Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
Citing new report, UN urges DR Congo to end impunity for 'widespread' sexual violence
The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) released an in-depth report documenting gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The office reported 3,600 victims between January 2010 and December 2013. Incidents of gender-based violence are often systematic in nature; a large number of cases are committed in homes or when women are working fields, going to the market or collecting water.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on governments to "prioritize the fight against impunity for crimes of sexual violence, to promptly complete effective and independent investigations, and to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including those suspected of having command responsibility." The report concludes that gender-based violence is used as a tool of war and in order to control and punish civilian communities.
UN launches decade-long initiative to promote sustainable energy for all
The United Nations launched the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) in New York at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit. The objectives of the initiative are: to ensure universal access to modern energy services; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and to share renewable energy globally. Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, called on the private sector to innovate and invest in support of these goals.
The UN will also hold the first annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum on June 4-6 in conjunction with the World Bank and other parties.
UN health agency issues first hepatitis C treatment guidelines
The World Health Organization (WHO) published guidelines for the treatment of hepatitis C, a disease affecting an estimated 130 million to 150 million people. The WHO will partner with countries to introduce the guidelines as part of their national treatment programs. The WHO will also offer assistance to make treatments available and assess laboratory tests and generic medications. The guidelines make 9 key recommendations, dealing with approaches to increase the number of people screened for hepatitis C infection, the mitigation of liver damage for those who are infected, and the selection and provision of appropriate treatments for chronic hepatitis C infection.
According to WHO, rates of new hepatitis C infections remain "unacceptably high" in many countries from reuse of injection equipment and lack of screening of blood transfusions.
UN mission strongly condemns deadly attack in southern Afghanistan
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called for an immediate end to the use of indiscriminate, victim-activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-Government elements, condemning an attack in Kandahar province on April 7 which killed 15 civilians and injured 5 others. A pick-up truck transporting 20 civilians had set off the explosive device on a road frequented by civilians in Maywand district. There have been 187 civilian deaths from IEDs and injuries to another 357 during the first three months of 2014.
UNAMA stressed that because these devices do not discriminate between combatants and civilians, use of illegal IEDs may constitute a war crime under international humanitarian law.
Challenges facing world population take center stage at annual UN forum
The UN Commission on Population and Development commenced a week-long session at UN Headquarters for Member States to assess the past 20 years of actions taken to improve people's lives and address population issues amid changes in aging, fertility, mortality, migration, and urbanization. Member States will evaluate the performance of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action, which was formulated at the ICPD conference in Cairo in 1994.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that "[w]e have an urgent responsibility, to invest in creating opportunities and a supportive environment for innovation and entrepreneurship for persons of all ages, in particular for young people. It is crucial to invest in their health and education and to review legislation, standards and practices that restrict their full participation in and access to sexual and reproductive health services."
Philippines' debt must be cancelled to support typhoon recovery effort – UN expert
Cephas Lumina, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, stressed that the Philippines' post-typhoon recovery would be hampered by its debt load. Of the nearly 900 million USD offered in assistance, only 23 million USD was given in grants. "The disaster should . . . serve as an opportunity for lenders to acknowledge that odious debts emanating from the rule under Ferdinand Marcos should be cancelled," stated Mr. Lumina.
Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to examine and report on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.
Afghanistan: Ban welcomes polls as important step forward in first democratic transition of power
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the Afghan people for last week's historic presidential and provincial elections, while the Secretary-General's Special Representative in the country, Ján Kubiš, stressed that the elections would be crucial "for the future of a stable and unified Afghanistan."
"Ordinary Afghans turned out to vote in remarkable numbers, defying Taliban attacks and threats. Often in long queues and bad weather, voters patiently waited to exercise their basic human right to vote. They chose to determine the future direction of the country by political means and resolutely rejected the enemies of peace and democracy," stated Mr. Kubiš.
As ratifications lag, UN experts renew call for States to sign treaty on migrant workers' rights
The UN Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families urged Member States to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, which came into effect eleven years ago. To date, 47 countries have ratified this Convention. According to the Committee's Chair, the Convention "doesn't create new rights or establish additional ones for migrant workers. What it does do is give specific form to standards that protect all human beings so that they are meaningful within the context of migration."
None of the major developed countries which are net receivers of migrant works – such as the United States, United Kingdom, EU members, or Gulf States – have ratified the convention.
World Health Day: UN urges countries to prioritize combat against vector-borne diseases
The United Nations marked World Health Day by calling on the international community to give higher priority to controlling the spread of vector-borne diseases, such as those spread by mosquitos or ticks. More than 1 million people die every year from vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Chagas disease, and leishmaniasis. Climate change, altered habitats and increased international trade and travel are exacerbating contact with vectors.
"By profoundly affecting people's health, vector-borne diseases are a serious impediment to poverty reduction and sustainable development," stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, stressing that the post-2015 development agenda must address vector control and disease prevention.
Security Council endorses Secretary-General's revised strategic priorities for African Union-United Nations hybrid operation in Darfur
The UN Security Council endorsed the UN Secretary-General's revised strategic priorities for the joint African Union-United Nations presence in the Darfur region of Sudan. The revised strategic priorities of the peacekeeping force are: protecting civilians; facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance and ensuring the safety of humanitarian personnel; mediating between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur; and supporting the mediation of community conflict, through measures to address its root causes.
The Council called on all parties in Darfur to cooperate with UNAMID's discharge of its mandate.
Topic In Focus
20th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a commemoration address in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. He stated, "there is a truth to the human condition that is as alarming today as it was 20 years ago; the fragility of our civility. The bonds that hold us together can swiftly disappear. At the same time, there is progress that gives hope." He pointed to the emergence of the responsibility to protect principle in international law and the expansion of international criminal justice as trends combating impunity for heinous atrocities.
The UN-backed war crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), expects to complete its work on the 30th of September 2015 and will deliver its archive to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. The ICTR prosecutions have resulted in 62 convictions and 14 acquittals.
Related stories: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/08/world/africa/genocide-commemorations-begin-in-rwanda-with-curtailed-french-role.html?_r=0