Syria UN human rights Inquiry has no conclusive findings on use of

In a statement, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it wished to clarify that is has not reached any final findings on the use of chemical weapons and “as a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.”The Commission, which was created in August 2011, comprises Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Karen AbuZayd, Carla del Ponte and Vitit Muntarbhorn. It has been mandated by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international human rights law during the conflict in Syria.Mr. Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission, reminded all parties to the conflict that “the use of chemical weapons is prohibited in all circumstances under customary international humanitarian law.” The Commission is scheduled to issue its findings to the Council on 3 June.Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his appeal last week for unfettered access to Syria for a separate United Nations team focused specifically on probing the alleged use of chemical weapons during the conflict.That fact-finding team, headed by Swedish scientist Åke Sellström, was launched in late March following a formal request from the Syrian Government. However, it has been on stand-by for a month, pending authorized access from Syrian authorities. Mr. Sellström, according to the Secretary-General’s Spokesman, continues consultations with all the parties, including all concerned Governments, to pursue his investigation. More than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed, and some 3 million displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. read more

Turkmenistan offers to host UNbacked meetings on disarmament energy refugees

Calling for an expanded United Nations role in the world, Turkmenistan today proposed hosting five international meetings next year – on disarmament, energy security, cooperative transport and transit corridors for landlocked countries, desertification, and refugees.“It is precisely the United Nations that is the main and universal international organization which adopts decisions concerning the most important issues of global development and comprehensive peace and security,” Deputy Prime Minister Rashid Meredov told the UN General Assembly as it moved into the second week of its annual General Debate. “Therefore Turkmenistan stands for the strengthening and expanding the role of the United Nations in the world,” he said, citing “constructive and omnilateral cooperation” with the UN as the top priority of his landlocked country’s foreign policy.On disarmament, he called for energizing the discussion by holding a High-level international meeting. “We are prepared to create all necessary conditions and provide appropriate infrastructure for holding this meeting in the capital of our country (Ashgabat),” he said.Turning to the issue of energy he called ensuring security in this sphere “one of the most important components of stable world economy, its protection against distortions and disruptions,” and proposed the establishment of a new UN “universal international law tool kit” to form the legal basis for the international supplies of energy resource with a corresponding UN structure to enforce implementation of these provisions.“To this end the Government of Turkmenistan proposes to convene in 2014 an International Meeting of Experts devoted to this topic,” said Mr. Meredov, who made similar proposals at last year’s annual General Debate, when he noted that Turkmenistan is one of the leading suppliers of energy resources and possesses the world’s fourth largest reserves of hydrocarbon resources.. On transportation, he called for a combined system involving major international and regional maritime, road, railroad and air hubs. “Turkmenistan is convinced that transport architecture of the 21st century is the architecture for an integration breakthrough, joint efforts of regions, and combination of resources and industrial and human potentials,” he said. “Turkmenistan would like to table a proposal on holding next year in Ashgabat an International Conference dedicated to the role of transport and transit corridors in ensuring international cooperation, stability and sustainable development.”Turning to climate change, Mr. Meredov offered his country as a venue for a Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on combating desertification.Finally, citing his own country’s “practical work in granting citizenship to refugees and stateless persons,” he proposed hosting as high-level event with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop long-term solutions on the issue.In a related development, ministers of landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) met on the margins of the General Debate to review progress in the Almaty Programme of Action, a framework adopted in that Kazakh city in 2003 setting out specific measures for improved market access and trade facilitation to compensate LLDCs for their geographical handicaps.“LLDCs continue to face many challenges,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks to the meeting. “These include constraints in reaching global markets, significant financing gaps and the need to improve trade facilitation and integration into the world economy. “The economies of landlocked developing countries remain fragile and vulnerable to external shocks such as the global economic crisis and climate change,” he said, calling for a new global partnership for development, involving LLDCs, transit developing countries, and development partners – including international organizations, the private sector and academia.Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bhutan. UN Photo/Amanda VoisardAlso highlighting the particular challenges faced by landlocked countries was the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which also has to deal with the issues associated with being a least developed country (LDC).“While Bhutan has achieved significant socio-economic progress, we face many challenges and vulnerabilities, being both a landlocked and least developed country,” Foreign Minister Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje said in his address to the General Debate. “Our economy remains import driven and dependent on a single export commodity.”The country faces challenges arising from poverty, youth unemployment, natural disasters and vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change. “We will, therefore, continue to count on external support and assistance as we work towards achieving our long cherished goal of self-reliance and graduation out of the LDC category,” he added. read more

Ebolaaffected countries need to intensify routine immunization services – UN

“We are calling for the intensification of routine immunization services in all areas, and for mass measles vaccination campaigns in areas that are free of Ebola transmission,” Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, Director of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals at WHO, was quoted as saying in a news release. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has reduced routine vaccination coverage in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as health facilities and staff focus on halting the epidemic, which has infected more than 24,000 people with over 10,000 deaths. In addition, “People infected with malaria have been unable to get treatment, either because they have been too afraid to seek help at health centres or because such facilities have been closed,” according to WHO.In a guidance note sent out this week, WHO warned: “Any disruption of immunization services, even for short periods, will result in an increase in the number of susceptible individuals, and will increase the likelihood of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.”“The new guidance for immunization programmes in the African Region in the context of Ebola to help countries maintain or restart immunization services includes infection control precautions for health workers,” according to WHO. “The document notes that for countries not affected by Ebola, routine immunization and surveillance should continue using the normal safe injection and waste disposal practices.”Mass vaccination campaigns for measles in areas that are free of Ebola transmission should be implemented to reduce the risk of significant outbreak of one of the leading causes of death among young children globally, the guidance note says.And to rapidly reduce the malaria burden and the number of people with malaria presenting at Ebola evaluation facilities, WHO also recommended mass drug administration of anti-malarial medicines to all eligible people in areas heavily affected by Ebola. Liberia has carried out two rounds of immunization against several diseases, and Guinea carried out similar activities in Ebola-free provinces in October and November 2014. Sierra Leone has put in place infection prevention precautions, and supported health facilities to scale up their routine service delivery. Liberia and Guinea have carried out outbreak response vaccination activities for measles, targeting under-five children in outbreak districts, and Guinea is putting together an outbreak response plan targeting 10 additional districts.Before widespread vaccination, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. More than 145,000 people died from measles in 2013 – mostly children under the age of 5, which translates into about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour. “This focus on vaccinations and malaria is part of WHO’s efforts to support countries in early recovery, including infection prevention and control in non-Ebola health care settings, strengthening of the health workforce, disease surveillance, and safe essential health services,” said Dr. Edward Kelley, WHO’s Director of Service Delivery and Safety. read more

Yemen UN agency provides tents emergency relief items to people displaced by

“Strong winds, heavy rains and flooding destroyed house, boats and livestock, and disrupted services,” UNHCR spokesperson Andreas Needham told reporters at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva.“Early reports indicate that around 1,600 families have been displaced in Hadramaut, some 150 in Shabwah, 25 in Al Maharah, and hundreds more on Socotra,” he added, noting that UNHCR is bringing in 5,000 emergency shelter kits to the city of Al Mukalla. Throughout the preparations and response, UNHCR said it has been coordinating with authorities, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and through the sub-national Protection and Shelter Clusters in Aden.“The effects of Chapala have been most severe in Shabwah and Hadramaut, with a combined population of about 1.9 million people,” Mr. Needham continued. “Jilaa, a village of around 1,150 persons in Shabwah governorate was completely washed away and further reports are coming in of devastation. Seventy six per cent [1.4 million] of the population in these governorates were already in need of humanitarian assistance, which includes over 100,000 displaced people and over 27,000 refugees and migrants.”Meanwhile, in advance of the cyclone, the Yemeni island of Socotra situated 350km from the mainland in the Arabian Sea, also experienced widespread destruction and displacement, with many taking shelter in caves, schools, or in the homes of relatives. At least 170 houses on the island were fully damaged and a further 610 partially damaged.UNHCR in Yemen reported is has been in contact with colleagues in Somaliland and Puntland to dissuade refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants – primarily from Ethiopia and Somalia – from taking boats to Yemen due to the dangerous conditions at sea as a result of Chapala. “There have been no reported new arrivals since 1 November,” the spokesperson noted. “Thus far in 2015 UNHCR has counted nearly 70,000 new arrivals along the Red and Arabian Sea coasts. Over 11,000 arrived in October along the Arabian Sea coast and received reception and medical services from UNHCR’s Mayfa’a reception centre in Shabwah, which so far weathered well through the storm with only minor damage to the premises.”UNHCR has also been informed that a new tropical storm is on its way and may develop in a second cyclone, to reach Socotra on Sunday. Along with other humanitarian agencies, it announced further scaling up of preparedness and response measures. In addition, Mr. Needham said his colleagues in Somalia have once again issued warnings to would-be crossers through partner and community networks.Over the last several months arrivals had shifted primarily to the Arabian Sea coast to avoid intense conflict areas centred in Taiz governorate situated on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. According to the UN, Yemen has 21.1 million persons in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including access to food, health care and safe drinking water, and over 2.3 million internally displaced persons stemming from the escalation of the conflict since late March of this year. read more

Addressing violent extremism urgent human rights priority warns UN chief

“That means addressing discrimination, ensuring good governance, and providing access to education, social services and employment opportunities,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the UN Human Rights Council’s panel discussion held in Geneva, adding that “these steps can help strengthen trust between state institutions and the people they serve.”The event, convened during the Council’s current session, which runs through 24 March, examined measures to prevent or counter violent extremism from the human rights prism.“Human rights abuses by violent extremists directly assault the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” Mr. Ban said, noting that his new Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism stresses that human rights and the rule of law should be central to countering or trying to prevent the scourge.Approaches that are morally wrong are also strategically counterproductive because they further alienate marginalized communities, the UN chief warned.Because violent extremist groups are acting with growing impunity, the fight against violent extremism must fully respects human rights, he said. Addressing violent extremism is “an urgent human rights priority,” he stressed, while underscoring the need to avoid the use of sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism that encroach on human rights.“Full respect for human rights and accountability for wrongdoing are essential to heal broken societies and successfully counter the threat of violent extremists,” he concluded.Also delivering a statement was UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, who said the Secretary-General’s Plan of Action is rights affirming, ambitious and far-reaching, and draws attention to the broader range of intersecting factors that underlie, foster and promote violent extremism.“Only with such a diagnosis can we begin then to devise the more effective prevention programmes that this multi-dimensional threat to human security demands of us,” she said.She stressed that responses to violent extremism that respect and protect human rights are more effective and sustainable. The “heavy-handed” counter-terrorism responses, following the 11 September terrorist attacks in the United States, have widened the rift between communities when bridges were needed, deepened distrust when investment in trust was called for, and generated divisive, often hateful, public discourse, she added.The selective application of the term “violent extremism” only to Muslim believers reinforces intolerance and discrimination, she warned.Ms. Gilmore also underscored equality and non-discrimination as the roots of a strong foundation for preventing and countering violent extremism. Policies and laws that combat social exclusion or marginalization are thus essential to the effective prevention and countering of violent extremism.Accountability for human rights violations is essential for enduring solutions to violent extremism, she said. Access to justice and remedies is crucial for the dignity of victims whether the abuse to which they have been subjected is at the hand of the State or a non-State actor.“The new more comprehensive plan of action for preventing or countering violent extremism is a welcome – and urgently needed – shift away from a ‘security-only’ approach,” she said.The Secretary-General presented his Plan of Action to the UN General Assembly on 15 January. It provides more than 70 recommendations to Member States and the UN system. On 12 February, the Assembly adopted a resolution welcoming the initiative. Further in the resolution, the 193-nation body took note of the Plan, saying that it “will give further consideration” to it. read more

Condemning Orlando attack senior UN Advisor gravely concerned by homophobia and islamophobia

“At a time when there was greatest need for sympathy and solidarity, I was appalled by the immediate and shameful efforts of some political and religious leaders to manipulate and politicise the events in Orlando to fuel fear, intolerance and hatred,” said Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide.“I was particularly sickened to hear religious leaders commend the killings of members of the LGBT community,” he added, referring to statements by some religious leaders, including one who labelled the victims as “disgusting perverts and paedophiles” and calling on governments worldwide “to execute LGBT people.”Mr. Dieng also criticized calls by some politicians to cite radical Islam as the cause of the attack in Orlando, to ban Muslims from the United States and to label all Muslims as “terrorists.”“Religious and sexual minorities are subjected to discrimination, human rights violations and violence worldwide, including in peaceful and democratic societies,” Mr. Dieng stated. “It is simply unacceptable that influential leaders, including political and religious leaders, spread the kind of dangerous homophobic and islamophobic messages that we have seen in public discourse and the media this week.”He reminded political and religious leaders that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited under international human rights law as well as by the legislations of many countries. read more

Stalled peace process fresh ceasefire violations risk Malis stability – UN peacekeeping

Under the terms of the resolution, the Council also decided that MINUSMA should perform tasks related to, among others, supporting the implementation of the peace agreement of June 2015; good offices and reconciliation; protection of civilians and stabilization, including against asymmetric threats; protection, safety and security of UN personnel; promotion and protection of human rights; and humanitarian assistance.Impact of violence, instability on Mission effectivenessFollowing the clashes in July in Kidal, in the north of the country, the Mission launched an operation to deter violence and protect civilians by showing a robust presence with patrols and checkpoints. In August, the Mission launched another operation, again establishing checkpoints and conducting coordinated patrols with the Malian armed forces along the Timbuktu–Douentza–Hombori axis, which spans from Timbuktu to the Mopti region. However, in spite of the Mission doing its utmost, civilians continue to suffer from the consequences of the armed groups’ and Government’s military operations, he said. The ceasefire violations have further hampered access for humanitarian actors that strive to answer to the most pressing needs of the population pending the resumption of basic public services. MINUSMA continues to seek to enhance collaboration with Mali’s neighbours and regional security initiatives to more effectively address common security challenges. It is in this context that Mr. Annadif has been engaging the Governments of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, or so-called the G-5 Sahel member States. The Mission, however, suffered a series of attacks on its force, including the May 29 detonation of an unidentified explosive device that killed five peacekeepers travelling in a convoy in the Mopti region, and the 3 October coordinated attacks in Kidal that killed one peacekeeper and injured eight others, reported Mr. Ladsous. As tragically illustrated by Monday’s attacks, the Mission’s capacity to protect civilians and counter asymmetric attacks in active defence of its mandate is further hampered by the absence of the capabilities authorised by resolution 2295. Mr. Ladsous said he regrets to inform the Security Council that in the short to medium-term instead of receiving reinforcements, MINUSMA will be confronted with the loss of key enablers, explaining that two troop-contributing countries have recently decided to withdraw three out of the Mission’s five helicopter units by early 2017. The UN Secretariat has deployed extensive efforts to generate assets to replace them, but no Member State has so far committed to contribute any of the outstanding capabilities authorized either by resolution 2295 or by previous resolutions, he said. Support for MINUSMAPicking up that thread, Atul Khare, UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support and head of the UN Department of Field Support (DFS), who also briefed the Council, stressed the importance for the Mission to be provided with the necessary capacities and capabilities required to operate safely and effectively in the current environment to be able to implement its mandate. Highlighting that modern peacekeeping operations like MINUSMA require a range of new and stronger capabilities, he called on UN Member States to consider becoming ‘contingent owned equipment (COE) contributing countries;’ contributing to joint battalions; and partnering directly with troop and police contributing countries to provide the required equipment. Mr. Khare also underlined that he continues to prioritize efforts to address sexual exploitation and abuse as well as all issues related to the conduct of UN personnel and further called on all Member States of the UN to ensure that their personnel uphold the highest standards of conduct and discipline as well as for timely reporting of incidents and follow-up action when necessary to ensure accountability. He also informed the 15-member body of efforts being undertaken to enhance the Mission’s operational effectiveness, to strengthen security and protection of both civilian and uniformed staff, such as through reinforcing facilities against blasts and installing protected command positions and bunkers as well as to strengthen MINUSMA’s medical support plan, equipment and personnel. “If the relative respite in recent months [leads us] to expect a possible improvement of the situation on the ground, we need to face the fact that persistent delays in the implementation of the peace agreement and new violations the ceasefire are incompatible with lasting stabilization, albeit partial, of the situation,” Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the Security Council. He underscored: “Time has come to rise above their immediate, localized interests and think of the long-term concerns of their constituencies, as well as of the country as a whole.” While he welcomed the announcement by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to convene a ‘National Conference of Understanding’ in December to discuss the root causes of the conflict, strengthen ownership of the peace process and promote genuine national reconciliation, Mr. Ladsous said that unfortunately, at present, the parties to the peace agreement are yet to set their differences aside and sit down with Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, to prioritize implementation steps and finalize benchmarks and concrete timelines as requested by Security Council resolution 2295 (2016).That resolution, which extended the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), until 30 June 2017, also authorized an increase in MINUSMA’s capabilities, including a force level of up to 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 police personnel. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. UN Photo/Loey Felipe (file) read more

Ban hopes South Africa will reconsider decision to withdraw from International Criminal

In a statement issued by his office today, the UN chief also recalled the “significant role” played by South Africa in the establishment of the ICC, including as one of the first signatories of the Rome Statute.According to ICC, the withdrawal will only come into effect one year after notification to the Secretary-General, who is the depositary.He further expressed his belief that the ICC is central to global efforts to end impunity and prevent conflict as well as his confidence that the UN Member States will continue to further strengthen the Court, thus helping deter future atrocities across the globe. Further, the statement noted: “[Mr. Ban] also hopes that States that may have concerns regarding the functioning of the Court seek to resolve these matters in the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute.” The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the international treaty that founded the Court. Comprising a Preamble and 13 Parts, it establishes the governing framework for the Court. The Statute sets out the Court’s jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and – as of an amendment in 2010 – the crime of aggression. In addition to jurisdiction, it also addresses issues such as admissibility and applicable law, the composition and administration of the Court, investigations and prosecution, trials, penalties, appeal and revision, international cooperation and judicial assistance, and enforcement. The Rome Statute was adopted at the Rome Conference on 17 July 1998 and entered into force on 1 July 2002. read more

UNICEF partners with the Government of Malawi to test first humanitarian drone

“Malawi has over the past years faced serious droughts and flooding,” stated Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango. “The launch of the UAS testing corridor is particularly important to support transportation and data collection where land transport infrastructure is either not feasible or difficult during emergencies.” The corridor will be the first one in Africa, and the first one to be used globally for humanitarian and development purposes, the agency reports. It will become fully operational by April 2017, while its distance is expected to be no longer than 40 kilometres. The Humanitarian UAS Testing Corridor will undergo testing in three areas: imagery – generating and analyzing aerial images for development and during humanitarian crises, including for situation monitoring in floods and earthquakes, connectivity – exploring the possibility for UAS to extend Wi-Fi or cellphone signals across difficult terrain, particularly in emergency settings, and transport – delivery of small low weight supplies such as emergency medical supplies, vaccines and samples for laboratory diagnosis, including for HIV testing. “The establishment of the testing corridor means there is now a place where we can explore the potential of UAS in the development and humanitarian space,” said Cynthia McCaffrey, Director of UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, highlighting that the programme help the agency adapt to rapid developments in UAS technology and potentially integrate UAS into our work for children. UNICEF is working with governments and private sector partners on incorporating the system in low income countries. Current focus is on open source and user-centred design. The agency has already had a pilot test run in March 2016, using UAS for the transportation of dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV. According to UNICEF, the system proved to be efficient and valuable. In the following months, the Malawi Government and UNICEF will finalize the details and identify potential UAS operators that can function in the case of disasters in the region and put in place stand-by agreements to ensure a rapid emergency response. read more

UN chief strongly condemns attack that kills peacekeeper in Central African Republic

“The Secretary-General offers his deepest condolences and sympathy to the family of the victim and to the Government of Egypt. He wishes a swift recovery to the wounded,” said a statement issued by his Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq following the attack, which took place on the Bangassou-Kongbo axis in the country’s southeast.With this latest attack, hostile acts have claimed the lives of 13 peacekeepers in the Central African Republic since January 2017.The statement said that the Secretary-General firmly recalls that attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and calls on the country’s authorities to investigate the attack to swiftly bring those responsible to justice.The Secretary-General reaffirms the determination of the UN to advance the implementation of the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), recently renewed by the Security Council, in particular to protect civilians and to help advance the political process in the country, the statement added.In a statement issued to the press on Monday, the Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.”Reiterating that attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes and reminded all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law, the 15-member body called on the Government to swiftly investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice. read more