Month: July 2021 (Page 1 of 4)

Attack on UN mission in Afghanistan draws global condemnation.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemned an attack in its main compound in the western Afghan province of Herat on Friday that left an Afghan police guard dead and other officers injured.  

So-called “anti-Government elements” targeted entrances of the clearly marked UN facility with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire just hours after Taliban fighters penetrated Herat city and clashed with Afghan security forces near UNAMA’s provincial headquarters. 

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms”, said Deborah Lyons, the UN Special Representative for the country.  

“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured”, she added. 

Secretary-General António Guterres added his strong condemnation and reminded that “attacks against UN personnel and premises are prohibited under international law and may constitute war crimes”.   

In a statement issued through his Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, Mr. Guterres reiterated the UN’s commitment of support to the Government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve peace and stability.  

The UN chief also expressed his condolences to the bereaved family and wished the injured a speedy recovery.  

UNAMA reported that no UN staff were hurt in the incident. 

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account”, said Ms. Lyons, who also heads UNAMA. 

The UN’s presence in the country is as a civilian entity focused on supporting peace efforts, promoting the rights of all Afghans and providing humanitarian and development assistance. 

The UN expressed its gratitude to the Afghan Directorate of Protection Services officers who defended the compound from the attackers. 

Multiple UN Member States, and regional organizations on Twitter, added their condemnation of the assault and called for justice.

Herat city is the second provincial capital area that Taliban fighters have entered in the space of 24 hours, according to news reports.

Insurgents entered the capital of the southern province of Helmand a day earlier, and as clashes continue there, civilians are rushing to evacuate the city. 

On Friday, the Taliban assault on the outskirts of Herat, reportedly forced many civilians to flee, according UN News.

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United Nations: COVID-19 vaccine shipments boost for Africa.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) nearly four million doses of coronavirus vaccines from the UN-partnered COVAX initiative arrived in Africa last week, compared with just 245,000 for all of June. 

Reminding that the continent is still “in the throes of the pandemic’s third wave”, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, told a virtual press conference with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, “we are not out of the woods yet”. 

WHO said that it hoped COVAX would ship 520 million doses to Africa by the end of 2021, in addition to more shots from other sources, including deliveries from the African Union, which is expected to supply around 45 million jabs by the end of the year. 

In total, almost 79 million vaccine doses have reached Africa but only 21 million people, or just 1.6 per cent of Africa’s population, are fully vaccinated.  

“We are beginning to see positive signs as vaccine deliveries to Africa are picking up pace after nearly coming to a halt”, said Dr. Moeti. 

Around 30 countries have used more than three-quarters of the vaccines they received, according to WHO. 

Despite the vaccine supply crunch, seven countries, including Equatorial GuineaMauritius, Morocco and Seychelles, have reached vaccination rates significantly above the continental average. 

“Considering a two-dose schedule, as is the case with most COVID-19 vaccines, 820 million vaccine doses are needed to reach the target of fully vaccinating 30 per cent of Africa’s population by the end of this year”, explained the UN official.

Africa still needs more than 700 million doses to reach this target. 

To this end, COVAX has sealed deals with Sinopharm and Sinovac to immediately supply 110 million doses to low-income countries, of which 32.5 million are destined for Africa.  

“These doses have been allocated to countries this week and will be delivered as soon as countries are ready to receive them”, said Dr. Moetim, according UN News.

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United Nations chief: action as COVID leaves ‘many millions’ more vulnerable in human trafficking.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday urged UN Member States to take action against human trafficking, where a third of all victims are children.

Highlighting how the COVID pandemic has pushed as many as 124 million more people into extreme poverty, the UN chief insisted that “many millions” have been left vulnerable to the scourge.

Half of victims in low-income countries are children, Mr. Guterres noted, just ahead of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, adding that most are trafficked for forced labour. 

“Criminals everywhere are using technology to identify, control and exploit vulnerable people,” the UN chief said, adding that children are increasingly targeted through online platforms for sexual exploitation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse.

“Rather than being protected and assisted without discrimination as children at risk, child victims of trafficking are treated as irregular migrants or subjected to criminal prosecutions, and have their age and credibility questioned,” said UN-appointed expert on human trafficking, Siobhán Mullally.

Ms. Mullally joined the call for action, stating that “racism, xenophobia and gender-based discrimination are putting the human rights of trafficking victims at risk and enabling those who carry out the illegal trade to continue with impunity.

“Instead of being identified as victims of a serious human rights violation, victims are being arrested, detained, denied assistance and protection and even forcibly returned to countries of origin because of racial profiling and discrimination at border crossings and in criminal justice systems.”

The Special Rapporteur urged all actors involved, including the private sector, to combat racism and xenophobia in law enforcement, at borders, education systems, in work places, in child protection systems, and in humanitarian and peace operations.

She noted that when gender discrimination is added to racism and xenophobia, victims suffer even more: “Actions to combat trafficking must move beyond harmful stereotypes of ‘ideal victims’ that leave many victims and survivors without the protection and assistance they are entitled to”.

Prevention measures are also limited by racist stereotyping and xenophobia and lead to failures of identification, according to the special rapporteur.

“Too often the testimonies of victims are questioned and the harms and trauma they have endured are denied.

Failure to identify victims of trafficking lead to forced returns, arrest, detention and prosecution, family separation, and refusals of consular assistance, rather than protection and assistance.” 

UN Secretary General António Guterres urged governments to take urgent steps to strengthen prevention, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.

This includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.

Ms. Mullally also reminded countries that they have obligations in international human rights law to eliminate direct, indirect and structural discrimination, and that Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendation No.

38 of last year reiterates the obligation of States to ensure its application to all victims without exception.

“Unless states take effective action to combat discrimination, racism and xenophobia, traffickers will continue to target minority communities, indigenous peoples, stateless persons, migrants and refugees, with impunity,” she warned according UN News.

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United Nations: Cornerstone treaty of refugee protection turns 70.

It has never been more urgent to recommit to the spirit and fundamental principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UN refugee agency said on Wednesday as it marked the 70th anniversary of the key international treaty. 

“The Convention continues to protect the rights of refugees across the world,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Thanks to the Convention, millions of lives have been saved.” 

As relevant now as in 1951 

Mr. Grandi expressed alarm over recent attempts by some Governments to disregard or circumvent the Convention’s principles, from expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum seekers at land and sea borders to proposals for their forcibly transfer to third States for processing without proper protection safeguards.   

He stressed the need for the international community to uphold the key principles of refugee protection as laid out in the Convention, including the right of those fleeing persecution not to be returned to the path of harm or danger. 

Speaking 70 years to the day after the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was presented to States for signing,  the High Commissioner said the treaty was a crucial component of international human rights law and remains as relevant now as it was when it was drafted and agreed.  

“The language of the Convention is clear as to the rights of refugees and remains applicable in the context of contemporary and unprecedented challenges and emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic”, underscored Mr. Grandi. 

The 1951 Refugee Convention was born following the aftermath of the Second World War.  

On 14 December 1950, the UN published the statute, and on July 1951 representatives of 26 States met in Geneva to finalize the text of the treaty.  

The Convention and the 1967 Protocol, which broadened the scope of those in need of international protection, define who is a refugee and the kind of protection, assistance and rights they are entitled to.  

They remain the cornerstone of refugee protection today and have inspired numerous regional treaties and laws, such as the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention in Africa, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration in Latin America, and the European Union’s Common European Asylum System.  

The principles of the Convention were reaffirmed in December 2018 by the Global Compact on Refugees, a blueprint for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing.  

Both recognize that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation. 

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCRhas called on all States to adopt principles of refugee law, including the 1951 Convention, by enacting legislation and establishing institutions, policies and practices reflecting its provisions.  

It also encourages countries that are not contracting States to accede to the Convention – as the 2018 signatory South Sudan continues to do.  

The 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention comes only a few months after UNHCR itself marked seven decades as the world’s mandated organization for the protection of those forcibly displaced according UN News.

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The UN independent expert on the human rights situation in Myanmar called for a “COVID ceasefire” on Tuesday.

He urged the UN Security Council and Member States “to use all the tools of the UN”, including adopting resolutions, to demand Myanmar’s military rulers, known officially as the State Administrative Council, stop all attacks, particularly against healthcare professionals. 

“Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations”, he warned. 

Member States of the United Nations cannot afford to be complacent while the junta ruthlessly attacks medical personnel as COVID-19 spreads unchecked.

They must act to end this violence so that doctors and nurses can provide life-saving care and international organizations can help deliver vaccinations and related medical care.” 

Resolution on ceasefires 

Myanmar’s military seized power in February, sparking countless pro-democracy protests across the country which were met with violent crackdowns, and widespread human rights abuses. 

Mr. Andrews said the junta has murdered at least 931 people, while some 5,630 others are being held in arbitrary detention where they are at risk of coronavirus infection.

Another 255 people have been sentenced for “trumped up crimes”, he added, with 26, including two minors, being sentenced to death. 

In February, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for ceasefires in all conflict areas so that COVID-19 vaccinations could take place, and to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarians and medical personnel. 

“This resolution represented a principled framework to address the outbreak of COVID-19 in States experiencing unrestrained violence.  

Given this escalating crisis, these demands must now be focused specifically on Myanmar.  

Doing so will save untold numbers of lives,” said Mr. Andrews. 

Of course, the best outcome would be for the junta to stand down so that a legitimate civilian government can lead a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis,” he added.  

“But in the immediate term, the junta’s relentless attacks and detentions must end. For this to be possible, the people of Myanmar need the UN and its Member States to step up with strong, principled action.”  

Special Rapporteurs, like Mr. Andrews, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues.   

They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor do they receive a salary from the Organization according UN News.

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United Nations climate science talks open amid heatwaves, floods and drought.

Negotiations began on Monday to approve a UN science report which will anchor high level summits later this year, charged with boosting climate action worldwide.

The assessment comes as record-breaking heat waves, devasting floods and drought struck across three continents in recent weeks.

“This report has been prepared in exceptional circumstances, and this is an unprecedented IPCC approval session,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chair, Hoesung Lee, told the opening session of the meeting.

The report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, by IPCC Working Group I brings together the latest advances in climate science and multiple lines of evidence to provide an up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change.

“Assessments and special reports have been foundational to our understanding of climate change, the severe and growing risks it poses throughout the world and the urgent need for action to address it,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, on Monday.

But she warned that the world is at a “climate crossroads” and decisions taken this year would determine whether it will be possible to limit global warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial era by the end of the century.

3 degrees looming

“The world is currently on the opposite track, heading for a 3°C rise,” she said. “We need to change course urgently.”

Following the recent deadly flooding in several western European countries, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called for all nations to do more to hold back climate change-induced disasters.

“Climate change is already very visible.

We don’t have to tell people that it exists,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told the opening session.

“We are seeing more extreme events.

Heatwaves, drought and the flooding events in Europe and China,” he said. 

“Massive heating” in the Arctic is affecting the atmospheric dynamics in the northern hemisphere, as evidenced by stagnant weather systems and changes in the behaviour of the jet stream, added the WMO chief.

“We have been telling the world that science has spoken and it’s now up to the policymakers for action”, said IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee.

The meeting is being held remotely from 26 July to 6 August, with the aim of ensuring that the summary for policymakers is accurate, well-balanced and presents the scientific findings clearly.

Subject to the decisions of the panel, the report will be released on 9 August, just weeks ahead of the UN General Assembly opening, a G20 summit, and the 197-nation COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, according UN News.

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United Nations experts: free, fair Palestinian elections, must include East Jerusalem.

Landmark elections in the Occupied Palestinian territory must be rescheduled soon and include East Jerusalem, three UN independent human rights experts said in a statement on Monday. 

The first parliamentary and presidential elections in 15 years were scheduled to take place in May and July, respectively. 

But they were postponed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 29 April, amid concerns about the ability to vote in East Jerusalem.   

Expressing their deep concern over the postponement, the UN experts called on the Palestinian Authority and Israel “to take all steps necessary within their power” to reschedule the elections “within a reasonably short timeframe”, and to ensure they are free, fair, democratic, peaceful and credible. 

“The Palestinian elections present a monumental opportunity to renew the democratic process, to address the long-standing internal political divisions, to strengthen accountable institutions and to take an important step towards achieving the fundamental national and individual rights of the Palestinian people,” they said. 

“We call upon Israel to clearly state that it will allow the full democratic participation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem in the planned elections.

As the occupying power in East Jerusalem, it must interfere as little as possible with the rights and daily lives of the Palestinians.” 

The rights experts noted that Palestinians in East Jerusalem have the right to participate in elections under the 2005 Oslo Agreements, and have voted on three previous occasions, albeit with considerable difficulties. 

“The international community has repeatedly stated, through the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, that all Israeli alterations to East Jerusalem’s demography and to its political and legal status are null and void,” they said.

“Here is a golden opportunity for the world to affirm these commitments in the name of democracy and international law.” 

They called upon the Palestinian Authority to reschedule the elections for the near future and urged all sides, “including the occupying power”, to respect democratic when they are held, according UN News.

The three UN experts who issued the statement are: Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression, and Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  

They were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, and serve in their individual capacity and on a voluntary basis. 

Independent experts are not UN staff, neither are they paid by the Organization.

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United Nations chief: no pathway to reach the Paris Agreement’s 1.5˚C goal without the G20.

“The world urgently needs a clear and unambiguous commitment to the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement from all G20 nations”, António Guterres said on Sunday after the Group failed to agree on the wording of key climate change commitments during their recent Ministerial Meeting on Environment, Climate and Energy.

“There is no pathway to this goal without the leadership of the G20.

This signal is desperately needed by the billions of people already on the frontlines of the climate crisis and by markets, investors and industry who require certainty that a net zero climate resilient future is inevitable”, the UN Secretary General urged in a statement.

The UN chief reminded that science indicates that to meet that ‘ambitious, yet achievable goal’, the world must achieve carbon neutrality before 2050 and cut dangerous greenhouse gas emissions by 45 % by 2030 from 2010 levels. “But we are way off track”, he warned.

The world needs the G20 to deliver

With less than 100 days left before the 2021 United Nations Climate Conference COP 26, a pivotal meeting that will be held in Glasgow at the end of October, António Guterres urged all G20 and other leaders to commit to net zero by mid-century, present more ambitious 2030 national climate plans and deliver on concrete policies and actions aligned with a net zero future.

These include no new coal after 2021, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and agreeing to a minimum international carbon pricing floor as proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The G7 and other developed countries must also deliver on a credible solidarity package of support for developing countries including meeting the US$100 billion goal, increasing adaptation and resilience support to at least 50% of total climate finance and getting public and multilateral development banks to significantly align their climate portfolios to meet the needs of developing countries”, he highlighted.

The UN Chief informed that he intends to use the opportunity of the upcoming UN General Assembly high-level session to bring leaders together to reach a political understanding on these critical elements of the ‘package’ needed for Glasgow.

The G20 ministers, which met in Naples, Italy on July 23-25, couldn’t agree to a common language on two disputed issues related to phasing out coal and the 1.5-degree goal, which now will have to be discussed at the G20 summit in Rome in October, just one day before the COP 26 starts, according UN News.

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United Nations: ‘Lack of global solidarity’, slow vaccination rates put Indonesia in COVID glare.

A “lack of global solidarity” including the hoarding of vaccines by richer nations as well as slow vaccination rate has contributed to Indonesia becoming the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Asia, according to the UN’s top official in the country.

Indonesia, like many of countries in South East Asia, had until recently been successful in mitigating the worst health impacts of COVID-19; some form of physical distancing measures have long been in place.

Since taking up my post here in Indonesia in October 2020, I’ve only met most of my colleagues on screen and have almost entirely avoided Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams.

Still, the non-health impacts of the pandemic are stark.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress in alleviating poverty over the past decade, but COVID-19 has set back some of those vital gains.

As elsewhere, COVID-19’s economic burden has fallen disproportionately on women, and other marginalized groups.

Since May, however, the health crisis has become increasingly urgent. New COVID-19 cases have risen five-fold over the past month.

On July 17, Indonesia reported more new daily infections than both India and Brazil, causing multiple news outlets to dub it Asia’s new COVID-epicentre.

And on July 21, the UN’s World Health Organization there had been more than 77,500 deaths in the country.

Indonesia’s total of some 3 million confirmed cases is still far below the more than 31 million India has recorded since the start of the pandemic.

But comparisons have inevitably been made with India’s tragic spring surge. In some areas, overflowing hospitals have been forced to turn away patients and volunteer groups have mobilized to locate oxygen tanks and build coffins.

How did things get so bad so quickly?

It’s down to several factors. The surge is being driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant and we’re also seeing rising case numbers across the region and in many other countries. But on a deeper level, there just hasn’t been a sense of collective wisdom during the pandemic.

The same oversights that occurred in one country were repeated in another. Global experience has demonstrated that strict enforcement of public health measures is critical to containing outbreaks, and that these measures must be guided by accurate surveillance of the transmission of the virus. That didn’t happen in India. What we are seeing here in Indonesia is also in part a result of mass gatherings and travel when the rate of infection was still high.

On top of that, vaccinations haven’t been rolled out quickly enough. As of July 17, six out of every hundred people among Indonesia’s population of 270 million had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with low coverage among the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

Indonesia has secured a relatively good supply of vaccinations, including from the COVAX facility—which is supported by organizations such as WHO and UNICEF—and is ahead of other countries in the region.

But there has been a global lack of solidarity despite the UN Secretary-General’s calls for equitable vaccine access.

Rich countries hoarded vaccines.

As sad as it is, Indonesia is certainly not the worst off; only 1.1 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccination dose according UN News.

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UN Security Council calls for ‘immediate reversal’ of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot decision on Varosha.

The United Nations Security Council said in a statement released on Friday that settling any part of the abandoned Cypriot suburb of Varosha, “by people other than its inhabitants, is “inadmissible”. 

The presidential statement approved by all 15 Security Council members, upheld that “no actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha, that are not in accordance with its resolutions”. 

“The Security Council condemns the announcement in Cyprus by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders on 20 July 2021 on the further reopening of part of the fenced-off area of Varosha”, the statement continued. 

“The Security Council expresses its deep regret regarding these unilateral actions that run contrary to its previous resolutions and statements.” 

The statement calls for “the immediate reversal of this course of action and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.” 

The statement followed a closed-door briefing earlier in the day by the outgoing UN Special Representative, Elizabeth Spehar

The Mediterranean island has been divided between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities for 47 years, and a Security Council resolution of 1964 recommended the establishment of a peacekeeping force to maintain law and order and help end inter-communal strife.  

According to news reports, on Wednesday, Greek Cypriot leaders appealed to the Council over plans by Turkish Cypriot authorities to revert a 1.35 square-mile section of Varosha, from military to civilian control, and open it for potential resettlement. 

The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey, made the initial announcement a day earlier, that part of the suburb would come under civilian control.  

On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his deep concern over Wednesday’s announcements by Turkey and Turkish-Cypriot leaders, on re-opening Varosha, and said that the UN’s position “remains unchanged and is guided by the relevant Security Council resolutions”.  

In a statement issued by his Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, Mr. Guterres called on all sides “to refrain from any unhelpful actions and to engage in dialogue to bring peace and prosperity to the island through a comprehensive settlement”. 

“The Secretary-General has repeatedly called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that provoke tensions and may compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue”. 

The UN Security Council statement concluded with a reaffirmation of its commitment “to an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement, in accordance with the wishes of the Cypriot people, and based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with political equality”, according UN News.

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