United Nations, July 23 (Canadian-Media): The killing of a radio journalist in Afghanistan has been condemned by the head of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, who’s added her voice to calls to catch those responsible for the “gruesome crime”, UN reports said.
In a statement, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization condemned the murder of Nadershah Sahibzada in the city of Gardiz, 10 days ago.
Mr. Sahibzada presented an entertainment programme on local radio until he went missing. When his body was found, it showed signs of torture and stab wounds.
Ms. Azoulay said that she hoped that a successful criminal investigation would help stem future attacks on freedom of expression and on the media, “which have a major role to play in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and efforts to consolidate democracy and rule of law”.
According to UNESCO, 30 journalists have been killed so far this year.
United Nations, July 22 (Canadian-Media): The head of the UN body that oversees nuclear activities across the world has died aged 72, it was announced on Monday. In a statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the passing of Director General Yukiya Amano, with “deepest sadness,”UN
Mr. Amano, a Japanese national and head of the IAEA since 2009, had been due to step down next March amid reports of an unspecified illness.
UN chief António Guterres paid tribute, saying he was deeply saddened to hear the news of his death.
Through his stewardship of the IAEA, "Director-General Amano worked tirelessly to ensure that nuclear energy is used only for peaceful purposes. In leading IAEA in such an exemplary fashion, he advanced human well-being through efforts spanning medicine, agriculture and other vital areas" said the Secretary-General.
"Mr. Amano confronted serious global challenges, including those related to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with equanimity and determination. Our world is so much better for it", he continued. "I send my deepest condolences to his family and the staff of the IAEA. In mourning his tragic loss, we are also thankful for Mr. Amano’s distinguished service to his country and all humanity."
In a letter to the agency’s Board of Governors announcing his decision to resign, Mr. Amano wrote that over the past decade, IAEA had delivered “concrete results” to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, in line with its mandate.
“I am very proud of our achievements and grateful to Member States and Agency staff,” Mr. Amano said.
Among the many tributes to Mr. Amano, UN General Assembly President, María Fernanda Espinosa, said in an online post that his achievements would stand the test of time.
“Deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Mr. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” she tweeted. “Mr. Amano worked tirelessly to promote a safer, denuclearised world. His legacy will not be forgotten. My condolences to his family and all IAEA staff.”
Echoing that message, José Graziano da Silva, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO), underlined how the two agencies had worked together to tackle global food insecurity.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Yukiya Amano…Over the past 50 years, the @FAO/IAEA Joint Division has worked in the peaceful application of nuclear science & technology for more, better&safer food while sustaining natural resources,” Mr. da Silva tweeted.
When asked to explain the work of the IAEA and its mandate, “Atoms for Peace”, Mr. Amano said that in addition to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons by overseeing nuclear verification regimes involving Iran, for instance, the agency also helps countries use atomic science and technology for the overall good of humanity. For example, to produce more food, generate more electricity, treat cancer and respond to climate change.
The IAEA played “a much bigger role in our daily lives than most people realize”, Mr. Amano insisted, pointing out that radiation was routinely used to treat microchips and batteries in smartphones, car tyres and electrical cables used in the home.
On other practical levels, Mr. Amano noted that the IAEA’s expertise was used to track the spread of pollutants and biotoxins in the seas and oceans that pose a threat to fish and shellfish - key sources of food for millions of people.
With the help of the IAEA, countries “can take the necessary measures to protect fish stocks and consumers”, he told the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in May 2018. All of these are routinely treated with radiation, Mr. Amano said.
Nuclear techniques are also used in plant breeding, soil and water management, and crop nutrition, the IAEA Director General continued, helping to improve food security.
In particular, the IAEA helps countries to develop and grow new varieties – and higher yields - of crops such as rice and barley, which are also more resistant to drought and disease.
Farmers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam had boosted rice production in recent years, Mr. Amano said, despite harsh conditions.
“By applying radiation in the laboratory, scientists accelerate the spontaneous mutation process that occurs in nature all the time,” Mr. Amano explained. “They can develop new varieties of crops with desirable characteristics very quickly. This does not involve genetic modification of the plants.”
United Nations, July 22 (Canadian-Media): The United Kingdom is to send a contingent of 250 troops to Mali next year, to support the UN’s peacekeeping operation in the country, MINUSMA, UN reports said.
Guinean blue helmet in Mali. Credit: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko
A statement, released via the UK Ministry of Defence website on Monday, said that the soldiers were being deployed in recognition of increased instability in the Sahel region of North Africa, with the aim of delivering “long-term and sustainable peace in Mali”.
The troops, who will be based in Gao, eastern Mali, will address a “key capability gap for the UN Mission”, according to the statement, and will join an international contingent of over 15,000 military and police personnel, for an initial period of three years.
The new UK contribution to the mission will form a long-range reconnaissance capability, providing greater awareness of possible threats and contributing to the protection of civilians.
In a video released by MINUSMA on Monday, the UK’s Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, said that the UK will not put any caveats on the use of the troops by the Mission, and that they will “have an effect on the ground”, building resilience and rapport with communities, and combatting security threats.
The Government statement explains that the soldiers will support the UN’s mandate in Mali, which includes human security issues, such as operating within a zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence and supporting the rights of women and children.
In a briefing delivered to the UN Security Council on July 10, the Force Commander of MINUSMA, Lieutenant-General Dennis Gyllenspore, said that the Mission has suffered many troop losses due to “frequent, direct and complex attacks on our bases”, adding that his forces need to find different and new ways to operate, become more agile and unpredictable, and react faster.
Speaking on the same day, at a counter-terrorism conference in Kenya, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, expressed solidarity with victims of extremist attacks in Africa, amid ongoing attacks by armed militants, and a deteriorating security situation in Mali and other countries in the Sahel.
United Nations, July 21 (Canadian-Media): The UN deputy chief issued an impassioned plea on Sunday for Afghans to reconcile with the past and put “women at the centre” of all efforts to forge a durable peace, and a truly inclusive political process where women’s voices are truly heard, UN reports said.
United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed, (left) meeting Afghanistan's First Lady Rula Ghani in Kabul. (20th July 2019). Credit: Fardin Waezi / UNAMA
Amina Mohammed was speaking to reporters in the capital Kabul, after leading an all-women delegation of top UN officials for an intensive two-day “solidarity mission”, focussed on women, peace and security. She was joined by UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, and the head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed (Center -left) during a meeting with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani (center-right) in Kabul. (20th July 2019). Credit: Fardin Waezi / UNAMA
The Deputy Secretary-General said they had come ahead of the key presidential election, due to take place at the end of September, but also to lend their support for a peace process “which is integral to the future, and the sustainability of all the efforts and aspirations, the Government and people of Afghanistan have.”
Only a few days ago, a bomb attack just outside Kabul University, reportedly killed 10 people - students and a traffic officer - and wounded 33 others, while Taliban militants reportedly detonated a bomb outside police headquarters in Kandahar city, killing 11 and wounding nearly 90. Despite the on-going violence, Afghan political leaders held ground-breaking talks in Qatar earlier this week with Taliban representatives, with both sides calling for a reduction in civilian casualties.
“At the end of two days we have been impressed with the leadership at all levels of government from Kabul out to the local areas, where you see that there is an investment in people, in particular in women’s empowerment’, said Ms. Mohammed.
The high-level UN delegation held meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday, and also met a diverse group of women, hosted by Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani. They also met religious leaders, who have a crucial role to play in bolstering the peace process.
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed (right) speaks to deminers during a visit to demining site in Bamyan, Afghanistan. (21 July 2019). Credit: Fardin Waezi / UNAMA
On Sunday, the delegation travelled outside Kabul to the province of Bamyan, where UNFPA is running a series of support programmes and services for women of reproductive age and families, as well as tackling gender based violence (GBV). They also visited a UN demining site, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Buddhas of Bamyan, which were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, which ruled the country until the allied invasion later that year.
The deputy chief said her face-to-face conversations with Afghan women during the mission had left her with no doubt that women are “in leadership roles, decision making, they know exactly where they want to go - and what they need from us is support”, she told reporters.
“We have heard from them many messages: on the elections, that they must be credible, they must be timely, they must be inclusive, and their voices must be heard."
“On the peace process”, she continued, it had to be inclusive: “And inclusive means women at the centre”, especially when it comes to addressing the needs of victims of violence.
“You cannot address peace and its sustainability, if you cannot come to terms with reconciling the past. So this has been an incredibly important opportunity for us”, said the Deputy Secretary-General, noting that during the trip they had also been gratified to see “the gains of the investments that have been made by the UN system and its partners over the years.”
We'll back Afghan women 'at every step' - UN Women chief
The head of UN Women said that she had been struck by talking to women who had lived with the “oppressive legacy of the Taliban’s rule – which banned them from attending school, work or even speaking publicly or leaving the house without a man.”
“These same women have consistently and courageously advocated for their voices to be heard, their priorities to be addressed and their agency to be recognized”, said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “And they do not stand alone, because UN Women and the UN, are here to back them up at every step.”
She said that as the momentum builds for peace talks with the Taliban, “ensuring women’s meaningful participation in the peace and reconciliation process and in the upcoming elections is more urgent than ever. Women must be able to exercise their right to define what peace means for them, and to have a seat at the table where the future of the country is being negotiated”, said the Executive Director. “Only then we will really see durable peace and democracy flourish in Afghanistan.”
UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed (3rd right) visits the Aga Khan Hospital in Bamyan, alongside UNFPA chief Natalia Kanem (centre). (21 Juy 2019). Credit: Fardin Waezi / UNAMA
‘Collective responsibility’ to end gender-based violence: UNFPA
In Bamyan, around half of the women who give birth, still deliver at home without any skilled birth attendant. GBV is a critical concern in the province, with around 20% of women experiencing some form of domestic violence, said UNFPA.
The agency runs a network of Family Protection Centres together with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, within main hospital and health facilities. They also support more than 100 Family Health Houses, providing essential reproductive, maternal and child health services to around 300,000 living in under-served areas.
UNFPA chief, Natalia Kanem, said that “ending sexual and gender-based violence is our collective responsibility. It not only affects a woman’s dignity, health and wellbeing, but prevents her from participating actively in her community and contributing to peace.”
The agency, she added, “is on the frontlines of this battle in Afghanistan, and indeed around the world, leading the UN system’s response on the ground. If we stand united in our pursuit of gender equality, human rights and justice, we can prevent this scourge one person, one community, one country at a time.”
“Despite tremendous suffering, the resilience of the women and girls I met on this visit gave me hope for the future of Afghanistan”, said Ms. Kanem. UNFPA is “dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Afghan women, laying the foundation for a life of choice and equality. We are making progress, but there is still a long way to go.”
“Only when women are safe and empowered to make decisions over their bodies and lives”, she noted, “will the country be able to achieve sustainable development and peace.”
United Nations, July 19 (Canadian-Media): With Yemen once again at a “crucial moment” the UN Special Envoy trying to facilitate peace there told Security Council members on Thursday that despite the dangers of being over optimistic, he could not help thinking the country could finally be “nearing the end of its war.”
“It was not me, but a very senior and wise official in the region who recently said that this war can end this year”, said Martin Griffiths. “I take that as an instruction”, he added, pointing to recent positive meetings with the leadership of both the pro-Government coalition, and the Houthi rebel movement who had expressed “unanimous desire” to move towards a political solution “and to see it quickly”.
He said progress over implementing December’s Stockholm Agreement which provided a framework in and around the crucial port city of Hudaydah was crucial, and praised the work of General Michael Lollesgaard who leads the UN monitoring mission there, UNMHA, for the “important breakthrough” recently over operational details agreed with the warring parties.
“My hope is that Hudaydah may finally allow us to focus on the political process before the end of this summer. Yemen has no time to waste”, said the Special Envoy. Although the ceasefire continues to broadly hold, he said he was concerned about other frontlines, especially continued Houthi attacks on civilian infrastructure across the Saudi border.
Without making specific references, Mr. Griffiths noted the dangers of Yemen being “dragged into a regional war”, following weeks of tension in the key shipping lanes of the Gulf. “Yemeni parties should desist from any actions that take Yemen in that direction. We need to prevent this to reduce regional tensions and save lives. We have to see de-escalation of the violence now.”
‘Agreement within reach’ on full resumption of food aid: Beasley
Agreement over the full resumption of food aid to some Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen is “within reach”, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) told Council members, following his reluctant and agonizing decision to suspend some aid last month.
David Beasley said the suspension - which was due to the persistent diversion by some Houthi leaders of emergency food supplies away from its intended civilian beneficiaries – had begun around the capital, but despite that, the overall number of people being reached had gone up from 10.6 to 11.3 million, “and we are continuing to scale up.”
“I am hopeful that we can use this positive momentum to resolve these outstanding issues in the coming days, if not hours”, he said. “That is what the people of Yemen deserve and demand of us.” Calling for WFP’s lifesaving work to be depoliticized by Yemen's leaders, he said humanitarian law protected the “neutral, impartial and independent” delivery of essential items.
Despite the limited food suspension (supplies have continued for those most in need), Mr. Beasley said that the “real story has been – and should continue to be – the humanitarian catastrophe that continues to unfold in Yemen.”
He noted that to keep reaching the most vulnerable, WFP needs $1.2 billion over the next months, but current funding stands at less than half that.
“Continue to be generous with your contributions. And for those who have made pledges - make good on them. But I must say, we are reaching the point where no amount of money in the world will truly alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people”, he said, adding that “we are fast approaching those limits.”
Security Council calls ‘have not been heeded’ laments Lowcock
Council demands for Yemen’s warring parties to respect international humanitarian law, provide unhindered access to civilians and more funding to provide lifesaving services, “have not been heeded” said UN relief chief, Mark Lowcock.
With 30 active frontlines across the country, both sides have continued fighting and the Humanitarian Coordinator and head of OCHA, said his months-long call for a nationwide ceasefire was more needed now than ever.
Access to civilians and interference in the aid effort went far beyond the food diversions cited by WFP, he said, noting delays, denials of passage, and the withholding of vital permits by both sides, all of which was putting lives at risk. “Although access challenges are pervasive, they are not stopping the world’s largest aid operation”, he added.
Addressing the Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen where donors pledged $2.6 billion in February, Mr. Lowcock said that although the majority of donors had paid more than 75 per cent of their pledges, there was still a long way to go, with only 34 per cent of the promised amount reach so far.
“Those who have made the largest pledges – Yemen’s neighbours in the Coalition – have so far paid only a modest proportion of what they promised.” The consequences of that, were that cuts would have to be made to the UN’s humanitarian effort, he told Council members.
“Agencies are starting to suspend some regular vaccination campaigns targeting 13 million people, including 200,000 infants. Work on 30 new feeding centres in areas with the worst levels of hunger has also been halted. Up to 60 existing centres could close in the coming weeks, putting at least 7,000 malnourished children at immediate risk of death”, the relief chief said, citing further examples.
“In the next two months, UN agencies expect to close 21 more key programmes. In August”, he added, noting that the fight against cholera was now in retreat. Having cut cases of the deadly disease by more than half last year from around a million in 2017, “those gains have now been lost”.
“So far this year, nearly 500,000 cases of cholera have been reported. We have received reports so far of more than 700 deaths as a result, including more than 200 children. The death toll will surely grow.”
United Nations, July 19 (CAnadian-Media): After 80 days of intensifying attacks, many on health facilities, “the carnage must stop” in northwest Syria, said the UN relief chief on Thursday, noting that more than 70 civilians had been killed this month alone across the last rebel-held enclave of the country.
“People around the world have watched in horror as war planes and artillery shelling kill and injure civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure. In the last 80 days we have seen more than 350 civilians killed, many more injured, and 330,000 people displaced”, said Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of OCHA.
Last September, in an effort to stave off a humanitarian disaster in and around Idlib, a deconfliction zone was established through a Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and Turkey, which separated pro-Government forces and militant opposition fighters.
But in the last three months, fighting has intensified again as extremists have become the dominant force within the rebel coalition, and the Government appears determined to recapture all territory lost during more than eight years of brutal conflict.
Since 1 July, at least six health facilities, five schools, three water stations, two bakeries, and one ambulance have been damaged or destroyed”, said Mr. Lowcock in a statement, after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors.
Entire villages have been destroyed and emptied. On 16 July we received reports of an attack on the main market street of Ma’ar Shureen village leaving 12 people dead, including a child, and 20 more injured. The carnage must stop”, he said.
He noted with particular concern, an attack on 10 July on Ma’arat National Hospital, which was carried out despite its coordinates and location being well known.
“Referrals from throughout the region stream into the hospital, and it manages as many as 20,000 cases a month. There were reportedly 250 people in the hospital when the attack took place, including many requiring emergency care. The hospital has now resumed functioning. I call again for it to be protected”, he said.
The relief chief condemned “the unjustified and unwarranted brutality that civilians are being forced to endure in Idleb”, noting that OCHA had significantly scaled up humanitarian cross-border operations “to ease the suffering and meet the needs of the population, particularly for the over 330,000 people who have fled to the northern part of Idleb during the current fighting.”
However, he warned that delivering humanitarian assistance in areas where military operations were ongoing “is difficult, and sometimes impossible”.
Mr. Lowcock called on all involved in the fighting to:
* End the killing of civilians and destruction of civilian infrastructure.
* Respect, and investigate breaches of, international humanitarian law.
* And finally, ensure access to areas currently inaccessible to humanitarian assistance.
United Nations, July 14 (Canadian-Media/UN): UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the terrorist attack that took place on July 12 in southern Somalia.
In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Guterres expressed his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the attack and wished a swift recovery to the injured.
Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at the Security Council/Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
The attack took place in the port city of Kismayo where, according to media reports, a suicide bomber drove a car containing explosives into the Asasey hotel. Gunmen then stormed the building.
The terror group al-Shabab has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, which is believed to have led to the deaths of at least 26 people, making it the worst to hit Kismayo since al-Shabab was forced out of the city in 2012.
The killings took place around 4 months after al-Shabab set off two car bombs in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, reportedly killing more than 20 people, and injuring scores more.
The Secretary-General reaffirmed the support and solidarity of the United Nations with the people of Somalia in their pursuit of a peaceful future.
#power-sharingdeal; #ForcesforFreedomandChange; #Sudan’srulingmilitarycouncil;
United Nations, Jul 5 (Canadian-Media): UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday he was “encouraged” by reports of a newly-inked power-sharing deal between the Forces for Freedom and Change – a coalition of opposition and protest groups – and Sudan’s ruling military council.
Protesters gather in front of the headquarters of the Sudanese army in the capital, Khartoum. (11 April 2019)/Credit: Masarib/Ahmed Bahhar
The two sides have reportedly agreed to share power for three years, and then hold elections for a return to full civilian government. Mr. Guterres welcomed the decision to establish transitional governing bodies, and congratulated the African Union, Ethiopia and the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), for their role in mediating the talks.
News of the deal reportedly brought thousands of people onto the streets to celebrate and raised hopes that a peaceful transition of power can take place, following months of turmoil since December’s civilian revolt began.
The Secretary-General, said a statement from his Spokesperson, is now encouraging all stakeholders to “ensure the timely, inclusive, and transparent implementation of the agreement and resolve any outstanding issues through dialogue.”
The statement also noted that Mr. Guterres welcomes the parties' commitment to conducting an independent investigation into the violence perpetrated against peaceful protesters, including the events on 3 June, when security forces and militia fired on pro-democracy protesters in the capital Khartoum, leaving dozens dead and many more injured.
The UN chief expressed his solidarity with the people of Sudan, and reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to assist in the transition process.
Following a series of strikes and protests early in the year, long-time dictator Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by his top generals in April. Hopes were high that the military and opposition could reach a deal, but since the military-led violence of 3 April, talks were at an impasse until the latest round of negotiations began in the capital Khartoum earlier this week.
Just last Sunday, there were nationwide demonstrations demanding the transfer of power to civilian hands, in which at least seven were reportedly killed, with more than 180 injured.
On Wednesday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Sudanese authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and launch independent investigations into all acts of violence against demonstrators, and allegations of excessive force, including attacks on hospitals. Ms. Bachelet said her office had received numerous allegations that excessive force had been used by security forces against protestors.
#Kabul; #bombAttack; #UNICEF; #UNAMA
Kabul, Jul 1 (Canadian-Media): Scores of children were among the casualties following a bomb attack on a Government building in the Afghan capital of Kabul today, that hit nearby schools. The bombing was described by Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, as “horrific.”
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), addresses the Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict. July 9, 2018/UN Photo/Loey Felipe
“The deadly blast that hit the Afghan capital Kabul during rush hour today did not spare children during one of their most mundane and important routines”, she said, “being at school.”
According to news reports, three people died and more than 90 were injured, when a huge car bomb was detonated by militants, who then stormed the building, leading to a gun battle that lasts seven hours.
Ms. Fore added that schools should be havens of peace, and the violence in or around schools is never acceptable. However, the head of UNICEF said that the security situation in Afghanistan, which was “already dire”, has recently deteriorated, and that the “violence, which keeps blighting futures and claiming young lives, must end.”
UNICEF, she continued, renews its call to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to end the violence and to protect children at all times. Generations of Afghan children, she said, have known nothing but war. “It is more than time that they enjoyed a life free of violence and conflict.”
The UN Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, responded with a Tweet, declaring that the UN was “appalled” by the bomb attack, and “demands an end to indiscriminate blasts in civilian areas”.
The attack comes just days after UNICEF pointed out that children in conflict zones such as Afghanistan are being denied a safe place to learn, during the promotion of the ‘Safe Schools Declaration”, a political commitment to better protect students, teachers, schools and universities during war and to allow young people to continue their education.