Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
First UN report on antibiotic resistance reveals 'serious threat' to global public health
A study produced by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) is the first of its kind to examine antimicrobial resistance – the situation when antibiotics are no longer effective to treat infections due to bacteria change – including antibiotic resistance. The report, Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance 2014, provides the most comprehensive picture to date on the topic, incorporating data from 114 countries, and contends that antibiotic resistance is now a "major threat to public health."
The report focuses on antibiotic resistance in seven different bacteria responsible for common and serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and gonorrhea, but notes that resistance is also occurring across various infectious agents.
Security Council extends UN Western Sahara mission through April 2015
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2152 (2014), extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until April 30, 2015. MINURSO, created in 1991, is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire in Western Sahara and organizing a referendum on self-determination for the people of the territory.
Several NGOs and human rights groups, including the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, have supported an expanded MINURSO mandate, urging inclusion of a human rights monitoring mechanism to monitor or report on human rights violations both in the territory of Western Sahara occupied by Morocco and the refugee camps at Tindouf governed by the Polisario. The renewed mandate, however, does not include this mechanism.
The UN has been involved in efforts to ease tensions in Western Sahara since 1976, following the termination of the Spanish colonial administration of the territory and a dispute between Morocco and the Frente Polisario.
Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47681
Security Council lifts Côte d'Ivoire's rough diamond ban, tweaks arms embargo
The UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2153 (2014), lifting the ban on importing rough diamonds from Côte d'Ivoire and to partially lift the arms embargo, allowing non-lethal arms. The resolution extended until April 30, 2015, sanctions first instituted in 2004 prohibiting "the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the West African nation, from their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and any related material." The Security Council contended that non-lethal equipment would enable the Ivorian security forces to utilize "appropriate and proportionate force while maintaining public order."
The Security Council vote followed a review of the embargo and progress made in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of combatants as well as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation, and the fight against impunity.
South Sudan: UN brings aid to displaced civilians ahead of rains; calls for month-long truce
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is preparing to airlift relief supplies to 100,000 displaced people in South Sudan before its rainy season begins and has called for a month-long truce to allow individuals to move around safely and cultivate their fields. The relief supplies, including blankets, sleeping mats, water buckets, and other relief items, will be transported from Dubai to Juba, the capital South Sudan, and will be distributed in the Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei states.
The operation is part of a wider UNHCR effort to supply essential relief for many of the more than one million people displaced by the fighting in South Sudan over the last four months.
On World Day, UN labor agency urges greater control of harmful chemicals in the work place
Marking the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report – Safety and Health in the Use of Chemicals at Work – arguing that, despite the usefulness of chemicals, certain measures are nonetheless necessary to prevent and control potential risks for workers, workplaces, communities, and the environment.
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 5 million deaths and 86 million Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) were attributable to environmental exposure and management of selected chemicals in 2004. The figures include occupational and non-occupational exposures, such as indoor smoke from solid fuel use, outdoor air pollution, and second-hand smoke.
Honoring victims, UN urges full ratification of Chemical Weapons Convention
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President John Ashe called on six hesitant Member States to sign and/or ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Convention aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States parties. The Member States referenced include: Angola, Egypt, Israel, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and South Sudan.
The Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare, commemorating the 1997 date the Convention was entered into force, is observed annually on April 29th.
Egypt: Ban alarmed by recent legal decisions which could violate human rights
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed serious concern following two recent legal decisions in Egypt which imposed a mass death sentence on individuals on trial for various charges, including membership of an unlawful organization (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, vandalism, unlawful gathering, and the killing of a police officer. The first conviction, handed down on March 24, 2014, found 529 individuals guilty of charges related to events that occurred in August 2013 following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi. The most recent mass conviction – where more than 680 people were reportedly on trial – resulted in a preliminary mass death sentence.
Commenting upon the importance of fair trial rights, Mr. Ban stated: "Verdicts that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those which impose the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability."
Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47672
Security Council highlights critical role of professional police, military in peace efforts
The UN Security Council, addressing security sector reform, adopted Resolution 2151 (2014), its first-ever thematic resolution. Emphasizing the importance of security sector reform, the Security Council called on countries emerging from conflict, and countries providing assistance, to prioritize the development of domestic police and national defense forces that maintain rule of law and respect human rights. The resolution includes provisions that "encourage the UN and other international partners to strengthen their approach to training and other assistance, and to integrate it with other efforts to help rebuild national institutions." Mr. Ban also noted a linkage between security efforts and broader processes of political and institutional reforms.
Ukraine: Ban urges diplomatic solution to crisis; International Criminal Court opens probe
Following an announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is opening a preliminary investigation into alleged crimes against humanity committed in the Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all parties to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis in the country.
The Government of Ukraine, currently not a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, has accepted the Court's jurisdiction over alleged crimes committed on its territory from November 21, 2013 to February 22, 2014. Subsequently, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC reported that it would open a preliminary investigation into the alleged crimes to determine whether a full investigation is warranted.
Migrant workers: living in the shadows
The UN International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that an estimated 21 million people are trapped in positions of forced labor and an additional 19 million are exploited by individuals or companies – with migrant workers being the most vulnerable. To address the situation, the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families held a general discussion bringing together international experts, government officials, UN agencies, civil society, and trade union representatives at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
While there have been advances in protecting migrant workers from exploitation in the workplace – including the legal framework set forth in the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families – the Chief of Labor Migration at the ILO, Michelle Leighton, advocated for "a migrant-centered approach to development in order to see a shift in how people perceive labor migration."
Topic In Focus
Lawyers Say UN Aid Does Not Need Syria's Consent
A group of prominent international lawyers and academics asserted in an open letter that United Nations agencies and other charitable organizations do not need the permission of the Syrian government to deliver humanitarian relief to civilians caught in the middle of violence and destruction stemming from a civil war, wagging for more than three years in Syria. Despite the UN Security Council's February 22, 2014, unanimous adoption of Resolution 2139 – ordering all parties to the conflict to stop blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid – UN relief agencies face severe difficulties in delivering food and other humanitarian aid in the region, including the suspension of some efforts. Contrary to the provisions of the Resolution, the Syrian government has refused cross-border operations, necessary to effectively reach hundreds of thousands of civilians from neighboring countries such as Turkey and Jordan.
The letter asserted that the UN is relying on an "overly cautious interpretation of international humanitarian law" and argues that "there is no legal barrier to the UN directly undertaking cross-border humanitarian operations and supporting NGOs to undertake them as well."
The letter was released on April 28th and signed by 35 lawyers, including Hans Corell, the former chief legal counsel of the UN, on International Bar Association letterhead.