WEEK OF JUNE 27, 2014

Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.

Removal of Syria's chemical weapons material complete, announces OPCW-UN mission

The Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN) has announced the completion of the removal of 100 percent of Syria's chemical weapons material, along with the destruction of all production, mixing and filling equipment, munitions and buildings associated with the chemical weapons program. The removal began in January of this year under an agreement brokered by Russia and the United States in which Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and renounced all of its chemical weapon materials. The process was completed in an "unprecedented timeframe and under uniquely challenging conditions."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48103

New UN high-level body on environment opens inaugural session in Nairobi

A new UN Agency, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), "places environmental concerns on the same footing with those of peace, security, finance, health and trade for the first time," the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said at the inaugural meeting of the UNEA in Nairobi, Kenya. "For many, the creation of UNEA is the coming of age of the environment as a world issue." The body will address a wide range of legislative, financial and development matters, and thus "presents a ground-breaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy." The UNEA has representatives from all 193 UN Member States, and its first meeting focused on issues such as illegal wildlife trade, chemical waste, air pollution, and new universal development goals.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48104

'It is not a crime to carry a camera,' UN rights chief warns as Egypt sentences journalists

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have expressed grave concern over the recent judicial decisions in Egypt to allot heavy sentences, between 7 and 10 years, to three Al Jazeera journalists, as well as 11 other defendants tried in absentia. "The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by recent court decisions in Egypt, particularly the confirmation of death sentences for 183 people and the sentencing of journalists, including from Al Jazeera today, to lengthy jail terms," said a statement issued by a spokesperson in New York. "Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability." The Secretary-General also stressed that participation in peaceful protests or criticism of the Government should not be grounds for detention or prosecution, stating that Egypt would be strengthened by empowering all its citizens to fully exercise their rights.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48106

UN chief hopes Ukraine peace plan will reduce violence, ease tensions

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed a peace plan put forward by Ukraine's President, saying that he hopes it will reduce violence and tensions in the east of the country. The peace plan involves proposals for decentralizing power, holding early elections, and creating a buffer zone on the Ukrainian-Russian border. The Secretary-General affirmed the UN commitment to working with the Ukrainian authorities to assist with internally displaced persons and other humanitarian issues. UN human rights officials have recently reported the breakdown of law and order in areas held by armed groups in the east of Ukraine, with increasing evidence of abductions, detentions, torture, and killings, as well as a number of "worrying trends" in Crimea.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48100

Yemenis 'weaving together tapestry of new country' UN envoy tells Security Council

A UN Envoy told the Security Council that Yemen is moving forward, but warned that the presence of Al Qaeda in the region remains "a very real and lethal threat" requiring more concerted and sustained international assistance. "As Yemenis are weaving together the tapestry of their new country, some threads are unfortunately unraveling that could adversely affect Yemen's transition," said Special Adviser Jamal Benomar. He said that Security Council members expressed concern "that some spoilers continue to agitate and cause trouble" in an attempt to distract from implementing the National Dialogue Conference outcomes and the remaining steps of the political transition after the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012 in the wake of the "Arab Spring."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48097

UN Secretary-General served papers by Haitian plaintiffs

Lawyers to 1,500 Haitian plaintiffs have said that they have personally served Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with court papers in relation to the on-going cholera epidemic which first broke in Haiti in 2010, spread by Nepalese members of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Haiti. A spokesman for the Secretary-General has denied that the papers were served. The epidemic has killed more than 8,300 Haitians and infected many more. The United Nations have set up a fund to help with the epidemic, but has maintained that it does not bear legal responsibility.

The City Bar submitted a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, suggesting that the US call upon the UN to provide an appropriate mode for settling the cholera claims.

Full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/world/americas/un-chief-served-papers

City Bar letter: http://www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20072699-UNResponsibility

'War's Human Cost': world's population of displaced tops 50 million, UN refugee agency reports

World Refugee Day (June 20) was marked by grim statistics in a year that has seen a range of severe crises forcing people to flee their homes: a UN report has revealed that, for the first time since World War II, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people has exceeded 50 million people. The annual global trends report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), states that the war in Syria has driven 9 million people from their homes and millions of other individuals have been forcibly displaced in other parts of the world, notably in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, and the border area between South Sudan and Sudan. By the end of 2013, an estimated 51.2 million people worldwide were considered to be forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.
Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48089
Report: http://www.unhcr.org/5399a14f9.html

Expanding reach of relief efforts, UN refugee agency opens office in southern Syria

As part of a plan to expand humanitarian aid in Syria, the UN refugee agency has opened a warehouse and field office in the southern city of Sweida, Syria, stocked with aid supplies to deliver to thousands of internally displaced persons. A UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) convoy crossed the border from Jordan and travelled to Sweida with 25,000 blankets, 10,000 sleeping mats, 2,500 kitchen sets, 2,000 plastic sheets and 5,000 jerry cans from storage facilities in Amman. The agency will now be able to distribute relief supplies in the southern region without transferring them to Damascus first, accelerating the delivery of urgently needed relief items to the most vulnerable, "not only in areas that are easily accessible, but also in disputed and hard-to-reach areas. This will help UNHCR improve its effectiveness under the present circumstances."

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48087

Topic In Focus

Situation in Iraq: As Violence Spreads, UN Warns of Impact on Minorities, Children

Senior United Nations officials have expressed grave concern about the humanitarian situation of the estimated one million people displaced so far this year in Iraq, particularly children, who are reportedly now being recruited and used by militias. "We have received worrisome information that children are taking part in hostilities," said the Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, confirming reports of underage children being armed, staffing checkpoints, and in some cases used as suicide bombers. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and affiliated organizations have been listed in the UN Secretary General's annual report on children and armed conflict for practices of recruitment and use of children, killing and maiming of children, and attacks on schools and hospitals in Iraq.

The current spread of fighting is likely to curtail the delivery of humanitarian aid to displaced people in areas controlled by armed groups. The recent escalations of hostilities "could inflict an even higher toll with children killed or injured, displaced, or separated from their families," Ms. Zerrougui's office said. An estimated 25,000 people remain in Mosul, while 200,000 have fled into Dohuk governorate and 100,000 people have crossed into Erbil governorate under the Kurdish Regional Government. Forced displacement is estimated at a million people so far this year, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Two special advisers to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted concerns as to the impact of the deteriorating situation in Iraq on religious and other minorities and also condemned possible war crimes committed by ISIL and other terrorist and armed groups. "Given the context of sectarian and confessional polarization in the country, special consideration must be given to assisting religious and other minorities, which are particularly vulnerable," said the special advisers.

Individuals from the Christian community are fleeing the northern city of Mosul, and there are reports of incitement to destroy Christian churches. Concerns have also been expressed about the safety of Yazidis and other religious minorities in north-western Iraq. UN agencies warn that "increasing risks of ethnic violence and threat to Baghdad can make the situation worse as the scale of needs and complexity of the crisis [increases]."

Full stories: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48095

Upcoming Event

On July 31, at 6:30 p.m., the UN Committee will welcome the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, in the Great Hall of the City Bar for a discussion on the topic of Rule of Law: A cornerstone for peace, development and human rights. Mr. Eliasson will discuss the importance of rule of law, good governance and institutions for achieving the vision set out in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the evolving post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

The New York City Bar Association's Committee on the United Nations is a dedicated supporter of human rights and a keen monitor of developments in international law, legal issues, and norms. This year the UN Committee will be involved in projects related to governance in the post-2015 development agenda, freedom of expression, and rule of law and judicial independence; will be hosting events with high level representatives of the UN; will prepare weekly digests of significant developments within the UN system; and will welcome guest speakers at our monthly meetings, among other activities. For more information about the Committee and its activities, please contact its chair, Ulysses Smith, at ulysses.smith@linklaters.com.

Click here to visit the UN Committee Page