News in Brief 03 March 2016 (AM)

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A family living in an urban slum in Sonagachi, Kolkata, India. UN File Photo/Kibae Park

Expert calls on countries to end homelessness

Homelessness arises when governments treat housing as a commodity and not a human right.

That message comes from Leilani Farha, a UN independent expert on the right to adequate housing.

Ms Farha presented her latest report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday.

She called on countries to commit to eliminating homelessness by 2030 in line with new global development goals.

She also urged them to:

"Recommit to providing adequate social protection and insuring access to affordable housing for marginalized and vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, young people and migrants and refugees in order to prevent homelessness; and immediately repeal any and all laws or measures that criminalize, impose fines on, or restrict homeless people for behaviour associated with being homeless such as sleeping or eating in public spaces."

Price of food staples steady in February

The price of meat, dairy, sugar and other basic food items remained stable in February, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported on Thursday.

FAO's Food Price Index showed that a drop in the cost of dairy products and sugar helped offset a "substantial jump" in vegetable oil prices recorded in January.

The index, which is published monthly, measures the change in international prices of five food commodities.

FAO also projects that the world's wheat harvest will reach 723 million tonnes this year which is about 10 million tonnes below the 2015 output.

Internet access disparity in Asia-Pacific

Formidable challenges remain in narrowing the so-called "digital divide" among countries in Asia and the Pacific, a new report finds.

It shows that although some nations enjoy faster, more affordable and good quality Internet access, others are not fully benefiting from advances in information and communications technology (ICT).

For example, approximately 86 per cent of households in Singapore have Internet access, compared to 2.2 per cent in Myanmar.

The report has been launched by the UN and the National Information Society Agency (NIA) of the Republic of Korea.

It calls for trans-border links to be established between countries to accelerate ICT growth and expand access to broadband services.

It also suggests that Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam are "well placed" to act as connectivity hubs in the region.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.


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