Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict starts first official visit to Somalia
A United Nations envoy initiated an information-gathering visit in Somali to raise awareness and discuss ways of addressing sexual violence in the Horn of Africa country. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, met with UN officials, including from the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), as well as civil society partners and a range of stakeholders, to listen and learn about the challenges faced in tackling sexual violence. A team of experts from Ms. Bangura’s office will be deployed to Somalia in July to work alongside the police and the military to assess their needs in the areas of training and prosecution.
At UN meeting, West African States address threats to human rights
Civil society members, academics, and intergovernmental organizations gathered at a United Nations meeting in Dakar, Senegal, to discuss new threats to human rights in West Africa. The meeting, called the ‘dialogue tree’ after a concept borrowed from African traditions, focused on addressing new threats to human rights and stability in the sub-region.
“The dialogue tree was the place where all members of the community would meet to discuss matters of general interest, and issues affecting them,” the head of the UN political office in Mali (UNOM), David Gressly, stated at the opening ceremony. “From that perspective, the dialogue tree represents an authentic tool for participation and, therefore, the promotion of human rights,” he added.
Options for future UN involvement in resolving Mali crisis presented to Security Council
Outlining Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposals for a possible UN peace and security presence in Mali, the UN political chief stressed the need to tackle an array of political, governance, and security challenges to help resolve the crisis in the country. Escalating fighting, and the emergence of military advancement of extremists groups, has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France.
In the Secretary-General report on the situation in Mali, the two options for UN engagement in the country include: 1) a UN multi-dimensional integrated political presence operating alongside AFISMA, the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, to support national efforts to recover the north from the insurgents and 2) the establishment of a UN multi-dimensional integrated stabilization mission under a Chapter VII mandate alongside a parallel force. The mission would also be mandated to carry out security-related stabilization tasks, protect civilians, and create the conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Revitalization can ensure General Assembly becomes ‘parliament of nations’ – President
An Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly, established to promote the General Assembly, convened to address ways for the General Assembly to become a true, universal “parliament of nations” where important global issues are discussed and decisions taken.
At the Working Group’s first meeting, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic stated that a universal parliament of nations is “a conditio sine qua non for an international system that aspires to justice, and pledges not only equal rights to all nations, but aims to safeguard their equal dignity as well.” He further added that revitalization is fundamentally about empowering the Member States to make the fullest possible use of the broad capacities provided by the UN Charter to the General Assembly.
Libya: UNICEF initiative to provide better quality education through teacher training
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced the development of “a high-level road map” for effective teacher management in Libya in an effort to improve access to quality education for all children in the North African country.
The two-year initiative, funded by the European Union and elaborated under the leadership of Libya’s Ministry of Education, will ultimately be implemented by UNICEF’s Teachers Development Centre. The initiative will focus specifically on providing better education for Libya’s most vulnerable children, including those affected by the country’s recent conflict. The project will also study various aspects of the Libyan education system ranging from teachers’ qualifications and in-service teacher training to recruitment, management and deployment.
Iraq: UN officials condemn wave of attacks against media professionals
United Nations officials in Iraq strongly condemned a wave of attacks targeting journalists and media facilities in Baghdad and urged Iraqi authorities to improve protections for media professionals across the country. According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Iraq remains one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.
On April 1, gunmen allegedly forced their way into the Baghdad offices of four independent newspapers, attacking and beating employees. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Martin Kobler, called on the Iraqi Government “to ensure that media professionals are protected against all forms of intimidation and violence because of their opinions or thoughts.”
UN envoy and DR Congo sign agreement to tackle sexual violence in conflict
A United Nations envoy has praised the efforts of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to address conflict-related sexual violence, and announced the signing of a Joint Communiqué, an agreement with the country’s authorities to address the pervasive issue.
The Joint Communiqué, signed by Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, and Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon, lists commitments made by the DRC. The commitments include fighting impunity for crimes of sexual violence, accelerating security sector reform efforts, creating vetting mechanisms when integrating former combatants into the national army, ensuring a better control of mineral resources, and providing greater support for services to survivors. Additionally, it calls for the Government to work with partners, including State entities, donors, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to prevent sexual violence committed by armed individuals
During visit, Ban lauds Andorra’s success in empowering women
During a visit to Andorra, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the Government’s success in empowering women and encouraged the Government to continue promoting women’s political participation globally. Mr. Ban lauded the parliamentary make-up, noting that 50 percent of Andorra’s parliament members are female – one of only two countries with a similar division. “The equal participation of women and men in political decision-making is fundamental for genuine democracy and gender empowerment,” he added in an address before the Parliament.
Mr. Ban also commended Andorra’s progress on sustainable development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and its recent efforts to expand its economy.
World Autism Awareness Day: UN urges early interventions for people on autism spectrum
April 2 marks World Autism Awareness Day – a day established to garner international attention to autism and other developmental disorders. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advocated for international attention to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures for people living with autism.
Ban Soon-taek, the Secretary-General’s wife, highlighted the UN’s commitment to raising awareness about autism. In November, the General Assembly held a High-level Special Event on Autism and Developmental Disabilities. In an effort to close the “awareness gap”, Member States adopted a resolution encouraging governments to strengthen research and expand their delivery of health, education, employment and other essential services.
Senior UN official urges confidence-building measures to counter global insecurity
The United Nations disarmament chief today urged Member States to build confidence and trust with each other by establishing and strengthening global norms on disarmament issues related to nuclear weapons and conventional arms, specifically citing the importance of a global arms trade treaty.
High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, told the opening of the annual three-week session of the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) in New York that the world continues to face a “lack of confidence” in light of disarmament issues, which feeds instability in the Middle East, South Asia, and North-east Asia. Ms. Kane also noted that expansion of military budgets and deeply divided votes in the General Assembly on issues related to disarmament contribute to a lack of confidence globally.
Topic In Focus
The Arms Trade Treaty
On April 2, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of an historic treaty to regulate the astonishing number of conventional weapons traded globally each year, linking for the first time ever arms sales to the human rights records of the buyers. The adoption reflects growing international sentiment that the multibillion-dollar weapons trade must be held to a moral standard.
By a vote of 154 in favor, 3 against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Syria), and 23 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly passed the 28-article Arms Trade Treaty. This treaty aims to establish the highest possible common international standards for the annual $70 billion business of arms trade. The adoption follows seven years of negotiations and the failure last week of the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to reach consensus on the text, following which failure the Conference referred the adoption to the General Assembly.
Under the treaty, arms-exporting countries would be legally bound to report arms sales and transfers and required to assess whether the weapons they sold could be used to facilitate human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations. Proponents of the new treaty note that the goal is to curb the sale of weapons that kill tens of thousands of people every year by making it more difficult for certain countries to argue that its arms deals are legal under international law.
General Assembly Draft Decision: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/2013/ArmsTreaty.pdf?ref=world
For further information on the Conference: http://www.un.org/disarmament/ATT/