Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
UN lauds new tool enabling individual complaints on economic, social and cultural matters
With the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, individuals will now have the right to file complaints at the international level on violations of their social, economic and cultural rights. This significant development places social, economic and cultural rights - including the rights to adequate food, housing and work - on the same footing as other rights. The Protocol was adopted by the General Assembly in 2008; after its ratification by the tenth state - Uruguay - it has now entered into force.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has urged the other parties to the ICESCR to ratify the Optional Protocol in addition to the Covenant itself.
Noting progress, UN urges accelerated efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation
Marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (February 6), the UN Children’s Fund and the UN Population Fund released new data showing a decrease in the number of girls affected by the practice. Data collected from 29 countries in the Middle East and Africa show that 36 percent of girls aged 15-29 have been cut, versus 53 percent of women aged 45-49. The cultural practice of FGM, which involves the cutting away of all or part of the female external genitalia, has been a special target of international efforts.
The General Assembly passed a resolution in December 2012 aimed at intensifying efforts to combat the practice, which causes severe pain and long-term health risks. The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million girls are at risk every year, and that 140 million women have been affected worldwide.
The comprehensive compilation of the data will be published mid-2013.
Arab nations need new policies to tackle unemployment, slow economic growth - UN
A joint report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), entitled Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Inclusive and Productive Arab Societies, highlights the need for improved governance to achieve economic progress in Arab countries. According to the report, the Arab region had the second-lowest productivity growth rate in the world, after Latin America. Key areas for policy reform include migration management, employment policies and active labor market programs, and access to quality education and training.
At Brussels conference, UN stresses need for dual-track approach to stabilize Mali
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, speaking at a conference held in Brussels, asserted that both military and political efforts are necessary to address the Malian crisis. Referring to earlier pledges by donors, Feltman stated that “it is important that the pledges made at the donors’ conference swiftly materialize to enable AFISMA to become fully operational and for the Malian defence and security forces to enhance their capacities.”
Additionally, the World Food Programme has resumed deliveries of food and nutrition products to Northern Mali. Deliveries had been halted when fighting broke out last month.
Agroforestry crucial to ensure food security of millions, says UN agency
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization touts agroforestry as a means to help millions of people escape poverty and prevent environmental degradation. Agroforestry is the practice of combining trees with crop and livestock production. Despite its benefits, the organization says, the area is undeveloped due to policy coordination problems among various national departments, such as agriculture, forestry and trade.
The FAO has thus published a guide aimed at showing how agroforestry can be incorporated into various national policy frameworks, modifying the strategies to fit the needs of each state.
Read the guide: http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3182e/i3182e00.pdf
At UN backed meeting, Asian countries seek ways to reduce pollution
At the Fourth Governmental Meeting on Air Quality in Asia, sponsored by the UN Environmental Programme and Clean Air Asia, officials from 19 Asian countries discussed ways to reduce air pollution from short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). SLCPs, such as black carbon, methane, and hydro-fluorocarbons, that contribute significantly to global warming. A UNEP report from 2011 had estimated that 2 million premature deaths and 30 million tons of agricultural losses could be averted if SLCP levels were significantly reduced by 2030.
Officials are discussing existing measures that can be integrated into economic development and environmental protection plans.
New UN initiative encourages Somalis abroad to invest in farming projects back home
The International Fund for Agriculture Development has earmarked $1.5 million to finance diaspora projects aimed at encouraging investment in Somali agriculture by Somalis living abroad. The initiative is part of Diaspora Investment in Agriculture, a programme supported by the Somali government and the US Department of State’s International Diaspora Engagement Alliance.
According to estimates, remittances from Somalis living abroad make up almost 50 percent of Somalia’s GDP. The country has a history of food insecurity; most recently, a food crisis in 2011 caused thousands of deaths.
UNICEF scales up emergency support to flood-affected Malawi
The United Nations Children’s Fund has responded to recent flooding in Southern Malawi by increasing emergency assistance in the form of water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. The organization has also distributed school-in-a-box supplies to ensure uninterrupted education in these difficult times, and has started hygiene-awareness campaigns to prevent the spread of cholera.
Persistent rains in the Mangochi, Phalombe and Nsanje districts have destroyed crops and interrupted school. An estimated 33,000 people have been displaced.
Survey by UN health agency shows major gaps in cancer control and care
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently surveyed 185 countries and found major deficiencies in many countries’ national capacities for cancer control planning and services. Only 27 percent of low-income countries have a cancer control plan with a budget to fund implementation. In order to facilitate the collection of data, which is helpful in developing policy responses, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has introduced the Global Initiative for Cancer Registry Development in Low and Middle-Income Countries.
World Cancer Day was observed on February 4.
UN Conference on Disarmament Issues in Shizuoka, Japan
State officials, civil society representatives and UN staff converged on Shizuoka for the 24th UN Conference on Disarmament Issues. Hosted by the UN Regional Center for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, the Conference seeks to promote dialogue on key security issues such as: the use of nuclear weapons, Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ), the current situation and challenges to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the role of civil society, nuclear safety and security, small arms and light weapons control and disarmament and non-proliferation education for students.
At the three-day conference, US State Department official Bonnie Jenkins highlighted the positive results of several multilateral initiatives aimed at nuclear security. These include: 1. UN Security Council 1540 (addressing nuclear terrorism); 2. The 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summits in Washington DC and Seoul, which focused on securing nuclear material; 3. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s numerous initiatives, including tracking nuclear materials through databases; and 4. The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, an informal partnership of 85 nations committed to nuclear security. Additionally, Conference President Andras Dekany of Hungary presented a draft proposal on a programme of work for the Conference, which has been criticized as being ineffective and stagnant.
Statement by Bonnie Jenkins: http://www.state.gov/t/isn/rls/rm/2013/203779.htm
President of Conference on Disarmament Presents Draft Programme of Work: http://www.unog.ch/unog/website/news_media.nsf/%28httpNewsByYear_en%
Topic In Focus
Colombia's indigenous people face threat of extinction.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, armed conflict in Colombia has displaced an estimated three million people, about 41,000 of whom are indigenous. This is one of the highest numbers of IDPs in the world; moreover, indigenous displacement often goes unregistered due to a lack of social services in remote areas. For over forty years, armed groups, including drug militias, have warred over the resource-rich lands that are the homes of indigenous people. The Colombian Constitutional court says that over 27 indigenous groups in the country are at risk of extinction - that is, nearly one third of the country’s indigenous people. Driven from their ancestral lands and thus alienated from their heritage and traditions, displaced indigenous people struggle to survive in town and cities, falling prey to human trafficking, prostitution and drugs.
UNHCR has twelve offices in Colombia, where it has been working since 1988.
From: “Stories the world should hear more about” - UN Department of Public Information
“Colombia’s indigenous pushed to find safety in cities” - UN High Commissioner for Refugees