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WFP rushes aid to flood-hit Mexico

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is sending aid to 70,000 people affected by floods in the Mexican state of Tabasco.

“We are moving as swiftly as possible to bring critical help to the people of Tabasco, who are suffering the worst crisis in their recent history,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

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“Bureaucratic Obstructionism” in Darfur

Since the outbreak of fighting in Darfur, the United Nations has undertaken one of the biggest humanitarian operations in the organization’s history, feeding and providing medicine to millions of refugees and internally displaced people. Throughout the humanitarian operation, however, the government of Sudan has not always been cooperative. It is often accused by some in the NGO and advocacy community of using tactics like “bureaucratic obstructionism,” to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid.

That is a somewhat opaque phrase. This is what it looks like in action.

The South Darfur government has expelled Wael al-Haj-Ibrahim, the top official of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the state capital, Nyala. The office is responsible for coordinating international aid efforts in the state…

U.N. spokeswoman Orla Clinton tells VOA the organization has not yet received a clear explanation of the government’s actions.

“He was forced to leave South Darfur. This is a directive from the state government. Today, we are having meetings with the government here in Khartoum on this,” said Clinton. “The only indication we have been given was that he was not complying with the humanitarian acts. Now, we don’t exactly know what that means and we are looking for clarifications on this. So, we are hoping to have those clarifications today.”

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UNHCR releases video game to raise refugee awareness

An English version of a United Nations online game aimed at raising awareness about refugees, “Against All Odds,” was recently released.

[The game] is a reworked version of a Swedish-language game, Motallaodds, which was designed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Stockholm and launched nearly two years ago.

In September 2006, the German version of the game – known as LastExitFlucht (LastExitFlight) – was awarded the Austrian Multimedia and E-Business State Prize in the category for “Knowledge and Learning,” after beating off stiff competition from a CD-Rom about the life of Mozart.

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How well do you know your World Heritage Sites?

Looking for an afternoon diversion? The newly created Friends of World Heritage Trivia Game challenges you, on the clock, to pinpoint UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There’s a lot of diversion to be had here — 14 lightening rounds of increasing difficulty. I tapped out after 12. Better study up.

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UN’s Political Department to Expand its Preventive Diplomacy Efforts

The need to expand the UN’s “preventative diplomacy” capacity has been buzzing around the United Nations for quite some time. The idea is to shift the Secretariat’s conflict management resources to direct more attention to preventing the outbreak of conflict, rather than simply respond to it. To that end, it looks like B. Lynn Pascoe, the American head of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs, will be getting the staff he requires to make this shift.

The United Nations Department of Political Affairs will gain more than 100 new staff as part of a programme by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make the department more proactive in averting crises and conflicts before they can emerge and threaten peace and security.

The planned reorganization of DPA will cost about $21 million over the next two years, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told reporters at a briefing today to outline the changes.

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Burma Rejects UN Mediation

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been in Burma for the past three days in an effort to mediate talks between the ruling junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, the jailed democracy activist. Junta head General Than Shwe, however, does not seem interested in even meeting with Mr. Gambari and has rejected his entreaties.

From the BBC:

Burma’s ruling generals have rejected a UN plan for three-way talks involving detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to state media.

Minister Kyaw Hsan told UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari that Burma would not accept interference in its sovereignty.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has expressed concern at the lack of progress being made with the junta. Mr Gambari arrived in Burma on Saturday for his second visit since protests in September were brutally suppressed.

On a previous visit, he held talks separately with junta head General Than Shwe and Ms Suu Kyi. Although he is expected to meet Ms Suu Kyi again before concluding his visit on Thursday, Mr Ban said there had been no further meeting with General Than.

Burma Digest has more. If Gambari must return to New York without securing a constructive meeting with General Than, it should be incumbent on the Security Council to tighten the screws until the junta feels cooperating with the a UN-led mediation process is in its best interests.

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