#UN; #HumanRights; #Peace&Security; #SexualViolence
Geneva, Jun 23 (Canadian-Media): While warring parties agreed to more than 30 action plans, road maps, command orders and other measures to better protect children in 2019 – the highest number in any one year – rape and other forms of sexual violence remain vastly under-reported, including against boys, the leading UN advocate on the issue told the Security Council on Tuesday, UN reports said.
Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (file). Image credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Virginia Gamba, the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, blamed “the fear of stigma and retaliation, involvement of powerful perpetrators and lack of services for survivors”, all of which discourage children and their families from reporting violations and seeking justice. Over 730 cases of sexual violence were verified during last year.
Numbers ‘not dropping
’This violation is one of several trends outlined in the Secretary-General’s latest report on the impact of armed conflict on children, which Ms. Gamba presented to the Council.
More disturbing still, she said the number of cases attributed to State and non-state actors are similar, despite an increasing number of parties having signed commitments with the UN to end this violation. “Numbers seem not to be dropping,” Ms. Gamba attested.
Stronger accountability mechanisms and systematic care services for survivors are needed to decisively address this scourge. She said it is also critical for armed forces to strengthen their training to prevent such abuse, and for prevention measures to be adequately reflected in legislation criminalizing sexual violence.
Children ‘not bargaining chips’
“The voice and support of this Council can be instrumental in supporting these children,”
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), added, explaining that over the last 15 years, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism established by resolution 1612 (2005) documented a shocking 250,000 grave violations against children in armed conflict. Among them were incidents of rape and sexual violence against over 15,000 children.
More than 77,000 children were recruited and used during armed conflict and over 100,000 children killed and maimed. The Mechanism also reported the abduction of over 25,000 children, nearly 17,000 attacks on schools and hospitals, and nearly 11,000 incidents of denial of humanitarian access. “And these are just the verified cases,” she said. “The actual numbers are certainly much higher.”
The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict — ratified by 170 countries – is just one of several instruments that Governments can adopt and implement to help bring these figures down.
She called on the Council to use its influence to urge the 50 parties to conflict who have not yet signed actions plans to do so. “Children are not pawns or bargaining chips”, she said. “This must stop.”
Devastating South Sudan coronavirus deaths,'a tragedy that can be prevented', Security Council hears
Geneva, Jun 23 (Canadian-Media): South Sudan is facing the twin threat of COVID-19 and an uptick in violence that risks unravelling a fragile ceasefire and derailing the peace process, the top UN official in the country says. Briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, David Shearer said that so far, nearly 2,000 cases of novel coronavirus - and 35 deaths - have been recorded in South Sudan, UN reports said.
The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is working to prevent the global pandemic COVID-19 from spreading in the country. Image credit: UNMISS
But limited testing and social stigmatization is likely obscuring the true magnitude of the pandemic, said Mr. Shearer, who heads the UN Mission in the world’s youngest nation (UNMISS).
The Mission’s greatest fear is that the additional pressure of responding to COVID-19 on South Sudan’s weak healthcare system will disrupt vaccinations, maternal health services and treatment for curable diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
The result could be a “devastating” increase in deaths that would likely greater than the loss of life from COVID-19 itself.
“COVID is going to hit hard, but not necessarily in the way that we think”, he told the Council via video-teleconference.
“Yes, people will die from the virus, like everywhere else in the world. But the real threat to the people of South Sudan lies in the collapse of the already fragile health system”, he said.
“This could result in many many more lives being lost – a tragedy that can be prevented.”
South Sudan attained independence from Sudan in July 2011. However, it has been mired in political instability and violence since 2013, centred around fighting between forces loyal to the president and his former vice-president.
Equipment, expertise lacking
While the infectious diseases hospital in the capital Juba has been expanded, UNMISS has renovated and equipped hospitals in 10 states to treat COVID-19 patients. NGOs are helping to staff these facilities, but equipment and expertise are severely lacking.
“To keep clinics open, it is imperative that health workers have personal protective equipment”, said Mr. Shearer, adding that 86 health workers have been infected and salaries are going unpaid.
Fresh energy needed
Turning to the peace process, Mr. Shearer said that it is “faltering” and in need of fresh energy and a reset, despite some positive developments in recent months.
Those included the formation of a unity Government and an agreement in June – after a four-month standoff - on the allocation of states between Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM-IG), led by President Salva Kiir, and the SPLM in Opposition, led by First Vice President Riek Machar.
Going forward, Mr. Shearer – who presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on South Sudan – said that state governors should now be appointed to fill a power vacuum and tackle a four-fold increase in violent incidents over the past two years.
Violence in Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Warrap and Western Equatoria states – in which hundreds of civilians have been killed, women and children abducted, and more than 60,000 people displaced – can no longer be pigeonholed as “intercommunal”, he said.
Threat of ceasefire unravelling
“Fighters in uniform have been spotted … suggesting that organized forces may be joining the conflict, which risks unravelling the ceasefire”, he said.
A truly unified national leadership would have promptly stepped in, but instead the violence has been allowed to play out and used to sort out power arrangements at the national and subnational levels, he explained.
“This cycle of impunity fuels serious human rights violations where civilians once again bear the brunt of violence”, added Mr. Shearer, noting that 7.4 million people will need humanitarian assistance in South Sudan, including many urban poor.
#UN; #UNSMIL; #Libya
Geneva, Jun 14 (Canadian-Media): The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has expressed deep shock at the discovery of mass graves in Libya over recent days, in territory that was recently in the hands of the so-called opposition Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar, UN reports said.
A child runs through the debris and wreckage in downtown Benghazi, Libya.
Image credit: © UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti.
The UN Support Mission in Libya, UNSMIL announced, on Thursday, the discovery of at least eight graves in Tarhouna, around 100 kilometres southeast of the capital, Tripoli, and formerly a stronghold for the forces of General Haftar, during his campaign to capture Tripoli, which has now lasted over a year.
In a statement released on Saturday, the UN spokesperson, Mr. Dujarric, said that the Secretary-General is calling for a “thorough and transparent investigation”, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. In particular, he called on the authorities to “secure the mass graves, identify the victims, establish causes of death and return the bodies to next of kin”, and assured Libya that the United Nations has offered support in this regard.
“The Secretary-General once again reminds all parties to the conflict in Libya of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law”, said Dujarric, adding that Mr. Guterres “reiterates his call for an immediate end to the fighting in Libya in order to save lives and end civilian suffering”.
The spokesman went on to note that the UN chief welcomes the resumption of the work of the Libyan Joint Military Commission, and hopes that a ceasefire will be agreed soon. On Wednesday, UNSMIL declared that the UN-backed authorities, and the LNA are "fully engaged" in the thirds round of talks.
During a recent Security Council meeting on Libya, Stephanie Williams, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefed that Libyans had to deal with almost constant bombardment, and frequent water and electricity outages during the holy month of Ramadan.
“From what we are witnessing in terms of the massive influx of weaponry, equipment and mercenaries to the two sides, the only conclusion that we can draw is that this war will intensify, broaden and deepen - with devastating consequences for the Libyan people”, she told the Council.
#UN; #UNICEF; #DRCongo; #KillingOfChildren; #Peace; #Security
Geneva, Jun 6 (Canadian-Media): UNICEF denounced on Saturday, an attack that killed 16 people, including five girls under age 15, in north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UN reports said.
Interethnic violence has ravaged the Ituri Province in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and forced significant numbers of people to flee for safety. Image credit: UNICEF/Madjiangar
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this attack on innocent children,” said the UNICEF Representative in the DRC, Edouard Beigbeder.
According to UN-verified reports, the attack took place on 3 June in Moussa, a village in the Djugu area, north of the Ituri Province capital Bunia.
The victims were all formerly displaced persons who had returned to the village. After the gunfire and knife attack, dozens have fled to seek shelter in neighbouring villages.
Ituri in crosshairs
Since the beginning of the year, ongoing violence in the Ituri Province has taken the lives of over 300 people.
And more than 200,000 individuals, mostly children, have fled intensifying violence in Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu areas in Ituri Province, seeking shelter in host communities and extremely overcrowded displacement sites in and around Bunia.
Moreover, UNICEF has received some 100 allegations of serious child rights violations, such as rape, killing and maiming, in addition to attacks on schools and health centres during April and May alone.
Last month the UN specialized agency warned of the quickly deteriorating security situation there and urged the DRC Government and international community to act urgently to avert a crisis that would forcibly uproot and endanger even more children.
“We call on all parties to respect the rights of women and children”, upheld the UNICEF Representative.
#UN; #Peace; #Security; #UNMission; #Africa; #MINUSMA; #UNMISS; #UNDOFF
Geneva, Jun 4 (Canadian-Media): The military chiefs at three UN missions in Africa and the Middle East have shared how they are protecting peacekeepers from COVID-19 while also fulfilling their mandates in rapidly changing environments, UN reports said.
The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is working to prevent the global pandemic COVID-19 from spreading in the country. Image credit: UNMISS
The Force Commanders overseeing "blue helmets" in Mali, South Sudan, and in the Golan, between Israel and Syria, briefed the UN Security Council during a virtual meeting held on Thursday.
These senior officials have taken appropriate measures and adapted, where necessary, taking into account their respective operational contexts and needs on the ground, the head of the UN’s Department of Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix told ambassadors.
“All of them have done so with the same commitment to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to achieve their vital peace and security work: from supporting political processes to observing a ceasefire, from protecting civilians to supporting capacity-building and national authorities”, he said.
No stepping back in Mali
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known by its French acronym, MINUSMA, has been coordinating with the government to ensure conformity with COVID-19 regulations.
Force Commander Dennis Gyllensporre reported that steps taken so far include enforcing a strict quarantine policy, prioritizing air operations, and limiting interaction with the public.
“Notwithstanding these measures, I have made it clear that this is not the time for the Force to take a step back”, he said.
While focusing on core tasks such as implementing a 2015 peace accord and protecting civilians, MINUSMA is moving to become more agile, for example, by deploying infantry units to key areas for a month at a time.
The mission continues to take action to protect peacekeepers from another threat: attacks. Last month, three blue helmets were killed and four injured when their convoy hit a roadside bomb in northern Mali.
“More proactive patrolling including night patrols and air operations around the camps have been implemented as well as support operations to combat convoy missions”, the Force Commander said.
Protecting civilians in South Sudan
Military contingents serving at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are faring well, despite a recent spike in inter-communal violence at the same time as the pandemic, according to their Force Commander,
Lieutenant General Shailesh Tinaikar, reported that in response to the pandemic, UNMISS has modified procedures to keep peacekeepers as safe as possible from the disease, in areas where their presence is required, such as at camps housing thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs).
The Force Commander outlined other ways UNMISS maintains its mandate, including through a “hub and spoke” approach to civilian protection.
The process sees peacekeepers deployed to conflict areas for up to three months at a time. They set up temporary “hubs” from which they conduct patrols to outlying areas, or “spokes”, in efforts to build confidence, deter violence and encourage displaced residents to return home.
“Most of these conflicts are complex in nature,” he explained.
“We do achieve success, we do save lives, but there is always a possibility if the inherent and the underlying issues which remain unresolved, if these are not addressed, this could come about once again in the future.”
Ongoing engagement in the Golan
While the pandemic has been a “significant challenge”, it has not affected mandate delivery in the Golan border area, the Acting Force Commander at the UN operation there, UNDOF, told the Council.
Brigadier General Maureen O’Brien reported that Israel and Syria are now lifting containment measures, and the UN Disengagement Observer Force is analyzing how civilians can safely enter its camps for projects.
“In Syria, curfew and inter-governorate travel restrictions have now been lifted which has allowed us to resume night patrols”, she said, while also expressing hope that inspections will recommence soon in the Israeli Occupied Golan.
Meanwhile, the Qunaytirah border crossing remains closed, though both sides have allowed passage of specialized personnel and medical equipment.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, engagement with the sides continues.
However, Brigadier General O’Brien underlined the difficulties of operating in what she described as “a complex and sensitive environment”, noting violations and attacks in UNDOF areas of operation.
#UN; #SaudiArabia; #UNOCHA; #HumanitarianCrisis, #Yeman; #Covid19Pandemic
New York, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): The United Nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia co-hosted a high-level virtual pledging event today for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, UNOCHA reports said.
Image credit: Facebook Page
Twenty-four million people – 80 per cent of the population – need aid and protection in Yemen. The humanitarian operation assists more than 10 million people every month. Without additional funds, however, life-saving programmes will soon be forced to reduce or close in the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
Speaking at the opening of the event, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock urged the world to do more to help the people of Yemen.
“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic,” said Mr. Lowcock.
“This is what more than five years of war have done to Yemen. The health system is in a state of collapse. COVID-19 comes on top of the many problems already facing Yemen – economic collapse, destroyed infrastructure, hunger, disease and displacement. Yemenis themselves say things are worse today than at any time in their recent history,” he added.
Mr. Lowcock stressed that so far this year, the world has offered less help than it did last year, noting that never have we had so little money for humanitarian action in Yemen this late in the year.
The event is being co-hosted by Mr. Lowcock and His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In opening remarks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres thanked the many Governments and representatives demonstrating their solidarity with the Yemeni people.
“More than five years of conflict have left Yemenis hanging on by a thread, their economy in tatters, their institutions facing near-collapse,” said the Secretary-General.
“Yemenis desperately need peace. Today is a day to demonstrate solidarity with some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world,” he added.
As part of the pledging event, international donors and aid organizations convened virtually to raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and announce pledges to address the dire needs in the country.
Aid agencies estimate they will need up to US$2.41 billion to cover essential aid from June until December in Yemen, including programmes to counter COVID-19. Unless significant funding is secured, more than 30 out of 41 major UN programmes in Yemen will close in the next few weeks.
A question-and-answer session with the media was also held with Mr. Lowcock and H.E. Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Advisor to the Royal Court and Supervisor General, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief). The media session was moderated by Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications at the UN.
#UNHCR; #Mali; #killings; #WesternNiger; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): More than a thousand people – a mix of refugees from Mali, displaced Niger nationals and local host communities – are on the run following a brutal attack by irregular armed elements on a site in western Niger on Sunday afternoon which killed three people and wounded others, UNHCR reports said.
This Malian refugee woman worked as an assistant midwife at a UNHCR-built health centre in Intikane in Niger’s Tahoua region after fleeing her country in 2012. © UNHCR/Boubacar Younoussa Siddo
Over 50 armed men on motorbikes had swarmed into Intikane, Tahoua region – some 72 kilometres from the Malian border – targeted and killed two Malian refugee leaders and a local host community leader. The site hosts some 20,000 refugees and an additional 15,000 displaced Niger nationals.
In addition to brutally killing the three men, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid items. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water station and pipes, cutting communication and the water supply to the displaced population and host communities.
Around 1,100 people have now arrived outside the town of Telemces, some 27 kilometres away from the attack site. They urgently need water, food and other assistance. National authorities and partners are on the ground, to receive and register them.
Sunday’s brutal assassinations shocked refugees, local communities and humanitarian workers. More attacks are now feared. Worsening insecurity in the region is driving people to look for safety to further inland in Niger.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, condemns the killings and call on all sides to respect civilian lives, bring those responsible to justice and make sure such heinous crimes do not repeat in the future.
We are working with partners and local authorities to provide immediate assistance, especially trucking in water with other relief supplies, as people could die of thirst in the desert heat. Water is also needed to help fight COVID19.
The past few months have seen a sharp increase in attacks in the Liptako Gourma region, where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger share borders, forcing people living in the area to flee.
Despite violent attacks and insecurity severely limiting humanitarian access to those in need of protection and assitance, UNHCR is stepping up its response in Niger, focusing especially on providing shelter, education and programmes to prevent and address sexual and gender-based violence.
Niger also continues to demonstrate its commitment to protecting people fleeing violence.
UNHCR renews its urgent call on warring parties in the Sahel to protect civilians, people forced to flee and communities hosting them, as civilians are bearing the brunt of increasing attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In the past couple of months, refugee camps in Burkina Faso have also been the target of attacks and incursion, forcing many to leave.