The epicentre of the quake – which was estimated to have a magnitude of 5.8 on the Richter Scale – was in Dawabi and Khojakheder, two villages located in the Hindu Kush Mountains in northern Afghanistan. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan confirmed that 27 people died in the earthquake, while an additional 120 were injured. Responding to the disaster, a UN World Food Programme (WFP) helicopter travelled to the affected villages, carrying an emergency assessment team comprised of staff from WFP and other UN agencies. Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ruud Lubbers, today departed for an eight-day official trip to the region, according to agency spokesman Ron Redmond. During his visit to Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the High Commissioner “will be emphasising the importance of ensuring that the growing number of Afghans going home be given the longer-term support they need to make their return sustainable,” Mr. Redmond told the press in Geneva.The spokesman welcomed the continuing cross-border returns, calling them “a vote of confidence by Afghanistan’s war-weary refugee population.” He voiced hope that the situation inside the country would continue to stabilize and that donors’ support for the Government’s rehabilitation and development efforts would remain strong.

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Marrakech- The Ministry of Culture announced they are accepting submissions for the 2015 Morocco Book Award.The prize will be awarded at the opening of the twenty-first session of the International Exhibition of Books and Publishing in Casablanca from February 12 to 22.The Morocco Book Award covers several fields, including the humanities, social sciences, literature, art, linguistic studies, and poetry. The Ministry called on Moroccan writers, poets, critics, scholars, thinkers, and translators to participate in the contest. The candidates must submit eight copies of a book they published in 2014, either in Morocco or abroad.Additionally, if the book is translated, candidates need to submit the confirmation of the translation rights. Te deadline for accepting request applications will be January 7.Edited by Timothy Filla

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported today that a mission of experts it had sent at the Government’s request had determined that reconstruction of the Tombs, which were badly damaged in the 16 March fire, is feasible.Only the walls and some of the frame of the Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the building that housed the four royal tombs, still stand, and they have been seriously weakened. Situated on the Kasubi Hill, five kilometres from the centre of Kampala, the capital, the building was thatched with dry grass and wood which burned in the fire.“I am glad to report that an expert mission confirms the feasibility of this unique World Heritage site’s reconstruction,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said. “UNESCO will do everything in its power to help the Ugandan authorities mobilize the resources needed to bring this site back to life and to ensure its future safeguarding. We are already activating emergency funds for this purpose.” The Tombs of Buganda Kings were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 when they were recognized as a masterpiece of human creativity, bearing eloquent witness to the living cultural traditions of the Baganda people, Uganda’s largest ethnic group. The site has been an important centre of religious activity for the Baganda since it was established at the end of the 19th century.“The know-how and material resources used in building the original edifice in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are still readily available locally,” said Lazare Eloundou, Chief of the Africa Unit at UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, who led the mission.“The main priority even before reconstruction has to be the building of temporary shelters for the royal tombs to allow ritual ceremonies and practices to be maintained and the collection of all available documentary data about the property.” The mission’s report will be examined by the World Heritage Committee during its next session in Brazil in July and August. The Committee is expected to mobilize international support for the reconstruction and the mission urged the Ugandan authorities to wait for international input, both material and technical, before they start rebuilding the property. Two people were killed during protests sparked by anger at the destruction a day after the fire, the cause of which remains unclear. 13 April 2010The United Nations will help Uganda mobilize resources to restore the Tombs of Buganda Kings, a World Heritage List site, following their near-destruction in a fire last month.

Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told the Security Council that efforts to properly resolve issues between Belgrade and Pristina – the respective capitals of Serbia and Kosovo – had been hindered by the anticipated issuance of the advisory opinion.On 22 July, judges at the ICJ concluded that the February 2008 declaration does not breach either general international law, Security Council resolution 1244 adopted in 1999 following the end of fighting in Kosovo, or the constitutional framework that was adopted by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on behalf of UNMIK.“The issuance of the ICJ opinion, therefore, should now open a new phase and allow Belgrade and Pristina to engage in a constructive dialogue with a view to the resolution of these issues,” said Mr. Zannier, adding that this dialogue would be very important for the stability and the development of the region.He also noted that the UN’s preliminary legal assessment is that the opinion does not affect the status of UNMIK, or its status-neutral policy. Overall, Mr. Zannier reported, the situation in Kosovo has been relatively stable during the period from mid-March to mid-July.However, as incidents in northern Kosovo in early July demonstrated, the potential for instability remains, he said, referring to the violence in Mitrovica prompted by the opening of a civil service centre by the Ministry of Interior of Kosovo.“The recent violence in northern Mitrovica reminds us of the need for all sides to commit to dialogue as a necessary precondition for addressing the challenges faced in northern Kosovo,” said Mr. Zannier. “Kosovo’s communities are going to have to work together to rebuild the trust that has been destroyed.”In his latest report to the Security Council on UNMIK, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that “sensitive issues related to northern Kosovo can only be addressed peacefully and through continuing consultation and coordination between all relevant actors, taking into account the specific circumstances and concerns of all communities.”Mr. Ban added that progress on the return of displaced persons to Kosovo remains “disappointingly” low and that there is a need for greater focus on reconciliation between the communities.“The absence of significant progress in reconciliation between the communities, coupled with economic difficulties, continues to present a challenge and to foster the risk of unrest,” wrote the Secretary-General.“It is my assessment that this period has not seen sufficient progress in addressing outstanding challenges related to Kosovo, in advancing regional cooperation, or in finding solutions to issues of common concern to communities, as well as to Pristina and Belgrade. “It is also my assessment that the period following the issuance of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on Kosovo’s declaration of independence will provide for further opportunities in this regard,” states Mr. Ban. “These opportunities can be best explored through a coherent and inclusive approach by the international actors engaged in Kosovo.”UNMIK administered Kosovo from 1999 when North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid bloody fighting between ethnic Serbs and Albanians, but it gave up its administrative role in 2008 when Kosovo’s Provisional Institutions of Self-Government (PISG) declared independence. Serbia rejects Kosovo’s declaration of independence and continues to expect a robust role on the part of the UN mission. 3 August 2010With the International Court of Justice having rendered the much anticipated advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia, the two sides should now engage in constructive dialogue to resolve outstanding issues between them, a senior United Nations official said today.

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