Israel’s destruction of Palestinian property, ‘not compatible’ with international humanitarian law, UN says
United Nations, July 22 (Canadian-Media): Following “with sadness” the Israeli authorities’ destruction of homes in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir, three top United Nations officials issued a statement on Monday underscoring that the move was “not compatible” with Israel’s “obligations under international humanitarian law”, UN Reports said.
The three-year-old girl in the photograph had been twice displaced with her family in the West Bank over the past year. (2018). Credit: UNRWA/Lara Jonasdottir
Israel’s Supreme Court has reportedly ruled that the houses were built too close to the separation barrier in the occupied West Bank, violating a construction ban.
“Among other things, the destruction of private property in occupied territory is only permissible where rendered absolutely necessary for military operations, which is not applicable”, said Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Gwyn Lewis, Director of West Bank Operations for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and James Heenan, Head of the UN Human Rights Office in the area.
“Furthermore”, the statement continued, “it results in forced evictions, and contributes to the risk of forcible transfer facing many Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.
The statement said that Israeli forces entered the community early on Monday morning, while it was still dark. The large-scale operation forced families out of their homes and demolished a number of residential buildings on the East Jerusalem side of the Barrier.
“Among those forcibly displaced or otherwise impacted are Palestine refugees, some of whom today are facing the reality of a second displacement in living memory”, the UN officials flagged.
They stated that while humanitarian partners are poised to provide emergency response to those displaced or otherwise affected by the destruction of their private property, “no amount of humanitarian assistance can replace a home or cover the massive financial losses sustained today by the owners”.
Several of the affected people report having invested their life savings in the properties, after securing the required building permits from the Palestinian Authority.
“What happened today in Sur Bahir is of even greater significance, as many other homes and structures now risk the same fate” said the senior UN officials.
Against international law
In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled against constructing the Israeli Barrier and found that the parts running inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – including the Sur Bahir homes – “cannot be justified by military exigencies and thus violates Israel’s obligations under international law”, said the statement.
Moreover, in a resolution of 20 July 2004, the UN General Assembly, demanded that Israel comply with its legal obligations as stated in the ICJ’s advisory opinion.
“Had there been concrete action to ensure respect for these principles, and for international humanitarian and human rights law, generally, the people of Sur Bahir would not be experiencing the trauma they are today, and violations of their rights”, the statement concluded.
In Mozambique, it’s ‘a matter of the heart’ says Guterres, lauding the cyclone-struck nation’s ‘undeniable moral authority’
New York, July 11 (Canadian-Media/UN): Arriving in Mozambique to express solidarity and see for himself the damage wrought by two back-to-back cyclones earlier this year, UN chief António Guterres on Thursday said “undeniable moral authority” lay with its people, who had borne the brunt of a disaster linked inexorably to climate change, and a warming world.
“For me, visiting Mozambique is a matter of the heart”, he told reporters after meeting President Filipe Nyusi, recalling previous trips as Portugal’s Prime Minister, as High Commissioner for Refugees, and now as Secretary-General, where he “always felt at home” among friends, “I would even say, among brothers.”
It was clear that Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which affected well over two million Mozambicans when they struck with deadly force last March and April, were natural disasters made worse by chaotic extremes of weather: “Despite that, Mozambique does not really contribute to global warming, but it is at the forefront of the victims of global warming”, said Mr. Guterres, who hours earlier, had received a warm welcome on the tarmac of the capital Maputo’s main airport.
Secretary-General António Guterres meeting with H.E. Mr. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique at the Office of the President in Maputo. Image Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
The international community must ‘double its efforts’
Mr. Guterres said the vulnerability of the impoverished southern African State gave its people “the right to demand strong solidarity and strong support from the international community both in response to the dramas created by the storms that plagued the country, and in preparing the country for the reconstruction and preparation for future situations.”
"More aid and more support will be needed from the international community in Mozambique to respond effectively," said António Guterres
UN agencies which have been leading the relief and recovery effort in support of the Government, consider the nation “an absolute priority”, he added. He praised the very effective organization thus far, and “the extraordinary courage” of the people.
With the initial relief and recovery effort now behind them, he said they were now “launching the reconstruction process with what is now called resilience, that is, the ability of communities to be armed to better withstand these catastrophes in the future.”
The UN would be “with the Mozambican people in all these phases. Naturally, asking the international community to support the people of Mozambique, and support Mozambique [to address the] scale of the problems of both response and reconstruction”, he added.
Less than half of the $3.2 billion requested by the Government at a recent pledging conference in Mozambique had been pledged, and a UN appeal for $280 million in aid was also “far from being fully funded.”
"More aid and more support will be needed from the international community in Mozambique to respond effectively”, said the UN chief. “And not just more support, but the swift implementation of that promised support. That is another crucial issue, regarding the solidarity of the international community. We must not only support, but support on time.”
President Nyusi commends UN solidarity
President Nyusi, in his remarks to reporters alongside the UN chief, thanked Mr Guterres and the UN, saying, they "were the first person and the first institution to join the Mozambicans”, in the aftermath of the natural disaster.
He highlighted the work of several UN agencies, and added that they "worked to save more lives and mitigate the suffering of Mozambicans."
The President also attributed some of the help the country has received, directly to the UN and Mr. Guterres, saying they were "a result of the appeals that the Secretary-General did personally, but also as an institution."
After Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, some displaced children in the city of Beira are having to study without a roof over their heads. Image Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Beira visit on Friday, the eye of the storm
Right upon arrival in Maputo on Thursday for his two-day visit, the UN Chief was warmly received with a military parade, traditional dances and the presentation of flowers by a group of children.
He has also participated in a meeting about fighting discrimination against persons with albinism. He heard directly from several experts and children living with albinism regarding the issues they have to deal with.
On Friday morning, the UN Secretary-General will visit Mozambique’s second-largest city, Beira, which was most affected by cyclone Idai. The UN estimates that 90% of all of Beira’s infrastructure has been damaged.
In the large coastal city, Mr. Guterres will meet local authorities, visit one of the affected schools, hold a meeting with people with disabilities, a women’s group and also visit a resettlement camp.
Speaking in Portuguese, the UN chief noted that "Mozambique almost does not contribute to global warming, but it is at the forefront of the victims of this global warming."
“This gives it the right to demand strong solidarity and strong support from the international community, both in the response to the traumas created by the storms that plagued the country and in preparing for the reconstruction and preparation for future situations”, he added.
‘Nothing left to go back for’: UN News hears extraordinary stories of loss, and survival as Mozambique rebuilds from deadly cyclones
New York, Jul 11 (Canadian-Media/UN): As UN Secretary-General António Guterres arrives in the southern African nation of Mozambique on Thursday for a two-day visit, he will be surveying the damage wrought by the deadly back-to-back cyclones earlier this year. UN News reports from the ground, on some of the extraordinary stories of loss, courage, survival and recovery, that have defined the months since then.
Macomia district, in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, has been hard-hit by Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall on 25 April. Image Credit: OCHA/Saviano Abreu
When the winds started blowing across Mozambique on the night of March 14, reaching a maximum speed of 195 kilometers per hour, the tin roof was the first thing to blow away at the home of the Mutizo family.
Inside the tiny coastal house, held together with pieces of plastic, cardboard, and bricks, 62-year Laurinda, her two adult children, Teresa and Ernesto, together with Teresa’s one-year old baby and the two teenagers the family adopted years ago, hugged and huddled together.
In a quick moment, Teresa’s hair salon, adjoining their house, simply flew away, she told UN News.
Moments later, it was Ernesto’s business shop, where the cyclone destroyed the copy machine and computer he had invested in, with the precious savings he had managed to put away, working as a barber.
The family hoped their remaining source of livelihood, the two little machambas where Laurinda grew rice, would survive, but in the morning, they found out that had been destroyed as well.
As the Mutizos realized their livelihoods had vanished, many other families came to the same conclusion. The deadly cyclones had left behind only debris where there had been businesses.
According to UN, Cyclone Idai affected 1.85 million people in the provinces of Inhambane, Manica, Tete, Zambézia and Sofala. In the bustling coastal city of Beira in particular, 90% of all the infrastructure was damaged.
Pledging conference falls short
Just six weeks later, as people struggled to recover, a second devastating monster storm - Cyclone Kenneth hit the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula, affecting more than 400,000 people.
Both cyclones were then followed by weeks of torrential rains. At one point, a UN humanitarian worker described the flooded area as “an inland ocean” that was as big as Luxembourg - about 125km by 25km across.
Mr. Guterres will begin his mission on Thursday by meeting President Filipe Nyusi, and receive updated briefings from UN agencies in the field, before visiting some of the affected areas.
Last month, the country hosted a donors’ conference, hoping to raise $3.2 billion to facilitate the reconstruction of the affected areas. International donors pledged only US$ 1.2 billion.
At the time, the UN Secretary-General stated that “this is the moment to translate into concrete gestures our solidarity with a country affected by one of the worst weather-related catastrophes in African history.” For him, the disaster “also warns us about the urgency of tackling climate change.”
After Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, schoolchildren in Beira, Mozambique, study in a damaged classroom, whose roof has largely been blown away. Image Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Resilience, and building back
In Mozambique’s second-largest city, Beira, one of the places Mr. Guterres will visit, is the School 25 de Junho. It’s in the neighbourhood where the Mutizos live, although now they sleep in crowded classrooms and eating meals distributed by UN agencies and partners, until they can patch up their damaged home, and move back.
The principal of this school is Frederico Francisco. The school now hosts about 5,000 children, aged five to around 14. Organized in three shifts, starting at 6am, boys and girls dressed in dark and light blue uniforms, fill classrooms which take up to 90 students.
“Before the cyclone, our priority was to build some bathrooms. We only have one toilet for boys and one for girls”, Mr. Francisco said this week. “But now the roofs are our main concern.”
The school has five different pavilions. One was completed last year, built by the community. Windows remain broken and the tin roofs have been blown away, with some pieces that got ripped off, which UN News observed was hanging over the students as they learn maths and sciences under the beating sun.
In the middle of the campus, one pavilion survived intact. It opened in February, one month before the cyclone, and was built by UN-Habitat, the urban development agency, with admirable consideration given to concerns for resilience to extreme climate events.
That’s where Ivanilda Samuel, 10 years old, is studying Portuguese, her favorite subject. She wishes her school had a new roof. But she’s also happy she was back in school after only two weeks. She said she was “very scared” during the cyclone and getting back in class, with all her friends, helped her not think of that night.
Back to life
As Ivanilda tried to get back to normal life, so have most Mozambicans. The Mutizos are preparing “bolinhos”, a fried butter pastry, which they sell on the street with other candy. Beira was cleaned up, with the help of more than 40 trucks made available by private companies. In the areas most affected by Idai, the distribution of emergency food is coming to an end, after a period of three months and some extensions. The same is happening at the end of July in the districts hit by Kenneth.
The World Food Programme (WFP) emergency coordinator for Idai, Peter Rodrigues, said the agency has reached about 1.6 million people so far. In the second phase of food distribution, which will last until next crop season, around March 2020, WFP will help “around 600,000 to 700,000 more vulnerable people”, at a cost of US$110 million.
Right now, all the temporary housing is being closed down. In Beira, there are around 46,000 people still living in 15 permanent resettlement camps. In the areas that have been badly affected by the second cyclone, there around 1,300 displaced in camps.
‘Nothing left to go back for’
Hortênsia Arnaldo Abreu Júlio, 26, and her three children are one of the families who are not going home. She lived in Mataquari, a neighborhood in Beira, but her house got completely destroyed. “I have nothing left to go back for”, she told us.
When the cyclone hit, she and her kids, ages 5 to 11, moved to her mother’s place. When that house became unsafe, they took refuge in her brother’s car for a couple of days. She then lived in a temporary shelter at a school and was then moved to one in a community center.
"I prayed for a house and a piece of land. A place where I and my sons could be safe," said cyclone survivor, Hortênsia Arnaldo Abreu Júlio
She says she “no longer had a way to find something to feed the children.” At these centers, she could “have something to feed them, at least a little bit of rice, flour, beans, something that we could eat.”
She was then given a permanent place to live in the Mandruzi camp, some 40 minutes north of Beira, along with some 375 other families. They live in tents given by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, International Organization for Migration, IOM, and other partners. Many come from villages that flood constantly and were deemed no longer safe to live in.
Hortênsia’s three children have started having classes again at the camp supported by the UN, but she worries it’s not “a permanent school”, where they’ll get a certificate for their studies and progress in classes. She shows us around, and her tent is perfectly organized, with a division in the middle, and clothes perfectly folded and organized in little piles: there are pots and pans by the entrance closer to the fire, which she lights a few times a day to cook the rice and beans she’s given.
Around the tent, she has been able to cultivate about a dozen different varieties of vegetable, in just a few short weeks. There are beans, sweet potatoes, onions, and she has even started harvesting some greens.
Dreaming of a house again
“A piece of land has always been my dream”, she says. She said she “cried a lot” after the cyclone, when her kids had to sleep with dozens of strangers in crowded rooms. “I prayed for a house and a piece of land. A place where I and my sons could be safe.”
At the camp, she started dreaming about a house again. She’s hoping for materials and then she would build it herself. It was also at the camp that she discovered she has the name of a flower, hydrangeas, and marveled at how pretty they are when shown pictures on a smartphone.
“Maybe one day I’ll plant them in front of my house”, she said. “Can you imagine, after all this, having a house and flowers? People wouldn’t believe it.”
#poverty; #environmentalgoals; #SDGs
New York, Jul 9 (Canadian-Media/UN): The global response to realizing poverty and environmental goals agreed by world leaders in 2015 has not been “ambitious enough” according to the UN Secretary-General.
Secretary-General António Guterres visited the low-lying island of Tuvalu in May 2019 to see how Pacific Ocean nations would be effected by the rise in sea levels Image credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
In his latest report on the progress towards meeting the targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, the UN chief António Guterres said that while a “wealth of action” had been taken by governments across the world “the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most.”
The 17 SDGs commit countries to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. Read more here about the goals.
The report tracks progress across 17 goals in the UN’s 193 Member States and largely takes a global view, however while many trends regarding the SDGs are common to all regions, there are significant regional differences. Here are six things you need to know about progress towards some of the key SDGs.
Launching the report at UN Headquarters on Tuesday, at the start of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) chief, Liu Zhenmin, said that the clock for taking decisive action on climate change is ticking. He stressed the importance of strengthening international cooperation and multilateral action.
“The challenges highlighted in this report are global problems that require global solutions,” said Mr. Liu. “Just as problems are interrelated, the solutions to poverty, inequality, climate change and other global challenges are also interlinked.”
A family left homeless by cyclone Aila wait for assistance in Koira, Khulna District, Bangladesh. Image Credit: UNICEF/Uddin
Described by Mr Guterres last year as an “existential threat” to humanity, the outlook for meeting targets to reduce climate change is grim. With rising greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is occurring at rates much faster than anticipated and “its effects are clearly felt world-wide.”
The target, and remember this was agreed by world leaders, is to keep the rate of global warming to below 2°C and, if possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The average global temperature is already 1°C above pre-industrial levels but if not enough is done then warming will continue at an unsustainable pace and could well exceed 3°C by the end of the century.
While there are positive steps in terms of individual countries developing climate plans and the increase in the amount of money being found to finance those activities, Mr Guterres said that “far more ambitious plans and accelerated action is needed” on climate mitigation and adaptation.
A displaced family sits in their tent in the Khamir IDP settlement in Yemen. The father, Ayoub Ali, is 25 years old and has four children with his wife Juma'a. Credit:OCHA/Giles
Extreme poverty, which the UN defines as a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, continues to decline but the decline has slowed to the extent that the world is not on track to achieve the target of less than three per cent of the world living in extreme poverty, by 2030. It’s more likely on current estimates to be around six per cent; that’s around 420 million people, a situation of “grave concern” according to the UN chief.
Violent conflicts and disasters have played a role here. In the Arab region, extreme poverty had previously been below three per cent. However, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen have raised the region’s poverty rate and left more people hungry and homeless.
Historically speaking, there are reasons for optimism. The share of the world population living in extreme poverty was 10 per cent in 2015, down from 16 per cent in 2010 and 36 per cent in 1990.
A mother feeds her malnourished son at an Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in the Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Image Credit: OCHA/Meridith Kohut
Hunger is on the rise again globally, with an estimated 821 million people undernourished in 2017, up from 784 million in 2015. So, one in nine people across the world are not getting enough to eat.
Africa remains the continent with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting one fifth of its population, that’s more than 256 million people. Public investment in agriculture is declining globally, a situation that needs to be reversed according to the Secretary-General. “Small-scale food producers and family farmers require much greater support and increased investment in infrastructure and technology for sustainable agriculture, is urgently needed.”
The developing world is most acutely affected by this lack of investment. The share of small-scale food producers in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America ranges from 40 per cent to 85 per cent, compared to less than 10 per cent in Europe.
Mothers at the maternity health center in the village of Nassian, in the north-east of Côte d'Ivoire wait to have their children vaccinated against tuberculosis and other diseases. (file March 2017). Image credit: UNICEF/Frank Dejongh
Major progress has been made in improving the health of millions of people, increasing life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality, and the fight against the most dangerous communicable diseases. Despite those improvements, an estimated 303,000 women around the world died due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2015, the majority in sub-Saharan Africa.
Progress has stalled or is not happening fast enough in addressing major diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, while at least half of the global population, that’s some 3.5 billion people, do not have access to essential health services.
Mr Guterres said that “concerted efforts are required to achieve universal health coverage, sustainable financing for health and to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases including mental health.”
In the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Rawan Majali commemorates the opening ceremony of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with her hand print pledge. Image credit: UN Women/Lauren Rooney
Gender violence persists. Globally, about a fifth of women aged 15 to 49, experienced physical or sexual partner-inflicted violence in the last 12 months. The prevalence is highest in the 47 poorest countries in the world, a group the UN calls the Least Developed Countries or LDCs.
While some indicators of gender equality are progressing, such as a significant decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation and early marriage, the overall numbers continue to be high. Moreover, insufficient progress on structural issues at the root of gender inequality, such as legal discrimination, unfair social norms and attitudes, decision making on sexual and reproductive issues and low levels of political participation, are undermining efforts to achieve targets.
The UN Secretary-General has said “there is simply no way that we can achieve the 17 SDGs without achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.”
Jobs and employment
Workers at an integrated youth development skills center in Delhi, India. Image Credit: World Bank/Enrico Fabian
Experts agrees that economic growth which includes all sections of society and which is sustainable, can drive progress and generate the means to implement the SDGs. Globally, labour productivity has increased and unemployment is back to levels seen before the financial crash of 2008, however, the global economy is growing at a slower rate. And young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.
Mr Guterres said that “more progress is needed to increase employment opportunities, particularly for young people, reduce informal employment and the gender pay gap, and promote safe and secure working environments to create decent work for all.”