US officials to put off oil leases near sacred tribal land

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has agreed to put off oil and gas leasing for a year on land that tribes consider sacred surrounding Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico.Officials say that will allow time to finish an updated management plan to guide energy development across the region. The decision comes after Bernhardt visited the ancient site Tuesday.The area has been central to an ongoing dispute over drilling in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado.Native American tribes and others are pushing for a formal buffer to protect culturally significant sites within 10 miles (16 kilometres) of the park.The management plan will include an alternative that reflects the views of Native American leaders and provisions from pending federal legislation.The Associated Press read more

UN says Afghan refugees repatriated from Pakistan pass 25 million mark

This means that in total more than 3.7 million Afghans have returned from Pakistan and Iran since 2002, when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began its current repatriation programmes after the fall of the Taliban regime, making it the largest repatriation operation in the world.“This unprecedented number of people returning to their homeland is a testament to the desire of Afghan refugees to participate in the rebuilding of their country,” High Commissioner António Guterres said in Geneva. So far this year alone, the total number of Afghans returning from Pakistan with UNHCR assistance surpassed 200,000. In Iran, UNHCR has helped nearly 800,000 Afghans to repatriate since 2002, with another 400,000 leaving on their own. Under the repatriation programme, each returning Afghan receives a cash grant for transport assistance ranging from $3 to $34 per person, depending on the destination. They are also provided with a cash grant of $12 in place of food and non-food items distributed previously.Meanwhile the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that the second major phase of Afghanistan’s child soldier demobilization and reintegration campaign got underway in the west of the country this week, with an expected 3,500 children likely to benefit from the initiative in the coming three months.The nationwide programme, which relies heavily upon the support of local communities and is backed by UNICEF, began in February 2004 and has so far assisted just over 4,000 former child soldiers in a country that has been torn by more than 25 years of war and civil strife. Adding another tool to UN efforts to help rehabilitate the country, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has produced 10,000 board games in both Dari and Pashtu to teach disadvantaged children about key events in the peace process, such as the new constitution and elections, as well as highlighting environmental issues, health, and education. Called The Road to Peace, the game is being distributed by UNAMA’s Office of Communication and Public Information (OCPI) primarily to 10-14 year olds affected by the war, including former child soldiers, underprivileged children and refugee families. read more