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

On International Day, Ban calls for protection of natural resources in war-torn countries

In an address marking the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that natural resource governance helps to avoid conflict and contributes to long-term peace efforts. Mr. Ban highlighted the challenges of safely disposing weapons without adverse environmental consequence. The UN Environmental Programme estimates that almost half of the internal conflicts over the last sixty years have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, ranging from arable land to diamonds. It has launched a new website with teaching and training materials, including free case studies, in honor of the International Day.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46434

UN experts call on Sudan to stop threatening women with flogging

The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women warned Sudan that flogging and threatening to flog women violates Sudan’s obligations under international human rights law. The statement comes in the wake of the legal proceedings against Ms. Osman Hamed, a Sudanese woman who was charged with dressing indecently for refusing to wear a headscarf. Ms. Hamed faces a penalty of 40 lashes if she is found guilty of the charges. Human rights experts argue that flogging and other forms of corporal punishment may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under various international human rights treaties.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46437

DR Congo: UN envoy welcomes end of M23 rebellion, commitment to peace talks

UN officials welcomed an announcement by M23 rebel groups that it will end its insurgency against the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congolese government also committed to ending combat and to taking action in keeping with the Kampala Dialogue. UN officials urged M23 and the Congolese Government to sign an agreement ensuring the timely disarmament and demobilization of the M23 and commit to holding perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46423

New UN-backed initiative to drive advances in high seas fisheries management UN expert

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as a number of other UN agencies and international organizations, announced a multilateral project focused on improving sustainable tuna fisheries by reducing illegal catch and supporting biodiversity in the common oceans. The initiative aims to reduce overfishing; currently, one-third of the world’s seven major tuna species is overfished. The partnership will increase sustainable use of deep-sea ecosystems and strengthen global capacity to manage common oceans beyond national jurisdiction.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46430

UN labour agency urges new job-centered approach to tackle Portugal’s economic crisis

In a report issued by the UN International Labour Agency (ILA), the ILA recommended that Portugal focus on job-creating measures instead of austerity measures. The report, Tackling the job crisis in Portugal, notes that since 2008, one out of 7 Portuguese jobs has been lost.  According to the ILA, aiding small and mid-sized businesses is key to spurring job growth in Portugal. It recommends improving credit conditions for small firms, increasing internship and apprenticeship programs, and forging new relationships between public institutions, workers’ groups, and businesses.  

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46415
Report: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_228208.pdf

Attacks against polling stations in Kosovo ‘utterly deplorable’, says UN official

The Special Representative for Kosovo condemned the spate of attacks against polling stations in Kosovo. At least two candidates running for municipal offices were violently attacked the day before voting was to take place. A number of polling stations also were vandalized, and people at the polling stations were attacked. The Special Representative called for the perpetrators to be held accountable for acts described as undemocratic and destructive.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46409

UN agency reaches ‘record’ number of Syrians with food, but many remain cut off

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food to 3.3 million people in Syria, a record number for the program. The WFP hoped to reach 4 million Syrians by year’s end, but accessibility issues have hindered their progress. Some 37 locations, including Damascus, have been inaccessible since mid-2012. These zones lack even the most basic supplies. Despite the WFP’s reach, the UN Children’s Fund reports that many children are being treated for acute and moderate malnutrition.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46401

Piracy ransoms amount to more than $339 million over seven-year period - UN report

A report prepared by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, and the World Bank found that pirates off the coast of Somalia have made between $339-$413 million in ransom profits since 2006. The vast sums of money and nearly limitless control of the Indian Ocean have enabled pirates to develop their capacities on land as well. The report further noted that the threat of piracy results in $18 billion in increased trade costs every year, as well as lost profits from decreased tourism and decreased fishing.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=46402

International court chiefs brief UN assembly on progress, challenges

Senior officials of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) updated the General Assembly on the work of the courts over the past year. Judge Peter Tomka, President of the ICJ, reported that the ICJ had cleared its backlog of cases and assured States that any newly-submitted cases would progress quickly from written exchanges to the hearing stage. ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, updated the Assembly on the eight situations before the Court. Addressing criticisms of the Court’s lack of flexibility, Judge Sang-Hyun Song recognized the need for practical solutions consistent with the legal framework set out in the Rome Statute.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46389

UN agency fears sailing tragedies at start of ‘smuggling season’ in Bay of Bengal

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced its concern that the start of sailing season in Myanmar means that many people in the Rakhine state will attempt to flee. Exploitation by human smugglers is a real threat to people attempting to leave the unstable state. During the 2012 sailing season, over 14,000 people fled by boat. The UNHCR urged the Myanmar government to promote reconciliation between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims and encouraged regional governments to ensure the humanitarian needs of people fleeing the state will be met.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46399

Topic In Focus

The situation of Human Rights Defenders in Mexico

According to UN reports, the list of human rights defenders in Mexico who have been killed, threatened, harassed, and tortured is lengthy. The UN Human Rights Office in Mexico published findings in its Report on the Situation of Human Rights defenders in Mexico: Update and Assessment, stating that between November 2010 and December 2012, 89 cases of attacks against human rights defenders were reported. Reports of aggression included threats, arbitrary interference, harassment, arbitrary detention, murders, attacks, and enforced disappearances.

Many of the human rights defenders targeted were striving to defend the rights of vulnerable individuals including migrants, women, victims of violence and indigenous peoples. Other defenders focused on advocating for civil, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

The report also highlights recent progress and specifically applauds the Mexican Government for enacting its Constitutional Reform on Human Rights in 2011, which paved the way for greater promotion and protection of internationally recognized human rights. The report also notes the entry into force of the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists and the subsequent establishment of a Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

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

Click here to visit the UN Committee Page