#UN; #Afghanistan; #Conflict; #Peace&Security
Feb 23 (Canadian-Media): More than 10,000 civilians in Afghanistan were killed and injured last year, according to a new United Nations report that details record-high levels of civilian harm in the ongoing conflict, UN media reports said.
Displaced women and children in Afghanistan’s northern Saripul province.
Image credit: UNAMA/Eric Kanalstein
"Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said on Saturday.
The report, entitled Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: 2019, documents 3,403 civilians killed and 6,989 injured – with the majority of the civilian casualties inflicted by anti-Government elements.
It is the sixth year in a row that the number of civilian casualties has exceeded 10,000.
After more than a decade of systematically documenting the impact of the war on civilians, the UN found that in 2019 the number of civilian casualties had surpassed 100,000.
“It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are underway”, stressed Mr. Yamamoto.
The figures outlined in the report, released jointly by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office, represent a five per cent decrease over the previous year, mainly due to a drop in civilian casualties caused by the terrorist group ISIL.
However, civilian casualties caused by the other parties rose, including a 21 per cent increase by the Taliban and an 18 per cent surge by the international military forces, mainly due to an increase in improvised explosive device attacks and airstrikes.
“All parties to the conflict must comply with the key principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution to prevent civilian casualties,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
To ensure accountability, the report calls on all conflict parties to conduct prompt, effective and transparent investigations into all allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
“Belligerents must take the necessary measures to prevent women, men, boys and girls from being killed by bombs, shells, rockets and improvised mines; to do otherwise is unacceptable”, concluded the High Commissioner.
Ten year record of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Image credit: UNAMA
#UN; #SouthSudan' #UnityGovt; #UNMISS;
Geneva, Feb 23 (Canadian-Media): United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed on Saturday the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in South Sudan, UN media reports said.
South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (centre) and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar met on 11 September 2019 in Juba. This was their second face-to-face meeting.
Image Credit: UN Photo/Isaac Billy
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the UN chief commended the parties for the “significant achievement in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan”.
“The Secretary-General applauds regional and international efforts that contributed to this result”, the statement continued.
Mr. Guterres also called on the TGoNU members to “fully adhere to the letter and spirit of the Agreement”, so that the people of South Sudan can finally realize the benefits of durable peace and stability they deserve.
“The United Nations stands ready, in close coordination with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the African Union, to assist the parties in implementing the Agreement”, the statement concluded.
‘Courage in peace’
Saturday's ceremony took place just before the peace agreement deadline expired.
UN Special Representative David Shearer called it “a thrill” to witness the signing in of Vice President Riek Machar and hailed it as “a new chapter in South Sudan’s history”.
Noting that “often the courage in peace is greater than the courage in war”, Mr. Shearer, who also heads the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), acknowledged the courage of both President Salva Kiir “for taking the decisions that he needed to take” and Mr. Machar “for coming back after conflict” and joining to make the Unity Government possible.
“I believe that after this signing and the forming of a transitional government we will see floods of people returning to their homes, picking up their lives” and getting on with hope for what the future holds, he said.
Sealing the deal
South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, has been mired in instability and conflict for nearly all eight years of its existence.
In 2018 President Kiir and his former Vice-President and long-time political rival, Mr. Machar, signed a peace accord with the hopes that it would end the crisis and improve the lives and safety of millions of South Sudanese.
On Saturday, President Kiir witnessed Mr. Machar being sworn in as first vice-president, sealing the peace deal at the State House in the capital of Juba.
Hopes are high that the new Unity Government will bring an end to the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions more.
#UN; #Syria'sManMadeHumanitarianNightmare; #BitterWinterTemperature; #OCHA
Geneva, Feb 22 (Canadian-Media): In a tersely delivered statement on Friday, the UN Secretary-General appealed for an end to the “man-made humanitarian nightmare” currently unfolding in Syria, where ongoing military operations in the north-west have displaced hundreds of thousands amid bitter winter temperatures, UN media reports said.
A boy stands at the entrance of a tent at an informal settlement in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border. Image credit: ©UNICEF/Nour Alshami
“The message is clear. There is no military solution for the Syrian crisis,”António Guterres said, addressing journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.
“The only possible solution remains political. This man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering Syrian people must stop. It must stop now”.
Since December, nearly 900,000 people, mainly women and children, have fled fighting in Idlib, where the Syrian government has launched a military assault in the last opposition-held stronghold in the country.
Most are moving to increasingly crowded areas towards the border with Turkey.
The Secretary-General said they are escaping under the most tragic conditions, with young children freezing to death in the cold.
“The fighting is now advancing into areas with the highest concentrations of people, including the displaced, and threatening to strangle humanitarian lifelines”, he said.
“As the space for safety sinks further, the potential for human suffering grows worse”.
Despite ceasefire arrangements under a 2017 de-escalation agreement, and his recent appeals for an end to the hostilities, developments on the ground are making conditions increasingly more dangerous, Mr. Guterres added.
“For almost a year we have seen a series of Syrian government ground offensives supported by Russian airstrikes. This month, there have been repeated deadly clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces,” he said.
“All of this means, that in addition to a dramatic and deteriorating humanitarian situation, we face now the risk of an ever-more serious confrontation with increasingly unpredictable consequences. It is crucial to break the vicious circle of violence and suffering.”
Rising humanitarian needs
Overall, nearly three million people in north-west Syria require humanitarian assistance.
As needs rise, the UN is revising plans to assist the displaced, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said earlier on Friday.
“We initially sought to help 800,000 displaced people over the next six months; we are now planning to address the needs of 1.1 million people. The requirements have also increased from an initial $336 million to about half a billion, $500 million,” spokesman Jens Laerke told journalists in Geneva.
So far, $100 million has been received.
Mr. Laerke reported that families fleeing the violence have resorted to desperate measures to protect themselves against freezing winter temperatures.
“Many people have resorted to burning their spare clothes, pieces of furniture or materials that let out toxic fumes,” he said.
#2015MinskIIagreement; #MinskProtocol; #MinskMemorandum; #Ukraine
Geneva, Feb 18 (Canadian-Media): Marking the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Minsk II agreement, the UN political chief told the Security Council on Tuesday, that along with the Minsk Protocol and the Minsk memorandum, it remains “the only agreed framework” for a negotiated, peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, UN reports said.
Since the fighting began in early 2014, educational facilities on both sides of the contact line have been damaged or destroyed. Image credit: © UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov
Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, also recalled that the Secretary-General has consistently expressed the UN’s “strong backing” for the lead role of the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), and the OSCE to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and called for “a revitalization of these efforts”.
Since her last update in mid-July, Ms. DiCarlo offered hope for “long-elusive progress” in implementing the Minsk provisions, including key security and political aspects.
“Most notably”, she said, “on 9 December, and after a three-year hiatus, the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine met in Paris under the so-called Normandy Format” and called for, among other things, immediate measures to stabilize the situation.
The leaders committed to fully implement the ceasefire and to support an agreement within the contact group on three areas aimed to disengage forces and equipment.
“They encouraged the Trilateral Contact Group to facilitate the release and exchange of conflict-related detainees and committed to supporting an agreement within the Group, on new crossing points along the line of contact, based primarily on humanitarian criteria”, she said.
Moreover, she said that the participants recalled that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission requires secure access throughout Ukraine to fully implement its mandate.
Referring to her first visit to the country in December, she noted that her “interlocutors were clear…to see tangible progress in the negotiations”.
While many stressed the need for greater involvement of women in the peace efforts, some looked to improve the humanitarian situation for ordinary people and others to strengthen political that would support initiatives to ensuring sustainable peace.
Disturbing reports of ceasefire violations across the contact line near Zolote are “deeply concerning”, she said, calling them “a stark reminder” that in the absence of sustained political will, “there is a very real risk of backsliding and further violence”.
“At this pivotal time, I hope this Council will encourage all stakeholders to do their utmost to ensure sustained positive momentum in the negotiations and display the political will and flexibility to reach agreement on the key steps forward and focus on the implementation of agreed commitments, including first and foremost commitment to a durable ceasefire”, she stated.
Impact on civilians
In eastern Ukraine, the armed conflict continues to claim lives, cause injuries, restrict freedoms and negatively impact basic human rights.
“The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has regularly reported on the human rights situation and on violations”, Ms. DiCarlo lamented.
The UN is particularly concerned for those along the contact line, who remain the most vulnerable.
“Civilians are paying the highest price in this crisis. 3.4 million people - including the elderly, the disabled and children - require humanitarian assistance and protection services”, she informed the Council.
Moreover, humanitarian access and the protection of civilians are everyday challenges.
“Water, education and health infrastructure continued to be severely impacted by the conflict, reducing access to those facilities for civilians living there” she said, adding, “attacks on civilian infrastructure must stop”.
She pointed out that as the UN and partners seek unimpeded and sustained access to reach the most vulnerable civilians, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan remains severely underfunded and the 2020 Plan requires $158 million.
“This conflict continues to exact an unacceptable humanitarian toll on the Ukrainian population”, she concluded. “It destabilizes overall peace and security in Ukraine, but also potentially in the region as a whole”.
This conflict continues to exact an unacceptable humanitarian toll on the Ukrainian population – UN political chief
Political will lacking
The newly appointed Special Representative of the OSCE’s Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine, Heidi Grau, outlined the latest discussions in the TCG, saying its activities have “remarkably intensified over the past six months”.
She spoke of disengaging forces and recommitting to a ceasefire, as well as on political and economic aspects.
However, she bemoaned, “despite undeniable achievements…trust and political will are still lacking for a real breakthrough”
“I hope that the TCG's reinforced working plan, to which the sides have acquiesced, will foster change in that respect, too”, she said in closing.
For his part, Halit Çevik, Chief Monitor of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, said the overall security situation on the ground.
He cited a number of ceasefire violations, saying “political commitment to a ceasefire…has yet to be translated into concrete implementation on the ground”.
“What lays ahead in the coming months is crucial”, he stated, underscoring an urgency to maintain momentum toward peace.
The key elements to address the security situation are set out in the Minsk agreements.
#UN; #WestAfrica; #PoliticalDiscord; #Peace&Security; #ECOWAS; #UNIOGBIS
Africa, Feb 14 (Canadian-Media): Political discord in Guinea-Bissau could hamper the first-ever peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected leader, the top UN official in the West African country told the Security Council on Friday, UN news reports said.
Bissau-Guineans voted for legislative elections. Image credit: UNIOGBIS
Rosine Sori-Coulibaly updated ambassadors on developments in the wake of the November 2019 presidential election and subsequent run-off, won by ex-army general Umaro Sissoco Embaló, a former Prime Minister and candidate for the Movement for Democratic Change (MADEM-G15).
Ruling party candidate Domingos Simões Pereira, also an ex-Prime Minister, contested the outcome, which the National Electoral Commission upheld. His party, known by the acronym PAIGC, later filed a complaint with the Supreme Court over the verification process.
“As a result, the legal process over the electoral outcome has yet to be resolved, in order to allow for the first-ever peaceful transfer of power to a democratically elected Head of State in the country,” Ms. Sori-Coulibaly said.
“However, given the deep mistrust between the two political camps, divisions in the Executive branch, and shifting political alliances in Parliament, the swearing in of the future President will unlikely bring about stability.”
Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau, briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in Guinea-Bissau. Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for the Supreme Court to finalize its work by 15 February.
Guinea-Bissau representative Maria Antonieta Pinto Lopes D'Alva expressed certainty that the deadline will be met.
“The people of Guinea-Bissau deserve a clear and positive closure of this process so that they can see the light of hope for the future of their children,” she said.
“We believe that only with the free, fair and transparent elections we will be able to strengthen the democratic rule of law in our country, where the sovereign will of the people can prevail.”
‘Window of opportunity' for peace and stability
As the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ms. Sori-Coulibaly also heads the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
Through its good offices role, UNIOGBIS supported the presidential election and a legislative vote last March.
The UN has been present in Guinea-Bissau over the past two decades, working to strengthen national institutions and consolidate peace and democracy in the former Portuguese colony, whose post-independence history has been marked by coups and political chaos.
Hopes were high that the 2019 elections would end a political crisis that began in 2015, when President José Mário Vaz dissolved the Government headed by Mr. Pereira, then Prime Minister.
UNIOGBIS will complete its mandate at the end of this year, but the UN will maintain a presence in the country.
Political tensions aside, Ms. Sori-Coulibaly said Guinea-Bissau should be commended for completing the electoral cycle on time, and for its progress in areas such as combating drug trafficking and organized crime.
However, she emphasized the need for continued international support and engagement, given the political divide.
“The upcoming post-electoral period could represent a window of opportunity for sustainable peace and stability, national cohesion and reconciliation, should there be political will and commitment by national stakeholders,” she stated.
#UN; #Peace&Security; TransitionalJustice; #UNHumanRights
New York, Feb 14 (Canadian-Media): For countries to move forward after conflict or mass atrocities, suffering must be acknowledged and justice served, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told the Security Council on Thursday, UN news release said.
Community members listen as Peacekeepers from the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, conduct a justice and reconciliation meeting in the central Mopti region.
Image credit: MINUSMA/Gema Cortes.
Michelle Bachelet was speaking during an open debate on the role of transitional justice—which includes mechanisms such as truth and reconciliation commissions—in building and sustaining peace.
“We know that lasting peace is interlinked with justice, development and respect for human rights. We know that peace does not automatically break out when weapons fall silent and atrocity crimes cease. To be able to rebuild lives — without fear of recurrence — and for society to move forward, suffering needs to be acknowledged; confidence in State institutions restored; and justice done,” she said, speaking from Geneva via teleconference.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, visits Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (January 2020). Image credit: MONUSCO
In both her capacity as the UN rights chief, and as a citizen and former President of Chile, Ms. Bachelet has repeatedly witnessed what she described as “the transformative power of transitional justice”.
These processes have helped to address grievances and divisions, she said, adding that they are often “deeply empowering” for victims, particularly women, indigenous communities and marginalized minorities.
“I have just returned from a mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the recent UN-supported consultations in the Kasai region enabled many victims to express their views on truth, reconciliation, reparations, and the prevention of future conflict. These consultations laid the groundwork for the establishment of a provincial Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Commission”, she said.
The search for truth in Colombia
Father Francisco de Roux, a Jesuit priest from Colombia, gave his perspective as president of that country’s Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-repetition.
Nearly 250,000 civilians died in fighting between Government forces and the rebel group known as FARC, which spanned five decades and ended with a 2016 UN-backed peace deal.
The Commission has received thousands of testimonies from victims, as well as individuals from State and military institutions.
Francisco de Roux, president for the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-repetition, addresses the UN Security Council meeting on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace. Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
“Truth has become the gateway for transitional justice and the foundation for the collective construction of a shared future in countries that have been divided by war,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
Father de Roux explained that the search for truth takes several forms. While the judicial system determines who is guilty under the law, the Commission works to uncover a “moral, historic and social truth” through the testimony of victims from all sides.
“It’s the kind of truth that listens to the various actors in a conflict and compares various opinions and interpretations. It’s not to single out or fuel hatred but rather to overcome social divisions based on a painful but liberating truth”, he said.
South Africa's experience
By publicly recognizing “the dignity of victims and acceptance of responsibility by the culprits”, Father de Roux said truth commissions help prevent conflict from recurring, citing South Africa as an example.
Human rights lawyer Yasmin Sooka served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 1995 by the late Nelson Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected President.
During the apartheid era, scores of activists detained by the notorious Security Branch of the South African Police reportedly committed suicide at headquarters by jumping out of windows and banging their heads against filing cabinets, or by hanging themselves in their cells, or slipping in the shower.
She told the Council that a recently re-opened inquest into these deaths has given hope to countless families.
“The re-opened inquest in South Africa and the latest report that [former Sudanese President] Omar Al- Bashir may be transferred to the International Criminal Court to face genocide and war crimes charges, demonstrates the importance of addressing impunity, which is directly linked to restoring the rule of law, as a pre-requisite for national healing and reconciliation,” she stated.
#UN; #Yemen; #Attack; #15,000Displaced; #LimitedMedicalCare; #HumanitarianCrisis
Yemen, Feb 10 (Canadian-Media): Attacks on health facilities in Yemen’s Marib province, East of the capital Sana’a, have left some 15,000 people – many of them displaced from other parts of the country – with severely limited options for medical care, the UN said on Monday, UN news release of Feb 10 reported.
Milhah, one of over 14,000 people displaced to Marib and Al Jawf, Yemen, in the past two weeks. Credit: IOM
In a statement, the office of Lise Grande, the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, stated that Al Jafra and Al Saudi hospitals in the Majzer District in Marib, around 75 kilometres north of Marib City, were hit during clashes. The health facilities have been badly damaged, including the intensive care unit, occupational therapy unit, in-patients unit and the pharmacy at Al Jafra, which is the main hospital in the area.
“This is a completely unacceptable breach of international humanitarian law”, said Ms. Grande. “It’s terrible that facilities upon which thousands of people depend to survive have been badly damaged. The health sector has been hit very hard during this war: preventing further damage and helping to rebuild it are some of our highest priorities”.
Affected families were escaping January violence In January, fighting escalated in three areas: Nehm, close to Sana’a, Jawf in the north, and the province of Marib, where a missile attack on a Government military base in the middle of January, reportedly left more than 100 dead.
In a briefing to the Security Council on January 28, Martin Griffiths, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, warned that the recent upsurge in violence is jeopardizing recent progress that warring parties have made on de-escalation and confidence-building.
The fighting led to more than 4,670 families fleeing to other parts of Marib, Sana’a and Al Jawf: many of the families escaping the areas nearest the fighting, had already been displaced following previous conflict, said the Resident Coordinator’s office, and no longer have any resources.
Humanitarians have been rushing to respond to the thousands of people displaced across the region in recent weeks. 1,884 families have received emergency kits of food, hygiene supplies, shelter materials and other essential items.
Other forms of assistance have included life-saving water supplies, health supplies, nutrition and protection services.
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with nearly 80 per cent of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine and 7 million people are malnourished, says the UN.
AU Summit: Guterres calls for ‘collective, comprehensive, coordinated’ response to challenges facing Africa
#Africa; #challengesOfAfrica; #Globalization; #ClimateCrisis; #Violence
Ethiopia (Africa) Feb 9 (Canadian-Media): The challenges facing African nations are “complex , multi-faceted and far-reaching" but a “collective, comprehensive and coordinated” response by the global community will build on the momentum that already exists to help the continent thrive, the UN chief told the African Union Summit on Sunday, UN news release of Feb 9 reported.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, addressing the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 9 February, 2020. Image credit: Daniel Getachew
Secretary-General António Guterres told the annual gathering of 55 African nations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, that the strategic partnership between the UN and AU is “of paramount importance” and he was deeply committed to the principle that Africa’s challenges can only be solved through African leadership.
Three urgent challenges
There are three main challenges “of particular urgency” facing the continent, said the UN chief, highlighting first, making inroads against poverty through the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which dovetails with the AU’s own drive towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.
The drive for sustainable development has yielded significant improvements, with rising living standards, better access to quality education, healthcare and services, “but progress remains slow and uneven when it comes to ending poverty and ending exclusion”, said Mr. Guterres.
Calling for fairer globalization, he said African nations were working to eliminate corruption, reform taxation systems, governance and institutions, but it was up to the international community to “complement these efforts with much stronger determination", including fighting illicit flows of capital.
Gender equality and gender parity are also key, he added, noting that “peace, social cohesion and sustainable development require women’s contribution and leadership.”
Engaging and empowering youth is also necessary, he said: I am inspired by young people across Africa who have become advocates for peace through dialogue and addressing the root causes of conflict.”
Turning to the climate crisis, he said Africa was the least responsible for accelerated global warming, but “among the first and worst to suffer.”
The Secretary-General commended Africa’s “longstanding moral and political leadership on the climate emergency.”
“Last year was devastating, along with the destruction of cyclones Idai and Kenneth, there are numerous under-reported climate-linked crises from the Sahel to Zambia, from Kenya to Madagascar”, he added.
A climate-related locust infestation is causing misery across vast swathes of East Africa and addressing climate-related security risks in the Horn of Africa, Central Africa and the Sahel, must be a priority.
“We need more ambition on mitigation and, especially for Africa’s sake, more ambition on adaptation and financing to build resilience of African countries and communities and allow for effective recovery and reconstruction.”
‘Silencing the Guns’, beating terrorism together
Heralding the successes of UN-AU partnership through the Union’s “Silencing the Guns” initiative, the UN chief said joint efforts had advanced peace, most notably in the past few months in the transition to democratic governance in Sudan.
At the core of the third urgent challenge facing African countries and the UN together, he said that continuing with the UN’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative (A4P) was essential, given the limitation of traditional peacekeeping “particularly where there is no peace to keep, as we see in the Sahel.”
He reiterated his view that “we increasingly need peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operation implemented by the African Union and supported by the UN.”
“It is obvious for the G5 Sahel today, but also for the larger coalition, that we will have to build to beat terrorism in Africa. The lack of support of the international community is clear today in the Sahel and Lake Chad.
“The whole region has been imperiled by terrorism”, said Mr. Guterres, against the backdrop of rising extremist violence and transnational crime across the vast, porous borders of the Sahel region.
“Thousands have been killed and countless more continue to suffer. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, the increasing number and complexity of terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets demonstrate the need for a more robust and integrated response with a focus on cross-border issues.”
‘The Africa we want’
Collective action is required at the borders of those Sahelian countries where the State needs to be strengthened, he added, and where public social services “are cruelly lacking.”
“Through combined efforts, coordinated approaches and renewed commitment to multilateralism”, said the Secretary-General, “we can continue Africa’s undoubted upward momentum.
“I reiterate my full commitment to continue working closely with you to ensure we achieve the Africa we want as set out by Agenda 2063 and truly silence the guns forever.”
#UN; #UNHCR; #UNPeace; #Violence; #BrutalAttacks; #Mozambique’sCaboDelgado
Geneva, Feb 8 (Canadian-Media): UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is boosting its response in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province where recent escalation of violence forced thousands to flee for their lives. At least 100,000 people are now displaced throughout the province, UNHCR news release of Feb 7 reported.
Mozambicans uprooted by escalating violence gather for a food distribution in Mocimboa da Praia, in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, December 2019.
Image credit: © UNHCR/Eduardo Burmeister
There has been a dramatic increase of brutal attacks by armed groups over the past months, with the recent weeks being the most volatile period since the incidents began in October 2017.
In total, at least 28 attacks were carried out in the province since the beginning of the year. The attacks have now spread across nine out of the 16 districts in Cabo Delgado. The province is one of the least developed parts of Mozambique. Attacks are now spreading towards the southern districts of Cabo Delgado, prompting people to flee to Pemba, the provincial capital. One of the latest incidents took place only 100 kilometres away from Pemba.
Armed groups have been randomly targeting local villages and terrorizing the local population. Those fleeing speak of killings, maiming, and torture, burnt homes, destroyed crops and shops. We have reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children.
The attackers’ at times warn the local population where and when they will strike, creating panic as people rush to flee their villages. Most leave everything behind, having no time to take any belongings, food or ID documents. So far hundreds of villages have been burned or are now completely abandoned as attackers carry out a wide and indiscriminate campaign of terror. Government institutions have also been targeted.
Civilians have fled in many directions, including to small islands, where many have nowhere to stay. Some, among them many children and women, are sleeping rough and have limited access to clean water. The majority of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) have taken refuge with families or friends adding pressure to already meagre local resources. Many displaced live in very poor conditions. Six people died of diarrhoea last month on Matemo island.
In response to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, and at the request of the Mozambican Government to all humanitarian agencies, UNHCR is expanding its presence in the province to better respond to the growing needs of the displaced population. Many are survivors of violence and human rights violations and in urgent need of protection and psycho-social support.
UNHCR will help coordinate all protection activities in partnership with the Government.
UNHCR will be deploying additional aid and staff to meet the need, initially for 15,000 IDPs and hosts communities in the coming weeks.
Many areas affected by the attacks have also been devasted by cyclone Kenneth in April 2019. At that time, some 160,000 people had been directly impacted and were in need of assistance. People in Cabo Delgado have also been seriously affected by recent floods, which destroyed bridges, further limiting their access to food and other resources.
UNHCR is appealing for urgent and strong support to scale up its response in Mozambique. Meanwhile, UNHCR is committing US$ 2 million from its operational reserve in order to meet the initial needs.
African Union Summit: Guterres hails ‘shared values, mutual respect and common interests’ of UN partnership
#UN; #Africa; #Counter-terrorism; #Funding; #womenIssues; #Violence; #poverty
New York, Feb 8 (Canadian-Media): The UN chief on Saturday called on the international community to recognize the need for African counter-terrorism operations, backed by the UN Security Council, to tackle the growing threat of extremist violence across the continent, and “predictable funding, guaranteed by compulsory contributions”, UN news release reported today.
Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a High-Level Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, at the 2020 African Union Summit in Addis. Image credit: Daniel Getachew/UN Photo
Secretary-General António Guterres was speaking to reporters as the African Union (AU) Summit got underway in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, describing the relationship between the AU and the UN as “one of the most important partnerships in the world – a partnership that is committed to responding to the anxieties and aspirations of the African people, and paving the way for a better future for us all.”
He said the countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad faced “a multitude of challenges, be it the climate crisis, economic despair and exclusion, or extremism”, saying that “African peace enforcement” involving the AU, needed concrete support under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which authorizes the Security Council to use force against threats to peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.
A new coalition needed to be built to defeat terrorism in Africa, Mr. Guterres told reporters, but this could only be done with enough funding and support.
“It must be said that terrorism in Africa is not a threat only to Africa, terrorism in Africa is a global threat and it is everyone’s duty to show effective solidarity with the African States that are on the front line of this fight.”
UN ready to host AU representatives in Libya
Noting that “the chaos in Libya is worsening”, the UN chief criticized the “direct complicity” of some Member States in recent months who have fuelled violence across the oil-rich North African nation, and armed the main forces opposed to the UN-backed Government.
“Only a political solution will bring peace”, and the UN Mission in Libya, UNSMIL, “is ready to receive an African Union representation on its premises and we want the AU focal points to be able to participate on all the intra-Libyan working groups”, he added, especially those put in place at the recent Berlin conference.
On the margins of the summit on Saturday, Mr. Guterres met the Libyan Minister of Foreign Affairs, reiterating the UN’s commitment to working with all parties to secure peace.
‘Silencing the Guns’ for peace and development
The UN chief said AU-UN strategic partnership was growing “every stronger and more dynamic”, especially on the AU signature initiative that is central to this year’s conference, “Silencing the Guns”, together with human rights, gender-equality, climate change, and sustainable development – which lie the heart of the AU-led Agenda 2063 plan for the continent.
The ambitious initiative is aimed at ending wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence and genocide prevention across the continent.
“We need fair globalization, so that Africa no longer suffers from unfair trading and financial rules, subsidies and other policies and market distortions that perpetuate inequality and make it harder for Africa to compete and prosper”, said Mr. Guterres.
Climate, and locust swarms The Secretary-General also highlighted the importance of the climate crisis to African peace, prosperity and development, linking it to the current locust swarms which are plaguing Ethiopia and East Africa.
“Warmer seas mean more cyclones generating the perfect breeding ground for locusts”, said noting the biblical scale of the crisis today with swarms the size of major cities:
“The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) tells us a swarm the size of Paris will consume, in one day, as much food as half the population of France.
“I express my deep solidarity with the people and communities affected. The United Nations has issued an urgent appeal for assistance. I ask the international community to respond with speed and generosity to ensure an effective response and control the infestation while we still have the chance.”
Real signs of hope
Despite the challenges, Mr. Guterres notes the signs of hope which are everyone across Africa. He cited the first anniversary this week of an historic peace agreement in the Central African Republic, and elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Mali last year.
For Sudan, which a year ago was roiled by political and economic crisis on the streets that led to the ouster of Omar al Bashir after 30 years in power, he lauded the success so far of the transitional Government as a “major achievement”, where the AU had played “an essential mediating role” in a new Constitution.
“And now we are working together to help this Government keep its commitments”, the Secretary-General said.
“I reaffirm that it is time to remove Sudan from the list of States that support terrorism and to mobilize massive international support to enable Sudan to overcome its challenges.
“These advances show that it is possible to act and must be relentlessly supported by the international community.”
South Sudan leaders: ‘Think about your people’ Talking questions from reporters, the UN chief made a powerful plea to the leaders of war-torn South Sudan, where a deadline is fast approaching for President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, to agree terms for a new unity government.
“The South Sudanese people's suffering is something that I feel very deeply and very emotionally”, said Mr. Guterres, highlighting his own experience travelling to the world’s youngest nation, where the euphoria of independence in 2011 has given way to brutal conflict, displacement and mass rights violations.
“So, I have one with one simple message to the leaders of the country: think about your people. Respect your people”, he said.
“You have not the right to continue a confrontation when your people are suffering so much. It is your moral and political responsibility to put an end to this and to find the agreements that are necessary...It is for me totally unacceptable, that we are still again, close to the deadline of a new period that was declared, that there is no agreement on a number of issues.”
He concluded saying it was time for South Sudanese leaders “to agree to cooperate and to deserve the wonderful people they have.”
Poverty in Africa ‘still has a woman’s face’
Addressing a High Level Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the AU Summit, the UN chief said that the reality in Africa, and the rest of the world, is that poverty “still has a woman’s face.”
For every 100 men aged 25-34 living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, there are 127 women, he noted.
Women are often concentrated in precarious jobs and they carry a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, while violence against women remains pervasive.
As head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, “I have seen with my own eyes how women and girls are the main victims of conflict, the main victims of displacement and the main victims of in terms of instability in any part of the world”, he said.
“As the world recommits to achieving irreversible progress towards gender equality, I encourage African States, in partnership with civil society and other stakeholders, to contribute to the Beijing+25 Action Coalitions...The United Nations stands alongside the African Union in working to overcome the peace and security, development and human rights challenges that continue to limit African women and girls.”
He called on States to enhance women’s social, economic and financial inclusion.
“It means providing true protection against violence – in conflict and in peacetime, on the streets and in the home. And it means making sure women and girls are encouraged to develop scientific skills and ensuring that they have access to innovation and technology”, he added.
Chauvinism in Silicon Valley Looked westwards to the billionaire enclaves of northern California, he said it was “rather strange that the area where we see more male chauvinism in the economy, is exactly in some of the more high-tech places, namely Silicon Valley. This is a battle we must win”, otherwise we risk reversing all the trends for gender equality of the last few decades, he added.
“Let us ensure that the needs and perspectives of Africa’s women and girls are fully integrated in our efforts to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies”, he concluded.