United Nations: Women's equality under study
Marking the 15th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women, the UN Commission on the Status of Women last week began two weeks of evaluating the results of conference recommendations for undoing state sanctioned legal discrimination against women. The Inter Press Service report cited, as new challenges to equality, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the global economic downturn, which has "revealed stark evidence of the gender-differentiated impact of the crisis." In 1995 women represented 10.5 percent of the world's parliamentarians, yet their number still remains below 20 percent despite the call then for increased representation. A spokesperson for New York based Equality Now said that, "despite commitments to repeal all gender-based discriminatory laws, many remain in force."
Yemen: Conflict eases, instability continues
A Saudi-organized conference of international donors unfolded in Riyadh last month, two weeks into a truce between the government and Shi'ite Houthi rebels backed by Iran that eased armed conflict lasting seven years. Rebel fighters abandoned conflict zones on February 25. The fact that 250,000 people have been displaced indicates a humanitarian crisis. Economic aid from western banks and agencies, targeting instability in the Arab world's poorest country, is aimed at stemming violent extremism. Meanwhile in South Yemen, a burgeoning South Yemen independence movement staged two days of rallies timed with the donor conference. Ali Salem al-Baid called for "two days of southern anger," reported the AFP news agency. That veteran southern political personality had led the effort to unify Yemen in 1990.
Cuba: State visit zeroes in on U.S. blockade
Ending his third Cuban visit as Brazil's president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva suggested in January that the U.S. blockade "has no political, economic explanation. The Cold War has ended." Quoted by Granma newspaper, he called upon President Obama to show "the same audacity as did the American people in choosing him as president and lift the blockade against Cuba." Host President Raul Castro declared a day earlier, as quoted by PressTV news, "We want to discuss with the government of the United States all the problems ... all, all, all," but only under conditions of "absolute equality." He admitted, "Here there is not the maximum freedom of expression ... But if the United States would leave us alone, there could be that maximum freedom."