THE UN SECRETARY-GENERAL REMARKS AT SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN DEBATE ON CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT

New York, 18 June 2015
I thank the Foreign Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency Dato’ Sri Anifah Aman, for arranging this critical debate on children and armed conflict.

Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict.

My report before you outlines the enormous challenges we face in upholding the fundamental rights of tens of millions of children.

We have seen crises multiply and intensify, making protection more and more difficult.

Grave violations against children have been an affront to our common humanity in the Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic.

I am also deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year.

I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals.

Around the world, many thousands of children have experienced acts that no child should suffer.

They have been killed, maimed, forcibly recruited, tortured and sexually abused.

Their schools have been destroyed.

And in a worrying trend, abductions have increased rapidly.

Groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army have kidnapped children for many years.

But the scale and nature of this grave violation is changing.

Abduction is now being used as a tactic to terrorize or target particular ethnic groups or religious communities, and children have been a particular focus.

The large number of abductions by Da’esh and Boko Haram have shocked us repeatedly in recent months.

But we should also recognize that this practice is prevalent in many other situations covered by the report and is perpetrated by a great range of other non-state armed groups.

I am pleased that at the last open debate on children and armed conflict in March, there was broad support from Member States to address this challenge and increase the tools available to deal with it.

Next month we will mark the 10 year anniversary of the Council’s resolution 1612, which established the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

My Special Representative and her predecessors have made great strides in protecting children from recruitment.

The “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign is based on many years of work to change attitudes.

This year has witnessed further progress.

We are moving ever closer toward a world in which no child wears a Government uniform and engages in combat.

I encourage those concerned governments here today to redouble their efforts to implement the goals of the campaign and to work with my Special Representative.

However, there is still much to do in addressing the challenge of ending grave violations against children by non-state armed groups.

The report before you highlights some progress made in this regard.

For example, the release of 1,757 children from the Cobra Faction is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture in South Sudan.

My Special Representative will continue to work with such groups to ensure we are doing our utmost to protect children in these most difficult environments.

Grave violations against children are also of great concern both in countries of origin and in countries that children flee to.

Children may cross the border to flee conflict, but that does not mean that they are safe from its effects – they require urgent and sustained protection interventions.

This year, I regret that the contents of the annual report have been the subject of more controversy and discussions than usual, to the extent of threatening its integrity.

The mechanism has withstood this scrutiny and the content of my report should speak for itself.

It presents strong overview of egregious violations suffered by children in conflict in 2014.

This increases global awareness, highlights the need for accountability, and calls for action.

It is a stark reminder that protection of children in armed conflict must be our common priority.

A healthy debate where Member States put forward their views and provide information is appropriate.

But national interests should not cloud the objective at stake, which is protecting children.

This is a moral imperative and a legal obligation.

Those who engage in military action that results in numerous grave violations against children will, regardless of intent, find themselves under scrutiny.

Member States should pursue all avenues to protect children affected by armed conflict.

One important way is by ending impunity for the violations outlined in this report.

I also wish to reassure that I am committed to ensuring that the United Nations itself does more and better to prevent any abuse of children in the context of conflict.

Recent allegations concerning abuse in the Central African Republic make this all the more essential.

I urge Member States and, in particular, all the parties to conflict identified in this report to work with my Special Representative to prevent future grave violations against children.

Children have the right to be protected in their schools, in their homes, in their communities.

Let us keep the rights of children at the centre of our efforts to build a future of dignity for all.

Thank you.

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL REMARKS AT PRESS ENCOUNTER FOLLOWING SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT

New York, 18 June 2015

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a pleasure to see you following my visit to Germany to participate in the G-7 summit, and five Central Asian countries, and Geneva on the Yemen situation.

I wanted to say, first of all, that I very much welcome the papal encyclical released today by His Holiness Pope Francis. I issued an official statement this morning, but I just wanted to add my own voice in support of the papal encyclical.

I met, as you may remember, with Pope Francis in April in the Vatican. We discussed the need for all humankind to come together to address climate change, one of the principal challenges facing the human community.

Pope Francis and I agree that climate change is a moral issue that requires collective urgent actions. It is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.

People everywhere share a responsibility to care for and protect our common home, our one and only planet Earth.

We must do far more to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, who are suffering most from climate impacts yet had least to do with causing the problem.

We must also show solidarity with generations that will follow ours, and bequeath to them a sustainable world.

I thank, deeply, Pope Francis for taking such a strong stand on the need for urgent global action. His moral voice is part of a growing chorus of people from all faiths and all sectors of society speaking out for climate action.

I urge all governments to place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement in Paris this year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I just spoke to the Security Council about children and armed conflict. As my latest report makes clear, last year was one of unprecedented challenges for children in conflict zones around the world. It is crucially important that we protect the world’s children. As the report shows, that is a goal that we are failing to meet.

I am aware of the controversy surrounding the report. I want to express once again my full support for my Special Representative, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, and the excellent work that she and her team have done.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope you will understand my situation, that I have another urgent meeting where I have to participate now, so I will turn the floor over to my Special Representative, to handle any [questions].

THE DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REMARKS AT HIGH-LEVEL GENERAL ASSEMBLY THEMATIC DEBATE IN SUPPORT OF THE PROCESS TOWARDS THE 2016 SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON THE WORLD DRUG PROBLEM

New York, 7 May 2015
I thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this timely thematic debate in preparation for the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016).

Today’s meeting is an important opportunity to take stock on the road forward to UNGASS 2016. When we meet in April next year, we must be ready to challenge ourselves, try to consolidate our approaches and integrate a range of perspectives on drug issues. Most important is to listen to each other and engage in an open and comprehensive conversation.

Let us acknowledge that there are different facets and perspectives on the road and the challenges ahead of us. These facets and perspectives are as complex as they are significant.

First, we must acknowledge that the drugs trade, in many cases, poses a threat to peace and security at the national, regional and international levels.

At a national level, the criminal networks which thrive on the drug trade are threats to strong, stable societies. Organised crime undermines institutions, feeds corruption and obstructs democratic governance.

Illicit drugs are also a major source of funding for non-state armed groups. This despicable trade fuels violence and instability – threatening hard-won progress on peace, development, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

At the international level, the ever stronger links between transnational organized crime, terrorism and extremist violence constitute a very serious new threat.

From West Africa to Central Asia, we see how international drug trafficking jeopardises peacebuilding efforts and bolsters terrorist groups. That is why tackling drugs and crime is included in the mandates of UN peace operations in countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Afghanistan.

While we tackle the security implications, let us remember that the drug problem also encompasses countless individual struggles and human tragedies.

The first three words of the UN Charter, “we the peoples”, remind us that we are first and foremost here to serve the peoples of this world, so that they all may live a life in peace and dignity.

People who use drugs face special barriers, burdens and traumas. These include health hazards and psychological strains. They include discrimination and stigmatization. They include the negative effects of serving lengthy prisons sentences for minor drug offences.

People involved in drug production often include vulnerable groups in isolated and conflict-affected areas. Such groups often face exploitation by crime syndicates and traffickers and see limited opportunities for an alternative livelihood.

Preventing drug use, treating drug dependence, providing health care and social protection as well as supporting alternative livelihoods are essential aspects of a balanced drug control approach – one that will allow us to fulfil our responsibility to serve all members of society.

When we refer to intractable conflicts with mounting civilian casualties, we often say the parties must realise “there is no military solution.” I believe there is an equivalent lesson for our work to contain the damaging impact of the drugs trade. The “war on drugs” is in fact a painstaking, laborious, often thankless and seemingly unending Sisyphean struggle.

The evidence is clear: around the world, we see that countries which integrate public health into drug control work achieve greater health effects and social benefits, while at the same time improving rule of law and security.

Our priority must be to promote health-based responses which offer care for drug users.

We must ensure access to essential controlled substances for legitimate medical purposes.

We must adopt policies to prevent the spread of hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases.

And, very importantly, we should pay special attention to the protection of young people.

Specific measures are needed to prevent drug use among children and young people without criminalising them. We must also develop policies that recognise the impact on children of drug use by parents and care-givers.

At the international level, The United Nations advocates a careful balancing of elements of an international policy on drugs.

Through increased focus on public health, prevention, treatment and care – as well as on economic, social and cultural effects and strategies – we can build a multi-sector, approach founded on partnership and cooperation.

Such an approach should promote a close relationship between the institutional bodies of the drug control system and the scientific community. It should also drive work that is evidenced-based, drawing on robust analysis and research.

In 2009, Member States adopted the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on international cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. As we approach the ten-year review of the Political Declaration, UNGASS 2016 is a critical milestone and an opportunity to set the course ahead.

Next year, we must seize the opportunity for open, comprehensive and in-depth discussions. We must draw on perspectives from the full range of stakeholders, including civil society and young people. And we must set the course for national and international policies that respect human rights and strengthen the cohesion of societies.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has a crucial role to lead this preparatory process in an inclusive, open-minded and effective manner. I urge Member States and all other stakeholders to continue to engage broadly in this process.

Today’s high-level event will deepen and inform these important discussions. I wish you every success in your very important work.

I thank you.

WHO ISSUES RAPID HEALTH ASSESSMENT ON IMPACT OF NEPAL EARTHQUAKE

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 01 May 2015
A rapid assessment of health-care facilities by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Population in the earthquake-stricken areas has found that hospitals in 4 of the worst-affected districts are completely destroyed or too badly damaged to function. Five other major hospitals, providing important health care in the districts, were found to be functioning but urgently in need of further medical supplies.

Preliminary findings from the assessment, found that while there was a shortage of supplies, sufficient health personnel were available to treat patients arriving in the functioning hospitals.

“WHO staff have been working round the clock to gather this snapshot of the damage inflicted on Nepal’s hospitals and clinics by the earthquake,” according to WHO’s Country Representative for Nepal, Dr Lin Aung. “This information will be a vital tool in guiding the short- to medium-term response by national and international healthcare providers, determining where to move health teams and supplies in the country.”

Teams visited 21 hospitals in 12 of the districts most severely-impacted by the 25 April earthquake to gather information and found that a total of 17 hospitals were still operational.

Many hospitals told the assessment teams that they were experiencing a shortage of supplies, including essential medicines, surgery kits, IV fluids, antibiotics and suturing materials, while tents and mattresses were also required. WHO has already provided essential medicines and supplies to treat 120 000 people for three months, as well as trauma and surgical kits. Additional supplies, including urgently needed medical tents, are scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu this weekend.

WHO is coordinating the deployment of foreign medical teams and humanitarian organizations to priority districts based on the needs of affected populations and the capacities of partner organizations.

Field hospitals are being set up on the site of the 4 non-functioning district hospitals, identified as Ramachhap, Trisuli , Chautara, and Rasuwa. The 5 hospitals found to be functional but needing urgent support include Gorkha District Hospital, Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Dhading District Hospital, Hetauda District Hospital and Alka hospital in Lalitpur. They will be receiving additional supplies of essential medicines and equipment starting today.

“The fact that hospitals do not need additional staff, and that thousands of patients are receiving treatment, shows that the preparedness measures taken by Nepal for emergencies are making a difference,” says Dr Roderico Ofrin, head of WHO’s emergency response. “But we must continue replenishing medical supplies, ensuring patients are treated, and that those who require rehabilitation receive it.”

Dr Ofrin adds: “We must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent and control communicable disease outbreaks, like diarrhoea, while striving for the resumption of care for pregnant women, and treatment of conditions like TB, HIV, diabetes, cancers, lung and heart diseases. Ensuring women and children receive the healthcare they need is a priority.”

While the rapid assessment provides a snapshot of pressing needs in the aftermath of the quake, additional and ongoing assessments will provide a better picture with which the government and health sector can tailor the delivery of medical relief.

According to official figures received on 1 May, 6200 deaths have been recorded while approximately 14 000 people are injured.

Media contacts:
(In Nepal)
Paul Garwood
Nepal mobile: +977 9801123116
Geneva mob:+41.79.603.7294
email: garwoodp@who.int

(In Geneva)
Tarik Jašarević,
mob: +41 79 367 62 14
email: jasarevict@who.int

Christy Feig
Mob: +41 79 251 7055
Email: feigc@who.int

Source: World Health Organization

388 MORE REFUGEE FAMILIES RECEIVE SUPPORT FOR REPAIRS TO HOMES WITH SEVERE DAMAGE

01 May 2015
US$ 1.37 million in funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through KfW Development Bank and the Japanese Government, available as first instalment for supporting home repairs of severe damages, will reach 388 refugee families across the Gaza Strip next week. They will access the payments through local banks.

Emergency shelter – including support for home repairs, reconstruction and interim shelter solutions – is a top priority for UNRWA. The Agency remains committed to supporting affected families yet requires new funding to resume the shelter cash assistance programme.

Source:United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

STUDENT MIDWIVES PREPARE TO SAVE LIVES IN RURAL BANGLADESH

DINAJPUR, Bangladesh, 1 May 2015
The stairwells of the Dinajpur Nursing Institute, in northern Bangladesh, are bustling with midwives-in-training. Each classroom is crowded with women in crisp white uniforms, hovering over plastic anatomical models and practicing using foetal stethoscopes. The skills they develop here will save countless lives.

“I am confident in the skills I am learning and I want to use them to serve the people of my country, especially the poor,” said student Selina Akter, 20. She is one of the 2,025 students currently enrolled in a UNFPA-supported midwifery programme that will bring highly trained midwives directly into the health care system for the first time.

Bangladesh has made great strides in reducing maternal and infant deaths in recent years – the maternal mortality rate has dropped more than 40 per cent in the last decade – but progress has been slowed by the lack of highly educated midwives in the national health care system.

“As of now, regular nurses are delivering our babies, but they have many other duties and are not specialists,” said Sarmina Sattar, a nursing instructor and midwife trainer at the Dinajpur Nursing Institute. “We need specialists to deliver much more skilled treatment because of their advanced knowledge.”

The government of Bangladesh, with support from UNFPA, began offering this three-year specialized midwifery course in 2012. It has expanded every year since.
The first graduates will enter the health system in December 2015.

Going where they are needed most

Upon graduation, the newly trained midwifery specialists expect to receive remote postings, often far-removed from the comforts of the big city.

“When I complete my training, I will go where the government assigns me,” Ms. Akter said.
These rural postings will address one of the primary challenges to maternal health care in Bangladesh: currently, almost 75 per cent of the population lives outside the country’s few major cities.

“The people of Bangladesh need services at the community level,” said Salma Khatun, an assistant professor of reproductive health, who has been deputized by the government’s Directorate of Nursing Services. “Many do not have the money to travel to [major] health centers. Having midwives available at the grassroots level will make services easily available.”

Empowered to save lives

The midwives will bring highly specialized skills to the communities they serve. The nurses currently staffing health facilities generally lack the training and authority to deal with labor complications, and must seek approval from senior doctors before they act. Yet even small delays can be fatal when women haemorrhage after delivery or require an emergency Caesarean section.

Midwives’ training will enable them to act decisively and without oversight. “Instead of having to wait for a doctor to give permission, midwives will be allowed to make their own decisions. This will make us much more effective than current nurses,” says Ms. Sattar.

Additionally, midwives learn techniques that can help to avoid costly C-sections. It is estimated that the savings from avoiding C-sections in Bangladesh will represents a 1,600 per cent return on the cost of a midwife’s training.

In the meantime, UNFPA and the World Health Organization are also supporting a six-month midwifery course for more than 1,300 nurses. These nurses – who already have some midwifery training – will learn the additional skills needed to qualify as certified midwives.

Bridging cultural barriers

Bangladesh’s all-female midwifery workforce will also help to tackle cultural obstacles for women seeking health care.

“Most of the doctors at the rural level are men,” explained Professor Khatun. Because of strict societal views on male-female interactions, “this can lead to many women not wanting to seek treatment.”

But as more people realize the benefits of proper maternal health care, demand for skilled birth attendants is on the rise. According to Nidha Islam, a medical officer in the Gynaecology ward of the Thakurgaon District Hospital, midwives will play a crucial role in meeting these growing needs.

“By making decisions quickly based on their professional knowledge, midwives can save lives,” Ms. Islam said. “We are looking forward to having the help.”

Source: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

Geneva, 1 May 2015
Ahmad Fawzi, Director a.i. of the UN Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing. The Spokespersons for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, participated.

Allegations of Sexual Abuse in the Central African Republic

Asked about the case of Mr. Anders Kompass, an OHCHR employee who had allegedly leaked information on the ongoing investigation into sexual abuse of children by French peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, Mr. Fawzi informed that UN Spokesman in New York had made remarks on that issue the previous day; the remarks would be shared with the journalists.

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), explained that there were two investigations under way, and because of that the OHCHR was very constrained in what it could say at this point.

The first, and the most important, investigation was into extremely serious allegations of sexual abuse of children by French soldiers in the Central African Republic. That was being investigated by the French authorities. The French authorities said publicly that that investigation had started on 31 July 2014.

The allegations about what happened to those children were abhorrent. The details, contained in interviews with alleged victims and witnesses by UN investigators in summer 2014, including one of our staff, were utterly odious. OHCHR was glad that the French authorities were investigating it and that they had said they planned to call for the harshest punishments available under the law for anyone found guilty. That was incredibly important, not just as a matter of accountability, but also as deterrence. There had been far too many incidents of peacekeeping troops engaged in such acts, whether within UN peacekeeping forces, or – as in the current case – forces that were operating independently. OHCHR had been cooperating with the French authorities and would continue to do so to the best of our ability.

Mr. Colville explained that the second investigation was internal, and was being carried out by Office of the Internal Oversight Services (OIOIS) at the request of the High Commissioner. A statement had been made about that by the Secretary-General’s Spokesperson in New York on 29 April, and there was not much to be added given that the investigation was underway. The investigation concerned the manner in which confidential information, and especially the identities of child victims and witnesses, as well as of the investigators, had been communicated to external actors in possible breach of strict rules that existed to protect victims, witnesses and investigators. Obviously, that was a matter of great importance, which was why such rules existed. Victims, witnesses and investigators might be extremely vulnerable to reprisals, and the OHCHR knew of plenty of cases elsewhere where they had disappeared.

In addition, sources, especially victims and witnesses, had to be able to give their informed consent before their identities were shared with third parties. In the case of young children — and the youngest of the victims is believed to have been between 8 and 9 years old — informed consent cannot be obtained.

OHCHR was extremely concerned that in recent days copies of the preliminary compilation of un-redacted interviews with those children appeared to have been given to journalists, possibly with the names still un-redacted, and urged any media organization or other individual that had that document not to circulate that information any further. The protection of sources had to be of paramount importance. As a concrete illustration of that concern, the OHCHR knew for a fact that at least one of the individuals named in this document had been contacted by a number of different media organizations over the previous few days, which was very worrying. The core issue here was the protection of witnesses, victims and investigators and whether or not that had been compromised, and indeed was still being compromised.

Mr. Colville clarified that the case in question did not concern UN peacekeepers. The French force in the CAR was not under the umbrella of the UN. Why would OHCHR – or indeed the wider UN — try to protect French troops accused of such odious acts against children by sitting on such information?

The timeline of events would obviously be clarified during the investigation, but it was incorrect to say that the collection of interviews had been submitted on 24 June. That was the date the last interview with one of the children had taken place. As far as the OHCHR was aware at this point, the document containing the interviews had been apparently sent to Geneva in mid-July, and the French said they had started their investigation on 31 July 2014.

Asked why the Attorney General of Bangui had not been informed of the document, Mr. Colville said that he had no knowledge of that.

If the violation had not occurred under the UN peacekeeping mandate, why the OHCHR was investigating it, a journalist asked. Mr. Colville said that the OHCHR had heard of allegations and started investigating, which was why the investigation had started. OHCHR was looking into various abuses around the world, regardless of who committed them.

A question was asked whether information was being given to Chadian and Ecuadorian Guinean authorities, given the alleged involvement of their troops in sexual abuse. Mr. Colville said that suggestions that there were culprits from those countries were tenuous, but that issue might well be covered by the French investigation. Mr. Colville stressed that it was often more likely to identify culprits if the investigation was conducted quietly and without revealing identities of victims, witnesses and investigators.

Answering another question, Mr. Colville said that it would be the French authorities who would deal with their troops. Each contingent had the responsibility to ensure that its actions were in line with the international law standards. There were several layers of investigations, added Mona Rishmawi, also from the OHCHR, who put emphasis on the victims, who were very young and vulnerable, and now they were put in a position to be stigmatized. She explained that the OHCHR had internal protocols on how to deal with that.

On whether the 10 boys had been protected since being interviewed, Mr. Colville said that measures had been taken to protect them, but no further details could be provided. One person named in the document had been contacted numerous times by the media in the previous days. He refused to divulge which person, saying that providing any more details would obviously further undermine their protection.

Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), added that the children had been interviewed in May/June 2014, and UNICEF had been part of the interviewing team, in order to ensure that the interviews were conducted in line with the child protection guidelines. UNICEF could confirm that the children had been provided medical support and psycho-social assistance. There had also been follow-up visits by social workers. Mr. Boulierac added that the children were safe now. Protection was an issue, as was the stigma. Journalists who legitimately wanted to investigate the topic should understand that the protection issues were still pending. The children ought to continue being protected, and UNICEF had to ensure that that was indeed the case.

Comment was made that there had been similar cases in the past, when Sri Lankan blue helmets had committed similar offences in Haiti, and Moroccans in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What had been done about those offenders by their countries? Mr. Colville said that serious crimes committed by peacekeepers should go under proper judicial process and punishment. There had to be zero tolerance on sexual abuse, rape, violence, which was the fundamental position of the OHCHR. He could not provide details of Moroccan and Sri Lankan troops and referred journalists to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

Mr. Fawzi explained that an elaborate report had been produced then, specifying zero tolerance as the policy, and some soldiers had been convicted for those abuses. A comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping, the so-called “Zeid report”, which had been authored by the current High Commissioner for Human Rights, had been published in 2005. That was in many ways the definitive report and set of recommendations on sexual abuse in peacekeeping operations. So the High Commissioner was particularly knowledgeable about the issue. Any allegation that he or his predecessor Navy Pillay would try to cover sexual abuse was absurd.

Mr. Colville could not comment on whether Mr. Kompass had admitted that he had leaked the report. Investigation was under way. Mr. Colville referred to the statement made by the UN Spokesman.

On why there had been no reaction by the UN to protect the children immediately in early May, once the first interviews had been conducted, Mr. Boulierac said that the last child had been interviewed at the end of June. UNICEF with partners had provided support in a very short time span. Support had been provided as soon as UNICEF had been asked to do so, in May/June 2014.

Asked how many cases of sexual abuse during peace-keeping operations had gone through the full process and how many were still pending, Ms. Rishmawi said that the United Nations applied the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. A UN screening policy was in place for people involved in human rights violations; certain appointments, especially of commanding officers, were blocked by the UN because those people were complicit in human rights violations. The relationship between the peacekeeping troops and the United Nations was difficult because the troop contributing countries (TCCs) kept their structures in place. It was one of those systemic problems, as the UN did not have its own forces as such, and had to rely on TCCs for providing troops.

Mr. Colville explained that the media had issued the un-redacted report in the previous few days only. As far as the OHCHR was aware at this point, the preliminary compilation of the unredacted interviews had arrived in Geneva in mid-July 2014, and the French authorities had commenced their investigation in late July 2014.

Responding to the questions on the suspension of Mr. Kompass, Mr. Colville explained that he was on administrative leave with full pay. There was presumption of innocence while the investigation was ongoing. The SG Bulletin of February 2007 (ST/SGB/2007/6) dealt with the issue of confidential information.

A journalist asked for the list of peacekeepers condemned for sexual abuse since the 2005 Zeid report. Mr. Colville said that it was normally the Department of Peacekeeping Operations dealing with such abuses; that was where the investigations were taking place. Ms. Rishmawi said that when the OHCHR had presence in a country where there were allegations of human rights violations, regardless of who committed them, they would normally look into those allegations. The current case was complex as it involved very young children. She explained that the OHCHR had been following up on a number of countries, from which troops had allegedly committed offences. Detailed information would be sought from other departments, primarily from the DPKO.

Mr. Colville could not provide much information on the French investigation and could not comment on the length of the investigation. French authorities had to be asked about details. There were no indications that there should not be confidence in the way the investigation was being conducted.

On whether protection measures had been taken for other children, Mr. Boulierac said that UNICEF had increased its activities following the interviews. He reiterated that there was still ongoing violence in the CAR, and the overall situation was still very worrying for the children in the CAR.

Answering a question, Mr. Colville said that it was possible that there could be more cases of such abuses, but there was no information at this point.

Nepal Earthquake

Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, for the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), stated that the Burundi Red Cross had a network 150,000 volunteers which were running first aid at that moment referring patients to the hospital and they were monitoring the situation.

Christine South, also for the IFRC, stated that they were increasingly focused on the outline areas. As it was written in the previous day’s press release, through the network of Nepal’s Red Cross and 2,100 volunteers and 34 national response teams, the IFRC had already got access to some of the remote areas. There they carried out assessment and had provided basic assistance, such as first aid, distribution of tarp poles, aqua taps and other materials in the areas of Sindhupalchok, Malachy, Saltara – both in the north. The IFRC had very good visual communication with photographs of the situation. People were in a very desperate need in some of those villages, where 90 percent of the houses were destroyed, and people were living in wet conditions with the rains having started. Thus, the priority was to provide more assistance into those areas.

Japanese, Canadian, Philippines and Hong Kong Red Cross teams, with basic health care units had arrived. Those teams were now allocated and starting to work on set up in those villages and districts, as well as in Dhunche, Rasuwa, Pakora and Nagarkot. The needs in those districts were huge in terms of water and sanitation, shelter, food and medicines. The IFRC was focused on shelter with the distribution of tarp poles and sanitation needs. Government and private donors were providing a lot of water, but sanitation was a major gap so Nepal Red Cross was looking to build 90 latrines in Kathmandu to address immediate needs and mass sanitation modules were been mobilized as first priority.

Ms. South said that the IFRC was experiencing the same problems as other partners, including congestion at the airport, but things seemed to be moving and one flight of non-food items had arrived the previous day and another tonight. German and Spanish Red Cross had delivered aid via flights by their Governments.

The IFRC was also focused on communication because of the community outreach, and they were starting to work on radio slots to help to provide information on distributions, health and hygiene. An operations update was expected to be available online today and the emergency appeal would be revised the following week.

An effort was made to enable people to stay as close as possible of their communities, to minimize transitional shelter and looking at community solutions as much as possible, so people could be returning to their homes as soon as they were safe.

A family link website had been restored, and was available in English and Nepali. It had had one million visits in a few days.

Asked about the complaints of the Nepali people about how quick the aid was, especially in isolated areas, Mr. Carpentier said that the logistical constrains were very challenging. The Nepal Red Cross and the IFRC were involved in disaster risk reduction and preparedness before the earthquake and there was a strong contingency plan. The Nepal Red Cross, before the earthquake had had stock for providing support to 19,000 people, which they had been using while waiting for the international assistance to arrive.

Mr. Boulierac informed that despite technical restrictions at the airport in Kathmandu, a UNICEF cargo flight had arrived this morning with 44 metric tons of relief supplies (tents, blankets, and first aid kits). That delivery was in addition to 41 tons of supplies that had been delivered in the country during the previous 48 hours and 30 tons that had been pre-positioned before the quake.

UNICEF was in the process of decentralizing its actions in order to ensure that aid and services were delivered quickly and efficiently to the affected areas outside Kathmandu. Mr. Boulierac mentioned that 1.7 million children were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the 21 most affected districts. Mr. Boulierac also informed that UNICEF was putting its efforts primarily on children with the provision of drinking water, hygiene kits, tents and medical supplies.

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the WHO had just completed assessment of 22 hospitals in the most affected districts in Nepal. Four district hospitals had been badly damaged, and some of them were only partially functioning. No additional medical workers were needed, but what were needed were supplies. There were more than 60 foreign medical teams in the country, whose capacities were currently being matched with the needs on the ground. The number of trauma patients was decreasing, and the focus now was on the prevention of communicable diseases. No unusual increase in the number of diarrheal diseases had been reported so far.

Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that a WFP-chartered planeload of 50 metric tons of high-energy biscuits had arrived in Kathmandu the previous day for urgent distribution to affected people affected by the earthquake.

WFP was distributing food to survivors in some of the hardest-hit districts in Nepal. Food distributions had begun in Gorkha district and Dhading district, and would roll out to more priority districts in the coming days.

In its emergency response, the WFP was also supporting logistics for the entire humanitarian community, and was using a hub at Kathmandu airport to help manage the flow of relief cargo arriving by air.

Ms. Byrs informed that the WFP needed USD 116.5 million to provide food for 1.4 million people in Central and Western Nepal for three months. For common services related to logistics, air transport and telecommunications the WFP required another USD 34 million over the next three months.

Rice delivered by a helicopter had been distributed to 1,700 people on 29 April in Gumda and Ghyachok localities and neighbouring areas in a hard-to-reach mountainous region in Ghorka district. Low cloud and rain, as well as the rough terrain with few landing zones, made deliveries of assistance by helicopter challenging.

WFP was pushing ahead to push food into more of the hardest-hit districts with the aim of completing distributions in some six remote districts in the coming days. WFP was asked by the Government to focus on food distributions in the most remote parts of Nepal, and aimed to reach a total of 1.4 million people in Central and Western regions. The Government was planning to focus on food distributions in Kathmandu Valley.

Ms. Byrs specified that the WFP had around 2,000 metric tons of food in Nepal at various locations and had already begun distributing that food in the worst-affected areas. WFP was also in the process of buying more food locally and in India. High-energy biscuits had also arrived by air for immediate distribution. The so-called “food pipeline” was not empty.

Asked about the dissatisfaction of the Nepalese people regarding the slow delivery of aid, Ms. Byrs responded that the UN could not do miracles, given logistics challenges and infrastructure. WFP had had a logistics hub set up at the Kathmandu airport, which was fully operational. A huge effort was being done by all UN agencies. Distribution had been started as soon as it was possible; 2,000 metric tonnes of food were currently available and the helicopter was doing its maximum given the conditions. UN was gearing up aggressively, and the operations were being scaled up.

On the exact figure of arrivals and departures from the airport, Mr. Carpentier and Ms. South said that there were set time slots. Flights with goods from Dubai had been ready for several days, but they could not be brought in until now. It was not only flight slots, but also getting deliveries out of the airport, that constituted a complex logistics challenge.

Maldives

Mona Rishmawi, also for the OHCHR, informed that she had headed an OHCHR delegation to the Maldives from 20 to 23 April to examine the broader issues related to the criminal case against former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was serving a 13-year prison sentence.

After meetings with Government and judicial officials, civil society members and with Mr. Nasheed, the delegation’s findings suggested that, however serious the allegations against him, the trial of Mr Nasheed had been vastly unfair and his conviction had been arbitrary and disproportionate.

In the absence of an adequate criminal code, evidence law, and criminal procedures, the Prosecutor-General and the judges had excessive discretionary powers that worked in this case against Mr Nasheed. He had learnt about the new charge under the Terrorism Act only upon arrest. Following a rushed process that had taken place over less than three weeks, at night, and often without the presence of Mr. Nasheed’s lawyers, he had been convicted and sentenced. Importantly, the court had denied Mr. Nasheed the possibility to prepare and present adequate defence, including calling defence witnesses, and examining the evidence against him.

Ms. Rishmawi stated that the judiciary has wide discretionary powers that do not work to the benefit of fair trial.

OHCHR once again stressed the need for the authorities to allow an environment conducive to political dialogue in the country to resolve several highly political cases.

During the visit, the OHCHR team had stressed to the Government the need to ensure the safety of Mr. Nasheed. The team had been told that all appropriate measures to safeguard his security, well-being and health would be taken. Mr. Nasheed was in a high-security prison now.

The OHCHR would, of course, continue to engage with the Government on those issues and would continue to monitor the situation closely.

Answering a question, Ms. Rishmawi said that there was no proper evidence code or procedural code, and the judges had extreme discretionary powers. If a former President was treated like that, what about a regular person? Questions were raised on the fairness of the entire system, and not only with regard to the former President. OHCHR saw the principle of fair trial as the main issue at stake. The current structures allowed for huge discretionary powers and the international pressure could help fix the flaws.

On whether the former President had expressed any hope of release, Ms. Rishmawi stated when the delegation saw him, he was in a minimum security prison. He seemed to be in good spirits, but was not relaxed as he was facing 13 years in prison; he also worried a lot about his safety. OHCHR had stressed that the Government was responsible for his safety to ensure that he is not exposed to various dangers.

Asked whether there was any recourse to appeal, Ms. Rishmawi said the time of the appeal had been reduced from 90 to 10 days. Mr. Nasheed was not able to get all the necessary documentation in those 10 days. What was left was that the current President still had clemency powers. Mr. Nasheed had a team of very good lawyers, who had had access to him. Following his conviction and transfer to high security prison, it was not clear whether he would have the same access to his lawyers and family.

Ms. Rishmawi informed that the following week, the Maldives was scheduled to be looked at during the Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council.

Burundi

Mr. Colville said that the OHCHR was deeply concerned about the series of measures taken this week by Burundian authorities to seriously curtail the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful expression and assembly.

The reported use of live ammunition by intelligence and security forces during protests was particularly alarming and the OHCHR urged the authorities to ensure that international standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, were fully respected.

Hundreds of people had been detained since the demonstrations had begun on 26 April. According to one credible report, over 400 individuals were being held in extremely overcrowded conditions, with detainees having to sleep standing up. Detainees had also been beaten, particularly on their feet and buttocks, with some of those released having trouble walking due to the beating.

With the electoral campaign due to officially begin in just nine days, the OHCHR was calling on the authorities to ensure the space necessary for the conduct of free and fair elections. Restricting independent coverage by closing radio stations, curbing live coverage of protests and curbing the use of social media would not succeed in quashing dissent. Freedom of expression and the right to information had to be protected.

As the High Commissioner had stressed during his visit to Burundi just two weeks earlier, “Criticism is a vital element of democracy, not a threat that must be crushed. The right to freedom of expression and opinion is enshrined in international treaties ratified by Burundi, and the Government is obliged to uphold those treaties.”

On whether Burundi was at the danger of descending into civil war, Mr. Colville said that the early warning statement by the High Commissioner a few weeks before had been issued with exactly that in mind. Refugee movements had already been taking place. Ethnic element had not been the issue at the time of the High Commissioner’s visit.

The numbers of persons killed stood at least six persons, and one soldier shot dead, according to the local Red Cross.

OHCHR had not addressed the issue of limits of presidential terms. The Arusha Agreement had specified two terms, whereas the Constitution was a bit more ambiguous.

Mr. Boulierac stated that UNICEF was preoccupied by the situation in Burundi, where children might become victims of the confrontations both in and around Bujumbura. He informed on violations of children’s rights since the protests had begun in and around Bujumbura on 26 April, with children drawn into protests, detained and wounded physically, as well as the case of a child killed.

Mr. Boulierac reminded that Burundian and international laws clearly established the obligation to respect the rights of children and protect them against violence. Government forces and Burundian security should ensure that children were taken out of any movement that put them at risk and threatened their physical integrity. UNICEF was coordinating with the OHCHR verification visits to prisons in Bujumbura, and was auditing the number of schools that had closed because of insecurity in the municipalities of Bujumbura. Among the thousands of people who had crossed borders to Rwanda there were many children. UNICEF was supporting the response primarily in water and Sanitation, Early childhood, Child protection and Nutrition. However, the exponential growth in the numbers of refugees required additional resources to quickly scale up the response and ensure readiness for additional new arrivals.

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the latest updated figures for Burundians fleeing the country stood at over 26,000. Over 21,000 had gone to Rwanda, 4,000 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest to Tanzania.

Mr. Fawzi would subsequently provide more information on the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy visit to Burundi.

Climate Change

Sarah Bel, of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), announced a press release from the Climate Vulnerable Forum, whose Secretariat was hosted at the UNDP. Ms. Bel also announced three reports which described the negative impact of climate change on human rights, labour productivity and migration. The reports were conducted by leading experts and summited today to the UNFCCC. The negotiation around emission reduction was focused on achieving a goal of 2 degree temperature rise.

The reports highlighted that if the international response to climate change was not more ambitious, fundamental rights would be seriously undermined, displacement of people would increase, and tropical counties’ economies would lose billions of dollars. For instance, the Report on the Impact of Labour Productivity showed that the number of work hours would be lost because of extreme heat, which directly would impact GDP of tropical countries. The 20 countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum called for a more ambitious climate change agreement and for more substantive plans to reduce emissions so that global temperature increase gets limited to 1.5 Celsius.

Consultations on Syria

Mr. Fawzi informed that the UN-run closed consultations on Syria, separately with each party, would take place in Geneva the following week. There would be no photo opportunities or press stakeouts. The Special Envoy would hold a press conference in Press Room III on 5 May at 11:30 a.m. No major communique or document was expected. Progress would be assessed within several weeks and the Special Envoy would inform the Secretary-General about it. UN photographer and UNTV would take some photos and footage and provide them to the press corps. UN Information Service would be provided with occasional updates, which could be shared with the media.

Mr. Fawzi said that a new spokesperson for the Special Envoy would be on board shortly and her contacts would be shared in due course. The Office of the Special Envoy would be moving due to the upcoming ILO and WHO assemblies.

Asked whether a few cameras would not be allowed in, Mr. Fawzi said that professional quality image would be provided by UNTV.

Suggestion was made to allow for taking photos at the beginning of the session, as per earlier practice. Mr. Fawzi reiterated that the Special Envoy wanted to limit it to one UN photographer and UN videographer. The mediator insisted that his consultations remained closed, private and confidential.

Mr. Fawzi explained that the consultations would commence on 5 May in the afternoon, following the Special Envoy’s press conference. It was difficult to predict duration of any meeting; that depended on the size of the delegation and other factors at play. There would be no meeting of the delegations; they were meeting separately with the Special Envoy or the Deputy Special Envoy. The Special Envoy had received replies from some invitees and no replies from others.

On which countries had been invited, Mr. Fawzi said that the Special Envoy had invited as many parties as possible. He did not have the concrete list of countries.

Geneva Activities

Speaking for the Human Rights Council, Mr. Fawzi said that the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group would start its session on 4 May, and it would last until 15 May. Fourteen countries would be reviewed. An update would be sent out later in the day.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed that the Commission on Science and Technology for Development would take place from 4 to 8 May. The Commission would focus on two priority themes – Strategic foresight for the post-2015 development agenda and digital development – as well as the progress made in implementing the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

On 6 May, a high-level panel would discuss the theme of strategic foresight and how it could help policymakers gain insight on future STI trends, thus enabling them to allocate resources in a way that prepared societies for disruptive change.

In particular, the panel would review technologies that could help policymakers manage food and water resources more efficiently, and assist them in addressing growth in energy demands while simultaneously moving to more sustainable energy systems.

The high-level panel would also examine the theme of digital development and look at new technologies that could bridge the digital divide and contribute to job growth in developing countries.

According to recent estimates, the segment of the population between 15 and 24 would comprise 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025. However, it would be necessary to strengthen the digital capabilities of millennials in developing countries to enable them to transition from being ICT users to digital innovators.

The third main theme of the CSTD would be the Ministerial Roundtable on 4 May on the 10-year review of progress made in implementing the WSIS outcomes. An interactive debate would follow the Roundtable and continue through 5 May.

Charlie Avis, for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, informed that the 2015 triple Conference of Parties would take place in Geneva, from 4 to 15 May. It would be the 12th meeting of the COP to the Basel Convention, the 7th meeting of the COP to the Rotterdam Convention, and the 7th meeting of the COP to the Stockholm Convention. Some meetings would include joint sessions. More than 1,500 delegates were expected. A press conference on the 2015 Triple COPs: Setting the Scene for Sustainable Management of Chemicals and Waste, Worldwide would take place in Press Room I on 4 May at 2:30 p.m. Speakers would include Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Clayton Campanhola, FAO Executive Secretary of Rotterdam Convention.

Source: The United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG)

STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE UNICEF REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR EASTERN & SOUTHERN AFRICA ON THE CALL FOR PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AMID PROTESTS IN THE BURUNDI CAPITAL

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, 30 April 2015
“Children are at risk of bearing the brunt of the confrontations in and around Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.

“Worrying reports of violations of children’s rights have been received since the start of street protests in and around Bujumbura on 26 April, including those of children being caught up in protests, detained and being physically injured, as well as one case of a child being killed.

“Burundian and international laws establish clear respect for children’s rights, and the protection of children from violence.

“Protecting children and upholding their rights is a shared responsibility, including of government and security forces, and children should be kept out of all political movements and actions that put them at risk.

“Children should not be exposed to violence, and should not be separated from their families.”

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REMARKS AT THE CEREMONY FOR THE PLANTING OF THE TREE OF PEACE AND UNITY TO COMMEMORATE THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS

New York, 5 May 2015
Your Excellency Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas, Permanent Representative of Belarus to the United Nations,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the Government of Belarus and the many Member States that have joined together to make today’s ceremony possible.

In establishing the United Nations 70 years ago, the founders planted the seeds of an organization they hoped would lead the human family out of horror and into a better future.

The soil at that time ran deep with blood – the blood of the brave soldiers of many nations who died fighting fascism, and of the millions of victims of the Holocaust and the other crimes of the Second World War. I am thinking of, again, tens of millions of civilians who had died without knowing why they had to die.

But though the ground was troubled, the new Organization took root and grew. It was nurtured by the flame of human rights, the burden-sharing of collective security, and our common belief in human development.

Today the United Nations can look back on a proud record of accomplishment. But we also know that there have been many setbacks along the path, and that today’s landscape is scarred by conflict and turmoil.

There is much distance still to travel until the seeds sown seven decades ago blossom into lives of dignity and peace for all.

In planting this tree today, we remember all those who have died and sacrificed in pursuing the mission set out in the Charter of the United Nations and we re-dedicate ourselves to the founding aims and ideals of the United Nations.

Thank you.

STATEMENT ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON THE ATTACK ON MONUSCO IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO

New York, 5 May 2015
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the killing of two United Nations peacekeepers from the United Republic of Tanzania and the wounding of 13 others in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) earlier today, when a UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) convoy was ambushed and came under fire from suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements in Beni territory, North Kivu. Four other peacekeepers are reported missing.

The attack occurred as MONUSCO was carrying out its protection of civilians mandate. This attack followed an incident on 4 May when a MONUSCO helicopter carrying the Force Commander was hit by gunfire from unidentified armed elements in the same area.

The Secretary-General also condemns in the strongest terms the continuing atrocities perpetrated by the ADF against defenseless civilians in the Beni area.

The UN remains committed to taking all necessary actions in line with Security Council resolution 2211 (2015) to protect civilians and neutralize armed groups in eastern DRC.

The Secretary-General offers his sincere condolences and sympathy to the bereaved families and the Government of Tanzania.