Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.

Ban opens Syrian peace talks, urges all sides to seize 'historic' opportunity to end bloodshed

In remarks at the opening session of the long-awaited UN peace conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the gathered representatives of the Syrian Government, the opposition, and other countries and international organizations to set differences aside and cooperate "to end the unspeakable human suffering, to save Syria's rich societal mosaic, and to embark on a meaningful political process to achieve a Syrian-led transition." Recognizing the difficulty of the task at hand, Mr. Ban called the occasion "a day of fragile but real hope." (For more on the peace conference, see this week's Topic In Focus, below.)

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46978

UN chief encourages Conference on Disarmament to live up to world's expectations

At the opening of the 2014 session of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva on January 21, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement to the gathered delegates of the 33 participating States. Mr. Ban emphasized his support for and belief in the multilateral forum, calling it "a driving force for building a safer world and a better future," while acknowledging that differences among member states had seriously inhibited the body in progressing towards its goal of global elimination of weapons of mass destruction. "I want to encourage you to live up to the international community's expectations," he stated.

Mr. Ban also referenced events in Syria as a reminder of the dire need for States at the Conference to cooperate to achieve substantive ends: "The abhorrent use of chemical weapons [in Syria this past year] was a stark reminder of the need to confront the dangers of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. We cannot wait for new catastrophes to act."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46972

UNICEF airlifts urgent supplies to strife-torn South Sudan

The first of two planes chartered by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) arrived in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with medical and humanitarian supplies for women and children, who make up nearly 80 per cent of the persons sheltering at UN protection sites in the crisis-stricken country. The plane delivered treatments for malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition, nutrients, vitamins, antibiotics and painkillers for children, and midwifery and obstetric surgery kits, as well as equipment to deliver clean water and sanitation, tents, tarpaulins and blankets. A second UNICEF plane is expected to arrive on January 23, carrying additional medical and humanitarian supplies. "These essential and life-saving supplies will help thousands of children and women in desperate need across South Sudan," said Dermot Carty, UNICEF Deputy Director of Emergency Programmes.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46974

UN Envoy congratulates new political leadership in southern Somalia

A ceremony was held to formally inaugurate the new leadership of the Interim Jubba Administration of southern Somalia, implementing the 27 August Addis Ababa Agreement between the Administration and the Somali federal government. During the ceremony, Nicholas Kay, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), congratulated new leader Sheikh Ahmed Madobe Islan and the appointed Deputy Leaders and Ministers of the Interim Jubba Administration. Mr. Kay called the inauguration "a milestone," and pledged the UN's continued assistance to the Administration. "This is a significant step towards restoring peace in Somalia, building a strong Federal Somalia and contributing to regional and international security," said Mr. Kay.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46970

Ban welcomes validation of final results in Madagascar's presidential poll

In a January 17 ruling of the Special Electoral Court of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina was declared the winner of the closely-contested December 20 presidential election. Following the announcement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement "welcome[ing] the validation of the final results of Madagascar's presidential election, which international observers have assessed as peaceful and orderly." Mr. Ban also "encourage[d] the political leaders and state institutions to work together toward genuine reconciliation, the deepening of democratic governance and economic recovery." Mr. Rajaonarimampianina's rival has alleged vote rigging and intends to continue to challenge the election's outcome.

Full story:http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46959

Four UN personnel among those killed in Afghan suicide bombing

Four UN staff members were among the 21 killed in a suicide attack on a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 17. The four slain personnel were: Basra Hassan of the United States, Nasrin Jamal of Pakistan, both of whom worked with UNICEF in Afghanistan; Khanjar Wabel Abdallah of Lebanon, IMF Representative in Afghanistan; and Vadim Nazarov of Russia, Senior Political Officer at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement condemning the attack as a "flagrant breach of international humanitarian law"; the members of the Security Council also condemned the attack "in the strongest terms," while reiterating the Council's support for the role of the UN and UN-affiliated organizations in Afghanistan.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46957

At New York synagogue, UN chief honors Holocaust victims, pays tribute to survivors

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the Park East Synagogue Memorial Service, held in recognition of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The Day of Commemoration is observed annually on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, where over one million Jews and members of other minorities perished during the Second World War.

The Secretary-General issued remarks at the Park East service, in which he noted that "[t]he horror at Auschwitz played a formative role in defining the ideals and objectives of the United Nations." While reiterating his role as Secretary-General to "prevent any other such catastrophes and grave violations of human rights," Mr. Ban also acknowledged the ongoing threat of such catastrophes: "As we have seen from Cambodia to Rwanda to Srebrenica, we have not eliminated the poison that led to genocide... Each of us has a role to play in combatting intolerance, incitement and the manipulation of ethnic or religious identity that we see in conflicts and political campaigns."

A memorial ceremony will be held at UN Headquarters on January 27, and will feature filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46958

UN releases $86 million in humanitarian aid for 'neglected crises' in 10 countries

The United Nations announced the allocation of $86 million, released through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to aid operations in 10 countries where needs are high but financial support is low. The funds will support relief efforts in Sudan, Yemen, Mali, Myanmar, Chad, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Haiti, Colombia, Djibouti, and Uganda. "These allocations will go to help millions of people who are caught in crises that have been forgotten or overshadowed by other emergencies," said UN humanitarian chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.

CERF was established by the UN General Assembly in 2006 to fund relief operations for sudden-onset crises as well as ongoing "chronic crises that have slipped below the humanitarian radar." More than $3.2 billion have been allocated through the CERF to humanitarian agencies operating in 88 countries and territories; the funds have been contributed by Member States, private-sector donors and regional Governments.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46950

Central African Republic: over 6,000 child soldiers may be involved in fighting, UN says

UNICEF has reported that 23 children, including six girls, were released from armed groups in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR), on January 16, to the care of child protection officers. UNICEF spokesperson Marixie Mercado reported that the children were released from military bases and taken to a UNICEF-supported Transit and Orientation Centre, pursuant to agreement between UN officials and transitional authorities. UNICEF and its partners have allegedly secured the release of 229 children associated with various armed groups in the CAR since May 2013. UNICEF also reported that it currently estimates more than 6,000 children to be involved as child soldiers in the conflict in the CAR, with that figure expected to climb further as the fighting continues to escalate.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46954

Lebanon: UN envoy condemns deadly car bombing; Ban welcomes start of Hariri trial

The trial of those alleged to be responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in February 2005, officially opened on January 16 at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) in Leidschendam, The Netherlands. The STL is an independent court created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a mandate issued by the UN Security Council. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the trial's opening in a statement emphasizing the trial's "vital importance of combating impunity for the long-term stability and security of Lebanon." The UN Security Council issued a similar statement.

On the same day, Lebanon was rocked by yet another car bombing which killed five people and injured 42 others in the northeastern town of Hermel, near the Syrian border.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46944

Topic In Focus

Geneva II Conference on Syria

The long-awaited Geneva II Conference on Syria, also referred to as the Syrian peace talks, opened this week on January 22 in Montreux, Switzerland, and will move on January 24 to the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Geneva II Conference is a UN initiative intended to facilitate peace talks to end the Syrian Civil War which has raged on since March 2011. The Conference was organized pursuant to a prior conference, now referred to as Geneva I, held in Geneva in June 2012 and involving then- UN Peace Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan and representatives of the governments of the United States, Russia, China, and Britain. The participants in Geneva I agreed, in the Geneva Communiqué, on the need for a "transitional government body with full executive powers." Preparations thus began for "Geneva II," an international conference to bring together the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition to facilitate peace talks and discuss the implementation of the transitional government identified in the Geneva Communiqué. Preparations for the conference were hindered by non-cooperation but, following confirmation of the use of chemical weapons in the conflict in August 2013, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2118, in which it called for "the convening, as soon as possible, of an international conference on Syria to implement the Geneva Communiqué." Subsequently delayed throughout fall 2013 due to noncooperation among the parties on conditions of participation, the Conference was ultimately scheduled for January 2014.

In addition to the two parties to the Syrian conflict, the UN invited the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, many other states, and representatives of relevant regional organizations such as the Arab League, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to participate in the conference in Switzerland. While the primary objective of the Conference is to achieve a political solution to the conflict, participants also seek to secure additional humanitarian assistance to the many millions of Syrians affected by the conflict.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired the Montreux session while Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is slated to facilitate the talks between the two Syrian parties during the Geneva session. When the Syrian Government and Opposition meet during the January 24 session in Geneva at UN headquarters, it will be the first time during the nearly three-year conflict that the parties have come together to negotiate. In a statement on January 19, the Secretary-General called the upcoming conference "our long-awaited chance to end the violence and begin putting the country back together."

Security Council Res. 2118, ¶ ¶ 3, 17, U.N. Doc. S/RES/2118 (Sept. 27, 2013)




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