Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
Long-term food production must factor in potential impacts of climate change – UN official
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organized the seventh Forum on Agriculture in Menkes, Morocco. The Director-General of the FAO stressed that climate change is having a significant impact on the food production scenario in the long-term. In prior decades, according to the FAO, hunger was mostly caused by the inability to produce or purchase food, rather than insufficient supplies globally, but climate change has introduced an element of uncertainty over the long-term supply of food.
Expressing concern for the impact of climate change on the world's poorest and most vulnerable, the Director-General stated, however, that "[c]limate change is a challenge faced by both large, modernized family farms as well as small-scale family farmers."
On Mother Earth Day, UN urges protecting planet from 'heavy hand of humankind'
The United Nations observed International Mother Earth day on April 22nd by calling on countries to promote sustainable development and the use of renewable energy sources. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that worldwide changes in attitude and practice will be necessary to curb the negative impact of human activity on the planet. The General Assembly convened an interactive dialogue titled "Harmony with Nature" to commemorate the occasion.
"From tropical deforestation to depleted ocean fisheries, from growing freshwater shortages to the rapid decline of biodiversity and increasingly polluted skies and seas in many parts of the world, we see the heavy hand of humankind," stated the Secretary-General.
UN-backed summit on food security, 'blue economy' urges coordinated action
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization hosted a four-day summit together with the World Bank and Member States, including the Dutch host Government on the role of oceans in global food security, livelihoods and economic development. More than 500 delegates, including ministers and senior representatives from the fishing industry, coastal communities, science and civil society, are meeting in The Hague to discuss issues relating to the blue economy, including food, jobs, and opportunities for development provided by ocean and coastal assets.
"Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050," stated Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture. "Solutions exist that balance the ecological and economic demands on the ocean," according to Juergen Voegele, Director of Agriculture and Environmental Services at the World Bank.
Respect right of persons with disabilities to make their own choices, urges UN panel
The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities issued guidelines on Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Article 12 of the Convention mandates equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities. The guidelines emphasize a model of "supported decision-making," rather than "substituted decision-making," which is the model utilized by many countries via mental capacity assessments used to deny legal capacity to persons with disabilities. Persons deprived of legal capacity cannot marry or vote.
"Support in the exercise of legal capacity must respect the rights, will and preferences of persons with disabilities," stated the Committee, which is comprised of 18 Member States and is tasked with monitoring State implementation of the Convention.
UN mission in South Sudan condemns ethnic killings in Bentiu
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) strongly condemned attacks on a hospital, mosque, church, and a UN World Food Programme (WFP) compound in Bentiu, where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign citizens were killed. By estimates, thousands of people have been killed since mid-December, when a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy president, Riek Machar, erupted in violence. Reports indicate that victims were targeted based on ethnicity and nationality.
Joseph Contreras, Acting Spokesperson of UMISS, said that "[c]learly, the Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed over three months ago has been violated repeatedly by forces loyal to both sides and it a source of concern and considerable dismay to UNMISS that those violations continue."
UN cautions Syria against holding presidential election amidst ongoing 'tragedy'
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Joint UN-League of Arab States Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi urged the Syrian government to reconsider its plans to hold presidential elections in early June. The Secretary-General's spokesman stressed that such elections would be incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Communiqué, the action plan adopted in 2012 at the first international conference on the conflict, which called for a transitional government to lead to free and fair elections.
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people and driven an estimated 9 million others from their homes. More than 2.4 million refugees are currently registered in the region.
OPCW-UN mission reports further progress in eliminating Syria's chemical weapons
The head of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations announced that, as of April 19, Syria had removed or destroyed approximately 80 per cent of its chemical weapons material. The target deadline for complete destruction of Syria's entire chemical weapons program is June 30, 2014. Syria has also destroyed empty mustard gas containers, and made progress on closing chemical weapons production and storage sites.
"The renewed pace in movements is positive and necessary to ensure progress towards a tight deadline," said Sigrid Kaag, Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission.
Western Sahara: UN refugee agency announces resumption of family visit flights
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees announced that the suspension on family visit flights between Sahrawi refugees living in camps near Tindouf, Algeria, and their families in the territory of Western Sahara has been lifted, permitting visits to resume. The flights are part of the agency's Confidence Building Measures program and commenced with the transportation of 192 individuals from Tindouf and nearby refugee camps. Other measures include cultural seminars, a program of family visits and coordination meetings in Geneva with Morocco, the Frente Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania.
On April 17, the Security Council was briefed on the latest developments regarding Western Sahara in a closed-door meeting.
Kenya: UNHCR disturbed by arrests and deportations of Somali refugees
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed alarm at the arrest and detention of over one thousand refugees and asylum seekers swept up in counter-terrorism initiatives by Kenyan forces in Nairobi. Most of the individuals arrested are Somali, 82 of whom were deported to Mogadishu on April 9, in a wave of enforcement actions against undocumented foreigners. UNHCR stressed that given ongoing hostilities in Somalia, Somalis are entitled to international protection as refugees and should not be returned against their will and to a place where their lives could be placed in peril.
UNHCR stated that it "remains ready to work with the Government authorities in ways which, while ensuring that Kenya's legitimate security concerns are catered for, would preserve the favorable asylum and protection environment which the country has provided over years, including in the urban areas."
Full story: http://www.unhcr.org/534fa2c76.html
U.N. Council takes up question of rights in North Korea
On April 17, the Security Council was briefed on crimes against humanity in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, marking the first time the body had formally taken up the issue. Thirteen of the fifteen members were in attendance – excluding China and Russia – to hear the presentation by Michael Kirby, an Australian retired judge who led a three-member investigative commission into human rights abuses in that country. The commission's report, released in February of this year, alleged that North Korean government perpetrated abuses such as murder, enslavement, torture, rape, forced abortions and persecution for political, racial and religious reasons.
The UN Human Rights Council has urged that the Security Council refer the case of North Korea to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Topic In Focus
World Book Day: new UN report spotlights potential of mobile technology to advance literacy
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization commemorated World Book and Copyright Day with a new report, entitled "Reading in the Mobile Era." The report stresses that mobile technology can advance literacy and learning in underserved communities around the world. 74 million people worldwide, including 123 million youth, cannot read or write – a phenomenon traceable to a lack of books. However, data shows that, even in areas of extreme poverty where books are scarce, mobile technology is increasingly common.
An analysis of over 4,000 surveys and corresponding qualitative interviews in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Zimbabwe found that large numbers of people (one third of study participants) read stories to children from mobile phones. The study is intended as a roadmap for Governments, organizations, and individuals seeking to use mobile technology to help spread reading and literacy.