Syria-refugees-LebanonLEBANON – U.N. says Syria refugee crisis poses major threat to Lebanese stability

An influx of almost 1 million refugees from Syria into neighboring Lebanon poses a serious threat to the already fragile country, but donor nations may not grasp the potential impact of further destabilization, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

“There is not a single country in the world today that is shouldering as much in proportion to its size as Lebanon,” said Ninette Kelley, regional representative for Lebanon for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“If this country is not bolstered, then the very real prospect of it collapsing and the conflict of Syria spreading full force to Lebanon becomes much more likely,” she said during a visit to Washington.

Last month, top U.N. officials said that as Syria’s grinding conflict enters its fourth bloody year, Syrians are set to replace Afghans as the world’s largest refugee population.

While hundreds of thousands of Syrians have also sought refuge in Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere, the largest concentration of Syrian refugees, close to 1 million people, can now be found in Lebanon, increasing the population of the tiny country by about a quarter, the United Nations said.  Lebanon is smaller than the state of Connecticut.

Lebanon is about the size of Connecticut.

Lebanon is about the size of Connecticut.

The massive influx threatens to upset Lebanon’s fragile demographic balance between Shi’tes, Sunnis, Druze and Christians, and comes as the country, which fought its only bloody civil war from 1975-1990, struggles to contain mounting violence seen as linked to the conflict next door.

Earlier this week, Lebanon’s foreign minister said that the crisis was “threatening the existence of Lebanon.” This month, the Lebanese parliament gave a newly formed cabinet a vote of confidence, ending almost a year of political deadlock.

A major challenge for the new government will be the mounting cost of the refugee crisis, which has strained public infrastructure as people fleeing violence in Syria seek housing, food, and healthcare at a time of economic slowdown in Lebanon.

The challenge of educating refugee children provides one stark example. Kelley said that 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon require schooling, now outnumbering Lebanon’s own 300,000 children in public schools.

To help the country cope, Kelley said the United Nations is seeking to support informal education for refugee children who cannot attend overwhelmed Lebanese schools.

But such activities will require additional, sustained funding from donors who are facing their own fiscal pressure and competing needs from elsewhere. Kelley said the United Nations and other aid providers were struggling to secure such funding.

The United Nations has estimated that $1.7 billion is needed for this year to help the United Nations, aid organizations, the Lebanese government and others to support refugees from Syria in Lebanon, and to mitigate the impact of the refugee crisis there. So far, pledges have been made for 14 percent of that amount, the U.N. said.

The U.S. has been the largest single donor of assistance related to the conflict in Syria. The U.S. State Department says that U.S. humanitarian assistance across the region related to the conflict amounts to $1.7 billion to date. …

GUINEA – Guinea faces Ebola epidemic on unprecedented scale, doctors warn

Guinea faces an Ebola epidemic on an unprecedented scale as it battles to contain confirmed cases now scattered across several locations that are far apart, the medical charity Médecins sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders] said.

Ebola_Doctors Without Borders

Because Ebola is highly contagious, Doctors Without Borders staff treating patients suffering from the disease must wear protective equipment to prevent transmission.

The warning from an organization used to tackling Ebola in central Africa came after Guinea’s president appealed for calm as the number of deaths linked to an outbreak on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone passed 80.

The outbreak of one of the world’s most lethal infectious diseases has alarmed a number of governments with weak health systems, prompting Senegal to close its border with Guinea and other neighbours to restrict travel and cross-border exchanges.

Figures released overnight [March 31st] by Guinea’s health ministry showed that there had been 78 deaths from 122 cases of suspected Ebola since January, up from 70. Of these, there were 22 laboratory-confirmed cases of Ebola, the ministry said.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country,” said Mariano Lugli, the co-ordinator of Médecins sans Frontières’ project in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.

The organization said on Monday it had been involved in dealing with nearly all other recent Ebola outbreaks, mostly in remote parts of central African nations, but Guinea is fighting to contain the disease in numerous locations, some of which are hundreds of miles apart.

“This geographical spread is worrisome because it will greatly complicate the tasks of the organisations working to control the epidemic,” Lugli added.

ebolaThe outbreak of Ebola – a virus which has a fatality rate of up to 90% – has centred on Guinea’s south-east. But it took authorities six weeks to identify the disease, allowing it to spread over borders and to more populated areas.

Cases were confirmed in Conakry last week, bringing the disease – previously limited to remote, lightly populated areas – to a sprawling Atlantic Ocean port of two million people.

Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, appealed for calm late on Sunday. “My government and I are very worried about this epidemic,” he said, ordering Guineans to take strict precautions to avoid the further spread of the disease. “I also call on people not to give in to panic or believe the rumours that are fuelling people’s fears,” he added.

Liberia has recorded seven suspected and confirmed cases, including four deaths, the World Health Organisation said. Sierra Leone has reported five suspected cases, none of which have been confirmed yet.

Brima Kargbo, Sierra Leone’s chief medical officer, said a screening process had been introduced on the country’s northern border with Guinea. Travellers are being asked where they are coming from and whether they or anyone they had been in contact with had fallen ill, he said.

Senegal, another neighbor of Guinea, closed its land border over the weekend and has suspended weekly markets near the border to prevent the spread of the disease.

The regional airline Gambia Bird delayed the launch of services to Conakry, due to start on Sunday, because of the outbreak.

If the deaths are all confirmed as Ebola, a disease that leads to vomiting, diarrhoea and external bleeding, it would be the most deadly epidemic since 187 people died in Luebo, in Congo’s Kasai-Occidental province, in 2007.

JAPAN – UN orders Japan to halt whaling in the Antarctic

United Nations judges have ordered Japan to end whale hunts in the Antarctic after dismissing Japanese arguments that the hunting was carried out for scientific research purposes.

JapanOrderedtoEndWhalingThe International Court of Justice‘s ruling is binding on Japan and cannot be appealed following a case bought by Australia in 2010.

“Japan shall revoke any existent authorization, permit or licence granted and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program,” Judge Peter Tomka said.

In a case that symbolizes an East-West culture clash, the judge has upheld a long-standing Western campaign to end whale hunting in the Southern Ocean with a judgment that “special permissions granted by Japan [to those who hunt whales] are not for purposes of scientific research.”

“The evidence does not establish that the program’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to its stated objectives,” the court said.

Norway and Iceland have continued commercial whaling programs in defiance of a 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium.

In contrast, Japan has always claimed that its whaling is scientific but has admitted that the meat from slaughtered whales ends up on Japanese dinner plates.

The UN court ruled that “funding considerations, rather than strictly scientific criteria, played a role” in the granting of Japanese whaling permits.

Australia presented evidence to the court to show that Japan has slaughtered more than 10,000 whales since 1989 under the pretext of scientific research in breach of international conventions to preserve marine mammals. …

A Japanese Fisheries Agency official told AFP that “Japan’s whaling is purely for the purposes of obtaining scientific data, so that whale resources can be sustainably maintained.”

Previously, Japan has defended the practice of eating whale meat as a culinary tradition and vowed that the Japanese would “never stop whaling.”

But Japanese officials have signalled that Tokyo will accept the verdict of the UN court, set up after the Second World War to rule in disputes between countries.

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Reuters on March 27 and March 31 and Daily Telegraph on March 31.)


1. For each of the 3 countries, provide the following information:

a) capital:

b) location/the countries that share its borders:

c) the religious breakdown of the population:

d) the type of government:

e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:

f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to for maps and a list of continents.]

NOTE: Before answering the questions below, read the info under “Background” and “Resources.”

a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) List the following stats:
-population of Lebanon
-number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon
-number of Lebanese schoolchildren
-number of Syrian refugee children that require schooling
-amount of aid money needed to help the refugees for one year
-amount of aid money pledged thus far
c) What will happen in Lebanon if it doesn’t get the help it needs from other countries in dealing with the Syrian refugees?
d) What effect will the destabilization of Lebanon have on the surrounding region, according to Ninette Kelley of the UN Refugee Agency?

3. For GUINEA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read about Ebola under “Background” and watch the video under “Resources” below the questions. What two words would you use to describe doctors working in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders?

4. For JAPAN:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) What is the International Court of Justice?
c) What is the International Whaling Commission moratorium?
d) Which countries have ignored the IWC moratorium?
e) Before announcing that whale hunting was for obtaining scientific data so that whale resources can be sustainably maintained, the government defended the practice of eating whale meat as a culinary tradition and vowed that the Japanese would “never stop whaling.” Compare this tactic to Norway, Iceland and Russia’s decision to just reject the IWC moratorium. (Should countries with the tradition of eating whale meat be permitted to do so? With or without quotas/guidelines? Explain your answer.)



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland and is a member of the United Nations Development Group.

Ninette Kelley, representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said, “Not everyone appreciates the small size of Lebanon and that 25 percent of its population are now refugees, most of whom came in a single year.”

“I also don’t think it’s widely appreciated that, should Lebanon become destabilized, what that would mean in terms of how much more difficult that would be to form a solution inside Syria, the risk that could have to Israel’s stability, the kind of ground that would provide to more militant actors,” she said.  (from the Reuters article above)



  • The tropical virus leads to haemorrhagic fever, causing muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in severe cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.
  • No treatment or vaccine is available, and the Zaire strain detected in Guinea — first observed 38 years ago in what is today called the Democratic Republic of Congo — has a 90 percent death rate.
  • Sakoba Keita, who heads the Guinean health ministry’s prevention division, said it remains unclear how Ebola had arrived in Guinea.
  • Guinea is one of the world’s poorest nations despite vast untapped mineral wealth, with a stagnating economy, youth unemployment at 60 percent and a rank of 178th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index.
  • The World Health Organization said Liberia had reported eight suspected cases of Ebola fever, including six deaths, while Sierra Leone had reported six suspected cases, five of them fatal.
  • Ebola can be transmitted to humans from wild animals, and between humans through direct contact with another’s blood, faeces or sweat, as well as sexual contact or the unprotected handling of contaminated corpses.
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said the spread of the disease was being exacerbated by people travelling to funerals in which mourners touch the bodies of the dead.
  • Guinea has banned the consumption of bat soup, a popular delicacy in the country, as the fruit bat is believed to be the host species. (from AFP)


The International Court of Justice:

  • The International Court of Justice (World Court or ICJ) is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands. Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York
  • The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by member countries and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international branches, agencies, and the UN General Assembly.
  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French. (from wikipedia and ICJ website)

The International Whaling Commission:

  • The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is an international body set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), which was signed in Washington, D.C., on December 2, 1946 to “provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.”
  • In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium [delay; suspension] on commercial whaling. Currently, Japan, The Russian Federation and a number of other nations oppose this moratorium.
  • The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue ‘Scientific Permits’ to their citizens. Japan has issued such permits since 1986, Norway and Iceland whale under objection to the moratorium and issue their own quotas.
  • In 1994, the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was created by the IWC. 
  • The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  • These measures, among other things, provide for the complete protection of certain species; designate specified areas as whale sanctuaries; set limits on the numbers and size of whales which may be taken; prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; and prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by calves. The compilation of catch reports and other statistical and biological records is also required.
  • In addition, the Commission encourages, co-ordinates and funds whale research, publishes the results of scientific research and promotes studies into related matters such as the humaneness of the killing operations. (from wikipedia)
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