Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.
Secretary-General calls for immediate release of UN peacekeepers held in Golan Heights
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the immediate release of four peacekeepers being held by “armed elements” in the Golan Heights. The peacekeepers are part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which is mandated to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria. This latest incident comes nearly two months after twenty-one UNDOF peacekeepers were captured on March 6, and in the same location, by armed elements of the Syrian opposition; they were held for hours before being released safely.
Peacekeepers serving with UNDOF monitor the 1974 disengagement accord between Syria and Israel, a consequence of their 1973 war. In December, the Security Council extended the mission’s mandate for another six months, until June 30, 2013.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44846
UN independent expert stresses need for justice to aid reconciliation in Côte d’Ivoire
A UN independent expert called on the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to strengthen the rule of law. “After more than ten years of political crisis, justice is key for the reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire,” said Doudou Diène, the UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire, at the end of a visit to the country.
The United Nations has been supporting the reunification and stabilization of Côte d’Ivoire after it was split by civil war in 2002. A 2010 presidential election, meant to be the culmination of the peace process, resulted in months of violence when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing to Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Ouattara was finally able to take office in May 2011.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44850
Syria: UN human rights Inquiry has ‘no conclusive findings’ on use of chemical weapons
An independent United Nations panel, continuing its investigation into violations of human rights in Syria, said today that it has “no conclusive findings” regarding the use of chemical weapons by any of the parties to the conflict. The panel, the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, clarified that it has not reached any final findings on the use of chemical weapons, and “as a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.” The Commission is scheduled to issue its findings on June 3.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44834
Read the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria’s Statement:
UN official alarmed over rising violence in Central African Republic nature reserve
The rise of poaching, armed violence, and destruction in the Central African Republic’s (CAR) Dzanga-Sanga National Park has deeply concerned UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova. The park is part of the Sangha Trinational Site (TNS), situated in the northwestern part of the Congo Basin, where Cameroon, CAR, and Congo meet. It encompasses three contiguous national parks that total approximately 750,000 hectares, and was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List last year.
Last month, men in uniform carried out repeated attacks around the park, looting equipment from the administration buildings and destroying the facilities. “I ask the Central African authorities to act quickly and to do everything possible to restore order in the region and to ensure the conservation of the protected area of Dzanga-Sanga,” said Ms. Bokova.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44833
Pacific nations engage in UN-backed tsunami preparedness exercise
Thirty-nine Pacific Rim countries are taking part in a United Nations-backed tsunami warning exercise from May 1 to May 14 to improve their ability to respond to alerts and to coordinate regional action in the event of a future disaster. The test comes on the heels of a similar tsunami warning exercise conducted in the Caribbean in March, and will aim to validate new tsunami forecasting products slated for adoption next year.
According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is organizing the exercise through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), around 75 percent of the world’s tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean and connected seas, a region that has been struck by four tsunamis in the past five years.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44832
Ban 'strongly condemns' killings of top tribal chief, UN peacekeeper in Abyei
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the killing of the Ngok Dinka Paramount Chief DengKuol Deng and a peacekeeper by a Misseriya assailant on May 4. The assailant attacked a UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) convoy traveling in the Abyei area, which is currently contested by Sudan and South Sudan. Two other peacekeepers were also seriously wounded.
“This proves again how crucially important it is for the two Governments to establish the temporary institutions as stipulated in the 20 June 2011 Agreement and continue discussions on the final status of the Abyei Area,” the Secretary-General Ban said in a statement. The Agreement, signed by the Government of Sudan and representatives of South Sudan ahead of its official independence, calls for demilitarization of Abyei and the establishment of an administrative and police service.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44827
Read the UN Secretary-General’s Statement: http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp
Bangladesh agrees on action plan to improve working conditions, ILO says
Bangladeshi lawmakers will receive an agreed-upon labor reform package as early as next month to improve the nation's working conditions, said the UN International Labour Organization (ILO). The package “would improve protection, in law and practice, for the fundamental rights to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, as well as occupational safety and health,” said the ILO in a joint statement issued on behalf of the tripartite partners, who include representatives of the Government, employers, and workers. Bangladesh is still reeling from the deadly collapse of a garment factory that killed at least 345 people and injured thousands on April 24. Previously, an additional 100 people were killed in recent fire accidents at Tazreen Fashions Limited and Smart Export Garments. All three incidents spurred an international outcry of support, including from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the ILO.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44542
Persons with albinism must not be treated as “ghosts,” UN experts stress
Persons with albinism are the victims of ritual attacks and discrimination, and are routinely mistreated in Tanzania, according to a United Nations group of independent experts. “They are regarded as ghosts and not human beings who can be wiped off the global map,” said the group in a message marking Tanzania's National Albinism Day. “People living with albinism [are] the target of many false and harmful myths in several countries, especially in the African region.”
Albinism is a rare, genetically inherited condition occurring in men and women regardless of ethnicity, and in all countries of the world. Educating children about albinism is important to prevent discrimination against them, said the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh. “There are now several educational methodologies and guides to teachers that have proved efficient in the course of educating children with albinism. These must be widely promoted and applied.”
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44825
DRC: UN food relief agency warns of ‘Triangle of Death’
The security situation remains volatile in the Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs stated that deteriorating humanitarian conditions and ongoing attacks from Mai Mai fighters in the so-called “Triangle of Death”-the area between the towns of Pweto, Mitwaba and Manono-have forced more than 200,000 people to flee their homes since April. The WFP is aiding refugees by providing food rations and humanitarian assistance, and is seeking $28.9 million to continue operations and secure food resources for more than three million total beneficiaries over the next six months.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44821
Mexico must strengthen its protection of human rights, reduce use of military - UN expert
The Government of Mexico was urged today by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christoph Heyns, to strengthen the national structures that protect human rights, and in particular the right to life, and to reduce the involvement of the military in policing. During his 11-day visit to Mexico, the human rights expert met with Government officials, judges, members of civil society and victims in Mexico City, and in the states of Chihuahua, Guerrero, and Nuevo Leon. Mr. Heyns also drew special attention to the issue of ending impunity and recommended that the Government of Mexico explore areas of cooperation with Central American countries, such as making genetic and fingerprinting databases available to each other, as well as sharing technologies and expertise to curb crime.
The Government of Mexico previously announced initiatives aimed at moving the country from relying on the military for internal security; some of them are currently being implemented.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44817
Read the UN High Commissioner’s Report:
Pakistan: UN warns nearly 13,000 families displaced near Afghan border, many more could follow
Population displacement in the Tirah Valley (Khyber Agency) could surge amid Government military operations and ongoing fighting between rival armed groups in northern Pakistan, near the Afghan border, warned Jens Laerke, a spokesperson from the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Since mid-March, nearly 76,000 people-about 13,000 families-have been displaced in the Tirah Valley in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 2008, displacement in the tribal areas began in the wake of a Government effort against insurgents.
Read the Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44822