Latvia and Switzerland press the case for UN reform

Speaking on the opening day of the General Assembly’s annual general debate, where dozens of heads of State or government have gathered, Mr. Berzinš underlined that the UN is “the only truly global, universal international organization.”But he said the UN “must change and adapt to the new realities in order to deliver the best results and sustain its influence. The revitalization of the General Assembly and reforming of other principal organs is essential for the UN in order to keep pace with the modern realities in the world and to make the whole work of the UN more effective.”The President said reform of the 15-member Council, where five countries have a permanent right of veto, is much needed.Mr. Berzinš also said overall reform would allow for better budgetary discipline within the Organization and for a fairer distribution of contributions and expenses among the UN’s 193 Member States.“In the context of the global economic slowdown, we welcome the initiative of the Secretary-General to cut the UN budget for 2012-2013 by 3 per cent,” he added.President Micheline Calmy-Rey of the Swiss ConfederationSwiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey, for her part, told the Assembly debate that the Council’s composition has to alter “to better reflect the political balance of power in the 21st century.”The panel should also become more transparent and more accountable to other UN Member States, she added, given that its decisions affect all countries directly and are legally binding.Ms. Calmy-Rey said practical and concrete steps could be taken in the short-term to enhance the working methods of the Council.“A genuine improvement in the way the UN operates can only come about, however, when the nations which rigidly insist on a greater say in decision-making show themselves ready at the same time to accept greater responsibility for the Organization’s proper functioning as well as its financial situation.” 21 September 2011The United Nations needs to adapt quickly to new global realities so it can better serve the world’s peoples, starting with the “long overdue” reform of the Security Council, Latvia’s President Andris Berzinš said today. read more

Credible 2014 elections vital to progress on Afghan transition – deputy UN

Next year will see Afghanistan hold a presidential election, as well as the withdrawal of the majority of allied international military forces, with national forces assuming full responsibility for security throughout the country. “It is extremely important for the people of Afghanistan, but also for the United Nations and the many nations that have contributed to this transition, that the country does not fall back into the nightmares of war, the extreme poverty and violations of human rights that we saw earlier,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told a news conference at UN Headquarters. Briefing reporters on his five-day visit to Afghanistan, from which he returned earlier today, Mr. Eliasson said he conveyed to those that he met that the intention of the UN is to continue its partnership with Afghanistan, provided that this is the wish of the Government and the Afghan people. “We will provide our support, where and when needed, following modalities that respect Afghan leadership and sovereignty,” he stated. Mr. Eliasson said that next year’s presidential election, slated for 5 April, will be a ‘make or break’ event, stressing the need for the polls to be free and fair, and enjoy wide participation. In that regard, he noted that it is vital that the Afghan parliament pass two pieces of legislation related to the future elections before the body concludes its current session in mid-July. The first of the two laws defines the structure and responsibilities of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), while the second concerns the main electoral law governing all future Afghan elections. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, also emphasized the importance of the manner in which next year’s presidential elections, as well as subsequent provincial council and parliamentary polls, are held. “These elections – the only legitimate way of democratic transfer of authority as prescribed by the Constitution – will be the surest basis of internal legitimacy and future stability and are the necessary foundation for continued extraordinary international support to Afghanistan’s transition and transformation,” he said in remarks today to a meeting of senior officials from Governments and international organizations in the Afghan capital, Kabul. “The international community, including the UN, is resolved to continue supporting credible, inclusive and transparent elections held under Afghan leadership. We must remember, however, that the ultimate test for the elections is that the Afghan people and political forces accept their result as credible,” said Mr. Kubiš, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He added that the polls should be based on mutually agreed rules of the game based on law, on sound technical preparations, credible institutions and credible election processes before and after the elections under the close scrutiny of domestic and international observers. “There are expectations from both sides,” noted Mr. Eliasson, who met with a wide range of governmental and non-governmental representatives during his visit, which also included a stop in the southern province of Kandahar. There are expectations from the Government that its international partners live up to their pledges of support and assistance, he said. “But also, there are great expectations on the side of the international community that in fact Afghanistan lives up to its own obligations, primarily to have the election take place as planned in April next year, and to pass the electoral laws,” he added. read more

Spendthrift son ordered to pay back thousands he fleeced from his elderly

“This is one of our biggest confiscation orders and, thanks to the investigation, the money recovered will go back to the estate of the late Audrey Willis and then distributed according to the original terms of the will.” A greedy son stole more than £700,000 from his mother after discovering he was set to lose out in her will.Richard Willis spent four years plundering the savings of his elderly mother Audrey while she languished, seriously ill, in a care home.The 66-year-old used to money to fund a lavish lifestyle – buying himself a new house and spending large sums on expensive food and wine.Willis, unemployed, has now been released on licence after being sentenced to six years in jail in 2015 after a jury found him guilty on four counts of fraud at Northampton Crown Court.But a judge has now ordered him to pay back £566,365 within three months or face a further 40 months in prison.Sitting at a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing Judge Rupert Mayo described Willis as a “spendthrift”, adding: “Money, as it became available to him, burned a hole in his pocket. Whenever Willis had access to his mother’s accounts he would go off and buy antiques, guns, cars and, via credit card, very nice food and wines.”Sums were expended largely for personal expenditure rather than money that was being squirreled away for later on.”Willis described himself as having a fascination with gun making and was, I am sure, keen to impress his shooting friends with the correct clothing, 4×4 vehicle and other accoutrements.” Judge Mayo estimated Willis had benefited to the tune of £713,002 from his criminal conduct and issued a confiscation order for what was believed to be a recoverable amount.This included £220,000 from hidden assets, £297,143 from the sale of his mother’s cottage, £30,000 from guns and £8,500 from motor vehicles.The court heard how Willis spent the pilfered savings on shotguns, sports cars like Jaguars, and a £285,000 cottage in his home town of Newport Pagnell.Willis managed to gain power of attorney for his ageing mother after his father died in 2007 and discovered out he would not be entitled to a large part of her fortune.In May 2010, he transferred £185,000 from her account and the following month he took a further £190,000.Willis even sold her retirement flat in Northampton for £199,000 the following year and moved her into a full time care home.He only used £29,000 from the sale of the property towards her care, the court heard, leaving her just “two sets of clothes to her name” when she died in 2013.Sue Lyon, Northamptonshire Police financial investigator, said: “Willis was driven by greed to make money and lead an easy, lavish lifestyle, but this legislation allows us to go after him even when he was released from prison. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more