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UN chief announces trip to Central African Republic, where crisis is 'far from media spotlight'

INTERNATIONAL, 18 October 2017 – UN chief announces trip to Central African Republic, where crisis 'far from media spotlight'

Speaking to the press at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres announced that he will be travelling to the Central African Republic early next week.

The Secretary-General will be spending United Nations Day with the Organization's Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the country, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, to pay tribute to the work of peacekeepers around the world who show tremendous courage in volatile environments.

The trip, Mr. Guterres added will also draw attention to fragile situation in the country “that is often far from the media spotlight.”

Across the Central African Republic (CAR) there has been a recent increase in communal tensions leading to violence and a deterioration in the humanitarian situation.

Mr. Guterres stressed that more than 600,000 people have been displaced, and the number of refugees in neighbouring countries has surpassed 500,000. Humanitarian workers and UN peacekeepers have also come under attack and this year alone, 12 relief workers and an equal number of peacekeepers lost their lives in hostile acts.

The Secretary-General also told reporters that during the visit, he aims to give impetus to the new UN approach to addressing and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.

“We know that the good work and tremendous sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world has been tarnished by the appalling acts of some UN personnel who have harmed the people they were meant to serve,” he said.


UNICEF and partner agencies in South Sudan help reunite 5,000 children with families

INTERNATIONAL, 18 October 2017 – Since conflict broke out in South Sudan in 2013, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and other partners have successfully reunited more than 5,000 children with their families.

“Keeping families together is the best way to ensure that children are protected, which is why the family tracing and reunification process for unaccompanied children is so important,” said UNICEF Country Representative Mahimbo Mdoe in a press statement Wednesday.

“Children rely on their family for a sense of stability, protection and support, and that’s even more imperative in times of conflict,” he added.

The 5,000th child to be reunited with his family was a 17-year-old boy, who had fled Tombura in Western Equatoria and sought refuge in Wau, Western Bahr El Ghazal. The boy had been separated with his mother for almost four years.

“I want to go back to school and someday help other children who are suffering like me,” he said. According to UNICEF, the boy’s mother said: “When I ate, I always thought about what my son could be eating. I only ate to stay alive but I never enjoyed it. I have been unhappy because I have been thinking about my son’s whereabouts. It was hard to forget him because I didn’t see him dead and bury him.”

Reuniting separated children with their families is a challenging process in a country with virtually no infrastructure and no telephone reception in many areas. Staff often have to trek for hours to look for separated families.

Family separation is considered one of the key drivers to psychosocial stress for internally displaced persons and other affected populations. The longer a child is separated from her or his family, the more difficult it is to locate them and the more at risk a child is to violence, economic and sexual exploitation, abuse and potential trafficking.

“The family tracing and reunification programme is one of the most effective child protection in emergencies interventions in South Sudan,” said Save the Children Country Director Deirdre Keogh.

A total of 16,055 unaccompanied and separated children have been registered by the organisations involved in the family tracing and reunification programmes in South Sudan.

Efforts continue to trace the families of the more than 10,000 children still separated from their family or caregivers, so that they too can be reunited.


Yemen: Education under threat as conflict shuts schools, teachers not paid for a year, warns UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 18 October 2017 – The conflict in Yemen – now into its third year – continues to take a toll on millions of children, with their education now under threat, adding to an already long list of bitter hardships including malnutrition, displacement and violence, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has warned.

“As of July 2017, 1,600 schools have been partially or totally destroyed, and 170 have been used for military purposes or as shelter for displaced families,” said Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement today.

The violence has forced one in ten schools across the country to close, and textbooks and other school materials are in severely short supply, he added, noting that the beginning of the school year has been postponed several times from its usual September start.

Adding to the crisis is the fact that three-quarters of the teachers in Yemen have not been paid in nearly a year, compelling them to resort to extreme measures to survive.

One such case is that of Hassan Ghaleb, a teacher for the past 20 years and the sole breadwinner for his family of four, who was evicted from his home with his children.

He had to sell what was left of his furniture just to feed them and treat his sick sister.

“How can [they] teach if [they themselves are] in need?” questions UNICEF, noting that over 166,000 teachers across the war-torn country are in a similar situation.

The children of Yemen have suffered in ways that no human being should have to bear. Education is their only way to secure a better future

Lack of education and the protective environment provided by a school is not only robbing the children of some semblance of a normal childhood, it is also leaving them vulnerable to recruitment into fighting or early marriage.

“Ongoing humanitarian efforts are only a drop in the ocean of suffering that Yemen has become,” underscored Mr. Cappelaere, urging the parties to the conflict to protect schools, refrain from using schools for military purposes and work together to find an urgent solution to the salary crisis so that children can learn.

He also called on donors to step up their assistance and enable the payment of incentives to education personnel, health workers and other civil servants who deliver vital services for children.

“The children of Yemen have suffered in ways that no human being should have to bear. Education is their only way to secure a better future and to help put Yemen on the path to peace,” he said.


Libya: Smugglers holding refugees and migrants in deplorable conditions, say UN agencies

INTERNATIONAL, 17 October 2017 – After weeks of conflict in western Libya, United Nations agencies have been working around the clock to meet the urgent needs of the more than 14,000 refugees and migrants who had been held captive in numerous locations in the coastal city of Sabratha – approximately 80 kilometres west of Tripoli.

“The refugees and migrants were taken to a hangar in the Dahman area in Sabratha that has been serving as an assembly point since the onset of the crisis,” Andrej Mahecic, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters Tuesday at the regular press briefing in Geneva.

From the hangar in Sabratha – a main departure point for migrant boats attempting to journey across the Mediterranean to Europe – they are being transferred to official detention centres for humanitarian assistance by Libyan authorities, who estimate that an additional 6,000 migrants and refugees remain captive by smugglers. If confirmed, it would bring the total number of those held to 20,500 – including those in official detention centres.

“As a priority, UNHCR teams have been working on identifying refugees and they continue to advocate for their release. In some locations, UNHCR has provided tents that are being used as makeshift hospitals where UNHCR doctors are providing medical assistance,” said Mr. Mahecic.

“Colleagues on the front lines describe a picture of human suffering and abuse on a shocking scale,” he elaborated, noting that the rescued refugees and migrants are visibly traumatized – most of whom say they were subjected to numerous human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, forced labour and sexual exploitation.

He also pointed to “a worrying number of unaccompanied and separated children, many under the age of six,” saying that many of them report losing parents on the journey to Libya or in the chaos that resulted during the last few weeks.

While UNHCR is working very closely with the authorities to respond to the growing needs, the scale of the emergency has overwhelmed existing facilities and resources. Detention centres and assembly points are at full capacity and lack basic amenities, like water tanks and sanitation facilities. Many people, including children, have to sleep outside in the open.

“The devastation in Sabratha further reaffirms the need for international action and highlights the high price refugees have to pay to reach safety in the absence of safe legal pathways,” stressed Mr. Mahecic. “UNHCR will continue to call on resettlement countries and the international community to step forward and open more resettlement places and look for a way to protect vulnerable refugees who need international protection.”

For its part, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing support to those in Zuwara and the Sabratha assembly point in the form of core relief packages, which include mattresses, blankets, pillows and hygiene kits at six separate locations and more than 100,000 meals.

Pointing out that the migrants are from almost a dozen nations, IOM reported that out of 1,631 interviewed, 44 per cent wished to return to their countries of origin through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme. To this end, IOM has provided online consular sessions for 332 migrants to speed up the travel document issuance procedures.

The UN migration agency strongly advocates for alternatives to detention.

“We are concerned about the large number of migrants transferred to detention,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission, saying they are overcrowded and do not meet the minimum international human rights standards.

“We stand ready to provide any necessary support to the Libyan authorities in providing alternatives to detention, especially for the most vulnerable groups, including pregnant women and children,” he underscored.


UN report outlines path towards closing gender gap, realizing reproductive health rights

INTERNATIONAL, 17 October 2017 – Vast inequalities threaten economies, communities and nations, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and marginalization, the United Nations said on Tuesday in a new report that outlines 10 actions countries can take on the path towards equality.

The State of World Population 2017, a flagship report of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), notes that these inequalities are not simply a matter of wealth, but social, racial and political, and are all mutually reinforcing. The report says that around the world, gender amplifies these inequalities. Too many women and girls do not have access to sexual and reproductive health care, which means they are unable to receive family planning services or antenatal care, and may be forced to give birth in unsafe conditions.

Pressed into motherhood early, or repeatedly, these girls and women are more prone to maternal injuries, disabilities or even death. They are less able to finish their educations or enter the paid workforce, leaving their families poorer and their children with bleaker futures.

The report also warns that these inequalities could undermine the global goals on ending poverty, eliminating preventable deaths and achieving sustainability.

The report outlines 10 actions that countries can take to create a more equal world:

  1. Meet all commitments and obligations to human rights agreed in international treaties and conventions;
  2. Tear down barriers that prevent young women from accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services;
  3. Reach the poorest women with essential, life-saving antenatal and maternal health care;
  4. Meet all unmet need for family planning, prioritizing women in the poorest 40 per cent of households;
  5. Provide a universal social protection floor, offering basic income security and covering essential services, including maternity-related benefits and support;
  6. Bolster services, such as childcare, to enable women to enter or remain in the paid labour force;
  7. Adopt progressive policies aimed at accelerated income growth among the poorest 40 per cent, including through stepped-up human capital investments in girls and women;
  8. Eliminate obstacles to girls’ access to secondary and higher education, and to their enrolment in courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics;
  9. Accelerate the transition from informal jobs to formal, decent work – focusing first on sectors with large concentrations of poor, female workers – and unblock women’s access to credit and property ownership; and
  10. Work towards measuring all dimensions of inequality and how they influence each other, and strengthen links between data and public policy.

On International Day, UN chief urges action to address root causes of poverty

INTERNATIONAL, 17 October 2017 – Highlighting the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ensure a life of dignity for all, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for redoubling of efforts to eradicate poverty it in its entirety.

“This globally agreed agenda, pledges to secure a healthy planet and build peaceful and inclusive societies to ensure lives of dignity for all,” said the Secretary-General in a video message marking the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

“Its pledge to leave no one behind will require innovative approaches, partnerships and solutions.”

In particular, he called for addressing the root causes of poverty to eradicate it in its entirety, and in doing so to listen to the views and guidance of people living in poverty and acting together with them.

Despite progress to eliminate poverty, more than 800 million people around the world continue live in extreme poverty and many more are threatened by alarming rates of unemployment, insecurity, inequality, conflict as well as the effect of climate change.

Eliminating poverty, and alleviating the suffering and building resilience of those living in poverty is the target for Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

The Goal also aims to ensure social protection for the poor and vulnerable, increase access to basic services and support people harmed by climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the decision by the General Assembly, designating 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The theme for this year's commemoration is Answering the Call of October 17 to end poverty: A path toward peaceful and inclusive societies.

It recognizes the knowledge and courage of families living in poverty throughout the world, as well as the importance of reaching out to the poorest and building an alliance with citizens from all backgrounds to end poverty.


Secretary-General welcomes launch of new UN mission in Haiti

HAITI, 16 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterrs welcomed the establishment Monday of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), following the closure of its predecessor peacekeeping mission.

“MINUJUSTH reflects the commitment of the United Nations to continue supporting the consolidation of peace and promotion of stability in Haiti,” said a statement issued by Mr. Guterres’ Spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric.

The closure of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) is “a testament to Haiti’s progress over the past 13 years,” the statement said.

In the statement, the Secretary-General extended his gratitude to all civilian and uniformed personnel who served with MINUSTAH, as well as to troop and police contributing countries.

MINUJUSTH will assist the Haitian Government to strengthen rule of law institutions, further develop the capacities of the national police and advance human rights.

“The Secretary-General is confident that the Haitian people and Government will work in close partnership with MINUJUSTH and the United Nations country team, to implement together joint priorities based on [UN Security Council] resolution 2350 (2017) and reflected in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the statement said.


UN calls for global solidarity ahead of pledging conference on Rohingya refugee crisis

INTERNATIONAL, 16 October 2017 – Senior United Nations officials are urging the international community to come together in support of a 23 October pledging conference to “send a strong message to Rohingya refugees and their generous hosts in Bangladesh that the world is there for them in their greatest time of need.”

Since late August, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya trying to escape discrimination and persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, sparking theworld’s fastest-growing humanitarian emergency, according to the United Nations.

“We call on the international community to intensify efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the plight of the Rohingya, to end the desperate exodus, to support host communities and ensure the conditions that will allow for refugees’ eventual voluntary return in safety and dignity,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a joint statement Monday.

“The origins and, thus, the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar,” added the UN High Commission for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, the UN aid chief, Mark Lowcock, the Director General, of IOM, William Lacy Swing.

They underscored that Bangladesh has kept its borders open, offering safety and shelter to fleeing families.

“We have been moved by the welcome and generosity shown by the local communities towards the refugees,” the senior officials stated, while noting their respective agencies have been working in overdrive with the Government of Bangladesh, local charities, volunteers and non-governmental organizations to provide assistance. Still much more is urgently needed.

The refugees are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance for food, water, health and other essential needs as basic services are under severe strain and some sites lack access to potable water and sanitation facilities, raising health risks for both the refugees and the hosting communities.

“The efforts must be scaled up and expanded to receive and protect refugees and ensure they are provided with basic shelter and acceptable living conditions. Every day more vulnerable people arrive with very little – if anything – and settle either in overcrowded existing camps or extremely congested makeshift sites,” the statement continued.

It announced that the ministerial-level pledging conference, set to be held in Geneva on 23 October, organized by OCHA, IOM and UNHCR and co-hosted by the European Union and Kuwait, will provide Governments an opportunity to show their solidarity and share the burden and responsibility.

“Their further generous support for the Joint Response Plan, which was recently launched by the UN and partners, is urgently needed to sustain and scale up the large humanitarian effort already under way. The plan requires $434 million to meet the life-saving needs of all Rohingya refugees and their host communities – together an estimated 1.2 million people – for the difficult months to come,” added the statement.


General Assembly elects new members to UN Human Rights Council

INTERNATIONAL, 16 October 2017 – The General Assembly today elected, by secret ballot, 15 States to serve on the Human Rights Council, the highest intergovernmental body in the United Nations system for matters relating to protection and promotion of human rights worldwide.

Newly elected to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council are Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain and Ukraine.

All would serve three-year terms beginning on 1 January 2018.

The 15 new members were elected according to the following pattern: four seats for African States; four seats for Asia-Pacific States; three seats for Latin American and Caribbean States; two seats for Eastern European States; and two seats for Western European and other States.

On the basis of equitable geographical distribution, Council seats are allocated to the five regional groups as follows: African States, 13 seats; Asia-Pacific States, 13 seats; Eastern European States, six seats; Latin American and Caribbean States, eight seats; and Western European and other States, seven seats.

Created by the General Assembly in 2006, the 47-member Council is responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them.

Its meetings are held at the UN Office at Geneva, located at Palais des Nations, which used to house the League of Nations, until its dissolution in 1946.


Kicking off ‘Africa Week’ at UN, Guterres says women and youths can unleash continent’s potential

INTERNATIONAL, 16 October 2017 – Africa must focus on young people, empower women and girls, and be innovative in leveraging resources and financing for development, Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres said Monday as the United Nations kicked off Africa Week.

Africa Week is to raise awareness and mobilize support. I am convinced that, together, we can meet the challenges,” Mr. Guterres said in his remarks to the high-level inaugural event at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Secretary-General said the international community must change the way it looks at the African continent.

“Africa is a land of resilience, and above all, it is a land of opportunity,” he emphasized, highlighting the continent’s recent progress in reducing poverty, diversifying its economies, building the middle class and nurturing growth in a variety of sectors.

To further unleash such potential, he said, young people must play a central role as Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world.

“We can help make the most of this demographic dividend through greater investments in education, especially in science and technology and by ensuring to enable youth participation in economic development. People need skills that match the needs of today and tomorrow,” he said.

Empowering Africa’s women and girls is also crucial, as gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa tens of billions of dollars a year, like everywhere else in the world.

Another key is to be innovative in leveraging resources and financing for development, including tax reform by African countries themselves and international efforts to fight tax evasion, money laundering and the illicit financial flows that have depleted Africa’s resource base, he added.

Also addressing the inaugural event was UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who said that in the past, Africa was expected to listen, and accept the ideas and conditions of others.

“That era is over […] When it comes to its own development, Africa now has the most powerful voice of all. We need to listen to it, and learn from it,” he said.

Among other priorities, he stressed the importance of cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the UN, particularly in the area of sustainable development. The AU’s ‘Agenda 2063’ and the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both outline a sustainable future for the planet and the people.

“They must be implemented in complementarity,” he said, noting that better and more regular engagement between the two entities is necessary at all stages, including planning, implementation, financing and review.

The events during Africa Week centre around the theme: ‘Supporting an Integrated, Prosperous, People-Centred and Peaceful Africa: Towards the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’

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