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

UN rights body adopts landmark text on women and conflict

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has provided authoritative guidance to States as to the measures needed to ensure women’s right before, during, and after conflict (General Recommendation Number 30). General Recommendation Number 30 applies to signatory States to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The comprehensive Recommendation also urge parties to exercise due diligence, ensuring that non-state actors are held responsible for crimes against women. Nicole Ameline, Chairperson of the 23-member committee stated, “there is a strong correlation between an increase in gender-based violence and the outbreak of conflict.” With respect to crimes by non-State actors, she added that “no longer is it enough to say that such acts are outside the scope of State responsibility of the Convention.”

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46312

General Recommendation Number 30:http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/CEDAW/

Darfur situation marked by insecurity, limited progress on peace front,
Security Council told

Officials representing the United Nations and the African Union advised the Security Council that Sudan’s Darfur region requires continued substantial humanitarian assistance and that the region’s security situation is still troubling. Joint Special Representative and head of the joint African Union-UN Peacekeeping operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Mohammed Ibn Chambas, warned that “the security situation in Darfur and threats to UNAMID and humanitarian personnel continue to be a serious concern.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted in his latest report to the Security Council that “grave” insecurity was primarily due to intercommunal fighting in several parts of Darfur. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) committed to by the Sudanese Government and two major rebel groups, forms the basis for a permanent ceasefire and peace agreement to end the fighting, however in the last three months, an additional 166,000 people have been displaced due to an escalation in tribal and militia fighting. Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous noted, “despite the very challenging circumstances, UNAMID remains resolute in its commitment to provide much needed protection to civilians, facilitate the delivery of aid and provide support to the peace process.”

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46315

Tuberculosis gains at risk due to millions of missed patients,
drug resistance – UN Report

The Global Tuberculosis Report 2013, released by the World Health Organization (WHO), provided positive news that the world is on pace to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) goal of reversing tuberculosis (TB) incidence, including a 50 per cent reduction in the mortality rate in 2015 from the baseline in 1990. The UN’s health agency also reported that treatment has saved the lives of over 22 million people and the number of deaths fell to 1.3 million people last year. The report also underscored the need for a “quantum leap” in TB care. The two main hurdles in achieving this quantum leap are those who are missed by the health systems and those resistant to TB treatment. The report recommends five priority actions between now and 2015. Osamu Kunii, Head of the Strategy, Investment, and Impact Division of the Global Fund to Fight Aids Tuberculosis and Malaria, noted, “The WHO Global TB Report highlights the very big gains in the global community has made in the fight against tuberculosis. We are now at a crucial moment where we cannot afford to let these gains go into reverse. We need the commitment of the international community to address the significant funding gap to fight this disease.”

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46313

Syria has ‘fully cooperated’ with OPCW-UN efforts to destroy chemical arsenal, team head says

In a statement from Damascus, the head of the joint mission for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN, Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag, said “to date, the Government of Syria has fully cooperated in supporting the work of the advance team and the OPCW-UN joint mission”. While noting the challenges of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons in the first half of 2014, the OPCW has confirmed inspections at 17 sites. Inspectors have undertaken activities to make the sites inoperable through the destruction of critical equipment at 14 of these sites.

While the chemical weapon facility inspection and destruction is proceeding, Syria’s humanitarian crisis persists and is in danger of worsening. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is attempting to deliver aid with winter approaching. Humanitarian agencies have called for an immediate pause in hostilities to allow treatment and aid to civilians trapped in conflict-ridden areas. Many of the displaced are trapped in areas that are inaccessible and are living in buildings without windows or electricity while temperatures continue to drop.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46304

Renewed talks offer opportunity neither Israelis nor Palestinians can afford to lose – UN official

Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, the top UN political chief, called for renewed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to seize the opening for renewed negotiations to implement the long-sought vision of the two States living side-by-side in peace and security. He acknowledged the on the ground realities such as violent incidents with death on both sides, settlement activity, and related clashes, and demolitions. He also pointed to tension in the Gaza Strip where a tunnel was discovered between the territory and Israel, and Israeli incursions into Gaza, along with Palestinian rocket fire.

In addition, security concerns have arisen in Lebanon due to the crisis in Syria. Shelling and shooting has been reported across the border from Syria into Lebanon. Lebanon has also taken in a huge number of Syrian refugees. The UN is currently working to convene a peace conference in November in Geneva with the goal of helping the Syrians launch a political process and establish by consent a new transitional governing authority

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46305

Netherlands takes dispute with Russia over Greenpeace ship to UN-backed tribunal

According to Netherlands officials, an icebreaker – Arctic Sunrise – operated by Greenpeace and flown under the Netherlands flag, was boarded by Russian coast guard members in the Barents Sea on September 19. The crew was subsequently detained in Murmansk Oblast, Russia. The Greenpeace vessel was staging a protest against the offshore ice-resistant fixed oil platform in the Barents Sea, which is located north of Russia and Norway on the margins of the Arctic Sea. On October 4, the Netherlands instituted arbitral proceedings against Russia pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, alleging that Russia violated provisions of the treaty by arresting and detaining the crew members. Today, the Netherlands submitted a request to the Tribunal for provisional measures that the vessel be re-supplied, leave its place of detention under Russian jurisdiction and be allowed to return to the maritime areas. The Netherlands is also seeking immediate release of the crew and suspension of all domestic judicial proceedings. The Hamburg, Germany-based Tribunal’s hearing on the submission will be heard on a date to be announced.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46300

UN rights expert joins call for concerted global action to fight human trafficking

A United Nations independent expert on human rights has emphasized the importance of partnerships among origin, transit and destination countries as the “backbone” of global efforts to combat the global scourge of human trafficking. Along with two other key human rights mechanisms, the experts noted that cooperation by multi-national corporations and civil society organizations is needed for a comprehensive response to human trafficking. The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ezeilo, emphasized trafficking itself as a grave human rights violation, and that it also leads to further abuses. Trafficking has traditionally been tackled by countries as a national security issue. Nicolas Le Coz, President of a European Council on Trafficking, noted that “there is a need to move from a national security model to a human-rights based approach in order to identify and assist victims of trafficking who are often undocumented migrants.” A holistic approach of protecting victims and preventing re-victimization while prosecuting traffickers is essential to end the practice.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46312

Working for a more inclusive policy towards migrant Roma in France

An estimated 17,000-20,000 Roma have been living in shantytowns outside of France’s large urban areas for several years, many arriving in France following eviction from other countries. In France, Roma have also been evicted from one place to another. In 2010, the French government expelled many Roma to Romania and Bulgaria. This conduct was found to violate the European Union rules on freedom of movement. The European Roma Rights Center and a French civil organization report that a record 13,000 Roma have been subject to forced eviction in 2013. The UN Human Rights Office for Europe has been working with French civil society organizations such as La Voix des Rroms and the network of European Roma Grassroots Organizations (ERGO). While the common stigma is that Roma are incapable of integration and have intellectual disabilities, the UN Human Rights office reports that given the opportunity, Roma would prefer to move out of shantytowns and have thrived when given the opportunity. The UN Human Rights Regional Representative has requested that the French Government support grassroots organizations working with migrants.

Full Story: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/

Despite recent successes, much work remains to advance
disarmament – UN Assembly President

UN General Assembly President John Ashe praised several recent high-level achievements in tackling disarmament, including: the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty in April, the General Assembly’s first ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize. However, he was cautious in his praise in that there has been a struggle in many areas and much work is still needed in disarmament and international security.

Most notably, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has not been put in force and the illicit small arms and light weapons trade continues to pose a threat to international security. While Ashe spoke of disarmament, he also noted underlying issues that must be resolved to promote peace. Ashe said “let me recall a truism: resources for economic and social development, not weapons. Access to social goods and services is predicated on the existence of peace and security.”

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46279

Marking World Food Week, UN Agency celebrates legacy of quinoa

The United Nations’ food agency has hailed quinoa, the Andean ‘super food’. While this staple has only recently come into the forefront in the United States, the ancient grain has long been a staple in Peru, one of the world’s major producers. Bolivia and Peru account for more than half of the 70,000 tons produced annually worldwide. The crop is farmed through traditional means in the Andean altiplano, while its cultivation has spread to North America, India and Kenya. Quinoa can thrive from sea level to 4,000 meters, from 8 below Celsius to 38 above. At a symbolic harvest and panel discussion at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) headquarters in Rome, FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva relayed that “we’ve done everything with the conviction that quinoa and other utilized grains and crops can take on a fundamental role in eradicating hunger and promoting healthier diets...quinoa became our new ally against hunger.” As a complement to the expanded cultivation in Europe, an additional initiative is being carried out by Bolivia to teach European countries to produce quinoa in a sustainable manner.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46278

Topic In Focus

Saudi Arabia Elected to Security Council, Rejects Appointment

In a move that experts are calling unprecedented, Saudi Arabia has rejected its appointment to the United Nations Security Council. Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the United Nations, having joined on October 24, 1945, when the U.N. Charter was universally adopted in San Francisco. The United Nations General Assembly voted last week to elect Saudi Arabia, Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria to serve as non-permanent members on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning January 2014. The non-permanent members were to join the five permanent Council States, who wield the power of the veto, and another five non-permanent Member States to comprise the 15 Member Council. Less than 24 hours after the vote, Saudi Arabia announced it was renouncing its appointment to the Council. The move is especially surprising given that the Saudis had lobbied for the seat for months and prepared for the bid. In addition, a dozen junior Saudi diplomats spent the last year training in New York for the increased responsibility the Council seat holds. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister stated that the country would not accept membership until the Council is reformed and enabled to carry out its duties and responsibilities in maintaining international peace and security. This act has perplexed many. David Bosco, a professor of international politics at American University in Washington, D.C. notes, “Countries think that being on the Security Council is worthwhile, that they get some influence. And they do – they get some influence. It’s perplexing.” Another author noted that “by turning down the right to be in the room, Saudi Arabia has given up the ability to vote on the very problems that they wish to solve.”

What happens next is unclear. One possibility is for the General Assembly to declare that the seat belongs to the Saudis and vote with 14 Members. Another possibility is for the Assembly to hold another vote for the Asia-Pacific group, which includes the Middle East, and nominate a new member. This could result in a flurry of activity and lobbying for the vacant seat. As one author notes, “in the oft-predictable world of international diplomacy, a wide open, unpredictable vote would indeed be something to watch.”

Related article: http://world.time.com/2013/10/18/saudi-arabia-rejects-seat-on-u-n
Related article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24580767
Related article: http://www.economist.com/blogs/pomegranate/2013/10/saudi-arabia-and-un
Related article: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/why-did-saudi

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