Tag Archives: global


UN agencies express hope US will continue long tradition of protecting those fleeing conflict, persecution

28 January 2017 – The United Nations agencies dealing with global refugee and migration issues today expressed the hope that the United States will continue its strong leadership role and long tradition of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.

&#8220The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater, and the US resettlement programme is one of the most important in the world,&#8221 says a joint statement from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The agencies note that the longstanding US policy of welcoming refugees has created a ‘win-win’ situation: it has saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have in turn enriched and strengthened their new societies.

&#8220The contribution of refugees and migrants to their new homes worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive,&#8221 they add.

The statement from the agencies follows incoming President Donald Trump’s signing Friday of an Executive Order that, among things, reportedly suspends the US refugee programme for 120 days and, according to the media, bars entry of refugees from some countries, including Syria, until further notice.

&#8220Resettlement places provided by every country are vital. The UN refugee agency [and] the International Organization for Migration hope that the US will continue its strong leadership role and long tradition of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution,&#8221 the agencies state, adding that they remain committed to working with the US Administration towards the goal we share to ensure safe and secure resettlement and immigration programmes.

UNHCR and the IOM go on to express the strong belief that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.

&#8220We will continue to engage actively and constructively with the US Government, as we have done for decades, to protect those who need it most, and to offer our support on asylum and migration matters,&#8221 the statement concludes.

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Stage ‘gradually being set’ for Somalia to move to a new phase in sustaining peace – UN envoy

27 January 2017 – Briefing the Security Council on the situation in Somalia, the United Nations envoy for the country noted today that the recently concluded election was a “mirror” to Somalis, showing them the good and the bad regarding how power is exercised, relations between elders, clan power brokers, politicians, business, ordinary citizens, women and men.

“They do not like everything they have seen, least of all the levels of corruption, and the absence of institutions that can ensure legal and financial accountability,” said Michael Keating, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia.

Mr. Keating’s briefing follows an extended parliamentary electoral process and comes less than two weeks ahead of presidential polls. It also comes against the backdrop of increased Al-Shabaab militancy aiming to disrupt the elections, as evidenced by a series of recent attacks.

Stressing the importance that the last stage of the electoral process is conducted transparently and according to the agreed rules, designed to ensure free and fair elections, he noted: “The election of a President accepted as legitimate by the population and by the international community will set the stage for Somalia to tackle the serious challenges ahead.”

However, he added: “If voting […] is seen as compromised by corruption, coercion or external interference, then the country could face a protracted period of uncertainty.”

Despite problems, progress thus far ‘very encouraging’ – UN envoy

In his briefing, Mr. Keating, who also heads up the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), told Council members that despite the problems seen in the recently concluded elections, the process also had “very encouraging” outcomes, marking an important milestone in the country’s evolution and post-conflict transformation.

Special Representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) Michael Keating briefs the Security Council. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

For instance, the number of voters had increased significantly and the electorate was expanded from 2012’s 135 male elders to over 13,000 individuals (30 per cent of them female). It was also particularly notable that almost a quarter of the members of parliament are now female.

“A truly remarkable achievement, the result of effective political mobilization of women, supported by the UN and the international community and some Somali leaders,” noted the Special Representative.

“The new Parliament is younger, more diverse and is likely to be more responsive to the electorate than the previous one. In short, this Parliament is more legitimate and representative than any since the last elections were held in 1969,” he noted.

Humanitarian plight adding to human suffering

Turning to the humanitarian challenges facing the Horn of Africa country, he reported that about five million people are estimated to be in need around the country and an estimated 320,000 under-five-year-olds are acutely malnourished.

“Coping capacities have been eroded to the point of collapse,” he noted.

The week before last, the humanitarian community in Somalia had launched an $864 million to reach 3.9 million people with urgent life-saving assistance in 2017, $300 million of this amount is required in the first quarter of this year.

Further, noting the political and security implications of the drought, Mr. Keating said that a perceived inability of the federal and local governments to respond will damage their legitimacy – something that will be exploited by Al-Shabaab.

“In a nutshell, failure to support the drought response could halt and even undermine the pursuit of key state-building and peace-building objectives,” he cautioned.

‘It is the Somalis who will determine their own fate’

Reiterating that progress is fragile and reversible, and fraught with complexity, he said the stage is nevertheless gradually being set for Somalia to move to a new phase in sustaining peace, preventing and resolving violent conflict, and in building a functional, federal State.

“Ultimately, it is the Somalis who will determine their own fate – but your support is central to their chances of success,” he concluded.

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Mongolia: Lethal livestock plague now hitting endangered antelope, warns UN agency

27 January 2017 – The international pledge to eradicate a devastating livestock disease affecting mostly sheep and goats has taken on new urgency in the wake of a mass die-off of a rare Mongolian antelope, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

A news release from FAO said that ssome 900 Saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica mongolica), almost 10 percent of the sub-species’ population, have been found dead in Mongolia’s western province of Khovd.

Samples taken from carcasses indicated the animals were positive for Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), a highly fatal viral disease with plague-like impact on domestic sheep and goat herds, killing up to 90 percent of infected animals.

While wildlife have long been considered potentially vulnerable, relatively few actual cases of PPR infection have been documented in free ranging wild goat-like species and never in free-ranging antelope.

FAO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are leading a multinational effort to eradicate PPR, which can have devastating food-security and economic impacts, by 2030.

Eighty percent of the world’s estimated 2.1 billion small ruminants live in affected regions and constitute an important asset for a third of poor rural households. PPR, first identified in Côte d’Ivoire in the 1940s, is now threatening over 75 countries.

Saiga in Mongolia are not truly migratory but are certainly nomadic with an extensive range of about 130,000 square kilometers with seasonal movements in autumn for breeding and early spring for calving. The species, was once widely spread across the Eurasian steppes, is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The dead are highly suggestive of a spillover event from domestic animals with which they share common grazing areas, especially in winter when foraging ranges are fewer. Efforts are ongoing to investigate the situation on the ground, geared in particular to investigating possible other causes, such as the bacterial infection (Pasteurella multocida) that is now suspected to have been the cause of death of hundreds of thousands of Saiga in Kazakhstan in 2015.

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Warning against rising intolerance, UN remembers Holocaust and condemns anti-Semitism

27 January 2017 – Decrying the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust, the international community today remembered millions of people who suffered in the genocide and honoured the survivors who continue to educate future generations about the ills that hatred and discrimination can bring.

Calling the Holocaust “an unparalleled crime against humanity,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that “history keeps moving forward, but anti-Semitism keeps coming back.”

He noted that after the Holocaust, the world seemed eager to find a more cooperative path, which led to the creation of the United Nations with its Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.

“Humankind dared to believe that tribal identities would diminish in importance. We were wrong,” the Secretary-General said. “Irrationality and intolerance are back.”

Addressing representatives from the 193 Member States gathered in the General Assembly Hall to mark the annual Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Mr. Guterres said that today anti-Semitism continues, alongside racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, triggered by populism and gaining ground in public discourse.

‘Dehumanization took hold and the descent into barbarity was quick’

He voiced his extreme concern at the discrimination faced by immigrants, refugees and minorities across the world, particularly the stereotyping of Muslims, referring to how the Holocaust was allowed to spread: “Hardships and instability created fertile groups for scapegoating.”

Wide view of the General Assembly on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Drawing attention to the powerful exhibit now at UN Headquarters called ‘State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,’ he said propaganda helped erode the bonds of humanity. The word “Jewish” was used constantly in association with society’s ills. “Ultimately indifference prevailed, dehumanization took hold, and the descent into barbarity was quick,” he told those gathered at the ceremony, which this year focuses on educating for a better future.

History created lessons for our time, Mr. Guterres said, urging the international community to be vigilant, invest in education and youth, and to strengthen social cohesion “so that people feel that diversity is a plus, not a threat.”

In addition to remembering the survivors and victims of the Holocaust, 27 January was adopted by the General Assembly to condemn any denial of the Holocaust and to urge all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust.

The UN chief spoke personally about the history of Jews in his home country, Portugal, noting that anti-Semitism is “more than a question of religion, [it] is essentially an expression of racism.”

Mr. Guterres added proudly, his wife signed on behalf of the Lisbon Municipality, an agreement with the Israeli Community of Lisbon to establish the Lisbon Jewish Museum.

Annual General Assembly Commemoration

Today’s event in the General Assembly Hall started with recognition of the Holocaust survivors in attendance and a minute of silence for the millions of people killed in Europe in the years leading up to 1945. It featured soulful performances by Jewish singers and musicians, as well as a dramatic recitation of memorial prayers.

The ceremony also paid tribute to UN Messenger of Peace and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who died last year.

The President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, began his remarks by quoting Mr. Wiesel, asking: “‘How does one mourn for fix million people who died? How many candles does one light? How many prayers does one recite?’”

Mr. Thomson called for a rededication “to learning the lessons of the past so that humanity may never repeat such atrocities in the future.”

He called for education to teach the dangers of extremism, the importance of defending the vulnerable, and the need to stand up against racism and prejudice.

“Interfaith dialogue, respect for human rights, and the embracing of democratic and humanist values at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central responsibilities for us all,” Mr. Thomson said, in reference to the 17 targets aiming to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

“Young people must be taught the ethics and logic inherent in defending our common humanity, of preventing mass atrocity crimes, and of bringing perpetrators to justice,” he added.

‘Those who could not keep rhythm were shot’

The keynote address was given by Noah Klieger. Born in 1926, Mr. Klieger, a survivor of Auschwitz, had founded a youth movement to help Jews cross the Swiss border and went on to become one of Israel’s most notable journalists. He is today allegedly the oldest working journalist in the world.

Noah Klieger, keynote speaker and Holocaust survivor, addresses the General Assembly on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Mr. Klieger, who travelled from Israel to participate in the ceremony, took the podium to a standing ovation. His grandson, seating nearby, reminded Mr. Klieger to speak English, to which the Holocaust survivor replied good humouredly, “Why don’t you all learn Hebrew.”

Speaking about the Shoah, as the Holocaust is known in Hebrew, he talked about the last days of the war, when the Germans forced people from the Auschwitz camp to march to the border town of Gliwica.

“We had to march in a rhythm that nobody could keep. And those who could not keep the rhythm were shot. The roads were full of those who had been shot by DSS before they couldn’t make it. Others just laid down,” Mr. Klieger said, about the five-day death march that killed 41,000 by his estimates.

In a speech peppered with jokes and poignant remembrances, Mr. Klieger recounted his days in the camp. He spoke about three dreams that he never thought would be possible; the first of which was to be free.

He praised the value of education and the creation of the Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme to teach people around the world about what took place, but added that “one who has not lived through the German camps does not know about the German camps.”

He called for the creation of a teaching programme in all schools around the world so that the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated and to counter anti-Semitism.

Among other speakers today was Danny Danon, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations. Calling the Holocaust “the most devastating tragedy in history,” Mr. Danon said it was a failure “to recognize the warning signs of hatred and bigotry.”

The Ambassador called on the UN to appoint a special envoy to combat anti-semitism so that the international community “would never remain silent.”

“It is our duty to work together to prevent extremism and violence by promoting tolerance, understanding and compassion,” Mr. Danon said.

Before leaving the podium, the Ambassador vowed that “anti-Semitism would not defeat us.”

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UN food relief agency chief welcomes progress on anti-hunger programmes in north-east Nigeria

27 January 2017 – The head of the United Nations food relief agency today welcomed the progress made by the humanitarian community and the Government of Nigeria in fighting hunger and malnutrition in the West African country’s north-east.

“You can see the tremendous progress achieved in a matter of months,” the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, said in a news release, issued following a visit to Pompomari camp for the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Damaturu, who fled Boko Haram militants in Yobe and Borno states.

“Children who could barely stand just last November are now on the road to recovery. They will continue to require our assistance in the coming months. The work of the international community in Nigeria is not over yet,” she added.

By December 2016, an agile response, combining rapid air-and-road interventions, enabled WFP and partners to reach more than a million people in need, particularly in these high risk areas. And while some areas remain inaccessible, organizations are working together to reach as many as 1.8 million vulnerable people in the first quarter of 2017.

At Pompomari camp, which hosts some 2,000 IDPs, WFP provides cash assistance in the form of money credited electronically to mobile phones. The spending helps to stimulate local markets. To prevent and treat child malnutrition, children under the age of five receive a highly nutritious, peanut-based supplement, while pregnant and nursing women receive nutritional support.

But amid concerns over continued funding, Cousin sounded a note of caution. “The world should not wait for babies to die before taking action,” she warned, appealing to the international community not to prioritize one hungry child over another.

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