Security Council joins UN concern at refugee camp violence in Lebanon 23 May - The Security Council and the United Nations human rights chief today added their voices to mounting UN concern over the fate of civilians caught in the fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam gunmen at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
In a statement to the press read out by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of the United States, which holds the rotating presidency this month, Council members expressed deep concern at the violence at Nahr el-Bared camp, where more than 60 people have been killed and numerous others injured since clashes erupted on Sunday.
The statement called the actions of the Fatah al-Islam gunmen “an unacceptable attack on Lebanon’s stability, security and sovereignty” and stressed the need to protect and provide aid to the camp’s civilian population.
Nahr el-Bared is home to nearly 31,000 people, including about 8,000 classified by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as special hardship cases. About 10,000 have now fled to the nearby Beddawi refugee camp or to a stadium in the city of Tripoli, where UNRWA is spearheading aid efforts.
In a separate statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she was distressed by the reports of civilian deaths and injuries, adding that all sides to the fighting have an obligation to exercise precaution and protect civilians.
“The protection from attack for humanitarian workers and medical personnel and their unrestricted access to civilians are also guaranteed under the principles of international humanitarian law,” her statement noted.
“The shelling of an UNRWA convoy yesterday is unacceptable,” she added, referring to the attack against a group of six vehicles from UNRWA that was attempting to deliver and distribute supplies such as milk, bread and medicines to the besieged civilians.
No UNRWA staff members were killed, but UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told reporters today that some civilian bystanders were casualties. Three vehicles were also badly damaged and some of the humanitarian supplies were destroyed.
Mr. Holmes and UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd said they acknowledged the Lebanese army’s need to deal with the Fatah al-Islam gunmen, but wanted them to act with maximum restraint when operating in camp areas with civilians.
They called for humanitarian workers to be granted safe access to the camp so that they can assess and attend to the dead and injured and establish safe corridors for thos e wanting to flee.
In response to questions, Ms. Koning AbuZayd said Palestinian residents of the camp – which is self-policed – had told UNRWA staffers that the Fatah al-Islam gunmen were foreign nationals unconnected to them.
Today’s Security Council statement also condemned the latest bomb attacks in Beirut, which have led to the death of one person and several injuries.
The 15-member panel “welcomed the determination of the Lebanese Government to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of those and other terrorist attacks. There must be no impunity for such heinous attacks.”
Noting that the Council of the Arab League had also condemned the attacks, Council members “reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of any attempt to destabilize Lebanon, and underlined their readiness to continue to act in support of the legitimate and democratically elected Government of Lebanon. They appealed to all Lebanese to continue to maintain national unity in the face of such attempts to undermine the country’s stability.”
Today’s statements follow similar remarks yesterday from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNRWA’s Director in Lebanon Richard Cook, who each voiced grave concern about the situation inside Nahr el-Bared for civilians and on the attack against the convoy.
DR Congo: UN says allegations of trafficking by peacekeepers are under investigation
23 May - The United Nations today announced that allegations of gold and weapons trafficking by a number of its peacekeepers based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) are under investigation, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged to act quickly on the findings, urging Member States to follow suit.
A spokesperson for Mr. Ban said his top envoy to the country, William Lacy Swing, requested an immediate investigation by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) after an internal inquiry by the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) brought these allegations to light. That investigation began in early 2006.
“OIOS says that the investigation is well advanced and is expected to be completed in about three weeks,” spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.
“The Secretary-General looks forward to the early completion of the investigation,” she said, pledging that he will on the findings “expeditiously and transparently.”
If wrongdoing is found to have occurred, Ms. Montas said, the Secretary-General will hold those responsible accountable and called on any concerned Member States to do the same.
MONUC issued its own statement today stressing that it “has an absolute zero-tolerance policy on misconduct and will remain vigilant in preventing egregious and unacceptable behaviour.”
The statement said the mission in the DRC “is determined to relentlessly pursue the disciplining of anyone whose conduct is substantiated as unbecoming a peacekeeper.”
At the same time, MONUC reiterated its confidence in the vast majority of its blue helmets, and voiced gratitude to the service working for peace in the DRC. In Ituri, it noted, peacekeepers have disarmed and demobilized more than 15,000 militia members.
UN nuclear watchdog circulates report on Iran to Security Council
23 May - The head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today circulated his latest report regarding Iran to the Security Council.
The report, entitled “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security
Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” covers the period since IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s previous report of 22 February.
It was also submitted today to the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors, which will consider the report at its next series of meetings in Vienna starting on 11 June.
In Mr. ElBaradei’s February report, he wrote that Iran has continued enriching uranium in spite of a call by the Security Council that it suspend such activities.
“Iran has not agreed to any of the required transparency measures, which are essential for the clarification of certain aspects of the scope and nature of its nuclear programme,” he said in the February report, which also noted that without greater transparency and spot checks, the agency cannot confirm that Iran’s uranium enrichment activities are solely for peaceful purposes, as Tehran contends, rather than for the production of weapons.
In March, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for the tightening of existing sanctions on Iran, the imposition of a ban on arms sales and the expansion of the freeze on assets. It also reaffirmed that Iran must take the steps required by the
IAEA’s Board, which called for a full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
Additionally, the resolution said that Iran must ratify and implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT)
Additional Protocol which grants the IAEA expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process.
UN Security Council congratulates Timor-Leste on election results 23 May - While expressing concerns over the still-volatile security situation in Timor-Leste, the United Nations Security Council today lauded the Timorese people for holding credible presidential elections and Jose Ramos-Horta for his victory.
“The Security Council congratulates the Timorese people for demonstrating their strong commitment to peace and democracy, and commends the presidential candidates for the peaceful manner in which they conducted their campaigns,” the 15-member body said through a statement read out by, Jackie Sanders of the United States, which hold the presidency this month.
Mr. Ramos-Horta was sworn in on Sunday following two rounds of elections in April and May, beating out seven other candidates vying to lead the country, which the UN ushered to independence in 2002.
Looking forward to upcoming Parliamentary elections, the 15-member body pledged its continued support for the Government and people of Timor-Leste “as they embark on another step aimed at strengthening the foundations of democracy, and assume their rightful place in the community of nations,” the statement added.
At the same time the Council called upon the international community to continue to assist the Government to confront the challenges facing the country, which they said were political and institutional in nature, but exacerbated by “poverty and its associated deprivations.” The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), deployed following an outbreak of deadly violence last year, is helping with all aspects of the 2007 electoral processes, including technical and logistical support, electoral policy advice and verification.
Security Council Top UN human rights official to visit Rwanda 23 May - The top United Nations human rights official is heading today to Rwanda on the final leg of her 12- day mission to Africa's Great Lakes Region, which previously took her to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
In Rwanda, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will meet with President Paul Kagame as well as human rights advocacy groups and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), a UN spokesperson said today.
The object of her visit, the spokesperson said, is to re-affirm the importance of protecting and promoting human rights in reconciliation and reconstruction efforts in the country, which was ravaged by a civil war and the genocide against some 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 1994.
Louise Arbour Development in Central America stymied by crime and drugs,
UN warns 23 May - Central America is beleaguered by violent crime, much of it fuelled by drugs, which is thwarting economic development, according to a new report by the United Nations anti-narcotics agency released today.
“The warning signs are evident in this report – gun-related crime, gang violence, kidnapping, the proliferation of private security companies,” said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “But these problems are in no way inherent to the region. They can be overcome.”
Crime is the single largest issue impeding Central America’s stability, the study, entitled “Crime and Development in
Central America: Caught in the Crossfire,” noted. It called attention to the need for increased international assistance for the region to allow development efforts to take root as the area’s numerous vulnerabilities allow crime to thrive, which in turn limits growth and obstructs social development.
Despite the diversity of the Central American countries, they are united by the fact that they are all affected, to varying degrees, by drugs, crime and underdevelopment.
Many face problems resulting from income disparity, urbanization, high levels of poverty and easy access to guns. Key sources of revenue such as tourism are especially susceptible to high crime rates.
These countries are also made vulnerable by their geographic position, as they are sandwiched between Colombia, the world’s largest supplier of coca, and the United States, the world’s largest consumers of cocaine. Almost 90 per cent of cocaine en route to the US is transported through Central America.
“Where crime and corruption reign and drug money perverts the economy, the State no longer has a monopoly on the use of force and citizens no longer trust their leaders and public institutions,” Mr. Costa said, underscoring that development is stunted where crime and corruption thrive. “As a result, the social contract is in tatters and people take the law into their own hands.”
As a result of decades of conflict, the region is mired with the problem of firearms and has some of the highest homicide rates worldwide.
Although gang violence is a significant issue, particularly in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, it does not play as large a role in the total crime problem as commonly believed.
“Heavy-handed crackdowns on gangs alone will not resolve the underlying problem. Indeed, it may exacerbate them,” Mr. Costa noted. “Gang culture is a symptom of a deeper social malaise that cannot be solved by putting all disaffected street kids behind bars. The future of Central America depends on seeing youth as an asset rather than a liability.”
He urged all of the region’s countries, as well as others, to take action to shatter the links among drugs, crime and underdevelopment, emphasizing the importance of collaboration.
“Cooperation is vital,” Mr. Costa said. “The problems are too big, too inter-linked and too dangerous to be left to individual States.”
Also key is bolstering the criminal justice systems of poor countries, he pointed out. Limited resources lead to low ratios of police to civilians and low conviction rates, resulting in law enforcement having a limited deterrent effect.
“As a priority, States should strengthen their justice systems in order to root out corruption and restore public confidence in the rule of law. This would create a fertile environment for economic growth and attract foreign investment, thereby promoting development,” Mr. Costa stated.
International assistance is critical, he said, to address the problem through long-term solutions rather than short-term ones.
“We have a shared responsibility and common interest in helping the countries of Central America to withstand external pressures and to strengthen their internal resistance to the damaging effects of drugs and crime,” Mr. Costa said. “Let us unlock the potential of this region.”
Iraq: UN envoy holds talks with President of Kurdistan Region
23 May - Key political concerns affecting the future of Iraq were discussed during talks between the senior United Nations envoy to the country and the President of the Kurdistan Region, the world body's mission to the country announced today.
During their meeting in Salah Al-Din, north of Erbil, the Secretary-General's Spec ial Representative, Ashraf Qazi, and the President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, discussed national reconciliation, constitution review, human rights, the needs of displaced Iraqis, as well as provision of humanitarian and public services in northern Iraq, among other issues, the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said.
Mr. Qazi expressed his satisfaction over his wide-ranging discussions with Mr. Barzani and other senior officials of Kurdistan Regional Government.
The envoy reiterated that the UN is committed to assisting Iraq in political reconciliation and physical reconstruction. He stressed that all of the United Nations activities throughout Iraq were at the request of the Iraqi Government and that consensus was a prerequisite for the UN to expand its programmes and technical support.
Mr. Qazi noted that the UN will continue to “make every effort possible to put all the resources available in order to assist the Iraqis in the reconstruction process and to push forward the political process within the legal and constitutional framework” as called for by the Security Council, UNAMI said.
In addition to Mr. Barzani, the envoy met with Deputy Prime Minister Omar Fattah, Speaker Adnan Al-Mufti, Deputy Speaker Kamal Kirkuki, Minister of Region for the Interior Karim Sinjari, President Barzani's Chief of Staff Fouad Hussein and Executive Chief of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Politburo Mulla Bukhtiar.
SRSG Ashraf Qazi UNICEF appeals for $42 million to help Iraqi children 23 May - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for $42 million to help Iraqi children, who the agency said have reached a critical point due to violence and displacement. The appeal was launched in Amman, Jordan’s capital, by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, UNICEF’s first-ever Eminent Advocate for Children.
“For many Iraqi children, the long-term future may be unclear, but their present needs – for education, for health care, for clean water and proper sanitation – are clear and must be met – now,” she said.
Since the start of the war, close to 15 per cent of Iraq’s population or around 4 million people – half of whom are children – have fled their homes. Over the next six months, UNICEF seeks to provide critical relief for 1.6 million children who have been displaced and are living inside Iraq and in the neighbouring countries of Jordan and Syria, which are shouldering the burden of hosting Iraqi refugees who have left their homeland.
“We believe that Iraq is at a watershed,” Daniel Toole, the agency’s Acting Deputy Executive Director and Director of Emergency Programmes, told reporters in New York. “Iraqi children need help now.”
UNICEF has put $10 million of its own reserves towards jumpstarting relief activities, working closely with other UN
agencies to organize immunization campaigns and provide clean water.
Currently, less than one third of all Iraqi children have access to safe water, due to the breakdown of the country’s water and sanitation systems. As the summer approaches, fears of high levels of diarrhoea and dehydration are increasing. Last week, the first cases of cholera – all of them affecting children – were reported, raising concerns over a possible serious outbreak.
Another key area to be targeted by the funds is education. Statistics from two years ago showed that 75 per cent of children regularly attended school, while enrolment has dropped to 30 per cent, which Mr. Toole, who recently returned from a visit to the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, blamed on the insecurity.
Parents are afraid to send their children to school given the high levels of violence in Iraq, and the educational system is “missing teachers.” “If you travel around Iraq, you see children are no longer attending school,” he observed.
Further exacerbating conditions is the exodus of professionals, including doctors and teachers, leaving Iraq. “Children will bear the brunt of the brain drain,” Mr. Toole said, since they are left with fewer adults to train them and ensure their health.
He praised the efforts of the Governments of Jordan and Syria for welcoming the Iraqi refugees as guests, and also for pledging to assist Iraqi children in their countries by providing education and health services.
At the same time, he stressed that the violence must cease immediately, while acknowledging that UNICEF is unable to bring about an end to the hostilities.
“We cannot solve the problem of school attendance if parents are afraid to send their children to school,” he stated. Queen Rania also said what Iraqi children need, above all, is a resolution to the crisis. “That has to be our ultimate hope.”
Escalating violence in Gaza alarms UN human rights chief 23 May - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today condemned the recent escalation of violence across the Gaza Strip, calling on all sides to do their utmost to ensure that civilians are protected.
In a statement, Ms. Arbour said the deadly intra-Palestinian violence was having a “devastating impact on an already vulnerable civilian population,” and she voiced hope that the ceasefire reached among Palestinian factions on Saturday would hold.
The High Commissioner also deplored the ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against the Israeli town of Sderot.
“Deliberate attacks against civilians, and the use of indiscriminate weapons, which I personally witnessed during my visit to Sderot a few months ago, are in flagrant violation of cardinal principles of international humanitarian law and must stop,” she said.
Ms. Arbour also called on Israel to exercise restraint. “Extrajudicial killings are in breach of both international human rights and humanitarian law, and cannot be justified under any circumstance,” she said.
400,000 in Swaziland need aid after worst maize harvest ever – UN
23 May - One third of Swaziland’s population requires food assistance after the worst annual maize harvest on record due to an extended dry spell and high temperatures, according to a report issued jointly two United Nations agencies today.
Approximately 400,000 people will need 40,000 tons of food aid between now and next April’s harvest, according to the study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the first in a series of assessments of Southern African nations.
This year’s maize crop is nearly 60 per cent below last year’s level, both reducing the availability of food as well as resulting in price surges that will curtail many families’ access to food in the country where nearly seven out of ten people live on less than $1 per day.
Prolonged dry weather and the resultant water shortages threatened livestock, but rains came late, improving pasture and animal conditions. As a result, it is hoped that livestock production will buttress the impacts of the failure of the maize harvest.
The agricultural problems are occurring against a poor health backdrop; Swaziland has the highest rates of adult HIV infection in the world, estimated at over 40 per cent. This prevalence of the virus will exacerbate health, income disparity and poverty problems, the report noted.
FAO and WFP called for aid to be delivered to households with no access to sufficient food, and also stated that agricultural inputs – including seeds, fertilizers, credit and tractors – are also key to reviving farming capacity in time for the next season, which starts this September.
The price of cereals has soared in response to local shortages and major price increases in South Africa, the main exporter to Swaziland. Prices are expected to continue climbing due to a lack of rainfall in Southern Africa.
UN-sponsored health assembly closes with agreements on flu control, medicines
23 May - The supreme decision-making body of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) wrapped up its annual session today, reaching last-minute agreements on pandemic influenza preparedness and access to medicines for the poor.
A budget increase of nearly $1 billion dollars and action on a wide variety of issues from adjusting malaria medications to bolstering emergency trauma care were also decided at the 60th World Health Assembly, which took place from 14 to 23 May in Geneva with more than 2,400 people from WHO’s 193 Member States, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other observers attending.
In its resolution on preparing for a possible massive outbreak of influenza – such as the H5N1 or “bird flu” virus – in humans, Member States agreed on the need to improve international cooperation through greater production of vaccines and equitable access to them under International Health Regulations (IHR).
“I want to underscore the importance of this decision, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told the delegates in her closing remarks. “My responsibilities in implementing the IHR depend on this sharing.”
In that light, the resolution tasks an interdisciplinary working group with drawing up new responsibilities for the WHO Influenza Collaborating Centre Network, and its H5 reference laboratories, for the purpose of sharing influenza viruses.
The topic of “public health, innovation and intellectual property” involves not only access to existing medicines, other therapies and diagnostics by the poor, but also the fact that some health products for diseases that affect developing countries are simply not developed at all due to the lack of a sustainable market, according to a WHO study released last year.
The resolution adopted by the Assembly encouraged the Director-General to guide the process to draw up a global strategy to remedy the problem and to provide technical and policy support to developing countries for that purpose.
“I am fully committed to this process and have noted your desire to move forward faster,” Dr. Chan commented. “We must make a tremendous effort. We know our incentive: the prevention of large numbers of needless deaths and suffering,” she said.
World Health Assembly ends Ban Ki-moon to attend Quartet meeting on Middle East next week
23 May - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend a meeting of the Middle East Quartet, the international diplomatic grouping trying to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, in Berlin next week, his spokesperson announced today.
Next Wednesday’s meeting in the German capital will take place at a time of mounting concern at the situation in the region after a week of deadly violence involving intra-Palestinian clashes, Israeli military operations and Palestinian rocket attacks.
Mr. Ban and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour have both issued statements expressing concern about the upsurge in deadly violence and the effect it is having on the civilian population. The Quartet – which brings together the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States – has called repeatedly in the past for Israel and the Palestinians to follow the Road Map, which lays out mutual steps to achieve a two-State solution to the conflict, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace.
The Berlin meeting is expected to be attended by Mr. Ban, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU High Representative for Common Security and Foreign Policy Javier Solana and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Internet Governance Forum in November to address access, security issues, UN official says
23 May - The next meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in November will focus on access, openness, security and diversity, a top United Nations official said today at a press conference in Geneva.
Speaking after today’s preparatory consultations for the Forum’s second meeting, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro from 12 to 15 November, Markus Kummer, Executive Coordinator of the Forum’s secretariat, told reporters that the Rio meeting would advance the discussion that had taken place at the first Forum meeting in Athens last November.
At today’s consultations, participants felt “the next meeting in Rio should not merely be a repetition of the Athens meeting, but should rather be an ‘Athens plus,’” Mr. Kummer said, adding that the speakers from Germany, on behalf of the European Union and the United States had emphasized the importance of a format involving all players and of a private sector-driven process.
It had also been proposed that in Rio all Internet governance-related organizations should present their activities and engage in a dialogue with all concerned, Mr. Kummer said.
“The idea for today’s meeting was for participants to discuss what the Rio meeting should focus on,” said Nitin Desai, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Internet Governance, who chaired the meeting, adding that some 200 representatives from civil society, the private sector and the Internet community attended the consultations.
Some participants felt that the Forum should focus more on Internet resources, Mr. Kummer said, including the internationalized domain names. Participants had proposed to include agenda items dealing with emerging and topical issues, under which the question of Internet resources could be raised. Many wanted to see this issue discussed more openly,
Mr. Desai said, although the Rio agenda had not been finalized yet.
The Forum had a very broad mandate, Mr. Kummer said, and could discuss virtually any subject related to the Internet, Internet governance and the use or abuse of the Internet. After the Athens meeting, many differences had been voiced on its outcome. While governments, in particular, were accustomed to diplomatic processes resulting in negotiated documents, the Athens meeting had simply provided a forum for discussion.
But although the Forum had no decision-making power, its mandate did allow it to make recommendations “if appropriate,” Mr. Kummer said.
The Forum’s next steps after Rio were still to be determined, Mr. Desai said, as the Forum itself was an evolving process. “We are experimenting with a multi-stakeholder open-ended process without a fixed membership,” he said, adding that the
Forum would meet in India in 2008 and in Egypt in 2009. The Forum’s mandate provided for a review within five years of its inception, which would result in a recommendation by the Secretary-General on the future of the body.
Côte d’Ivoire: UN condemns damage to human rights organization 23 May - The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has spoken out against a recent attack on two human rights organizations in the country, calling for the authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible.
In a statement, UNOCI strongly condemned the destruction of goods, pillage and extortion against the headquarters of the Ligue Ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme and l’Action pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme on 21 May.
Following a visit to the affected sites, UNOCI noted the extent of damages as well as the consequences of these acts on the operational capacities of these two organizations defending human rights, reporting that equipment and archives were destroyed or taken.
UNOCI decried the damage, pointing out that all Ivorian parties must work to implement the Ouagadougou agreement. That accord, struck on 4 March, sets out a series of measures to deal with the political divide in Côte d’Ivoire, which has been split between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north since 2002.
Assembly President names two diplomats to guide Security Council reform talks 23 May - General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa has appointed the ambassadors of Chile and Liechtenstein to conduct consultations with United Nations Member States on how to move forward on reform of the 15- member Security Council.
Heraldo Muñoz of Chile and Christian Wenaweser of Liechtenstein will be expected to report back to Sheikha Haya on the outcome of their consultations by the end of next month, the President said in a letter sent to UN Member States yesterday.
Sheikha Haya has asked Mr. Muñoz and Mr. Wenaweser to use last month’s report of the five facilitators on Council reform she appointed in January as the basis for their consultations.
That report found that even though there is overwhelming support for Council reform, the world’s countries remain so divided on the details – from the question of expansion to the use of the veto to the categories of membership – that a transitional stage of reform may be necessary to break the deadlock.
The report stated that a “significant number of Member States tend to agree that their ideal solution may not be possible at this stage, and believe that it may be more reasonable to consider the best possible solution for now.”
It called on nations to “explore new and emerging ideas concerning a transitional approach” to Council reform, in which there would be an intermediate arrangement ending with a mandatory review at a pre-determined date to decide if that arrangement should continue.
Member States would not have to give up their original position pending the mandatory review, according to the report, which proposed four possibilities for an intermediate category of Council seats.
Mr. Muñoz is one of five facilitators who presented that report, with the others being the permanent representatives of Tunisia (Ali Hachani), Cyprus (Andreas D. Mavroyiannis), Croatia (Mirjana Mladineo) and the Netherlands (Frank Majoor).
Sheikha Haya said in her letter that those facilitators would continue to advise her on the issue.
UN labour agency awards Decent Work Prize to Nelson Mandela and academic
23 May - The United Nations International Labour Organization today awarded its first annual ILO Decent Work Prize to the former South African President Nelson Mandela and to an academic expert on Latin American economics.
Mr. Mandela, who is also a Nobel Peace Laureate, “is awarded an exceptional prize for his extraordinary lifetime contribution to knowledge, understanding and advocacy on the central concerns of the ILO,” the organization said in a press release.
“With this prize, the jury and the ILO wished to recognize and honour his sustained efforts that helped to make decent work a central objective in the policy agenda in South Africa and worldwide, furthering the vision of work which is free from discrimination and oppression, and of social justice and dialogue as the essential base for progress.”
Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Professor Emeritus on Economics and Latin American Studies of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, United States, also received the prize in recognition of his “major scholarly contributions to the analysis of socio-economic relationships and policy instruments for the advancement of decent work.”
The press release cited his work in particular on social security and pension reform, which the jury stated, had had a notable impact on reform processes across Latin America for many years. The prizes – which were created by the ILO’s International Institute for Labour Studies – will be awarded formally at the closing plenary session of the ILO International Labour Conference on 15 June in Geneva.
Nelson Mandela Freedom of expression increases in Ukraine despite intimidation – UN expert
23 May - While democracy and free expression have increased in Ukraine in the past few years, journalists are still subject to intimidation by individuals said to be linked to authorities, an independent United Nations expert said today.
“Despite the ongoing political instability, the country is steadily progressing towards a democratic system based on the rule of law, good governance and human rights,” Ambeyi Ligabo, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of
the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said after a visit to the east European country.
“However, the current political situation, marked by a strong polarization of opinions, does not contribute to the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, especially for foreigners residing in the country, ethnic groups and migrants, who are often victims of discrimination,” he said.
Mr. Ligabo, an unpaid expert who reports to the UN Human Rights Council, said that he met with a number of journalists who were victims of violence by various gangs and others allegedly linked to state security organs and an academic institution.
In addition, he was told that many journalists, especially from the regions outside the capital, are under severe pressure and intimidation from local authorities while others are frequently harassed, arrested and framed on hollow court charges.
He also noted that there is undue delay in the determination of cases of violence against journalists and many of the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
“This general situation of uncertainty, compounded by uncompromising struggle for power amongst competing political parties, has created considerable distress among ordinary citizens and, if not excised properly, may eventually undermine democratic achievements so far made.”
He was pleased that many people in authority were willing to discuss the problem with him, but he stressed that all sides, particularly the Government, need to make more concerted efforts to protect human rights, including the passage of legislation on free expression that is in conformity with international standards.
In addition, he said that much Ukrainian media was of low quality, increasing polarization in the country. This could be remedied by training and the appointment of the relevant officials in a democratic and transparent way, he said. “They should be allowed to run their mandates independently, without political interference,” he added.
Mr. Ligabo said he would provide more concrete recommendations to the Government of Ukraine, media professionals, journalists, civil society organizations, and others in the near future.