Daily Archives: February 27, 2017

Written question – EU's responsibility to meet its commitments on humanitarian action in Sahrawi camps – E-000885/2017

In the face of the ongoing crisis in Sahrawi refugee camps, 2016 saw an unprecedented withdrawal of EU aid, leading to a significant gap in basic humanitarian needs in the five camps that host thousands of Sahrawis. The axing stems from the lack of analysis and of specific responses to humanitarian needs, in turn caused by the integration of the crisis into the general document entitled ‘North of Africa Humanitarian Implementation Plan’, and from drastic cuts in funding and in the number of people receiving aid.

Will the Commission explain why, when many of the elements of the Sahrawi crisis remain unchanged, it has gone from being considered a severe forgotten crisis (11/11), the only one of its kind in 2014, down to seventh in the list of forgotten crises in 2016?

Since 2012, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) have co-financed the joint security management system for development workers in the field. With the aim of further ensuring the safety of expatriate aid workers, and therefore the viability of the international community’s presence in the area, will the Commission confirm its commitment to continue funding the joint security system for the 2017-2020 period?

WFP “extremely concerned” about humanitarian situation in western Mosul

Listen /

Displaced families from east Mosul shelter at the nearby Hasansham U3 camp, while Iraqi Government Forces begin operations to retake control of the west of the city. Photo: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

Increased fighting in western Mosul in Iraq is making it difficult for people to leave their homes while the price of food rises as availability decreases.

That information comes from the World Food Programme (WFP) which reports that more than 750,000 people there are living in dire conditions.

Iraqi forces and their allies are fighting to liberate western Mosul from the extremist group ISIL, also known as Daesh.

WFP is ready to supply food for the 770,000 people living in the area and has already supplied food for 6,000 people who have fled villages to the south of the city.

Basma Baghall asked WFP spokesperson Dina El-Kassaby about the situation.

Duration: 2’53”

Secretary-General Re-appoints Lynn St. Amour of United States Chair of Internet Governance Forum’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has re-appointed Lynn St. Amour of the United States Chair of the Internet Governance Forum’s (IGF) Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG).

The MAG advises the Secretary-General on the programme of Internet Governance Forum annual meetings.  It comprises 55 members drawn from Governments, the private sector and civil society, including representatives of the academic and technical communities.

Ms. St. Amour was also Chair of the 2016 MAG, which prepared the programme for the IGF meeting held in Jalisco, Mexico, 6-9 December 2016.

Ms. St. Amour is President and CEO of Internet Matters, an Internet consulting company, and is active in matters of Internet development and governance.  From 2001 to 2014 she was President and CEO of the Internet Society (ISOC), a global non-profit organization dedicated to the open development, evolution and use of the Internet.  She joined ISOC in 1998 as Executive Director of its Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, after previously holding senior positions in Europe and the United States with AT&T and Digital Equipment Corporation.

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*     This supersedes Press Release SG/A/1643-BIO/4822-PI/2156 of 11 March 2016.

Secretary-General Urges Human Rights Council to Be Pivotal Part of ‘Cure’ in Addressing Growing Racism, Xenophobia Frenzy

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Human Rights Council, in Geneva today:

It is a profound honour to address the Human Rights Council.  For 10 years, you may have known me as the “other” High Commissioner, just down the road.  And so it is a great privilege to be with you for the first time in my capacity as Secretary-General.  I am here in a spirit of gratitude.  And I am here at a time of urgency.

Disregard for human rights is a disease, and it is a disease that is spreading — north, south, east and west.  The Human Rights Council must be part of the cure.  You can be pivotal for prevention, sounding early warnings of crises.  Commissions of Inquiry and fact-finding missions respond to serious allegations of human rights violations around the world.  The scrutiny and recommendations of the Council’s independent experts shed light, enhance protection and guide policy.  The Council’s growing engagement with civil society strengthens so much of your work and is especially vital at a time when civil society space is shrinking in so many places.  And through the Universal Periodic Review, every country in the world has had its human rights record thoroughly examined.

Despite differences among members, this Council is based on a shared understanding: upholding the rights of all people and in the interest of all States.  And that truth is integral to every aspect of the work of the United Nations.  Our three pillars of peace, development and human rights are inseparable and they are mutually reinforcing.  Human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights – must never be seen as a luxury or “saved for later”, after peace and development have been achieved.

Human rights are an intrinsic part of all that we do and all that we are.  And so we must speak up for human rights in an impartial way without double standards.  We must invest in human rights and recognize human rights as values and goals unto themselves, not allowing them to be instrumentalized as a political tool.  And indeed, the integrity and credibility of this Council will only be enhanced by proceeding in a manner that avoids unbalanced treatment of Member States.

I say all of these things as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  But, my support for human rights goes deeper.  It’s personal.  I grew up under the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal.  I did not know democracy until I was 24 years old.  I came of age seeing how the denial of not just civil and political rights, but also social, cultural and economic rights, corroded every aspect of society.  It condemned many to a life of poverty.  It triggered mass migration.  Portuguese couldn’t vote through the ballot box, so many voted with their feet.

And I saw the dictatorship oppressing not only its own citizens, but also the people of the African colonies, including by waging wars for 13 long and bloody years.  And my passion for defending human rights has sprung both from the grass roots as a young man and later from the top as Prime Minister leading a country in pursuit of human rights and dignity for all its citizens.  And it only grew stronger serving as High Commissioner for Refugees and witnessing the terrible consequences of ignoring — or blatantly trampling on — people’s fundamental rights and dignity.

Now, as Secretary-General, I see every day how the future of our world and the future of human rights go hand-in-hand.  Our world is becoming more dangerous, less predictable, more chaotic.  New conflicts are multiplying.  Old ones never die.  And both are more and more interconnected with the threat of global terrorism and violent extremism.

Again and again, we see violations of human rights as early and leading indicators of crisis.  Again and again, we have seen human rights abuses play into the hands of extremists.  At the same time, violations of economic rights, such as massive inequalities within and between States, are a growing source of social unrest.

If we are to truly address these challenges, we must make prevention our priority, tackle root causes of conflict and react earlier and more effectively in addressing human rights concerns.  That is the lesson of so many conflicts and the driving force behind the Human Rights Up Front initiative.  We know that just as denial of human rights is part of the problem, the active promotion of human rights is part of the solution.  And that means supporting Member States in building capacity, strengthening States, institutions and civil society.

Perhaps the best prevention tool we have is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the treaties that derive from it.  The rights set out in it identify many of the root causes of conflict, but equally they provide real world solutions through real change on the ground.

I look to the Human Rights Council to be fully engaged and help affect the change on the range of issues that requires your attention in our troubled and turbulent world.  They include deliberate and systematic violations of international humanitarian law in a growing number of conflicts and which this Council has done much to expose.

We are increasingly seeing the perverse phenomenon of populism and extremism feeding off each other in a frenzy of growing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance.  Minorities, indigenous communities and others face discriminations and abuse across the world.  And the same applies to members of the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons] community.  The rights of refugees and migrants are under attack.  Human trafficking is on the rise.  And with so many people escaping war, the international community must not escape its responsibilities.

We must do our utmost to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.  Our challenge here is not really about “sharing the burden”.  It is about “sharing the responsibility”.  We have a collective responsibility embedded in the values we share and the Charter that defines us.

By the same measure, we must forcefully resist calls to reinstate torture.  Torture is cowardly, produces no usable information and shames every country that inflicts it.  And similarly, let us work together to turn back efforts to reinstate capital punishment.  I say this as a citizen of a country that abolished the death penalty 150 years ago.

We simply cannot achieve any of our goals without the full participation of women and girls.  Within the United Nations, I am committed to establish a clear road map with benchmarks to achieve gender parity across the system.  I will soon propose to the General Assembly ambitious new steps to help end sexual exploitation and abuse committed under the United Nations flag.

We must do far more around the world.  Hard fought gains on women’s rights are being chipped away, whether it is through a pushback on women’s reproductive rights or turning a blind eye to domestic violence or violently enforcing traditional gender roles.  Let us say loud and clear:  women’s rights are human rights.

As we do so, I also make a special appeal for the rights of children.  Millions of children around the world are denied their rights.  And children are the main victims of war and crises, the effects of which often last a lifetime.  More than half of the world’s refugees are children, perhaps the most defenceless people on Earth.  Let us act to protect children of all ages, ensure they know their rights, and can live and breathe those rights every day and everywhere.

Let us also recognize that we must do more to ensure equal attention to economic, social and cultural rights.  The corpus of human rights is indivisible and interdependent.  We cannot pick and choose, emphasizing some and ignoring others.  The 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] provides an ideal platform to demonstrate our commitment to all human rights.  As the High Commissioner has often pointed out, the right to development is at the core of the 2030 Agenda.  The right to quality education, housing, food, water, equal access to employment — these and other economic and social rights — can and must be realized.

As we work to promote all human rights, I want to express a final word of appreciation and admiration to those on the front lines.  To human rights defenders, I say:  thank you for your courage.  The United Nations is on your side.  And I am on your side.  I remind Member States of their responsibility to ensure that human rights defenders can operate without fear of intimidation.  Human rights defenders must be able to freely participate in the Council and engage more broadly with the United Nations without fear of reprisal.  This is critical to our work and to the credibility of Member States.

Journalists are an essential part of the checks and balances of any society.  They, too, must be guaranteed full protection in law and practice to do their vital work independently and without interference.

The struggle for human rights is at the heart a struggle to expand the horizons of the possible, to bring out the best of our selves and to unleash the best of our societies.  Human rights inspire.  Human rights transform.  Human rights drive progress and change the course of history.

I am determined to raise the profile of human rights and to speak out whenever necessary.  And I will do my utmost to defend the defenders.  We will build a safer and more stable world for our children as we recognize the interconnections between peace, development and human rights.  We will advance security by advancing dignity, justice, equality and the rule of law.  I thank the Human Rights Council for working to point the way.  Thank you very much.

Families report skyrocketing food prices, dire conditions in western Mosul – UN agency

27 February 2017 &#150 The United Nations food relief agency today said it is extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation facing more than 750,000 people living in dire conditions in the western sections of Iraq’s Mosul city, where fighting is taking place between the Government forces and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da&#39esh) terrorists.

&#8220We are hearing from some families that food has drastically risen in price and is unaffordable. In extreme cases, people cannot access food at all,&#8221 said the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Iraq Representative and Country Director, Sally Haydock, in a news release.

&#8220We appeal to all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Iraqis in need of assistance,&#8221 Ms. Haydock added, noting that WFP is monitoring the frontlines and remains ready to provide immediate food assistance as soon as families can be reached safely.

Through telephone interviews, many distressed families said that food was unaffordable, while others said they could not access food at all.

&#8220The situation is unbelievable,&#8221 reported a 46-year-old man from inside the city. &#8220There is no food, no clean water, no gas for heating, no medicine and no services.&#8221

So far, WFP has provided ready-to-eat food for over 6,000 people who have fled villages to the south of western Mosul. Most have made their way to Hamam Al Alil, Qayyarah Jeda&#39a and Haj Ali camps. WFP has enough food in stock to cover the immediate needs of 770,000 people who reside in western Mosul.

The military offensive to oust ISIL from Mosul began on 17 October 2016. The Government has since retaken eastern Mosul.

In related news, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that alongside its partners, it has provided legal assistance to help more than two and a half thousand Iraqis displaced as a result of the Mosul offensive receive new civil identity cards and other documents that were lost, damaged or destroyed as they fled their homes seeking safety.

As many as 49 per cent of displaced Iraqis interviewed by UNHCR protection partners were found to need help in getting new civil documentation, as many families lost documents or had their papers damaged as they fled conflict zones. Other families were told that birth and marriage documents, which had been issued when their areas were under the control of armed groups, were not legally recognized by the Iraqi Government and needed replacement.

&#8220It took considerable time and effort to help displaced families with new documentation,&#8221 said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq. &#8220Our teams and partners have had to adopt some innovative methods and advocate tirelessly in order to get around some of the difficulties and lengthy bureaucratic requirements&#8221, he said, citing the agency’s ongoing efforts to assist thousands of people who have been in &#8220legal limbo.&#8221