops and on-the-ground military advisers from the NATO coalition joined Afghan forces trying to retake the northern city of Kunduz from Taliban militants Wednesday, and some came under fire as the effort made few gains, officials said.

Troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan were on a mission near Kunduz airport, where hundreds of Afghan fighters gathered after retreating from the city, when they were engaged by insurgents and called in an airstrike, the officials said. The coalition spokesmen declined to comment on whether their forces returned fire on the ground.

The increased support from the coalition comes amid growing signs that Afghan forces are struggling to repel the Taliban fighters, who were able to seize Kunduz in a lightning strike Monday, dealing a major blow to Afghanistan’s Western-backed government.

An Afghan security official in Kabul said a fort fell to the Taliban in Wednesday’s fighting in Kunduz and that an estimated 50 troops based at the fort had either surrendered or were captured.  “We did not expect this at all,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. 

Kunduz, Afghanistan’s sixth-largest city and a strategic gateway to Central Asia, is the first provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since 2001, when the group began an insurgency after being driven from power in Kabul. - Read More 

Cunningham: Why Afghanistan Matters for United States

Editor Note: James B. Cunningham is a senior fellow and the Khalilzad Chair at the Atlantic Council. Ryan C. Crocker is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Both served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. The views expressed are their own.

We arrived in Kabul in the summer of 2011 to assume the leadership of the American Embassy. The U.S. military surge had been completed and was beginning to reverse from its peak of some 100,000 troops. The U.S. civilian surge had peaked, with more than 1,200 American diplomats, civil servants and contractors throughout the country, working under difficult and dangerous conditions, to help the Afghan people rebuild their country. - Read More

Cunningham: Why Afghanistan Matters for United States - Atlantic Council

Senators push feds to get warrants for cellphone spying - thehill

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee want to expand the government’s commitment to obtaining a warrant before using controversial spying devices that pick up information from people’s cellphones.

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and top Democrat Patrick Leahy (Vt.) on Tuesday asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to follow the Justice Department’s lead and commit to getting a warrant before using the “StingRay” devices. If successful, the effort would represent a major victory for privacy advocates who have managed to shine a light on the little-known devices, which otherwise have been employed without a warrant. 

The StringRay or “IMSI Catcher” devices, which are about the size of a briefcase, mimic cellphone towers in order to collect signals sent by people’s devices. Those signals can reveal information about people’s location as well as unique identifier numbers and their emails and texts.

“While these devices can be useful tools for identifying the location of a suspect's cell phone or identifying an unknown cell phone, they also present significant privacy concerns because they gather information about the cell phones of many people who are not investigative targets but happen to be in the vicinity,” Grassley and Leahy wrote in their letter on Tuesday.

The Department of Homeland Security has given grants to state and local police departments to purchase the devices. Some departments have previously signed non-disclosure agreements to keep their use of the technology secret. - Read More

Senators push feds to get warrants for cellphone spying

US plans no Afghan changes after fall of Kunduz

White House and Pentagon officials denounced on Tuesday a Taliban takeover of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, but said it was too early to know if it would change U.S. plans to drawdown troops from the country by the end of next year. 

"We strongly condemn the attacks in Kunduz, and stand with the Afghan people in our commitment to Afghanistan's peace and security," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters onboard Air Force One. 

“At this point, I don’t have any sort of immediate indication this will change the long-term strategy that is in place in Afghanistan," he said. Earnest said Afghan forces have already begun the battle to reclaim the city and have retaken several government buildings.

Gen. John Campbell, the top commander in Afghanistan, has reportedly forwarded to the Pentagon and coalition officials alternative options to the White House's current plan to drawdown forces from 9,800 currently to a few hundred next year. 

Critics of that plan are pressuring the White House suspend or reverse the withdrawal given a persistent threat from the Taliban, and a growing one from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan.

Earnest said the U.S. would continue to "work closely" with the Afghan government and coalition partners to ensure that Afghan forces "have the capabilities and training necessary to preserve the gains" made over the last 13 years.

And Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, "we're going to continue everything we can to encourage them in those efforts." 

However, Cook also said there were no plans to offer Afghan forces air support in the face of the threat, justifying a single U.S. airstrike near Kunduz Tuesday morning as necessary for the protection of coalition troops who were advising Afghan forces nearby. - Read More at thehill

US plans no Afghan changes after fall of Kunduz

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taliban Offensive in Afghanistan Tests U.S. - WSJ

Surge by militants adds fuel to arguments that Obama administration should rethink troop withdrawal

WASHINGTON—Afghan troops backed by U.S. forces struggled to recapture a provincial capital following an alarming Taliban attack that renewed questions about the Obama administration’s plan to withdraw most American military forces next year.

A U.S. airstrike was conducted early Tuesday by a U.S. F-16 as a “force protection measure,” a U.S. official said, after Taliban fighters stole a tank from Afghan forces and drove it toward the airport, where Afghan and coalition troops, including Americans, were located.  Another was conducted near the airport at night, said U.S. Army Col.Brian Tribus, a spokesman for U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. U.S. officials also are providing coverage by aerial surveillance drones, officials said.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who marked one year in office Tuesday, said that government forces were making progress taking back the city. “We shall not allow the citizens to be terrorized,” he said in Kabul. But by nightfall Afghan forces had mostly given up their gains and retreated to two locations—the airport and a strategic hill on the other side of the city, according to Afghan officials, residents and the Taliban.

The Taliban surge, its first such victory since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, reinvigorated arguments by some senior U.S. military officials, lawmakers and others that the administration should rethink the size of the coalition force that will be left in Afghanistan.

The seizure of Kunduz underscored the weakness of Afghan forces, who took over responsibility for security this year as the U.S. military began withdrawing.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said he and others have been aware of the “deteriorating situation” in Afghanistan for some time.  “But what is surprising is the location of this attack, in the north, which is generally not the area of most of the Taliban activity,” Mr. McCain said in an interview. “So it is an indicator of the dimensions of the Taliban’s capability to launch a very significant and successful attack.”

He and other critics compared the situation to the 2011 U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, which they say contributed to the rise of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and neighboring Syria. - 

“The fall of Kunduz to the Taliban is not unlike the fall of Iraqi provinces” to Islamic State, said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas) who chairs the House Armed Services Committee. “It is a reaffirmation that precipitous withdrawal leaves key allies and territory vulnerable to the very terrorists we’ve fought so long to defeat.” - Read More at WSJ

Afghan forces battle insurgents to retake key northern city

Heavy fighting raged inside the key northern Afghan city of Kunduz for a third day early on Wednesday as government forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, battled Taliban insurgents who had scored one of their boldest successes in 14 years of war.

Taliban fighters seized control of Kunduz after staging an audacious assault on the city on Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's biggest setback since taking office a year ago and the worst attack since the bulk of foreign troops left at the end of last year.

Kunduz was the last major city to fall when U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that were planned by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while he was in hiding in Afghanistan.

It also became the first major city to be retaken by the Islamist insurgents since then..

Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman for the police chief in Kunduz, said foreign troops rushed to the aid of Afghan troops from the ground and from the air after midnight and that they had regained control of the police headquarters in Kunduz. - Read More at Reuters
Afghan forces battle insurgents to retake key northern city Video

Taliban audacity trumps Afghan forces' weak defenses in Kunduz

President Ghani’s remarks at a press conference on Kunduz - September 29, 2015

Read More:

Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, spoke this afternoon at a press conference about the situation in Kunduz and the latest developments in that province.

In the conference that took place in ARG, the President reassured the people of Afghanistan about the capabilities of the security and defense forces of the country, and said that Kunduz city is in the process of being cleared of terrorist groups.

The President said that terrorist groups use civilians as human shield, and highlighted that the government of Afghanistan is an accountable government and does not want the clearing operations to cause any civilian casualties in Kunduz city. 

The President urged the armed forces and civilian officials to undertake the necessary measures in order to avoid civilian casualties - Read More at the President
President Ghani: Kunduz City is being cleared of terrorist groups 

رئیس جمهور غنی: شهر کندز از وجود گروه های تروریستی در حال تصفیه شدن است 
جمهور رئیس غني : کندز ښار له ترهګرو ډلو څخه د پاکېدو په حال کې دی 

Monday, September 28, 2015

‘When we stand together, there is no limit to what we can achieve,’ Ban tells UN Assembly

28 September 2015 – Facing a world where inequality is growing, trust is fading, and impatience with leadership can be seen and felt far and wide, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the stage for 70th General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly today with a call to “translate promises on paper to action on the ground” by backing a bold new sustainability agenda that aims to wipe out poverty and build a sustainable future for all.

“Our aim is clear. Our mission is possible. And our destination is in our sights: an end to extreme poverty by 2030; a life of peace and dignity for all,” the Secretary-General declared, noting that this session of the General Assembly had opened with a “towering achievement”: the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for, including 17 inspiring Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).

What counts now is translating those promises on paper into real change, said the UN chief, adding: “We owe this and much more to the vulnerable, the oppressed, the displaced and the forgotten people in our world. We owe this to ‘succeeding generations,’ in the memorable words the Charter.

“In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we must heed the call of the Charter, and hear the voices of ‘we the peoples.’ That is how we can overcome the grim realities of the present – and seize the remarkable opportunities of our era,” declared the Secretary-General.

Mr. Ban’s annual opening message, which draws from his yearly report on the work of the Organization turned next to the pressing challenges of the day. Suffering is at heights not seen in a generation, he said, explaining that one hundred million people require humanitarian assistance. At least 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes or their countries.

“The United Nations has asked for nearly $20 billion to meet this year’s needs – six times the level of a decade ago. ---- Read More at Ban
'When we stand together, there is no limit to what we can achieve,' Ban tells UN Assembly

World leaders to gather for 70th General Assembly at a time of ‘turmoil and hope’ – UN chief

Afghan Chief Executive calls for UN reforms to tackle unprecedented range of crises

28 September 2015 – Warning that the world faces a host of mainly human-made threats, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah today called for United Nations reforms to deal speedily and effectively with the challenges ahead. 

“Never has the world and the UN faced such fast-paced change – both constructive and harmful – such abrupt fluctuations, heightened expectations and immediate demands for solutions and answers,” he told the General Assembly on the opening day of its 70th annual General Debate.

“These monumental tasks, mixed with population growth, unprecedented mobility, connectivity and access to information and technological knowhow, necessitate constant negotiations, legal frameworks, new management and leadership skills, but also encompass inherent risks and security concerns,” he said.

“At some point, it is the UN and other specialized and multilateral organizations that will need to be ready to drive the agenda and provide the required platform for decision-making. We urge future reforms to take these needs of our times into account and offer flexibility and fast-track problem management for the work at hand.” Turning to the security problems of his own country, Mr. Abdullah cited the attacks over the past 48 hours by hundreds of militants, some of them foreign fighters, in Kunduz province, and efforts by terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to find a foothold.

“The presence of terrorist sanctuaries and support networks in Pakistan continue to cause trouble inside Afghanistan. The Haqqani network has been identified as a main culprit and needs to be dismantled as has been our demand in the past,” he declared.

“We call on Pakistan to do what its leadership promised to us a few months ago when they agreed to crack down on known terror outfits.

“We also call on regional stakeholders and our international partners to realize the gravity of the situation, and use their good offices or any effective means to support our aspirations for a genuine and durable confidence-building process leading to talks with willing Taliban and other armed opposition groups.” - Read More at UN
Afghan Chief Executive calls for UN reforms to tackle unprecedented range of crises

UN mission deplores deadly suicide attack at volleyball game in Afghanistan

President Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly 2015 - nytimes

The following speech was delivered by President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly as transcribed and released by the White House.

Out of the ashes of the Second World War, having witnessed the unthinkable power of the atomic age, the United States has worked with many nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world war — by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people.

That is the work of seven decades. That is the ideal that this body, at its best, has pursued. Of course, there have been too many times when, collectively, we have fallen short of these ideals. Over seven decades, terrible conflicts have claimed untold victims. But we have pressed forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of international rules and norms that are better and stronger and more consistent.

Today, we see the collapse of strongmen and fragile states breeding conflict, and driving innocent men, women and children across borders on an epic scale. Brutal networks of terror have stepped into the vacuum. Technologies that empower individuals are now also exploited by those who spread disinformation, or suppress dissent, or radicalize our youth. Global capital flows have powered growth and investment, but also increased risk of contagion, weakened the bargaining power of workers, and accelerated inequality.

How should we respond to these trends? There are those who argue that the ideals enshrined in the U.N. charter are unachievable or out of date — a legacy of a postwar era not suited to our own. Effectively, they argue for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution: the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.

The increasing skepticism of our international order can also be found in the most advanced democracies. We see greater polarization, more frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling for the building of walls to keep out immigrants. Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary people being exploited through appeals to sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the body politic was infected by those who look different, or worship God differently; a politics of us versus them.

The United States is not immune from this. Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace. We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will not work. - Read More at NYT

President Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly 2015

A year into Ashraf Ghani's presidency, many Afghans ready to give up - latimes

The last time Faisal, 19, stood in a line of hundreds in western Kabul, it was to vote in the second round of Afghanistan's 2014 presidential election.

Faisal, who works at a tailoring shop, said he cast his ballot for President Ashraf Ghani, even though he was there as an observer for the rival candidate. At the time, Faisal was confident that Ghani was the right choice.

"He had a plan for everything," said Faisal, who, like others interviewed for this story, gave only his first name.

A year later, Faisal said he regrets having voted. The lines he now stands in are at the Central Passport Department, where he and hundreds of Afghans wait each day in the hope of obtaining documents that will eventually let them leave their homeland.

The crowds outside the passport office — which have numbered in the thousands on some recent days, according to media reports — are a sign of a growing lack of faith among Afghans in the internationally brokered national unity government led by Ghani.

Beset by accusations of infighting among the rival camps and a lack of clarity on Abdullah's powers, the government has failed to make progress in ending the conflict with Taliban-led insurgents or in boosting the economy, which took a huge dive during the drawn-out, 10-month-long election process

"They've shown they can't stand by their words," Faisal said.

Many Afghans — particularly young men from the country's south and east, where the conflict has been deadliest — have joined the throngs of migrants and refugees making the perilous journey to Europe.

In the last few months, thousands in Kabul have lined up outside the main passport office and the embassies of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, seeking visas. Many have also queued outside passport bureaus in Jalalabad and Herat, two major cities that, like Kabul, are relatively safe.

"There is increasing insecurity and unemployment, which are leading to an economic crisis," said Karzai's longtime spokesman, Aimal Faizi. "There is a clearly divided government that has been split among two rival camps and as such, the authority of the Afghan president, more than ever before, is very limited and in rapid decline." - Read More at latimes
A year into Ashraf Ghani's presidency, many Afghans ready to give up

Taliban seizes parts of key Afghan city of Kunduz in deadly fighting -

Read More

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Donald Trump gets down to business on "60 Minutes"

Scott Pelley interviews Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who lays out key policy details and reveals a major part of his tax proposal

Scott Pelley: Revolution is easy, governing is hard and what I'd like to get to is how you intend to govern the country if you are elected president. What's your tax plan?

Donald Trump: It's a substantial reduction for the middle-income people. Because our middle class, Scott, is being absolutely decimated. It will be a corporate also reduction, I think it'll be a great incentive for corporations.

Scott Pelley: Who are you going to raise taxes on?

Donald Trump: If you look at actually raise, some very wealthy are going to be raised. Some people that are getting unfair deductions are going to be raised. But overall it's going to be a tremendous incentive to grow the economy and we're going to take in the same or more money. And I think we're going to have something that's going to be spectacular. - Read More "60 Minutes"

Donald Trump gets down to business on "60 Minutes"

Migrant crisis: Colder weather hits refugees on the move - BBC

More at Youtube:
Migrants and refugees on the move through Europe are facing growing hardship as temperatures drop, aid agencies have warned.  Many, including pregnant woman, children and the elderly, are spending nights in the open.  Read Moreat
Migrant crisis: Colder weather hits refugees on the move 

 More at Youtube:

Migrant crisis Merkel warns no end to migrant crisis BBC ...

One of the largest groups of refugees trying to get to Europe in recent months is from Afghanistan, which remains in the grip of a conflict that has driven people to flee for many years - More

Huge numbers of Afghans desperately seeking asylum 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Why Afghan refugees are heading for Europe | FT

Alongside the Syrians and Iraqis fleeing violence at home and pouring into Europe, many Afghans too are giving up on their country. The civil war with the Taliban continues unabated even as the last US and Nato troops prepare to leave.

Afghans constitute the third biggest group of those arriving in Germany after Syrians and Iraqis, German officials told me in Berlin last week. If all gateways into Europe are counted, Afghans could constitute the second highest number of recent arrivals, according to a senior UN official in Geneva. He said many Afghans had been waiting for months in Turkey, Iran and Greece for the moment when European borders came down. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that almost 80,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in the first six months of 2015, compared with about 24,000 during the same period last year.

The Afghans’ tragedy is compounded by the fact that, though the international community has not come up with a new plan to end the war in Syria, attempts are at least being made — while there is hardly any international focus on Afghanistan.

Instead, Taliban attacks have multiplied, the government is floundering and following the withdrawal of most western forces earlier this year the country is in the throes of an economic downturn.

The worst news, according to the UN official, is that many of the Afghans trying to reach Germany are the best and the brightest: educated, middle-class young Afghans who came of age after 9/11 and held down good jobs while the US and Nato were in the country. Now the majority have lost their jobs, they see no hope of an economic revival and so they are leaving.

The Germans rightly fear an even larger exodus of Afghan refugees if the remaining 12,000 US and Nato forces pull out. German diplomats told me their troop contingent, which is based in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, would stay on if the Americans did so also. However, so far US officials have rejected such requests.

Many of the Afghans arriving in Europe are coming from Pakistan, where there are still 1.5m registered and 1m unregistered Afghan refugees — a leftover population from the Afghan wars of the 1980s and 1990s. Pakistan is now refusing to host these refugees beyond the end of this year and will force them back into Afghanistan if the international community fails to come up with a solution. This is prompting many Afghan families to leave Pakistan and take the perilous bus ride through Iran and Turkey to try and reach Europe.

Another big source of Afghan refugees are the Hazaras targeted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda for being Shia. Even worse — some Hazara Shia refugees in Iran are being recruited to fight for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that makes them even more of a target for Sunni extremists in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama has been silent on Afghanistan and its refugee crisis, although both regional and European countries still look to the US for ways to end the war and mobilise greater economic support for the government. The total US withdrawal of its troops by next year makes the chances of any Afghan settlement even less likely, however.

Even though there is much handwringing in Washington at the perceived collapse of US power and influence under Mr Obama, the fact remains that the US leadership remains indispensable in resolving crises such as those of Afghanistan. The Afghan refugee crisis is the result of a web of more than three decades of wars, invasions, Islamic extremism and multiple dislocations of populations.

Yet the Taliban is more prepared for peace talks than the Islamic State ever will be, and Afghanistan is more ready for a political settlement than Syria will be for a long time.

Wherever one looks the migrant crisis is intimately linked to the wars that plague countries in the region. There is a desperate need to look again at these wars and consider how they could be ended through diplomacy and negotiations. If that does not happen we could see large proportions of the civilian populations of Syria and Afghanistan abandoning their homelands. - More at FT

Why Afghan refugees are heading for Europe | The Exchange

Pope Offers a Vision of Religious Freedom - nytimes

On the final leg of his trip in Philadelphia, Pope Francis on Saturday called religious freedom a “fundamental right” and warned about its perversion “as a pretext for hatred and brutality.” Later, he urged, “Let’s protect the family.” 

Religious freedom means the right to worship God, “as our consciences dictate,” Francis said. And, he went on, the principle goes beyond temples and the private sphere: Religion also serves society, especially as a bulwark “in the face of every claim to absolute power.” - Read More at nytimes -  Full Coverage

UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030

25 September 2015 – The 193-Member United Nations General Assembly today formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, along with a set of bold new Global Goals, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms – an agenda for the planet, our common home,” declared Mr. Ban as he opened the UN Sustainable Development Summit which kicked off today and wraps up Sunday.

The UN chief’s address came ahead of the Assembly’s formal adoption of the new framework, Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is composed of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years

The Goals aim to build on the work of the historic Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which in September 2000, rallied the world around a common 15-year agenda to tackle the indignity of poverty.

The Summit opened with a full programme of events, including a screening of the film The Earth From Space, performances by UN Goodwill Ambassadors Shakira and Angelique Kidjo, as well as call to action by female education advocate and the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai along with youth representatives as torch bearers to a sustainable future. - Read More at UN
UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030

UNICEF launches new appeal to support refugee and migrant children in Europe

25 September 2015 – Warning of a “massive” increase in the numbers of children on the move to Europe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it will be appealing for $14 million to address the needs of migrant and refugee children who have escaped war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

UNICEF spokesperson Sarah Crowe told reporters at the regular press briefing in Geneva that the agency’s presence in all countries should help in allotting the funds appropriately to create child-friendly locations, health care, food, shelter and other humanitarian services

The agency reported that there has been an 80 per cent increase in the number of children moving through Europe with approximately 19,000 children arriving each month. According to Eurostat data, there were 133,000 children who sought asylum between January and July 2015.

Ms. Crowe also introduced Valentina Otmacic, UNICEF representative in Croatia, who described the harsh conditions for migrant children in that country.

Ms. Otmacic recounted a traumatic incident at a child-friendly zone in a camp in Opatovac, Croatia, where a 9-year-old Afghan boy had tried to commit suicide by cutting his neck with a metal lid before being stopped.

Ms. Otmacic recounted a traumatic incident at a child-friendly zone in a camp in Opatovac, Croatia, where a 9-year-old Afghan boy had tried to commit suicide by cutting his neck with a metal lid before being stopped.

The agency announced that it would be providing support to European governments to ensure that the policies and procedures undertaken by them serves the best interests of the children and are in compliance with internationally accepted standards.

“With so many children on the move, and with winter in Europe approaching, our priority has to be caring for these children now. Working alongside governments and other partners across Europe, wherever our support is needed, UNICEF will do all it can so that refugee and migrant children are safe, healthy and that their rights and dignity are fully respected.” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe. - Read More at UN
UNICEF launches new appeal to support refugee and migrant children in Europe

Malala Yousafzai urges world leaders at UN to promise safe, quality education for every child