Press Releases: The 16th Awards for Corporate Excellence

Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli will announce and present the 16th Awards for Corporate Excellence (ACE) on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, at 9:15 a.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room of the U.S. Department of State.

The ACE, established in 1999, emphasizes the important role U.S. businesses can play abroad to advance ethical practices, sustainable development, and democratic values through exemplary conduct in their overseas operations.

This year, U.S. ambassadors nominated 39 U.S.-based companies operating overseas. A senior interagency committee selected the three winners from among the following nine finalists: Chevron Corporation in Burma, The Coca-Cola Company in the Philippines, ContourGlobal in Togo, EcoPlanet Bamboo Group in Nicaragua, General Electric South Africa Technologies (Pty) Ltd., General Electric in Tunisia, GlassPoint Solar in Oman, The Linden Centre in China, and Wagner Asia Equipment, LLC, in Mongolia. The names of the winners will be publicly and officially announced at the ACE ceremony.

The ceremony will be open to the press and streamed live on http://video.state.gov/live/.

Pre-set time for cameras: 7:45 a.m. from the C Street entrance

Final access time for writers and still photographers: 8:30 a.m. from the 23rd street entrance

Media representatives may attend this briefing upon presentation of one of the following: (1) a U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense, or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification (driver’s license or passport).

For further information about access to the event please contact the Department of State Office of Press Relations at (202) 647-2492. Media with further questions about the Award for Corporate Excellence may contact the Office of Economic Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy at EPPDMedia@state.gov.

PM delivers remarks at a dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Humanity First Canada

Toronto, Ontario – 4 December 2014

Thank you very much.

Good evening, everyone.

First of all, thank you Chris for those very kind words and also thanks to Dr. Daud for keeping us all organized this evening.

Greetings to Patrick Brown, also my colleague who is joining us here this evening.

Greetings also, most particularly to Lal Khan Malik, President of the Canadian Ahmadiyya community, and indeed all members of the community who have joined us here tonight.

I want to thank all of you for coming.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I recall with great pleasure our last meeting with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada – that was more than a year ago – you hosted us as we announced that Canada would establish an office of religious freedom, headed by an ambassador.

It was a great day and I’m delighted to be here with you once again.

I have two things I want to share with you this evening.

First, I just want to say that I find it personally very encouraging that this dinner celebrates ten years of charitable work and disaster relief by Humanity First Canada, a mission of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

We are well-aware of your good works.

Give them a big hand.

Through our Government’s program of matching funds for disaster relief, we have been partners in responding to the devastation caused by several incidents including both the earthquake in Haiti four years ago, and also the floods in Pakistan that followed a year later.

And earlier this year, our Government assisted Humanity First through the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund.

With our Government’s contribution, Humanity First is building 284 houses, and rehabilitating four schools and one day-care centre in the Philippines, so I congratulate you all for that tremendous work.

Your heavy reliance on the service of volunteers, and I met many tonight, men and women who are often highly qualified in their fields of expertise.

This is what makes you such a valuable partner.

Put simply, you make our money go a long way.

We like that.

I am also delighted to learn that you will be using the proceeds of tonight’s dinner to respond to the West Africa Ebola outbreak.

We like that too.

As I mentioned last week at the Summit of the Francophonie Internationale in Senegal, Canada has made significant investments to combat the spread of Ebola in the region.

For some months, this country has deployed mobile laboratories, experimental vaccines, and medical equipment.

Canadian troops and medical personnel are now being readied to go to the affected areas, and we’re hopeful that a vaccine developed by a Canadian company will prove to be an effective antidote.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, and I know that’s why you’re so committed to this cause, Ebola is a horrible way to die.

So thank you for your support in this extremely important effort to contain its spread and relieve the suffering of thousands of people.

However, tonight friends, I also wish to talk about a second subject.

I wish to offer a brief reflection upon the recent acts of terrorism in Canada and our appreciation of your response to them.

I’m speaking of course of the attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu that took the life of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, and the murder of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial.

As we all know, these were disgraceful, shocking acts perpetrated by individuals, sadly, by self-professed Muslims in the name of Islam.

How important it was that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at categorically and unequivocally condemned both the actions themselves and the terrorists who committed those acts.

Those acts, you said, and I quote: “Were the acts of heartless cowards and have no basis in any religion.”

You prayed for those taken from us and for the protection of all Canadians from harm.

You prayed the terrorists would be brought to justice.

Then for the fourth year in a row, you stood with the guardians of Canada by raising money for veterans through your “Muslims for Remembrance Day” campaign.

And of course, you’ve launched your own campaign to counteract youth radicalization, speaking with boldness to the very heart of the problem.

Your words and your actions are of great importance.

Just as you need to hear that your community is embraced by this country, so non-Muslim Canadians also want to hear from their Muslim neighbours that Islam is a force for peace in our country and not something to be feared.

You offer them this reassurance just as we also understand that communities like yours are often among the most at risk from attacks from violent extremists.

And so together, we must unite around our common values: freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, like civilization itself, these values are only ever a single generation deep.

We must all of us teach them to our children and hold them dearly in our hearts.

And these principles by which our country lives should be affirmed often in our public discourse.

One more thing.

I recently had the honour to meet with Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan.

Now I understand full well that Her Majesty is not a member of the Ahmadiyya community, nevertheless, I was impressed by her insights.

Speaking of the terror campaign waged by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, ISIL, Her Majesty warned that a minority of irreligious – irreligious – extremists is using social media to rewrite the Muslim narrative and hijack the Muslim identity.

She added, those who are silent on this issue are complicit.

Well, when terror in the name of Islam came to Canada’s door, you were not silent, you spoke up, you acted, you earned our appreciation.

You have all of our respect and thank you for doing that.

Friends, I will just close with this.

As I’ve said it before but it bears repetition.

Ahmadis are known throughout the world for your devotion to peace, universal brotherhood, and the will of God.

The core principles of true Islam.

And as we spoke of earlier, Ahmadis are also known for serving the greater good, like through Humanity First, in this and many other ways.

In fact, wherever Ahmadis live in the world, you are famous for participating fully in the larger community and living peacefully alongside peoples of all languages, cultures, and faiths.

All of this places Ahmadiyya Muslims squarely in the mainstream of Canadian society.

We live in a country that embraces cultures and religions from the world over.

We are proud of that.

Proud of the strong Canada, united in pluralism, that we are building.

When you take your place in the public square and you proclaim love for all, hatred for none, and that however we understand God, it is wrong to kill in his name, you are in a most essential way, a partner, a neighbour, and a friend to all Canadians.

So thank you for that, and thank you for having me here this evening, and for all of your contributions to our great country.

Thank you very much.

Philippines: Improved emergency communication blunts impact of typhoon Hagupit

08 Dec 2014

imageUNDP, along with other UN agencies, has supported the local situation assessments leading to early evacuations, particularly in the Eastern Visayas Region. Photo: UNDp in the Philippines

In Tacloban City, Philippines, the past served as a lesson for the present, in the form of a simple communications system.

As residents and city officials braced for the worst from Typhoon Hagupit there were nagging fears from the devastation wrought by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), a little over a year ago.

Yolanda struck the coast of the Philippines with such force that it resulted in the death of more than 6000 people. Many of those deaths were in Tacloban, and journalists then described the devastation as “off the scale and apocalyptic.”

Now a radio communications system is said to have played a vital role in reducing risks and saving lives. While typhoon Hagupit was not as fierce as Yolanda, and several other improvements played a role in protecting the city – the system, set up by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) helped keep city emergency crews networked and nimble – before, during and after Ruby hit.

Recognizing that Tacloban City’s emergency preparedness was hampered by the absence of emergency communications, UNDP contributed a centralized radio system, to ensure effective emergency communication and coordination covering the entire city.

The agency partnered with Radnet 5 (Radio Amateur Network 5) to strengthen the local government’s communications system, and trained city staff in using the equipment.

The equipment — that includes 46 units of portable VHF radios, mobile base units for ambulance and rescue vehicles, dual band base radios and a repeater system — played a key role this time around.

“The target of zero casualties in a massive typhoon is unachievable without using advanced emergency communication systems and equipment,” said the Mayor of Tacloban City, Alfred S. Romualdez. “The key to achieving such high standards is using emergency communications equipment, and we thank UNDP for extending such equipment to the city just in time before another major typhoon (Hagupit) hit.”

In defining the relationship as a “milestone,” Mayor Romualdez commended UNDP for strengthening Tacloban City’s communications and technology infrastructure to face frequent and intense typhoons, and said he looks forward to a “continued partnership in building resilience.”

Following Typhoon Yolanda, UNDP’s objective was to ramp up support to national and local governments in protecting vulnerable regions to reduce the risks from disasters.

“Our experience in dealing with, and robust evidence we gathered from disasters such as Typhoon Yolanda has allowed UNDP to invest heavily in developing and sharing innovative solutions to reduce risk,” said Maurice Dewulf, UNDP Country Director in the Philippines.

“While we are all devoted to recovery efforts when disasters strike, our goal is to work proactively with governments to build resilience so no lives are lost.”

Mr. Rene Moshe Amano, a star rescuer with the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) and Tacloban City Rescue Unit (TACRU), said that because of the communications system, his unit “was able to attend to many emergency calls the night typhoon Hagupit struck the city, and saved lives of four people, including two pregnant women who safely gave birth.”

In addition to the emergency communications equipment, UNDP also provided the city with audio-visual equipment and high-end computers to advance the capabilities of the city officials in monitoring, information gathering, and decision-making during emergencies.

“Without such vital information and an emergency communication system, the city would not have been able to so effectively coordinate typhoon Hagupit preparedness and response activities,” said Mr. Amano.

Building on the effectiveness of this collaboration, UNDP is already preparing to provide several emergency crews with more modern rescue equipment to further strengthen Tacloban city’s ability to combat disasters.

From Haiyan to Hagupit – what changed?

Follow @{0}

Hagupit evacuees in Tacloban city

MANILA, 8 December 2014 (IRIN) – On the second full day of operations responding to what entered the Philippines as Typhoon Hagupit – since downgraded to a tropical storm – national officials say disaster coordination has improved since last year’s Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Tacloban, the city that bore the bulk of the estimated 6,000-plus fatalities 13 months ago, has reported no casualties thus far.

“We evacuated sooner this year. People need longer than one to two days to evacuate,” Tacloban’s mayor Alfred Romualdez told IRIN, admitting he broke rules to suspend classes before the storm had even entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility. “People need three to four days to evacuate. You cannot force evacuation. Before they can think about evacuating, they need to borrow money from their employer. Then it takes at least one day to return home to provinces.”

“We evacuated sooner this year. People need longer than one to two days to evacuate.”

More than one million people were transferred to 3,640 evacuation centres, as reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on 8 December. Eight of the country’s 17 administration regions were affected.

In Tacloban, some 50,000 people were evacuated ahead of the storm, almost all of whom were already displaced from last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. Romualdez estimated at most 6,000 newly displaced. Almost all have returned to their residences.

Rather than waiting until damage assessments were in to request additional military presence, Romualdez requested military reinforcements four days before the typhoon hit, allowing the city to prepare relief goods and “custom-fit” disaster risk reduction to Tacloban’s needs, he said.

When the typhoon made landfall in the central Philippines on the evening of 6 December, hitting first the town of Dolores, on Eastern Samar (250km from Tacloban), its winds reached up to 195km/hour, causing heavy rains, flooding and landslides.

NDRRMC has confirmed two deaths from the disaster, while local media and the Philippine Red Cross are reporting 21 deaths, including 16 deaths by drowning as flood waters rose in Borongan, the main town in Eastern Samar.

Don’t bypass national government

Assistant-Secretary Camilo Gudmalin, who oversees for DSWD the region of Western Visayas, parts of which were still emerging from last year’s super typhoon when they were hit again in the latest calamity, said coordination between national and international responders has improved.

“[During last year’s Typhoon Haiyan] humanitarian agencies used protocols for a level 3 emergency, which required sending headquarters staff to replace local staff. Those staff did not have the contacts or local knowledge of those they replaced. That was a major lesson. We suggested to humanitarian agencies, that whether it was a level 1, 2, or 3 emergency, that local members shouldn’t be excluded. We applied this lesson to Ruby [local name for Hagupit].”

Noting that responder “cluster” coordination meetings were working well, he added: “We need [to continue] strengthening the cluster approach so as to not bypass the government. There’s a need to involve the government in decision-making.”

In a recent conference on disaster risk reduction hosted by the Philippine government, DSWD Secretary Corazón “Dinky” Solíman told participants: “One lesson I have gained from Haiyan is that while experiences and expertise can help, it will only be effective if it is practised with proper understanding, proper grasp of the context of the place. And so, the surge of compassion and desire to help expressed by foreign agencies must be balanced with an understanding of the situation and capacities of the country they will support.” 

“We cannot make a final determination yet [on coordination]”, added Gudmalin, noting there are still joint assessments in the coming days to extend aid to unreached areas. “Our initial assessments are that we have not encountered any problems on coordination.”

The Office of Civil Defence reported on 8 December that the preliminary cost of the damage, including production losses in crops and infrastructure, has reached nearly one billion Philippines pesos (US$22.4 million), involving some 56,000 hectares of farmland and an estimated production loss of 56,000 tons in the regions of Bicol, Western Visayas, and Eastern Visayas. 

Last year’s super typhoon destroyed three times as much cropland

The typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm on 8 December as it moved towards the West Philippine Sea. Public storm signals remained over 16 areas, including the Metro Manila area.

For Mina Marasigan in the public affairs office of NDRRMC, it was still too early to exhale. “It is still in our area of responsibility. It will hit another province. There are still a lot of areas with heavy rains and winds.”

NDRRMC has forecast the storm exiting the Philippines on 10 December by local evening time.

 pt/fm/cb

Philippines lauded for handling of typhoon

8 Dec 2014

Listen /

Typhoon Haiyan swept across the Philippines in November 2013 leaving a trail of destruction, UNOCHA

The government of the Philippines has been commended by the UN for its handling of a typhoon that hit the Asian country over the weekend.

Typhoon Hagupit, which struck the country on Saturday, is reported to have weakened as it headed towards the capital, Manila on Monday and has been downgraded to a tropical storm.

According to reports, at least 21 people were killed but the damage was not as extensive as had been feared.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) praised the Philippines for its “zero casualty” approach to managing the extreme weather event.

The agency said that this was evidence of Asia’s leadership role in reducing mortality and tackling economic losses from disasters.

UNISDR Chief Margaretha Wahlström said the Philippine government had done an excellent job of putting into action the lessons learned from Typhoon Haiyan.

Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November 2013 was one of the strongest cyclones ever recorded killing more than 6,000 people.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations

Duration:   1’12″

Typhoon Battered Philippines in “Fight for Survival”

Get these clips delivered to your inbox

At least three people were killed when Typhoon Hagupit made landfall this weekend, but the storm was not a severe as many had feared. Still, the experience of the Philippines is informing ongoing climate negotiations and is offering other Island states a glimpse into their potential future. “The Philippines has long experience coping with flooding and typhoons, including building warning and evacuation systems – but those measures may not be enough to cope with the worsening impacts of climate change, the country’s climate chief warned. As powerful Typhoon Hagupit hammered the Philippines this weekend – the second year in a row the country has been battered by a major storm during the U.N. climate negotiations – the country’s negotiators called for a work plan to establish a “loss and damage” mechanism to help vulnerable countries deal with growing unavoidable losses.” (AlertNet http://www.trust.org/item/ 20141207230615-34ovv)

The ICC Dropped its Case Against Uhuru Kenyatta…What’s Next? On Friday afternoon, the ICC formally ended the prosecution of Kenyatta for alleged war crimes stemming from the disputed 2007 elections.The collapse of the case against Kenyatta demonstrated just how difficult it is to prosecute someone who can use the mechanisms of state power to affect the outcome of the case against him. (Guardian  http://bit.ly/1G5KlTL)

Climate change progress stalls in Peru…The momentum from a historic U.S.-China pact to resist global warming is showing signs of fading at U.N. climate talks as the familiar rich-poor conflict persists over who should do what to keep the planet from overheating. (AP http://yhoo.it/12fnshN)

 Ebola

A United Nations peacekeeper who contracted Ebola in Liberia arrived in the Netherlands on Saturday for treatment, the Health Ministry said in a statement. (Reuters http://bit.ly/12fjZ2L)

A Cuban doctor who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and was cured after experimental treatment in a Swiss hospital vowed on Saturday to return to West Africa and continue treating patients. (Reuters http://bit.ly/12fk6eT)

Another Sierra Leonean doctor has died from Ebola, the 10th to succumb to the disease, in what the country’s chief medical officer on Sunday called a shocking trend. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ImpMVc)

Liberia’s top court issued a stay on a government order banning public gatherings in the capital ahead of Senate elections next week that was imposed because electioneering risks spreading Ebola. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/12fnkPr)

Africa

Gunmen broke into a prison in the central Nigerian city of Minna, freeing around 200 inmates, a police spokesman and security sources said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Imn9TA)

Civil society groups in Burundi on Sunday urged the electoral commission to halt voter registration and said fake identification cards were being used, highlighting tensions before next year’s elections. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ImnhSQ)

Suspected rebels stabbed and hacked to death at least a dozen people in a village in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, a local government official said, in the latest in a series of attacks on civilians. (Reuters http://bit.ly/12fjG86)

At least 70 Ethiopians drowned on the Red Sea Saturday when a migrant boat, bound for Yemen, capsized in rough weather, adding to what was already a record year for maritime smuggling deaths. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Ims72t)

President Barack Obama’s National Security Council has voiced concern over Gambia’s moves to block access to top United Nations human rights investigators and enact tough new legislation against homosexuality. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ImrExr)

Sudanese security forces arrested two prominent opposition leaders late on Saturday, days after they signed an agreement aimed at unifying opposition to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a leading dissident said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/12foBpI)

MENA

Planes believed to be Israeli struck inside Syria on Sunday, the Syrian government and an opposition group said, but the two entities differed over whether the targets belonged to the Syrian military. (CNN http://cnn.it/1G5J9jg)

The European Union will press Turkey to cooperate more closely in the fight against Islamic State and urge it not to undermine EU sanctions on Russia on a visit this week intended to give new impetus to often fraught EU-Turkish relations. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/12fkUAr)

Israel’s military said it had opened eight new criminal investigations into its Gaza war operations, including cases involving the deaths of 30 Palestinians. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/12fllKV)

A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when U.S.-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ImpxcQ)

Amnesty International is calling on the international community to do more to address the Syrian refugee crisis. Millions of Syrians have fled over the borders, but only a small fraction have been given asylum in countries outside the region. (VOA http://bit.ly/12fopqq

Asia

Indian police on Sunday arrested a driver from the international taxi-booking service Uber for allegedly raping a young woman in the capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/12fl7n2)

The Americas

Tests have identified the remains of one of 43 trainee teachers abducted 10 weeks ago in southwestern Mexico, a source close to the investigation said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Imofyr)

Mexican authorities on Sunday said that mounting evidence and initial DNA tests confirmed that 43 trainee teachers who were abducted by corrupt police 10 weeks ago were incinerated at a garbage dump by drug gang members. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Imrgie)

Six men held at Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Uruguay, the largest single group of detainees to be moved from the controversial military prison in Cuba, the Pentagon said Sunday. (LAT http://lat.ms/1G5Jene)

The clamor of indigenous peoples for recognition of their ancestral lands resounded among the delegates of 195 countries at the climate summit taking place in the Peruvian capital. (IPS http://bit.ly/12fouKI)

The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would set back food aid reform. A provision sneaked into the act would change the agency that oversees cargo preference requirements for food aid shipments. Advocates warn that the proposal pits food aid delivery against a mandate to strengthen the U.S. shipping industry. (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/12HXXXv)

Opinion/Blogs

3 Big Story Lines from the Lima Climate Conference (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12fxpfl)

Mapping infectious disease in real time (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/12fxwYc)

Ebola in Liberia: An Epidemic of Rumors by Helen Epstein (The New York Review of Books http://bit.ly/12fqB18)

Kenya needs to win war of ideas to stop Islamist advance (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ImnKo6)

Latin America’s posting its worst economic growth in 5 years, but it’s not all bad news (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/12fmUIX)

To fight Islamic State, we need jobs for youth in the Middle East (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1ImrpSO)

Volunteering abroad with children: Some recommendations (WhyDev http://bit.ly/12U2pSV)

The challenges of fighting corruption in Papua New Guinea (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/12Ub8V8)

The Lesson the ICC Shouldn’t Learn in the Wake of Kenyatta (Justice in Conflict http://bit.ly/12UbfjM)

Sierra Leone’s Ebola battle is being led by local talent that deserves our support (Guardian http://bit.ly/12fx2kX)

Growth as the Cornerstone of the SDGs (CGD http://bit.ly/12fxobk)