UN agency voices concern as renewed fighting forces more Sudanese to flee

A return to fighting in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan state between Government forces and a rebel group has unleashed a new wave of refugees seeking sanctuary from the violence, the United Nations refugee agency warned today. According to media reports, intense fighting between Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA-North), including ground assaults and aerial bombardments, has prompted the daily exodus of some 100 refugees to flee into the border town of Yida in neighbouring Unity state.“As tension is building up again in border areas, we remain extremely concerned about the safety of the refugees in Yida settlement, which is located in close proximity to the border,” Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a media briefing in Geneva. “The presence of a refugee settlement in highly militarized border areas close to a conflict zone hampers efforts to preserve the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum,” Ms. Fleming added, pointing out that the safety of the refugees in Yida could not be guaranteed and that UNHCR was working with the refugee community to relocate the settlement to a safer location. She noted that the continuing violence coupled with an acute lack of food would add to the refugee flow and said UNHCR was anticipating that the Yida camp would swell from its current 64,229 inhabitants to an estimated 80,000 by the end of the year. Turning to the ongoing crisis in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state, where 23 cases of hepatitis E have been confirmed across the Jamam, Yusuf Batil and Gendrassa camps and 16 fatalities have already been documented, Ms. Fleming voiced concern that some 105,000 refugees could soon be cut off by the rainy season’s heavy downpours and consequent flooding. The Upper Nile region is largely affected by seasonal rains and is vulnerable to further environmental damage from floodwaters coming from the Ethiopian highlands. “Many roads are already flooded and may soon become impassable,” Ms. Fleming said, noting that in some areas, up to three kilometres of supply routes were already submerged by 50 centimetres of water. She also expressed particular concern for the refugees in Doro camp, located near the town of Bunj, where some 75 families have been affected by flooding. The families have been relocated to dry areas, she said, and targeted assistance, such as blankets to children under the age of five, has been provided. Moreover, 14 tons of nutrition assistance reached Doro over the weekend. There are close to 201,000 Sudanese refugees currently in South Sudan, with more than 170,000 located in Upper Nile and Unity states. They have arrived from Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states after fleeing conflict and food shortages over recent months.UNHCR is currently seeking $186 million in funding to provide the Sudanese refugees with assistance. However, the agency has only received 40 per cent of this amount. read more

UN rights expert urges DPR Korea authorities to spend less on military

“I continue to be concerned with both the human rights and humanitarian situation in the country,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Marzuki Darusman, told reporters ahead of his briefing to the General Assembly. He added that it is very concerning that some 16 million people in the DPRK – of a total population of 25 million – continue to suffer from varying degrees of chronic food insecurity and high malnutrition. It is also disconcerting, said Mr. Darusman, that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has declared that his first, second and third priorities were to strengthen the military. “Slow economic growth coupled with what is known as a ‘military first policy’ will of course be detrimental to the welfare of the people of the DPRK,” the Special Rapporteur stated. The expert urged the Government to re-think its approach to the ‘military-first policy’ and re-allocate enough resources to improve people’s living standards. At the same time, he stressed the need for the international community to provide continued humanitarian support to the people of the DPRK without making the support contingent on any political conditions. “Overall, during this reporting period, there was no sign of improvement in the human rights situation in the DPRK,” stated Mr. Darusman, who has not been granted access to the country, despite repeated requests, since his appointment in August 2010. In his report to the Assembly, he focused on freedom of opinion and expression, provisions of the criminal procedure code that are not in line with international standards, the case of Mr. Oh Kil-nam and his family, the situation of asylum-seekers and trafficking of persons, and the economic situation of the people of the DPRK and its impact on economic, social and cultural rights.Among his recommendations, Mr. Darusman emphasized the need for the Government to ensure the overall protection and promotion of human rights in the country as provided under international human rights instruments, and to cooperate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The independent expert also stressed that “egregious” human rights abuses in the DPRK have been extensively documented by various actors, including UN entities, for decades. “I wish to call on States and the international community to undertake a comprehensive review of the relevant documents, to assess the underlying patterns and trends, and to consider setting up a more detailed mechanism of inquiry,” he said.Independent experts, or special rapporteurs like Mr. Darusman, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. read more

Ebola UN special envoy says combating stigma integral to overall crisis response

“It is really important that we all understand the roots of the stigma and work to address it,” Dr. Nabarro said, briefing to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at UN Headquarters. “We are all in this together.”“I think all of us have a role to try to reduce the stigmatization,” he said.The Special Envoy said that even UN people travelling from affected countries have been stranded in airports for 24 hours and “treated as criminals.”“What I am suggesting is to engage with those who are reacting in extreme ways,” the special envoy said. “Craig Spencer’s discharge was helpful in reducing that fear,” Dr. Nabarro said referring to the first and only person to be diagnosed with Ebola in New York City who was released from hospital yesterday and greeted with a hug by the New York City Mayor.Saying he was pleased to see on Facebook calling for donations, the special envoy said: “We need a second button – a button of solidarity” aimed at reducing stigmatization and discrimination.“Let’s try to use social media to express solidarity and to show we are anti-discrimination,” he said. “We have done it for HIV. We must do this for Ebola.”Dr. Nabarro was briefing NGOs the day before he and Anthony Banbury, the head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), brief the General Assembly on the public health crisis emanating from the Ebola outbreak. Together they will speak to reporters after they brief UN Member States.Also today at UN Headquarters, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), saying that there were no longer signs that security could seriously deteriorate in the country heavily-affected by Ebola. However, he said it would be appropriate to defer consideration of the drawdown of UN troops and police, until the Ebola crisis is over.“As an international community, we must seize the current moment, and see how best we may, collectively, help to transform [it] into one that is positively catalytic for the country,” he said, recalling that, as the Secretary-General noted in his August report, to “reimagine our engagement in Liberia.” Even as the international community scales up its response to the immediate challenge of defeating Ebola, “we must also consider how we may collectively support the rebuilding of Liberia post-Ebola,” said Mr. Ladsous. In his briefing today, Dr. Nabarro said that 2 or 3 million of the world’s population were now “emotionally engaged” in the issue with hundreds of thousands working on the Ebola response.”It’s becoming an issue that is deeply affecting societies, governments and many aspects of global affairs,” he said.Dr. Nabarro emphasized that “when everyone is fully involved, there is a slowing of the outbreak,” saying “that is a real source of inspiration.”And while noting “some signs of progress,” he cautioned that they are “small signs”, and that “there is not enough certainty to say that we know the trajectory toward the end of the outbreak.” He also drew attention to “the need to be working on post-Ebola now.”Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Mali’s Ministry of Health has confirmed the country’s second fatal case of Ebola virus disease. The case occurred in a nurse who worked at a privately-run clinic in the capital city, Bamako.Like Mali’s first case, this second is associated with the outbreak in Guinea, WHO said. Intensive contact tracing is under way in both countries, with support from WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) MSF, and other international partners.According to WHO’s latest statistics, there are more than 13,000 reported Ebola cases in eight countries since the outbreak began, with nearly 5,000 reported deaths.WHO is expected to release updated figures on the state of the outbreak later today. read more

After migrant catastrophe in Mediterranean UN urges robust rescue operations

In a press release issued earlier this morning, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” at the capsizing of an overcrowded double-deck boat on 13 April in waters 120 kilometres south of Italy’s Lampedusa Island.According to UNHCR, 142 people have been rescued by Italian authorities while eight bodies have also been recovered. 400 others are still missing and feared dead.“This only demonstrates how important it is to have a robust rescue-at-sea mechanism in the central Mediterranean,” Mr. Guterres said. “Unfortunately Mare Nostrum was never replaced by an equivalent capacity to rescue people, and at the same time the legal avenues for those who need protection to be able to come Europe.”Italy’s ‘Mare Nostrum,’ a major search and rescue programme aimed at saving migrants in the Mediterranean, was replaced in December by the European Union’s current ‘Triton’ operation amid an uptick in sea crossings in the region. 2015, in fact, has already seen some 31,500 people make crossings to Italy and Greece – the first and second largest countries of arrival respectively. UNHCR has reported that numbers have also been recently picking up as weather conditions in the Mediterranean improve. “For all those in need of protection it is very important to increase the number of resettlement opportunities, humanitarian admission opportunities, to have a more flexible visa policy, to have enhanced family reunification programmes, and to have an effective mechanism to rescue people at sea in the central Mediterranean,” the UNHCR chief added. The UN refugee agency has been advocating for a comprehensive and urgent response from the European Union and shared specific proposals including the establishment of a possible scheme to compensate shipping companies involved in rescuing people at sea, increasing credible legal alternatives to dangerous voyages and a pilot relocation programme for Syrians refugees arriving in Italy and Greece. Speaking from Doha, Qatar, where he is presiding over the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), added that it was unacceptable that migrants continued to die “in spite of our efforts.”“It is a crime that needs to be addressed,” Mr. Fedotov told the UN in an exclusive interview. “We need to protect the rights of migrants, we need to support them; we need to protect women and especially children.”He said that it is an urgent priority to introduce measures to protect the human rights of smuggled migrants in accordance with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.”Mr. Fedotov also stressed that the international community should confront the criminals and break up their networks. “This means cooperation among nations, inter-governmental organizations and civil society must be strengthened,” he said. read more

Flags of nonmember observer States to fly at UN offices

The resolution, “Raising the flags of non-member observer States at the United Nations,” was adopted by a vote of 119 in favour to 8 against, with 45 delegations abstaining. The text also requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take “the measures necessary” for the implementation of this decision during the Assembly’s seventieth session, which begins on 15 September, and within 20 days of the adoption of the resolution. The Assembly took today’s decision noting the participation of non-member observer States that maintain permanent observer missions at Headquarters, of which there are currently two – the Holy See and Palestine, in its sessions and work. read more

Outdated UN system a reflection of worlds dysfunction Eritrean Minister tells Assembly

Mr. Saleh said that, 70 years after the birth of the UN, “it is undeniable that we continue to live in an unfair and unequal world, where conflicts and wars rage, extreme poverty persists in the midst of plenty, children die from easily preventable diseases and justice is routinely trampled.” “The United Nations Organization itself is a reflection of this unfair, unequal and undemocratic global order,” he continued. “In the UN, the overwhelming majority of member States are marginalized. This assembly of nations, which should be the most powerful organ, is bereft of real power and influence, with decision-making dominated by a few among the few.” He added that there is a need “to persist in our efforts to rebuild and revitalize the United Nations” and “strive and cooperate at the national, regional and global levels for sustainable and equitable development.” “Today, Eritrea is making remarkable progress in building a nation based on citizenship and an inclusive state and the respect of human dignity and rights. It is peaceful, stable, secure and harmonious.” He added that it was also “building a solid basis for sustainable development with social justice,” as well as fighting human trafficking and giving youth and women “adequate opportunities to pursue a high quality of life and build their nation.” read more

Côte dIvoire UN officials condemn beach resort attacks

United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the terrorist attacks that reportedly killed at least 14 civilians and wounded many in Côte d’Ivoire’s beach resort town of Grand Bassam earlier today.“The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attacks carried out today in three hotels in the town of Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire,” Mr. Ban’s spokesman said in a statement, adding that “he expresses his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the people and Government of Côte d’Ivoire and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.”Mr. Ban reiterates the UN’s commitment to stand with the people of Côte d’Ivoire at this difficult time and extends his full support to the Government in its efforts to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, the spokesman added.A condemnation also came from the UN tourism agency.“We are appalled by this horrible act of violence,” World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said in a statement. “Our thoughts at this difficult moment are with the families and friends of the victims and the people of Côte d’Ivoire.”He said UNWTO reaffirmed its full support and confidence in the West African nation’s tourism sector which has been growing over the last years.“We trust that tourism will continue to play a key role in advancing development in Côte d’Ivoire,” he said, noting that the country’s commercial capital of Abidjan will host a 19-21 April meeting for the 58th UNWTO Commission for Africa and the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Conference & Symposium. read more

Next round of IntraSyrian talks planned for 13 April – UN envoy

Speaking to the media today, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that between now and then, he plans to visit Damascus and Teheran – and perhaps Amman and Beirut on the way– as well as to meet some Turkish and Saudi authorities in Europe.“Frankly the next round of the intra-Syrian talks need to be quite concrete in the direction of a political process leading to a real beginning of a political transition,” he said, adding: “Now since this is real stuff, I need to verify the international and regional stakeholders’ position in order to see how is the level of positive critical mass leading to concrete results in the next round of talks.”In the Syrian capital, Damascus, he plans to meet the Foreign Minister and the Deputy Foreign Minister, but has no appointment to see President Bashar al-Assad. The main purpose of the trip is to see whether there is “a critical understanding, or mass, of what could be a framework of a political transition,” Mr. de Mistura said, citing that the cessation of hostilities took place because “there was, at a certain point, a critical mass on which we could work on.”Also briefing the press on humanitarian aid delivery, Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to Mr. de Mistura, said that “April was supposed to be our best month,” but “it’s not looking so.”“So far I am disappointed and disheartened at what we achieved over the last week,” he said, noting that five convoys were not able to go for the last four days, and as a result, 287,000 people didn’t get the relief in hard-to-reach areas or in besieged areas.He said that despite a new procedure that a permission will be issued within seven days and the final clearance will be given within another three days, four of the five were not given facilitation letters by the Government, and the other was blocked by some of the armed opposition groups.With a major vaccination campaign entering into its intensive phase, he noted that there are problems in many places, urging the Government and the armed opposition groups not to stop volunteers and health workers who are to vaccinate millions of children for epidemic diseases.“One positive thing” is that in the very near future, up to 500 wounded, sick and their relatives will be evacuated from the four towns, Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kefraya, he said. “It’s one of the biggest medical evacuations that have been planned.” read more

Marching towards peace FARCEP begins turning in arms – UN Mission in

The UN Mission in Colombia said the Transitional Point of Normalization of Pondores, department of La Guajira, in northern Colombia, according to figures from tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, composed of the Government, the FARC-EP and coordinated by the UN Mission. Members of the FARC-EP – some of them pregnant or breastfeeding – walked about nine kilometres from four pre-grouping points near to the Pondores transitional point, where the FARC-EP camp will be located and where the separation of forces will take place, a task which the UN Mission will verify. “As a UN Mission, this moment is crucial because it means we will continue to verify the ceasefire and cessation of hostilities through our participation in the Tripartite Mechanism, and we will be able to begin the operational part of the verification of the laying down of arms,” explained the Deputy Head of Observers of the Mission, José Mauricio Villacorta. According to the Mission, the women and men marching today join more than 6,300 FARC-EP members who began mobilizing on Saturday, 28 January, to zones and points using 36 travel routes in 14 departments of the country, according to preliminary figures from the Colombian Government’s High Commissioner for Peace, on one of the country’s largest logistics operations. FARC-EP members were received today at the Pondores site by High Commissioner for Peace Sergio Jaramillo, FARC-EP leader Ivan Márquez, Colombian authorities and Mr. Mauricio Villacorta, in a symbolic act to highlight the parties’ commitment and the imminent start of the laying down of arms, which the UN Mission will verify, to enable the transition to civilian life. “This shows that we are bringing the agreement to reality,” said Mr. Jaramillo, who added: “This is a moment of joy.”Iván Márquez, who headed the FARC-EP negotiating team in Havana, Cuba, where four years of negotiations on the eventual peace accord took place, stated: “Something good is happening in Colombia: it’s peace […] This peace is irrepressible, unstoppable; let us go forward.”“To date, we have focused on the planning and preparation phase so that the Mission can carry out the tasks of registering and storing weapons,” said Mr. Mauricio Villacorta. Once FARC-EP members are in the camps the first step for the laying down of arms is the registration of arms and weapons. Unstable armaments – such as gunpowder, grenades and anti-personnel mines – will be destroyed in site. After 180 days, the UN Mission in Colombia is set to remove all the weapons from the camp.In early October 2016, Colombian voters narrowly rejected the historic peace accord between the Government and the FARC-EP. That deal led to a cessation of hostilities and agreements on key issues such as political participation, land rights, illicit drugs and victims’ rights and transitional justice. The two sides signed a new agreement in late November. read more

UN agriculture agency and World Bank reinforce partnership to end hunger and

The United Nations agriculture agency and the World Bank have opened a new chapter in their longstanding partnership by further strengthening their cooperation to end hunger and poverty at global and national levels. The two organizations have signed a new agreement to work closely together supporting the member countries in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), improve rural livelihoods, enhance efficiency of food production and distribution, and ensure sustainable management of natural resources worldwide.The framework agreement – which enables the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to provide technical expertise to governments for projects funded by the World Bank -– was signed yesterday in Rome by Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director-General for Operations, and Hartwig Schafer, the Vice-President of the World Bank’s Operations Policy and Country Services.This enhanced partnership realizes faster mobilization of FAO assistance to member countries in order to advance the 2030 Agenda for and its corresponding SDGs. “The tools […] will increase financial resources for development, especially in situations of protracted crises and fragile States,” says to Mr. Gustafson in a response during the signing ceremony.For his part, Mr. Schafer stressed that the new agreement is about joining forces on the front lines of crises and building on each organization’s comparative advantages, adding that it “becomes even more relevant in the context of emergency response, fragility and limited capacity to implement critical development programs in the countries.” The new agreement will go beyond FAO and World Bank investment programmes, says Mr. Schafter in a video interview. Through the FAO Investment Centre both international bodies have been working together for over 50 years providing development support to invest in agriculture and rural development. The Centre has contributed to over $100 billion worth of investments worldwide. read more