Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
UN study shows there are over 1.3 million child laborers in Yemen
A new study jointly conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Social Development Fund has found that over 1.3 million children in Yemen perform child labor. This figure represents 17 percent of the country’s 7.7 million children. Child labor is defined as: 1) any employment of children under the age of 14, 2) employment for more than 30 hours a week of children aged 14-17, or 3) employment of under-17s in hazardous conditions.
This is the first national survey of child labor conducted in Yemen. The country has ratified two major conventions on child labor recognizing 14 as the minimum age for employment.
New global strategy targets neglected tropic diseases - UN health agency
The UN World Health Organization unveiled a new global strategy to target numerous neglected tropical diseases such as dengue, leprosy, river-blindness, and guinea-worm disease. Both guinea-worm disease and yaws have been targeted for global eradication by 2015 and 2020 respectively. Targets have also been set for the regional elimination of several other diseases by 2015 and 2020.
The program works with global partners to provide quality medications for preventative chemotherapy and other treatments. It is expected to improve health outcomes for many millions of people in the tropics.
New UN program to improve livelihoods of thousands of farmers in South Sudan
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has unveiled a new program to aid farmers in the South Sudan by boosting the quality of seeds used for key crops. $612,000 of aid supported by the French and South Sudanese governments will go towards training farmers to produce, store and market seeds and cuttings of key crops such as maize, cassava, cowpeas and sorghum.
Conflict and displacement in the region has reduced farmers’ knowledge of seed production techniques, as well as their access to quality seeds and planting materials. A similar program implemented in 2011 was very successful, leading to the production of more than 350 tons of quality seeds and planting materials.
End conditions that feed terrorism, Ban tells Security Council at day-long debate
As part of the Security Council’s special focus on terrorism in the month of January, the body convened a high-level open debate on “A Comprehensive Approach to Counter Terrorism.” The opening speaker, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, focused on the connection between security and development, the need for dialogue, and the importance of information technology in countering radicalization.
The January Presidency of the Council is held by Pakistan, whose Foreign Minister underscored the particular importance of this issue to her country. The debate will include some 50 speakers, including top government officials from several countries.
Record number of Africans crossed Gulf of Aden in 2012, UN agency reports
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that 107,500 African refugees entered Yemen in 2012. This represents the largest influx of refugees into the country since records began in 2006. Most of the individuals are Ethiopian or Somali, and use Yemen as a gateway to the other Gulf States.
Yemen currently hosts over 236,000 refugees, even as over 300,000 of its own civilians have been internally displaced due to conflict. Those refugees who make their way from the Horn of Africa across the Gulf face a very arduous and dangerous journey; at least 100 people are estimated to have drowned in shipwrecks in the Gulf and Red Sea in 2012 alone.
Top UN official calls for international inquiry into human rights abuses in DPR Korea
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned abuses of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), urging the international community to begin an inquiry into these serious crimes. She noted that, despite initial hopes, “a year after Kim Jong Un became the country’s new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement.”
Ms. Pillay had met last month with survivors of DPRK political prisoner camps, who recounted harrowing tales of rape, abuse and torture. Both the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have adopted strong resolutions condemning the DPRK government for its systematic abuses of international human rights.
Tunisia must adopt stronger measures to combat gender discrimination - UN experts
The United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, comprised of experts reporting to the Human Rights Council, called on Tunisia to adopt stronger gender equality measures in the country’s new constitution. In their opinion, the draft constitution has several loopholes and ambiguities which may have the effect of undermining gender equality in the law.
The group undertook a five-day visit to the country, meeting with government authorities, the national human rights institution, civil society organizations, religious institutions, academics and UN agency workers. They are scheduled to present their findings to the Human Rights Council in June of this year.
The Working Group’s Statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/
Twelve countries sign UN treaty to combat illegal tobacco trade
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) concluded its operation to repatriate displaced Liberians forced into exile for many years after the 14-year civil war that broke out in 1989. Since 2004, the UNHCR has assisted 155,560 Liberian refugees return home, mainly by road convoys and flights.
The repatriation programme provides each returning refugee with a small amount of cash to assist with re-settlement, assistance in obtaining jobs, and scholarships and other assistance in acquiring land.
Text of the Protocol: http://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/2012/12/20121206%2005-00%20PM/CTC%20IX-4-a.pdf
New UN environment studies show rising mercury threat to people in developing countries
The United Nations Environment Program has released several studies warning of the risks to communities in developing countries of exposure to mercury. The two studies - the Global Mercury Assessment 2013 and Mercury: Time to Act - link mercury exposure to several practices, including artisanal gold mining, coal-burning, rapid industrialization, deforestation and the release of chemicals into rivers and lakes.
These reports are to be presented at the International Negotiating Committee on Mercury, a forum for concluding an international treaty aimed at minimizing the harmful effects of mercury exposure. The Negotiating Committee will meet in Geneva from January 13-18, 2013.
Mercury: Time to Act: http://www.unep.org/PDF/PressReleases/Mercury_TimeToAct.pdf
UN reports drop in food prices for third consecutive month
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported a drop in food prices for the third straight month - a 1.1 percent decrease in the Food Price Index - owing mainly to a decrease in the prices of cereals, oils and fats. A worrying spike in prices last July prompted international cooperation through the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which targets food market transparency and policy coordination. That spike has now been neutralized by the recent dip in food prices.
Topic In Focus
Fighting broke out in January of 2012 between the Government of Mali and Tuareg rebels, leading to the occupation of Northern Mali by radical Islamists. This past weekend has seen renewed clashes between these Islamist groups and the Malian military.
30,000 people left their homes over the weekend alone, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons to over 200,000. The Government of Mali has declared a state of emergency and France has commenced an air operation in aid of the Malian forces.
The use of child soldiers and the armed forces’ practice of attacking heritage sites have sparked special consternation from the international community.
The Security Council expressed grave concern over the situation, vowing to deploy the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) as rapidly as possible. AFISMA was created last year through Resolution 2085, for the purpose of rebuilding the Malian security and defense forces, securing the northern areas under insurrection, and aiding the Malian government in its humanitarian obligations towards affected civilians.
Additionally, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, has formally opened an investigation into alleged crimes committed since January 2012. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the ICC tries individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Prosecutor asserted that there is a reasonable basis to believe that numerous crimes - such as murder, mutilation, pillaging, rape and extrajudicial executions - have occurred since fighting began.
Mali: Security Council Expresses ‘Grave Concern’: http://www.un.org/apps/news/
ICC Prosecutor opens investigation: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43939