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Human Rights Day: UN officials pledge to advance human dignity, equality and rights

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – Top United Nations officials on Monday urged everyone to raise their voices and stand up for the rights of others, while celebrating the launch of a year-long campaign on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Decalration of Human Rights during a special event at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Over seven decades, this mighty document has helped to profoundly change our world,” said Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday, at an event to commemorate Human Rights Day, observerd annually on 10 December.

“[The Universal Declaration of Human Rights] establishes the equality and dignity of every human being. It stipulates that every government has a duty to enable all people to enjoy their inalienable rights and freedoms. And it establishes that these rights are universal,” he added.

Mr. Guterres highlighted the progress achieved by humankind since the adoption of the Universal Declaratation, including advancing and protecting the rights of women, children and victims of discrimination as well as in holding accountable perpetrators of gross human rights violations and abuses.

However, he also called for taking a stock in areas where progress has not been achieved.

“In practice, recognition of the inherent dignity and equal rights of human beings is still far from universal,” he said, noting that millions around the world continue to suffer human rights violations and abuses. “And human rights defenders still face persecution, reprisals are rising and the space for civil society action is shrinking in very many nations,” added Mr. Guterres.

Underscoring the need for all sections of the society to “speak out and take a stand” for human rights, the UN chief announced his own pledge that he will respect the rights of others regardless of who they are, and will uphold their rights even when he disagrees with them.

“When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone’s rights are undermined, so I will stand up. I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights,” he committed.

Also speaking at the ceremony, Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the General Assembly highlighted that the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was not only a milestone for the General Assembly, but was also one for humanity.

“But [the Universal Declaration] did not create human rights. They existed before this. Not on paper - but in people. In fact, human rights are an inherent part of humanity. And they always will be,” he said, adding that while the rights can denied, they cannot be taken away – neither by law nor policy or action.

Recalling the efforts, that ultimately led to the adoption of the Universal Declaration in 1948, he called on everyone use the seminal document to inspire themselves and help protect and promote everyones’ human rights.

“Stand up taller – and speak up louder – for human rights,” he urged.

Also speaking today were Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; as well as Louise Arbour and Navi Pillay, former High Commissioners of Human Rights.

The campaign, which was officially launched yesterday by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at Palais de Chaillot in Paris on Sunday.

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UN honours 14 peacekeepers killed in eastern DR Congo

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Monday paid tribute to the Tanzanian peacekeepers killed on 7 December in the worst attack on UN 'blue helmets' in recent history.

At the ceremony in the north-east city of Beni, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC, David Gressly, encouraged the mission's military, police and civilian staff to continue their efforts to implement the operation's mandate, including the protection of civilians.

“We are determined to continue our work,” the Deputy Special Representative stressed.

“What is important now is to stay engaged [...] to protect civilians, especially towards Kamango,” Mr. Gressly told UN Radio Okapi referring to the road which passes by one of the UN peacekeeping base enroute to Kamango, on the eastern border of DRC and Uganda.

The bodies of the 14 blue helmets were repatriated to Tanzania later Monday. News reports suggest that the bodies were ceremoniously received in Dar es Salaam by Tanzanian defense and military officials.

In the wake of the incident, Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN Security Council condemned the deadly attack, with the UN chief expressing his “outrage and utter heartbreak.”

“These deliberate attacks against United Nations peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime,” said Mr. Guterres, urging the DRC authorities to investigate the incident and quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.

“There must be no impunity for such aggression, here or anywhere else,” he added.

Late Thursday night, a UN Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) Company Operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, in DRC's restive North Kivu province, was attacked by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements, resulting in protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.

According to the UN Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC), MONUSCO said on Sunday that 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed, 44 others were wounded and one peacekeeper remains missing. Earlier reports of 15 peacekeepers killed reflected uncertainty in accounting for personnel. Similarly, of three soldiers who were initially reported missing, two have since returned and one peacekeeper remains missing.

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Security tensions may have deepened rights violations in DPRK, Security Council told

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – People’s rights are reportedly violated in “almost every aspect” of their lives in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United Nations human rights chief warned Monday, stressing that security tensions on the Korean Peninsula should not negate concerns about the situation of ordinary people there.

“I regret that it is impossible for me to point to any significant improvement in the human rights situation […] Indeed, security tensions seem to have deepened the extremely serious human rights violations endured by the DPRK’s 25 million people,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the Security Council via video link from Paris.

He said that while his Office (OHCHR) struggles to paint the complete picture of the situation due to the lack of access to the DPRK, “escapees have reported to us extremely widespread violations of rights in almost every aspect of people’s lives.”

Those violations include widespread torture in detention centres, where it is used to extract information or confessions from people suspected of such activities as planning to leave the country or communicating with the outside world. Detainees work in mines or infrastructure projects in conditions of severe deprivation.

Moreover, there is absolute secrecy about people detained in the five political prison camps which are also reportedly operational, Mr. Zeid said, noting that OHCHR’s interviews with persons who have left the DPRK indicate that fear of being sent to these facilities is a powerful instrument of control.

Repatriated escapees are routinely subjected to multiple forms of torture and ill-treatment at detention centres, including beatings, forced labour, deprivation of food and healthcare and sexual violence. Women are subjected to invasive body searches that may amount to rape under international law.

Mr. Zeid also said that no progress has been made regarding cases of international abductions and enforced disappearances of foreign nationals.

“The people of the DPRK also face severe violations of their economic, social and cultural rights,” Mr. Zeid said, noting that they face chronic food insecurity, and pervasive corruption that is forcing even very poor people to frequently pay hefty bribes to enable their children to pursue primary or higher education, to engage in private business, and access healthcare.

Mr. Zeid said sanctions imposed by the Security Council on the DPRK may be adversely affecting the humanitarian assistance provided by UN agencies and others, which is literally a lifeline for some 13 million acutely vulnerable individuals in the country, asking the 15-member body to conduct an assessment of the human rights impact of sanctions, and minimize their adverse humanitarian consequences.

Above all, every effort must be made to ensure the Government of the DPRK makes urgent changes to the country’s laws and policies, to enable greater freedom and access to fundamental services and goods.

OHCHR is strengthening monitoring efforts by recruiting criminal law experts and establishing a repository of cases to be used in future prosecutions.

While there is debate whether it is adequate for the Council to discuss human rights issues, today’s meeting was OHCHR’s fourth briefing to the Council on the DPRK in as many years.

Also briefing the Council was Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, who recalled that in response to the accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile testing by the DPRK, the Council has strengthened its DPRK sanctions regime with three additional resolutions since the last briefing.

Citing the possibility that sanctions may have a detrimental impact on livelihoods and medical care, he encouraged all international and non-governmental organizations who are facing operational challenges to use the established process to inform or seek the necessary guidance or exemption from the DPRK sanctions regime.

This will help to remove ambiguity and provide reassurance for the relevant entities and partners to facilitate the work of such organizations in the DPRK, he said, urging the sanction’s regime to continue to expeditiously review these requests.

Mr. Jenca also urged all Member States to support the lifesaving activities in the country, as some $114 million are required to address the critical humanitarian needs in the DPRK.

He also called on financial institutions to exercise their corporate social responsibility and provide the lifesaving banking services for humanitarian organizations in the country. The channel would be sent to the Security Council for approval.

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Lift in global economy prompts opportunities to tackle deep-rooted development issues – UN

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – A three per cent upturn in the global economy has paved the way to readjust policy towards longer-term issues, such as addressing climate change, tackling existing inequalities and removing institutional obstacles to development, according to a new United Nations report on global economic prospects.

Launched in New York on Monday, among other things, the World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP ) 2018 offers policy imperatives that include tackling inequality and delinking economic growth from environmental degradation.

“The World Economic Situation and Prospects 2018 demonstrates that current macroeconomic conditions offer policy-makers greater scope to address some of the deep-rooted issues that continue to hamper progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” stated UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the Foreword.

According to the report, 2017 global economic growth had reached three per cent – its highest since 2011 – as crisis-related fragilities and the adverse effects of other recent shocks have subsided.

The improvement is widespread. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s countries have experienced stronger growth in 2017 than in the previous year, and movement is expected to remain steady at three per cent in 2018 and 2019.

Noting that the recent pickup in global growth stems predominantly from firmer growth in several developed economies, the report states that East and South Asia remain the world most dynamic regions.

Despite the improved short-term outlook, the global economy continues to face longer-term challenges, including trade policy changes and rising geopolitical tensions.

The report highlighted that the improved macroeconomic situation has opened a door for reorienting policies, including to increase economic diversification; reduce inequality; support long-term investment; and tackle institutional deficiencies. It noted that addressing these challenges can generate stronger investment and productivity, higher job creation and more sustainable medium-term economic growth.

Uneven Growth

However, the recent economic improvements have been unevenly distributed across countries and regions.

Through 2019, negligible per capita income growth is expected in several parts of Africa, Western Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean – underscoring the urgent need to foster an environment that will both accelerate medium-term growth prospects and tackle poverty through policies that address income and opportunity inequalities.

The report also found that – hindered by institutional deficiencies, inadequate basic infrastructure and greater exposure levels to natural disasters, along with challenges to security and political instability – very few least developed countries (LDCs ) are expected to reach the Sustainable Development Goal target for GDP growth of “at least 7 per cent” (SDG 8.1) in the near term.

In addition to mobilizing financial resources to meet LDC investment needs, policies must also focus on conflict prevention and removing barriers that continue to hinder more rapid progress.

After remaining flat for three consecutive years, preliminary estimates suggest that 2017 global energy-related CO2 emissions increased, according to WESP.

“While the upturn in global growth is a welcome sign of a healthier economy, it is important to remember that this may come at an environmental cost,” said Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin.

As the frequency of weather-related shocks continues to rise, the urgent need to build resilience against climate change and prioritize environmental protection is becoming more prevalent.

International shipping and aviation emission polices, which do not fall under the purview of the Paris Agreement, must be strengthened as their emissions continue to grow faster than those from road transport.

“This calls for stronger efforts to delink economic growth and environmental degradation – as also emphasized by the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn last month,” stressed Mr. Liu.

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On International Day, UN agency urges greater investment for sustainable agriculture in mountains

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – On International Mountain Day, the United Nations food security agency has called for greater focus on sustainable agriculture in highland regions around the globe to better respond to climate change impacts and migration challenges.

“Investing in sustainable agriculture in mountain regions is central to the response to climate and migration challenges as it promotes the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and reduces other root causes of migration such as rural poverty and food insecurity,” said Maria Helena Semedo, the Deputy Director-General at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a news release marking the International Day.

Across the world, some one billion mountain people – about 13 percent of the global population – are increasingly being impacted by the effects of climate change and climate-induced disasters. Furthermore, living in often geographically isolates areas and on the political and economic margins of their countries, they are more prone to hunger and poverty.

As mountain people become more vulnerable, migration to urban areas and abroad increases. Those who remain are often women, left to manage the farms but with little access to credit, training and land tenure rights, added FAO in the release.

In the release, the UN agency further noted that in an effort to address these challenges, some 60 countries and over 200 civil society organizations today pledged to strengthen mountain people's and their environments' resilience to climate change, hunger and migration as well as to bolster the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The commitments include reviews and updates by Governments to their development policies, integrating strategies and international development cooperation policies for sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation.

The pledge, made by members of the Mountain Partnership – an alliance founded in 2002 by Italy, Switzerland, FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and over 300 members from other Governments, and intergovernmental, civil society and private sector organizations – also includes a focus on raising awareness on the importance of sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation in all relevant international forums.

Recognizing the importance of mountain watersheds

Also in the news release, FAO announced the launch of its publication, Watershed Management in Action, which recognizes the role of well managed mountain watersheds in supplying freshwater to humankind and reducing the risk of natural disasters for downstream communities.

The publication presents lessons learned and recommendations based on a comparative review of 12 FAO-supported projects testing new watershed management approaches over the past decade in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ecuador, the Gambia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Tanzania and Zambia.

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Make digital world safer for children, increase online access to benefit most disadvantaged – UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – Governments and the private sector have not kept up with the game-changing pace of digital technologies, exposing children to new risks and harms – both on and offline – and leaving millions of the most disadvantaged behind, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Monday in a new report.

Pointing out that one in three Internet users worldwide is a child, the agency in its State of the World's Children 2017: Children in a Digital Worldreport, highlights digital divides and explores current debates about the impact of the Internet and social media on children's safety and well-being.

“For better and for worse, digital technology is now an irreversible fact of our lives,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “In a digital world, our dual challenge is how to mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits of the internet for every child.”

The report presents UNICEF's first comprehensive look at the various ways in which digital technology is affecting children's lives and life chances – identifying dangers as well as opportunities.

It argues that governments and the private sector have not kept up with the pace of change, leaving children exposed to new risks and harms, and leaving behind millions of the most disadvantaged children.

The report explores the benefits that digital technology can offer the most disadvantaged children, including by increasing their access to information; building skills for the digital workplace; and giving them a platform to connect and communicate their views.

The Internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people – and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures

“The Internet was designed for adults, but it is increasingly used by children and young people – and digital technology increasingly affects their lives and futures,” maintained Mr. Lake.

However, the report shows that millions of children are missing out. Around one third of the world's youth, or 346 million young people, are not online – exacerbating inequities and reducing children's ability to participate in an increasingly digital economy.

The report also examines how the internet increases children's vulnerability to risks and harms, including by misusing their private information, accessing harmful content, and cyberbullying.

The report notes that the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices has made online access for many children less supervised – and potentially more dangerous.

Moreover, digital networks, like the 'Dark Web' and cryptocurrencies, are enabling the worst forms of exploitation and abuse, such as trafficking and 'made to order' online child sexual abuse.

The report presents current data and analysis about: children's online usage; the impact of digital technology on their wellbeing; digital “addiction” and the possible effect of screen time on brain development.

According to the report, young people are the most connected age group. Worldwide, they have a 71 per cent presence online compared with 48 per cent of the total population.

However, African youth are the least connected, with around three out of five not online, compared to just one in 25 in Europe.

Approximately 56 per cent of all websites are in English and many children cannot find content they understand or that is culturally relevant.

It also reveals that more than nine in 10 child sexual abuse URLs are hosted in Canada, France, the Netherlands, the Russian Federation and the United States.

The report says that only collective action by governments, the private sector, families and children themselves can help level the digital playing field and make the internet safer and more accessible for children.

Practical recommendations include safeguarding children's privacy and identities online and

putting children at the centre of digital policy.

“Digital policies, practices, and products should better reflect children's needs, children's perspectives and children's voices,” Mr. Lake concluded.

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Intense violence in Syria's East Ghouta shutters schools, deprives children of medical care – UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 11 December 2017 – Five of the more than 130 children who require immediate medical evacuation have died as they could not access treatment they needed due to the continuing violence across Syria's eastern Ghouta, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has reported, adding that most schools are closed there.

Eastern Ghouta, about 10 kilometres outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, and one of the remaining besieged areas in the Middle Eastern country, is home to an estimated 400,000 people who have been almost completely cut off from humanitarian assistance since 2013.

“As violence continues to intensify in East Ghouta, thousands of children are suffering in silence,” said Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in Syria. “The situation is getting worse day by day. The health system is crumbling and schools have now been closed for almost a month. Sick children desperately need medical evacuation, and many thousands more are being denied the chance of a normal, peaceful childhood.”

One hundred and thirty-seven children, aged 7-months to 17-years, require immediate medical evacuation for conditions ranging from kidney failure to severe malnutrition and conflict related injuries.

On the last United Nations inter-agency aid convoy to Nashabieh town in eastern Ghouta on 29 November, UNICEF health workers described seeing one of the worst health and nutrition situations since the conflict began in Syria. A severely malnourished two-year-old boy was described as having an arm as thin as a little finger.

Nearly 12 per cent of children under 5 years-old in eastern Ghouta suffer from acute malnutrition – the highest rate ever recorded since the start of the conflict in Syria.

“Children are still living through so much horror,” said Mr. Equiza. “Now is the time for all sides to do the right thing and to stop the violence.”

UNICEF reiterates its calls for unimpeded, unconditional and sustained humanitarian access to all children in Syria, and urges all parties to the conflict and those who have influence on them to protect children at all times and to immediately allow the evacuation of the sick and wounded.

Violence has been escalating across Damascus and eastern Ghouta, with a significant increase in rockets and mortars landing in the Syrian capital in the last six weeks. Almost one in three school-age children in Syria - an estimated 1.75 million children, are currently out of school across the country and one third of schools are damaged or destroyed.

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DR Congo: Over a dozen UN peacekeepers killed in worst attack on 'blue helmets' in recent history

INTERNATIONAL, 10 December 2017 – At least 14 United Nations 'blue helmets' in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been killed and many more injured, in what the Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres described as the “worst attack” on UN peacekeepers in recent history.

Late Thursday, a MONUSCO (the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC) Company Operating Base at Semuliki in Beni territory, North Kivu, was attacked by suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements, resulting in a protracted fighting between the suspected armed group elements and MONUSCO and Armed Forces of the DRC, known by the French acronym, FARDC.

According to the UN Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC), MONUSCO advised on Sunday that 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed, 44 others were wounded and one peacekeeper remains missing. Earlier reports of 15 peacekeepers killed reflected uncertainty in accounting for personnel. Similarly, of three soldiers who were initially reported missing, two have since returned and only one peacekeeper remains missing.

These deliberate attacks against UN peacekeepers are unacceptable and constitute a war crime” said Secretary-General António Guterres, adding: “I condemn this attack unequivocally.”

Further, calling on the DRC authorities to investigate the incident and swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice, the UN chief stressed: “There must be no impunity for such assaults, here or anywhere else.”

In his remarks, he also said that the attack is another indication of the challenges faced by UN peacekeeping operations around the world and acknowledged the sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace.

“These brave women and men are putting their lives on the line every day across the world to serve peace and to protect civilians,” he noted, offering condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and a speedy recovery to those injured.

All of the peacekeeping troops killed in the brutal attack which reportedly lasted some three hours were from Tanzania. In addition, three members of the contingent are reported to be missing in action.

According to UNOCC Director Ian Sinclair, initial figures indicate that 53 peacekeepers been injured, of whom three critically, but the numbers could rise.

Members of the FARDC have also been killed and injured in the attack but numbers are yet to be confirmed, Mr. Sinclair told reporters at a news briefing at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

“Our reinforcements have arrived on the scene and a search is ongoing for the missing soldiers,” he said, noted that the wounded have been evacuated from the area, among whom some have been further evacuated to more advanced medical facilities in Goma, DRC.

“Further medical evacuation is possible for seriously injured,” he added.

Also Friday, in a strongly worded statement, the UN Security Council condemned the attack.

“There can be no impunity for such acts,” stressed the 15-member Council, calling upon the Government of the DRC to ensure that the perpetrators of such attacks are swiftly brought to justice.

In the statement, the Security Council also reiterated their full support to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC and to MONUSCO to fully implement their mandate.

The volatile North Kivu region, located in eastern DRC, has witnessed a number of attacks on UN peacekeeping forces. In October, two UN 'blue helmets' were killed and another 18 were injured their base was attacked by the ADF armed group.

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Not enough being done to shield civilians from violence in Somalia – UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 10 December 2017 – The armed conflict in Somalia continues to exact a heavy toll on civilians, damaging infrastructure and livelihoods, displacing millions of people, and impeding access to humanitarian relief for communities in need, according to a United Nations report launched today in the country's capital, Mogadishu.

“Ultimately, civilians are paying the price for failure to resolve Somalia's conflicts through political means,” said the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating. “And parties to the conflict are simply not doing enough to shield civilians from the violence. This is shameful.”

The report – “Protection of Civilians: Building the Foundation for Peace, Security and Human Rights in Somalia” – covers the period from 1 January 2016 to 14 October 2017, and was produced by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which Mr. Keating also heads.

During this reporting period, UNSOM documented a total of 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries, with 60 per cent of the casualties attributed to Al Shabaab militants, 13 per cent to clan militias, 11 per cent to State actors, including the army and the police, four per cent to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), and 12 per cent to unidentified or undetermined attackers.

Civilians were the victims of unlawful attacks – by being directly targeted and through the use of indiscriminate bomb and suicide attacks – by non-State groups. Such attacks, which are prohibited under international human rights and humanitarian laws, are, in most cases, likely to constitute war crimes, and it is imperative that perpetrators are identified and held accountable, the report notes.

Ultimately, civilians are paying the price for failure to resolve Somalia's conflicts through political means.UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia

The worst incident on a single day was the twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu on 14 October, attributed to Al-Shabaab by Somali government officials and in which at least 512 people are officially recorded to have died as of 1 December, along with 316 injured. The attack received widespread condemnation, including from UNSOM and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“This barbaric act was the deadliest attack with an improved explosive device in Somalia's history and surely one of the worst ever on the continent, if not the world,” said Special Representative Keating at the report's launch. “Sadly, its impact will be felt for a long time.”

A significant number of recorded civilian casualties – 251 killed and 343 injured – was attributed to clan militias, in areas where federal or state security forces are largely absent. “The drought has intensified clan conflict due to competition over resources. These conflicts are exploited by anti-government elements to further destabilize areas, diminish prospects for lasting peace and weaken civilian protection,” the report states.

Casualties attributed to State actors and AMISOM

It goes on to note that the number of casualties attributed to the Somali National Army and Police, as well as to AMISOM, was significantly smaller than those attributed to Al Shabaab militants.

“Nevertheless, such casualties are of utmost concern as they undermine the Somali population's trust in the Government and the international community, which in turn expands the space in which anti-government elements continue to operate,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

“While achieving the balance between human rights and security is challenging,” he added, “the respect of human rights and the protection of civilians are essential as the foundation of a strong, legitimate State that works for the benefit of all its people.”

Somalia's National Intelligence and Security Agency routinely disregards international human rights law when carrying out arrests and detentions, according to the report, which adds that journalists and people suspected of belonging to Al Shabaab are often detained without charge.

The report also flags that information on the conditions of people living under Al Shabaab control is scant. Verifying human rights violations and abuses in those areas remains problematic due to the lack of access and fear of reprisals.

Somalia has been plagued by armed violence for decades, as well as poverty, marginalization, natural hazards, insecurity and political instability. UNSOM is working with the East African country's authorities to support national reconciliation, provide strategic and policy advice on various aspects of peacebuilding and state-building, monitor and report on the human rights situation, and help coordinate the efforts of the international community.

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UN political chief, DPRK officials agree Korean Peninsula faces 'most tense and dangerous' situation

INTERNATIONAL, 9 December 2017 – In their meetings this week, the United Nations political chief and senior officials of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) shared the view that the Korean Peninsula faces the most tense and dangerous peace and security situation in the world.

According to a note to correspondents issued by the UN Spokesman's office, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited the East Asian country from 5 to 8 December 2017, and exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula with Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Pak Myong Guk.

The note said they “agreed that the current situation is the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today.”

During the visit, Mr. Feltman noted the urgent need to prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict, underlining that the international community is committed to the achievement of a peaceful solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. Feltman also emphasized the need for the full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions, and stressed that there can only be a diplomatic solution to the situation, achieved through a process of sincere dialogue.

Mr. Feltman also met with the United Nations Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, and visited UN project sites, including a children's foodstuff factory, TB prevention institute, breast tumour institute, and paediatric hospital. During the site visits, he learned about the UN's life-saving work on the ground as well as the challenges in procurement and funding gaps.

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