UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
1 September, 2009
ABOVE THE ARCTIC CIRCLE, BAN SEES FIRST-HAND VIEW OF CLIMATE CHANGE’S IMPACT
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has travelled above the Arctic Circle today to experience first-hand the impact of climate change on the fragile region, as fewer than 100 days remain before the start of the United Nations conference where countries will aim to reach a new agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
Having departed the Norwegian capital, Oslo, yesterday, Mr. Ban made his way to the Svalbard archipelago off the northern coast, where today he visited research stations and met with scientists, who updated him on the latest science regarding ice-melting.
He stopped at a Norwegian Zeppelin station, a research centre where air in the Arctic region is monitored for various purposes, including determining the effect of greenhouse gases.
The Secretary-General also saw the state of local glaciers, noting that the effects wrought by climate change were visible and alarming, according to UN spokesperson Farhan Haq.
“I will try to deliver a clear strong message from my visit to the North Pole,” Mr. Ban told reporters yesterday, underscoring that only 15 days of negotiations remain before the start of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, where countries are expected to wrap up negotiations on a new pact to go into effect when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012.
“Now is the time for decision-making,” the Secretary-General stressed. “We must seal a deal in Copenhagen for a global, equitable and comprehensive deal for the future of humanity and the future of Planet Earth.”
While in Oslo yesterday, he met with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, as well as with King Harald V.
Mr. Ban also attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial of Trygve Lie, a Norwegian who was the first elected UN Secretary-General.
Tomorrow, he is expected to visit the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, which was established early last year to protect seed samples from the threats of climate change, disease and disasters.
Located near the village of Longyearbyen – some 1,120 kilometres from the North Pole – the vault houses duplicates of unique varieties of the world’s most important crops. Permafrost and thick rock ensure that even without electricity, the genetic material stored in the vault will remain frozen and protected.
The last leg of Mr. Ban’s trip will be in the Swiss city of Geneva, where he will participate on Thursday in the opening of the high-level segment of the Third World Climate Conference of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the UN agency dealing with weather, climate and water.
* * *
UN REPORT PROPOSES NEW MARSHALL PLAN TO PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT AND SAVE THE PLANET
A United Nations report launched today recommends a new Marshall Plan of more than $500 billion per year, or one per cent of global output, to help developing countries ease the impact of global warming and adjust to its effects while continuing on a path of economic growth.
“The science is clear. We need to drastically lower greenhouse gas emissions in order to protect the planet and avoid dangerous temperature rises globally,” stressed Rob Vos, a Director of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
“If we do not significantly reduce emissions the damage to poor countries as a percentage of GDP [gross domestic product] will be up to more than 10 times greater than in the United States and most other developed countries,” Mr. Vos told reporters in New York at the launch of the 2009 World Economic and Social Survey: Promoting Development, Saving the Planet.
Mr. Vos noted that for every rise of one degree in global temperature, the annual average growth in developing countries drops betweens two and three percentage points with little impact on advanced countries.
However, to satisfy development needs, energy demands will have to rise in developing countries, posing a challenge in how to combine the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with economic objectives.
“To do this we will need huge adjustments in developed, but in particular developing countries,” said Mr. Vos. “The transformation of energy services will be key… This will have to go hand-in-hand with large-scale interrelated investments in order to address simultaneously the climate change and development goals.”
The World Economic and Social Survey suggests that market solutions, including the development of a carbon market, through “cap and trade” mechanisms or taxation schemes in developed countries, are not the solution for developing countries. Rather, it recommends a combination of large-scale investments and active government policy interventions for developing countries.
Among the possible multilateral measures in support of a global investment programme set out in the report is the creation of a global clean energy fund, a global feed-in tariff regime in support of renewable energy sources, a climate technology programme and a more balanced intellectual property regime for aiding the transfer of clean energy technology.
“We are suggesting that we need a globally funded public investment programme to allow developing countries to engage both in cleaner generation of energy and still meet their development objectives,” said Mr. Vos.
“The ballpark figure that we think is needed would be one per cent of global output, [or] around $500 to $600 billion per year starting well within the coming decade, and not – as many other studies suggest – that those levels should be reached by 2030 or beyond.”
* * *
NORTHERN YEMEN’S HUMANITARIAN SITUATION UNRAVELLING, WARNS UN REFUGEE AGENCY
Continuing clashes between Government forces and rebels have trapped civilians inside a city in northern Yemeni city, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today, stressing that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating daily.
“We are gravely concerned about the fate and well-being of the civilian population” stranded in Sa’ada city, the capital of the governorate of the same name next to Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia, as fighting rages there between Government troops and the Shiite rebel group known as Al Houthi, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva today.
Over 35,000 people have been driven out of their homes in and around the city, and the agency put the total number of people uprooted since an earlier wave of fighting broke out in 2004 at 150,000.
Those who managed to escape the besieged city and UNHCR staff on the ground have reported that frequent air strikes have sent people fleeing to other parts of Sa’ada to seek refuge and place burdens on neighbours, friends and relatives.
There is a 12-hour curfew in place limiting the movement of both the local population and internally displaced persons (IDPs), while food supplies are running low and black market prices have soared in many of the districts affected by fighting, Mr. Mahecic said.
“With worsening of the situation in the north, the opening of humanitarian corridors in northern Yemen that would allow civilians to leave the conflict zone and humanitarian workers to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced people in this remote part of the country is a top priority for UNHCR,” he added.
Other districts in Sa’ada governorate have also been blockaded by the violence, liming the movement of people, goods and services. In the neighbouring Hajjah governorate, UNHCR and local authorities are organizing assistance, trucking in water and gathering garbage at camp sites for IDPs.
The agency urgently needs $5 million to respond to the emergency in northern Yemen, with the funds earmarked for providing protection and urgently-needed aid for 70,000 uprooted people over the next four months in Sa’ada and other affected governorates.
“UNHCR also appeals to the generosity of the international community and the Muslim world in particular, to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis displaced by the recent fighting especially during this holy month of Ramadan – a period of solidarity and sharing,” Mr. Mahecic said.
Tomorrow, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will launch a flash appeal for Yemen aimed at helping 150,000 people, it was announced today.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) today also called for access to displaced people, with the number of people it was able to reach plummeting from 95,000 in July to just 10,000 last month.
Nearly all of the agency’s staff has been evacuated from Sa’ada, where nearly 100 tons of food supplies – enough to feed 60,000 people for one month – are in stock.
WFP estimates it needs almost $7 million to fund its operations in Sa’ada until the end of the year.
Echoing the calls by UNHCR and WFP for safe corridors to be opened up, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that lack of access is preventing people injured by fighting from receiving treatment.
The agency, which is working outside the conflict zone to treat those who fled fighting, also cautioned that the threat of measles, malaria and diarrhoeal diseases is high.
* * *
MORE THAN 90 COUNTRIES AGREE TO UN-BACKED TREATY TO STAMP OUT PIRATE FISHING
Some 91 countries have agreed to the final text of a United Nations-brokered treaty aimed at combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced today.
The first ever global pact, which intends to block illicit fish catches from entering international markets, focuses on ending such violations as fishing without a licence, using illegal gear, disregarding fishing seasons, catching prohibited or undersized species, and fishing in closed areas.
“By frustrating responsible management, IUU fishing damages the productivity of fisheries, or leads to their collapse,” said FAO Assistant-Director General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ichiro Nomura.
“That's a serious problem for the people who depend on them for food and income,” stressed Mr. Nomura, noting that this “treaty represents a real, palpable advance in the ongoing effort to stamp it out.”
The “Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing” commits countries to a number of measures to harden their ports against illegitimate fishers.
Foreign fishing boats will be required to request permission to dock from specially designated ports ahead of time, transmitting information on their activities and the fish they have on board. The treaty also mandates regular inspections and outlines a set of standards that will be used during those inspections, including reviews of ship papers, surveys of fishing gear, examining catches and checking a ship’s records.
The treaty calls for information-sharing networks to allow communications to all national authorities about vessels that have been denied access to ports, and it contains provisions intended to assist resource-strapped developing countries meet their treaty obligations.
“Of course, the effectiveness of port state measures depends in large part on how well countries implement them,” said David Doulman, an expert on the issue from the FAO. “So the focus now is to make sure that countries and other involved parties have the means and know-how to enforce it and are living up to their commitments.”
* * *
GAZA: UN RECEIVES €13 MILLION CASH INJECTION TO EASE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS
A United Nations-backed employment scheme in Gaza is set to receive a €13 million boost from the European Union that will create more than 1.4 million work days for the jobless in the Strip, the UN agency tasked with providing basic services for Palestinian refugees announced today.
The donation will go towards the agency’s jobs creation programme in the Gaza Strip, which is designed to provide temporary work to alleviate the unemployment crisis and high poverty rates in the area.
As a two-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza continues to dictate the lives of ordinary people and cause severe deprivation, unprecedented unemployment rates have soared to around 40 per cent, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said in a news release.
“Funding towards UNRWA’s Job Creation Programme has never been more crucial, as people in Gaza struggle under the hardship of the ongoing blockade and the effects of the recent conflict,” stressed UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd.
“The main priority for ordinary Gazans is to work and to lead productive lives, not to receive hand-outs,” stressed Ms. AbuZayd, adding that UNRWA’s job creation scheme “addresses this, as it provides thousands of employment opportunities for both men and women, targeting the poorest and most vulnerable of refugee households.”
The EU funding will provide more than 17,000 jobs, directly and indirectly benefiting some 105,384 hired workers and their dependents, and generating more than 1.45 million work days for the 1.1 million registered refugees in the area.
UNRWA’s funding decision will prioritize projects in the all but collapsed private sector and those assisting local utilities and service providers. The EU money will also help the agency fulfil its humanitarian and human development responsibilities in fields such as education, environmental health and food distribution.
* * *
MORE THAN 100 HAITIAN ORPHANS RECEIVE AID FROM NEPALESE UN PEACEKEEPERS
Nepalese troops serving with the United Nations mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH, have delivered food, clothing and medical care to some 112 orphaned children in a remote mountain village, the UN peacekeeping operation announced today.
The blue helmets made the humanitarian trip to Kenskoff, 45 minutes outside the capital Port-au-Prince, on Friday with a medical contingent consisting of a doctor, three nurses and a paramedic.
“For each child we do a health assessment to assess nutritional status, and check their measurements – weight, height, etc.,” said military doctor Ritesh Sinha, adding that “nearly 70 per cent of the children examined show severe signs of malnutrition.”
The medical team administered treatments ranging from re-hydration solutions and antibiotics to de-worming medicine and anti-bacterial ointments to the orphans living in four separate children’s centres in Kenskoff.
The orphans also face food shortages and poor hygienic facilities, as well as a shortage of classrooms and general maintenance problems in the centre, according to a news release issued by MINUSTAH.
“We are here to lend our support to the Haitian people, and this is also shown through food aid and medical care,” said Major Thapa Ramkaji, adding that although the troops cannot meet all the children’s desperate needs, “we try to make our contribution.”
A donation, presented exclusively from the Nepalese contingent of MINUSTAH, included soy-based high energy biscuits and chocolate and new clothes.
This latest humanitarian aid effort outside of the capital, Port-au-Prince, was part of regular relief work conducted by MINUSTAH troops to provide assistance to the Caribbean nation’s impoverished population.
* * *
NEW MILITARY CHIEF OF JOINT AFRICAN UNION-UN FORCE IN DARFUR BEGINS WORK
The new Force Commander of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur formally assumed his duties today in the troubled western Sudanese region.
Rwandan Lieutenant General Patrick Nyamvumba arrived in Darfur on 24 August and has spent the past week meeting peacekeeping troops and civilian staff serving with the mission, which is known as UNAMID.
Lt. Gen. Nyamvumba, 42, was appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping in July to succeed Gen. Martin Luther Agwai of Nigeria, who had served as Force Commander of UNAMID since its inception at the start of last year.
The new Force Commander has extensive leadership and operational experience, and most recently served as the chief of logistics in the Rwandan defence forces.
When it reaches full deployment, UNAMID should have more than 19,500 military personnel spread across Darfur, a remote and arid region that is bigger in size than Iraq. It is expecting to reach 97 per cent of its deployment numbers by the end of this year.
* * *
SIXTEEN SOMALIS DROWN MAKING HAZARDOUS JOURNEY ACROSS GULF OF ADEN
Sixteen Somalis died over the weekend trying to start fresh lives in Yemen, joining hundreds of others who have lost their lives this year making the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
The Somalis who perished this weekend died in two separate incidents involving smuggling boats.
In the first, survivors said that the vessel, which left Somalia’s Bossaso port carrying over 40 people, capsized when smugglers pushed people overboard, pushing passengers to one side of the boat. Seven bodies were recovered by partners of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while three people are still missing.
In the other incident, smugglers, fearing detection by Yemeni authorities, forced more than nearly 40 passengers to swim ashore, with three people drowning and three others missing and presumed dead.
Last year, over 50,000 new arrivals reached Yemen’s shores, marking a 70 per cent increase from 2007, and 36,000 people have already arrived since this January.
Over 1,000 people drowned en route to Yemen in 2008, and already this year some 300 have died or are missing, according to UNHCR.
To respond to the potential influx of as many as 20,000 new arrivals, UNCHR and other agencies have been planning the provision of protection and assistance, as well as improving the capacity and conditions of reception centres.
On Somalia, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today reported that civilians continue to be killed in the capital, Mogadishu, with at least 50 people losing their lives in the past week alone.
A UN report released late last month found that half of the Horn of Africa nation’s population needs humanitarian assistance, noting that that the conflict engulfing Somalia is pushing increasing numbers of people into hunger.
The Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/FSNAU) says that the crisis in Somalia is both widespread and severe, with some 3.76 people in need of humanitarian aid, up from 3.17 million in January.
* * *
AT-RISK REFUGEES GAIN TEMPORARY SANCTUARY IN THE PHILIPPINES UNDER AGREEMENT WITH UN
The Philippines has become only the second country in the world to be formally designated as a transit country for at-risk refugees on their way to resettlement elsewhere under an agreement reached by the United Nations and the Asian nation.
The pact, signed last week in Manila by the Philippine Government, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), means individual refugees in danger will be able to find a temporary haven in the Philippines while en route to resettlement in a third country.
Under the agreement, the refugees may stay in the Philippines for up to six months before they are resettled elsewhere. A similar deal with UNHCR was struck with Romania in March this year.
Raymond Hall, UNHCR’s regional coordinator for South-East Asia, praised the Philippines for setting what he described as “the protection benchmark in Asia.” The country is one of the few in its region to have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention.
“It is providing significant space for individual refugees who otherwise would be in danger of refoulement [forced return to a country where a person faces possible persecution] or of other serious threats to their well-being,” he said. “This will allow the onward resettlement process to be completed without such pressures and in a way that assures adequate protection.”
UNHCR says it expects that it will mainly be refugees from other Asian countries who will be evacuated to the Philippines as a result of the agreement, but vulnerable people from other regions can also be sent there.
* * *
TOP UN OFFICIAL IN AFGHANISTAN CALLS FOR NATIONAL PARTICIPATION IN PEACE CAMPAIGN
The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan has urged the entire nation to join an ambitious three-week-long peace campaign, which kicked off today when Afghan celebrities, UN staff and civil society representatives held hands at simultaneous events in cities throughout the country.
The ‘What Are You Doing for Peace in Afghanistan?’ campaign runs until International Peace Day on 21 September and features numerous initiatives by individual citizens and groups, as well as a polio immunization drive that aims to reach millions of children in some of the most insecure areas in the country.
“I call on all to take part in this campaign for peace,” said Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“There is a huge demand for peace,” he added at the ceremony, which is being launched at a time of heightened conflict in the strife-torn country. The Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) is responding to hundreds of objections received following last month’s historic presidential and provincial council elections.
“UNAMA is today calling on all those working for peace in Afghanistan to come together in a massive effort for peace that everyone across Afghanistan and outside this country sees,” Mr. Eide stressed.
Since their launch in 2007, Afghanistan’s peace campaigns have become entirely apolitical annual events, which are open to any individual or organization, and serve to promote openings for reconciliation and humanitarian access, according to a news release issued by UNAMA.
Previous campaigns in 2007 and 2008 brought together thousands of Afghan groups, businesses, individuals, and international celebrities in efforts resulting in 3.4 million children vaccinated against polio.
UN Peace Ambassador and Golden Globe Award winner Seddiq Barmak said that “years of war and bloodshed are roaring – the love through the smoke and flames of this war has changed to hatred. Let's come together to cultivate the seeds of love and affection. Forgiveness and reaching out hands to each other will create peace.”
* * *
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES PEACEFUL POLLS IN GABON
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the peaceful presidential elections in Gabon, calling on the people of the African nation to continue supporting the democratic process.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson yesterday, Mr. Ban urged all Gabonese “to ensure the will of the people is respected.”
He also asked the people to heed the appeal by Interim President Rose Francine Rogombé “for calm and responsibility” as the votes from the 30 August polls are counted.
In June, the Secretary-General paid tribute to the late Gabonese president, Omar Bongo Ondimba, underscoring “the key role he played in the search for peace and stability not only in the Central Africa subregion, but also in other parts of the continent,” according to a statement.
* * *
UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
31 August, 2009
BAN EMPHASIZES KEY ROLE OF UN IN TACKLING TODAY’S CHALLENGES
The United Nations plays a critical role in addressing the current food, climate and other crises, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in Oslo, as he stressed that Norway is one of the Organization’s strongest partners in tackling global challenges.
The financial, flu, fuel and other emergencies cannot be solved by nations acting alone, Mr. Ban told reporters after meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
“The United Nations is the forum where we can all discuss our different agendas towards a very harmonious resolution for the common well-being and the common prosperity of the world,” he noted.
“People know that the United Nations is front and centre right now in addressing all these multiple crises.”
Acknowledging that it is natural for the international community to expect the world body to step up to the plate in addressing the simultaneous crises, he called for support from all 192 Member States.
Mr. Ban singled out Norway – home to the UN’s first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie – for its “steadfast” contributions in the realms of climate change, development, health, human rights and peacekeeping.
“Norway has been and is delivering,” the Secretary-General said. “It is among the most dynamic and generous supporters of the United Nations.”
Following a working breakfast with Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, he expressed appreciation for the country’s leadership and initiatives for Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Sudan.
On climate change, Mr. Ban thanked Norway for its role in UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD), which seeks to combat climate change through creating incentives to reverse the trend of deforestation.
The Secretary-General will travel to Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, to see firsthand the impact of climate change at the Polar ice rim.
“I will try to deliver a clear strong message from my visit to the North Pole,” he said, underscoring that only 15 days of negotiations remain before the start of December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, where countries are expected to wrap up negotiations on a new pact to go into effect when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012.
“Now is the time for decision-making,” Mr. Ban stressed. “We must seal a deal in Copenhagen for a global, equitable and comprehensive deal for the future of humanity and the future of Planet Earth.”
While in Oslo today, he also addressed the country’s parliamentarians, calling Norway and its people a “model of enlightened engagement and true partnership.”
In a speech in Austria yesterday, Mr. Ban highlighted the importance of trust – both among States and in the United Nations – in tackling a range of global crises, while calling for a renewed multilateralism that delivers results for the world's people.
“Pressed by crisis on several fronts, the world is coming to understand the need to work together as never before in a spirit of shared purpose,” Mr. Ban said at the European Forum Alpbach Political Symposium.
“A renewed multilateralism that delivers real results for real people in need,” he stated, “a multilateralism where countries and regions engage with each other in a spirit of trust, cooperation and mutual reliance.”
* * *
UN OFFICIALS PUSH FOR CREATION OF MONITORING SYSTEM FOR MARINE ENVIRONMENT
Significant gaps exist in the understanding and management of the complex processes and trends at work in the world’s oceans and seas, which cover 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface, warned senior United Nations officials today as they urged governments to approve expert recommendations establishing a system that plugs the holes.
At the opening of a week-long governmental session tasked with considering proposals for the creation of a mechanism that monitors oceans and seas worldwide, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro called for “a continuous, comprehensive and integrated review of the problems facing the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.”
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said that declining fish stocks and land-based sources of pollution are some of the persistent challenges facing the marine environment, while the emergence of ‘dead zones’ and the impacts of climate change – including acidification – are among the more rapidly emerging challenges.
“A systematic assessment process is long overdue,” said Mr. Steiner. “This meeting in New York represents a tremendous opportunity for governments to put the best marine science at their service in order to make the best management choices over the coming years and decades.”
If the General Assembly’s special working group, meeting from 31 August to 4 September, reaches agreement, the first globally integrated UN-backed assessment of the oceans could be delivered by 2014, according to a joint news release issued by UNEP and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura underscored concerns in the Assessment of Assessments report – the first-ever comprehensive overview of scientific marine assessments – which also considers socio-economic issues.
“The report is a clear signal that the world needs a more inclusive approach on its oceans and resources,” said Mr. Matsuura, adding that it “provides a framework and options for how this can be done.”
UNEP and UNESCO noted that despite the central role oceans play in the economic, environmental and social affairs of the world’s 6.7 billion people, not enough is known about their processes from the global climate system, the water cycle and circulation of nutrients, to changes affecting marine habitats.
The clearing of mangroves and coastal wetlands, the over-exploitation of fish stocks and rising tides of pollution are affecting the marine environment’s ability to sustain livelihoods and life itself, while climbing concentrations of greenhouse gases – equal to a third or more of annual carbon dioxide emissions – are being absorbed, as well as untold amounts of heavy metals, triggering mounting concern over the marine food chain.
To deal with this situation, improved monitoring and observation practices, regular assessments to provide a deeper understanding of the status and trends of environmental changes, and the know-how and ability to prevent, mitigate and adapt to these changes are urgently required, said the agencies.
This week’s meeting of the Working Group will consider the establishment of a management oversight body, a new expert group, and secretariat support mechanisms, which could cost between $4 million and $5.6 million a year.
* * *
UNICEF CHIEF MEETS WITH CHILDREN TERRORIZED BY UGANDAN REBELS
The people of the far northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo live in constant fear of attacks from a notorious rebel group from neighbouring Uganda, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today after visiting the region.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman traveled to Dungu, a remote Congolese village near the border with Sudan and Uganda where over 300,000 people have been uprooted by clashes in a region terrorized by the rebels known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“The LRA is notorious for kidnapping children, forcing them to kill and maim innocent victims and enslaving young girls as their concubines,” she said after talking with children who had been abducted by the rebels.
Ms. Veneman met with a former child soldier living with a foster family in Dungu whose seriously-infected foot prevented him from keeping up with the daily long-distance treks with the LRA.
“The rebels taunted him and then severely beat him and left him behind,” she said, adding that he was stranded for days without food and water before he was found.
The UNICEF head said she has been encouraged by the strength and resilience of the LRA victims. “While I was horrified by the violence inflicted on these children, I was inspired by the sheer will and determination of the community to help.”
Five women she met who each had taken in traumatized children, despite having limited resources and large families of their own, exemplify a “true example of humanitarianism,” she said.
UNICEF and its partners are on the ground to provide psycho-social support and basic education for the former child soldiers.
“I asked the mothers and the children what they wanted most,” Ms. Veneman said. “The answer was the same. The children said they wanted to go back to school. The women said the children are the future of this country and we need the resources to educate them.”
Last week, she met with some young victims of rape and violence in Bukavu, a city in the province of South Kivu, while visiting with patients and staff at the Panzi Hospital, which specializes in treating victims of sexual violence, the agency said in a news release.
At least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been recorded in eastern DRC since 1996, according to a recent report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who earlier this month called on the Security Council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into such abuse in the conflicts in DRC, Chad and Sudan.
Today’s visit to Dungu took place on the last day of Ms. Veneman’s five-day trip to the DRC.
* * *
COLOMBIA: UN EXPERT VOICES OUTRAGE AFTER MASS KILLING OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
A United Nations human rights expert today condemned the massacre of 12 indigenous people, including seven children, in southern Colombia and voiced concern about an apparent wave of deadly attacks this year against indigenous peoples in that region of the South American country.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a house in an indigenous reservation in Colombia’s Nariño department early last Tuesday. The victims, from the ethnic Awá group, included seven children and some of their parents. At least three others were injured.
James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, issued a statement in Geneva expressing his outrage about the attacks.
“I roundly condemn these barbaric acts and observe with pain and extreme concern the consequences of this new wave of assassinations against the indigenous peoples of the Nariño department,” he said, voicing his solidarity with the Awá people.
Mr. Anaya said at least 38 Awá have been killed in Colombia so far this year and urged the country’s authorities to step up their efforts to protect the rights of the indigenous group.
“The effective guarantee of human rights of indigenous peoples is deeply tied to their collective right to live in peace and security as distinct peoples and to not be subjected to any act of violence.”
Mr. Anaya urged authorities to investigate the killings thoroughly and to punish those found responsible.
Like other UN rapporteurs, Mr. Anaya reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and serves in an independent and unpaid capacity.
* * *
UN TALKS SEEK TO BOOST GLOBAL ACCESS TO CLIMATE DATA
United Nations talks aimed at boosting access to climate information to help the world’s poor and promote development kicked off today in Geneva, with a top official from the world body voicing hope that such increasing the availability of such data will also contribute to the fight against climate change.
“Today, every government, society or institution appreciates the urgent need to mitigate climate change,” Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said at the start of the World Climate Conference, noting that strides have been made in climate prediction and knowledge of the climate system has increased.
The creation of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) – an expected outcome of the Geneva gathering – “will contribute to address the challenges of climate variability and change being experienced by societies today and those expected for the future,” he stressed.
Such a system will also play a role in disaster risk reduction and speed up progress in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, he added.
According to the WMO, which is organizing the Conference, climate predictions show the timing and quantity of rain in a given area, giving advance warnings of potential malaria epidemics. Climate data can also help to predict possible droughts, allowing farmers to adjust their planting schedules, crop varieties and irrigation strategies.
Last week, Mr. Jarraud said that those attending the event will attempt to “bridge the gap” between those who possess this kind of climate information and decision-makers around the world.
When socio-economic decisions – such as those involving health, food security and transport – are made by governments, the private sector and others, it is essential that they are based on “the best possible scientific information,” the WMO chief told UN Radio.
More than 2,000 people from over 150 countries are expected to take part in the event, which will be addressed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon later this week.
* * *
MORE MUST BE DONE TO TAKE A BITE OUT OF ORGANIZED CRIME IN EAST ASIA, PACIFIC – UN
Greater efforts are needed to win the battle against organized crime in East Asia and the Pacific, according to a new study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which calls for a fresh approach to tackle the scourge.
While many countries in the region have a centuries-long experience with organized crime, others have only recently come into contact with such groups as well as illicit goods and services, according to the report launched today in Bangkok, Thailand.
“The history of organised crime in the Asia-Pacific also demonstrates that no single country, no single strategy, no policy, no law, no law enforcement measure, and no penalty — however harsh — has been successful in eliminating and eradicating the problem of organised crime,” it noted.
Profits generated by smuggling and trafficking, with a price tag of billions of dollars, exceeds the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many of the region’s economies, the UNODC study said, adding that organized crime could potentially undermine governance, commerce and human rights.
“New ideas are needed to prevent and suppress organised crime more effectively,” the report, entitled “Palermo on the Pacific Rim: Organized Crime Offences in the Asia Pacific Region,” underscored.
“Palermo” refers to the 2000 UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Protocol, which has been ratified by nearly 150 nations so far.
But the new publication pointed out that few countries in the Asia-Pacific region has implemented the obligations contained in the pact.
“Whether or not the Asia-Pacific region succeeds over organised crime — or surrenders to it — is the collective responsibility of the whole region,” it said. “In the end, it is the combined political will of all governments and civil societies in the region that will determine the future of the response to organised crime in the Asia-Pacific.
“Whether or not there will be a Palermo on the Pacific Rim is ultimately up to us.”
* * *
GERMANY ASSUMES CONTROL OF UN COASTAL FLEET IN LEBANON
Germany took the helm of United Nations peacekeeping’s first-ever maritime task force (MTF), which was deployed off the coast of Lebanon in 2006 to curtail arms smuggling following that year’s war Israel-Hizbollah war.
The naval force, part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), has been deployed on the request of the Lebanese Government to help the country’s navy secure territorial waters and help prevent the unauthorized entry of arms and other materials by sea into the Middle Eastern nation.
“Through its monitoring activities, the MTF has not only been playing a critical deterrence role, warding off all attempts at illegal arms trafficking,” said UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Claudio Graziano at the handover ceremony from Italy to Germany. “It has also contributed to a safe environment for commercial ships travelling to and from Lebanon.”
Since the start of operations in October 2006, the Force has hailed some 27,000 ships and referred nearly 400 suspicious vessels to Lebanese authorities for further inspection.
Thirteen countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey – have contributed naval units to the MTF.
* * *
BRAZILIAN BEACH VOLLEYBALL STAR NAMED UNESCO CHAMPION OF SPORT
The Olympic gold medallist and Brazilian beach volleyball star, Jacqueline Silva, will partner the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its efforts to promote education for all, including the disadvantaged and vulnerable.
UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, will appoint Ms. Silva, who won gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games, as one of the Paris-based Organization’s Champions for Sport in a ceremony tomorrow at its Headquarters.
Ms. Silva joined the Brazilian national volleyball team at the age of 14 and by 1994 was recognized as the best in the world by the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Two years later she became the first Brazilian woman – alongside her compatriot Sandra Pires – to win an Olympic medal.
In 1999 she founded the Jackie Silva Institute, which now has 49 centres across Rio de Janeiro aimed at developing new talent and offering opportunities to some 6,000 vulnerable and underprivileged young people. As well as training in sports, the centres provide workshops and lectures on HIV and AIDS prevention, teenage pregnancy and drug consumption.
UNESCO’s efforts to promote inclusive education are based on the universal right to quality education that combines learning and personal development, with a special focus on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Ms. Silva shares UNESCO’s belief that the values of sport are factors for peace and development, the agency said in a news release, adding that the athlete will plan an active part in educational projects, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries.
She joins the ranks of other distinguished UNESCO Champions for Sport, which include German Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, three-time World Cup winner and Brazilian football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento (also known as Pelé), Ukrainian Olympic champion pole-vaulter Serhiy Bubka and Belgian Olympic women’s tennis and Grand Slam champion Justine Henin.
* * *
UN DEPLORES YET ANOTHER KILLING OF A JOURNALIST IN PAKISTAN
The United Nations agency that defends press freedom has condemned yet another murder of a journalist working in north-western Pakistan after an Afghan television reporter known for his criticism of the Taliban was slain there last week.
Janullah Hashimzada, the 37-year-old bureau chief in Peshawar for the TV channel Shamshad, died after being shot multiple times in an ambush last Monday in the Khyber Pass region linking Pakistan and Afghanistan. His colleague, Ali Khan, was seriously wounded during the same attack.
Mr. Hashimzada, who also worked on a freelance basis for the news agencies AP and Pajhwok Afghan News, the newspapers Wahdat and Sahar, and the TV network Al-Arabia, is the second journalist to be killed in Pakistan this month.
Sadiq Bacha Khan, a correspondent of Aaj TV and former President of the Press Club of Mardan, was shot dead on his way to work on 14 August.
The International Press Institute (IPI) says 11 journalists have been killed in Pakistan in the past two years, with six of the murders occurring in the strife-torn northwest. Mr. Hashimzada had told colleagues previously about death threats he had received.
Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), issued a statement on Friday condemning the slaying of Mr. Hashimzada and noting that journalists pay “too heavy a price” for carrying out their work.
“This murder highlights the vulnerability of journalists working in conflict and post-conflict areas, where they fulfil a vital role in providing us with independent information,” he said.
“Peace, democracy and the rule of law depend and require an open and informed debate, which is also essential for reconciliation and reconstruction.”
* * *
UN EXPERT URGES ZAMBIA TO ‘MOVE FROM RHETORIC TO ACTION’ IN FIGHTING EXTREME POVERTY
An independent United Nations human rights expert has called on the Zambian Government to make good on its promises to reduce the deep poverty in the Southern African nation.
“Effectively addressing extreme poverty in Zambia requires moving from rhetoric to action,” said Magdalena Sepúlveda, the UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty.
“Zambia is a country rich in natural resources that experienced significant economic growth in the last eight years,” but she stressed it “was appalling to see the persistence of extreme poverty in different regions of the country.”
After eight days of visiting communities in the landlocked country, Ms. Sepúlveda told reporters in the capital, Lusaka, on Friday that the “Government has made clear commitments and outlined important plans to change this situation, but words must be translated into more actions.”
During her trip she has learned first-hand about the daily struggle for survival by people living in extremely difficult conditions, visiting communities living in poverty in Chipata, Chirundu, Katete and Lusaka, as well as meeting with various Government authorities, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Ms. Sepúlveda stressed that access to “health, housing, education and social security are all universal human rights that must be incorporated into the [national] Bill of Rights,” adding that poverty will not be reduced until poor people are at the centre of national policies and resources are set aside for social protection. “The extremely poor must be the number one priority of the State budget.”
She also highlighted the successful impact of pilot social programmes in urban and rural communities that allot funds to households unable to take part in income-generating activities.
“Without social cash transfers, older people, women and children would be virtually abandoned to their fate,” said Ms. Sepúlveda. “I was extremely pleased to hear that the Government has decided to scale-up these programmes.”
Ms. Sepúlveda was appointed UN Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty in May 2008, and reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in an unpaid capacity. She will present a report describing her main findings and providing recommendations to the Council in June 2010.
* * *
SOUTH-EAST ASIAN COUNTRIES HOLD UN-BACKED MEETING TO DISCUSS GREEN GROWTH STRATEGIES
Government officials from across South-East Asia have gathered today in western Thailand for a six-day United Nations seminar on how countries can implement low-carbon strategies that will also boost economic growth.
Participants at the seminar will discuss green growth, sustainable consumption and production, eco-efficiency, green taxes, budget reform and other environmental and economic issues, according to a press release issued by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
Officials will have the opportunity to view first-hand sustainable business practices, engage in mock negotiations and policy exercises and share country experiences about how to respond to current economic and climate crises.
“Our message of low-carbon green growth can only remain credible when we actually walk the talk by supporting green businesses, eco-tourism and low-carbon solutions in our own procurement decisions,” said Masakazu Ichimura, the chief of ESCAP’s environment and development section.
The seminar, which runs until Saturday, is taking place at an eco-resort in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province that showcases rainwater harvesting, recycling, organic rice farming and biogas digesting.
Organized by ESCAP along with the United Kingdom, the China Standard Certification Centre and the Regional Help Desk on Sustainable Consumption and Production for Asia and the Pacific, it will be carbon-neutral by offsetting emissions from travel and accommodation with the organization Plant-A-Tree-Today.org.
* * *
UN URGES ACTION AGAINST FORCED INDIGENOUS LABOUR IN BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY
The indigenous peoples of the Chaco region of neighbouring Bolivia and Paraguay are often trapped into forced labour practices and face discrimination, severe poverty and in some cases systematic violence, the United Nations reported today, calling on the two countries to take urgent action to protect those groups’ human rights.
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues voiced grave concern today as it released the reports from the recent visits to Bolivia and Paraguay of a mission comprising Permanent Forum members as well as experts from a series of UN agencies and departments.
The mission found that while the Governments of the two countries have taken some steps to deal with the problem of forced labour, additional and immediate action is necessary, given the severity of the situation.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the Permanent Forum, said the mission found that a response is needed both at the national level and across international borders to help the indigenous of the Chaco, a relatively arid and remote plain in central South America.
“A strong message must be sent by the two national governments to the local governments and land owners of the Chaco region,” she said. “It is unacceptable for any sector of society to be subjected to forced labour and other abuses.”
The report calls on Bolivia and Paraguay to establish sufficient State institutions in the areas where forced labour is prevalent to ensure that domestic and international labour laws are actually enforced, appropriate rural development is undertaken and critical social services such as health care and education are in place.
“International law and national policies must be strongly enforced not only by national governments, but also at the level of local government where, at the very best, the message of anti-discrimination is not getting through, and at worst is being actively opposed,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz noted.
She said that while the forced labour of the Guaraní and other indigenous peoples has long been documented, those groups “face severe poverty, lack food and water security and are confronted with a series of human rights abuses related to land rights, child labour, freedom of association and discrimination. In some areas, those seeking to defend their rights were the target of systematic violence and threats.”
The Chairperson stressed that efforts to tackle the problems faced by the indigenous peoples of the Chaco “must be undertaken with their free, prior and informed consent, and must also include restoration of territorial and land rights for indigenous peoples, and the promotion and application of the principle of non-discrimination in all spheres of life of indigenous peoples.”
The Permanent Forum is an advisory to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and is tasked with discussing indigenous issues as they relate to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
The mission to Bolivia and Paraguay, which took place in April and May, included experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
* * *
UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
28 August, 2009
AGREEMENT ON NEW CLIMATE CHANGE PACT CRUCIAL TO FUTURE OF HUMANITY, SAYS BAN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today underscored the need for countries to ‘seal the deal’ at a major climate change conference later this year in Copenhagen, stressing that a successful outcome is crucial for the planet and the future of humanity.
“We have about three months until the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December in Copenhagen – three months to reach an agreement that will determine the future of our planet,” Mr. Ban said at a ceremony in the Austrian capital to mark the 30th anniversary of the UN headquarters there, known as the Vienna International Centre.
When they meet in December, Member States are expected to agree on a new pact on slashing greenhouse gas emissions to replace the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012.
In his address at the anniversary ceremony – attended by around 1,000 people – the Secretary-General also spoke about the importance of the work of all the Vienna-based UN organizations, which include the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), among others.
“From outer space to the human heart, this Vienna International Centre has done far more than witness history; it has brought great progress to our world,” he said. “Every office here, every single member of the UN family in Vienna, is making a major difference in people’s lives.”
The UN chief added that he had “left half his heart in Vienna,” after serving as Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Austria some 10 years ago.
While in Austria, Mr. Ban is also scheduled to make a private visit to the President’s summer residence. He will then go to Tyrol where he will address the Alpbach Retreat 2009, which focuses on the theme, “The UN Security Council and the Protection of Civilians: Improving Effectiveness and Accountability.”
The Secretary-General’s current trip also includes a stop next week in Svalbard, Norway, to see first hand the impact of climate change on the Arctic. The visit is part of his efforts to push for action ahead of the December conference and follows a similar trip to Antarctica in 2007.
“This will be a very important experience,” he told reporters today following a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. “I am going to send out to the international community a strong message, so that we will be committed even further to seal the deal in Copenhagen.”
With only 100 days left before the December meeting, the UN is launching Global Climate Week from 21 to 25 September. The Secretary-General is calling on communities around the world to take advantage of that week to encourage leaders to reach a fair, balanced and effective agreement on climate change.
Events are planned in more than 120 countries for this first Global Climate Week, which coincides with the summit on climate change being convened by Mr. Ban on 22 September in New York.
The UN is also encouraging communities, businesses and individuals to add their voices to the Seal the Deal! campaign during Global Climate Week by signing the online Climate Petition, which will be presented by civil society to governments at the Copenhagen meeting.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said that a deal reached at Copenhagen “is so essential on a planet of 6 billion people, [that is] rising to over 9 billion people by 2050.”
He added that a deal would also serve as “perhaps the biggest and most far-reaching stimulus package of 2009 and beyond.”
* * *
THOUSANDS STILL FLEEING UGANDAN REBEL ATTACKS IN EASTERN DR CONGO – UN AGENCY
Civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are continuing to suffer at the hands of a notorious Ugandan rebel group, whose attacks have forced at least 125,000 people in Orientale province to flee their homes in the last three weeks alone, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a “staggering” 540,000 Congolese have been uprooted in Orientale province by deadly attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since last September.
This includes at least 125,000 people known to have been driven out of their villages in the province’s Haut Uele district in the past three weeks, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva today.
Among other atrocities, the LRA is accused of widespread killings, kidnappings of civilians and raping of women. Over the past year, it has reportedly killed some 1,270 people and abducted 655 children in Orientale province, in addition to causing widespread destruction to homes, health centres and schools.
Mr. Mahecic said UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have provided much needed supplies to some 11,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Dungu, the capital of Haut Uele district, but insecurity and impassable roads continue to hamper relief efforts.
“Moreover, as the number of IDPs increases, friction over the meagre resources has erupted between the displaced and host families who have been stretched to the limit,” he stated, adding that some of the host families have been hosting the displaced since last September when attacks started in the area.
The attacks by the LRA have also forced an estimated 8,000 Congolese to flee to neighbouring South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).
* * *
AS FIGHTING WORSENS IN YEMEN, UN CALLS FOR SAFE CORRIDORS FOR AID AND CIVILIANS
The United Nations refugee agency has called for the establishment of safe corridors in northern Yemen so civilians can flee heavy fighting between Government forces and rebels and humanitarian workers can reach the displaced to deliver much-needed aid.
UN aid agencies are stepping up their appeals for an end to the clashes amid reports that the fighting has intensified, particularly in and around the city of Sa’ada, the capital of the province of the same name next to Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told journalists today in Geneva that Sa’ada city has been practically cut off from the outside world for more than a week because of the fighting between Government forces and members of the Shiite rebel group known as al-Houthi.
Mr. Mahecic said reports indicated that both parties had rejected a ceasefire and were vowing to continue their hostilities in the region, which is remote and marked by rugged terrain.
As a result, “the residents, as well as those displaced in Sa’ada city, are unable to leave,” he said. “The state of emergency is still in force. The markets are closed in the city, resulting in an extreme shortage of food and other commodities, as well as drastic price increases. Many are living on assistance from friends and relatives who had been able to store food.”
He said António Guterres, the High Commissioner, is calling for the urgent opening of humanitarian corridors so civilians can leave the conflict zone and aid workers can have access to the displaced.
One camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sa’ada province, known as Al Anad, is off limits to aid workers while three other sites remain open but are becoming overcrowded as civilians try to flee the violence.
UNHCR and local authorities have registered about 700 families in the city for aid and plans to distribute relief supplies to some 370 families tomorrow, security permitting.
The effects of the fighting extend to neighbouring Amran and Hajjah provinces, where IDPs – mainly women and children, and carrying few personal possessions – have occupied schools, clinics, hangars and barns.
Inter-agency field assessment missions have been conducted in Amran province to determine how best to distribute aid to those in need. UNHCR has already given out tents, plastic sheets, kitchen sets, mattresses, blankets, jerry cans, soap and sanitary napkins to IDPs in Hajjah.
UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Emilia Casella said today that the agency had taken advantage of a brief lull in the fighting earlier this week to give a full month’s ration to about 2,500 people living in camps in Sa’ada city, and was also providing 75 tons of food aid to 7,500 IDPs in Yemen.
Last week Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope that the fighting would stop and appealed to both sides to facilitate humanitarian assistance to civilians.
* * *
SRI LANKA: UN RIGHTS EXPERT CALLS FOR PROBE INTO VIDEO OF ALLEGED EXECUTIONS
A United Nations human rights expert today called for the immediate establishment of an independent inquiry into the authenticity of a video which purportedly depicts the extrajudicial execution of two naked and helpless men by the Sri Lankan military and the presumed prior executions of others.
Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said he was aware that the Sri Lankan Government had categorically denied the allegations raised by the video, which has been aired this week.
“These images are horrendous and, if authentic, would indicate a serious violation of international law,” Professor Alston said in a statement, noting that the Government’s denial “makes it all the more important for an independent investigation to be set up.
“If the Government’s position is validated as a result of an inquiry, the international community can rest easy and the Government will have been vindicated. There is no justification for not moving ahead with such an investigation in view of the Government’s confidence that such atrocities were never perpetrated by its armed forces.”
Earlier this year Government forces declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after years of fighting in the small South Asian country.
Professor Alston added that he regretted that the Government had not yet issued him an invitation to make an official visit to Sri Lanka, despite a number of requests in recent years, but he hoped an invitation may come given the new allegations.
Like many other UN rapporteurs, Professor Alston reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and to the General Assembly and he serves in an independent and unpaid capacity.
* * *
VISITING DR CONGO, UNICEF CHIEF COMES FACE TO FACE WITH SEXUAL VIOLENCE VICTIMS
The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) came face to face with some of the young victims of rape and violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as she continued her five-day visit to the vast African nation.
During a visit to Bukavu in the province of South Kivu, Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited with patients and staff at the Panzi Hospital, which specializes in treating victims of sexual violence, the agency said in a news release.
At least 200,000 cases of sexual violence has been recorded in eastern DRC since 1996, according to a recent report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who earlier this month called on the Security Council to set up an independent commission of inquiry into such abuse in the conflicts in DRC, Chad and Sudan.
At the UNICEF-supported Panzi Hospital, Ms. Veneman met a young woman whose name means ‘love’ in Swahili and who told her she was repeatedly raped a year ago.
“What shocked me even more was that she said after the first soldier raped her, the second soldier took a cloth from his pocket to wipe her clean and then proceeded to rape her. This happened multiple times,” said Ms. Veneman.
The young woman was raped again this past June when soldiers came back to her village. “To go through this twice is horrific enough,” Ms. Veneman said. “But what she told me next just broke my heart… her husband shunned her and told her he could not stay with her after she had been raped so many times.”
The UNICEF chief noted that many women and children have to fend for themselves as their families and communities have abandoned them.
“It is critical to create security in this region so that these women can generate incomes to support their families,” she stated.
Ms. Veneman also met a 15-year-old girl who she had met in 2006 during her first visit to DRC.
“In 2006, I met a 12-year-old girl who was attacked and brutally raped by four men,” she said. “Her story has been with me ever since. Three years on, she is wracked with physical pain, and even more, I saw heartbreaking mental anguish in her eyes.”
Among the many efforts being supported by UNICEF in the country is the City of Joy, a joint programme with Panzi Hospital and V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. The programme aims to provide health, educational and income-generating opportunities to rape survivors, especially those who cannot return to their families and communities.
* * *
ARREST OF REMAINING TWO FUGITIVES MAJOR CONCERN FOR UN’S YUGOSLAV TRIBUNAL
The United Nations tribunal set up to try those responsible for atrocities committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s has once again called for the arrest of the two suspects who still remain at large.
Officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), as well as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly stressed the importance of bringing Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladić and the ethnic Serb politician Goran Hadžić to trial.
“The failure to arrest the remaining two fugitives remains a grave concern,” the ICTY stated in its sixteenth annual report, which was made public today and covers the period from 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2009.
Mr. Mladić faces numerous charges, including genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, taking of hostages and inflicting terror on civilians.
Mr. Hadžić is charged with murder, persecutions, torture, cruel treatment and other war crimes and crimes against humanity related to his role as president of a self-proclaimed breakaway state of rebel Serbs in southern Croatia during the early 1990s.
The ICTY added that the apprehension of these two suspects is the “most critical aspect” of Serbia’s cooperation with the Tribunal, which is based in The Hague.
Meanwhile, the Tribunal has concluded proceedings against 120 accused, out of 161 indicted. Appeals proceedings are ongoing for 12 people, while another 21 are currently on trial and four accused persons are at the pre-trial stage.
As part of its completion strategy, 2009 is the last year of full trial activity before the Tribunal starts downsizing in 2010. The report cites the progress made in expediting the court’s work, with 86 cases now fully completed.
It also noted cooperation between the Office of the ICTY Prosecutor and the authorities of the States of the former Yugoslavia in the area of domestic war crimes prosecutions.
* * *
UN HUMANITARIAN AIR SERVICE IN WEST AFRICA WINS REPRIEVE FOR ANOTHER MONTH
United Nations aid operations in West Africa have received a boost with the injection of fresh funds to allow humanitarian flights in the region to continue, but similar air services in Chad will have to be cut within three weeks unless donors come forward with more assistance.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported today that its Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operations for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which had been slated to close on Monday, will now be able to continue through September after the European Union contributed €100,000.
The service flies aid workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as journalists and others, to some of the hardest to reach emergency operations around the world, allowing the workers to reach those most in need of assistance.
The service currently operates in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan.
But the service for Chad will be cut in half from 15 September unless more funding is found, WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told journalists today in Geneva. She warned that the service to that country could soon close entirely if new funds – estimated at around $5.7 million – are not received.
* * *
UN SENDS DISASTER ASSESSMENT TEAMS TO BEIJING AND TAIPEI AFTER TYPHOON STRIKES
The United Nations has dispatched two disaster assessment teams to East Asia to evaluate the most urgent humanitarian needs in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, which has killed hundreds of people and damaged tens of thousands of homes and wide swathes of farmland.
The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) missions have been sent to Beijing and Taipei respectively and are working there with local authorities and aid organizations, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.
The teams have been tasked with assessing where the international community can best provide additional assistance following the disaster and also how to help authorities prepare for future typhoons.
Authorities say that nearly 500 people are confirmed to have died so far, while some 250 others are still listed as missing, three weeks after the typhoon struck. Search and rescue operations are ongoing in Taiwan, Province of China, one of the hardest hit areas, and where helicopters and ferries have been delivering supplies to remote or cut-off villages.
Mainland China has also suffered damage, with Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Anhui and Ziangsu provinces considered the worst hit. In total, more than 15 million people are estimated to be affected by the typhoon, with tens of thousands forced from their homes because of the damage inflicted by the extreme winds and heavy rainfall.
* * *
NEPAL ARMY PERSONNEL MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR RIGHTS ABUSES, SAYS UN OFFICIAL
A senior United Nations official in Nepal has stressed the need to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by members of the national army during the country’s decade-long civil war and to ensure perpetrators are held accountable.
The lack of progress on accountability for serious rights violations was a major focus of the meeting yesterday in Kathmandu between Richard Bennett, the Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the acting Chief of Army Staff, Chhatra Man Singh Gurung.
The two discussed concerns about what OHCHR said was the Government’s failure to properly investigate cases of arbitrary detention, torture and disappearances that occurred at the Army’s Maharajgunj Barracks in 2003 and 2004.
“OHCHR once again calls upon the Government to investigate the human rights violations which occurred at Maharajgunj barracks, including the responsibility of those within the chain of command at the time,” said Mr. Bennett.
The Representative also noted that recently personnel in positions of command responsibility during the time that violations were being committed at the barracks have been recommended for promotion or extension.
He suggested that a comprehensive vetting of both Nepal Army personnel and Maoist cadres be conducted as part of the peace process “to avoid such controversies in the future,” according to a news release issued by OHCHR.
In addition, while noting the important contribution that the Nepal Army has made to UN peacekeeping missions, Mr. Bennett stated that until an independent and impartial vetting mechanism is put into place, the promotion, extension, or nomination for UN service of individuals alleged to have committed violations should be suspended.
For his part, General Gurung said the Nepal Army would punish personnel proven guilty of human rights violations, and would cooperate with “a properly constituted impartial and independent body,” such as a commission of inquiry on disappearances, set up to investigate human rights violations which occurred during the conflict.
* * *
UN VOICES CONCERN AS FRESH FIGHTING IN MYANMAR UPROOTS THOUSANDS
The United Nations refugee agency today voiced its concern about reports that between 10,000 and 30,000 refugees have fled violence in Myanmar's north-eastern Shan state in recent weeks and headed to China's Yunnan province.
Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva that the agency is liaising with the authorities to investigate what the needs of the refugees are.
“Our information is that as many as 30,000 people may have taken shelter in Nansan county since 8 August, saying they were fleeing fighting between Myanmar Government troops and ethnic minority groups,” he stated.
According to information received by UNHCR, local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees.
“UNHCR has reiterated its readiness to provide support to the authorities in responding to the needs of these refugees,” said Mr. Mahecic.
* * *
UN REFUGEE AGENCY SHOCKED AT CONDITIONS AT GREEK DETENTION FACILITY
The United Nations refugee agency said it was shocked by the conditions at a detention facility on the Greek island of Lesvos which was overcrowded and holding 200 unaccompanied children.
Staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the detention centre at Pagani, built to hold between 250 and 300 people, earlier this week, according to the agency’s spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.
“They were shocked at the conditions in the facility, where more than 850 people are held, including 200 unaccompanied children, mostly from Afghanistan,” he told reporters in Geneva today.
UNHCR staff described the condition of the centre as “unacceptable,” he stated, adding that one room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many suffering from illness related to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the centre.
Greece’s Deputy Minister of Health and Social Solidarity has assured UNHCR that all the unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month, and some measures have already been taken.
Mr. Mahecic noted that the situation in Pagani is “indicative of broader problems relating to irregular migration and Greece’s asylum system,” which UNHCR has been trying to assist with.
Last year, it worked with Greek officials to elaborate proposals to completely overhaul the country’s asylum system, including specific measures to protect asylum-seeking children, but these have yet to be implemented.
The agency also pointed out that while nearly 2,700 unaccompanied children are known to have arrived in the country last year, many more are believed to have entered undetected.
“Greece has no process for assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children,” said Mr. Mahecic. “While the Government has made efforts to increase the number of places for children at specialized, open centres, arrivals outstrip these efforts and children remain in detention for long periods.”
The agency is involved in a project aimed at improving reception facilities on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos and at the Evros land border, he added.
* * *
UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
27 August, 2009
TOP UN ENVOY MOURNS LOSS OF IRAQI SHI’A POLITICAL LEADER
The top United Nations official in Iraq today extended his condolences on the passing of Shi’a political leader Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, who he said played an important role in stabilizing the country in recent years.
“Iraq lost an important leader at a critical juncture,” Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
Mr. Al Hakim died on Wednesday in the Iranian capital, Tehran, where he had been undergoing treatment for cancer.
Mr. Melkert said that the late leader played an important role in helping to stabilize Iraq and in charting a path from conflict to reconciliation, adding that the UN appreciated the support Mr. Al Hakim extended to it over the past few years.
* * *
PAKISTAN: UN VOICES CONCERN OVER DESTRUCTION OF HEALTH FACILITIES
With many health centres in north-western Pakistan having been destroyed or looted during recent clashes between Government forces and militants, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today expressed apprehension about supporting the 1.5 million uprooted people returning to their homes.
“We are still very much concerned about the possibility of being able to supply [returnees] with the necessary support in health,” Eric Laroche, WHO Assistant Director-General, said.
He expressed relief that there have been no outbreaks of epidemics, attributing this to the early warning system in place on the ground.
“The problem now is that these people are going back home and we need to reinstitute these types of surveillance systems and early warning systems in these areas of return,” Dr. Laroche said, adding that this will be a “major challenge.”
WHO, he said, needs $35 million to respond to the health crisis and recovery in northwest Pakistan.
According to the Pakistani Government, almost 90 per cent of the 1.1 million people in the Swat district – which has an overall population of 1.7 million – who were driven out by fighting have since returned to their homes.
A UN inter-agency mission lead by Martin Mogwanja, the world body’s Humanitarian Coordinator, found that public sector infrastructure and facilities such as telecommunications and electricity are functional, but dilapidated.
Food assistance is also crucial during the early recovery phase, the team said. Currently, there are four food distribution hubs in place, with every registered household receiving a monthly ration.
In Swat, nearly 90 per cent of crops from the last harvest have been lost, it added.
To assist the Government and the international community to respond to needs in the wake of the country’s displacement crisis, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this week announced the appointment of veteran French diplomat Jean-Maurice Ripert as his Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan.
Mr. Ripert, who is currently France’s Ambassador to the UN, will be tasked with promoting a “strategic, coherent and comprehensive approach to supporting the humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction needs of crisis-affected areas” in concert with the Pakistani Government and international partners.
* * *
UNESCO ISSUES VOLUNTARY SEX EDUCATION GUIDELINES TO HELP YOUNG PEOPLE
New voluntary sexuality education guidelines have been issued by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to help young people learn how to protect themselves against HIV and against abuse and exploitation.
The International Guidelines on Sexuality Education also arms educators with guidance on how children and youth can acquire the knowledge to prevent unintended pregnancies and transmission of sexually-transmitted infections.
Over 5 million young people are living with HIV worldwide and nearly half of all new infections occur among young people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
At least 111 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections occur among people aged between 10 and 24 years every year, while more than 4 million girls aged 15 to 19 will seek abortions, most of which will be unsafe, says the non-governmental organization (NGO) International Planned Parenthood. Additionally 10 per cent of births worldwide are to teenage mothers, a demographic group that faces higher rates of maternal mortality than older women.
“At the moment, education is the best weapon we have for dealing with these issues,” said Mark Richmond, who works in UNESCO’s education division. “However, evidence tells us that by and large, young people do not have access to the knowledge that could help them make informed decisions and thereby avoid tragic consequences.”
The new guidelines, which will help fill these gaps, are not a curriculum, but instead focus on “the ‘why’ and ‘what’ issues that require attention in strategies to introduce or strengthen sexuality education,” he added.
Drawing on dozens of studies conducted around the world, they are designed to help education, health and other authorities developing and implementing school-based sexuality education programmes and materials.
The guidelines are organized around six key concepts: relationships; values, attitudes and skills; culture, society and law; human development; sexual behaviour; and sexual and reproductive health.
“Maths and science are valued as important knowledge for young people to have for their own sake,” said Nanette Ecker, a co-author of the publication. “A sound sexuality education should be equally valued.”
* * *
SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF UN FORCE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for an extra year as it commended its role, in concert with the national armed forces, in creating a new strategic environment in the south of the country.
In resolution 1884, the Council welcomed “the expansion of coordinated activities between UNIFIL and the Lebanese armed forces and encourages further enhancement of this cooperation.”
The 15-member reiterated its call on all concerned parties to respect the cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizbollah following their 2006 war, as well as the entirety of the Blue Line along their border.
UNIFIL, established in 1978, is tasked with ensuring that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets, and it also cooperates with the Lebanese armed forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities.
Today’s resolution also welcomed UNIFIL’s moves to implement Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
Addressing reporters, Philip John Parham, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, said that unanimous adoption of the resolution extending the Force’s mandate “demonstrates the Council’s clear and strong support for the very valuable work UNIFIL is doing.”
* * *
AUSTRALIA CAN DO MORE TO IMPROVE SITUATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES – UN EXPERT
Despite strides in improving the situation of indigenous people in Australia, an independent United Nations expert today called on the country to build on that momentum to close the gap of “indigenous disadvantage.”
James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said that during his 11-day visit to Australia, which wrapped up today, he was “impressed with demonstrations of strong and vibrant indigenous cultures.”
He noted that he has been “inspired” by the strength and resilience of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to move forward despite having suffered due to racism.
Such historical forces continue to make an impact today, with disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous populations especially severe in terms of life expectancy, basic health, education, unemployment, incarceration and access to basic services, Mr. Anaya pointed out.
The Government has implemented many initiatives to improve the socio-economic conditions of indigenous people, he said, but some of its initiatives raise concerns.
Of particular concern, the expert said, is the Northern Territory Emergency Response, which authorities characterize as an “extraordinary” measure.
Under this scheme, there are community-wide bans on alcohol consumption and pornography, as well as an income management regime and an imposition on compulsory leases.
“These measures overtly discriminate against aboriginal peoples, infringe on their right of self-determination and stigmatize already stigmatized communities,” Mr. Anaya said in a statement.
President Kevin Rudd, in his apology to indigenous peoples last year, called for a genuine partnership between the Government and indigenous communities to move towards a future “based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.”
Although there are several successful local indigenous schemes, in concert with the Government, “I also heard many accounts of situations in which Government programmes fail to take into account existing local programmes, hampering their ultimate success,” Mr. Anaya said, adding that there is often duplication of efforts.
The Rapporteur, who reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, serves in his role in an unpaid and independent capacity.
* * *
IRAQ MUST STEP UP OVERSIGHT OF ITS RESOURCES, SECURITY COUNCIL SAYS
The Security Council believes the Iraqi Government must take greater responsibility for the management of its own resources, the head of the United Nations body said today.
The Council was briefed in a closed meeting today by UN Controller Jun Yamazaki on the fund administering proceeds from export sales of petroleum from Iraq, known as the Development Fund for Iraq.
That Fund was established in 2003, the same year the Security Council phased out the oil-for-food programme, under which a sanctions-bound Iraq was allowed to use monitored oil sales revenue for humanitarian purchases.
Also discussed in today’s meeting was the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), an independent body set up by the Council.
“Council members expressed some concern about the need for further steps to improve the internal controls” in the Fund, Deputy Permanent Representative Philip John Parham of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency this month, told reporters following the consultations.
In a report to the Council made public yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the IAMB has found that the Committee of Financial Experts, created by Iraq’s Council of Ministers in 2006, is ready to assume oversight responsibilities of the Fund.
“It will be important to ensure that a proper succession mechanism and process be considered,” the Secretary-General wrote.
From its establishment in 2003 till the end of 2008, the Fund has received nearly $180 billion from oil exports, the balance of the oil-for-food funds held under escrow by the UN and proceeds from frozen assets, according to the report.
* * *
UN’S ANTI-MALARIA ENVOY CONFIDENT OF REACHING PROTECTION MILESTONE IN AFRICA
The official tasked with spearheading United Nations efforts to tackle malaria says he is confident that the world can achieve Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s goal of providing all sub-Saharan African countries where the disease is endemic with universal access to insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying and treatment by the end of next year.
Ray Chambers, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, has briefed Mr. Ban on his recent high-level visit to Tanzania and Uganda, where he and UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan reviewed the progress being made in those two countries against the disease.
Mr. Chambers reported that bed nets are now available to an estimated 52 per cent of the endemic population across sub-Saharan Africa, offering protection to about 360 million people. In the past year alone, some 65 million treated nets have been delivered to the region.
“With only 16 months remaining until [Mr. Ban’s deadline of] 31 December 2010, we remain confident that universal coverage is within our grasp,” Mr. Chambers said today, according to a press release issued by his office.
“While challenges remain to be overcome, the unprecedented assemblage of dedicated leadership, proven interventions, available resources, and collective will position us to achieve the ultimate goal of a world without malaria deaths.”
While in Tanzania and Uganda, Mr. Chambers and Dr. Chan – who were accompanied by Tadataka Yamada, the President of the Global Health Programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – met with senior Government figures in the two countries, as well as with local malaria experts.
The delegation also visited urban and rural health centres that are focused on fighting malaria, including centres that are conducting trials of new vaccines.
Next month the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) will be launched in New York to try to strengthen malaria-control efforts across the continent and to engage the global community about the importance of fighting the disease.
Last September government, business and civil society leaders launched a global campaign to reduce malaria deaths to near zero by 2015, with an initial commitment of nearly $3 billion.
The Global Malaria Action Plan aims to cuts deaths and illness by 2010 to half their 2000 levels by scaling up access to bed nets, indoor spraying and treatment, and achieve the near-zero goal through sustained universal coverage. Ultimately it seeks to eradicate the disease completely with new tools and strategies.
Halting the incidence of malaria is one of the many health-related targets that make up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the pledges world leaders made to try to slash poverty, hunger, preventable illness and a host of other socio-economic ills by 2015.
* * *
DARFUR: SENEGALESE POLICE UNIT JOINS AFRICAN UNION-UN PEACEKEEPING FORCE
A contingent of police officers from Senegal arrived in Darfur today, adding to the strength of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force tasked with protecting civilians and ensuring access for humanitarian workers in the strife-torn Sudanese region.
The 137 members of the Senegalese formed police unit (FPU) will be joining three officers who arrived as an advance party on 27 June. The unit will be deployed in El Geneina, West Darfur, alongside two Nigerian FPUs already based in the area, according to the mission, known as UNAMID.
FPUs are comprised of police officers who have received specialized training in high-risk operations, and their main task is the protection of civilians, including through conducting community policing, especially in camps housing internally displaced persons (IDPs).
UNAMID now has a total of 11 FPUs from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Jordan and Senegal. It is also expecting an Egyptian FPU to be deployed soon and to have some 15 units deployed on the ground by the end of December.
Established by the Security Council in 2007, the mission is expected to have a total of 26,000 military and police personnel at full deployment, including 19 FPUs.
It took over operations in Darfur – where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced as a result of conflict pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003 – at the beginning of last year, replacing the under-resourced AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
* * *
SOUTH AFRICAN LAWYER BECOMES NEW UN RIGHTS EXPERT ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
A South African lawyer who has also worked as an academic in the human rights field and a campaigner against domestic violence has taken over as the new United Nations independent expert to tackle violence against women.
Rashida Manjoo succeeds Yakin Ertürk as the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and has been initially appointed by the UN Human Rights Council until June 2012.
“Violence against women violates human dignity, as well as numerous rights, including the right to equality, physical integrity, freedom and non-discrimination,” said Ms. Manjoo, according to a press statement issued today in Geneva, where the Human Rights Council is based.
“I believe that equality and equal protection doctrines demand that we address violence against women, in all its manifestations, as discrimination against women. It is my hope to work within this framework during my mandate.”
Ms. Manjoo has both taught and conducted research at several universities, including Webster University and Harvard Law School, both in the United States, as well as the University of Cape Town.
In her native South Africa, Ms. Manjoo was also a former parliamentary commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality, conducted training programmes for judges and lawyers on law, race and gender issues, and set up a domestic violence assistance programme at the Durban Magistrates Court, the first such project in a court in her country.
Like other rapporteurs who report to the Human Rights Council, Ms. Manjoo will serve in an unpaid and independent capacity.
* * *
H1N1 VIRUS FOUND IN TURKEYS POSES NO THREAT TO HUMAN HEALTH, SAYS UN AGENCY
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that the detection of the H1N1 flu in turkeys in Chile does raise concerns about the spread of the virus in other poultry farms, but added that it does not pose any immediate threat to human health.
According to a news release issued by the Rome-based agency, Chilean authorities reported on 20 August that an identical H1N1 strain to the one currently circulating among humans worldwide was present in turkeys in two farms near the seaport of Valparaiso.
The agency stated, however, that the discovery does not pose any immediate threat to human health and turkey meat can still be sold commercially following veterinary inspection and hygienic processing.
“The reaction of the Chilean authorities to the discovery of H1N1 in turkeys – namely prompt reporting to international organizations, establishing a temporary quarantine, and the decision to allow infected birds to recover rather than culling them – is scientifically sound,” said FAO’s interim Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth.
“Once the sick birds have recovered, safe production and processing can continue. They do not pose a threat to the food chain,” he added.
Chile is now the fourth country where the H1N1 virus has been found to have been transmitted from farm workers showing flu-like illness to animals, with swine becoming infected in Canada, Argentina and, most recently, Australia.
FAO noted that the current H1N1 virus strain, although contagious, is no more deadly than common seasonal flu viruses. But it could theoretically become more dangerous if it combines with H5N1 – commonly known as avian flu – which is much more deadly but harder to pass along among humans.
The agency is encouraging improved monitoring of health among animals and ensuring that hygienic and good farming practice guidelines are followed, including protecting farm workers if animals are sick and not allowing sick workers near animals.
* * *
UNESCO CHIEF ALARMED AT ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS IN NORTH-WEST PAKISTAN
The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today condemned the recent killing of a television journalist in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and urged authorities to ensure the safety of media professionals in the South Asian nation.
Sadiq Bacha Khan, a correspondent of Aaj TV and former President of the Press Club of Mardan, was shot dead on his way to work on 14 August.
“This crime is a blow to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” said Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
“I urge the authorities to do everything in their power to put a stop to the killing of journalists, which has become particularly alarming in North West Frontier Province,” he added.
Mr. Matsuura also paid tribute to Mr. Khan’s “courage and commitment” both to his profession and to helping the inhabitants of NWFP, which has been the scene of a major displacement crisis prompted by the Government’s military offensive against militants in the region.
According to the International Press Institute, 11 journalists have been killed in Pakistan over the last two years, six of them in NWFP.
* * *
UN DAILY NEWS from the
UNITED NATIONS NEWS SERVICE
26 August, 2009
SECURITY COUNCIL, SECRETARY-GENERAL DEPLORE BRUTAL BOMBING IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN
The Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the senior United Nations official in Afghanistan have all condemned yesterday’s suicide bomb attack in the southern city of Kandahar, which has killed more than 40 civilians and wounded at least 80 others.
The truck bomb exploded on Tuesday evening in a residential area of Kandahar near a Japanese construction company, a guest house used by foreigners and Government offices, according to media reports.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “shocked and dismayed” when he learned of the attack, his spokesperson said in a statement released today. “He condemns in the strongest possible terms this brutal and senseless act of violence.”
The Security Council issued a press statement later today deploring the bombing and stressing that “no terrorist act can reverse the path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction in Afghanistan, which is supported by the people and the Government of Afghanistan and the international community.”
Council members underlined the need to bring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of such acts to justice and urged all States to cooperate with Afghan authorities to this end, according to the press statement, read out by Ambassador John Sawers of the United Kingdom, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month.
“The members of the Security Council reiterated their serious concern at the threats posed by the Taliban, al-Qaida and other extremist groups to the local population, national security forces, international military and international assistance efforts in Afghanistan,” Mr. Sawers said.
Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, offered his deep condolences to all those who have suffered as a result of the attack, which occurred just days after the country held presidential and provincial council elections.
“The disregard for civilian lives shown by the perpetrators of this attack is staggering,” Mr. Eide said in a statement issued in Kabul.
* * *
UN MISSION SPEAKS OUT AGAINST MURDER OF CONGOLESE JOURNALIST
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today expressed its shock and dismay at the latest assassination of a journalist in the vast African nation’s volatile east.
According to media reports, Bruno Koko Chirambiza, a radio reporter, was killed last weekend in Bukavu, the capital of the restive South Kivu province.
The mission, known as MONUC, “strongly deplores and condemns this horrible act that affects the entire Congolese press in general and the journalism profession in particular,” according to a statement issued in Kinshasa.
It called on judicial officials to bring those behind the murder to justice, noting that this would “undoubted contribute to promoting the fight against impunity.”
MONUC also said that it stands ready to help Congolese authorities if requested.
Last November, Didace Namujimbo, a journalist with Radio Okapi, was shot and killed in Bukavu, while his colleague Serge Maheshe was murdered in 2007.
Radio Okapi is a partnership between MONUC and the Hirondelle Foundation, a Swiss non-governmental organization.
* * *
UN OFFICIALS PAY TRIBUTE TO LATE US SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations refugee chief today paid tribute to Edward Kennedy, the United States senator who passed away yesterday at the age of 77 after battling brain cancer, lauding his support for the Organization and his efforts to defend the rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“Few were stronger supporters of the UN, and in my visits to Capitol Hill I always benefited from his wise counsel,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued in New York.
“He was not just a friend to those of power and high position, but even more to those who had neither. He was a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard, a defender of the rights and interests of the defenceless.”
The Secretary-General added that those who feel that government can too often be faceless and inhumane did not know Senator Kennedy, who “stood for the best in all of us.”
Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban recalled his personal memories of the US legislator and said that “what he has been doing as a person, as a senator, as a public servant… it will be long remembered in the minds, in the hearts of many people, particularly those people whose human rights have been abused.”
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres said the life of the late senator and brother of former US President John F. Kennedy is a testimony to the difference a single policy-maker can make.
“Year after year, conflict after conflict, Senator Kennedy kept the plight of refugees on the international and national agenda, promoting policies and laws that saved and shaped countless lives,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement. “The world is diminished by his passing. But we will always have his example to inspire us.”
The High Commissioner noted that throughout his life, Senator Kennedy was “a tireless advocate for refugees – among the most vulnerable people in the world.”
For nearly five decades in the US Senate, Senator Kennedy fought for legislation improving the treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers and reducing discrimination against them, he added.
“His efforts have benefited millions of individuals from all over the world forced to seek shelter and protection outside their homelands.
“He did what he did from the conviction that it was the right thing to do – and wholly in line with the great American tradition of providing help and hope to those who have suffered from injustice and war.”
* * *
NEARLY $180 BILLION TRANSFERRED TO IRAQ FUND, SAYS UN REPORT
The fund administering proceeds from export sales of petroleum from Iraq has received an influx of nearly $180 billion through the end of last year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, acknowledging that an Iraqi-run committee is ready to assume responsibility for the scheme.
Oil exports account for just over $165 million of the Development Fund for Iraq, which was established in 2003, the same year the Security Council phased out the oil-for-food programme, under which a sanctions-bound Iraq was allowed to use monitored oil sales revenue for humanitarian purchases.
The balance of the oil-for-food funds held under escrow by the UN deposited into the Fund amounted to $10 billion, with a further $1.5 billion deposited as proceeds from frozen assets, according to a report by Mr. Ban to the Council that was made public today.
The International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), an independent body set up by the Council, has found that the Committee of Financial Experts, set up by Iraq’s Council of Ministers in 2006, is ready to assume oversight responsibilities of the Fund.
“It will be important to ensure that a proper succession mechanism and process be considered,” the Secretary-General wrote in his report.
A recent independent audit of the Fund highlighted areas of concern, including “weaknesses in controls over oil extraction and use of the resources,” he noted.
* * *
UN ENVOY CALLS FOR RELEASE OF ALL JUVENILE DETAINEES FROM GUANTáNAMO BAY
The United Nations advocate for children and armed conflict has welcomed the release of Mohammed Jawad, one of the youngest detainees in Guantánamo Bay, and called for all juvenile detainees at the detention camp to be released.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, “commends the decision of the US Government,” which she said “abides by the spirit of the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“Trying young people for war crimes with regards to alleged acts committed when they were minors would have created a dangerous international precedent,” she said yesterday.
Mr. Jawad, an Afghan, was taken prisoner in 2002 when he may only have been 12 years old. Most of the charges against him were ruled inadmissible in 2008, and last month a United States District Court ordered his release from Guantánamo.
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, welcomed Mr. Jawad’s release yesterday and called for accountability for anyone who had violated the law.
Mr. Jawad was one of the last three juvenile detainees at Guantánamo who were under the age of 18 when they allegedly committed their crimes. Mohammed El-Gharani was released recently and Omar Khadr’s case is under consideration.
* * *
YEARBOOK FOR 2006 SPOTLIGHTS UN’S EFFORTS TO ‘DELIVER AS ONE’
Highlighting events that include the creation of the Human Rights Council and the election of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General, the 2006 Yearbook of the United Nations was released today, showing the world body’s unified efforts to respond to challenges on multiple fronts.
The 1,795-page publication “depicts an Organization committed to keeping pace with changing times and an evolving global environment,” Mr. Ban writes in the foreword. “It highlights not only the progress achieved, but also the obstacles that arose.”
The Yearbook’s theme is “Delivering as One: A Unified Response to Global Challenge,” reflecting outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s 2006 statement that “the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations.”
The volume, which indexes all votes by all major UN bodies including the Security Council, covers the main global political, economic, social and legal developments during the year.
During 2006, the UN scaled up its efforts to generate momentum towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which, despite robust economic growth and new debt relief measures, lagged that year.
In 2006, two landmark conventions were also adopted, advancing the rights of persons with disabilities and strengthening protections against enforce disappearance.
The Peacebuilding Commission, set up to help countries recovering from war avoid a relapse of violence, was inaugurated that year, working closely with the UN’s 27 political and peacekeeping missions and offices, staffed by a record number of personnel nearing 100,000.
On the security front, the UN sought to resolve renewed conflicts in Lebanon in Somalia, as well long-standing clashes in countries such as Nepal and Timor-Leste in 2006, which also saw the establishment of a joint UN-African peacekeeping force in Darfur.
* * *
FRENCH ENTREPRENEUR APPOINTED AS UNESCO GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
The French entrepreneur Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière will be unveiled tomorrow as the newest Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the agency announced today.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, is scheduled to formally appoint Mr. Ladreit de Lacharrière during a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Paris.
Mr. Ladreit de Lacharrière’s appointment was made in recognition of his crucial role in the promotion of education and culture for social cohesion, his commitment to fighting discrimination and promoting equal opportunity, and his devoted service to UNESCO, the agency said in a press release.
Mr. Ladreit de Lacharrière is founder and CEO of Financière Marc de Lacharrière (FIMALAC) and President of the French cultural magazine Revue des Deux Mondes. He is a leading patron of the Louvre Museum and heads the Culture and Diversity Foundation, which uses culture and the arts in the service of social cohesion and equality of opportunity.
As UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, he will participate in the Education for All programme, with a focus on fighting discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity.
* * *
HISTORY NO LONGER A GOOD INDICATOR FOR WEATHER FORECASTS, SAYS TOP UN OFFICIAL
With the onset of climate change, relying on history is no longer an accurate way of predicting weather patterns, the head of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today.
In the past, forecasts were made by taking statistics of past decades into account, but “now with climate change, these statistics are changing,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud told UN Radio.
In some areas, global warming will make rainfall less frequent, making the past an unreliable predictor for future precipitation levels, he said, while heat waves, on the scale of the massive and deadly one which engulfed Western Europe in 2003, “might occur more frequently.”
But Mr. Jarraud stressed that “there are many lessons to be learned from the past,” highlighting the value of climate statistics.
The WMO is organizing a week-long conference in Geneva, Switzerland, kicking off on 31 August, on how to best use climate predictions to adapt to climate change.
When socio-economic decisions – such as those involving health, food security and transport – are made by governments, the private sector and others, it is essential that they are based on “the best possible scientific information,” the WMO chief said.
Next week’s meeting, he said, seeks to “bridge the gap” between those who possess this kind of information with decision-makers around the world.
* * *
BAN VOICES APPRECIATION FOR WORK OF OUTGOING UN PEACEKEEPING CHIEF IN DARFUR
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today paid tribute to the work and dedication of the head of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur, who is leaving his post in the war-scarred Sudanese region next week.
Rodolphe Adada, who has served as the Joint AU-UN Special Representative for Darfur and head of the peacekeeping force (known as UNAMID) since the start of last year, announced yesterday that he will step down as of 31 August.
Mr. Ban “expresses his strong appreciation for the dedication” demonstrated by Mr. Adada, “who has led UNAMID with distinction,” according to a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesperson.
“Mr. Adada helped establish the Mission, led it through a challenging deployment phase and oversaw its progress in an environment of unprecedented difficulty,” the statement noted. “Going forward, the Mission will build upon these accomplishments in its efforts towards a sustainable peace in Darfur.”
UNAMID took over operations in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced as a result of conflict pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003, at the beginning of last year, replacing the under-resourced AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS).
The Force Commander, General Martin Luther Agwai, is also about to leave the Mission and will be succeeded by Lieutenant General Patrick Nyamvumba.
* * *
LIBERIA: UN CONFIRMS DEATH OF STAFFER UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ALLEGED ABUSE OF MINORS
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) today reported the death of one of its civilian staff members who was under investigation for alleged sexual exploitation and abuse of minors.
Dale Fosnight, a United States national, died on 24 August at his home in the capital, Monrovia, according to a statement issued by the Mission, which added that the circumstances of his death are being investigated.
The staff member was the subject of an investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors.
“The United Nations takes all allegations of sexual crimes against children extremely seriously and is committed to preventing this abhorrent practice, in compliance with the Secretary-General’s zero tolerance policy,” the Mission said.
While the Mission is cooperating fully with the Liberian Government’s investigation into the allegations, the UN, in accordance with its own policy concerning allegations of staff member misconduct, also conducts an independent investigation.
“UNMIL reiterates strongly that it is the UN’s policy and practice to promptly investigate every single allegation of misconduct by its staff and to take appropriate action if a staff member is found guilty.”
* * *
DR CONGO: UNICEF CHIEF, BASKETBALL STAR UNVEIL NEW HIV/AIDS TREATMENT CENTRES
The retired basketball great Dikembe Mutombo, along with the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), today unveiled two centres to improve HIV/AIDS treatment in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where more than 1 million people are living with the disease.
Together with the medical technology firm Becton, Dickinson and Company, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center, a state-of-the-art facility named after the sports star’s late mother, launched two Centres of Excellence in the capital, Kinshasa.
The Immune System Monitoring Laboratory seeks to bolster the monitoring and treatment of people living with the pandemic, while the other, the Occupational Safety Centre for Health Workers, will train over 300 clinicians.
The new centres “are an important milestone in improving the quality of life for those who live with HIV/AIDS and in training new health-care workers to help prevent the spread of the disease,” said Mr. Mutombo, a former player in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
According to the World Bank, nearly 70 per cent of the almost 70 million-strong population is living on less than $1.25 a day, with half a million children under the age of five dying ever year from largely preventable causes, including diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.
The DRC is one of Africa’s poorest nations, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted today, with “poverty, conflict and disease contributing to a public health crisis for the country’s most vulnerable people.”
She commended Mr. Mutombo for his commitment to his home country, calling him a “true friend of UNICEF” and noting that “his dedication for his home country is an inspiration to us all. Dikembe continues to give a voice to the voiceless people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Ms. Veneman is currently on a five-day visit to the DRC, which will also take her to its volatile far-east region.
* * *