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

Amid fair trial concerns, UN experts urge Bangladesh to halt impending execution

United Nations experts called on the Bangladeshi government to postpone the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah pending concerns that he did not receive a fair trial. The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal convicted Mr. Mollah of crimes he allegedly committed during the country’s 1971 independence war. The Tribunal is a special domestic court set up to prosecute the atrocities committed in the 1970s and provides no mechanism to appeal the verdict. UN experts state that in countries where the death penalty is not abolished, capital punishment should only be imposed after a trial that complies with fair trial and due process standards. The UN experts also warned that summary executions violate international human rights standards and, in the present case, the execution of Mr. Mollah could trigger violence and unrest in the country.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46688

UN marks 65th anniversary of landmark treaty on preventing, punishing genocide

Top United Nations officials celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The UN General Assembly passed the Genocide Convention in 1948 in response to atrocities committed during World War II. The Convention defines genocide “as any act committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” and codifies the commission, conspiracy and incitement to commit genocide as a crime under international law.

Today, more than 140 countries have ratified the Convention. The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, noted that the Convention makes it clear that the international community has a duty to prevent genocide, however, such duty is often not exercised and results in severe consequences for the civilian population. Mr. Dieng stated that the ongoing conflict in Syria and the recent upsurge in violence in the Central African Republic are stark reminders of the limitations and inability of the international community to undertake actions to protect the populations and prevent atrocities.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46692

Good governance critical for development, UN stressed on Anti-Corruption Day

On December 9th, International Anti-Corruption Day, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called corruption a barrier preventing achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Mr. Ban noted that anti-corruption policies and good governance are “critical for sustainable development,” adding that corruption “suppresses economic growth by driving up costs, breaches human rights, increases inequality, and undermines the sustainable management of natural resources.” To raise awareness about corruption, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UNDP launched Zero Corruption-100% Development campaign with the aim to educate young people about corruption. The UN Global Compact with UNDP also launched a Call of Action to mobilize partners in the private and public sector to engage in transparent economies.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46691

Precarious security situation in Libya shows need for dialogue with militias – UN envoy

Tarek Mitri, the head of the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), reported to the Security Council that the security situation in Libya continues to be “precarious” and called on the government of Libya to engage in a dialogue with the armed militia to achieve successful integration and demilitarization of the armed militia into the state military. Mr. Mitri reported on the conditions of the 8,000 conflict-related detainees awaiting judicial process, welcoming the government’s positive steps to improve the conditions in detention facilities placed under the authorities of newly trained judicial officers. Mr. Mitri also discussed the issue of arms control and dangerous substances left behind by the previous regime. A team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected in Libya later this month to verify the elimination of mustard gas.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46696

UN reports ‘slow, uneven’ use of Afghan law protecting women

The newly released United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report on the implementation of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women (EWAW) showed an increase in reports of violence committed against women. It also stated that women still do not receive the justice they seek, as many of the cases are settled by mediation and not prosecuted in a court of law. The director of the human rights unit at UNAMA, Georgette Gagnon, stated that to help bring justice to women, the government and in particular police, prosecutors, and courts require increased resources and political support from the Government to deal adequately with the increase in reporting of violence against women. The government in Afghanistan enacted EWAW in 2009, criminalizing violence against women, including child marriage, forced marriage and rape and beating. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated that while adoption of EWAW was a huge achievement, the implementation of the law has been slow and uneven. Ms. Pillay has called upon the Afghani authorities to increase efforts to protect women and implement the law.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46685

In call to Ukrainian President, Ban urges peaceful means to diffuse political tensions

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich to set up a peaceful dialogue between the Ukrainian government and thousands of protestors in an effort to resolve the political tensions in the country. Mr. Ban emphasized that the government should resolve the tension peacefully, uphold the principles of freedom of speech and assembly and not resort to violence. The political tensions erupted after the government decided against signing an agreement on broader integration with the European Union.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46686

Syria: Senior UN officials strongly condemn attacks on health personnel and facilities

United Nations senior humanitarian officials strongly condemned violence committed against medical facilities, urging all parties to the Syrian conflict to respect the neutrality of the healthcare infrastructure in the country and allow for access to medicine and humanitarian aid. The protection of healthcare facilities is especially important in Syria, where over 60% of public hospitals are currently not functioning. Despite the lack of facilities and ongoing security problems, the UN announced that it had vaccinated over 3.3 million children against measles and polio and more than 8,000 women were provided with maternal health and reproductive services.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/realfile/html/story.asp?NewsID=46683

Azerbaijan must ensure accountability for acts of violence against women – UN expert

Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, called on the government of Azerbaijan to hold accountable perpetrators of violence against women and adopt a holistic solution to empower women who face social, economic and cultural barriers in their everyday lives. The Special Rapporteur noted that while the government is committed to the protection of women, this commitment has not translated to the proper implementation of such policies. Among the issues raised during the Rapporteur’s visit was the lack of reliable reporting on violence against women, and in particular on the issues of trafficking of women, forced and unregistered marriages, and an increase in sex-selective abortions.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46679

UN refugee agency urges Dominican Republic to restore nationality of Haitian citizens

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on the government of the Dominican Republic to restore the nationalities of Dominicans of Haitian descent who became stateless following a Supreme Court ruling in the country. The Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic announced new criteria for the acquisition of Dominican nationality with regard to children born to irregular migrant workers within the country. This ruling applies retroactively to 1929, thereby depriving many Dominican citizens of Haitian origin their citizenship. To address the negative impact of the ruling, the Dominican government announced its intention to introduce a bill that would allow those affected to apply for naturalization. UNHCR called on the government to take swift action to address the ruling, stating that many of those impacted are not migrants but rather people who have lived in the Dominican Republic for decades.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46681

UN honors Nelson Mandela as champion of peace and reconciliation

The United Nations held a moment of silence and flags flew at half-staff to honor the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, the former South African leader and peace advocate, who passed away at the age of 95. The President of the General Assembly, John Ashe said that the example of Mr. Mandela’s life and actions, “demonstrates the difference one person can make in the face of adversity, oppression, and prejudice, while maintaining a disposition of humility, humor and modesty that is so rare amongst people of his stature.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Mr. Mandela “a giant of justice” who showed that it is possible for each of us to work together to achieve justice and humanity. The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who as a young lawyer helped defend anti-apartheid activists, remembered Mr. Mandela fondly as someone who refused to discriminate against those who discriminated against him but rather focused on creating an Africa free of apartheid and free of discrimination.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46675

Topic In Focus

Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

Following the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, Member States agreed to launch a process – through an Open Working Group (OWG) – to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs). The OWG conducted its Sixth Session at the UN headquarters in New York between December 9th and 13th.

Further information: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/index.php?menu=1549

Member States and groups are invited to present topics of interest for discussion and potential inclusion in the final set of SDGs. The ETC Group, for example, submitted a brief addressing the connection between technology and SDGs.

Addressing the “Technology Divides”: Critical Issues in Technology and SDGs

Technological advances and development have in the past several years transformed the world and impacted the daily lives of people everywhere. The private and public sectors have invested large amounts of money in technology but developments arising from these investments have not been equally distributed. In addition to the North-South divide, the gender divide remains to be the most overlooked divide in terms of technology. While technology impacts women, they are not often able to access the relevance and potential impacts before being exposed to them, in particular employment and the livelihood displacement. The sustainable development goals should address the technological divide by committing governments to increase the share of economic and environmental technological advancements between the countries while taking into account the importance of protecting the indigenous systems and affirming the gender and social equality as precautionary principles.

Report: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4673dano.pdf

The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) delivered a series of policy briefs to the OWG on Sustainable Development Goals presenting civil society recommendations on topics of interest including Macroeconomics, Energy, Means of Implementation in the New Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, Human Rights, and Global Governance.

List of UN-NGLS Policy Briefs: http://www.un-ngls.org/spip.php?article4371

City Bar Event Re-Cap

Chief Prosecutor of The International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda,
Addresses City Bar

Pictured (L-R): Christina Holder, Chair of the City Bar's Committee on African Affairs; Alexander Papachristou, Executive Direct of the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice; Carrie Cohen, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the SDNY, Chair of the City Bar's Executive Committee and member of the Vance Center for International Justice Initiatives Committee; Fatou Bensouda

On December 10, the City Bar hosted the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. Ms. Bensouda, the second chief prosecutor of the ICC, spoke about her priorities as chief prosecutor and about some of the challenges currently facing the Court.

The event was co-sponsored by the Committees on African Affairs, International Human Rights, and the United Nations, and the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice. Introductory remarks were provided by Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., District Attorney for New York County.

Click here to visit the UN Committee Page