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As fighting in Libya escalates, so does number of children ‘at imminent risk of injury or death’

INTERNATIONAL, 18 April 2019, Peace and Security - In and around Tripoli, an increasing number of children are “at imminent risk of injury or death” two senior United Nations officials warned on Thursday, citing a surge of aggression in crisis-torn Libya.

General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, which controls much of eastern and southern Libya, has waged a two-week military campaign to take Tripoli from fighters loyal to the UN-recognized Government.  

Calling the escalation in fighting “the worst in years”, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, issued a statement reminding all of Libya’s warring parties that they are obliged “to protect children at all times in full compliance with international law”.

“Killing, injuring and recruiting children, and attacks on education, medical and water facilities are all grave violations of children’s rights and must cease immediately”, they stated – reminding that in line with Security Council resolution 2427, “prevention measures must be put in place to better protect children”.

Together they also urged for “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all children in need, and for a ceasefire to allow civilians to safely leave areas under conflict”.

Children caught in the middle

Nearly 1,800 children are among the civilians who need urgently to be evacuated from frontline fighting, as the raging violence has already displaced 7,300 others, the two UN officials said. Moreover, around 500,000 children are estimated to be affected by violence across the country’s west.

“Children trapped in conflict areas are at risk of running out of food and losing access to medical care” they explained. “Unable to leave these areas, they cannot safely seek protection or assistance”.

Pointing out that the violence has also left nearly 1,000 refugee and migrant children held in detention centres “in grave danger”, Mses. Fore and Gamba stressed that “they should be immediately released and provided with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be provided with safe repatriation assistance for reunification with their families”.

For their sake, and the sake of the country’s future, the fighting must stop – UN officials

“The principle of non-refoulement must be respected”, they maintained, underscoring that unaccompanied minors, many of whom are in transit, “are at risk of grave violations including recruitment and use, sexual violence or abduction”.

The fighting is also depriving children of their right to education.

The two UN officials detailed that the academic year has not only been suspended in all schools throughout conflict-affected areas, but seven are acting as shelters for displaced families. Additionally, a recent attack on an education warehouse destroyed five million schoolbooks and national school exam results.

“Libya has suffered through more than seven years of persistent conflict that has left at least 820,000 people, including some 250,000 children, in dire need of humanitarian assistance”, the UN officials stressed, “and the situation is deteriorating yet again”.

“For their sake, and the sake of the country’s future, the fighting must stop,” concluded Mses. Fore and Gamba.

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Stress, overtime, disease, contribute to 2.8 million workers’ deaths per year, reports UN labour agency

INTERNATIONAL, 18 April 2019, Health - Stress, excessively-long working hours and disease, contribute to the deaths of nearly 2.8 million workers every year, while an additional 374 million people get injured or fall ill because of their jobs, the UN labour agency, ILO, said on Thursday.

In a new report underlining ILO’s message that no paid work should threaten your wellbeing, your safety or your life, the agency identifies several new or existing occupational risks of growing concern, that affect women more than men.

These include modern working practices overall, world population growth, increased digital connectivity and climate change, which are believed to account for losses of almost four per cent of the global economy.

Women at particular risk

“The world of work has changed, we’re working differently, we’re working longer hours, we’re using more technology,” ILO’s Manal Azzi told UN News. “The report says 36 per cent of workers are working excessive long hours, meaning more than 48 hours per week.”

Noting that “people are increasingly asked to produce more and more, they have no time to rest”, Ms. Azzi highlighted that women are particularly at risk. This is because they tend to be the primary carer for children or parents and lack the time to exercise, she said.

“Not only do you work when you’re at your office but then you’re working at home as well,” Ms. Azzi said, “so it’s a lot of sedentary work and that affects cardiovascular diseases as well.”

The greatest proportion of work-related deaths – 86 per cent – come from disease, according to ILO, with some 6,500 people a day dying from occupational diseases, compared to 1,000 from fatal occupational accidents.

The greatest causes of mortality are circulatory diseases (31 per cent), work-related cancers (26 per cent) and respiratory diseases (17 per cent).

“As well as the economic cost we must recognize the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause,” Ms. Azzi said. “These are all-the-more tragic because they are largely preventable.”

Launched during the ILO’s centenary year – and ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April, the report underlines the life-saving value of promoting prevention, to save lives and encourage healthy working environments.

“Serious consideration should also be given to the recommendation of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work, that occupational safety and health be recognized as a fundamental principle and right at work,” Ms. Azzi said.

Since 1919, the ILO has adopted more than 40 international labour standards promoting occupational health and safety. These relate to specific risks such as ionizing radiation, asbestos and cancer-causing chemicals, to specific risky activities including agriculture, construction and mining.

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‘Foreign children’ in overwhelmed Syrian camp need urgent international help, says top UN official

INTERNATIONAL, 18 April 2019, Humanitarian Aid - Help is needed urgently from the international community to help some 2,500 apparently stateless “foreign children” at a camp for the displaced, in north-east Syria, a top UN official said on Thursday.

Panos Moumtzis, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis made the “special plea” to journalists in Geneva, noting that 75,000 people now shelter in Al Hol camp, after fleeing ISIL extremists.

“Today I am making a special plea for the children,” Mr Moumtzis said, noting that UNICEF had estimated that they number around 2.500: “These children do have a father and a mother, and their father and mother have a nationality, and therefore a solution has to be found - particularly with this - for the children.”

I don’t think we have ever seen such a large number in a complex protection situation...this requires many actors to work together to be able to find a way forwardUNICEF's Panos Moumtzis

In a plea to Governments whose citizens had been drawn to Syria “to find a way forward”, the UN official highlighted the massive challenges in dealing with the arrival of 65,000 desperate people in just 100 days – most of them women and children.

“This is an extreme, extraordinary situation; I don’t think we have ever seen such a large number in a complex protection situation, and clearly this requires many actors to work together to be able to find a way forward.”

Noting that humanitarian agencies in Al Hol are “still in emergency mode”, Mr. Moumtzis nonetheless insisted that the situation had “stabilized”.

His comments follow reports that well over 100 people en route to the camp or at Al Hol had died or become gravely ill after travelling for days in harsh winter conditions since fleeing Baghouz, the former ISIL stronghold in eastern Syria.

Asked about the nationalities of those in the camp, Mr Moumtzis replied that “about 43 per cent are Syrian nationals, 42 per cent are Iraqi nationals and 15 per cent are foreign nationals”. He said 90 per cent were women and children, and 66 per cent of the total were children.

Nationals “who have been suspected of having committed crimes, then they need to be treated according to national, international law, in this country,” the UN official added, before insisting that there was no question of the Organization providing help to violent extremists.

“What I can categorically say first of all is the people who we are helping are all civilians,” he said, adding that “we do not help people according to ideology.”

Civilians in Idlib, still in peril

Elsewhere in Syria, where the UN and partners help 5.5 million people every month, there is ongoing and serious concern for civilians in Idlib.

The region is home to some three million people, who rely on cross-border humanitarian supplies arriving from Turkey.

Half of these people have been displaced during the Syrian conflict, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure since it began in 2011.

Since August 2018, Idlib has been largely protected from the worst fighting by a ceasefire agreement implemented by Russia and Turkey, although clashes are ongoing.

This had forced more than 70,000 people to flee from the front line of a demilitarized areas since the  beginning of the year, Mr Moumtzis said.

“A continuation of the ceasefire - it was put  in place since last summer - is really crucial, in order to make sure we do not all see a catastrophe as we have all been worried given the large number and the overpopulation and also the nature of who is there,” he explained.

Turning to Rukban camp on Syria’s southern border with Jordan, Mr. Moumtzis said that while another 700 people had “spontaneously departed” on Tuesday to Government-controlled areas, significant protection and humanitarian concerns remain for the many thousands of displaced people still there.

“A key ask that is still pending is a next convoy,” Mr Moumtzis said. “We really remain concerned about the needs of more than 35,000 people who are in Rukban. The last assistance convoy that was brought in was more than two months ago, and therefore is really long overdue to be able to move forward."

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‘Vaccines are safe’ and save lives, UNICEF declares, launching new #VaccinesWork campaign

INTERNATIONAL, 18 April 2019, Health - Amid a surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on Thursday a new social media campaign, emphasizing that “vaccines are safe, and they save lives”.

To inspire confidence in the power and safety of vaccines, UNICEF is using the hashtag #VaccinesWork for the global campaign, centred around World Immunization Week, which runs from 24 to 30 April.

“We want the awareness that #VaccinesWork, to go viral,” said Robin Nandy, UNICEF’s Chief of Immunization. “This campaign is an opportunity to show the world that social media can be a powerful force for change and provide parents with trustworthy information on vaccines.”

The campaign is part of a global, week-long celebration under the theme, Protected Together: Vaccines Work, to honour so-called Vaccine Heroes - from parents and community members, to health workers and innovators.

A unifying hashtag

#VaccinesWork has long been used to bring together immunization advocates online.

This year, UNICEF is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private partnership known as Gavi, to encourage even greater reach.

For every like or share in April of social media posts with the hashtag #VaccinesWork, the Gates Foundation will contribute a dollar to UNICEF – up to $1M in total – to ensure that all children get the life-saving vaccines they need.

“More children than ever before are being reached with vaccines today,” said the Foundation’s Violaine Mitchell. She lauded UNICEF and international partners that are “working tirelessly to ensure all children, especially those in the world’s poorest countries, can be protected from life-threatening infectious diseases.”

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan credited the "millions of frontline health workers” who travel “vast distances on foot, over water, through snow, even on carts to deliver life-saving vaccines”.

“We can also do our part to combat myths and let everyone know #VaccinesWork”, she stated.

‘Childproof your child’

Vaccines save up to three million lives a year, according to UN figures, by protecting children from potentially deadly, highly infectious diseases, including measles, pneumonia, cholera and diphtheria.

Moreover, they are one of the most cost-effective health tools ever invented, with every $1 spent on childhood immunization returning up to $44 in benefits.

We must reach every child with life-saving vaccines – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Angélique Kidjo

And yet, in 2017 an estimated 1.5 million children died of vaccine-preventable diseases, said the United Nations. While often due to lack of access, there is a trend in some countries in which families, skeptical of vaccines, are delaying or refusing to vaccinate their children.

This has resulted in several outbreaks, including an alarming measles surge in high-income countries that is being driven on digital and social media platforms.

That is why the centerpiece of UNICEF’s campaign is a 60-second animated film called Dangers, based on the premise that “kids, by their very nature, are little daredevils who constantly put themselves in danger”. The video explains that while parents can’t eliminate all risk, they can vaccinate to “prevent the dangers that get into their kids”.

“Today nine in ten children receive immunizations, but we cannot leave anyone behind”, said UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and Grammy award-winner Angélique Kidjo. “We must reach every child with life-saving vaccines”.

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Service and Sacrifice: Ugandan 'Blue Helmets' support UN efforts to bring peace to Somalia

INTERNATIONAL, 18 April 2019, Peace and Security - A contingent of 530 Ugandan “Blue Helmets” (63 women, 467 men) is playing a crucial role in the United Nations’ efforts to help bring peace and stability to Somalia. They make up the United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU, that is tasked with protecting UN compounds in Mogadishu in order to assist the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) to carry out their mandate. 

The job does not come without risks.  An attack on the United Nations compound in Somalia in January this year is “still fresh in our minds” according to the commander of Ugandan peacekeepers who are tasked with protecting the base and its personnel. 

Seven mortars landed inside the compound in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on New Year’s Day, injuring two UN staff members and one contractor. The group, Al-Shabaab, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. 

This was a “notable indirect mortar attack shelling of United Nations compound within Mogadishu International Airport,” said Colonel Stuart R. Agaba, the commander of the UNGU. 

UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed
The Commander of the United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU) in Somalia, Colonel Stuart Agaba speaks during an interview in Mogadishu.

“UNGU responded immediately by adopting a counter infiltration - defensive posture and was more than ready to fend off any follow-up attack,” added Colonel Agaba. 

“Female soldiers, both rank and file,” are a key element of the UNGU as they “give hope to women and children of the host country”Colonel Agaba, UNGU

That includes deterring and protecting UN personnel and infrastructure against armed attack including patrolling inside and in the immediate vicinity of UN compounds. The Ugandan peacekeepers are also trained to provide a “rapid extraction and evacuation capability for UN personnel.”  

Perilous 

The UN describes the security situation in Somalia as “volatile” and recently in Mogadishu there has been “a spike in reported activities,” by terrorist organizations.  According to Colonel Agaba, the Ugandan peacekeepers are working in a “in perilous operational environment,” that “oscillates between medium to high risk.” 

The Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) has been providing troops for the UNGU since 2015; this is the fifth rotation of forces who serve for one year. 

This is a “new experience for men and women of the UPDF,” said Colonel Agaba. “They have a myriad of experiences, they learn endurance, how to manage stress and get to understand how the UN works,” he added. 

Women 

UN Photo/Ilyas Ahmed
A female Ugandan soldier serving under the United Nations Guard Unit (UNGU) in Somalia, searches a vehicles at a checkpoint in Mogadishu.

Currently, there are 63 women serving in the contingent. “Female soldiers, both rank and file,” are a key element of the UNGU as they “give hope to women and children of the host country,” said Colonel Agaba. 

The female officers are deployed in a range of roles including commanding troops, search and security and other guard duties and play a key role in the Security Information and Operations Centre (SIOC).  

Pan-Africanist ideology 

Somalia is a near neighbour of Uganda’s in East Africa and according to Colonel Agaba, his country’s contribution to peacekeeping “stems from a pan-Africanist ideology in which Uganda has made and continues to make sacrifices for Somalia’s quest for peace, prosperity and stability.” 

And as the commanding officer Colonel Agaba believes that “ensuring that UNGU officers, men and women, effectively carry out mandated operations with utmost compliance to UN principles, makes our contribution to UN global peace efforts a gratifying experience.” 

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Libya: Heavy shelling and civilian deaths ‘blatant violation’ of international law - UN envoy

INTERNATIONAL, 17 April 2019, Peace and Security - Heavy shelling overnight on Tuesday which hit a densely-populated neighbourhood of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, was condemned “in the strongest terms” by the head of the UN Mission there, after “scores” of civilians were reportedly killed and injured.
“Horrible night of random shelling of residential areas”, tweeted UN Special Representative Ghassan Salame on Wednesday, after the Abu Salim district was hit. “For the sake of 3 million civilians living in Greater Tripoli, these attacks should stop. NOW!” 

Khalifa Haftar, leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls much of eastern and southern Libya, has waged a two-week military campaign to take Tripoli from fighters loyal to the UN-recognized Government.  

According to initial medical reports, civilian casualties from the overnight attack, include women and children injured, and one family where the mother, daughter and grand-daughter were all killed. 

“The use of indiscriminate, explosive weapons in civilian areas constitutes a war crime,” Mr. Salame, who also heads the UN Support Mission (UNSMIL), said in a statement. He extended “with great sadness”, his “deepest condolences” to the victim’s families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.  

His statement pointed out that as of yesterday, there have been 54 confirmed civilian casualties, including 14 dead and 40 wounded, four of whom were health workers.  

 “Liability for such actions lies not only with the individuals who committed the indiscriminate attacks, but also potentially with those who ordered them”, stressed the Special Representative. 

International humanitarian and human rights laws must be fully respected and all possible measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure must be taken, he added.  

Grave statistics 

As sustained fighting continues in and around Tripoli, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHAreported that displacement is currently at its highest level since the current crisis started. 

UNOCHA
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Libya: Tripoli Clashes as of 16 April 2019.

With more than 4,500 people newly on the move, the total of number of internally displaced people (IDPs) stands at 25,000.  

According to OCHA, many civilians trapped in conflict areas face the dilemma of not knowing whether to remain in their homes or leave and face the uncertainty of clashes and shelling. This is further exacerbated as food and other essential items in some neighborhoods are running low. 

The UN’s humanitarian wing sets the current conflict against a backdrop of years of conflict that have driven a socio-economic crisis in Libya and left public services deficient and people vulnerable.  

At least 820,000 people, including some 250,000 children, are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 

Meanwhile, OCHA has transferred defenseless migrants and refugees from Abusliem detention centre in the conflict area and says that the humanitarian community is maintaining efforts to ensure safe passage for civilians and medical supplies and services. 

As of 16 April, OCHA reported apart from the 25,000 people internally displaced by ongoing hostilities, 6,000 have received some form of humanitarian assistance since the crisis began; and the 2019 Humanitarian Response Programme is facing a $190 million funding gap. 

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Violence on the rise in Darfur following Sudan military takeover, but UN-AU peacekeeping mission maintains ‘robust posture’

INTERNATIONAL, 17 April 2019, Peace and Security - Security across the volatile Darfur region of Sudan has deteriorated since last week’s military takeover in Khartoum, the UN Security Council heard on Wednesday, but the peacekeeping mission in Darfur has “remained vigilant” in the face of rising violence. 

Jeremiah Mamabolo,  Joint Special Representative for the UN-African Union Hybrid mission, UNAMID, updated members on events since the ousting of former president of 30 years, Omar al-Bashir, with news reports suggesting on Wednesday that he had now been transferred to prison. 

Mr. Mamabolo said that with one General already forced out of office in the face of continuing protests, the daily curfew has now been lifted, and political detainees are due to be released, with a nationwide ceasefire now in place.  

“Yesterday, the Chief Justice and the Attorney General were replaced”, he said, adding that the new military leader, General Abdel Fattah Al-Burnhan, had announced a “military transitional phase” which would last two year at most, before a handover to civilian control. 

But protests are continuing he said, noting that some internally-displaced people, or IDPs in Darfur – where military action by the former president against civilians led to war crimes charges against him by the International Criminal Court a decade ago – had “engaged in violent acts” targeting Government locations, and those seen as collaborators with the former regime. 

“Let me assure the Council that in the midst of all these developments, UNAMID has remained vigilant, maintaining a robust posture, particularly in the Jebel Marra area of responsibility, which is where we have peacekeeping troops”, he added. 

The mission is currently drawing down, but the political landscape “has drastically changed, and has the potential to affect our mandate implementation going forward”, said the top official in Darfur, citing a postponement of a sector headquarters handover that was due to take place on Monday.  

“The incidents of violence in Darfur IDP camps in reaction to the events in Khartoum, attest to the fragility of the security situation in Darfur, which had hitherto been increasingly calm and stable”, excepting Jebel Marra, said Mr. Mamabolo.  

He urged Council members that the international community now “has an opportunity to initiate and sustain dialogue with the new authorities in Sudan. This would help create a conducive environment for UNAMID’s departure, and the international community’s follow-on engagement in Darfur. 

‘Regular operations’ continue for humanitarians in Sudan: UN deputy relief chief 

Although regular operations have not been affected by the political crisis, the UN deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator told Council members that humanitarians across Sudan were “very concerned about the protection of civilians” - particularly in Darfur, where localized fighting is continuing.   

The start of the school year has been delayed she noted, and the country’s burgeoning economic crisis “has had a significant impact” on need-levels nationwide, as one of the main drivers of the initial mass-protests that began in December, against the rule of the former president.  

She noted that rampant inflation, currency devaluation and soaring prices had contributed to rising numbers of those in need, with 5.8 million now food insecure, up from 3.8 million, this time a year ago. This includes 1.9 million in Darfur; a number likely to rise with the onset of the lean season in May. 

In all, around 1.9 million remain displaced by fighting she noted, the vast majority in Darfur. “More support is needed” from the international community, she stressed, and humanitarians are appealing for $1.1 billion to help the most vulnerable. 

Ms. Muller reminded members that Sudan had been a vital conduit for aid into South Sudan, and as host country to around 150,000 refugees from its war-ravaged neighbour. “We continue to call on all parties in Sudan to allow the humanitarian community to assist people in need”, she said. 

“We also call on the Government to take further measures to improve the operating environment for humanitarian organizations, especially the lifting of bureaucratic impediments to movement”.  

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Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

INTERNATIONAL, 17 April 2019, Human Rights - Torture is likely still widespread in Afghanistan’s State-run prisons for detainees linked to ongoing conflict there, the UN said on Wednesday, while also noting an “encouraging reduction” in the level of abuse since 2016. 

Based on interviews with more than 600 detainees and published jointly by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), their latest report on the treatment of prisoners indicates that an average of nearly one in three, provided “credible and reliable” accounts of suffering. 

In the previous reporting period, covering 2015 and 2016, the ratio was closer to four in 10. 

Beatings represented the most common form of torture and ill-treatment, according to the data, which also noted that “the vast majority” of detainees held for alleged links to extremist group ISIL (also known as Daesh) or other opposition forces, said they had been tortured or ill-treated to force them to confess - and that the treatment stopped once they did so. 

Significant differences in the treatment of detainees were found depending on where they were held, with one Afghan National Police (ANP) facility in Kandahar, linked to a 77 per cent torture rate - well above the 31 per cent ANP average. 

The Kandahar findings included allegations of “brutal” forms of torture such as “suffocation, electric shocks, pulling of genitals and suspension from ceilings”, UNAMA and OHCHR said, while underlining that abuse allegations in ANP detention centres had fallen - from a 45 per cent average – since 2016. 

The report, which finds that youngsters are at higher risk of suffering mistreatment, discusses how detainees’ rights are violated in other areas. 

These include a lack of legal safeguards to prevent torture, difficulties in gaining access to lawyers and the continued absence of accountability for perpetrators, with very limited referrals to prosecution. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, said the report’s findings demonstrated that the embattled Government’s policies put in place to combat torture and ill-treatment were having an effect, but they were far from sufficient. 

“A year ago, on this day, the Government of Afghanistan committed itself to the prevention of torture by acceding to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture,” Ms. Bachelet said. 

“I urge the Government to work swiftly to create a National Preventive Mechanism to ensure independent, impartial scrutiny of the treatment of detainees. A well-resourced watchdog of this sort, which is able to make unannounced visits to places of detention and raise awareness of what constitutes torture and ill-treatment according to international human rights law, can go a long way towards the ultimate goal of fully eradicating torture.” 

Also highlighted in the report are concerns over an Afghan National Army-run detention facility in Parwan, in the north-east of the country. 

These include overcrowding and the use of solitary confinement as the sole disciplinary measure, despite progress and “tangible results” made by the Government in implementing a national plan to eliminate torture. 

“We welcome the steps taken by the Government to prevent and investigate cases of torture and ill-treatment over the past two years,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“However…there is still a long way to go to eradicate this horrendous practice among conflict-related detainees,” he added. “Respect for the rule of law and human rights is the best way to create the conditions for sustainable peace.” 

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Turn toxic e-waste into a source of ‘decent work’, UN labour agency urges

INTERNATIONAL, 17 April 2019, SDGs - A “toxic flood of electric and electronic waste” that is growing by the day across the world, should be urgently converted into a source of decent work, that can also protect populations from its harmful effects, the United Nations labour agency said on Wednesday. 

Governments, workers and employer organizations reached agreement at a meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, urging that “at all levels”, countries should look to increase and invest in better waste management infrastructure and systems to deal with “the rapidly growing flows of e-waste in ways that advance decent work”. 

“Every stage of the reuse, recycling, refurbishing, resale” process, when it comes to technology “has to be looked at in much more systematic ways”, said Nikhil Seth, Chair of the ILO Global Dialogue Forum on Decent Work in the Management of Electrical and Electronic Waste. 

Countries also recognized the crucial need to protect those working with toxic and hazardous e-waste, which negatively affects both them and the environment. 

“Workers handling e-waste have no voice, no bargaining power”, said worker vice-chairperson, James Towers, pointing out that “they are breaking hazardous materials by their hands.” 

Moreover, he added that “these workers are unaware of the many risks associated with handling e-waste”.  

A ‘great business opportunity’ 

The world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year, and although it is valued at 55 billion euros, or more than 60 billion dollars, only 20 per cent of e-waste is formally recycled, according to ILO. 

It is, however, becoming an increasingly important resource for in the informal work sector. Along the e-waste value chain, they recover, refurbish, repurpose and recycle electrical and electronic equipment, bringing innovative services and products to the market, aiding the whole “circular” recycling economy.   

“There is [a] great business opportunity in the e-waste sector”, stressed employer vice-chairperson, Patrick Van den Bossche  

“We need to step up our efforts in creating decent and sustainable jobs, fostering an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises, offering new products and new services, and adding value through enhancing the circular economy”, he affirmed.  

Government vice-chairperson Aniefiok Etim Essah spoke about how e-waste is littering the landscape of his country, Nigeria, as well as other African nations, arguing that this can be turned into a positive: “Our youth possesses the creativity and potential for learning skills to manage e-waste, giving us the opportunity to increase youth employment,” he said. 

ILO is a member of the UN E-Waste Coalition, formed to increase collaboration, build partnerships and more efficiently provide support to help States address the e-waste challenge. 

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UN Security Council condemns Taliban offensive as a blow against ‘sustainable peace’

INTERNATIONAL, 16 April 2019, Peace and Security - The United Nations Security Council has condemned the announcement by Taliban militants in Afghanistan of its spring offensive, saying it will result in more “unnecessary suffering and destruction for the Afghan people”.

Recognizing citizens’ “strong desire for sustainable peace in Afghanistan”, the Council underscored that “calls for more fighting will not advance the goal of making a sustainable peace”.

According to news reports, the announcement, which came as the UN lifted travel bans on the Taliban’s senior leaders to facilitate United States-led peace talks, signals that although negotiations are gaining momentum, fighting is likely to intensify around the country.

“Seize the opportunity to begin an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations that result in a political settlement”, the Security Council urged all parties to the conflict.

Number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, 2009-2018., by UNAMA report

The Council members reiterated “the importance of an inclusive Afghan-led and-owned peace process for the long-term prosperity and stability” of the country and expressed their “full support for the Afghan Government’s efforts to that end”.

“The members of the Security Council reiterated that, as mandated by the Security Council, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General stand ready to provide their good offices to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, if requested by and in close consultation with the Afghan Government”, they concluded.

The cost of violence

In February, UNAMA released devastating figures showing the direct impact of the conflict on civilians, with 3,804 deaths recorded last year, the highest number since the UN started keeping records ten years ago. In addition, 7,189 people were injured in 2018, five per cent more than in 2017.

“But even these figures do not capture the full human cost of the war,” the UN Special Representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, informed the Council last month – noting that over half the population of the country lives under the poverty line and that 13.5 million people “survive on less than one meal a day,” which was compounded by last year’s severe drought.

At the same time, Afghanistan’s presidential election, originally due to take place this coming weekend, has been pushed back twice, from April to July, and most recently to September.

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