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

On International Day of Peace, UN highlights power of education to build tolerant societies

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked the International Day of Peace with a call for “bold political leadership and increased financial commitment” to ensure education of the poorest and most marginalized children of the world, focusing on values of global citizenship, tolerance and diversity. The theme of this year’s International Day of Peace (official observance, Sept. 21) is ‘Education for Peace.’ 57 million children worldwide currently do not have access to education, and millions more need improved schooling. Mr. Ban recalled the words of Pakistani schoolgirl and youth activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban for attendance at school, that “one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.”

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45878

New General Assembly President Spotlights post-2015 Development Goals

Ahead of the opening of the 68th UN General Assembly, the body’s new President John W. Ashe (a national of Antigua and Barbuda) stressed the importance of upcoming deliberations in the General Assembly which have the potential to shape the course of humankind over the coming decades. He highlighted, in particular, discussion on the theme of ‘Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage.’ The UN is currently undertaking “1,000 days of action” to spur the fulfillment of the eight anti-poverty targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which should be achieved by 2015. In relation to setting the post-2015 agenda, Mr. Ashe said he plans to convene three high-level events focused on women, youth and civil society; human rights and rule of law; and, South-South cooperation, triangular cooperation and information communication technology (ICT) for development. Mr. Ashe also highlighted the need to advance discussions and achieve consensus on Security Council reform.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45873

DPR Korea: ‘Unspeakable atrocities’ reported by UN-mandated human rights inquiry

The head of the UN-appointed inquiry into human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has reported that testimony heard thus far by his team has pointed toward widespread and serious human rights abuses, including abductions, a policy of inter-generational punishment and torture, as well as deliberate starvation and other “unspeakable atrocities” in detention camps. Michael Kirby, chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK notes that: “What we have seen and heard so far - the specificity, detail and shocking character of the personal testimony - appears without doubt to demand follow-up action by the world community, and accountability on the part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The commission has a one-year mandate to investigate a range of alleged human rights violations.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45867

Libya: Preconceived Notions about Political Transition Could be ‘Recipe For Disappointment’, Top United Nations Official Warns Security Council

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Tarek Mitri, has reported to the Security Council that preconceived ideas about political transition in that country after four decades of repressive rule were likely a “recipe for disappointment, if not failure.” Mr. Mitri noted that there are increasing calls for UNSMIL to play an active role in facilitating national dialogue and declared that “we will not shy away from shouldering our responsibility” despite serious strains imposed by the political process, influenced by both internal and regional dynamics. Mr. Mitri noted a range of challenges confronting Libya, including more pronounced political disagreements among internal political blocs, regional developments - particularly in Egypt and Tunisia - which have added further uncertainty, and also the recent severe disruption of national oil exports. Mr. Mitri noted that new legislation on transitional justice, addressing past tragedies and crimes, was pending before the General National Congress and is vital to facilitate contemporary reconciliation in Libya.

Full story: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sc11123.doc.htm

Somalia: UN chief reaffirms support to Somali ‘New Deal’ approved at international conference

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of a new partnership between the international community and Somalia, endorsing the “Somalia New Deal Compact” in which international donors have pledged $2.7 billion (including $870 million from the European Union) in support for Somalia, after two decades of national lawlessness and civil war. Mr. Ban stressed that the New Deal is “about the people, for the people, and with the people of Somalia.” The Deal is considered to be a roadmap to promote state-building and peace-building over the next three years by focusing on the Somali political processes, security, legal system and economic foundations.

On September 13 the Security Council welcomed the deployment of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which is working to enhance the Somali government’s capacity to provide basic services, justice and the rule of law.

Full stories: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45864


Tehran: UN humanitarian chief welcomes enhanced partnership with Iran on regional, international assistance

Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, announced that Iran is strengthening its collaboration with the UN with respect to regional and international assistance, stressing that “effective partnership” is crucial in order to meet the needs of people affected by international emergencies. The Under-Secretary-General had completed a three-day visit to Iran, meeting with Iranian officials and signing a joint statement with the government to strengthen its partnership in order to improve regional cooperation on humanitarian assistance. Ms. Amos thanked the people and Government of Iran for their assistance in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Iran has a well-developed system for disaster preparedness and response and often shares their capacity and expertise when responding to emergencies in other countries,” Ms. Amos noted.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45854

Geneva: Overburdened truth commissions risk becoming ‘victims of their own success’- UN expert

In his latest report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Transitional Justice, Pablo de Grieff, has noted that “truth commissions” risk falling short of expectations placed on them because of a range of challenges, including overly-broad mandates, flawed or politicized choices of commissioners, and insufficient or unreliable funding streams, leaving many victims ultimately disappointed. Truth commissions are created to be independent panels, established subsequent to conflict or atrocities to resolve societal tensions and promote reconciliation as a mechanism to rebuild the affected societies. Such commissions, as cited in Mr. Grieff’s report, have been established or planned in a range of nations, such as Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Liberia, Morocco, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and others. Truth commissions may be expected to perform numerous functions such as fact-finding, victim-tracing and redress, comprehensive analysis of underlying causes, developing proposals for structural and institutional reforms, and even resolving corruption cases.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45845

Read the report at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session24/Documents/A_HRC_24_42_ENG.doc

World saved some 90 million children but likely to miss global target, UN agency reports

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported that international and national initiatives to end preventable deaths of children under five years of age have saved approximately 90 million lives over the last two decades. However, at the current rate of improvement, the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 will not be achieved (the MDG on infant mortality will not be achieved until 2028 at current rates). According to a new UNICEF report, deaths fell in 2012 to 6.6 million from 12.6 million in 1990. The reductions are noted as due to: more effective and affordable treatments; improvements in maternal nutrition and education; innovations in delivering critical services to the poor and excluded; and sustained political commitment. Some of the world’s poorest countries have made the most significant advances in child survival since 1990, with East Asia and the Asia Pacific leading the trend, reducing under-five mortality by over 60% since 1990.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45843

Read the report: 2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed

New York: New chief of UN Women highlights girls’ education as priority to combat poverty, boost development

At her first New York press conference, the new Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, underlined that facilitating access to education for women and girls must be a priority for governments and international organizations, as it is vital to lifting millions out of poverty. She noted that “Education is the foundation for everything we need to do to succeed.” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed in July and officially began her role in August. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that a reduction of girls who drop out of school is crucial, on top of ensuring that there is basic access to education for girls. Women’s reproductive health rights are also an “essential building block” in serving women globally and assuring their economic empowerment. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka additionally noted the importance of working with men and boys in actively advancing the status of women.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45833

Topic In Focus

Conflict in Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a letter from the government of Syria, informing him that Syria will accede to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction of 1992. In the September 12 letter, Syrian authorities stated their commitment to observe the obligations contained in the Convention even before its entry into force in Syria. United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had met in Geneva earlier in the day to discuss Russia’s proposal that Syria surrender chemical weapons and place them under international control.

A UN team tasked with the investigation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria has found “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used, deployed by way of surface-to-surface rockets, in an August 21st incident in the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of persons were reportedly killed. However, the UN team was mandated to determine whether and to what extent chemical weapons were used, and not to investigate who used them.

Another UN report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported to the Human Rights Council on September 16 that the vast majority of Syrians have been killed in unlawful attacks using conventional weapons such as guns and mortars. Children have made up a large proportion of the causalities. The report recommends that there should be a halt to weapon supplies to the Syrian government and to the rebels. “Arms transfers should not occur where there is a real risk that they will be used in the commission of crimes against humanity, violations of international humanitarian law, or war crimes,” said chairman of the Commission Paulo Pinheiro.

Full stories:

Most Syrians killed in unlawful conventional attacks, UN human rights panel says:

‘Clear and convincing’ evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria, UN team reports:

Ban welcomes Syria's letter on accession to treaty banning chemical weapons:

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.

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