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Most ‘precious’ and ‘scarce’ resource of our time is dialogue, UN chief tells Doha policy forum

INTERNATIONAL, 16 December 2018, SDGs - Following a productive two weeks of global dialogue for the United Nations and its Member States, alongside governments and advocates, Secretary-General António  Guterres, speaking in the Qatar capital, Doha, underscored the importance of international cooperation in the “enormous challenges” of our time, drawing the curtain on a job finished at Sunday’s Doha Forum.

Recapping his recent participations in the successful adoption of the Global Compact on Migration in Marrakech, an agreement on a ‘rulebook’ in Poland laying out the way forward for the 2015 Paris climate accord , and a breakthrough in Yemen peace talks in Sweden, Mr. Guterres said  “each of these... underline a core reality in today’s world.” 

“To put it simply: We face enormous challenges that can’t be solved by any country on its own,” he told attendees at the two-day meeting 's conclusion.

From Saturday to Sunday, policy leaders at the Doha Forum discussed international alliance, and addressed topics of terrorism, cybertechnology, and the media, among others.

On the Forum’s sidelines, heads of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the State of Qatar, along with Vladimir Vorokonkov and Major General Abdul Aziz Al Ansaari, respectively, jointly signed a Contribution Agreement whereby Qatar agreed to support UNOCT’s counter-terrorism strategy implementation.

Qatar’s contribution of $75 million, which will be stretched over a period of five years, includes support for strengthening the counter-terror office's strategy, backing efforts to support victims of terrorism, and preventing violent extremism.

The comittment is one of a host of new agreements signed between Qatar and the UN on Sunday, Mr. Guterres shared during his briefing to journalists, and praised such strides as a  “quantum leap” in the Qatar-UN relationship.

We face enormous challenges that can’t be solved by any country on its own – UN Chief

In his keynote address, Mr. Guterres said platforms like the Doha Forum, which nurse the exchange of ideas, are lacking in number, but vital.

“Perhaps the most precious – and increasingly scarce – resource in our world today is dialogue,” he said, and added that more exchanges like those taking place at the Forum are needed, but dwindling trust is paralyzing the conversation.

“As I said at the UN General Assembly, our world is suffering from a bad case of trust deficit disorder.”

“The world is more connected, yet societies  are becoming more fragmented,” he decried. “Challenges are growing outward while many people are turning inward.”

“This is the ultimate paradox in today’s world,” he said, calling it a chaotic “in-between” period for world order, and pointing to fear as the ultimate driver.

“The best-selling brand in our world today is fear. It gets ratings. It wins votes. It generates clicks.”

The UN's duty in conflict is that of "an honest broker," and "impartial element," Mr. Guterres explained to students at Hamad Bin Kahlifa University as part of his visit to Doha

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets ambitious goals for its Member States to tackle the complex challenges of our time, which the UN Chief nominated as “the blueprint” for the important role of fair globalization.

Spotlighting climate change, Mr. Guterres said this challenge is a battle for our future, “and in this conflict, nature does not negotiate," but to our advantage, emerging technologies can help us overcome this scourge, so long as such developments are monitored.

To ensure the “pace and promise” of technology is responsibly maximized, he urged for investment in education, a new generation of support for people struggling to adapt, and a need for collective mobilization, to ensure technology will be “a force for good.”

Mr. Guterres highlighted that just as the tech sector is transforming, so are our livelihoods; which encompass the work-life balance which will be  “completely different in the future we are facing.”

“We need an education, not to learn how to do things, but to learn how to learn because many of those that are today in schools and universities will have jobs that simply do not exist and are not even envisionable today.”

He concluded his address on a hopeful note, applauding recent milestones by nations who have championed war and poverty through effective collaboration.

“When we work together, we can achieve great things for the good of all people.”

“International cooperation works. and that cooperation has never been more critical to repair broken trust and uphold dignity for one and all.”

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At COP24, world nations agree on a concrete way forward to bring the Paris climate deal to life

INTERNATIONAL, 15 December 2018, Climate Change - After two weeks of crunch negotiations – with overtime – the almost 200 parties gathered in Katowice, Poland, for the United Nations COP24 two-week climate change conference, adopted on Saturday a “robust” set of implementing guidelines for the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, aimed at keeping global warming well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Following several sleepless nights, cheers and applause welcomed the COP24 President, Michal Kurtyka, as he opened the conference’s closing plenary meeting, which had been postponed close to a dozen times. He thanked the hundreds of delegates in the room for their “patience”, noting that the last night “was a long night”. General laughter followed when the room’s big screens showed a delegate yawning whole-heartedly.

“Katowice has shown once more the resilience of the Paris Agreement – our solid roadmap for climate action,” said Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) secretariat and who was speaking on behalf of António Guterres, the UN chief. 

Mr. Guterres, who has made addressing the impacts of climate change one of the top priorities of his term as UN Secretary-General, came three times to Katowice in the past two weeks to support the negotiations but, given the repeated delays, was forced to leave before the closing plenary, due to prior engagements.

The adopted guidelines package, called the “rulebook” by some, is designed to encourage greater climate action ambition and benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable. 

Trust and climate action financing

One of the key components of the ‘Katowice package’ is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations regarding the fact that they are all doing their part in addressing climate change. It sets out how countries will provide information about their national action plans, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as mitigation and adaptation measures.

An agreement was reached on how to uniformly count greenhouse gas emissions and if poorer countries feel they cannot meet the standards set, they can explain why and present a plan to build up their capacity in that regard.

On the thorny question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries, the document sets a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion per year as of 2020. 

Another notable achievement of these negotiations is that nations agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023, and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology. 

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” said Ms. Espinosa in a press statement. “They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition.”

“While some details will need to be finalised and improved over time, the system is to the largest part place,” she added.

Article 6: the one major matter nations couldn’t find consensus on

Ultimately, the negotiations tripped on one key issue which will be back on the table at the next UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place in Chile. This is the matter known in specialized circles as “Article 6,” regarding the so-called “market mechanisms” which allow countries to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals.

This is done for example through “carbon markets” –  or “carbon trading”, which enables countries to trade their emissions allowances. The Paris Agreement recognizes the need for global rules on this matter to safeguard the integrity of all countries’ efforts and ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for. 

From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition - UN chief António Guterres

“From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that the details to operationalize this part of the Paris Agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored”, explained Ms. Espinosa, noting that the majority of countries were willing to agree and include the guidelines on market mechanisms but that “unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome”.   

Other key COP24 achievements

In addition to the political negotiations among Member States on the Paris guidelines, over the past two weeks, the hallways of COP24 buzzed with close to 28,000 participants having lively exchanges, sharing innovative ideas, attending cultural events, and building partnerships for cross-sectoral and collaborative efforts. 

Many encouraging announcements, especially on financial commitments for climate action, were made: Germany and Norway pledged that they would double their contributions to the Green Climate Fund, established to enable developing countries to act;  the World Bank also announced it would increase its commitment to climate action after 2021 to $200 billion; the climate Adaptation Fund received a total of $129 million. 

The private sector overall, showed strong engagement. Among the highlights of this COP, two major industries – the sports and the fashion worlds – joined the movement to align their business practices with the goals of the Paris Agreement, through the launch of the Sports for Climate Action Framework, and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

Many more commitments were made, and concrete, inspiring actions were taken. 

“From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition,” said Patricia Espinosa on behalf of UN chief António Guterres at the closing planery. “Ambition in mitigation. Ambition in adaptation. Ambition in finance. Ambition in technical cooperation and capacity building. Ambition in technological innovation.”

To achieve this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September, at UN headquarters in New York, to engage Governments at the highest levels. 

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Preparing Africa for ravages of climate change ‘cannot be an afterthought’ – COP24

INTERNATIONAL, 14 December 2018, Climate Change - Africa is at a “tipping point” as global warming increases, and urgent action needs to be taken across the continent now, to mitigate risks and safeguard a decade of social and economic gains, according to a new report launched on Thursday by the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP) at the COP24 climate conference, in Katowice, Poland.

For two weeks, the conference has brought together thousands of climate action decision-makers, advocates and activists, with one key objective: adopting global guidelines for the 197 parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement, when countries committed to limiting global warming to less than 2°C – and as close as possible to 1.5° – above pre-industrial levels.

Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director of UNDP’s Africa Bureau made the tipping point analogy, while noting that despite major structural inequalities, nations across the continent have achieved “impressive economic, political and social growth in recent decades.”

But she argues that “climate change, droughts, floods, changing rainfall patterns and conflict have the potential to unravel efforts to reduce hunger and achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The UNDP study shows that, should the world fail to limit global warming to less than 2°C, families will find it harder and harder to feed themselves, and the risk of famine and increased poverty will rise along with temperatures.  

Higher levels of poverty would further limit the capacity of communities to manage climate-related risks, according to the report, placing further stress on already overstretched coping mechanisms, and could translate into more risky migration patterns, serious epidemics such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak across West Africa, and greater political instability.

Drawing on years of data from projects geared to enabling communities to adapt to a changing climate and build resilience, the report shows that as emissions continue going up, support for climate adaptation initiatives must be increased urgently and accelerated across the continent, especially across the 34 African “least developed countries.”

“They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, yet the least able to adapt. In many cases, they lack the technical, financial and institutional capacity to identify the best ways to build resilience,” said Gustavo Fonseca, from Global Environment Facility, an institution that has been funding many climate adaptation projects in Africa.

Hunger rising along with temperatures

According to recent estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for the first time in over a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting 11 per cent of the global population. This is in part due to extreme droughts induced by an abnormally strong El Niño cycle, which led close to 40 million people in Africa to be in need of humanitarian assistance.

“Taking reactive approaches to food security and disaster recovery costs the people of Africa billions of dollars in lost GDP, and syphons off government resources that should be dedicated to education, social programmes, healthcare, business development and employment,” said UNDP’s Ahunna Eziakonwa. “It cannot be an afterthought.”

“For me the critical component is knowledge and capacity-building,” said Rohini Kohli, who leads Adaptation Planning at UNDP.

However, measures to enable communities to adapt to the changing climate is a costly matter that will require creative financial mechanisms and substantial engagement with the private sector to meet. It will require developed nations to make good on their 2015 Paris Agreement commitments to dedicate $100 billion annually to supporting climate action in developing nations.

The report analyses a number of noteworthy successes in climate change adaptation in Africa over the past decade, including projects aimed at improving food security in Benin, Mali, Niger and Sudan; supporting governments in having improved climate information and early warning systems to save lives from fast-acting storms; and empowering women to be effective climate action champions.

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Peacekeeping chief honours Tanzanian troops in Zanzibar, a year on from deadly DR Congo attacks

INTERNATIONAL, 14 December 2018, Peace and Security - A year on from the brutal killings of 15 United Nations peacekeepers from Tanzania in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the head of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) paid a visit to some of the victims’ families on Friday, to honour the memory of the soldiers who died in what was the biggest single loss of ‘blue helmets’ in recent history.  

Speaking on the island of Zanzibar, home to 13 of the men, Under Secretary-General Jean-Pierre La Croix promised families their loved ones’ service and sacrifice, would never be forgotten.

“I know that it’s difficult to find words to express your pain. But let me assure you, that as you will never forget your brave heroes, we will never forget them as well,” he said.  

The peacekeeping chief’s address concludes a two-day visit to the country, where he also met with members of the Tanzanian People’s Defence Force.

On 7 December 2017, suspected Allied Democratic Force (ADF) fighters, a rebel militia based in neighbouring Uganda, ambushed a contingent from the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), at its Company Operating Base in Semuliki in the Beni area of North Kivu. A protracted fire-fight ensued between rebels, the UN blue helmets, and Government troops.

As you will never forget your brave heroes, we will never forget them as well –Jean-Pierre La Croix

Besides the 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers serving under the blue flag who lost their lives, 44 others were wounded.

The North Kivu region in eastern DRC, has been the site of numerous assaults on UN peacekeeping forces. Two months before rebels struck last December, two other blue helmets were killed in action and another 18 wounded in an attack on their base in the same area.

Secretary-General António Guterres has called the 7 December killings an indicator of the growing challenges faced by the UN’s peacekeeping operations around the world, and in remarks directly following the attack, he dubbed the deliberate acts “unacceptable” and “a war crime.”

During 2017, more than 110,000 peacekeepers were deployed across 15 missions around the world, and nearly 19,000 UN personnel work in DRC alone, making it the second largest peacekeeping mission behind UNMISS, in South Sudan.

Since its establishment in July of 2010, 154 peacekeepers have been killed, serving with MONUSCO.

In response to regular attacks in the Beni area, MONUSCO and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) jointly planned offensive operations, which began on 13 November of this year, where the alliance managed to retake key territory from rebel control, in an effort to build a future free from fear.

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DR Congo elections: ‘Excessive use of force’ in campaign must be avoided, says Bachelet

INTERNATIONAL, 14 December 2018, Peace and Security - Deadly pre-election violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sparked by police reportedly firing live ammunition at opposition supporters, has been condemned by the UN’s top rights official, Michelle Bachelet.

Issued on Friday, the warning by the High Commissioner for Human Rights comes ahead of presidential elections due to take place across the vast Central African nation, on 23 December.

“The High Commissioner says she is deeply worried about the reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by security forces against opposition rallies,” OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.

“Just days ahead of crucial elections in the DRC, it is essential that the authorities ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fully protected and that they take all possible measures to prevent violence.”

The High Commissioner’s alert echoes a recent statement in September by her office (OHCHR) concerning the “violent suppression of peaceful protests”, despite commitments made by the authorities to lift a ban on demonstrations, which has been in place since 2017.

The current President, Joseph Kabila, has been in office since 2001, and as part of a political compromise, he is not standing for re-election, having refused to relinquish power when his second mandate came to an end in 2016. A former minister from the ruling coalition is running, and according to news reports, there are two main opposition candidates.

On Thursday, authorities in the DRC said that thousands of voting machines had been destroyed in a warehouse fire in the capital, Kinshasa.

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that it was unclear who was responsible.

“We do not yet know what caused them…there’s a lot of speculation about how it happened, whether it was deliberate, and then you know, which side,” she said. “But this again is an example of the kind of violence that has suddenly flared up this week in the lead-up to the elections.”

In a statement highlighting several violent pre-election incidents, the High Commissioner noted that at least three men were killed and several injured earlier this month “after police reportedly fired live ammunition and used teargas and water cannons against an opposition rally in Lubumbashi in the Haut-Katanga province”.

In another incident, also in December, the convoy of one of the leading opposition candidates for the presidency, Martin Fayulu, also reportedly came under attack by police, according to the High Commissioner’s statement.

Ensuing clashes resulting in the prosecutor’s office being burned down, while further violence during Fayulu’s campaign in Kalemie, Tanganyika province, led to the death of a young woman and injuries to at least nine others, “including two by live ammunition”.

On Thursday 13 December, in Mbuji Mayi in Kasai Orientale province, Ms Shamdasani added that a 16-year-old boy was reportedly killed by a soldier of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC).

This was after the provincial governor had deployed soldiers and police officers on several roads to prevent people from greeting another presidential candidate, Felix Tshisekedi, she said.

While the High Commissioner’s warning is directed principally at the government of President Joseph Kabila, she also expressed concern that supporters of the opposition have also reportedly disrupted campaigning by presidential majority candidates in the provinces of Kwilu, Kasai, Maniema and the Kivus.

Noting the “already tense electoral environment”, Ms. Shamdasani repeated the High Commissioner’s appeal to the Government “to ensure that these incidents are promptly investigated and that the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly – which are essential conditions for credible elections – are fully protected”.

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Yemen ceasefire deal: ‘Potential’ now to restore humanitarian lifeline to millions

INTERNATIONAL, 14 December 2018, Humanitarian Aid - The freshly agreed Yemen ceasefire deal covering the key Red Sea governorates of Hudaydah and Taiz has been welcomed by the World Food Programme (WFP), which on Friday expressed hope that it would improve access for humanitarians and, just as crucially, commercial shipping.

“This agreement has the potential to allow the ports of Hudaydah and Saleef to operate at near-normal capacity,” WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel told journalists in Geneva. “The free flow of commercial food supplies into Yemen should prevent further increases in food prices, which have sky-rocketed in the last few months.” 

WFP and other UN agencies have described Hudaydah as the principal lifeline for two-thirds of the population, who have endured suffering on a huge scale since fighting escalated between Government forces and Houthi opposition militia, in March 2015.

Before the warring sides agreed a deal at UN-led talks in Sweden this week, clashes had prevented the sustained supply of commercially shipped food and fuel through Hudaydah.

This led to a spike in prices which put basic goods beyond the reach of ordinary Yemenis.

“With the conflict intensifying over the recent weeks, we have seen a decrease of 50 per cent in shipments into Hudaydah port as private companies, shipping companies, were reluctant to use the port for security reasons,” Mr Verhoosel said. “We also hope, then, that it will change.”

The UN agency is also hopeful that it will soon regain access to a large milling and storage facility in Hudaydah – the Red Sea Mills -  which supplies one-quarter of its flour for millions of people in north and central Yemen.

Significant role for UN in managing crucial port

According to the ceasefire agreement, the UN is to play a significant role in managing the port.

The UN has not had access to those facilities since September, Mr Verhoosel explained. “We hope that thanks to the agreement we will have access very soon to those facilities and we will be able to dispatch those 51,000 tonnes of wheat to assist 3.7 million people.”

To illustrate the widespread need for assistance in Yemen, Mr Verhoosel noted that in January 2017, WFP delivered aid to 3.5 million people a month, but that this number has now more than tripled. “It’s one of our biggest operations ever,” he said, adding that the agency plans to reach up to 12 million people during next month. Of particular concern are children and breastfeeding mothers, 1.5 million of whom will receive additional nutritional support in coming weeks.

Details of the ceasefire agreement were announced on Thursday by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who said that despite “pending” unresolved issues, it would improve the lives of millions of people.

In addition to an end to fighting in Hudaydah governorate, the cessation of hostilities also encompasses neighbouring Taizz governorate, where years of conflict in the city have posed serious access challenges to humanitarians.

The WFP Senior Spokesperson said he hoped that the “peace breakthrough” announced in Sweden would lead to similar agreements elsewhere in Yemen – and better humanitarian access to those in need.

“The deal is not enough, it’s a good start,” he said. “That’s why we look forward to January or later when the second round of discussions will take place under the Special Envoy’s leadership and we hope that other similar agreements will be reached in other parts of the country.” 

Without assistance, 73 per cent of the population in Taiz – some 2.2 million people – risk “crisis” levels of food insecurity, WFP says. Around 1.3 million would experience “emergency” levels of hunger and 45,000 would face “famine-like” conditions.

Mr. Verhoosel said there was "still time to save millions of people” adding that “honestly, our staff is working 24 hours a day for the moment to avoid as much as we can a catastrophe.”

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UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

INTERNATIONAL, 14 December 2018, Humanitarian Aid - A new plan to cover the urgent needs of millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, coordinated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was launchedin Geneva on Friday.

The plan, the first of its kind in the Americas, is a strategy to deal with an estimate three million people, the largest exodus from a single country in the region, in recent years. The vast majority of them have sought refuge in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The numbers leaving Venezuela have increased dramatically from 2017, and now, an average of 5,500 are crossing the border every day.

In the foreword to the plan, Eduardo Stein, UN Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, describes the challenges faced by Venezuelans he has met during his visits to the region, saying that they spoke of “hunger, lack of access to medical care, insecurity, threats, fear. They are families, women alone, children, young boys and girls, all in conditions of extreme vulnerability. All of them saw no other option than to leave their country – sometimes walking for days – seeking to live in dignity and to build a future.”

The launch of the plan was also an appeal for funding, focusing on four key areas: direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration; and strengthening capacities in the receiving countries. $738 million is needed in 2019, targeting 2.7 million people spread across 16 countries.

The UN agencies praised the generosity shown towards the refugees and migrants by regional host countries, described by Filippo GrandiUN High Commissioner for Refugees, as “humbling,” adding that the appeal underscores the urgency of this complex and fast-evolving situation and the need to support the host communities.” The infrastructure of these countries, and their ability to deal with the influx of refugees and migrants, are being stretched beyond capacity.

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Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

INTERNATIONAL, 13 December 2018, Peace and Security - Rising violence in the Central African Republic threatens to spill across the border into neighbouring countries, creating further instability, a senior United Nations official warned on Thursday, urging continued and coordinated regional efforts to bolster peace and security.

In particular, a comprehensive and cautions approach is needed against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as the African Union works to replace its ongoing initiative against the rebel group, said Francois Lounceny Fall, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and the head of the UN Regional Office for the region(UNOCA).

Replacing the AU’s initiative to neutralize the LRA, should not leave a security vacuum that the group could exploit to relaunch and intensify its campaign of violence, he said, briefing the Security Council.

Mr. Fall said that the Nigeria-based Boko Haram extremist group was also a malicious threat to the region that the international community needed to watch carefully, said Mr. Fall, as it continues to launch “indiscriminate attacks” against security forces as well as civilians.

Efforts to stamp out Boko Haram should also focus on addressing the root causes of the insurgency, said the UN envoy.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias
François Louncény Fall, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), briefs the Security Council on Central African region.

Regional developments

Turning to the developments in the Central African sub-region, Mr. Fall, informed the 15-member Council of a number of recent election campaigns, including the October parliamentary ballots in São Tomé and Príncipe, as well as legislative and local elections in Gabon. Elections in Chad, scheduled for November, had been postponed however, he reported.

“I encourage the Chadian authorities to organize these elections as soon as possible and call on the international community to provide the necessary financial support to the Government, as required,” said Mr. Fall.

On Cameroon, the senior UN official raised concern over continuing reports of alleged human rights violations and called on the Government to speed up its efforts towards decentralization as well as promotion of bilingualism and multiculturalism, as tensions between French and English-speaking communities continue.

Cameroon’s Anglophone regions – the country’s northwest and southwest regions – have seen multiple strikes and demonstrations over the past year as tensions have mounted over what the country’s English-speakers see as discrimination against them in favour of the majority French-speaking population.

Subregional cooperation

Also in his briefing, Mr. Fall urged nations in Central Africa to “remain committed” to institutional reform at the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), particularly with regard to funding mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of key projects in the areas of peace, security and governance.

Founded in 1983, ECCAS includes Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo and São Tomé and Príncipe as its members.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Security Council adopts resolution 2447 underling the importance of helping rule-of-law institutions achieve sustainable peace in countries hosting peacekeeping and special political missions.

Council adopts resolution urging UN mission support for national rule of law institutions

In an earlier meeting the same day, the Security Council adopted a resolution urging the alingment of support programmes for rule of law institutions in countries with a UN peacekeeping mission, with the mandates of those missions.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2447 (2018), the Council requested that the Secretary-General enhance the coherence, performance and effectiveness of such support and ensure coherence between UN country teams and other actors of the Organization in order to help Governments improve prisons and other criminal justice facilities.

Members called on the Secretary-General to ensure that the planning of peacekeeping and special political missions entails a thorough analysis of the context, capacities and needs of criminal justice sectors in host States, highlighting the importance of treating each case based on local needs.

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Four million Syrian children have only known war since birth: UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 13 December 2018, Peace and Security - Half of Syria’s children, that’s four million, have grown up only knowing a life of violence, as the war-battered country enters its eighth year of conflict, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

“Every eight-year-old in Syria has been growing up amidst danger, destruction and death,” the agency’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, explained following a five-day visit to the country. 

“These children need to be able to return to school, receive their vaccinations, and feel safe and protected. We need to be able to help them.” Four million children have been born in Syria since the conflict started, which has touched every single part of the country.

In Douma, East Ghouta, just where a Government siege came to an end in April after five years of bombardment, displaced families are returning to the town where the threat of unexploded ordinance is still widespread. Since May 2018, 26 children have reportedly been killed or injured by explosive remnants of war in this one pocket of the country alone.

In March, the UN declared 2017 the deadliest year for Syrian children, when a reported 910 died from the ongoing conflict.  Verification of additional numbers continues, and this data may be “only the tip of the iceberg,” the Syria Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism has said.

Ms. Fore said that in Douma, people are raising their families “amidst the rubble, struggling for water, food and warmth in this winter weather.” Schools are overcrowded and lacking in supplies, she added, and the situation is creating a defensive and mistrustful mindset among children there.

“Since the conflict started, children and young people have become increasingly violent,” one 15-year-old said, who frequents a centre where young girls and boys learn how to stand up against gender-based violence.

“Bullying, harassment, beatings, early marriage—all these forms of violence increased. Children and young people see violence around them everywhere and view it as normal,” she said.

Some 100 kilometers south of Ghouta, in Dera’a City, displacement levels are especially high, and limited access is blocking replenishment of limited resources.

The city’s two main water stations were previously contested areas, causing frequent water shortages and a dependency on water trucks. To remedy the situation, UNICEF has helped lay a 16-kilometer pipe to facilitate safe water transport for some 200,000 people.

First-graders, aged 17

War damage has left at least 500 of the area’s schools in need of repair, and children are missing out on their education. UNICEF said that first-grade students can vary in age from six to 17 years old, and close to a third of students are dropping out of school nationwide.

Ms. Fore said establishing quality education to motivate children to go to school is needed, as this is “where the seeds of social cohesion are first planted.” 

UNICEF has underscored that reaching children, wherever they are, and assisting with their immediate and future needs, remains a priority.

With access improving, UNICEF is scaling up its health, nutrition, and child protection support services. This includes aid to schools, implementation of learning programmes to get students who have missed years of education up to speed, teacher training, and sewage and water pipeline repair.

The children’s agency calls for the protection of Syrian children at all times and has renewed its call for unconditional access to hard-to-reach areas.

“Almost eight years since the conflict started, the needs are still great,” Fore said. “But the millions of children born during this war and growing up amidst the violence are ready: they want to learn. They want to play. They want to heal.”

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Civilian death toll continues to mount in Syria, UN relief chief tells Security Council

INTERNATIONAL, 13 December 2018, Humanitarian Aid - Although the overall intensity of violence in Syria has decreased, civilians continue to be killed by air and ground-based strikes, Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs told the Security Council on Thursday, during a briefing on the current situation in Syria.

Mr. Lowcock detailed several other areas of ongoing concern regarding the protection of civilians, and updated the Council on the various forms of humanitarian aid being delivered. Insecurity continues, he said, and incidents affecting civilians are reported every day. One example he gave was a mortar struck in late November which hit a primary school in Jarjnaz town just as students were leaving, killing four boys and two girls and injuring 10 other children.

Humanitarian organizations estimate that up to 6,000 civilians are trapped in pockets that are still under the control of Da’esh or ISIL militants east of the Euphrates in the Deir-ez-Zor governerate, where they continue to suffer as a result of ground fighting and airstrikes, one of which reportedly hit a field hospital in the area, killing and injuring scores of civilians, including women, children and medical staff. No aid has reached displaced people in the area since October: a recent humanitarian mission, said Mr. Lowcock, was forced to turn back when its vehicles came under attack and an aid worker was shot.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator expressed concern about the situation in the Rukban refugee camp on the border with Jordan, where over 40,000 people are sheltering: the UN update report on Syria delivered to Security Council members earlier this week, reported that refugees have limited and irregular access to basic services, deteriorating health conditions, and are living in a state of fear caused by criminality and the risk of violence.

statement from Geert Cappelaere – the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa – also released on Thursday, gave further information on Rukban: freezing temperatures and a lack of basic commodities is leaving thousands of people at risk of disease and death. This week alone, two sick babies have died in the camp.

Mr. Lowcock announced that an aid convoy will be sent to Rukban later this month “to provide food, water, hygiene and sanitation support and, medical and nutrition items as well as blankets, mattresses and other essential non-food items to help protect people during winter,” and carry out vaccinations. He urged all parties in Syria to provide all necessary security guarantees to allow the convoy to proceed “without delay or impediment.”

Some areas of Syria, however, are still not accessible to humanitarian organizations, and sustained access to many areas remains limited, explained Mr. Lowcock. Around 1.6 million people are living in areas that have seen control shift between warring parties. Up to one third of these people are living in areas classified as “hard-to-reach,” and aid has not reached 60 per cent of these locations.

The UN humanitarian effort is making progress, he added: in the last three months, over 550 missions have assessed, delivered or monitored the delivery of assistance, and the UN’s field presence beyond Damascus has expanded, enhancing the Organization’s ability to engage with communities, assess needs, deliver assistance and monitor impact.

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