ROME– FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva has strongly denied he is favouring Latin Americans since he took office at the food agency in January.

 “I assess managers and staff members by the work they do and not by the post they have,” Senior Graziano, a Brazilian, told a meeting of a recent FAO Council earlier this year.

“In the spirit of FAO’s global mandate I see no Brazilian, no American, no Italian, no French, no Chinese, no Canadian, but only International Civil Servants.”

6 Jul 2012
Gianfranco Nitti

ROME- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the United States will visit Finland
on today at the invitation of Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja.

The two foreign ministers will discuss current foreign and security policy
issues, including promotion of the position of women, Syria, Iran and
Afghanistan, the state of negotiations concerning the international Arms
Trade Treaty as well as the results of the Rio Conference on Sustainable

27 Jun 2012

 ROME– Christian Mersmann, the respected head of the UN’s Global Mechanism combating desertification, was sacked with two days’ notice by IFAD chief Kanayo Nwanze, UN sources said.

 Mr Mersmann, a German national with diplomatic status who previously worked at the FAO, had led the Global Mechanism for some six years. He was informed just two days before his existing contract with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was due to expire in May that the agency would not renew his contract.

1 Jun 2012
John Phillips

ROME– Kuwait is optimistic the Arab Spring will usher in political democracy throughout the Middle East with many countries following the Kuwaiti example of a parliamentary constitution and freedom of speech, Sheikh Jaber Dnaij Al-Ibrahim says.

 “We have had experience of democratic political life for 50 years,” the Sheikh, Kuwait’s Ambassador to Italy, told the Italian Insider. “We follow the situation in the Arab world, the Arab Spring, through the Arab League and we help Libya and Yemen through the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” he said in an interview.

31 May 2012

ROME– Aid to Ethiopia from donors and organisations including the UN World Food Programme “directly supports political oppression,” says a Human Rights Watch report.

 According to the report, the Ethiopian government conditions access to development aid on support for the ruling party, People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The international organisation urged foreign donors to ensure their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.

28 May 2012

ROME– At least 900 staff walked off their jobs at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation last month in protest at redeployment policies by the agency's new director general, FAO sources said.

 The May 9 protest was timed to coincide with a tea break of 15 minutes but lasted longer with some sources saying many more than 900 people took part.

24 May 2012
Shelly Kittleson

KABUL -- In Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province, 120 girls and 3 teachers have been hospitalized after toxic substances were sprayed into the classrooms - only a month after 150 others fell ill from contaminated water in another of the province’s schools.  On May 15 in eastern Khost, some 600 middle school students were reportedly poisoned not long after a primary school in the same province was burnt to the ground. Last week the Afghan Ministry of Education announced that 550 schools had been shut down in zones where support for the Taliban is significant.

24 May 2012
Philip Willan

ROME—Life has not been unduly kind to Enzo Condelli, but it has given him perhaps the most beautiful art gallery in Rome.
 The 65-year-old painter from Calabria sells his works – colourful still lifes on surplus wood panels – on the white steps of the 16th century Church of Santa Caterina dei Funari.
 His materials are stored discreetly in a corner of the square under an improvised shop sign with his name and cellphone number.

23 May 2012

ROME –Tens of thousands of struggling migrants, many providing services for tourists in the Eternal City, live in squalid windowless basements, some rented by landlords linked to the Vatican bank, housing association activists say.

Hidden amid Rome’s glittering arts and swanky residences of its notoriously rich politicians, in restaurant kitchens young men prepare one meal after the other. At dawn, when the partying is over, herds of middle-aged women enter hotels via the back door. Who are these people? Why do they disappear after work? Where do they live?

15 May 2012