Top UN official details terrible year for children in armed conflict

“The nature of conflict is changing and civilians are increasingly on the frontline. The toll on children is more brutal than ever,” stated Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.“Ferocious conflicts in Gaza, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq and Afghanistan have led to high casualty rates and the displacement of a large number of people, especially children,” she reported to the UN Human Rights Council, which is holding its 12th session in Geneva.Ms. Coomaraswamy stressed that addressing impunity and holding perpetrators accountable must remain a priority of the international community to halt grave violations against children. On the positive side, she drew attention to progress made in some situations of concern where child soldiers were freed.She also commended the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1882, which expanded the list of criteria of violations to include those who kill, maim, rape or commit other forms of sexual violence against children in wartime.“Action at the international level must, however, also be underpinned by accountability at the national level,” she urged. “That includes rigorous investigation and prosecution of those responsible for grave violations against children as well as reforms of national legislation for the protection of children in order to ensure compliance with international norms and standards.”Ms. Coomaraswamy called on all parties to conflict to make every effort to better protect children and to make protection of civilians an integral part of military planning.She also stressed the need to address protection concerns for children displaced as a result of conflict, including according them the right to education, the liberty of movement, the right to protection against sexual and gender-based violence and the right to basic services. 15 September 2009It has been a terrible year for children living in situations of armed conflict around the world, the top United Nations official dealing with the issue said today, stressing the need for the international community to address impunity and hold perpetrators accountable. read more

Sri Lanka poised to deal with postconflict tasks leader tells UN

Having recently declared victory in its decades-long conflict with Tamil rebels, Sri Lanka is committed to tackling issues of long-term peace and development, including resettlement of displaced civilians and reconciliation, its Prime Minister said at the United Nations today. “We have entered a forward-looking, post-conflict phase, recognizing at the same time the urgent need to deal with the scars and unresolved challenges of the past,” Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka told the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. In May the Government declared an end to its military operation against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), ending more than two decades of fighting. Mr. Wickramanayaka said one of the Government’s highest priorities following the end of the conflict has been to meet the immediate needs of the some 280,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in camps in northern Sri Lanka, as well as to ensure their “safe, voluntary and dignified” return to their homes. “The Government reiterates its firm resolve to resettle the IDPs expeditiously,” he said. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has on several occasions voiced his concern about developments regarding the IDPs, as well as the political process and a possible accountability mechanism for alleged human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. The Prime Minister acknowledged that “in the aftermath of conflict, peace cannot last without reconciliation,” and said the Government had put in place “a broad and comprehensive foundation” for long-term peace and security encompassing reconstruction, development, political empowerment and reconciliation. “The end of conflict provides us with a historic opportunity to address the grievances and aspirations of all communities, in expediting a long-term political solution.” He added that Sri Lanka is committed to complying with its international obligations in the field of human rights and humanitarian standards. 26 September 2009Having recently declared victory in its decades-long conflict with Tamil rebels, Sri Lanka is committed to tackling issues of long-term peace and development, including resettlement of displaced civilians and reconciliation, its Prime Minister said at the United Nations today. read more

Haiti UN agency ramping up food aid ahead of upcoming rains hurricane

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up its assistance in Haiti, pre-positioning rations and distributing meals to those displaced by January’s earthquake ahead of the approaching rains and the upcoming hurricane season. More than 200,000 people were killed by the 12 January quake, which also left 1.3 million more homeless in the largely destroyed capital, Port-au-Prince, and nearby towns.As of last week, humanitarian agencies estimate that 3.5 million survivors of the earthquake have received food assistance, 1.3 million are receiving daily water distributions and some 510,000 have benefited from hygiene kits. More than 500,000 adults and children have been vaccinated against common diseases.Updating reporters in Geneva on WFP’s efforts, Emilia Casella said the agency is pre-positioning 2 million humanitarian daily rations and 1,000 tons of high-energy biscuits in 31 locations around the country. It is also distributing 20,000 tons of food into 14 field and sub-offices around Haiti – enough to feed 1.3 million people for up to six weeks. In addition, WFP is supporting the re-location of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from some of the camps in vulnerable areas in and around Port-au-Prince with seven days of ready-to-eat meals and 15 days of general food rations to assist them while they relocate to areas away from water flows. Ms. Casella said the agency is also boosting its work-for-food programme, aiming to reach 70,000 workers in the coming months. School meals, which are currently reaching 550,000 children, will be increased to 800,000 children over the coming week, she added.Last week Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said following a visit to Haiti that “commendable progress” has been made since the quake. However, the situation remains dire and there is a need to maintain the current attention on the country, she added, citing huge challenges such as providing shelter in the rainy season. 20 April 2010The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up its assistance in Haiti, pre-positioning rations and distributing meals to those displaced by January’s earthquake ahead of the approaching rains and the upcoming hurricane season. read more

Nations agree on historic UN pact on sharing benefits of worlds genetic

After nearly two decades of debate, governments from around the world today agreed to a new United Nations treaty on managing the planet’s wealth of genetic resources – from animals to plants to fungi – more fairly and systematically.The decision came on the last day of the two-week conference of parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan.The new pact, which is a protocol to the Convention, will set up an International Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources, laying down the basic ground rules on how nations cooperate in obtaining genetic resources.“This is a day to celebrate in terms of a new and innovative response to the alarming loss of biodiversity and ecosystems, and a day to celebrate in terms of opportunities for lives and livelihoods in terms of overcoming poverty and delivering sustainable development,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).He said that today’s achievement also shows how countries can put aside the “narrow differences that all-too-often divide in favour of the broader, shared issues that can unite peoples and nations,” congratulating governments for “bringing a fresh vision to the more intelligent management of life on Earth.”The new Nagoya Protocol will outline how benefits – for example, from when a plant’s genetics are turned into a commercial product, such as medicine – will be shared with countries and communities who conserved and managed that resource, in some cases for millennia.It also lays out rules on how substances and compounds derived from genetic resources will be dealt with, as well as on the issue of pathogens, including how developed countries could obtain a flu virus in emergency situations to develop a vaccine to counter a possible epidemic.In Nagoya, governments also adopted a new strategic plan, including targets for addressing biodiversity loss to be met by 2020.Countries agreed to increase land-based protected areas and national parks to 17 per cent of the Earth’s surface from 12.5 per cent now, and to raise the percentage of marine protected areas from 1 per cent currently to 10 per cent.The plan also calls for lifting the extinction risk from known threatened species by 2020. 29 October 2010After nearly two decades of debate, governments from around the world today agreed to a new United Nations treaty on managing the planet’s wealth of genetic resources – from animals to plants to fungi – more fairly and systematically. read more

UN welcomes calm atmosphere as initial results of Haitian elections are released

The popular musician Michel Martelly defeated former first lady Mirlande Manigat in last month’s run-off round of the presidential race, according to figures released yesterday by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council.The UN mission (MINUSTAH) issued a press statement in which it “salutes the fact that Haitian political actors welcomed this announcement with maturity, demonstrating their wish to respect the voice of the people and the democratic process.”A mission spokesperson told the UN News Centre that the streets of the capital, Port-au-Prince, have been relatively calm since the announcement of the results, with no major incidents reported so far.Violence erupted last December after supporters of Mr. Martelly challenged the initial results of the first round of the presidential election, which placed him third – and therefore out of the run-off round – behind Ms. Manigat and another candidate, Jude Celestin.The Provisional Electoral Council re-examined the ballots and amended the results, placing Mr. Martelly second to Ms. Manigat in the first round.In today’s statement, MINUSTAH praised Haitians for showing so much patience and calm in recent weeks and urged them to continue to do so when the final results are released on 18 April.The mission added that any candidates in the presidential or legislative elections who dispute the preliminary results should pursue their claims in line with the provisions of Haiti’s electoral laws.Haitians went to the polls after a year in which they were battered by a massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left at least 2.3 million others homeless. A subsequent cholera epidemic killed another 4,000 people. 5 April 2011The United Nations peacekeeping operation in Haiti today welcomed the release of the preliminary results of the country’s presidential and legislative elections and urged Haitians to continue to show patience and calm in the lead-up to the release of final results. read more

After a bidding frenzy a hat finds a new home and UNICEF

The pale pink – and very high – hat worn by Princess Beatrice to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 29 April in London drew a frenzy of bids on the eBay website over the past 10 days, with the unknown winner paying £81,100.01 (about $130,000).The sum will be divided equally between the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Children in Crisis, a United Kingdom-based charity.A UNICEF spokesperson said that figure could buy more than 16,200 mosquito nets to protect children and their families from malaria, or at least 210,000 vaccines to protect children against measles or enough textbooks, stationery and school supplies for 8,110 children for a year. “I am so happy that we have raised the most incredible amount of money and can make an even bigger change in the lives of some of the most vulnerable children across the world,” said Princess Beatrice after the end of the auction.“Every single penny will make a difference to children’s lives around the world,” said Julie Weston, fundraising director for UNICEF in the UK.The hat, designed by the London-based milliner Philip Treacy, attracted bids from around the world – less than a month after many fashion observers mocked its debut. 23 May 2011Thousands of anti-malaria mosquito nets, countless school supplies or hundreds of thousands of measles vaccinations can now be bought by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after a notorious hat sold at auction yesterday. read more

UN mission in Afghanistan deplores killing of deminers

11 July 2011The United Nations has strongly condemned the brutal killing of four de-miners in the western Afghan province of Farah, stating that attacks on those who deliver humanitarian services are totally unacceptable. The United Nations has strongly condemned the brutal killing of four de-miners in the western Afghan province of Farah, stating that attacks on those who deliver humanitarian services are totally unacceptable.The four – who worked for the De-mining Agency for Afghanistan – were among 31 individuals who were first abducted while working on life-saving activities in Balabuluk district on 6 July, according to a statement released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).“De-miners are providing life-saving services to vulnerable Afghans regardless of any political, religious, ethnic or geographical consideration,” said Michael Keating, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.The head of the Mine Action Coordination Centre for Afghanistan (MACCA), Alan Macdonald, said he was appalled by the killings, and called on all Afghans to “support and respect the efforts being made by their fellow countrymen to clear Afghanistan of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.”UNAMA stressed that attacks on those who deliver humanitarian services are against international humanitarian law, adding that such attacks are “totally unacceptable.”“The United Nations urges the Government and all those in a position of responsibility to do everything possible to investigate this unprecedented incident and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the Mission said in a statement.The widespread and indiscriminate use of mines during more than two decades of conflict has turned Afghanistan into one of the world’s most heavily contaminated countries. Every month, an average of 40 people are killed or injured by landmines and explosive remnants of war in the country.So far more than 15,000 landmine-contaminated areas in Afghanistan – representing more than two-thirds of the affected territory – have been cleared and handed back to local communities. read more