Monthly Archives: February 2017

Security Council President, at ‘Wrap-up’ Meeting, Hails Secretary-General’s Briefing on African Union Summit as Highlight in Densely Packed February

The Secretary-General’s briefing on his participation in the African Union Summit was among the highlights of a February densely packed with meetings and discussions, Security Council President Volodymyr Yelchenko (Ukraine) told fellow members during an end-of-month “wrap up” meeting today.

Recalling that occasion, he said:  “Such meetings on a regular basis would strengthen immensely the relationship between the Council and the Secretary-General.”  He also described the Council’s efforts to address developments in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, as well as initiatives to improve its working methods.

Sebastiano Cardi (Italy) described the Secretary-General’s involvement with the Council on 2 and 24 February as a “game changer” and best practice that should be pursued as a way to make meetings more policy-oriented.  “I have found the Council to be more united than I had been told it would be,” he added.

On that point, Petr V. Iliichev (Russian Federation) said his delegation had prepared a press statement following a briefing on 2 February, but due to a refusal to recognize regional organizations, no agreement had been reached.  That did not convey the right message to the Secretary-General, who had made preventive diplomacy the crux of his activities, he noted.

Other speakers argued that the relationship between the Council and the Secretary-General was growing stronger.  Joakim Vaverka (Sweden), emphasizing the existence of ideas for making the Council more effective, said the Ukrainian presidency had put those ideas into practice with the use of agreed press elements as a way to increase transparency.  Briefings by representatives of civil society and regional organizations had brought in a field perspective and enriched the quality of the Council’s decisions, he added.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) highlighted the Council’s unanimous support for resolutions 2340 (2017) on the situation in South Sudan, 2341 (2017) on the protection of critical infrastructure, 2342 (2017) on the situation in Yemen, and 2343 (2017) on the situation in Guinea-Bissau, noting that they had all resulted from dialogue and negotiation.

Nevertheless, said Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), it was crucial that the Secretariat distribute as much documentation as possible ahead of closed meetings.  It was also unacceptable to deny access to information that would be essential for determining positions and taking action.

Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta (Egypt), speaking also for Ethiopia and Senegal, urged the Council to adopt the concept of “sustaining peace” in a practical and applied manner, and as a target and process.  He advocated a paradigm shift away from managing conflicts to addressing their root causes, in accordance with different contexts, while ensuring national reconciliation.

Discussing the European theatre, delegates commented on the 2 February emergency meeting on the situation in eastern Ukraine, with some recalling the targeting of monitors of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) by combined Russian and separatist forces.  Others emphasized the need for greater cooperation with the OSCE, while still others welcomed the 21 February ministerial meeting on conflicts in Europe and the 27 February meeting on the situation in Kosovo.

Speakers also noted that the Council had also addressed several country situations in Africa.  Some drew attention to the 8 February briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, who confirmed that the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) would hand over responsibilities to the Ivorian authorities, in accordance with the Mission’s drawdown.  Other speakers highlighted efforts by the President of the Central African Republic to stabilize and reconcile the country, while a recent meeting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had featured comments about slow progress in implementing the 31 December political agreement.

On the Middle East, Kanat Tumysh (Kazakhstan) said his country was seen as a neutral bridge-builder in that region, trusted by all sides of the Syrian conflict.  The 24 January summit that Kazakhstan had hosted in Astana had paved the way for the intra-Syrian dialogue currently under way in Geneva, he noted.

Many speakers encouraged the Council to remain vigilant on the crisis in Syria, now entering its sixth year.

Concerning Asia, Koro Bessho (Japan) said it was significant that the Council had unanimously condemned the 12 February ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  He urged States to implement the relevant resolutions to make Pyongyang change its course of action, commit to denuclearization and return to dialogue.

A number of delegates remarked on the 20 February death of Vitaly I. Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation for the last 11 years.

Also speaking today were representatives of France, United States, China, Senegal and the United Kingdom.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:25 a.m.

News in Brief 28 February 2017 (PM)

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Children sitting in front of a school that was badly damaged in the conflict in Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Abu Monassar

UN relief chief “extremely disappointed” by denial of access to Taiz

The UN relief chief Stephen O’Brien has said he’s “extremely disappointed” by rebel fighters’ refusal to allow aid into Taiz city in Yemen.

The Humanitarian Coordinator has spent several days travelling around the war-torn country this week, where almost 19 million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

On Tuesday his convoy was denied passage by Houthi rebels at the final checkpoint before crossing the frontline into Taiz, a city of over half a million, which has been besieged by militia fighting government forces for almost two years.

Mr O’Brien said the convoy turned back in order to continue negotiating over access, but to no avail.

Here’s UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

“He remains focused on his mission to advocate for the people affected in Yemen, to marshal the resources necessary to provide life-saving assistance and protection, and to remind the parties to the conflict of their responsibility to respect humanitarian and international  law, including the provision of timely, full and unimpeded humanitarian access.”

Civilian displacement from western Mosul “rising sharply”

Around 16,500 Iraqis have been displaced from western Mosul since the government operation to liberate neighbourhoods there began just over a week ago.

The UN says that figure marks a sharp rise and is expected to significantly increase as Iraqi troops, together with allies battle with ISIL terrorist fighters in the densely populated areas of the west.

After three months of heavy fighting, government forces took control of the eastern part of Iraq’s second city in January, but an estimated 750,000 civilians remain trapped in the west.

Families escaping western Mosul are primarily fleeing south, and then on to displacement camps and emergency sites, said the UN.

Nearly 180,000 have been displaced from the city overall so far.

More details from Stéphane Dujarric again.

“Emergency assistance is being provided to families as they reach camps and emergency sites, and emergency packages of food, water, hygiene items and blankets are provided to them. As space in displacement camps fills up, humanitarian partners and national authorities are racing to prepare space for new arrivals. Currently, space is available to some 85,000 people, and work is ongoing to expand shelter capacities.”

Concern rising for Benghazi residents trapped in combat zones

The head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said on Tuesday he was following “with deep concern” reports outlining the plight of civilians trapped in combat zones in the city of Benghazi, without access to food and water.

Martin Kobler urged all warring parties to provide civilians a safe passage away from the fighting, and called on them to protect civilians or fighters who have surrendered or are injured.

Many civilians are trapped in the Qanfuda area and news reports suggest that some are starving and resorting to eating grass.

Mr Kobler said that UNSMIL had received a letter from the Libyan National Army expressing their readiness to accept a ceasefire and give safe passage to civilians living in the Building 12 area of the city.

“All parties to the conflict will be held accountable” he said.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’54”

People fleeing war more likely to find shelter in poorer countries, UN refugee agency

28 February 2017 &#150 Most of the 3.2 million people driven forcibly from their homes in early 2016 found shelter in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new study by the United Nations refugee agency.

“The biggest contributors providing a safe haven to the world’s uprooted people are poorer communities,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in a news release yesterday.

More than half the new refugees in the first half of 2016 fled Syria’s conflict, with most staying in the immediate region – Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, according to the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Mid-Year Trends 2016 report.

Other sizable groups fled Iraq, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, the UN agency reported.

For example, relative to the sizes of their populations, Lebanon and Jordan host the largest number of refugees, while in terms of economic performance the biggest burdens are carried by South Sudan and Chad.

“Today we face not so much a crisis of numbers but of cooperation and solidarity,” Mr. Grandi said.

Of all countries, Turkey sheltered the greatest number of refugees, hosting 2.8 million by mid-2016. It was followed by Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (one million), Iran (978,000), Ethiopia (742,700), Jordan (691,800), Kenya (523,500), Uganda (512,600), Germany (478,600) and Chad (386,100).

Speaking earlier this month, he criticized the politicizing of refugees in Europe, the United States, and other industrialized countries and regional blocks.

“These are people that flee from danger, they’re not dangerous themselves,” he had said.

People in South Sudan “live in fear”, warns human rights expert

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Malakal Town, South Sudan. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

People in South Sudan are “living in fear” because of ethnically-based killings and other violations such as rape, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings, the Director of Human Rights at the UN Mission in South Sudan has said.

Eugene Nindorera, who is also the representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the African country, was recently in New York to brief Member States on the situation of there.

The violence has continued unabated since forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to then Vice President Riek Machar started fighting again in July 2016.

It has now spread from the capital, Juba, to the oil-producing Unity State, to previously unaffected areas like the Greater Equatoria Region.

Mr Nindorera spoke in detail to Jocelyne Sambira about the violations that are taking place in the country.

Duration: 7’17”

Migrating children and women, suffer ‘sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention’ – UN agency

28 February 2017 &#150 A senior United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official is calling the routes from sub-Saharan Africa into Libya and across the sea to Europe one of the “world’s deadliest and most dangerous for children and women,” as the agency reported that nearly half of the women and children interviewed after making the voyage were raped.

“Refugee and migrant children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy,” UNICEF warned in a new report, A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migrant Route .

At the time of the report, 256,000 migrants were recorded in Libya – of who about 54,000 included women and children. UNICEF estimates that this is a low count with actual numbers at least three times higher.

In addition, it is believed that at least 181,000 people – including more than 25,800 unaccompanied children – used smugglers in 2016 to try to reach Italy. At the most dangerous portion ¬– from southern Libya to Sicily – one in every 40 people is killed, according to UNICEF.

“The Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” Mr. Khan added.

VIDEO: An orphan forced to put her life in the hands of smugglers. Credit: UNICEF

The UNICEF report is based on a survey in the field of 122 people, including 82 women and 40 children from 11 nationalities. Among the children, 15 are girls between the ages of 10 and 17.

“Nearly half the women and children interviewed had experienced sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations,” according to the report, with “widespread and systematic” sexual violence at crossings and checkpoints.

In addition, about three-quarters of all the children interviewed said that they had “experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults” including beatings, verbal and emotional abuse.

At the mercy of smugglers, children and women were left in debt and often had to agree to “pay as you ago” arrangements.

In western Libya, women were often held in detention centres were they reported “harsh conditions, such as poor nutrition and sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance,” according to UNICEF.

Included in the report is a six-point agenda calling for safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children. The UN agency is urging Governments and the European Union to adopt this agenda.

Meanwhile, in Libya, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners held a five-day training for managers and staff of Libyan detention centres to promote human rights and ensure that the detainees are treated in line with international standards.