COMMUNIQUE – 14th June 2019 NALAG 20TH Biennial National Delegates Conference

The 20th National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana held in Sunyani, Bono Region from the 12-15 June 2019 under the theme: Ghana Beyond Aid: a paradigm shift for Sustainable Development, the role of Local Authorities to depict the critical role that NALAG will play to ensure that the Metropolitan Municipal and District Assemblies are the main actors in the socio-economic development of Ghana.
NALAG is fully committed to support and implement Government policy of Ghana Beyond Aid and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals thereby reducing extreme poverty in all its forms, reduce inequality as well as sustain prosperity for all. NALAG commits to ensuring that all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies address these responsibilities for self-reliance and dedication with the focus of developing Ghana with its own resources.

The conference was attended by delegates from all the sixteen regions of Ghana, Traditional authorities from the Sunyani municipality, development partners including The German Development Cooperation and other international organisations such as The Commonwealth Local Government Forum and The United Cities and Local Governments of Africa who were there to support NALAG as their member with solidarity messages. Three Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development were also present as well as the Regional Minister of Bono Region and The Executive Secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee on Decentralisation. The Local Government Services Secretariat and the Civil and Local Government Staff Association Ghana (CLOGSAG) were also present to pledge their support to NALAG.

High on the agenda of the conference was the Award to some meritorious members of NALAG who’s unrelenting service for over thirty years are still working very hard in their various communities and the conferment of Honorary membership to some deserving dignitaries for their unflinching support to NALAG over the years.
Also plenary sessions were held to discuss Agenda 2030, Enhancing Internally Generated Revenue and this was followed by a live demonstration of the use of the software developed to support the MMDAs in their quest to raise revenue for developmental impact. Culture of dialogue with citizens was presented as a participatory tool to improve internally generated revenue for the MMDAs. Mobilising local resources for sustainable development and management of waste at the district level were all topics that caught the attention of the delegates, as these are the areas were the MMDAs mostly encounter challenges. A representative from the Institute for Democratic Governance explained the concept of local democracy in the context of Ghana as prescribed by The Presidency of the Republic of Ghana – H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. This was to ensure that the delegates better understand the concept of local democracy and the process that will lead to the election through the referendum as prescribed by the constitution of the Republic of Ghana. NALAG is committed in supporting the policy of the government and will sensitise the population accordingly.

There was also the presentation of the audited financial statement by Veritas Associates for the year ending 31 December 2017 which were duly approved by the delegates.
Further presentations from Zoomlion and Ghana dot com addressed issues related to sanitation and waste management, and Ghana dot com is championing local news in Ghana. Zoomlion in collaboration with NALAG and other service providers want to ensure that every household in Ghana has a waste bin and Ghanadistricts dot com (ghanadistrict.com) is positioning to bring local governance to the doorsteps of the people. NALAG needs to work in close collaboration with this media organisation to create more visibility to local actions implemented at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.
The election of members to the National Executive Council of NALAG was another item high on the agenda. The election was conducted in a free and fair and free from fear manner. The following were voted into office.

• President: Hon. Bismark Baisie Nkum –Gomoa West District Assembly – Central Region
• 1st Vice President: Hon. Williams Aduum – Kassena Nankana Municipal Assembly – Upper East Region
• 2nd Vice President: Hon. Evelyne Dansoa Boateng – New Juabeng North Municipal Assembly – Eastern Region
• Treasurer: Hon. Seth Oduro Boadu – West Akim Municipal Assembly – Eastern Region
• Trustee: Hon. Kusi Kwaku Eric – Adansi North District – Ashanti Region
• Trustee: Hon. Fiagbaji Prince – Nkwanta South Municipal Assembly – Oti Region
• Women’s Caucus Representative: Hon. Mariam Iddrisu –Sagnarigu Municipal Assembly – Northern Region

Regional Representatives

 

Cairo hosts statutory meetings of UCLG Africa and the forum, “African cities driving sustainable development on the continent.”

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), in collaboration with the Minister of Local Development of Egypt and the Governorate of Cairo, are organizing its statutory meetings in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, from June 17-21, 2019

The Network of Locally Elected Women in Africa (REFELA) will meet on June 17, 2019. The meeting will be an opportunity to launch the national chapter of REFELA in Egypt.

On the morning of June 18, 2019, the 20th session of the Executive Committee of UCLG Africa will be held, devoted to approving the organization’s accounts; preparing the 9th edition of the Africites Summit, scheduled for November 16-20, 2021 in Kisumu, Kenya; and organizing Africa’s participation in the UCLG World Congress, scheduled for November 11-15, 2019 in Durban, South Africa.

On the afternoon of June 18, 2019, a strategic meeting of UCLG Africa’s members from the North African Region is planned to define their priorities for action and the dynamics of setting up national associations of local authorities in countries that do not yet have them. There will also be a meeting of the members of the Bureau of the Specialized Technical Committee of the African Union on the Ministers of Public Service, Urban Development and Housing, Territorial Communities and Decentralization, which will be held at the invitation of the Minister of Local Development of Egypt.

On June 19 and 20, 2019, a conference will be held under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic of Egypt on the theme, “African Cities as Drivers of Sustainable Development.” This conference will be officially opened by His Excellency the Prime Minister of the Egyptian Government, Dr. Mostafa Madbouli and will be attended by members of the government, leaders of African local authorities and representatives of technical and financial partners.

The opening ceremony of the conference will be marked by the official signing of the Headquarters Agreement for the hosting of the UCLG Africa Regional Office for North Africa (NARO) in Cairo, Egypt, followed by the inauguration of the office on Friday, June 21, 2019.

For further information, please contact:

Gaëlle Yomi: Tel: + 212 610 56 71 45

E-mail: gyomi@uclga.org

 

About:

UCLG Africa: United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), is the umbrella organization that represents the local authorities of Africa. UCLG Africa has 47 national associations of local authorities and more than 2,000 cities and local authorities that are direct members. Through its members, it represents more than 350 million African citizens. UCLG Africa’s main missions are to promote decentralization in Africa and the establishment of African local and regional authorities as an autonomous sphere of governance, distinct from, but complementary to, the national government; to support the creation and strengthening of national associations of local and regional authorities with a view to promoting structured dialogue between the Government and local and regional authorities in the definition and implementation of public policies, including decentralization policies; and to contribute to the development and unity of the African continent from the cities and territories.

Visit UCLG Africa’s website: www.uclga.org

Dowload the press release here.

 

 

Read the resolutions of the UCLG Africa Statutory meetings of November 2018

The resolutions of the UCLG Africa Statutory meetings held in November 2018 as a prelude to the 8th Africities summit (20-24 November 2019, Marrakesh) are available and can be download below:

Minutes of the General Assembly of UCLG Africa;

Minutes of the 19th session of the Executive Committee of UCLG Africa;

Minutes of the Meeting of the Panafrican Council of UCLG Africa .

The next UCLG Africa Statutory meetings will be held from 17 to 21 June 2019 in Cairo, Egypt.

Abidjan Declaration : 1st Structured Dialogue “For the Territorialization of NDCs And Access to Climate Finance for African Cities and local Governments”

We UCLG Africa Climate Task Force:

1. Express our deep concern over the findings in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1,5°C (SR1.5), unequivocally confirming, that current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are not sufficient to meet the long-term climate goals of the Paris Agreement;

2. The recently published IPBES 7 report also assesses the state of the environment and the Planet from a biodiversity and ecosystem perspective and indicates very clearly that the health and integrity of ecosystems which all life on the planet depend on, is deteriorating more rapidly than ever and this deterioration and the unprecedented pace of species extinction is human-induced. It states that climate action needs to be accelerated in harmony with transformative action to protect and restore nature. We hereby recognize the inextricable linkages between biodiversity and climate change and commit to, and call for urgent climate action in, and for, Africa that will simultaneously end the deterioration of, and restore, our ecosystems and turn around the loss of biodiversity. We are deeply concerned about the loss of biodiversity accelerated by climate change as we recognize the direct impact affect this has on our livelihoods, our culture, health, wellbeing, economy and the sustainability of infrastructure, also along our coastlines;

3. The Paris Agreement invited all Parties to engage in the revision process of the NDCs by 2020 with the first global stock take due to take place in 2023. By then, the multilateral process must be able to conclude that aggregate efforts by Parties and non‐Party stakeholders, including local and other subnational governments, will be on track to
limiting global warming to 1.5°C;

4. The Katowice climate package, has enabled the Climate Taskforce to provide a set of guidelines for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, covering the transparency framework, global balance sheet, NDC accounting, adaptation, financial goals and more. In addition, it endorses the Talanoa Call for Action presented at COP24;

5. It is essential for all African countries to ensure alignment of the NDCs with national development policies, and to ensure the appropriate mobilization of resources, for both national, subnational and local levels of government, allowing for the acceleration of implementation on the ground;

6. We note the resolution taken by the African Committee of Heads of State on Climate Change (CAHOSCC) in its meeting on the 9 February 2019 that encourages the implementation of the NDCs at the local level, and which mentions UCLG Africa among the leading institutions to support the development of “Locally Determined Contributions”

7. The Climate Task Force invites all parties to the Paris agreement to present their progress and ambitions at the UN Climate Summit in 2019 and sees it as an important opportunity to foster the implementation of the Paris Agreement goals;

We reaffirm the following:

1. African subnational and local governments and their networks should from now on be recognized as critical partners to better support national government efforts to enhance the ambition and accelerate the implementation of the NDCs;

Read More.

 

African Development Bank hosts first-ever pan-African dialogue on achieving climate change goals for adaptation and mitigation

ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire 15 May, 2019 – While Africa enjoys unprecedented economic development and strong demographic and urban growth, large parts of the continent are also highly vulnerable and already face the dramatic consequences of climate change. Local governments, civil society and the youth are getting increasingly vocal, asking more commitment at all levels to fight climate change. This makes Africa a key player in the global challenge to meet goals set in the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions and to adapt to climate change. Across the region, cities and local authorities are moving forward.

The first-ever conference for exchange and cooperation between national and local authorities in Africa to address climate issues and support decentralization territorial approach of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), kicked off today in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Ministers, mayors and heads of African municipalities will explore opportunities for cooperation and mutual assistance in a “Structured Dialogue” conference convened by the Climate Task Force of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) in partnership with the European Commission and the African Development Bank.

The two-day meeting from May 15 to 16, 2019 held at the Bank’s headquarters brought together presidents of local government associations and technical and financial partners.

“The African Development Bank is committed to assisting African countries to implement their NDCs through the Africa NDC Hub,” Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth of the African Development Bank said.” We are delighted to host this conference that brings together key players at the central and sub-national levels to agree on decentralization territorial approach of the implementation of the NDCs.”

In Africa, the European Commission with the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa Initiative (CoMSSA) and the  Clima-Med project) support African Cities in their efforts to plan and implement sustainable energy and climate action plans and regional activities in line with the framework of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.   The UCLG Africa Climate Task Force brings together key partners, including some involved in the Global Covenant of Mayors, and with technical support from ICLEI Africa, who are joining forces with the African Development Bank to step up their climate support for cities in Africa. The first Structured Dialogue will explore concrete opportunities to enhance multi-level governance, with a specific focus on inclusive and participatory development for African countries, cities and regions to manage the risks of a changing climate while unlocking new investment opportunities.

Recognizing that Climate Change is a major threat to Africa’s efforts to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the importance of aligning the NDCs with the broader national development agenda, the European Commission is increasing its efforts to support partner countries in mainstreaming climate change considerations and NDCs into all their policies and plans. Through the EU-funded Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoM SSA) cities and municipalities receive technical support to develop Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plan (SEACAPs) as well as direct financial support to implement actions at local level. With additional EUR 25 million the third phase of the CoMSSA aims to scale-up the initiative’s impact by expanding and sustaining the network and reaching a greater number of beneficiaries, bridging the gap to finance investments and fostering coordination. SEACAPs will be an instrumental tool to the decentralization of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

At this occasion, the Mayor of Accra, Hon. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, a signatory of the CoMSSA has been appointed to represent cities participating in the regional covenant for Sub-Saharan Africa on the GCoM Board. This is a recognition of the involvement of African cities in the global fight against climate change and in promoting collaboration on research, innovation and investment between local governments, national governments, academia and private sector through the Global Covenant of Mayors and regionally through the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is a real honour to join the Board of the Global Covenant of Mayors and to sit with peers from across the world. The direct link that we, mayors, have with our citizens and the impact cities can have on people’s daily life make it one of the most relevant levels of action to fight climate change,” said Mayor Sowah of Accra.  “What makes the difference is the vision that we carry as Mayors, but also the support and collaboration that cities and municipalities can contribute to discussions like the Structured Dialogue with the AfDB. It is at the heart of climate action and we should endeavour to amplify it in Abidjan and beyond, to the whole Sub-Saharan Africa region,” he added.

Media Contacts:

African Development Bank, Amba Mpoke-Bigg, Communication and External Relations Department, email: a.mpoke-bigg@afdb.org, tel: +225 57 25 77 00

UCLG Africa, Em Ekong, Communications Director, email: eekong@uclga.org, tel: +44 7801 701 675

Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoMSSA): Jude Fuhnwi, Communication officer, communication@comssa.org; Tel: +233 544506505

Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy: Brett Kobie, Special Advisor for Communications, email: bkobie@globalcovenantofmayors.org, tel: +32 476 97 46 30

Download the press release here.

Training of 46 trainers on localizing the SDGs and Territorial Planning

 

As part of ALGA’s of  short-term continuous training offer to colleges, ALGA, with the support and mobilization of its partners, namely the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana (NALAG),  United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) – UCLG Learning, The Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and MILE, as anchoring institutes of ALGA, organized a training of trainers workshop on Localizing the SDGs and Territorial Planning – April 24-26 in Accra, Ghana, dedicated to enable and capacitate  African participants.

The main objective was to train a third cohort of trainers from Ghana and the other African Regions on localizing the SDGs and territorial planning and the purpose of the mission was to disseminate this training offer in Africa.

The Training of Trainers program on localizing SDGs and territorial planning aimed to:

  • Provide a space for learning, sharing and exchanging experiences and best practices in order to raise the level of awareness and advocacy for local actors in the SDG ownership, localization process and territorial planning.
  • Propose strategies and tools that facilitate the effective participation of local and regional governments in the process of implementing policies, plans and strategies for achieving SDGs;
  • Develop the methodology for determining targets and indicators to measure the impact of actions at the local level;
  • Provide tools and didactic materials to disseminate the dynamic of localizing the SDGs.

The session took place over three days of residential training. The training of trainers’ curriculum alternated the theoretical input phases with practical exercises, group work and simulation.

Read more here…

Register for the 3rd Edition of the Forum of Territorial Managers and Training Institutes targeting the local level in Africa (Deadline: 4 June 2019)

UCLG Africa, through its African Local Governments Academy (ALGA) and its partners: The Regional Council of Fès-Meknès and Al Akhawayn University of Ifrane, will organize the 3rd edition of the forum of Territorial Managers and Training Institutes targeting the local level in Africa. The forum will be held from June 10 – 14 at the Al Akhawayn University of Ifrane (Morocco) under the theme: Financing Learning, Training and Capacity Building for Local Elected Officials and Territorial Managers in Africa: for Innovative and Sustainable Mechanisms.

The Forum will be an opportunity to discuss and benchmark the issue of financing learning, training and capacity building that targets local governments in Africa, to present the successful models that exist from around the world and to present and propose innovative and sustainable mechanisms to anchor decentralization in Africa. The Forum will also offer a space to empower participants on the African and Global Agendas.

TARGET PUBLIC

  • Representatives of International Organizations
  • Representatives of Governments
  • Local Governments and their Networks
  • National Associations of Local Governments
  • Local Elected Officials
  • Territorial Managers and their Professional Networks
  • Development Partners and Donors
  • Civil Society
  • Academia
  • Private Sector Representatives, etc.

FEES FOR REGISTRATION AND PARTICIPATION IN THE FORUM

  • Members and networks of UCLG Africa: 300 euros
  • Non-members of UCLG Africa: 400 euros
  • Husband / Wives and Accompanying Persons: 100 euros
  • Delegations / Groups of more than 5 participants: 20% discount.

Fees can be paid through bank transfer to UCLG Africa at:

BANK: BNPPARIBAS

Address: 117, Boulevard HAUSSMANN 75008, Paris_ France

Beneficiary: CITES ET GOUVERNEMENTS LOCAUX UNIS D’AFRIQUE

IBAN/ Bank account number: FR7630004005670001009726629

BIC/Code SWIFT: BNPAFRPPINT

Transfer notification: FULL NAME OF THE PARTICIPANT + UCLG Africa / ALGA Forum2019.

– Or upon arrival to the Venue of the Forum.

For more details click here 

For a registration form click here 

Download The Draf of the Agenda here. 

 

 

Intensification of Cultural Exchange between African Cities and European Capitals of Culture -Call for Participation

Panel Discussion and Workshop of the EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Rijeka (Croatia), 31 May 2019

The European Capitals of Culture (ECOC) are one of the most emblematic cultural actions of the European Union with a huge potential for cultural internationalisation and exchange – also reflected in the EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations. On the African continent, investments in culture are dynamic including a wide range of cultural and creative initiatives in cities providing interesting frameworks for enlarged international cooperation.

The panel discussion and workshop organised by the European Commission in the framework of an international conference in Rijeka – European Capital of Culture 2020 – allows for in depth exchange on cooperation ideas and building up sustainable networks between the two continents.

Cultural policy makers from both continents as well as the European Commission will discuss about framework conditions for enhanced cultural cooperation between the two continents. Speakers from future European Capitals of Culture and from African creative cities will provide insight in good practice approaches for city development with culture. Representatives from African cities or cultural operators with a clear urban focus as well as past, present, future and candidate ECOCs are invited to participate!

For more information and programme details please contact Sylvia Amann, Member of the European
Capital of Culture Expert Panel (responsible for the design of the encounter) as soon as possible as only
a restricted number of participants can be accepted to join the workshop. Email: office@inforelais.org 

Register for the Training of Trainers on Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) and Territorial Planning (24-26 April, Accra, Ghana)

ALGA, with the support and mobilization of its partners, namely United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and UCLG Learning, and MILE, as an anchoring institute of ALGA in Southern Africa, have decided to set up Training of Trainers on Localizing the SDGs and Territorial Planning, dedicated to enable and capacitate participants from Ghana and the entire West Africa Region.   

The Training of Trainers session on localizing SDGs will be held in Accra, Ghana from April 24-26, 2019 at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) Executive Conference Center, the anchoring Institute of ALGA in West Africa.

The main objective is to train a third cohort of trainers from Ghana and the West Africa Region on localizing the SDGs and territorial planning, whose mission will be to disseminate this training offer in Africa.

The Training of Trainers program will be based on Learning Modules 1,2 and 3 developed by UCLG, UNDP, UN-Habitat and the Barcelona Metropolitan Government and cover the following topics:

  • Introduction to the SDGs and their localization.
  • Advocacy and awareness raising for the SDG localization process;
  • Reporting and monitoring of the SDG localization process;
  • Development planning and SDG localization;
  • The way ahead: How to organize your own SDG training.

Furthermore, a technical field visit will be conducted and an additional session on facilitation skills will be part of the program.

a) Pedagogical Training fees :

         500 Euros per person

This will include:

  • The toolkit
  • 3 days of training
  • Meals and accommodation at the Executive Conference Center of GIMPA

b) Other Cost to be borne by participants:

– International travel cost (round trip travel to Accra).

The full presentation of the trainings is available here

The register form is available here

For any additional information, please send an email to: lramilijaona@uclga.org; info@nalag-ghana.org; sadamss2000@yahoo.com

UCLG Africa’s Climate Task Force Cements Partnerships at Africa Climate Week

ACCRA, Ghana. 18 March marked the start of structured dialogue around Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) at Africa Climate Week hosted by the Ghana Government. Delegates from all over the world gathered in Accra to, “discuss climate change actions and to strengthen stakeholders’ engagement in key sectors including energy, agriculture and human settlements. This very important event highlights Africa’s commitment to the implementation of NDCs in the lead up to the United Nations Summit for Climate in New York later in the year. The United Cities and Local Governments of Africa’s (UCLG Africa) Climate Task Force are playing a critical role during Africa Climate Week where UNFCCC asked the Task Force to co-ordinate and lead on Policy Block 2 promoting Cities and Local Action. In this context the structure is a perfect platform of exchange on the common challenges and opportunities faced by all African stakeholders. Building strong strategic partnerships is at the heart of The Climate Task Force, that also hosts the Covenant of Mayors for Sub Sahara Africa’s (CoM SSA) ‘Help Desk’ based in UCLG Africa’s Regional Office in Accra. With the recent appointment of the Mayor of Accra on to the Executive Board of the Global Covenant of Mayors, Africa Climate Week provides a great opportunity to cement Accra as a strategic climate hub and bring cities and local governments into the process of the Paris Agreement.

Day 2 – Tuesday, 19 March saw the launch of a new strategic partnership agreement between ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability-Africa (ICLEI Africa), and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), where they cemented their partnership with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement at the ‘Pitch Hub’, during the United Nations Climate Week in Accra, Ghana. The Memorandum of Agreement strengthens an existing collaboration to accelerate the implementation of global and African development goals at subnational level in Africa. This new partnership is fundamental within the Framework of the UCLG Africa Climate Task Force and brings together all interested parties to strengthen and empower subnational and local governments to play a key role in the climate change and sustainability agenda. UCLG Africa providing political advocacy and the voice of Local Africa which is backed by the technical support of ICLEI – Africa.

The collaboration between ICLEI Africa and UCLG Africa will come on the heels of a side event at the Climate Week, led by the UCLG Africa Climate Task Force, to facilitate an agreement between states and local authorities for the territorialization of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). On Thursday 21st March in Committee Room 1 a session, led by the Secretary General Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, will facilitate a roundtable discussion and a Davos style structured dialogue with Ministers and Mayors including the Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister For Local Government & Rural Development of GHANA; and Mr. Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Mayor of Accra. Partners, CoM SSA and ICLEI Africa, will illustrate how African Mayors can properly understand their roles and responsibilities in taking action on climate change issues, as well as how to access technical support for the development of climate actions at a local level. Such robust partnerships within countries and internationally also provides a mechanism for stakeholders to share experiences and data on climate change issues and action in Africa. This session will be Followed by a Press Briefing on Cities and Local Action at 13.30 – 14.00 with the Secretary General, UCLG Africa Mr Elong-Mbassi, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Mayor of Accra, in Committee Room 1.

This bold step to deepen the existing partnership between UCLG Africa and ICLEI Africa, in further support of local action to implement the NDCs, strongly resonates with the strategy and mandate of the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa that provides much needed access to practical support for cities across the continent.

Media Contacts:

For further information, please contact:

Em Ekong:

United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa)

Tel: + 44 7801 701 675 or +233 50 933 3000

Email: eekong@uclga.org

Click here to download the Press Release