UN chief appoints new Special Coordinator for Middle East peace

Mr. Mladenov, who is currently head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), will replace Robert Serry, of the Netherlands, to whom Mr. Ban is “grateful for his dedicated service and excellent leadership of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO),” said a note to correspondents. Mr. Mladenov has also been a Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria before and served as his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence. In his new role, he will, among other things, oversee the ongoing UN-backed reconstruction efforts in Gaza where thousands of people are seeking access to building materials for urgent repairs to their homes following last summer’s conflict in the war-ravaged enclave.According to a recent UN assessment, as it stands now, over 100,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, affecting more than 600,000 people. Many people still lack access to the municipal water network. Blackouts of up to 18 hours per day are common.In addition, the violence killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis. read more

UN agency and MasterCard join forces to support refugees and smallscale farmers

“FAO is extremely proud of this collaboration with MasterCard that will support small-scale farmers to become economically independent by advancing financial inclusion,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. A new partnership agreement, signed today by the FAO Director-General and Walt Macnee, Vice Chairman of MasterCard, at FAO headquarters in Rome, paves the way for a collaborative effort that will develop inclusive payment systems to support small-scale farmers and poor families, the agency said in an announcement.“The partners’ first joint effort will be in the Kakuma refugee camp, in Turkana County, Kenya, currently home to 170,000 refugees who have fled wars and violence in neighbouring countries,” FAO said. “Camp residents will be provided with prepaid cards that will permit them to buy charcoal produced locally by the host community – charcoal that has been certified as being produced in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way.”The project “is designed to improve incomes of Turkana residents, reduce social tensions between those residents and the refugees, and relieve pressure on the environment,” the agency said.According to the UN refugee agency, Kakuma camp is a melting pot of refugees from more than 20 countries. The majority are from South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The town of Kakuma has hosted the camp since 1992.MasterCard will provide its technology expertise and a meaningful financial contribution, to kick-start the business chain by providing 1,240 host-community households with improved charcoal making kilns and 7,000 refugee households with energy efficient stoves and credit to purchase 25 per cent of their annual charcoal needs.FAO said “the effort will benefit from the complementary strengths of each organization: MasterCard’s expertise in payments technology and FAO’s global reach and track record in combating hunger and malnutrition.”FAO’s three main goals are: the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition; the elimination of poverty and the driving forward of economic and social progress for all; and, the sustainable management and utilization of natural resources, including land, water, air, climate and genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. read more

UN human rights experts welcome release of Egyptian journalist and rights defender

In a joint statement, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, said “even after his release, his detention sends a signal of disrespect for the very principles of freedom of expression that [Egyptian] President [Abdel Fattah] Sisi only days ago claimed his Government upheld.”This statement is endorsed by the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; and the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mónica Pinto. Mr. Bahgat was summoned to a military intelligence building in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday morning, and then interrogated without legal counsel for more than eight hours, on the subject of his writing, and in particular about an investigative report he wrote for an independent on-line news site called Mada Masr back in October.He is also a member of UNDP’s Global Civil Society Advisory Council and the founder of the group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.The rights experts said in their statement that “according to credible reporting, we understand that dozens of reporters are being held by Egyptian authorities today.” “This adds to the already very difficult environment in which journalists and human rights defenders operate in Egypt,” they said.Mr. Frost expressed his deep concern saying “that the fear of criminalization and of being detained, even if not ultimately charged, creates an environment that deters reporting and intimidates writers and activists of all kinds.”Earlier in the week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also underscored the importance of safeguarding freedom of speech and association in Egypt, saying that pluralism and a vibrant civil society are key for achieving long-term stability in the country, including the guarantee that all peaceful voices are heard and represented.The UN Special Rapporteurs work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. read more

Senior UN relief official warns health and education systems in wartorn Yemen

“Eight months of conflict have had a devastating effect on all aspects of life in Yemen, with the health and education sectors the hardest hit,” said the Head of Operation for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging in a news release.Mr. Ging also reported that a sharp reduction in imports and a ban on exports have reduced public and commercial revenues, resulting in collapsing services and livelihoods.“Ministries are running out of money for supplies and salaries for health workers and teachers, and there are widespread shortages of medicines to treat chronic illnesses. MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] is warning of a catastrophic situation for dialysis patients in particular,” he added.On his visit, from 15 to 17 November, Mr. Ging met affected people, humanitarian partners, and representatives of the Government and the opposition and stressed that everyone “called for an immediate end to the conflict and the resumption of normal commercial activities.”Mr. Ging commended the work of Yemeni civil society organizations, national and international non-governmental organizations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC) and UN organizations during the course of the crisis.”There has been an impressive scale-up of aid operations thanks to the heroic efforts of humanitarian staff, but we must be clear that humanitarian agencies cannot substitute for a country’s public services,” noted Mr. Ging.OCHA reported that UN and its humanitarian partners are doing their utmost to deliver aid despite the challenging environment.Agencies are distributing food to 2.4 million people on a monthly basis, providing medical supplies to improve health access for 2.6 million people, and treating 97,000 severely malnourished children, OCHA said adding that country-wide vaccination campaigns continue.Further, the UN agency said that emergency water and sanitation support has reached 3.7 million people since April. Mr. Ging stressed the need for all parties of the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law saying that it is ‘unacceptable to prevent aid deliveries or to steal humanitarian supplies.’Lastly, he appealed for the immediate lifting of the siege on Taiz city and an end to the bureaucratic obstacles to aid delivery inside Yemen. read more

UN marks World AIDS Day with new hope as momentum builds to

“This year, we mark World AIDS Day with new hope,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the Day, which is celebrated on 1 December each year as one of the most recognized international ‘health days’ and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories, such as increased access to treatment and prevention services. The UN chief applauded the staunch advocacy of activists, the persistent efforts of health workers, the principled stance of human rights defenders and the courage of all those who have joined forces to fight for global progress against the disease. “We have a lot to learn from the AIDS response,” he said. “One by one, people stood up for science, human rights and the empowerment of all those living with HIV.” “And this is how we will end the epidemic: by moving forward together,” emphasized Mr. Ban. Michel Sidibé, Executive Director the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in his message that countries are implementing the agency’s Fast-Track Strategy, and together with front-loaded investments “we can expect to close the gaps to essential services faster.”“Already we have reached 15.8 million people with life-saving treatment,” he said. “And increasingly, we are able to refine our efforts and be more precise in our ability to reach people who might otherwise be left behind.” Mr. Sidibé launched over the weekend a global initiative in Libreville, Gabon, encouraging youths to get tested for HIV and calling on young people worldwide to join the movement and get involved in ending the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS estimates that 17.1 million of the 36.9 million people living with HIV worldwide do not know they have the virus. Getting tested is a crucial first step for people living with HIV to access life-saving antiretroviral therapy. Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized that expanding antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV is key to ending the AIDS epidemic within a generation. “The Millennium Development Goal of reversing the HIV epidemic was reached ahead of the 2015 deadline – an incredible achievement that testifies to the power of national action and international solidarity,” said WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan. Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said her agency is fully committed with the new UNAIDS Strategy 2016-2021, that places an enhanced emphasis on education and sets out a bold vision for a world where “young people, regardless of where they live, their sexual orientation or their gender identity, have the knowledge, skills, services, rights and power to protect themselves from HIV.” Last week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in its Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, reported that the number of adolescent deaths from AIDS has tripled over the last 15 years with 26 new infections occurring every hour. At the UN General Assembly in September, world leaders endorsed the Sustainable Development Agenda. This new framework includes the target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 – by reducing new infections by an additional 75 per cent by 2020 and by ensuring that, in the coming 5 years, 90 per cent of people living with HIV are aware their infection and that 90 per cent of those are on antiretroviral therapy (ART). read more

COP21 Ban tells African leaders they have enormous stake in success of

“Africa is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” Mr. Ban told top government officials at a High-level meeting at the Paris-Le Bourget site of the conference, in the north-east of the French capital. “Much of its economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base, including rain-fed subsistence agriculture. Disruptions in food or water supplies pose serious risks not only for your economies but also for political stability, particularly in fragile states,” he continued.Noting that COP21 “got off to a good start yesterday,” the UN chief said the leaders’ personal engagement and ownership will be essential in producing the “ambitious agreement that Africa’s people and the entire world need.” “Already, your leadership has helped make 2015 a year of opportunity,” he told them. “Many of you were present in Ethiopia in July for the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. Many of you were part of the historic gathering in New York in September for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs.” These agendas aim to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. “Now, here in Paris, governments have the opportunity to secure a global climate change agreement that can pave the way towards a safer, healthier, more prosperous and sustainable future,” Mr. Ban insisted. He reminded leaders that sustainable energy offers huge economic opportunities: “With the plummeting price of solar and other renewables, many African countries are moving quickly to embrace a greener pathway that still enables them to meet growing energy demand.” Despite “strong momentum” towards a meaningful agreement, Mr. Ban said key political issues remain unresolved. “There is a lot of work to do here in Paris, and the stakes are very high, especially for the most vulnerable people and countries,” he underlined. “Science tells us we have only a few years left before the window could close on our ability to prevent severe, pervasive and irreversible climate impacts.” read more

UN strongly condemns terrorist bombings in Brussels as an attack on us

Brussels airport terminal connector building during construction. Photo: S. Melis The United Nations has strongly condemned today’s terrorist bombings in Brussels, extending condolences to the victims and their families while expressing solidarity with the people and Government of Belgium. A statement issued by the members of the Security Council indicated that more than 30 people were killed and many more injured in the attacks, for which the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) has claimed responsibility. The 15-member body stressed the need to intensify regional and international efforts to overcome terrorism and violent extremism, while reaffirming that “terrorism constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.” Earlier today, a statement issued by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said “the despicable attacks today struck at the heart of Belgium and the centre of the European Union.” “The Secretary-General hopes those responsible will be swiftly brought to justice. He is confident that Belgium’s and Europe’s commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim today,” it added. Also reacting to the terror attack, the President of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, said he is “horrified.” “We have in the last week seen atrocities in Turkey, Ivory Coast and now in Belgium. It must be condemned in the strongest terms,” Mr. Lykketoft said in a statement. “Acts of terrorism are unjustifiable regardless of their motivation and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes on of the most serious threats to international peace and security. Acts of terrorism have no place in the modern world and only serve to strengthen the resolve of governments the world over to find and prosecute the individuals responsible,” he added. Meanwhile, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said it is “deeply shocked by the tragic attacks” perpetrated today. “This is not an attack on Belgium, it is an attack on us all and sadly these tragic events remind us again that we are facing a global threat that needs to be addressed globally,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. read more

Hostile US polices have made Korean Peninsula worlds most dangerous hotspot DPRK

“The Korean Peninsula has now been turned into the world’s most dangerous hot spot which can even ignite the outbreak of a nuclear war,” Minister Ri Yong Ho said in his address, adding: “The situation [there] is often engulfed in a state that goes out of control, whose root cause squarely lies in the United States, which does not abandon its hostile policy towards the DPRK.”Referring to recent US military exercises, including “a pre-emptive nuclear strike” aimed at the “decapitation” of the DPRK leadership and “occupation of Pyongyang,” the Minister said that there have never been such undisguised military threats and dangerous acts conducted “under the nose” of the adversary.Recalling that the Korean Peninsula does not have a proper institutional peace mechanism and that the war there remains in a state of temporary armistice, he said “it is the place where provocative military acts […] can easily infuriate the other side, thus inviting its response” and even incidental accidents could escalate into an all-out war.He further said that the DPRK has made every possible effort to prevent an armed conflict, while taking necessary self-defensive countermeasures whenever the provocative and aggressive joint military exercises were conducted by the US and the Republic of Korea and spoke of the DPRK’s request to hold an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the exercises but was turned away every time.“On the other hand, the UN Security Council takes issue with the righteous self-defensive measures taken by the DPRK to safeguard its sovereignty, dignity and national security,” he stressed and noted that his country “had no other choice but to ‘go nuclear’ inevitably after it has done everything possible to defend the national security from the constant nuclear threats.”He further emphasized that countries that had their begun nuclear activities far ahead of the DPRK were never called into question “because the UN Security Council is the place where [guilt is] decided not on the basis of justice but by the criterion whether one has the veto power or not.”The Minister also recalled the recent Summit of Heads of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) where leaders “expressed their condemnation at the promulgation and application of unilateral coercive measures against countries of the Movement, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, particularly the principles of non-intervention, self-determination and independence of the States.”He further underscored that the DPRK will continue to take measures to strengthen its national nuclear armed forces to defend its dignity, right to existence and safeguard genuine peace against threat of nuclear war from the US.Concluding his address, the Minister said: “The Government of the DPRK will push ahead with the vigorous struggle to remove the root cause of the threat of nuclear war imposed by the US, by means of powerful nuclear deterrence, safeguard the peace and security of the Korean peninsula, Asia and the world at large and to denuclearize the world.” read more

UNbrokered Cyprus talks to reconvene on 20 November significant progress achieved

“During these past five days, the chapter on territory and all other issues were discussed interdependently. Significant progress has been achieved,” the UN spokesperson for Cyprus said in a statement released to the press yesterday. The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, have been engaged in sustained negotiations in Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland, since 7 November under the auspices of the UN. Upon request of Mr. Anastasiades, it has been decided by the two leaders to take a recess and reconvene in Geneva on Sunday, 20 November, to continue their deliberations, the spokesperson said. “The two leaders, once again, wish to express their gratitude to the Government of Switzerland for its generosity and hospitality in hosting this event and for the invaluable support provided to them and their teams throughout the week,” the spokesperson added. According to the UN Department of Political Affairs, while efforts to reunify Cyprus continue, the UN exerts a stabilizing presence by deploying a peacekeeping mission on the island since 1964. The UN also works through the good offices of the Secretary-General to assist the two sides in the search for a comprehensive and mutually acceptable settlement to the Cyprus problem.In addition to other methods, the UN chief uses his ‘good offices’ – diplomatic steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity – to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading. read more

On New Years Day UNICEF challenges nations to join fight to help

“This New Year, UNICEF’s resolution is to help give every child more than an hour, more than a day, more than a month – more than survival,” Stefan Peterson, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, said Monday.The agency reported that Kiribati’s Christmas Island in the Pacific would most likely welcome 2018’s first baby; the United States, its last. Globally, over half of these births are estimated to take place in nine countries: India – 69,070China – 44,760Nigeria – 20,210Pakistan – 14,910Indonesia – 13,370United States – 11,280Democratic Republic of Congo – 9,400Ethiopia – 9,020Bangladesh – 8,370While many babies will survive, some will not make it past their first day. In 2016, an estimated 2,600 children died within the first 24 hours every day of the year. UNICEF said that for almost two million newborns, their first week was also their last. In all, 2.6 million children died before the end of their first month. Among those children, more than 80 per cent died from preventable and treatable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia. “We call on governments and partners to join the fight to save millions of children’s lives by providing proven, low-cost solutions,” said Mr. Peterson.UNICEF-supported non-rounded estimates on births and life expectancy by countries: hereOver the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But despite these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns. Babies dying in the first month account for 46 per cent of all deaths among children under five.Next month, UNICEF will launch ‘Every Child Alive,’ a global campaign to demand and deliver affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn. These include a steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities, the presence of a skilled health attendant during birth, disinfecting the umbilical cord, breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, and skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child.“We are now entering the era when all the world’s newborns should have the opportunity to see the 22nd century,” added Mr. Peterson, but unfortunately, nearly half of the children born this year likely will not. “A child born in Sweden in January 2018 is most likely to live to 2100, while a child from Somalia would be unlikely to live beyond 2075,” he lamented. read more