Daily Archives: December 1, 2017

News in Brief 01 December 2017 (PM)

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On World AIDS Day, UNAIDS warns that men are less likely to access HIV treatment and more likely to die
of AIDS-related illnesses. Source: UNAIDS

Global HIV/AIDS response still “lagging behind” despite progress

Despite major progress on ending the AIDS epidemic, parts of the global response to battling the HIV virus are still “lagging behind”, the UN chief said on Friday.

In a statement to mark World Aids Day, António Guterres said that men were less likely to know if they were living with the virus, and therefore less likely to seek treatment, than women.

He called for a renewed commitment to “finish what we have started” and make AIDS a disease of the past.

More details from UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

“The Secretary-General praised the progress made on ending the epidemic and said the world is on track to provide access to HIV treatment to 30 million people by 2020. However, he added that some parts of the world are lagging behind, with women and girls in Africa being most at risk, and he called for a renewed commitment to make AIDS a thing of the past.”

More than 8,000 refugees from DRC cross into Zambia in past 3 months

More than 8,000 refugees fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have crossed the border into Zambia in the past three months, said the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Around 12,000 have fled militia violence in the south-east of the country so far; 80 per cent of whom are women and children.

DRC’s eastern region has been wracked by violence between government forces and armed groups for years, and inter-ethnic fighting has grown worse throughout the year.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said there were numerous reports of “extreme brutality” against civilians, with widespread looting, sexual violence and villages being torched.

“The Kenani Transit Centre, which currently hosts over 8,000 refugees, is filled to capacity. Zambia has made more land available for a new site, but UNHCR and its partners urgently need resources to develop the new site and for refugees to receive life-saving assistance.”

FAO opens a new door for ex-combatants in CAR

More than 1,000 ex-combatants in the Central African Republic (CAR) have exchanged a life of fighting for farming, thanks to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The FAO-led initiative helps former fighters put down their weapons and take to the land instead.

Participants get certified training in gardening, horticulture, and rearing farm animals, as well as using agricultural tools and growing seeds.

Jean-Alexandre Scaglia, FAO Representative in the CAR, said the programme was timely and important to help restore peace, as violence resumes recently.

He said the scheme aimed to help fighters return to an economically-viable civilian life, “through training courses they have chosen themselves.”

Conflict between armed groups and government forces in CAR has left half of the population in need of food assistance.

Meanwhile, FAO is urgently appealing for $10 million to help more than 350,000 vulnerable and displaced communities restart their own farming activities.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’40″

Leaving no one behind: UNDP/UNV Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities

Bonn, 1 December 2017 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme hosted an engagement and partnership meeting for the UNDP-UNV Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities at UNV headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Some 70 participants took part, representing a diverse group of stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, disabled people organizations, academic institutions, foundations, private sector and UN agencies.

The meeting provided a unique opportunity to share and discuss best practices in supporting capacity development for young professionals with disabilities, to identify areas for collaboration and to exchange ideas on creating disability-sensitive and inclusive workplaces. Fruitful discussion among the 70 participants also generated practical tips to ensure the successful implementation of the UNDP/UNV Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities.

“Inclusion of persons with disabilities is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time. Persons with disabilities experience inequalities, as well as stigma, abuse and prejudice. UNV will work in partnership with UNDP to establish a solid foundational structure for scalable engagement of youth with disabilities in the United Nations. We aspire to bring in new talents to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Toily Kurbanov, UNV Deputy Executive Coordinator.

Yet the focus was on moving swiftly to action.  “Enough talking,” emphasized Dr. Heike Kuhn of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, addressing the meeting.  “We want to see results and I feel this urgency.” Dr Kuhn presented Germany’s Action Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, outlining insights and lessons learned, and asserted, “The issue is ‘nothing about us without us’. You have to have persons with disabilities at the table – they have different abilities and they bring all of this power, innovation, and energy.”

“Young people with disabilities from the global South are among the most marginalized and underrepresented populations in the world. We must recognize that they can be fundamental drivers of innovation and change,” said Lykke Andersen, Manager of the UNDP Junior Professional Officer Service Centre

This Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities is designed to train young persons with disabilities in a UNDP office to develop their capacities and eventually promote their inclusion into the workforce of the international development sector.  This was welcomed by Rachel Kachaje of the South African Forum of the Disabled, who asserted, “People need to understand that disability is not equal to inability. Education is key to ensuring successful futures and livelihoods for young people with disabilities.” In Africa, she explained, no more than 5-10 percent of people with disabilities attended school.

This programme also aspires to build a solid pipeline of highly qualified professionals with disabilities who can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, national and global levels.

“From a development perspective,” explains Lykke Andersen, “building the employability of young persons with disabilities, allowing people with disabilities full access to the labour market and supporting their inclusion in the workplace can have a huge impact on poverty reduction and also on the achievement of the SDGs.”

Initially the programme will recruit young professionals with disabilities for 12-month assignments in UNDP country, regional or headquarters offices. Participants will gain hands-on experiences and grow their professional expertise in the thematic areas related to the SDGs, multilateral development cooperation, as well as programme and operations management.  They will also build their leadership skills and develop capacities in their field of expertise.

“We have come a long way on the gender front. Fifty years ago, a room of people like this probably met to discuss equal opportunities for women in the workforce of the United Nations.  It is now upon us to use our experiences to increase opportunities for brilliant young people who have disabilities to serve and advance in development,” said Liz Huckerby, UNDP Chief of Integrated Talent Management.

With the commitment to “leave no one behind”, UNDP and UNV “walk the talk” through joint efforts to ensure the inputs and perspective of persons with disabilities and support the achievement of the SDGs and Agenda 2030.  

Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 30 November 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous reporting period, and no ceasefire violations in Luhansk region.The Mission observed damage to residential properties from shelling in Dovhe.The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Petrivske disengagement area. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including near Yasynuvata and Mineralne.* The SMM attempted to reach Travneve but was unable to do so due to the possible presence of mines or unexploded ordnance on the road leading to the village. It facilitated and monitored repairs and maintenance of essential infrastructure in Shchastia, and near Krasnyi Lyman and Vesela Hora. The SMM visited three border areas not under government control. The Mission observed incidents at a public gathering in Kyiv.

In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations,[1] including, however, fewer explosions (about 100), compared with the previous reporting period (about 110 explosions).

On the evening and night of 29-30 November, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, 17 projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, 11 projectiles from east to west, an undetermined explosion, a projectile from east to west, five undetermined explosions, and a projectile from east to west, all 0.5-1.5km south.

On the evening of 29 November, the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded five projectiles from west to east, seven projectiles from east to west, and an undetermined explosion, all 5-8km north.

During the day on 30 November, positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for over five hours, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions and nearly 100 bursts and shots of small-arms fire, all 1-7km west and north.

On the evening of 29 November, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard about 70 undetermined explosions as well as heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-5km south-east and south, and 24 explosions assessed as rounds of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) 4-5km north-east.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded no ceasefire violations during the reporting period.

The SMM followed up on a report from an “LPR” member of damage to residential properties from shelling. Near 2 Myrna Street in “LPR”-controlled Dovhe (22km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM saw two impact sites: the first one, a one-metre crater about 20m north of a house at 2 Myrna Street, and the second, about 50cm in diameter and 10-15m north of the first impact. The SMM saw that a fence north of the house and about a metre from the first impact site had boards knocked out of place, and the branch of a tree some 25m west of the house had been freshly severed. The SMM assessed the first crater to have been caused by the impact of an 82mm mortar round fired from a northerly direction and the second to have been caused by a round of a recoilless gun, also fired from a northerly direction. The “LPR” member said the damage had occurred on 27 November.

The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), Zolote (60km west of Luhansk) and Petrivske (41km south of Donetsk), as foreseen in the Framework Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group relating to disengagement of forces and hardware of 21 September 2016. The SMM’s access remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*

On 30 November, positioned in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske, the SMM heard a burst and 53 shots of small-arms fire 2-3km south-south-west, assessed as inside the disengagement area, as well as five bursts of small-arms fire 1.5km south-south-east, assessed as outside the disengagement area. The same day, positioned at the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska and Zolote, the SMM observed calm situations.

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures and its Addendum, as well as the Memorandum.

Beyond withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, the SMM observed four tanks (T-72) loaded on north-west-bound flatbed trucks near government-controlled Lysychansk (75km north-west of Luhansk).

The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage did not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification from the SMM to the signatories of the Package of Measures on effective monitoring and verification of the withdrawal of heavy weapons. In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw a surface-to-air missile system (9K35 Strela-10, 120mm), eight MLRS (9P138 Grad-1, 122mm), three self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), and two towed mortars (2B9 Vasilek, 82mm); and noted as missing a surface-to-air missile system (9K35), 15 MLRS (11 BM-21 and four 9P138), and four self-propelled howitzers (2S1).

The SMM revisited a permanent storage site beyond respective withdrawal lines in a non-government-controlled area of Luhansk region and noted that four tanks (T-72) were still missing.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles[2], military-type armoured vehicles and new trenches in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM saw a stationary armoured personnel carrier (APC) (BTR-80) in Stanytsia Luhanska. Aerial imagery revealed the presence on 28 November of eight military-type armoured vehicles near Svitlodarsk and two military-type armoured vehicles near Troitske (69km west of Luhansk).

In areas outside of government control, the SMM saw nine stationary infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) (BMP-1) and an APC (MT-LB) parked next to residential houses in Nova Marivka (64km south of Donetsk), and approximately 25m of trenches no more than five days old near Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol). Aerial imagery revealed the presence on 28 November of a probable military-type armoured vehicle by the railway station in Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk).

The Mission was againprevented from proceeding to Travneve (51km north-east of Donetsk) due to the possible presence of mines or unexploded ordnance (UXO) on the road.* (See SMM Daily Report 30 November 2017.) A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in Travneve told the SMM that Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners were present in Travneve but would not proceed along the road towards “DPR”-controlled Holmivskyi (49km north-east of Donetsk) unless accompanied by the SMM. The SMM is unable to reach Travneve due to the aforementioned possible presence of mines and UXO and the lack of alternative paved access roads. The SMM informed the Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC that, accompanied by “DPR” de-miners, it would be able to reach the halfway point on the road between Travneve and the SMM’s position at the northern edge of Holmivskyi, which would allow it visual contact with any Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners proceeding from Travneve (the entire stretch of road is no more than 800m), but this was not accepted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC, and thus the SMM was unable to reach Travneve. While in Holmivskyi, the SMM observed some 15 people going between Travneve and Holmivskyi. Aerial imagery revealed the presence on 28 November of fresh weapon impacts near a “DPR” checkpoint at the northern edge of Holmivskyi, as well as fresh vehicle tracks leading to Hladosove (51km north-east of Donetsk) and Travneve from nearby Ukrainian Armed Forces positions north of these villages.                                          

The SMM continued to observe mine signs and demining activity. The SMM saw ten de-miners of an international organization wearing protective equipment and using metal detectors south-east of government-controlled Myrna Dolyna (67km north-west of Luhansk). On road T0509, 6km north of “DPR”-controlled Dokuchaievsk (30km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed a newly placed mine sign (a red sign on a red stick with “STOP MINES” written in Russian in white letters on it) about 7m south of the road. One kilometre north-west along the same road, the SMM saw two mine signs (red signs with a white skull and “STOP MINES” written in Russian in white letters on them), 20-30 meters south-west of the roadway.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor repairs and maintenance work, co‑ordinated by the JCCC, to the thermal power plant in government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), water wells near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk), and a power substation near “LPR”-controlled Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk).

The SMM visited three border areas not under government control. During an hour at a border crossing point near Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed 33 cars (20 with Ukrainian, eight with Russian Federation, two with Lithuanian and one with Georgian licence plates, and two with “LPR” plates), a bus with Ukrainian licence plates, and about 100 pedestrians, exiting Ukraine, as well as 19 cars (nine with Ukrainian and seven with Russian Federation licence plates, and three with “LPR” plates); three covered cargo trucks with Ukrainian licence plates, a bus with Ukrainian licence plates, and about 100 pedestrians entering Ukraine.

During 30 minutes at a border crossing point near Verkhnoharasymivka (54km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed five pedestrians exiting Ukraine and two pedestrians entering Ukraine.

During 30 minutes at a pedestrian border crossing point near Novoborovytsi (79km south of Luhansk), the SMM observed no trans-border traffic.

In Kyiv, the SMM observed a gathering to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Maidan events. On the evening of 29 November the SMM saw about 60 people (all ages, 70 per cent men) gathering in Independence Square to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Maidan events as well as about 100 police and riot police officers. The participants lit torches and marched up Heroiv Nebesnoi Sotni Alley and Instytutska Street, where they were joined by 50 men dressed in black (some with balaclavas) wearing patches of the Donbas battalion and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The SMM saw participants throwing flares at police officers. The participants continued towards the Ministry of Internal Affairs building, followed by about 200 police officers. Another 100 police officers were seen standing outside the ministry building. Also outside the ministry building, some of the participants gave speeches, and others were seen lighting up flares and smokescreens. The participants wearing black outfits marched towards the Parliament building. When one of these tried to set up a small tent, police officers intervened, which led to multiple small clashes and participants throwing flares, firecrackers and snowballs at police. The SMM observed a participant being detained by police. When the SMM departed about 20 minutes later, a dozen participants remained near the ministry building.

The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Chernivtsi.

*Restrictions of SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate

The SMM’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines, UXO and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM’s mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations. They have also agreed that the JCCC should contribute to such response and co-ordinate mine clearance. Nonetheless, the armed formations in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions frequently deny the SMM access to areas adjacent to Ukraine’s border outside control of the Government, citing orders to do so. (See, for example, SMM Daily Report 21 November 2017.) The SMM’s operations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remained restricted following the fatal incident of 23 April near Pryshyb; these restrictions continued to limit the Mission’s observations.

Denial of access:

  • At a checkpoint at the south-eastern entrance to non-government-controlled Mineralne (10km north-east of Donetsk), an unarmed “DPR” member denied the SMM passage. The SMM informed the JCCC.
  • An unarmed “DPR” member denied the SMM passage west through a checkpoint in “DPR”-controlled Kashtanove (13km north of Donetsk). The SMM informed the JCCC.

Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:

  • At the northern edge of Holmivskyi, the Mission could not proceed to Travneve due to the possible presence of mines or UXO on the road. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC in Travneve told the SMM that Ukrainian Armed Forces de-miners would not clear the road without an SMM escort, which could only reach the de-miners via the mined road.
  • The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads south of the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. Armed “LPR” members positioned on the southern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads in the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC at a checkpoint on the northern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM was prevented from accessing parts of the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, with the exception of the main road, due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that there is no available information about the de-mining process in the disengagement area and that there will be no disengagement process. Accordingly, the SMM did not proceed into the adjacent areas. The SMM informed the JCCC.
  • The SMM did not travel across the bridge in Shchastia due to the presence of mines. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC.

[1]Please see the annexed table for a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as a map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report. During this reporting period the SMM camera at the Oktiabr mine (Donetsk) remained non-operational. Nine SMM cameras are in a testing phase, to last until 30 November 2017.

[2] This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.

Press Releases: Joint Press Statement: U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue 2017

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines held the seventh Bilateral Strategic Dialogue from November 30-December 1, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton and Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Helvey co-led the U.S. delegation. Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo and Department of National Defense Undersecretary Ricardo David co-led the Philippine delegation.

The Bilateral Strategic Dialogue is a key mechanism for discussing the full range of political, security, and economic cooperation between the United States and the Philippines. Four working groups convened to develop action plans for expanding our joint partnership on Defense and Security; Economics, Development, and Prosperity; Regional and Global Diplomatic Engagement; and Rule of Law and Law Enforcement. The Joint Statement between the United States and the Philippines issued after the meeting in Manila of President Donald J. Trump and President Rodrigo R. Duterte on November 13, 2017 provided the guidance for the Dialogue.

During the Dialogue, senior officials discussed a wide variety of issues of mutual interest and reaffirmed their commitment to deepening collaboration in areas including maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, cybersecurity, countering transnational drug trafficking, countering terrorism, and improving drug prevention and treatment services, as well as combating wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The senior officials further pledged to continue working together to effectively eliminate human trafficking. The U.S. and Philippine delegations emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms. The United States congratulated the Philippines on defeating ISIS-supported terrorists in Mindanao and vowed to continue to support the fight against terrorism and the rehabilitation of Marawi.

The U.S. and Philippine delegations reaffirmed their commitment to deepening the extensive economic relationship between the two countries. Both sides noted the substantive discussions on cooperating in areas such as science & technology, agriculture and fisheries, and health and environment. They welcomed the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) discussions held on November 29, and look forward to more robust discussions on ways to expand free, fair and reciprocal bilateral trade, including through exploring a potential Free Trade Agreement.

The United States and the Philippines discussed their shared concerns about security challenges in the region and pledged to work together to end North Korea’s unlawful ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and the United States welcomed the Philippines’ compliance with the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Both sides reiterated their commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea, and stressed the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.

Both sides also expressed their desire to strengthen regional cooperation under the ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership and in APEC, and decided to focus on action plans that would contribute to regional stability, economic integration, and connectivity. The United States congratulated the Philippines on its success as the 2017 ASEAN Chair and for hosting President Trump’s successful visit to Manila.

The United States and the Philippines reaffirmed the importance of regular high-level consultations. The United States welcomed the Philippines’ offer to host the next Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila in 2018.

In Message for World AIDS Day, Secretary-General Calls for Renewed Commitment to Make Epidemic ‘a Thing of the Past’

Following is UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ message for World AIDS Day, to be observed today:

The world is well on its way to meeting the target of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.  Nearly 21 million people living with HIV now have access to treatment — a number that should grow to more than 30 million by 2020.  AIDS‑related deaths and new HIV infections are declining.  There is great hope that the world can deliver on its promise.  But much more needs to be done.

Sadly, some parts of the response to HIV are lagging behind.  In some regions of the world, hard-won successes are being reversed, with rising numbers of new HIV infections and AIDS‑related deaths.

Women and girls continue to be disproportionally affected by HIV, particularly in Africa.  Men are less likely to know that they are living with the virus, less likely to seek treatment for it, and more likely to transmit HIV as a result.  Too many people are unable to access the services they need to treat their illness or to stay healthy.

On this World AIDS Day, I call for a renewed commitment to finish what we have started and to make the AIDS epidemic a thing of the past.