WEEK OF MARCH 14, 2014

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

North Korea evading sanctions

An expert panel reporting to the UN Security Council has shared information on the elaborate sanctions-avoidance techniques practiced by North Korea. The panel noted that North Korea "is experienced in actions it takes to evade sanctions," making use of "multiple and tiered circumvention techniques." The UN Security Council has adopted resolutions for increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea in response to nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests of the country. The experts reported details of a cargo ship (Chong Chon Gang), stopped by Panamanian authorities in July 2013, which was secretly carrying weapons hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar.

Full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/12/world/asia/north-korea.html

UN commission on women opens annual session

The 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) opened in New York at UN Headquarters on March 10, welcoming over 6,000 representatives from the 193 UN Member States, the UN and from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This year's CSW focuses on development, particularly education and reproductive rights. "We cannot achieve a world of dignity for all until we end gender inequality in all its forms," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. The final conference document will assist in shaping the future development agenda of the UN, including in relation to the post-2015 development goals, after the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has passed.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47316

Central African Republic: UN probe set to investigate reports of rights violations

The head of a UN International Commission of Inquiry, Bernard Acho Muna, has warned that the spread of hate speech and the collapse of law and order in the Central African Republic (CAR) are likely indicators foreshadowing grave human rights violations, including genocide. Months of inter-religious violence among Christians and Muslims has wrecked State institutions, left millions in near-starvation, and threaten to drag neighboring countries into the conflict. About half the population of the country (2.2 million people) are in need of humanitarian aid as a result of the conflict. The CAR has a troubled national history of political coups, violence and impunity, Mr. Muna noted. "I think it is in our mandate to see how we can stop any advances towards genocide," he said, adding that "I hope this is only noise and when you put troops on the ground [and establish] law and order, it might disappear." The Commission plans to submit an initial report to the Security Council within six months.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47314

Number of children affected by conflict in Syria has doubled since last year

UNICEF has released a new report on Syria, reporting that more than twice as many children are affected by the conflict than just 12 months ago, as the conflict begins its fourth year. There are up to a million children trapped in areas that are under siege or are difficult to reach in order to provide humanitarian assistance because of continuing violence. UNICEF estimates that there are two million children in Syria who are in need of psychological support or treatment because of exposure to the conflict. Often living in rubble and struggling to find food, many children in Syria are left without basic protection, medical care and without access to education. In some cases children and pregnant women have been intentionally targeted and killed or wounded by snipers.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47320

Secretary-General urges respect for rule of law in Maldives

The UN Secretary-General has expressed concern about the state of governance in the Maldives after a decision of the Supreme Court to remove the Chair and Vice Chair of the Elections Commission and to sentence the Chair for contempt of court. Through a statement of a spokesperson Mr. Ban "underline[d] the importance of respect for the principle of separation of powers, the rule of law, and the independence of constitutionally established bodies," commending the Elections Commission for its "professionalism and tireless efforts to ensure credible and transparent elections." Presidential elections have been underway since the fall of 2013, but have been plagued with allegations of electoral fraud and delay.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47321

UN-World Bank initiative focuses on gender-based violence and empowerment of girls in sub-Saharan Africa

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank recently highlighted their joint efforts in Africa's Great Lakes and Sahel regions to address the multidimensional challenges that women and girls face there. The World Bank has invested $1 billion in the region. UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin noted that "When you look at the two regions, one of the things that I believe is common, is the issue of the adolescent girl who is not going to school, who is not being empowered, who doesn't have access to skills, education or the ability to determine who she wants to be." It was noted that "if girls go to and stay in school, and if they are able to learn about sexual and reproductive health, and if they are able to make choices, then we can stop a lot of [the] gender-based violence." A significant portion of the gender-based violence in the region has also been linked to the conflict in the eastern part of the DRC.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47319

Darfur: African Union-UN mission urges end to violence in region's North

An African Union-United Nations Mission to the Darfur region (UNAMID) has expressed deep concern about an outbreak of inter-communal violence in North Darfur, which has sent thousands fleeing for safety and caused a number of causalities over the past few days. "Reconciliation efforts among the tribes have been taking place, however the situation remains tense and those displaced are in need of critical food and proper sanitary conditions," the Joint UN-AU operation said, calling on all parties involved to cease hostilities. Officials argued the benefits of parties finding a peaceful solution to the current clashes, in order to progress with a comprehensive political accord that could benefit Darfur and wider Sudan.

Full story:http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47310

UN Campaign Launched for International Women's Day

On the eve of International Women's Day (March 8) the UN launched the "He for She" campaign which urges men to stand up for the rights of their mothers, sisters and daughters. The launch included video clips from well-known men who urge support for gender equality, including Antonio Banderas, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu and Mr. Ban. "Throughout the world, discrimination is rampant, and in some cases it is getting worse. But we also know that equality for women is progress for all," said Mr. Ban. "Where men and women have equal rights, societies prosper."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47301

Human Rights Council dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

An interactive dialogue of the UN Human Rights Council with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on her office's Annual Report, was held on March 7. Ms. Pillay noted the overwhelming support for most of the work on which she reported, covering a broad range of human rights throughout the world. She also noted progress on improving the institutional structure and transparency of her office. Speakers at the meeting commended the participatory approach of work carried out by the High Commissioner's Office, engaging, for example, civil society organizations, and commended work on combating all forms of discrimination, promoting women's and migrants rights in particular. In response to questioning, Ms. Pillay noted that some of the human rights challenges currently confronting Western countries include issues such as the impact of austerity measures, the rise of extreme political parties and xenophobia, and the rights of migrants and minorities.

Full story: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14328&LangID=E

UN-backed initiative contributes to revival of Somalia's "grain basket"

Farmers in south-central Somalia, a region affected by conflict and drought, are for the first time growing and selling grain for Somali consumption as part of a UN-supported project. "This initiative shows that Somali farmers are not helpless. With minimal assistance including agricultural inputs, tools, technical skills in storage, grading and marketing, they can make a great difference," said Luca Alinovi, outgoing representative in Somalia for the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The Government of Austria provided funding for the project, allowing the UN to buy 200 metric tons of high-quality maize from the farmers, for redistribution in other regions of the country. Experts from the FAO and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), supported by the EU, have worked for the last 12 years to increase the quality of community farmers in order to meet international standards. Despite progress made, Somali farmers still only meet 40 per cent of the country's domestic grain demand, with an estimated 857,000 people inside Somalia currently "in crisis and emergency conditions" in terms of food insecurity.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47294

Topic In Focus

Situation in Ukraine: UN Engagement

Senior UN official Ivan Šimonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, has been dispatched to Ukraine for a week-long mission to assess the human rights situation and to develop recommendations for further action. Mr. Šimonovic is meeting with local authorities in order to discuss human rights measures which could be taken in the hopes of de-escalating tensions in the country. "He is also raising with the authorities the allegations regarding human rights violations, and meeting with a range of pro-Russian as well as pro-Ukrainian civil society representatives," a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said. It is hoped that Mr. Šimonovic's presence in Ukraine will underline the "paramount" importance of ensuring respect for international human rights laws and standards in a difficult time.

Tensions heightened last week as the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation and to hold a referendum on 16 March to confirm the decision. Russian troops and armored vehicles have been deployed to the region.

The UN Secretary-General has stated that he has been "increasingly alarmed by developments" in the country, and has urged all sides to refrain from hasty action and confrontational rhetoric. "Since the beginning of this crisis, I have appealed to all parties to de-escalate tensions and to engage in direct and constructive dialogue in order to forge a peaceful way forward," Mr. Ban said.

A private meeting of the Security Council on Ukraine was held on March 10. Council members reiterated their "grave concern about the ongoing crisis, emphasized once more the need for urgent de-escalation and reiterated the need for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from actions and rhetoric which might further exacerbate the situation or damage the atmosphere needed for genuine dialogue," said Sylvie Lucas, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg, which holds the Council's presidency this month.

Ms. Lucas said the Council members emphasized that the crisis should be solved in accordance with the UN Charter, including, for example, peaceful dispute settlement and the respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. "A number of Council members stressed that the decision of the Supreme Council of Crimea to hold on 16 March a referendum on the status of Crimea is contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine and therefore illegal," she said.

Full stories:

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