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Stalled Security Council resolution adopted, backing UN’s global humanitarian ceasefire call

INTERNATIONAL, 1 July 2020, Peace and Security - The Security Council on Wednesday echoed the Secretary-General’s call for a worldwide ceasefire, to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed more than half a million lives. The UN chief welcomed the long-awaited move, calling for countries to "redouble their efforts for peace".

Unanimously adopting resolution 2532 (2020) on Wednesday, the 15-member peace and security body demanded “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations, on its agenda.”

It also voiced its support for efforts by Secretary-General António Guterres – who first appealed for a global ceasefire on 23 March – towards that goal.

Endangering peace

The unprecedented extent of the novel coronavirus pandemic “is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security”, it said, adding that it could also set back peacebuilding and development gains in countries emerging from conflict.

The two-page resolution – drafted by France and Tunisia - was adopted 111 days after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic.

“It is a very strong signal of unity (within) the Council and a sign of hope that we send from the Security Council out into the world”, said Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

He announced the 15-in-favour vote on the first day of his country’s Council presidency.

‘Durable humanitarian pause’

Through the resolution, the Council called upon all parties to armed conflicts to immediately engage in a “durable humanitarian pause” of at least 90 days, to enable the safe, unhindered and sustained delivery of lifesaving aid.

It affirmed, however, that no ceasefire would apply for ongoing military operations against the extremist group ISIL, otherwise known as Da’esh, Al Qaeda, the Al Nusra Front and other Council-designated terrorist groups.

It requested the Secretary-General to instruct the United Nations’ 13 peacekeeping missions to support host country efforts to contain the coronavirus, and to provide updates on UN efforts to address the pandemic in conflict zones and humanitarian crisis areas.

Guterres welcomes resolution

On Wednesday afternoon, UN chief António Guterres welcomed the adoption, “and the Council’s recognition of his efforts to respond to the crisis, in particular his appeal for a global ceasefire”, according to a note issued to correspondents in New York.

 “The adoption of this resolution will send an important signal to conflict parties and may help change calculations on the ground.

 “The Secretary-General continues to urge individual Member States to redouble their efforts for peace in the conflicts in which they have influence”, the statement continued. “He looks forward to working with all stakeholders to advance efforts towards concrete ceasefires and durable peace.”

 

Wednesday’s resolution makes no mention of the World Health Organization (WHO) which according to news reports was a bone of contention during lengthy negotiations on the text, notably between China and the United States, which announced its withdrawal from the UN health agency in April.

More to come on COVID

In its latest situation report, the WHO on Tuesday put the worldwide total of COVID-19 cases at 10,185,374, with 503,862 deaths.  Hardest hit are the Americas with 5,136,705 cases and 247,129 deaths.

Security Council resolutions are currently adopted through a written procedure vote under special temporary measures put into place by its members in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council is planning an open video-teleconference on Thursday on the implications of COVID-19 on the maintenance of international peace and security. 

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‘Long, hard road ahead’ for countries taking piecemeal approach to COVID

INTERNATIONAL, 1 July 2020, Health - The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that some nations battling the COVID-19 pandemic who have been taking a “fragmented approach” to suppressing the deadly virus, “face a long, hard road ahead.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the regular coronavirus press briefing at WHO headquarters in Geneva, that “flare-ups are to be expected as countries start to lift restrictions.”

But he noted that countries with “systems in place to apply a comprehensive approach, should be able to contain these flare-ups locally, and avoid reintroducing widespread restrictions.”

‘It’s never too late’

However, he continued, “we are concerned that some countries have not used all the tools at their disposal and have taken a fragmented approach. These countries face a long, hard road ahead.

“But one of the lessons of the pandemic is that no matter what situation a country is in, it can be turned around”, he added, injecting a note of optimism for countries such as the United States which has seen cases rise steeply in Texas, Florida and Arizona in recent days.

“It’s never too late.”

More than half a million deaths

More than 10.3 million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and over 506,000 deaths. For the past week, the number of new cases has exceeded 160,000 on every single day, the WHO chief said, adding the chilling perspective that 60% of all cases so far across the world, have been reported just in the past month.

“We will never get tired of saying that the best way out of this pandemic is to take a comprehensive approach”, Tedros added.

“Find, isolate, test and care for every case, trace and quarantine every contact, equip and train health workers and educate and empower communities to protect themselves and others.

“Not testing alone. Not physical distancing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not masks alone. Do it all.”

In March, Italy and Spain were the epicenter of the pandemic, but both “brought their epidemics under control with a combination of leadership, humility, active participation by every member of society, and implementing a comprehensive approach”, said Tedros.

“The fastest way out of this pandemic is to follow the science and do what we know works: the comprehensive approach.”

Forum for over 1,000 top scientists

WHO convened its second research and innovation forum on Wednesday, bringing together more than 1,000 scientists from all over the world to take stock of the progress made so far, discuss new research questions and knowledge gaps, and to define research priorities, going forward.

Research and innovation have played a vital role since the beginning of the pandemic – and even before, said the WHO chief: “We have a shared responsibility to ensure that all people have access to the tools to protect themselves, especially those who are most at risk.”

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Youth activist speaks up for environmental protection at Human Rights Council

INTERNATIONAL, 1 July 2020, Human Rights - At the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, a teenager from Côte d’Ivoire has explained why protecting the environment matters so much.

The rare and refreshing intervention came from 14-year-old activist Junior, who spoke out against alleged industrial pollution, including from the cocoa production sector, in his home town of San-Pédro, in the West African State.

Bachelet warning

At the child rights debate, Member States also heard from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who warned that environmental harm severely affects “the youngest children, indigenous children and those from low-income and marginalized communities”.

I want the authorities to take this question of the environment to heart. Because we children are suffering a lot – Junior, 14, from Côte d’Ivoire

This damage was being done, despite the fact that the effects of environmental degradation on children and their rights were “completely preventable”, Ms. Bachelet insisted.

At the same time, the High Commissioner warned that over-exploitation of the environment “increases the risk of infectious diseases like COVID-19 jumping from animal to human hosts”.

Air pollution threat

She also insisted that now was a key opportunity to discuss the rights of the child in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as 93 per cent of children live in environments where air pollution exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, making them more susceptible to air-borne infections, such as the new coronavirus.

Echoing that concern, Junior explained that children made up between 30-40 per cent of those suffering from respiratory and skin diseases, according to data from his town’s health authority.

“I want the authorities to take this question of the environment to heart. Because we children are suffering a lot,” he said via video message.

‘Burned by the sun, drowned by the rain’

“If nothing is done to protect the environment, then all your (the Council’s) efforts to realize children’s rights will be burned by the sun and drowned by the rain.”

Also participating in the debate, at the Council, WHO’s Dr Maria Neira said that one in four children globally is dying because of environmental factors, at home or elsewhere, and 570,000 children under five, are dying from respiratory infections every year.

These include pneumonia, which is attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke, said the head of the agency’s environment, climate change and health unit.

Common killers

Other common killers include poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, with diarrhoea responsible for the deaths of 297,000 under-fives.

By 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas, Dr Neira warned.

This is already a problem in least developed countries, where one in five health care facilities lacks water, sanitation service and waste management.

Climate change impact

Turning to climate change, the WHO senior official added that as temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide rise, this promotes pollen growth, which is associated with increased rates of asthma in children.

“We have been listening to the children marching and demanding we protect their future,” she said. “We no longer need to raise awareness; we need to act. Many in our audience are uniquely positioned to provide a leverage for these new greener healthier society to happen.”

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UNESCO urges caution over fraudulent African artefacts, sold in its name

INTERNATIONAL, 1 July 2020, Culture and Education - The UN on Wednesday revealed the existence of an illicit trafficking scam in African cultural artefacts, which are being sold to unsuspecting buyers, thanks to the entirely fake UNESCO stamp they come with.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is warning art lovers who may be approached to buy African cultural treasures, apparently endorsed by the agency, to exercise the “utmost vigilance” after receiving numerous reports of the trafficking ruse.

The organization said that false documents claimed that UNESCO had authorized the transactions, and certified the monetary value of collections, which is not true.

It said that most victims of the fraud live in France and many have links to French-speaking African countries.

Million-Euro scam

More than one million euros’ worth of goods have been pilfered to date, UNESCO said, while Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, described cultural theft as a “lucrative global scourge” that was “in most cases connected to other forms of organized crime, including terrorism”. 

It is 50 years since an international Convention was adopted to combat the illicit traffic in cultural property.

Although African cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, the Middle East has become a recent target in connection with conflict in Iraq and Syria. 

The illicit trade is also growing on the internet, where tracing origins and intermediaries is difficult, UNESCO warned.

UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, noted that “illicit trafficking in cultural property is a worldwide, lucrative scourge linked to other forms of organized crime, including the financing of terrorism. 

“Not only is it rife in Africa, whose cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, but it has exploded more recently in the Middle East in connection with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.”

Efforts to end trafficking

UNESCO added that over the past five years, it had helped several dozen countries to incorporate into their national laws the provisions for the prevention of illicit trafficking in cultural property contained in the 1970 Convention, and encouraged the restitution of objects illegally removed from their territory.

The Paris-based agency has organized more than 80 training and capacity-building sessions for State representatives and their relevant ministries, police and customs services – as well as museum professionals - in partnership with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the World Customs Organization,  and others including the International Council of Museums (ICOM). 

The Organization provides States with essential knowledge on legal standards, reference data on trafficking, a database of national laws, as well as practical tools. 

UNESCO does not ever issue certificates or authorizations for the commercialization of cultural property. 

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'Bold and creative’ solutions needed for a sustainable, post-pandemic economy

INTERNATIONAL, 1 July 2020, Economic Development - Unless the world acts now, the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying global recession, will trigger “years of depressed and disrupted economic growth”, the UN chief warned on Wednesday. 

During the first in a series of roundtable discussions on responding and recovering better from the global crisis, this one with women economists, he painted a grim picture of acute suffering, saying that extreme poverty and hunger are set to increase drastically. Many healthcare systems are already at breaking point; and a whole generation of children is missing out on education. 

“The pandemic threatens not just to put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on hold, but to reverse progress that has already been made”, Secretary-General António Guterres said

Building back better

Against the backdrop of his call for an overall rescue package by governments, equivalent to at least ten per cent of the global economy, Mr. Guterres said he had convened world leaders and international organizations in a joint initiative to sharpen and accelerate the global response to the impacts of COVID-19.  Headed by the Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Canada, and with more than 50 heads of State and government taking part, they focused on identifying ways to finance the recovery and build back better.

The top politicians stepped forward to lead the joint effort – with UN agencies, financial institutions, private sector creditors and others – to address key challenges, ranging from global liquidity and debt vulnerability, to eroding illicit financial flows. 

Mr. Guterres pointed out that developing countries face vastly increased demands for public spending “exactly at the same time” as tax and export revenues, inward investments and remittances, are plummeting. 

“As we craft a comprehensive global response, action on finance must be central”, underscored the UN chief. “If countries lack the financial means to fight the pandemic and invest in recovery, we face a health catastrophe and a painfully slow global recovery”. 

Debt crisis

The world is on the cusp of a widespread debt crisis, the top UN official said, noting that many countries face “an impossible choice” between servicing their debt or protecting their most vulnerable communities and fighting the pandemic.

Explaining that “debt defaults can have devastating social consequences”, he made clear that many countries lack financial market access to enable them to service their debt.

 

“Beyond the fiscal shock, the COVID-19 crisis has impacted all the components of external finance: direct investment, exports and remittances”, he continued, adding that as developed countries themselves deal with the crisis, official development assistance is also under pressure.  

For recovery and to realize the SDGs, “durable solutions on debt” must be considered “to create fiscal space for investments”, stressed Mr. Guterres.

“Uncertainty and a further retreat to inward-looking policies and protectionism could turn today’s sharp decline into a prolonged period of weak external financing”, the UN chief cautioned.

Moreover, as the pandemic disrupts supply chains and trade, he flagged the danger that some manufacturing will move back to developed countries, further reducing developing countries’ resources, and challenging their integration into the global economy.

“These questions need bold and creative answers” Mr. Guterres upheld. 

Finding solutions

According to the UN chief, “we need the insights and perspectives of all”, including “prominent and innovative” women economists, to create “inclusive, resilient and gender-equal societies” to address the climate crisis and other global challenges. 

“We need concrete, radical and implementable solutions”, spelled out the Secretary-General, voicing hope that the series of roundtables will stimulate new ideas and “a totally different debate in relation to the classic ones we have witnessed in the recent past”. 

Much-need transformation

In imagining “a new global economy in which finance becomes a means and not an end”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted that external finance “needs to change course”. 

“We need a partnership with financial markets to change the balance and achieve the SDGs”, she said, adding that investments cannot be only about profit at any cost but must “land on the right side of history”.

The transformation must “break the inequality and environmental degradation enchantment that darken our future”, she continued, pushing for a new global economy “based on sustainable consumption and production, on sustainable infrastructure that gives access to all to the opportunities of the future”.

“And we need to do it for the next generations”, concluded the deputy UN chief. “Rebirthing the global economy is an opportunity to empower them to confront the current and looming challenges”.

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Harmful practices rob women and girls of ‘right to reach their full potential’

INTERNATIONAL, 30 June 2020, Women - Urgent, and accelerated action is needed to end female genital mutilation, child marriage, and other “harmful practices” and abuses carried out against women and girls, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), said on Tuesday, in its latest major report on the state of the world’s population. 

Every year, millions of girls are subjected to practices that routinely harm them, both physically and emotionally, with the full knowledge and consent of their families, friends and communities, the report states.

“Harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential”, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem said, in a press release.

The State of World Population 2020: Against my will, defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality, highlights at least 19 rites - ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing - which are considered human rights violations.

Focus on three common abuses

The report focuses on the three most prevalent; female genital mutilation, child marriage, and extreme bias against daughters, in favour of sons.

Highlighting that an estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation this year alone, the report also notes that today, 33,000 girls under age 18 will be forced into marriage, usually to much older men.

Also, an extreme and continuing preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fuelled gender-biased sex selection, or extreme neglect, that leads to girls’ death as children, resulting in what amounts to around 140 million “missing females”, the report continues.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, Monica Ferro, UNFPA Geneva Director, alerted that all these harmful practices are based on the “assumption that the rights and the well-being of women and girls are less of those of men and boys”, resulting in “fewer choices and “putting them under the sexual, economic and legal control of men, which is also a violation of their human rights.”

Respect, protect, fulfil legal obligations

Ms. Ferro pointed that the new data gathered in the report could be summarized in three words: respect, protect and fulfil.

“We must foster respect for women and girls, by changing attitudes and practices”, that commoditize them. “We must protect women and girls by enforcing laws against practices like child marriage and female mutilation, but also by changing attitudes and norms. And governments must fulfil their obligations under human rights treaties”, that require elimination of these practices and rituals, she explained.

“We will not stop until the rights, choices and bodies of all girls are fully their own.” - UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

According to the report, some practices are waning in countries where they have been most prevalent. But because of population growth, the number of girls subjected to them will actually rise in the coming decades, if urgent action is not taken.

Countries that have ratified international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, have a duty to end the harm, whether it’s inflicted on girls by family members, religious communities, health-care providers, commercial enterprises or State institutions themselves.

Many have responded with laws, but laws alone are not enough, the press release added.

Decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches, are better at bringing change, said UNFPA.

Confronting the silent and endemic crisis

“We must tackle the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-biased norms. We must do a better job of supporting communities’ own efforts understand the toll these practices are taking on girls and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them”, said Dr. Kanem.

According to the agency, ending child marriage and female genital mutilation worldwide is possible within 10 years, by scaling up efforts to keep girls in school longer and teach them life skills and to engage men and boys in social change.

Investments totalling $3.4 billion a year through 2030 would end these two harmful practices and end the suffering of an estimated 84 million girls.

COVID-19 disruption

While progress has been made in ending some harmful practices worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to reverse gains.

A recent analysis revealed that if services and programmes remain shuttered for six months, an additional 13 million girls may be forced into marriage and 2 million more girls may be subjected to female genital mutilation between now and 2030.

“The pandemic both makes our job harder and more urgent as so many more girls are now at risk”, Dr. Kanem concluded: “We will not stop until the rights, choices and bodies of all girls are fully their own.”

In Geneva, Ms. Ferro added that in order to get to zero, action is needed to be taken much faster. “We can’t stop until we get to zero, and we can’t let the COVID-19 pandemic get in our way”.

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Hard times forecast for global job recovery in 2020, warns UN labour agency chief

INTERNATIONAL, 30 June 2020, Economic Development - The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on jobs has been much worse than expected initially, the head of the UN labour agency said on Tuesday, in an appeal to Governments, workers and employers, to agree on a sustainable economic recovery plan to reduce inequalities laid bare by the pandemic.

Under three possible scenarios for recovery in the next six months, “none” sees the global job situation in better shape than it was before lockdown measures began, the International Labour Organization (ILO) insisted.

“This is why we talk of an uncertain but incomplete recovery even in the best of scenarios for the second half of this year.

So there is not going to be a simple or quick recovery”, said Director-General Guy Ryder, his comments coinciding with new data from the ILO, showing that working hours fell 14 per cent during the second quarter of 2020 -  equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs.

That’s a sharp increase from ILO’s last estimate, issued a month ago, of a 10.7 per cent drop (equivalent to 305 million jobs) from April to June.

Looking ahead

According to ILO’s recovery modelling for the second half of 2020, even the most optimistic scenario assumes that global loss of working hours would fall by 1.2 per cent (equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs), compared with the last three months of 2019.

The agency’s baseline model – which assumes a rebound in economic activity in line with existing forecasts – projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9 per cent (equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs). 

ILO’s most pessimistic scenario assumes a second pandemic wave and the return of restrictions that would significantly slow recovery, resulting in a fall in working hours of 11.9 per cent (340 million full-time jobs). 

Americas worst hit

More than nine in 10 of the world’s workers continue to live in countries with some sort of workplace closures, with the Americas experiencing the greatest restrictions, the Geneva-based UN body said.

Regionally, the Americas have been worst affected by far, with working hours diving 18.3 per cent, according to the latest ILO Monitor report on COVID-19 and the world of work.

Europe and Central Asia saw a 13.9 per cent fall, followed by Asia and the Pacific (13.5 per cent), Arab States (13.2 per cent) and Africa (12.1 per cent).

Highlighting concerns for workers in the informal sector who lack a social welfare safety net, Mr Ryder expressed particular concern for all those in Latin America, where they number as many as one in two of the region’s workforce. 

It is important “to understand what the human realities of these statistics really are”, he said.

Global summit for a ‘better normal’

Ahead of next week’s Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work, convened by ILO chief Ryder urged government and social partner participants to build a better future of work for everyone.

“The decisions we adopt now will echo in the years to come and beyond 2030”, he said, underscoring persistent inequalities and vulnerabilities of women in the workplace. “Although countries are at different stages of the pandemic and a lot has been done, we need to redouble our efforts if we want to come out of this crisis in a better shape than when it started.”

 

Despite the urgent need for Governments, trades unions and workers to create a “better normal” in the post-COVID era, Mr. Ryder cast doubt on the ability of countries to sustain such stimulus measures.

Trillions spent so far

Some $10 trillion dollars worldwide have been spent supporting workers and industry since the pandemic began, he explained, “but this has been highly concentrated; 88 per cent of that total has been spent by advanced countries on advanced countries…that’s the equivalent of about five per cent of GDP; the equivalent figure for developing and emerging economies is 2.2 per cent, for the less developed countries, it’s much less.”

As the pandemic hits the developing world “with increasing ferocity, I think that mismatch is going to be more than ever evident”, the ILO chief warned, insisting that it presented an imperative of much greater international cooperation and solidarity in responding to this global crisis”.

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Pause before sharing, to help stop viral spread of COVID-19 misinformation

INTERNATIONAL, 30 June 2020, UN Affairs - The UN is asking people to make the same judgement calls they’ve been applying to social distancing, to social media, and take extra care before sharing.

That’s the latest message from the United Nations’ Verified initiative, which wants people around the world to pause before sharing emotionally charged content on social media.     

“One of the ways it [misinformation] is spreading is the way people are sharing”, Melissa Fleming, who oversees the UN’s global communications effort, said on the eve of the Pause campaign’s launch, chosen to coincide with Social Media Day.

“The idea of pause is: take care before you share. We hope that ‘take care before you share’, starts to be a social norm that people have in the back of their heads and that will enable a personal behavior change.” 

The Pause campaign consists of videos, graphics and colourful gifs that stress sharing only trusted and accurate science-based social media content. 

It is meant to get people thinking about misinformation, which is often packaged as being  “more slick, more shareable” and full of “black and white statements that people who communicate responsibly, and rely on science, would not do because we have to communicate nuance”, Ms. Fleming said. 

She noted that, for example, anti-vaccine groups are already coming out against a future COVID-19 vaccine. 

Through Verified, the UN has recruited so called “digital first responders” to counter fake news. These responders – of whom there are more than 10,000 signed up for the daily and weekly feeds – range from fact checkers in Colombia, to young journalists in the United Kingdom, and the number signing up is growing at a rate of about 10 per cent per week, according to the UN’s Department for Global Communications

The campaign also has the support of most of the countries that make up the UN. Spearheaded by Latvia, some two-thirds of the 193 UN Member States put out a statement on 12 June, countering the proliferation of widespread misinformation, in the context of COVID-19.

"We are... concerned about the damage caused by the deliberate creation and circulation of false or manipulated information relating to the pandemic. We call on countries to take steps to counter the spread of such disinformation, in an objective manner and with due respect for citizens’ freedom of expression,” the statement reads.

A number of large media companies around the world are also distributing Pause content on their channels, online and via text message.

The aim is to help stem the spread of inaccurate information about COVID-19 on social media, Ms. Fleming said, stressing that only platforms like Facebook or Twitter can truly stop the viral spread of fake news.  

“We also need the platforms to work with us”, she said, adding that the UN is “in conversation” with such technology companies. Many social media platforms have committed to promoting Pause, while also scaling up their efforts to halt the circulation of misinformation.

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Iran nuclear deal still best way to ensure peace, DiCarlo tells Security Council

INTERNATIONAL, 30 June 2020, Peace and Security - The UN regrets that the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is in doubt, but notwithstanding current challenges, that landmark deal is still the best way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme proceeds along a peaceful path, the UN’s top political official said on Tuesday.

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Security Council that the 2015 agreement – which the Council endorsed through resolution 2231 – remains crucial to the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and to regional and international security.

“It is therefore regrettable that the future of this agreement is in doubt”, she said, pointing to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, the re-imposition of US sanctions and Washington’s decision not to extend waivers for oil trading with Iran.

Limits surpassed

She equally regretted that Iran, in response to the US withdrawal, has – under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring – surpassed limits stipulated in the Plan of Action on uranium enrichment, its stockpiles of heavy water and low-enriched uranium, and nuclear research and development activities.

She appealed to Iran to resume full implementation of the JCPOA, and to address concerns raised by other countries regarding its actions inconsistent with restrictions set out in Annex B of resolution 2231.

Ms. DiCarlo addressed a videoconference meeting of the Council as its 15 members took up the Secretary-General’s ninth report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) ahead of the scheduled expiration of a UN arms embargo on Iran on 18 October.

Iran implicated in Saudi attacks

Among other things, she said that, based on technical findings, and taking into account information provided by Iran, the Secretariat assessed that cruise missiles and delta-wing drones, or parts thereof, used in attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019 were of Iranian origin.

She also said that the Secretariat has received information from Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia regarding the alleged transfer of arms and related material from Iran, and that it will report back to the Council, if appropriate, in due course.

“Notwithstanding the current challenges to the JCPOA, it remains the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the Under-Secretary-General said.  “Its full implementation, as well as faithful adherence to resolution 2231, is also fundamental to regional stability,” she said.

US calls for arms embargo extension

In the debate that followed, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo – describing Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime” – said that Washington’s “overwhelming preference” is to work with the Council to extend that embargo that the Council put into place in 2017 through resolution 1747 (2007).

“Don’t just take it from me or from the United States…From Israel to the Gulf, countries in the Middle East – who are most exposed to Iran’s predations – are speaking with a single voice: Extend the arms embargo”, he said.

“This Council has a responsibility to listen to them.”

He warned that if the embargo is allowed to run out, Iran will be free to acquire Russian fighter jets, strengthen its submarine fleet, share new military technology with its Middle East proxies and hold a sword of Damocles over the region’s economic stability.

“We’ve imposed arms restrictions on Tehran in various forms for 13 years, and with good reason, and to substantial effect”, the Secretary of State said.

Don’t give in to US ‘intimidation’ Iran urges

Iran’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded that if the Council falters, it will be a “generational setback” for multilateralism and the rule of law in the face of a US campaign of intimidation against international institutions.

Pointing to successive IAEA monitoring reports that found Iran in compliance with the Plan of Action, he said that Tehran has fulfilled all of its commitments in good faith, while Washington and its “enablers” have pressured the Secretariat into a one-sided interpretation of resolution 2231.

The international community in general, and the Council in particular, face a choice – to uphold respect for the rule of law or to return to the rule of the jungle by surrendering to the whims of an outlaw bully, he said.

He added that it is long overdue for the international community and the Council to hold the US accountable for its wrongful acts, including three wars in as many decades in the Middle East and economic terrorism against the Iranian nation.

Iran prefers constructive engagement, but it does not depend on others for its security, stability and prosperity, he said, adding that more than four decades of US pressure have failed to bring Iranians to their knees.

Iran nuclear deal: a summary

  • What is the Iran nuclear deal? The 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), sets out rules for monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme, and paves the way for the lifting of UN sanctions.
  • Which countries are involved? Iran, the five members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, UK, US), plus Germany, together with the European Union.
  • What is the UN’s involvement? A UN Security Council resolution to ensure the enforcement of the JCPOA, and guarantee that the UN’s atomic energy agency, the IAEA, continues to have regular access to and more information on Iran’s nuclear programme, was adopted in 2015.
  • Why is the deal at risk? The current US Administration pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions. In July 2019, Iran reportedly breached its uranium stockpile limit, and announced its intention to continue enriching uranium, posing a more serious proliferation risk.
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Syria: Top UN officials appeal to donors to help end ‘shocking’ scale of suffering

INTERNATIONAL, 30 June 2020, Peace and Security - The UN chief called on the world to step up “financial, humanitarian and political commitments”, to help end nearly a decade of brutal conflict and suffering across Syria, in a video message delivered to the fourth Brussels Donor Conference on Tuesday.

“After nearly a decade of war and economic hardship, the scale of suffering remains shocking”, said Secretary-General António Guterres.

The conference received pledges of $5.5 billion in funding, to support humanitarian, resilience and development activities in 2020, and $2.2 billion for crisis response in 2021 and beyond.

In addition, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors pledged up to $6.7 billion in loans.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed; half the pre-war population, or over 12 million Syrians, are displaced, including 5.6 million who fled the country; millions are going hungry or are malnourished; and 90 per cent of the population lives in poverty. 

And all of this is being further compounded by the coronavirus

UN in solidarity 

Currently over 11 million Syrians need emergency assistance just to survive, many of whom rely solely on the UN and its humanitarian partners. 

“We provide life-saving food, healthcare, sanitation facilities, education and protection services, to millions of Syrians every month”, the UN chief said. “We help to address their trauma and provide legal advice so they can start to rebuild their lives” – all of which depends on “generous” donor support. 

Since only “a political solution can end the suffering in Syria”, he urged “all those with influence” to help Syrians find common ground.  

Downward spiral

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock noted that the Syrian crisis is “approaching the length of the combination” of the two World Wars, as it wreaks havoc and acute economic strain across the region.

He painted a gloomy picture of the Syrian economy in “a dramatic downturn” with prices of essential food, medicines and fuel “soaring” as the Syrian pound “fell to a record low against the US dollar this month”. 

The UN official cited estimates from the World Food Programme (WFP) in revealing that an “unprecedented level” of 9.3 million people there are food insecure and almost half a million children suffer from stunting, a consequence of malnutrition.

“And now we have COVOID-19, which has the potential to cause much more suffering and loss, with preparations to tackle it inside Syria wholly inadequate in the light of the degrading of the health system through the years of crisis”, added the humanitarian coordinator. 

Mr. Lowcock elaborated on how the UN was supporting the situation on the ground, including by providing food assistance to more than 3.2 million people; nutrition support for half a million children; critical water and sanitation for 1.3 million people; and four million medical procedures.

“The humanitarian assistance we provide across Syria and in the region depends on the generous support of the States and constituencies represented here”, he flagged.

Stolen educations

Noting that “one of the most tragic consequences of the horror story of the last decade has been the robbing of millions of children of their right to a decent education”, he foresaw major long-term consequences, “for more than fifty years”. 

“One of the major challenges is funding”, Mr. Lowcock said and asked donors to prioritize pledges to the education of these children, saying it is “in your own interests, but most importantly in theirs”.  

‘Unlocking’ a political process

Syrian Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen reiterated his call for “a nationwide ceasefire”, along with the need to be vigilant about COVID-19, the importance of resolution 2254, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement,  and the challenges posed by groups listed as terrorists by the Security Council. 

Moreover, he again appealed for the Syrian Government and other parties to “carry out large-scale, unilateral releases of detainees and abductees, and meaningful actions on the missing persons”. 

Mr. Pedersen expressed his hope that the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned Constitutional Committee facilitated by the UN in Geneva “will be able to meet on a regular basis throughout the rest of the year”. 

Acknowledging that a constitutional discussion would not address the full range of dire realities Syrians grapple with, he maintained that the Committee’s work can be “a door-opener to unlock a broader political process”

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