February 12, 2016

Guinea’s media holds press-free day over shooting


Guinea's media holds 'press-free day' over shooting of journalist in clashes


Guinea’s media holds ‘press-free day’ over shooting of journalist in clashes

Bare newsstands and silent radios marked an unprecedented “press-free day” in Guinea, in honour of journalist El Hadj Mohamed Diallo, who was killed last week in political clashes. A coalition of press groups backed the media’s refusal to publish or broadcast to draw attention to the risks journalists take working in the west African nation.

Diallo, who worked for the private Guinee7 news website and the weekly L’Independant, died after being shot in the chest on Friday in clashes outside the offices of an opposition party in the capital Conakry. His face appeared on news websites’ homepages and various TV stations, with the message “Press-free day in Guinea. Justice for El Hadj Mohamed Diallo”.

“We hope to draw the attention of Guinean authorities to the working conditions of journalists in this country,” said Nouhou Baldé, administrator of the news site Guinée Matin. “On several occasions I have had my journalists beaten by police while in the line of duty.”

The clashes in which Diallo was killed broke out over the recent removal of the opposition party’s vice-president. Both he and the party blamed the other for the subsequent unrest. Three hundred journalists, civil representatives and ordinary citizens marched to the justice ministry in Diallo’s memory on Monday.

He was married with a young daughter, relatives said. Courtesy:

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February 12, 2016

Zainab Hawa Bangura on Sexual Violence in Conflict


Interview with Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict –  Sexual violence is being used as a “tactic of terror” to target religious and ethnic minorities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, according to Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations official dealing with the issue.

Wathc video:

Zainab Hawa Bangura

This is among the findings of the latest report by Ms. Bangura, who is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. In an interview with the UN News Centre, the envoy previewed the findings of the report, which also highlights the crimes committed by non-State actors such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and Al-Shaabab, including abducting, raping, and selling into slavery women and girls. These groups are also using sexual violence as a method to forcefully displace large numbers of people in order to exploit resource-rich land or use it to grow narcotics.

Sexual violence is being used as a tactic of terror and this is because of the rise of extremists and terrorist groups.

The international community does not yet have the tools to deal with these non-State actors, Ms. Bangura says, emphasizing the need for the Security Council to work closely with all Member States to figure out how to form the most effective response to deal with the growing threat. For countries where sexual violence is perpetrated, political commitment is key in tackling the scourge. To that end, she notes that progress has been made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire. The following interview has been edited for content and clarity.

UN News Centre: Can you tell us how you pulled together elements of this new report that you will be presenting to the Security Council on Wednesday?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: The report comes through with information from peacekeeping, political missions, and United Nations country teams. It’s an elaborate process, very intense, and scrutinized because we also include information from Member States and sometimes from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The information we collect needs to be verified because it’s very difficult and very delicate to be able to specifically state that sexual violence has taken place in a certain country. So the information we collect is a combination of UN peacekeeping and political missions, Member States and the UN’s NGO colleagues.

UN News Centre: And what are some of the trends you found this year? What’s new in the findings?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: The first and most important and difficult trend that we have experienced is that sexual violence is being used as a tactic of terror and this is because of the rise of extremists and terrorist groups. They move across countries, and are transnational and trans-regional in nature. This is very challenging for us to address. We’ve seen it in Mali. We’ve seen it in Nigeria with Boko Haram. We’ve seen it Somalia with Al-Shabaab and now in Yemen, Syria, and of course in Iraq.

UN News Centre: As you have mentioned, this recent upsurge of non-State actors involved in sexual violence – Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and ISIL – makes it difficult to hold someone accountable for the crimes. What can the United Nations do to help victims?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: I think the biggest challenge we have is a lack of understanding about the strategies that these people use and I think that has made it extremely difficult to access them, to engage them, to understand what is driving them and what they do. The most important thing is to make sure we have more community engagement, make sure that communities who are involved in this crime, as well as community and religious leaders give us a better understanding of the extent of the crime, the people who have been targeted and to respond in terms of services for the victims. It’s the biggest challenge we have but that’s what we’re hoping to engage and it’s one of those things that I’m hoping to do.

UN News Centre: What can Member States do on the ground to alieve the situation?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: We have seen an increase in commitment from Member States, a better understanding, the acceptance that sexual violence is a crime, and a reduction in the culture of denial and silence. So what Member States need to do now is actually increase their engagement and support in terms of resources, in terms of taking the necessary action and ensuring commitment.

But it’s also important for other Member States to be able to put in the resources. It’s not easy to deal with sexual violence because it requires capacity-building, providing technical assistance and support, changing laws, working with the judiciary to make sure that this crime is investigated and that the perpetrators are prosecuted. Survivors must be provided with the necessary services, including psychosocial, medical, and legal support and livelihood support.

So I think the countries where these crimes are being committed have to make sure they have the political will and commitment. The donors who are supporting them need to make sure they provide the resources to support these countries so that they take the necessary action.

UN News Centre:  We hear the stories, ISIL in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Africa, they kidnap, rape and sell into slavery girls and women, and most of the time, if not all of the time, they do it with impunity. They discount international treaties and norms. Does the international community have the tools to deal with these non-State actors?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: The last couple of years the Security Council and United Nations have engaged on this issue, it has been with States and Governments. We know them; we have been working with them for so long; we understand their strategies; we know their command structures. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. The non-State actors we are used to working with at the UN are local militia, so it is easier to fight them. For example, in the DRC we call them negative forces, and a special response was developed by the Security Council to deal with these forces.

But these new non-State actors are different. They are very sophisticated; they are well-organized; they have developed structures; they are controlling [massive amounts of] land; and they are not just in one country. They communicate with each other and they are using modern technology tools to actually implement a medieval mentality against women. So we don’t have the tools and that’s why we are working very closely with the Security Council to be able to better understand who they are, where they come from and how we can respond. So to answer your question, we don’t have the tools and we need to develop better ones to engage them. It’s a lesson we are all learning together.

After meeting with SRSG BAngura, women's group in Paoua, CAR, join her to "stop rape in war." (Paoua, CAR)

After meeting with SRSG BAngura, women’s group in Paoua, CAR, join her to “stop rape in war.” (Paoua, CAR)

UN News Centre: There is some good news. Your report says that some countries have made strides in tackling sexual violence in conflict and have also provided support to survivors. In which area has the most progress been made?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: The biggest gains have been made in the area of increasing political commitment, ownership and national leadership by countries where these crimes are being committed.  The most progress has been made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Colombia, and Côte d’Ivoire. And that is because leaders in those countries have decided and agreed that sexual violence in conflict is a crime that is happening and that we must take the leadership to deal with these crimes. In such cases, progress has been really moving forward.

UN News Centre: You travel to these affected countries and meet with a lot of survivors of sexual violence and you hear their heart-wrenching stories. How do you stay inspired and encouraged?

Zainab Hawa Bangura:  What astounds me is the resilience of the survivors and the victims I meet with. I think my visiting all of these countries provides hope by me trying to understand the crime. And I think lots of the time the women just want somebody to understand. I visited Colombia about a month ago and I sat around the table and had lunch with some survivors, after telling me all the stories, and listening to them and talking to them, literally each one of them started crying and they said you know, you are the first person who has taken time to listen to us, now we know we can fight. And they are prepared to get up and move on with their lives. So for me that is what is important.

We cannot stop the crime taking place as long as there is conflict so we need to end the conflict but in the meanwhile we also need to give hope to these women. I have seen them getting on, picking up the pieces of their lives, going into business. I’ve even seen in my country, Sierra Leone, survivors hiring the people who have committed crimes against them. So these are for me the stories that really move and give me the inspiration to continue doing the job.

UN News Centre: Sexual violence in conflict doesn’t just affect women. Your report warns about the dangers of underreporting sexual violence against men. Why do you think there is still such stigma attached to that?

Zainab Hawa Bangura: Sexual violence generally is a stigmatized crime and the victim is left to bear the brunt of the stigma. Sometimes they are ostracized, abandoned by their own community. So for men, for women, for boys, and girls, it is a crime that is stigmatized. However, because we have worked so closely with dealing with sexual violence against women we haven’t paid a lot of attention to sexual violence against men.

But it has always been there. In the Bosnian war, I met a victim who was raped and forced to rape his own son. Sexual violence against men is usually done in prison, in detention facilities, and men have been reluctant to come out and talk about it. We have found out that when you talk about men being targeted in prison, it is sexual violence but we have always looked at it as torture.

The one thing I can say for sure, for men or women, victims of sexual violence in combat have become much younger. I have met a three-month-old and a six-month-old victim. But I have also met 70- and 80-year-old women survivors. So we are hoping that because it’s coming out in our report, our response will be better coordinated.

Courtesy: United Nations News Centre

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February 9, 2016

Special UN event mobilizes action towards ending female genital mutilation within 15 years

Special UN event mobilizes action towards ending female genital mutilation within 15 years   – Marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), dozens of women, girls, experts, and United Nations officials gathered today at a special event at UN Headquarters to discuss ways of eliminating the harmful practice by 2030 and to celebrate the increased mobilization against it.

“I am proud to be among so many champions in the cause of eliminating female genital mutilation,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during his keynote address, highlighting that the event is also “a celebration of women’s empowerment.”

FGM is a procedure that intentionally alters or causes injury to the genital organs of girls and women for non-medical reasons. It can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.

According to a new report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), girls 14 and younger represent 44 million of those who have been cut, with the highest prevalence of FGM among this age in Gambia at 56 per cent, Mauritania 54 per cent and Indonesia where around half of girls aged 11 and younger have undergone the practice.

For Malian singer Inna Modja, the pain of FGM as a teenager was both physical and emotional. Wiping tears off her cheeks, she told members of the audience that it affected her sense of identity and made her doubt what she could achieve.

“I lost my identity when I went through FGM – I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what was my place in society, I didn’t know how strong I could be, because cutting me was telling me that I’m not good enough. So I had all these questions and music helped me to heal,” she explained.

Participants at the special event “Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals through the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030” held on the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ms. Modja also shared that going through surgery to repair her mutilation helped a lot, because she felt she was doing something to get back what was taken away from her.

Today’s event also featured the launch of a new international symbol on FGM which will serve as the banner going forward to show commitment to eliminating FGM by 2030. Last September, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; for the first time, it includes a goal that explicitly names FGM as an instance of a “harmful practice” that should be eliminated to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The UN also reports that over the last 10 years, budgeting for this issue increased by 600 per cent. Other recent achievements include two more countries, Nigeria and the Gambia, passing legislation to ban FGM.

“Health workers in many countries are becoming more engaged as advocates and counsellors on FGM prevention in their communities. And young people themselves are serving as champions for FGM abandonment. We can see social change taking place at the community level,” said the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, in his remarks.

Since 2008, UNFPA and UNICEF have been leading the world’s largest programme in 17 countries to end FGM within a generation. A central strategy of the programme is to support community-level activities to make individuals appreciate the benefits of not cutting their girls, to foster discussion, and generate sufficient collective support for entire communities to abandon the practice.

 “This has resulted in more than 15,000 communities, representing around 12 million people, publicly declaring abandonment of FGM. But despite this progress, millions of girls are still at risk of being cut each year,” warned Dr. Osotimehin.

While in nearly all countries FGM is usually performed by traditional practitioners, UNICEF has found that more than half of girls in Indonesia underwent the procedure by a trained medical professional. Read More – Courtesy: United Nations news Centre

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February 1, 2016

INTERVIEW: world’s most difficult task – ensuring UN sustainable development agenda, says top adviser


INTERVIEW: world’s most difficult task – ensuring UN sustainable development agenda, says top adviser –  “It’s about the toughest job any human being could be given” – that is how David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, describes the task the United Nations chief entrusted to him last month.

And Dr. Nabarro knows something about tough jobs encountered during his 30 years of experience in public health, nutrition and development work at country, regional and global levels in positions in non-governmental organizations, universities, national governments and the UN system.

He was Senior UN Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza from 2005 to 2014, at a time when many feared a global explosion of the disease; coordinator of the UN High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security from 2009 to 2014, dealing with the perennial problem of feeding the hungry; and most recently Senior UN Coordinator on Ebola, which killed more than 11,400 lives in West Africa.

Now the London-born UN veteran is facing his widest-ranging task yet – to mobilize efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda.

UN Special Adviser David Nabarro explains why the 17 goals that make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are so critical. Credit: United Nations

“My job is to try and help make sure that that gets put in place quickly,” Mr. Nabarro said in a recent interview with the UN News Service.

Asked which area required the most progress, he said the SDGs formed a complex whole that require equal progress on all fronts.

“The 17 Goals represent an indivisible tapestry of thinking and action that applies in every community, everywhere in the world,” he stressed. “They are universal. But they’re also indivisible and that means that we really do not believe that any one goal should be separated out from the others.

“And as you study them, you realize that although they’re presented as individual goals, they actually represent a total and completely intertwined lattice of action that is relevant for every human being everywhere.” Read More

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February 1, 2016

Science and technology can help save lives, livelihoods when disasters strike – senior UN official


Science and technology can help save lives, livelihoods when disasters strike – senior UN official –  The first-ever United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) gathering of scientists to discuss disaster risk management kicked off today in Geneva, Switzerland, seeking to map out a scientific and technological approach to the issue while addressing the importance of partnership.

Science and Tech Could help Save Lives in Disaster

“What motivates these gatherings is the knowledge that we can do a lot more to reduce unnecessary loss of life and livelihoods,” Robert Glasser, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said at the opening of the UNISDR Science and Technology Conference.

Such efforts, he pointed out, are of particular significance for the least developed countries, where disasters may not amount to much in terms of absolute global economic losses but can have a crippling impact on long-term sustainable development.

As the first major disaster risk reduction event of 2016, this conference aims at identifying needs and knowledge gaps; exploring new ways of working together and most importantly, making the science available and accessible.

The launch of the UNISDR Science and Technology Partnership, and approving an Agreement on a Science and Technology Road Map for the implementation of the Sendai Framework are two outcomes to be expected at the conclusion of the conference.

“It is most appropriate that this is focused specifically on science and technology,” said Mr. Glasser, adding that “the painstaking work of the hundreds of scientists who have contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) reports is an outstanding example of the public service and dedication to the greater good which we have come to expect from the global science community.”

Following IPCC’s “convincing and actionable” guidance, Mr. Glasser highlighted three events in this regard.

A UNISDR-backed innovative report in partnership with the Norwegian Government, entitled “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation,” which integrated for the first time the science on climate change with a disaster risk management perspective.

Another event also taking place is the 2nd Global Platform on Emergency Telecommunications in Kuwait. Organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), it discusses how ICTs can help to disseminate early warnings and reduce mortality in disaster events.

A third one was the International Recovery Forum held in Kobe, Japan, with participants from 37 countries exchanging experience on building back better after disasters, he said.

Looking forward, as the Open Ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group on Indicators and Terminology for Disaster Risk Reduction will continue its work next month in Geneva, UNISDR will help build the partnerships that can provide scientific support to achieve the Sendai Framework targets on reducing risk and disaster.

Recognizing the value of the partnership, Mr. Glasser particularly thanked the host and co-organizers of the current Conference, and encouraged all partners to continue for readiness for cooperation and announce any voluntary funding.

The three-day Conference has been convened to “set the course for further collaboration on the implementation of the Sendai Framework and to support coherence in our understanding of disaster risk reduction across the other relevant international agreements,” said Mr. Glasser. The opening day attracted 700 scientists, disaster risk experts and government representatives.

This is the first such gathering since the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted last year by UN member States with the stated goals of reducing disaster risk and disaster losses with a focus on mortality, numbers of people affected, economic losses and damage to critical infrastructure.

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January 28, 2016

Corruption Perception Index 2015


Transparence International’s Corruption Perception Index 2015 showed that people working together can succeed in fighting corruption. Although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in the year than declined.

Some countries have improved in recent years – Greece, Senegal and the UK are among those that have seen a significant increase in scores since 2012.

Others, including Australia, Brazil, Libya, Spain and Turkey, have deteriorated.

Dealing with many entrenched corruption issues, Brazil has been rocked by the Petrobras scandal, in which politicians are reported to have taken kickbacks in exchange for awarding public contracts. As the economy crunches, tens of thousands of ordinary Brazilians have lost their jobs already. They didn’t make the decisions that led to the scandal. But they’re the ones living with the consequences.

Five of the 10 most corrupt countries also rank among the 10 least peaceful places in the world.

In Afghanistan, millions of dollars that should have gone on reconstruction have been reportedly wasted or stolen, seriously undermining efforts to sustain peace.

Even where there’s not open conflict, the levels of inequality and poverty in these countries are devastating.

In Angola, 70 per cent of the population lives on US$2 a day or less. One in six children die before the age of five – making it the deadliest place in the world to be a child. More than 150,000 children die each year. But not everyone’s suffering.

Dubbed Africa’s youngest billionaire, Isabel dos Santos made her US$3.4 billion fortune from the national diamond and telecommunications business. She’s also the president’s daughter. Read the full Report Here.

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September 15, 2015

UN calls for full, swift implementation of European proposals for refugee crisis


UN calls for full, swift implementation of European proposals for refugee crisis –    Near the town of Gevgelija, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a young Syrian girl holds the hand of an adult waiting to board a train to the Serbian border. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev

11 September 2015 – The United Nations refugee agency today welcomed the European Commission’s proposals unveiled last Wednesday to address the current refugee crisis in Europe, adding that given the urgency of the situation, these proposals need to be implemented fully and swiftly.

“The proposed relocation scheme for 160,000 refugees from Greece, Italy and Hungary would go a long way to address this crisis,” William Spindler, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said during a press briefing in Geneva.

“Our initial estimates indicate even higher needs, but the focus must now be on ensuring that all Member States take part in this initiative, and that it is swiftly implemented. When relocating them, refugees’ needs, preferences and specific qualifications should be taken into account to the extent possible,” he added.

UNHCR said the relocation scheme can only succeed if it is accompanied by large-scale emergency reception, assistance and registration efforts in the countries most impacted by arrivals, particularly Greece, Hungary and Italy. To support these countries, it underlined that the EU should mobilize its asylum, migration, and civil protection agencies and mechanisms, including the resources of member States, with the support of UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and civil society.

“When disembarking in Europe or entering the European Union, refugees must find a welcoming environment and immediate response to their basic needs,” Mr. Spindler stated.

UNHCR also welcomed the reference to opening legal channels for migration and encouraged member States to expand these legal avenues for refugees, through enhanced resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification, humanitarian visas, and other schemes. With more legal alternatives to reach safety in Europe, the agency said fewer people in need of international protection will be forced to resort to smugglers and undertake dangerous irregular journeys.

Meanwhile, while calling for strong measures to be taken against people traffickers and smugglers, UNHCR insisted that the management of borders needs to be consistent with national, EU and international law, including guaranteeing the right to seek asylum.

Mr. Spindler further underlined that UNHCR supports States implementing effective return policies for individuals found not to have a valid protection claim and who cannot benefit from alternative legal means to regularise their stay.

“These persons should be assisted to return quickly to their home countries, in full respect of their human rights,” he stated.

UNHCR added it is pleased to see a reference in the Commission’s proposals to the critical need to address the root causes of forced displacement around the world.

“A comprehensive response to refugee situations needs diplomacy, political will, and concerted action for the prevention, as well as resolution, of conflicts that force people to move,” the spokesperson continued. “Greater investment in conflict prevention and resolution as well as durable solutions should therefore form an integral part of Europe’s comprehensive approach to addressing forced displacement.”

In addition, efforts to address the root causes of the refugee crisis should include increased funding for humanitarian assistance to refugees and economic support to hosting countries, most notably around Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Somalia, he stated.

UNHCR reported it is already ramping up its capacity in all countries affected by the current refugee flows and said it is ready to fully support all measures by the European Union in effectively responding to the present crisis.

Also today, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its deep concern at the current migration crisis in Europe, and underscored that the “continued shocking images that ricochet around the world do not tell the full extent of the devastating, and at times irreversible, impact” on children.

Ahead of the 14 September meeting in Brussels dedicated to the situation of migration outside and inside the European Union, the Committee urged EU Ministers to adopt a child rights-based approach when planning, discussing and implementing the measures designed to strengthen the European response.

“All European States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and have committed to ensuring rights to all children that come under their jurisdiction irrespective of their legal status, and without discrimination of any kind,” said the Committee’s Chairperson, Benyam Dawit Mezmur.

He underlined that the majority of these children have already experienced human rights violations before leaving their countries of origin, and subjecting them to yet more violations within European borders through laws and treatment that are not child-friendly constitutes an additional serious violation of Convention obligations.

“The obligation to respect and protect the right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence – physical or mental, intentional or non-intentional – needs to be upheld by all branches of governments,” Mr. Mezmur added, noting increasing visual evidence of police and other authorities acting in ways that may physically harm or traumatize migrant children.

He added that the Committee expects all governments to fully commit to placing at the heart of their responses their legal obligations towards children in a migration situation.

Credit: UN News Centre (11th Septembr, 2015)

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