United Nations, Dec 13 (Canadian-Media): When warring parties in Yemen met in a renovated castle outside the Swedish capital last December for UN-brokered talks, they showed that perhaps there could be a way out of brutal conflict and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN Special Envoy for the country said this week, UN reports said.
Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (left) and Head of Ansarullah delegation Mohammed Amdusalem (right) shake hands on a ceasefire in and around the Yemeni port of Hudaydah, in the presence of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres (centre) and the host of the meeting, the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Image credit: Government Offices of Sweden/Ninni Andersson
Martin Griffiths sat down for an exclusive interview with UN News to review the Stockholm Agreement, the historic outcome of the talks which marked the first time in two years that the internationally-recognized Government and Houthi opposition leaders had come to the negotiating table, and talk face-to-face.
“We came out of the Sweden talks very buoyed up by the fact that for the first time ever, the two parties had made a voluntary agreement between themselves. So, we were very pleased about that”, he said.
The Stockholm Agreement resulted in a ceasefire in the rebel-held but contested port of Hudaydah, on the Red Sea, vital for the flow of food and humanitarian aid into Yemen.
At the time, the World Food Programme (WFP) called it “key” to importing roughly 70 per cent of humanitarian needs.
“Yes, certainly, there have been achievements”, Mr. Griffiths stated in his interview just ahead of a closed-door Security Council meeting on Yemen in New York on Thursday. “People's lives have been saved, the humanitarian programme has been protected, and I think it also showed that the parties could actually agree on a different way out of a crisis.”
Despite the conflict, migrants from Horn of Africa countries have come to Yemen in search of a better life. Workers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supervise Somali returnees as they board an IOM boat before departing Aden port, Yemen, on an overnight voyage to Bosaso in northern Somalia. (November 2018). Credit: OCHA/Giles Clarke
However, he reported that negotiations are still ongoing over re-deployments to “de-militarize” Hudaydah, where pro-Government and Houthi forces have continued to largely observe the fragile ceasefire throughout the year.
The Special Envoy also expressed grave disappointment over lack of progress on prisoner exchange, one of the key elements under the Agreement.
“Many people, and I'm one of them, believe we could have done a much better job of implementing the Stockholm Agreement in these 12 months. And it has been for many of us, but particularly for the people in Yemen for whom it's a primary issue, a disappointment in many, many ways”, he said reflectively.
Young boys standing in front of damaged buildings in Saada, Yemen, where bombing has left many neighbourhoods in the city strewn with wreckage and debris following ground fighting between armed groups.
Image credit: WFP/Jonathan Dumont
World’s worst humanitarian crisis The conflict in Yemen has generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and has pushed the country to the edge of economic decline. Roughly 24 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require assistance, according to the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) further reports that two million children are out of school, including nearly half a million who had dropped out since the fighting began in March 2015.
These are reasons why peace is so desperately needed in Yemen, Mr. Griffiths told UN News.
“If there is any argument in favour of the need for speed towards a political solution to this war, it is those people, those families, who daily suffer from the effects of conflict: families whose children haven't been to school for five years; families who have struggled to get food on their plates on a daily basis”, he said.
“But any political solution anywhere in any conflict—and I have had the, perhaps, awful privilege of a lifetime of being confronted by conflict—is immensely difficult.”
Cereal stored in Dhubab, Taiz Governorate, in Yemen. The World Food Programme (WFP) grain stored in Hudaydah's Red Sea Mills has been inaccessible for over 5 months and is at risk of rotting.
Image credit: UNOCHA/Giles Clarke
A ‘shift’ towards peace – no military solution Mr. Griffiths has extensive experience in diplomacy and previously served as an adviser to three Special Envoys of the UN Secretary-General for Syria.
Moving from war to peace demands political will, which he described as a “shift” in how enemy sides view victory—and each other.
“What I believe is happening now in Yemen is that at last in Yemen, we're beginning to see that shift take place", he stated.
“We're beginning to see in the hearts and minds of those who make decisions about the war, the desire to make peace and the recognition at a fundamental level that there is no prospect for military advantage; that there is nothing to be won on the battlefield, and that there is a huge victory, of course, to be made in the terrain of negotiation.”
Mr. Griffiths stressed that peace agreements also must be inclusive if they are to succeed.
The Office of the UN Special Envoy engages with women’s organizations, as well as civil society, in Yemen. Its Women’s Advisory Group works to ensure they are part of any future talks towards a peace agreement.
“The power of transition, and the relevance of transition after a civil war, is that it allows those who have been marginalized by the war, who are not part of those who make decisions about how to conduct war—women are an obvious example—to get back to their place in the centre of public life”, he explained.
“We need to be held to account—the parties, and indeed us as the mediator—that these provisions will be made in that agreement.”
Lessons learned in Sweden
Despite his decades in negotiation, conflict resolution, mediation and humanitarian affairs, Mr. Griffiths stated that he is still learning on the job.
The veteran diplomat left the picturesque Swedish countryside retreat last December with several lessons under his belt.
“What it really taught me very, very strongly was that there are certain issues which will not be resolved by agreements at the sub-national level; specific agreements on different places”, he said.
“We have to address the fundamental issues of sovereignty, of legitimacy, through an agreement to end the war.”
And with regards to the complex relations that exist in the de facto Government capital of Aden in southern Yemen, between Government leaders and their secessionist allies, known as the Southern Transitional Council, Mr. Griffiths had a warning.
Following a period of in-fighting between the two in August that saw the Council take control of Aden, the sides came together in the Saudi capital in early November, emerging with what became known as the Riyadh Agreement.
Mr. Griffiths hailed that at the time as “an important step for our collective efforts to advance a peaceful settlement”. In his interview with UN News, he said that it would be a “devastating blow” to long-term peace efforts if that deal falls apart.
Despite reported difficulties in the implementation of the agreement, Mr. Griffiths said it was “a bit early yet” to say it was not working.
“More importantly, I think we can see that there is interest in both the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council in making it work: perhaps not in all its aspects, but in enough to allow us, in our UN process, to mediate an end to the overall conflict.”
Protests and civil unrest show ‘renewed sense of patriotism’ in Iraq, UN envoy tells Security Council
#Iraq; #Protest&Unrest; #UN; #Patriotism; #UNAMI
Iraq, Dec 3 (Canadian-Media): After decades of sectarian strife and conflict, “a renewed sense of patriotism has taken hold”,; the head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) told the Security Council on Tuesday.
UN Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visits injured protesters in al-Kindi hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. (November 2019).
Image credit: UNAMI/Sarmad Al-Safy
Briefing from Baghdad, Special Envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that “out of love for their homeland”, thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets, asking for their country to reach its “full potential for the benefit of all Iraqis”.
“However”, she lamented “they are paying an unimaginable price for their voices to be heard”, pointing out that since 1 October, over 400 people have been killed and more than 19,000 injured.
She explained that although today’s youth has no recollection of life under the former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed after being found guilty of war crimes in Iraq in 2006, they are aware of what was promised after his death and “through the power of connectivity, they know perfectly well that a better future is possible”.
“The current situation can hardly be judged without putting it in the context of Iraq’s past”, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said, “but what we are witnessing is an accumulation of frustration over the lack of progress for so many years”.
‘Crisis of confidence’
Since the first night of demonstrations, the Special Envoy recalled that “events spun out of control”, with authorities “immediately resorting to excessive force”.
“The high loss of life, the many injuries, the violence – combined with this long period of undelivered promises – all resulted in a crisis of confidence”, she spelled out.
Although the Government announced various packages addressing the lack of housing, chronic and high unemployment, the need for widespread financial support and education, she noted that these are often perceived as unrealistic or “too little, too late”.
The UN official flagged that although “there can be no justification” for the killing and injuring of peaceful protesters, “this is precisely what we have been documenting”.
And while the rules of engagement are to minimize the use of lethal force, “the harsh reality” is that live fire, tear gas and unlawful arrests and detentions persist, “as do abductions, threats and intimidation”.
Drawing attention to “the critical importance” of full accountability and justice, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert reiterated the significance of guaranteeing fundamental rights, beginning with the right to life, but also to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
She highlighted that media, internet and social media shutdowns add to the “public perception that the authorities have something to hide”, stressing that addressing hate speech “does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech”.
Noting that most protesters are peacefully seeking a better life, the Special Representative stressed that “it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect its people”, spelling out that all forms of violence are intolerable and must not distract from “the rightful demands for reform”.
Other shortcomingsElectoral reform, pervasive corruption and an environment conducive to employment and growth are all issues that must be tackled, according to Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert.
While fostering dialogue is imperative, “bloodshed, abductions and unlawful arrests”, must be terminated.
Moreover, without full accountability and justice, “it will be nearly impossible to convince the people that political leaders are sincerely willing to engage in substantial reform”, she underscored.
Turning to the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Special Envoy updated the Chamber that President Barham Salih was given 15 days to replace him.
“While talks about the Prime Minister-designate are ongoing between political leaders, I would like to emphasize the urgency of current circumstances”, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert asserted. “Political leaders do not have the luxury of time and must rise to the moment”.
She emphasized that “a Government cannot go it alone” but is instead “a collective responsibility of the political class as a whole”.
Iraq at ‘a crossroads’In closing, the UNAMI head argued that the country is as at a crossroads that cannot be resolved by “buying time with band-aid solutions and coercive measures”.
She called on Iraqis to build a sovereign, stable, inclusive and prosperous country: “Now is the time to act”, Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert concluded. “The great hopes of so many Iraqis call for bold, forward thinking”.
#UK, #LondonBridge; #LondonBridgeStabbing, #SeveralInjured, #BorisJohnson
London, Nov 29 (Canadian-Media): Several people were injured after a stabbing attack, considered by police as "terror act", which took place on the famous London Bridge, one of the capital city's main transport hubs, on Friday afternoon just hours before city workers ended their work and headed to station for their train home, media reports said.
London's Metropolitan Police said, "At this stage, we are currently responding to this incident as though it is terror-related."
BBC reporter, then present at the spot said due a fight on the bridge, one man was being attacked by several men.
After arriving at the scene of the incident, Police fired a number of shots at the man.
The incident took place on Friday afternoon
In reaction to the incident, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he wants to thank all emergency services for their quick response.
"I’m being kept updated on the incident at London Bridge and want to thank the police and all emergency services for their immediate response," Johnson posted.
#DRC; #EbolaVirus; #WHO; #MONUSCO
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nov 28 (Canadian-Media): Deadly night-time attacks by armed groups have once again claimed the lives of frontline health workers helping to confront the deadly Ebola virus in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Peacekeepers from the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on patrol in the Irumu Territory, Ituri, to deter ADF activities. Image credit: MONUSCO
The violence killed four workers responding to the Ebola outbreak and injured five others, at a camp in Biakato Mines, and an Ebola response coordination office, WHO said in a statement.
For the UN agency, which appealed for the “constant” attacks to stop, the development risks reversing significant progress made against the epidemic, with infections falling to just a handful in recent weeks.
‘We are heartbroken’: WHO chief
“Attacks by armed groups in Biakato Mines and Mangina in DRC have resulted in deaths and injuries amongst Ebola responders,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Twitter. “We are heartbroken that our worst fears have been realized. Our focus is caring for the wounded and ensuring staff at other locations are safe.”
Echoing that message, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said that her “heart goes out to the family and friends of the first responders killed in these attacks”.
“We are doing everything possible to bring the injured and front-line workers in the impacted areas to safety,” she said in a statement, before insisting that “these constant attacks must stop”.
On his Twitter account, UN Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator David Gressly expressed his sympathy for the families of the victims of the attacks in Biakato and Mangina, “but also to all the families of the recent escalation of violence in the region”.
According to WHO, the victims included a member of a vaccination team, two drivers and a police officer. No WHO staff were among those killed but one staff member was injured. Most of the other injured people are from the Ministry of Health, the agency noted.
We are heartbroken that our worst fears have been realized. Our focus is caring for the wounded and ensuring staff at other locations are safe. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
Hundreds of attacks on health workers and communities Attacks on healthcare workers, treatment centres and communities have been a frequent feature of this latest Ebola outbreak in Ituri and North Kivu provinces that began in August 2018 and which is the second largest on record.
The latest violence comes as people in eastern DRC continue to be targeted by armed groups, with at least 19 people reportedly killed on Wednesday by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in a village in Oicha, near Beni.
In its latest update on the outbreak, the country’s Ministry of Health noted the “disruption of (health) activities in the sectors of Beni and Butembo, following popular demonstrations at the killing of civilians”.
On Tuesday, personnel were temporarily relocated from Beni, WHO said in its latest situation report, “though most remain in place to continue responding”.
Earlier this month in the town of Lwemba, Ituri province, attackers killed an Ebola response community health worker and left his wife critically injured before burning down their home.
The victim was also a reporter for a community radio station, helping to raise Ebola awareness.
Since the start of the year, WHO has documented more than 300 attacks that have caused six deaths and 70 injuries to health care workers and patients.
Multitude of armed groups
The insecurity has been attributed to the multitude of armed groups in eastern DRC – estimated at around 100 – and WHO has warned that it has significantly complicated the work of the authorities and partners attempting to eradicate the disease by tracing and vaccinating those who have come into contact with infected individuals.
According to DRC authorities, 2,198 people have died from the Ebola epidemic to date out of more than 3,300 confirmed cases, while more than 1,000 have recovered.
It is the country’s 10th outbreak of Ebola, and transmission is still occurring in Mandima, Mabalako, Oicha, and Beni health zones, albeit at a very low level compared with the peak of the outbreak in April, when there were over 120 cases a week.
“Ebola was retreating. These attacks will give it force again, and more people will die as a consequence,” said Dr Tedros. “It will be tragic to see more unnecessary suffering in communities that have already suffered so much. We call on everyone who has a role to play to end this cycle of violence.”
UN, Nov 26 (Canadian-Media): The leader of the special UN Investigation Team probing crimes committed by ISIL terrorists in Iraq, said on Tuesday that the courage being demonstrated by survivors coming forward “serves to underline the urgency” they need to carry on with their work.
A Yazidi Kurd from Sinjar who was abducted by ISIL, pictured here in Mamilyan Camp for internally displaced persons in Akre, Iraq.
Image credits: Giles Clarke/Getty Images Reportage
Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, told the Security Council that the “experiences and needs of the survivors of ISIL crimes, and the families of its victims”, were firmly at the centre of UNITAD’s mission.
“All communities, whether Shabak, Kaka’i, Shia, Sunni, Christian, Turkmen or Yazidi have suffered from the brutality and debased acts of ISIL and all their voices must be heard in our efforts to hold those responsible to account”, Mr. Khan said.
Having been up and running in Iraq for a year, tasked with promoting accountability for the crimes committed by Da’esh during its years of terror beginning in 2014, the team is now “fully operational” said the Special Adviser, with a cohort of 107 staff members.
Presenting his third report, Mr. Khan said he had met tribal leaders, family members and survivors, across the north, to hear their accounts and “understand their personal experience of the scale and severity of ISIL crimes.”
‘Immeasurable strength’ of women and girls
He described visiting camps for the internally-displaced in Dohuk, only last week. “I was humbled by the immeasurable strength of the women and girls I spoke to. Despite suffering abduction, enslavement and unspeakable treatment, they were willing to reengage with these memories in order to assist in holding their abusers to account.”
“It is our responsibility to honour their strength by delivering on the promise…that those who inflicted their suffering will be held accountable,” said Mr. Khan.
Key evidence collection has been completed in recent weeks. He cited comprehensive three-dimensional laser scanning of crime scenes in the Yazidi city of Sinjar; testimonials from Dohuk, and “the successful use of social media crowdsourcing campaigns” to collect information on suspected ISIL members, that have generated thousands of responses. DNA profiles have also been retrieved from mass grave sites.
He said they now had a group of “primary investigative targets” for all of their lines of investigation, identifying 160 different perpetrators of attacks against the Yazidis in Sinjar alone.
‘Exemplary’ cooperation with Iraqi authorities
A relationship of mutual support and collaboration continues between the team and national authorities, he added, describing Government support as “exemplary”, including vital engagement with the judiciary. He cited the national investigation and UN team investigations into the massacre of unarmed Iraqi air force cadets at Tikrit Air Academy in 2014, saying “an excellent working relationship has been established”.
“Following the unanimous renewal of the mandate of the Investigative Team at the request of the Government of Iraq in September this year, I have been encouraged by our renewed common purpose in strengthening modalities for cooperation” said Mr. Khan.
He underlined his “personal commitment” to ensuring the team’s work with national authorities and the Kurdish Regional Government would continue through mutual cooperation.
Our capacity to demonstrate continued value to Iraqi counterparts, and the people of Iraq more broadly, will be essential if we are to build on successes achieved to date”, he added.
“Reflecting this, and in line with the Terms of Reference, we have sought to make every effort to share knowledge and technical assistance with national authorities in order to support their investigation of crimes committed by ISIL in line with international standards.”
‘Third State’ trials proceeding
He noted that cooperation by all investigators inside Iraq with criminal proceedings going on in “third States” involving ISIL terrorist suspects, was also bearing fruit.
“The Investigative Team has been formally approached by an additional three States regarding the potential provision of support to ongoing domestic proceedings concerning crimes committed by ISIL, with a number of other States indicating that such assistance may be of value in supporting their respective domestic prosecutions.”
With partnership at the core of the team’s success so far, the Special Adviser said there must be a “broader bond” with the international community also, for the benefit of all survivors. He praised financial and personnel support offered so far by Australia, Germany, Finland, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, Sweden and Uganda.
“The recent renewal of our mandate represents a reaffirmation from this Council that it is not enough for us to condemn the barbarity and depravity of ISIL. To deliver for survivors, we must ensure that the individuals most responsible for these crimes are personally held to account.”
I survived by God’s will to be a witness’
Kachi Amo Saloh, a member of Iraqi civil society, and a Yazidi from Sinjar who survived the mass executions in the village of Kocho, recounted the horrific events of August 2014 when his village of 1,250 people was besieged and overwhelmed by Da’esh terrorists, their possessions confiscated and men separated from the women.
The men were then killed in a mass shooting. “I survived by God’s will to be a witness,” he said, describing how he escaped from a pile of dead bodies that included three of his brothers, as well as nephews and cousins.
His elderly step-mother had also been executed, along with more than 70 elderly women who were shot or buried alive, and his wife and daughters taken to a slave market and sold. His three-month-old daughter died of thirst and hunger and he was one of 19 who lived: “I can still hear my wife and daughters screaming when the members of the terrorist organization of Da’esh took them”.
Thanking the Security Council for creating UNITAD to establish accountability for the crimes of Da’esh, he said that prosecuting those responsible for their crimes is not enough. The international community must also acknowledge that the crimes committed against the Yazidi community amount to genocide. “I also hope that the Security Council continues its support to the investigative team to establish a fair mechanism for accountability to prevent similar crimes and genocides in the future,” he stated.
#Russia, #Syria, #SyriaTerrorism, #Idlib; #WhiteHelmetsOrganization
Moscow, Nov 26 (Canadian-Media): A provocation including staging of airstrikes and usage of chemical weapons in de-escalation zone of Syria's northwestern Idlib is being planned jointly with the White Helmets organization and the militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [formerly known as the Nusra Front, banned in Russia], media reports said.
White Helmet Organization/Facebook
Residents of the Sarmada settlement had reportedly seen militants in three trucks loaded with chemicals, professional video-making equipment and pieces of Russian artillery, arriving early November to the town. It was also reported that the militants had been recruiting people to participate in the staging of the attack.
#Shia, #ShiaAttack, #SouthLebanon, #Tyre, PeacefulDemonstrators
Beirut, Nov 26 (Canadian-Media): Anti-government demonstrators in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre have been attacked Tuesday by the supporters of the Amal Movement, a Shia-affiliated political party in Lebanon, and also burned their tents, media reports said.
Attack by Shia Party supporters In South Lebanon /Twitter
The peaceful demonstrators encircled by the armed forces who came quickly to protect them from the the aggressive groups.
Three people were reportedly hospitalized after the attack.
Social media released videos showing burning tents with gunfire heard in the background.
New York, Nov 19 (Canadian-Media): The longstanding position of the UN regarding Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory – that they are in breach of international law – is unchanged, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said during a press briefing on Tuesday in New York, reacting to the policy reversal announced by the United States
Palestinian houses and Israeli settlements in H2 area in Hebron, West Bank.
Image credit: UN News/Reem Abaza
Mr. Dujarric added that the UN “very much regrets” the announcement of the new US position on Monday and remains “committed to a two-State solution based on the relevant UN resolutions”.
Earlier on Tuesday, at a press briefing in Geneva, Spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, told reporters that a change in the policy position of one Member State does not modify existing international law, nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN Security Council.
Announcing the policy change, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that “calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law hasn’t worked. It hasn’t advanced the cause of peace”.
Mr. Pompeo’s comments –which were reportedly condemned by Palestinian politicians, and the Jordanian Government, and welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – have been interpreted in press reports as a rejection of UN Security Council resolution 2334.
This resolution reaffirmed, in 2016, that Israel’s establishment of settlements on Palestinian land occupied since 1967, have “no legal validity”, and constitute a “flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders”. The resolution was adopted with 14 votes in favour, with the US abstaining.
On the same day that Mr. Pompeo delivered his remarks, the US Embassy in Jerusalem released a security alert, advising US citizens travelling to, or through, Jerusalem, to maintain a high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness.
Tensions in the region were already high before Mr. Pompeo’s announcement: on October 28, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council that “new dangerous flashpoints” were emerging in the region, and described the growing number of Israeli settlements as a substantial obstacle to the peace process.
‘Nail in the coffin’ for two-State solution
Independent UN rights expert Michael Lynk, officially Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, characterized the US move as a “decisive break with international consensus”, which will “further entrench the perpetual Israeli occupation”, in a statement released on Tuesday.
The US decision to ‘jettison international law” had, said Mr. Lynk, legitimized the illegal Israeli settlements, driving “the very last nail in the coffin of the two-State solution” of two nations living side-by-side, which is the UN-backed outcome for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.
#Eurasia; #Terrorism&Crime; #ShanghaiCooperationOrganization
Eurasia, Nov 19 (Canadian-Media): Improving understanding of the nexus between terrorism, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking is essential, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday in his address to a high-level meeting involving the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a leading player in diplomacy in Eurasia.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The UN chief said these interconnected issues are important to the stability and security of SCO member states
“Breaking up trafficking organizations and addressing the criminal use of fixed routes is crucial to countering movements of foreign terrorist fighters and arms, including to and from Iraq and Syria”, he said.
“Our two organizations are also committed to promoting peace in Afghanistan and supporting the Afghan people as they build a more stable and prosperous future. Addressing the cultivation of opium, which provides revenue to the Taliban, can play a part in undermining the Taliban’s ability to destabilize communities and to wage war.”
The SCO was established in 2001 and comprises eight member states: India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Ten other countries are observer states or dialogue partners.
The organization represents more than three billion people—the largest combined population of any regional grouping in the world.
Joint plan of action
Mr. Guterres outlined how the UN is strengthening links between the two partners, including in the area of counter-terrorism.
“I am particularly proud of our engagement with SCO on the United Nations Joint Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia – the first regional initiative of its kind,” he said.
“The Joint Plan of Action contributes to strengthening the capacities of Central Asian Member States to enhance border security, prevent violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and foster dialogue with religious leaders.”
Action to address root causes of terrorism
While security measures are vital, combating terrorism and its links to transnational crime takes many forms.
The Secretary-General said the UN is working with SCO countries to support efforts that address root causes.
“Terrorist and extremist groups often share a misogynistic ideology that subjugates women and girls. Our work to promote gender equality and the rights of women and girls is central to efforts to tackle extremism, organized crime and the trafficking of people and drugs,” he added.
Additionally, both the UN human rights office, OHCHR, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have supported countries in areas including the handling of digital evidence.
Mr. Guterres looked forward to further cooperation between the two “natural partners.”
“I am confident that in joining our efforts, the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization can make a positive contribution to the lives of people in Eurasia, strengthening regional cooperation at all levels,” he said.
Libya ‘ever more in race against time’, but dissolving conflict ‘a realistic prospect’, Security Council hears
#ViolenceInTripoli; #UNMIL; #HazardsToHealthCare
Libya, Nov 18 (Canadian-Media): A recent resurgence of violence in Tripoli, means Libya is “ever more in a race against time” to reach peace, however, agreeing the way forward to ending the conflict “is a realistic prospect”, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council on Monday.
A wide view of the Security Council as Ghassan Salamé (on screens), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) briefs. Image credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
“Seven and a half months into the conflict in Libya, and given the recent dangerous escalation in hostilities in and around Tripoli, we find ourselves ever more in a race against time to reach a peaceful solution that would spare many lives”, Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) told Council Members during a briefing.
Speaking via videoconference from the Libyan capital, he said he was “angry and sad” by another mass civilian casualty event that took place the same morning against a local biscuit factory, in which 35 were reportedly injured, and 10 killed in an airstrike attack, yet to be classified as deliberate or indiscriminate.
The past few days have been characterized by incidents like this one, with many families abandoning areas impacted by the shelling, Mr. Salamé said, adding that any further escalation of fighting in Tripoli’s densely-populated areas “would lead to disastrous humanitarian consequences.”
Thousands of people have been killed in sporadic fighting since 2014, between factions of the self styled Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, based in the country’s east, and the Tripoli-based internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Faiez Serraj, following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi three years prior.
An early April offensive launched by forces loyal to the LNA against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli triggered the recent spasms of violence. The offensive reportedly quickly stalled, and both sides have drawn on international support to carry out air strikes, despite last week’s call by the United States for the LNA to halt attacks.
The “dangers and direct consequences of foreign interference are increasingly evident” Mr. Salamé highlighted. To fill manpower gaps, “there is growing involvement of mercenaries and fighters from foreign private military companies” with greater experience that has amplified the scale of the clashes.
Outside interference fueling fighting
Spare parts for fighter aircrafts, tanks, bullets and precision missiles are being shipped into the country to propel rival party supporters in their fighting, the Special Representative explained, along with a plethora of Ghadafi-era arms which breach a UN arms embargo in the country.
Mitiga Airport, a key outlet for the civilians of Tripoli and Western LIbya, has been closed for more than two and a half months due to shelling and airstrikes.
Mr.Salamé said he is working the the government’s Ministers of Interior and Transportation to see the airport reopens, in addition to pursuing Second and Third Steps of a three-step peace initiative he presented during his briefing to the Council in July.
In addition, UNSMIL has engaged in extensive outreach to Libyan constituencies,participating in meetings involving commanders of units engaged in fighting, civilian representatives, and political constituencies. The Mission has also hosted local mediations and efforts to address polarisation in the country through workshops on hateful rhetoric, and mediated dialogue between different members of society.
Hazards to healthcare
Tripoli’s renewed crisis has killed more than 200 civilians, and forced more than 128,000 to flee their homes in the last seven months, the Special Representative noted, and more than 135,000 remain on the frontlines, with an additional 270,000 living in areas directly affected by clashes. In addition, there has been an obvious trend in attacks against public service areas.
We have observed a clear pattern of precision airstrikes against medical facilities and personnel, wilful killing or harming of sick or wounded people” which may constitute war crimes, he said.
With 60 attacks against health care facilities, medical personnel and ambulances registered since the beginning of the year, nearly a quarter of all health centres have shut down due to the conflict, electrical or structural damage, resulting in a sharp increase in unmet health needs.
Serious concerns also continue with regard to migrants and refugees, vulnerable to unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment and unlawful deprivation of basic human rights, he continued.
Peace, ‘a realistic prospect’
For it’s part, the UN and humanitarian partners have reached over 310,000 people in need of assistance in 2019, through food deliveries, shelter support, protection services and others, however, “the needs exceed the means at our disposal” Mr. Salamé said, with the $202 million response plan less than half funded.
“It is somewhat of a cliche to say that the weeks ahead are critical - but once again, it is true for Libya”, Mr.Salamé said, concluding his briefing.
Condemning external investment in the conflict, he said involvement by international actors risks surpassing that of Libya on its own, “taking control of LIbya’s future away from Libyans, and putting it in the hands of foreign parties.”
“The parties are known. The outlines of the agreement are known. Options for a temporary or longer-term constitutional framework exist. Electoral legislation has been produced before. It is all eminently possible” to stop the fighting, he stressed.
“Ending the conflict and agreeing to the way forward is a realistic prospect. The United Nations is in Libya, and will remain in Libya, to support the LIbyan people in their journey”, he maintained.