Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
Middle East: 'status quo is not sustainable' UN political chief warns Security Council
Jeffrey Feltman, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council about increasing tensions in the Middle East. Drawing attention to the escalation in Gaza and Israel last week, Mr. Feltman called the current situation "unsustainable" and commented that the future of the Middle East cannot be shaped without addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict. The escalating violence comes eight months after the resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Feltman also spoke about deteriorating conditions in Gaza where tightened access has serious economic and humanitarian consequences for the population living in the area.
Mr. Feltman also discussed the situation in Lebanon, applauding the newly-formed Government for respecting United Nations resolutions, improving security, and preparing for the Presidential election process which is due to start on March 25 and take place by May 25.
'Do not let spoilers deprive you of your future', UN envoy tells Afghans ahead of polls
Ján Kubiš, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), called on the Afghan people to exercise their right to vote and to ignore spoilers attempting to deter the holding of peaceful and credible elections. The presidential and provincial council elections are scheduled to take place on April 5th. While security remains a serious concern, Mr. Kubiš noted that the technical preparation for Afghan-managed and administered elections is on track. He urged all eligible voters to participate, stressing that the right to vote is a "universal democratic right, as well as a responsibility in strengthening the country's democratic processes and representative institutions." He further noted that this election comes at a "delicate juncture" for Afghanistan, one that may provide needed stability and predictability through a popular mandate across the ethnic divides.
UN agency launches first-ever database on global land use
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a new database - the Global Land Cover SHARE - harmonizing all available information on land cover, such as the amount of land covered by croplands, trees, forests, or bare soils. The FAO hopes that the database will be an essential tool in understanding the physical characteristics of the Earth and that it will assist in assessing agricultural sustainability, rural development and land use policy contributing to reducing poverty. The new database comes at a critical time when surging population, growing demand, and climate change poses a major challenge for agriculture.
Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47369
UN expert urges long-term, rights-based approach to water crisis in Jordan
In an effort to address severe water shortage issues in Jordan, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina De Albuquerque, called on Jordan to take a holistic, long-term approach to its water and sanitation strategies. Ms. De Albuqurque noted that the current emergency measures are not sustainable and lack affordability. While 98% of households are connected to the water network, some households spent almost 50% of their income to pay for water tankers. To combat shortage issues, the UN Special Rapporteur urged implementation of a new tariff system that requires wealthy households to pay higher tariffs while poorer households would be guaranteed a lower, subsidized price.
At Dubai forum, UNESCO chief calls for scaling up efforts to educate girls worldwide
The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, called on the private sector and civil society to increase efforts to provide quality education for girl-children, stressing "powerful transformative benefits" for all of society. According to UNESCO figures, in 2011 there were 31 million girls out of school, of whom 55 per cent are expected to never enroll, which Ms. Bokova called a "waste of talent and human ingenuity that no society can afford."
In 2011, in an effort to address a generation of women left behind, UNECSO launched its New Partnership for Girls and Women's Education, bringing together leaders from the private sector and governments in Africa and Asia. To date, more than 20,000 learners have benefits from the projects in seven countries. UNESCO hopes to increase the number and diversity of its partners and coverage of its activities to provide girls and women in underprivileged areas with education and learning opportunities.
Head of UN rights probe on DPR Korea urges accountability for 'unspeakable atrocities'
Michael Kirby, the head of a United Nations-mandated probe into the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - the Commission of Inquiry, called on the UN to take action to address systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations, which he called "unspeakable atrocities . . . without parallel in the modern world."
The Commission of Inquiry issued a 400-page report documenting allegations of abuse which, according to the Commission, "arose from policies established at the highest level of the State." The Commission based its finding on first-hand testimony from victims and witnesses. North Korea and China both denounced the report and questioned its credibility. The findings of the inquiry gave rise to calls to refer the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
UNHCR addresses alarming health situation of refugees in Cameroon
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has stepped up its efforts to help refugees escaping the violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), noting an increasing number of refugees arriving ill in Cameroon due to hunger and exhaustion after living weeks in bushes without access to water and food and walking long distances to reach safety.
A UNHCR spokesperson reported that the agency has increased its presence in the border areas, including deploying emergency staff, doctors and nutritionists. Many refugees arriving in Cameroon do not realize the seriousness of malnutrition and fail to seek help. UNHCR is seeking more donor support in order to meet the demand of the number of refugees arriving in Cameroon from the CAR, reaching more than 44,000 since last year.
Full story: http://www.unhcr.org/5322e2582.html
Nigeria must urgently tackle poverty, end conflict, protect vulnerable groups – UN rights chief
Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, congratulated the Nigerian government on its efforts to address difficult human rights problems while urging it to increase efforts to tackle the most urgent problems. Noting that Nigeria is a signatory to various human rights instruments, Ms. Pillay stated that the provisions must be "fully reflected in national legislation, and the national legislation must then be fully observed and implemented by the authorities at all levels."
Ms. Pillay noted several issues that the Nigerian government should address, including conflict in the North against Boko Haram, pervasive corruption, poverty, and protection of the vulnerable communities such as women, children, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. Ms. Pillay urged the government to implement concrete policy to protect the LBGT community from attacks and stated that the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition Act) is a violation of international law and infringes on the right to expression and assembly.
Burundi: UN chief urges restraint following clashes between police, opposition parties
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon urged the Burundi government and political parties to help ease the tension and clashes before the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015. Mr. Ban is particularly concerned with the growing restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, calling these rights a pre-condition for a free and fair election. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented several instances of violence that included the beatings and extortions of members of the opposition party.
Topic In Focus
Situation in Ukraine: UN Engagement Follow-up
Russia vetoed the UN Security Council draft resolution condemning the Crimea referendum which occurred on Sunday, March 16. The draft resolution stated the referendum "has no validity and cannot form the basis of any alteration of the status of Crimea," and urged states not to recognize the results. Russia vetoed the resolution while China abstained. 13 remaining Security Council members voted for the resolution. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, said "Russia was isolated, alone and wrong to block the resolution's passage." British Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, called on Russia to rethink its moves and find a peaceful resolution to this crisis.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he is "deeply concerned and disappointed" following the Crimea secession referendum and worries that it will only exacerbate an "already complex and tense situation." Mr. Ban called on all parties to resolve the political crisis through peaceful dialogue. He further condemned the violence which occurred over the weekend in eastern Ukraine and resulted in injuries and loss of life on all sides. He urged parties to engage in inclusive national dialogue to resolve the political impasse that started last November after the Ukrainian government decided not to sign an agreement on broader European integration.