Daily Archives: October 2, 2019

UN condemns deadly attacks on polio workers in Pakistan

The six – reportedly five Pakistani women and one man – were shot dead in the city of Karachi in Sindh province and in the city of Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan is one of three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that those killed were among thousands who work selflessly across Pakistan to eradicate polio. “Such attacks deprive Pakistan’s most vulnerable populations – especially children – of basic life-saving health interventions,” they said in a joint statement. “We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan,” the agencies added. At a media briefing at UN Headquarters in New York today, a UN spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, said that Mr. Ban joins WHO and UNICEF in condemning these “senseless and inexcusable” attacks on health workers.Mr. Nesirky also noted that the world body’s chief intends to express his condolences and condemnation of the attacks during a meeting today with Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN. According to the joint statement by the agencies, the Government of Pakistan and the affected provinces have temporarily suspended the vaccination campaign due to concerns over the safety of health workers. Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours. Safe and effective vaccines protect children from the disease. read more

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UN experts urge United States to wrap up review of Trayvon Martin

“We call upon the US Government to examine its laws that could have discriminatory impact on African Americans, and to ensure that such laws are in full compliance with the country’s international legal obligations and relevant standards,” said human rights expert Verene Shepherd, who currently heads the UN Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent.The death of Trayvon Martin sparked a new debate about racial profiling in the United States after the unarmed black 17-year-old was shot and killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watchman. Mr. Zimmerman, who argued that he acted in self-defence and with justifiable use of deadly force, was found not guilty of all charges against him.The US Department of Justice, the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are currently evaluating the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial, trying to establish potential civil rights charges linked to the case.“The Trayvon Martin case has highlighted the importance of the need to review those existing laws and policies that can have a discriminatory effect on the basis of race, as African Americans become more vulnerable to such discrimination,” Ms. Shepherd said, recalling that the US has been party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1992, the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination since 1994, and many other international human rights law treaties.“States are required to take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists,” said the Special Rapporteur on racism, Mutuma Ruteere.According to the 2011 US Department of Justice Hate Crime Statistics, 71.9 per cent of the total number of victims of hate crimes reported to the nation’s law enforcement agencies were victims of an offender’s anti-black bias. In a 2012 survey, the local non-governmental organization Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found that at least 136 unarmed African Americans were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes over the course of a single year. read more

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UNArab League joint envoy says USRussia talks on Syria extremely important

At a press conference held at UN Headquarters in Geneva after the meeting, Mr. Brahimi spoke alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and United States Secretary of State John Kerry. The two Government officials have been meeting in Geneva since Thursday discussing a Russian proposal for Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. “The work you are doing is extremely important in itself […] but also important for all those working with you to bring forward the Geneva conference successfully,” Mr. Brahimi told reporters, referring to the long-proposed international peace conference on Syria commonly referred to as “Geneva II.” Mr. Brahimi has been hard at work on the diplomatic front to bring the conference to fruition, including in discussions last week at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg. The goal of a second Geneva conference would to be to achieve a political solution to the conflict through a comprehensive agreement between the Syrian Government and the opposition for the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué, adopted after the first international meeting on the issue on 30 June 2012.In his comments, Mr. Kerry thanked the United Nations and Mr. Brahimi for hosting discussions on Geneva II. Those discussions have been productive and timely, as he and Mr. Lavrov were meeting on Russia’s recent initiative to “gain control of, remove and destroy chemical weapons in Syria and we would both agree that we have constructive conversations.” “President is Obama is deeply committed to a negotiated solution and we know that Russia is likewise. We are working hard to find common ground to make that happen. We have both agreed to do homework required to make it happen,” Mr. Kerry said, announcing that he and Mr. Lavrov planned to meet in New York during the general debate of the UN General Assembly, which will open on 24 September.While the two leaders would further consider the matter, including possibly settling on a date for the Geneva II conference, much of the way ahead “will depend on achieving success in the next hours and days” on the question of Syria’s chemical weapons, Mr. Kerry said.“Both of us, Sergei Lavrov and I, our countries, our Presidents, are deeply concerned about the death toll and destruction and the acts on all sides that are creating more and more refugees, more and more of a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said, adding that the two Governments were committed to working together. Speaking next, Mr. Lavrov said that now that Syria has signed the legislative decree providing for the accession of Syria to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, “we have to engage our professionals […] and the United Nations to design a road so that the issue is resolved quickly, professionally as soon as practical. “We are very glad that Mr. Brahimi has invited us to discuss a longer term goal for Syria, namely preparations for the so-called Geneva II conference. From the very beginning of the Syrian conflict, Russia and the Russian President have been promoting a peaceful resolution,” he said. Mr Lavrov noted that Russia had initiated of the conference from which had emerged the Geneva communiqué agreed and signed “by nearly all the major players, including the United Nations, countries in the region and the P-5 [the permanent members of the Security Council].” “It is very unfortunate that for a long period the communiqué was basically abandoned and we were not able to have Security Council endorsement of the very important document as is,” he said, thanking Mr. Kerry for his efforts to re-energize the communiqué and work with Russia towards its implementation including through the holding of a new Geneva conference. He said he was very grateful for the discussions with Mr. Brahimi.Meanwhile, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, which is currently in session in Geneva, issued a letter to both Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry drawing their attention o the work of the independent international commission of inquiry on Syria, which the Council established in 2011.The Council President, Ambassador Remigiusz Henczel of Poland stressed that the commission had yet to be granted access to Syria, despite repeated calls on Damascus to allow the experts to enter the country. The Council President suggests that the Russian and US officials might take up the matter during the scope of their meetings in Geneva.The commission presented its latest report to the Human Rights Council on Monday, citing ongoing incidents of murder, rape, torture, widespread attacks on civilians and hostage-taking committed by Syrian forces and anti-Government armed groups. It said that “the perpetrators of these violations and crimes, on all sides, act in defiance of international law. They do not fear accountability.” The panel, which described Syria today as “a battlefield [where] massacres are perpetrated with impunity [and] and untold number of Syrians have disappeared,” reported that Government and pro-Government forces in Syria have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population with impunity, committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance as crimes against humanity, stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict. read more

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In call to Ukrainian President Ban urges peaceful means to diffuse political

In a telephone call with the President, Mr. Ban expressed his grave concern and emphasised that there must be no resort to violence. He also welcomed President Yanukovich’s assurances that consultations would be initiated to defuse the situation, according to a readout of the conversation from Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.The wave of demonstrations was sparked by a Government decision on 21 November to not sign an agreement on broader integration with the European Union. Following the protests that followed, Mr. Ban appealed to all parties to act with restraint, avoid any further violence and to uphold the democratic principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.In today’s call, the top UN official also congratulated Mr. Yanukovich on a successful chairmanship during this year of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairmanship and of the ministerial meeting held on 5 and 6 December in Kyiv.The meeting, attended by representatives of the 57 participating states, focused on addressing protracted conflicts, energy and the environment, and efforts to address transnational issues, such as religious freedoms and Roma, according to the OSCE website. read more

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UN reports potential for gradual return to global growth foresees risks uncertainties

Unemployment is down in many countries from recent peaks, but long-term and youth unemployment persist Recent trends in commodity prices and exchange rates Global growth is forecast to strengthen slightly to 3.1% in 2015 and 3.3% in 2016 World gross product The impact of falling energy prices and the appreciation of the US dollar varies from country to country To reduce risks and meet challenges, the report says, it is imperative to strengthen international policy coordination. In particular, macroeconomic policies worldwide should be aligned toward supporting robust and balanced growth, creating productive jobs, and maintaining long-term economic and financial stability.Analyzing countries and regions around the world, the report said that the United States fared well among developed economies, maintaining growth above 2 per cent in 2014, and expecting to continue growth in 2015 (2.8 per cent) and 2016 (3.1 per cent). The forthcoming further normalization of the US Federal Reserve’s monetary policy posed significant risks and uncertainties for the global economic outlook, depending on the timing and strategy of the monetary tightening, as well as the response by financial markets.Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Western Europe failed to regain its pre-recession peak and Japan’s economy was expected to slow down on the back of reduced private consumption. The recovery in the Euro area was precarious, with the report citing great risks remaining. Underlying growth momentum was so slow that an exogenous event could return the region to recession. The report saw divergent growth rates in developing countries and economies in transition during 2014, and projected continued growth momentum in Africa, with GDP growth there expected to accelerate to 4.6 per cent in 2015 and 4.9 per cent in 2016. East Asia was expected to grow fastest at around 6 per cent in both upcoming years, with South Asia set to see a gradual pick-up in economic growth.Many developing countries and economies in transition faced vulnerabilities due to tightening global financial conditions, aggravated geopolitical tensions and the Ebola epidemic. Large current-account deficits and rapid credit growth in some large emerging economies were causes for concern, particularly if tested by a sudden change in market sentiment, similar to mid-2013 and early 2014. A broad-based downturn in emerging economies, particularly a sharp slowdown in China, would weigh on economic performance worldwide.Oil price volatility also posed risks to exporters and importers, while geopolitical crises like Ukraine, Iraq, Libya and Syria hampered economic development and remained causes of uncertainty. Long-term unemployment remains a major problem The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 (WESP) report, which was launched today, estimates growth in 2015 of 3.1 per cent and in 2016 of 3.3 per cent. Those figures are higher than the 2.6 per cent growth recorded this year, where the pace of expansion has been moderate and uneven.“While some economic indicators are positive and moving in the right direction which points to the potential for a gradual return to consistent economic growth,” said Pingfan Hong, Director of the Development and Policy Analysis Division for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, “many risks and uncertainties could dash efforts to get the global economy on track and moving forward.”Over the course of 2014, unemployment remained historically high in some regions, though appeared to have stopped rising, while inflation varied, despite being broadly subdued. Trade growth was expected to pick up, while fiscal tightening was expected to continue at a slower pace in most developed economies. Foreign direct investment inflows remained the most stable and relevant source of financing for developing countries, while capital flows were sensitive to changes in risk appetite. The dollar was expected to remain strong. read more

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Women must be at the decisionmaking table at all levels UN tells

“We must work together to empower women and expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond,” Mr. Ban told participants at today’s High-level Conference on ‘Women in Power and Decision-making: Making a World of Difference,’ in Santiago co-hosted by Chile’s Government and UN Women.This resolve must be backed up with resources because investments in gender equality yield great returns across society, said Mr. Ban emphasizing that 2015 is a “vital year” for advancing all these goals. The Secretary-General’s remarks come ahead of the worldwide commemoration on 8 March of International Women’s Day, which this year coincides with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, which remains the “international blueprint” for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Also this year, the international community is hard at work on establishing a new sustainable development agenda that builds on the landmark UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and that will help shape policies and social investments for the next generation. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pays an official visit to Chile. UN Photo/Evan Schneider ‹ ›“It is my firm conviction that women must be at the decision-making table at all levels. We all must do our part to break the glass ceilings and open the doors of opportunity,” said Mr. Ban. “To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. Women’s voices and full participation is central.” On the side-lines of the conference, the Secretary-General met with Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, who in 2010, was the first to lead the then newly-created UN Women. He thanked the Chilean Government for co-hosting the conference on ‘Women in power and decision-making’ and also expressed appreciation for the different measures Chile has taken toward women’s empowerment. The Secretary-General and President Bachelet also exchanged views about the importance of gender equality in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda. They agreed on the importance of good preparatory work for the Financing for Development Conference in Addis-Ababa in July, stressing that private sector engagement would be key to its success. Mr. Ban expressed his appreciation to Chile for hosting a regional preparatory Conference for this event. The Secretary-General further noted good progress on the climate change agenda, leading to what he was confident would be a successful outcome at the Paris Summit on the subject in December. read more

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UN chief nominates Philippines national as head of UN internal oversight office

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, following consultations with Chairs of Regional Groups, informed the General Assembly today of his intention to appoint Heidi Mendoza of the Philippines as the new Under-Secretary-General for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) for a five-year non-renewable term.Ms. Mendoza is currently the Commissioner of the Commission of Audit of the Philippines (since 2011) and Chairperson of the Audit Committee on Public Sector Auditing Standards Board. She also serves as the External Auditor for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO). Ms. Mendoza is a certified public accountant with over 20 years of service in government specializing in audit, investigation, fraud examination, anti-corruption and integrity advocacy. read more

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In Greece UN envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt shines light on emergency response

“I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR [Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” she said. “I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected.”Ms. Jolie-Pitt is highlighting the humanitarian situation of thousands of refugee families in Greece, most of whom were forced to flee Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 85 per cent of all the refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe landed in Greece since January 2015.Her first trip to Greece on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees comes the day after her visit to Lebanon, on the fifth anniversary of the Syrian conflict, where she stressed the need for leadership and coordinated international action to address the root causes of the global refugee crisis.The Special Envoy’s visit comes on the eve of a critical meeting between European Union Member States and the Government of Turkey that will potentially affect thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, according to UNHCR. In Greece, she expressed her appreciation for the support and solidarity Greece has shown the hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have landed on their shores after dangerous and difficult, sometimes deadly, journeys.Ms. Jolie-Pitt also focused on access to adequate reception conditions and protection, including those legal pathways available to refugees and asylum seekers, such as the EU relocation programme.She has highlighted challenges and constraints facing the emergency response, as well as ways UNHCR could further support the Government and communities in Greece, and promote support for refugees with specific vulnerabilities, such as women-headed households, unaccompanied children, disabled, or those who have been exposed to sexual or gender based violence.UNHCR has set up eight field offices with hundreds of staff and significant resources to support shelter, water and sanitation, health and protection services among other priorities. There are more than 40,000 people in Greece who have arrived during the past weeks, who desperately need protection and humanitarian support, but efforts are not meeting all the needs on the ground and the situation is deteriorating daily, according to UNHCR. read more

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UN envoy greatly regrets intensification of fighting in Syria

“A political process and a political solution are the only way out of the crisis,” the Special Envoy’s spokesperson told a news briefing in Geneva today. “The Special Envoy was determined to carry forward the political track and continues actively to consider options for early action.” The spokesperson highlighted that discussions between Russia and the United States this week are crucial to efforts to restore the cessation of hostilities, and noted that the UN is continuing consultations with representatives of the two countries, as well as the International Syria Support Group’s (ISSG) members, on the way ahead. The United States and Russia are the ISSG’s co-chairs.Regarding Mr. de Mistura’s recent call for a 48-hour pause in fighting in the besieged northern city of Aleppo, Ms. Chahine referred to a recent statement issued by the Special Envoy and noted that discussions are ongoing with all stakeholders.“No-one had rejected the urgency of a humanitarian pause,” she noted, adding that Mr. de Mistura would address the media on 1 September, following the regular humanitarian access task force meeting. According to UN estimates, the five-year old conflict in Syria has driven 4.8 million refugees to neighbouring countries, hundreds of thousands in Europe, and displaced 6.6 million people within the country against a pre-war population of over 20 million. Well over 200,000 people are believed to have died. read more

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Nigeria faces worst humanitarian crisis on the African continent warns senior UN

People fleeing Boko Haram construct make-shift shelters in Monguno, Borno State, Nigeria. They need food, water and health services. Photo: UN OCHA Nigeria Despite some very generous contributions from mechanisms such as the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and donations from the wider donor community, the Nigerian Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016, which requires $484 million for life-saving interventions, has only received one third of the needed funding. “Without the means to respond, innocent boys, girls, women and men will die. The highest priority requirement for this response remains food security which is just 25 per cent funded,” warned Mr. Lundberg. He went on to note that the attacks on the humanitarian convoy on 28 July and recent suicide bombing in Maiduguri on 12 October serve as stark reminders “that we must not let down our guard in such a high risk environment.” Indeed, the security of humanitarian actors remains a top priority for the humanitarian community, he added. At the end of his statement, Mr. Lundberg affirmed OCHA’s commitment to support and assist international organizations with the structures and mechanisms they require to safely carry out their work. He also noted the recent improvements in displaced populations’ assessment, calling this development a “springboard’ that will improve access to affected populations. In a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), wrapping up his first few weeks in the position, Mr. Lundberg assured the Nigerian Government of the international community’s commitment to working closely with federal and state mechanisms to accelerate a collective response to the situation. He also welcomed the recent announcement of the of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force and High Level Humanitarian Coordination Group, and the Borno state Humanitarian Response Committee and looked forward to seeing “tangible impact in the coming weeks and months.” According to Mr. Lundberg, humanitarian assistance by the Government and the aid community is being provided to the millions of people in desperate need despite insecurity and access constraints. However, relief agencies should continue to maintain neutrality, impartiality and independence and continue to work where security permits. “Needs are currently higher than the response capacity and we must ensure that we have both access and resources to scale up our humanitarian support in the months to come.” read more

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