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

U.S. Congress Passes Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Senate’s bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Earlier this month, more than 1,300 womens and human rights groups signed a letter supporting the Senate legislation.

VAWA was drafted by the office of Senator Joe Biden, with support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups. The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the same year, concluded that civil society and governments had acknowledged that domestic violence constitutes a public health and human rights concern. VAWA was developed and passed as a result of extensive grassroots efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with advocates and professionals from the battered women's movement, sexual assault advocates, victim services field, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, the courts, and the private bar urging Congress to adopt significant legislation that would address domestic and sexual violence.


At UN forum, countries commit to advance cross-cultural dialogue

Governments and international organizations from all around the world reaffirmed their commitment to advance cross-cultural dialogue at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Forum. The forum  ended today in Vienna, Austria.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the meeting yesterday and stressed the need for world leaders to promote the principles of tolerance and respect to find durable solutions to conflicts.


Countries agree on UN-backed guidelines to curb illegal fishing

After years of negotiations, member states of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) agreed on a set of voluntary guidelines that target illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU).

The guidelines were agreed on after more than five years of consensus building among countries, and will be presented to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) for endorsement in June 2014.

The guidelines aim to cut down on IUU fishing by improving the accountability of flag States, which register fishing vessels and authorize them to fly those States’ flags.


Appeals Chamber Acquits and Orders Release of Momčilo Perišić

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) reversed the convictions of Momčilo Perišić’s  for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war.

During the period relevant to his convictions, Mr. Perišić served as the Chief of the General Staff of the Serbian Army, know as the VJ, a position that made him the VJ’s most senior officer. The majority of the Appeals Chamber noted that, absent a finding of specific direction, Mr. Perišić could not be held liable as an aider and abettor, and on this basis reversed his convictions relating to crimes by the Serbia army in Bosnia.


2013 will be 'decisive' year for Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Ban tells UN meeting

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of making progress this year in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and called on both parties to refrain from taking any actions that undermine prospects for resuming negotiations.

Secretary-General Ban noted that the United Nations is continuing its support of Palestinian institution-building, providing critical humanitarian assistance in both the West Bank and Gaza and seeking $400 million for humanitarian action this year, with a focus on food insecurity and protection.


Despite significant progress on development goals, many challenges remain

The Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, told participants at the 2013 global conference “Making the MDGs work,” in Bogotá, Colombia, that while countries have made remarkable progress in the achievement of some of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there are still areas where too little has occurred since nations first committed to work on these issues in 2000.

The eight MDGs set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’


UN officials mourn 'one of the great champions of human rights', Stéphane Hessel

The United Nations Human Rights Council, currently meeting in Geneva, paused and observed a minute’s silence in Mr. Stéphane Hessel’s memory. It is the first time that the Council has honored an individual in this way. Mr. Stéphane Hessel, a former member of the French Resistance, writer and “one of the great champions of human rights”, passed away this week at the age of 95.


At Vienna forum, Ban-Ki Moon calls on world’s youth to take the lead on global issues

Speaking at a youth event at the Fifth Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, in Vienna, Austria, UN Secretary-General Ban told delegates representing “the largest generation of young people the world has ever known” that the world was waiting for their contribution on a host of urgent issues.

The Secretary-General drew particular attention to a $1.5 million contribution announced by the Government of Germany to support a trust fund set up by UN Volunteers and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to boost youth volunteerism and “harness the energy of young people around the world to bring about transformational change in their communities.”


Darfur: UN and partners assist civilians fleeing renewed tribal violence

The United Nations and its partners in Sudan are providing urgent aid and airlifting wounded civilians from a town in western North Darfur, where 60,000 displaced people have already sought refuge from fighting for control of gold mines.

The UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has been supporting reconciliation initiatives between the two sides and conducting security escorts to facilitate humanitarian access, and has significantly increased the number of daily patrols in the North Darfur areas most affected by violence.


Topic In Focus

OHCHR at a Glance

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) represents the international community’s commitment to universal ideals of human dignity. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the principal human rights official of the United Nations.

The High Commissioner heads OHCHR and spearheads the United Nations' human rights efforts. The Office offers leadership, works to educate and take action to empower individuals, and assists States in upholding human rights. It is a part of the United Nations Secretariat with the headquarters in Geneva.

The Office's priorities include greater country engagement, working closely with partners at the country and local levels, in order to ensure that international human rights standards are implemented on the ground and to facilitate closer partnerships with civil society and UN agencies.



Upcoming Side-Event to CSW at New York City Bar Association

On Thursday, March 7, starting at 7 pm, the New York City Bar Association will host a side event to the Commission on the Status of Women, entitled Strengthening the International Legal Framework for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: Opportunities and Gaps, which will consider the international legal framework that seeks to address the problem of violence against women. Speakers will include Lakshmi Puri , Deputy Executive Director of UN Women; Marja Ruotanen, Director of Justice and Human Dignity at the Council of Europe; Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, UN, or Kyung Wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner, at the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The event is free, though registration is required. More information on the event can be found here: http://www2.nycbar.org/EventsCalendar/show_event_new.php?eventid=2104.

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