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

Philippines: UN agencies arriving to assist with post-quake relief effort

UN humanitarian agencies have mobilized to respond to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Carmen Town in the Philippines. National reports estimate that 144 people have died and over 290 have been injured as a result of the quake. UN humanitarian agencies are working under the direction of the Philippine government and the Philippine Red Cross to provide basic relief supplies, support needs assessments, and assist with camp coordination and management. The World Food Programme is providing stockpiles of food and non-food items, such as generator sets, tents, and mobile offices.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46272

Situation of human rights defenders in Togo improved, but challenges remain

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, called on the Togolese Government to implement existing legal framework in order to provide human rights defenders an adequate environment to carry out their work. Ms. Sekaggya noted that while the situation of human rights defenders in Togo has improved since 2008, challenges remain. She specifically highlighted challenges relating to the degree of politicization of the environment in which defenders operate. She also noted that certain groups of defenders, including women and defenders of women’s rights, trade unionists, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, face additional challenges.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46274

U.S., Iranian diplomats hold face-to-face meeting as talks begin

The second bilateral U.S.-Iranian meeting in seven years occurred at the United Nations’ Palace of Nations in Geneva. The meeting between the U.S. Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, is the result of diplomatic efforts by a six-nation group seeking to resolve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, started off the meeting by presenting an hour-long English language PowerPoint presentation entitled Closing an Unnecessary Crisis - Opening New Horizons, which suggests ways to resolve the two-decade old conflict.

Full story: http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-us-iran--meet-nuclear-talks-

New policies need to adjust to new dynamics in world economy

In its annual Trade and Development Report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development called on developed countries to adopt new economic policies to adjust to the fundamental changes in the world economy, caused by the global financial crisis. The report commended the countercyclical policies implemented by developing countries in response to the crisis. However, it highlighted the need of developing countries to address the root causes of the crisis and to focus on growing their regional and domestic economies. The report concluded that to grow the world economy, countries should not adopt austerity policies; rather, they should adopt coordinated, demand-driven policies.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46264

Not enough done to reintegrate victims of human trafficking, UN-backed report warns

According to a UN-backed report, victims of human trafficking - an epidemic recognized as modern-day slavery - are not given adequate support for reintegration into their communities. The report, commissioned by the Governments of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT) - including Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam - is intended to help inform service providers and policymakers how to improve assistance to trafficked persons.

The report, entitled After Trafficking: Experiences and Challenges in the (Re)integration of Trafficked Persons in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, was prepared by the NEXUS Institute, an independent international human rights research and policy center with support from the UN Inter-agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) as well as UN and civil society partners dealing with the issue of human trafficking.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46263

Ban congratulates OPCW on Nobel Award; notes progress against chemical weapons
and that more needs to be done

On the heels of the abhorrent use of chemical weapons in Syria and nearly 100 years after the world’s first chemical attack, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on its 2013 Noble Peace Prize Award. While congratulating the OPCW on its achievement and noting the progress of that organization and the UN in the fight against chemical weapons, he stressed that much work was left to be done. He noted that there must be total destruction of chemical weapons and universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which he urged all countries to sign. The Secretary-General concluded that “together, we must ensure that the fog of war will never be composed of poison gas.”

Full story: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2013/10/opcw-has-greatly-strengthened

Minamata Convention on Mercury:
UN Experts call for a full global response to a global scourge

October 11 marked the signing of the world’s first global treaty to control mercury by 140 countries and territories at an international conference in Minamata City, Japan. The Convention recalls one of the largest mercury spills in history near the fishing village of Minamata, resulting in decades of poisoning and debilitating neurological disease in the population.

Mercury poses public health threats to all populations, with child-bearing age women and children the most vulnerable. Studies indicate that artisanal gold mining, which utilizes mercury to extract gold, is the number one polluter. Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, Marc Pallemaerts, noted “Governments’ global action is imperative to display firm commitment towards addressing these distressing health and environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of this toxic substance.” The convention must be ratified by 50 countries to come into effect, which could take 3-4 years according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

Full story: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx

Security Council Extends Authorization for International Security Assistance Force
In Afghanistan, Adopting Resolution 2120

The Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2120 (2013), extending its authorization of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) until December 31, 2014. The ISAF - led by the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) - will complete the transfer of lead security responsibility in Afghanistan to the country’s Government by the end of 2014.

The Security Council called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to ISAF and to continue their support for the country’s security, stability and transition. Highlighting the importance of increased cooperation to develop the Afghan National Security Forces, the Security Council encouraged additional ISAF support, such as training and empowering Security Forces to achieve self-sufficiency, accountability and ethnic balance.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sc11143.doc.htm

Ban ‘encouraged’ by wave of diplomatic progress at UN General Assembly session

Following the opening of this year’s UN General Assembly session, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the centrality of the United Nations. In an article published in newspapers and media sources globally, Mr. Ban noted that, “the centrality of the United Nations today reflects the global logic of our times: with our fates ever more entwined, our future must be one of ever deeper and wider cooperation.”

Mr. Ban specifically recognized the breakthrough Security Council resolution on Syria, which calls for the elimination of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile and endorses a diplomatic plan for Syrian-led negotiations toward peace. He also noted that the United States used its time in front of the Assembly in an effort to make diplomatic progress with Iran, overtures aimed at easing decades of political tension.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46243

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s article: http://www.un.org/sg/articles/articleFull.asp

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