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

UN kicks off ‘Year of Quinoa’ with focus on world nutrition

Top officials from the United Nations and the Andean community of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru today launched the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ to raise awareness of the nutritional, economic, environmental and cultural value of a food that has been traditionally cultivated for thousands of years. The small crop is widely adaptable, thriving in temperatures ranging from -8 degrees Celsius to 38 degrees Celsius, at sea level or 4,000 meters above, and is not impacted by low moisture. This versatility makes quinoa a viable food option for areas with arid farming conditions and high malnutrition rates.

In 2011 the General Assembly adopted a resolution honouring quinoa with its own year. In doing so, the 193-member body sought to recognize the Andean indigenous people “who have managed to preserve quinoa in its natural state as food for present and future generations, through ancestral practices of living in harmony with nature.” The theme for this year is “a future sown thousands of years ago.”

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44184

Liberia and UN appeal for nearly $37 million for vital assistance to half a million people

The United Nations and the Liberian Government today appealed for $36.7 million to meet the pressing humanitarian needs of more than half a million people who are at risk for hunger and illness, including some 117,000 children. Nearly half of Liberia's population lives in extreme poverty surviving on less than $1 per day. “We call on donors to support the humanitarian appeal we are launching today. We need nearly $37 million to provide vital water, nutrition, food security and healthcare services to families at risk,” said the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Liberia, Aeneas C. Chuma.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44179

Read the UN Mission in Liberia press release: http://unmil.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=3934&ctl=Details&mid=6897&ItemID=1036834&language=en-US

UN experts urge US Congress to renew Violence Against Women Act

On February 12, the United States Senate voted on to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which lapsed in 2011, sending it to the other chamber of the US Congress. “Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has played a crucial role in providing guidance to state and local-level governments, and in facilitating their adequate responses to violence against women,” UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said in a news release. The current bill would enhance protections for Native American and Alaskan Native women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims; and immigrant victims and their children.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44173

Read the news release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13012&LangID=E

Experts at UN forum adopt action plan to safeguard Mali's cultural heritage

An action plan to rehabilitate and safeguard Mali's cultural heritage, which has been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists in recent months, was adopted by international experts and decision-makers meeting at a United Nations forum in Paris. The action plan seeks to rehabilitate cultural heritage damaged during the conflict with the active participation of local communities, and to take measures to protect the ancient manuscripts kept in the region. The meeting was organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the French Government.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44166

Myanmar: UN welcomes release of child soldiers by national armed forces

Twenty-four children were released by Myanmar’s armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, today at a ceremony in Yangon, attended by senior officials of the Tatmadaw and the Government, as well as the UN. “This release of 24 children is a welcome step in the implementation of the action plan by the Government and reflects its commitment that children should not, and will no longer, be recruited and used for military purposes,” stated UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar Ashok Nigam.

Last June, the UN and the Government of Myanmar signed an action plan that sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and reintegration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as the prevention of further recruitment.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44164

UN envoy strongly condemns terrorist attacks on civilians in Iraqi capital

A series of bombings that struck several neighborhoods in Baghdad on Sunday were strongly condemned by the Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Martin Kobler. At least 20 people were killed and scores more were wounded in the attacks, which reportedly targeted mainly Shia areas. “Once again, innocent civilians going about their daily business have been targeted, bringing great grief to their families and communities. Nothing can justify these terrorist attacks,” said Mr. Kobler.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44161

UN chief concerned about political developments in the Maldives

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently began monitoring the developments in the Maldives with concern about the political situation, as former President Mohamed Nasheed has sought refuge in the Indian High Commission after police attempted to arrest him in a case relating to accusations that he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule. The former leader was elected in 2008 in the first multi-party presidential elections in the country in three decades. Mr. Nasheed resigned in February of last year in contested circumstances, succeeded by his former deputy, Mohammed Waheed Hassan.

The Secretary General is also urging all parties to work towards conditions conducive for the upcoming elections in line with the country’s Constitution.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44151

Haiti: UN envoy suggests steps to end political impasse

The United Nations envoy in Haiti today voiced concern at the ongoing impasse in Haiti over the long-delayed elections, which were to have taken place in January 2012, and outlined several priorities to move the process forward. Nigel Fisher, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said that he plans to confer with Haiti’s leaders to come up with some tangible benchmarks-such as a date for elections by the end of 2013, a Transitional College for a permanent Electoral Council, and a political agreement to agree on steps to move towards elections.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44159

Mali: UN stresses need to assist displaced farmers before start of planting season

An urgent need exists to help displaced Malian farmers return to their lands before the start of the planting season in May, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, stressing that the communities’ resilience must be improved to ensure the agricultural sector’s safety. Many of the displaced are farmers, who are living in refugee camps or staying with host families in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.

After fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists. The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.
Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44153

Syria: UN official concerned over news of journalist’s death in detention

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, expressed grave concern about recent news of the death of Syrian journalist Ayham Mostafa Ghazzoul, who allegedly died while being held in detention last November. Mr. Ghazzoul was a 26-year-old post-graduate student, and a contributor to the Damascus-based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. He allegedly died at the air force intelligence headquarters, four days after his arrest, from injuries sustained under torture.

According to the non-governmental Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), conditions for the press deteriorated severely since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011. Since the start of the fighting, Ms. Bokova has condemned the killing of 46 citizen and professional journalists, including Mr. Ghazzoul.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44145

UN rights chief urges action in disputed areas with first report on Transnistrian region

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged action in the Transnistrian region, a disputed territory located between Moldova and Ukraine, but under effective control of the Government of Moldova since 1992. “Human rights do not have any borders. It is vital to address underlying human rights issues in disputed territories, regardless of the political recognition or the legal status of a territory,” said Ms. Pillay in a press release. The Transnistrian region declared independence in 1990, and witnessed months of fighting in 1992.

The first published report on the situation in the politically unrecognized region recommends the deployment of human rights experts to disputed territories, a thorough reform of the penitentiary system, a review of the local laws for consistency with international human rights law, and calls on the de facto government to develop a plan of action to address the recommendations.

Read the full article at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44140

Press Release from the High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12991&LangID=E

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