News in Brief 29 September 2017 (PM)

29 Sep 2017

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An aerial shot of hurricane-battered Dominica. Photo: WFP/Norha Restrepo

Flash appeal to help hurricane-affected Dominica

Humanitarians are appealing for US$31 million to support the Caribbean island of Dominica, hit hard by Hurricane Maria, the United Nations has announced.

The category five storm caused catastrophic damage, leaving every one of the 71,000 inhabitants affected.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York on Friday that with nearly everything on the island destroyed or damaged, needs are “monumental.”

“Through this $31-million appeal, the United Nations and its partners plan to provide humanitarian assistance and early recovery interventions over the next three months. Our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) said they have delivered some 10 metric tons of high-energy biscuits to Dominica this week, including to communities in the remote interior by helicopter and to coastal communities by boat.  Overall, the World Food Programme plans to provide a range of food assistance to some 25,000 people for three months.  WFP is also providing critical logistics, air service and telecommunications support to Dominica and the humanitarian relief response.  The UN has been airlifting critical emergency supplies, including mobile storage units and pallets, tarps, boats, and electric generators from Panama.”

Protect rights of Honduras displaced: UNHCR

Authorities in Honduras are being urged to defend thousands of people displaced by gang violence who have been robbed of their lands and homes.

The appeal by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) comes in a report launched on Friday which contains measures to ensure rights are better protected.

UNHCR said Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates, and the displacement is linked to criminal gangs known as “maras” who battle each other over territory and control of illegal activities.

Official figures reveal that at least 174,000 people in 20 urban municipalities were displaced by violence during the decade ending in 2014, but the real number is expected to be higher.

Around 7,000 of these internally displaced people, or IDPs, cited dispossession and occupation of their land and property as their main reason for fleeing.

Andrej Mahecic is a UNHCR spokesperson:

“The report makes a number of recommendations to ensure that government policies take into account and protect the property rights of displaced people, especially in procedures to regularize title deeds. One of the main recommendations is the creation of a registration system for abandoned land and housing, to guarantee the legal protection of the rights of IDPs and the establishment of restitution mechanisms linked to durable solutions.”

Central Africa economic diversification focus of expert meeting

Experts met this week in Cameroon to brainstorm ways to diversify the economy in the Central African region.

Representatives from national ministries responsible for industry, mining, trade and other sectors, joined counterparts from UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and academia for the four-day event which wrapped up in Douala on Friday.

It was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) where Antonio Pedro is the Director of the Sub Regional Office for Central Africa.

“Central Africa is very rich in natural resources which could serve as a basis to promote industrialization. And at the same time, the region has potential in terms of market opportunities, especially if all the tariffs and non-tariff barriers are removed which is part of the agenda of establishing the continental free-trade area in Africa.”

Young leaders urged to make older people’s rights “a reality”

Younger generations in power today need to act now to provide decent futures for older people.

The UN Independent Expert on older people’s rights, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, made the appeal in a statement marking the International Day of Older Persons, observed annually on 1 October.

She called for concrete action to strengthen protection of the human rights of older people.

She added that these citizens should also remain integrated in society, and involved in shaping policies that affect their well-being.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 4’23″

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News in Brief 29 September 2017 (PM)

29 Sep 2017

Listen /

An aerial shot of hurricane-battered Dominica. Photo: WFP/Norha Restrepo

Flash appeal to help hurricane-affected Dominica

Humanitarians are appealing for US$31 million to support the Caribbean island of Dominica, hit hard by Hurricane Maria, the United Nations has announced.

The category five storm caused catastrophic damage, leaving every one of the 71,000 inhabitants affected.

UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists in New York on Friday that with nearly everything on the island destroyed or damaged, needs are “monumental.”

“Through this $31-million appeal, the United Nations and its partners plan to provide humanitarian assistance and early recovery interventions over the next three months. Our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) said they have delivered some 10 metric tons of high-energy biscuits to Dominica this week, including to communities in the remote interior by helicopter and to coastal communities by boat.  Overall, the World Food Programme plans to provide a range of food assistance to some 25,000 people for three months.  WFP is also providing critical logistics, air service and telecommunications support to Dominica and the humanitarian relief response.  The UN has been airlifting critical emergency supplies, including mobile storage units and pallets, tarps, boats, and electric generators from Panama.”

Protect rights of Honduras displaced: UNHCR

Authorities in Honduras are being urged to defend thousands of people displaced by gang violence who have been robbed of their lands and homes.

The appeal by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) comes in a report launched on Friday which contains measures to ensure rights are better protected.

UNHCR said Honduras has one of the world’s highest murder rates, and the displacement is linked to criminal gangs known as “maras” who battle each other over territory and control of illegal activities.

Official figures reveal that at least 174,000 people in 20 urban municipalities were displaced by violence during the decade ending in 2014, but the real number is expected to be higher.

Around 7,000 of these internally displaced people, or IDPs, cited dispossession and occupation of their land and property as their main reason for fleeing.

Andrej Mahecic is a UNHCR spokesperson:

“The report makes a number of recommendations to ensure that government policies take into account and protect the property rights of displaced people, especially in procedures to regularize title deeds. One of the main recommendations is the creation of a registration system for abandoned land and housing, to guarantee the legal protection of the rights of IDPs and the establishment of restitution mechanisms linked to durable solutions.”

Central Africa economic diversification focus of expert meeting

Experts met this week in Cameroon to brainstorm ways to diversify the economy in the Central African region.

Representatives from national ministries responsible for industry, mining, trade and other sectors, joined counterparts from UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and academia for the four-day event which wrapped up in Douala on Friday.

It was organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) where Antonio Pedro is the Director of the Sub Regional Office for Central Africa.

“Central Africa is very rich in natural resources which could serve as a basis to promote industrialization. And at the same time, the region has potential in terms of market opportunities, especially if all the tariffs and non-tariff barriers are removed which is part of the agenda of establishing the continental free-trade area in Africa.”

Young leaders urged to make older people’s rights “a reality”

Younger generations in power today need to act now to provide decent futures for older people.

The UN Independent Expert on older people’s rights, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, made the appeal in a statement marking the International Day of Older Persons, observed annually on 1 October.

She called for concrete action to strengthen protection of the human rights of older people.

She added that these citizens should also remain integrated in society, and involved in shaping policies that affect their well-being.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 4’23″

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News in Brief 28 September 2017 (PM)

28 Sep 2017

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IDP women in one of the camps in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, collect their share of stock cubes to prepare the day’s meal. The women are paid a salary to cook the meals. Photo: OCHA/Jaspreet Kindra (file)

Many “just a step away from starvation” around Lake Chad: UN relief chief

Many citizens of the countries that surround Africa’s Lake Chad are “just a step away from starvation” and in need of sustained international support.

That’s the view of UN relief chief Mark Lowcock, who took up his post at the beginning of this month.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator was talking to journalists at UN Headquarters, having visited two of the countries in the region, Niger and Nigeria, a few days ago.

Along with Chad and Cameroon, he said the region had been badly affected by violence at the hands of Boko Haram extremists, as well as harsh economic and environmental conditions.

Around 11 million now need assistance, of which 7 million are severely food insecure, and close to two million displaced.

“I was incredibly impressed with the work of courageous aid workers. There are thousands of aid workers supporting the relief effort in the region, often under difficult and dangerous circumstances and they are reaching millions of people with life-saving aid. The scale-up of assistance this year which is being led by governments in each of the countries and supported by the international community, has averted what I think could have been a famine in north-east Nigeria but there are still millions of people who have suffered a lot and continue to suffer, many of them just a step away from starvation.”

“Tragic accident” costs lives of at least 15 Rohingya: UN agencies

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the migration agency, IOM, reported on Thursday that a “tragic accident” had claimed the lives of at least 15 Rohingya refugees, in the waters off the Bay of Bengal.

At least 100 people were packed onto the boat when it capsized.

Nine children, five women and a man were confirmed dead, with dozens missing.

Hundreds of thousands have made their way across the Myanmar border into Bangladesh, to escape reprisal attacks by government forces, since 25 August.

UNICEF Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder said that “dozens of others are believed to have perished making similar journeys,” and a quarter of a million children have now taken refuge.

UNICEF is calling for greater international support to deliver urgent aid and ensure the protection of children’s rights.

Palestinian Authority efforts to re-engage Gaza welcomed by Quartet

Efforts by the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank to regain a presence in the Gaza Strip, have been welcomed by the Envoys of the Middle East Quartet.

The quartet, which comprises Russia, the United States, the European Union and the UN, also thanked Egypt for its diplomatic efforts to reunite the Authority and Gaza, which has been run by the Hamas extremist group since they won elections in 2006.

The West Bank-based Fatah party split with Hamas in 2007.

In a statement, the quartet envoys urged the parties to take “concrete steps” to reunite, under the legitimate Palestinian Authority.

More details from Deputy UN Spokesperson, Farhan Haq.

“This will facilitate lifting the closures of the crossings, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, and unlock international support for Gaza’s growth, stability and prosperity, which is critical for efforts to reach lasting peace. The Quartet envoys stand ready to engage with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the region in support of this process.”

Senior UN officials arrive in Dominica to assess hurricane damage

Senior UN officials arrived on the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island of Dominica on Thursday to assess the damage first-hand.

Hurricane Maria pounded the island last week, when it landed as a Category 5 storm, collapsing buildings and leaving 27 dead, according to news reports.

Many other Caribbean countries have suffered heavy damage from a series of hurricanes that have swept across the region.

The UN Resident Coordinator and World Food Programme Regional Directorwere due to meet the Prime Minister of Dominica and UN staff already on the ground to discuss the government-led recovery effort.

More from Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq again.

“Humanitarian organizations are delivering aid and carrying out assessments. Although access to Dominica is gradually being restored, internal access along key roads is limited and hindering the delivery of crucial aid to cut-off communities. There are now 21 UN staff in the capital Roseau.”

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3’34″

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CGAP Launches Guide for Financial Service Providers to Better Meet the Needs of Low-Income Customers

Washington, D.C., Sept. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — CGAP today launched the Customer-Centric Guide, a web-based collection of toolkits and experiments to help financial service providers deliver products and services that better meet the needs of low-income customers. The number of people with a financial account grew by 721 million between 2011 and 2014, reducing the […]

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Lake Chad Basin: Vulnerable people ‘a step away from starvation,’ says UN aid chief

The scale up of international assistance to the Lake Chad Basin this year has averted a famine in north-east Nigeria, even though millions of people are still suffering, according to the United Nations aid chief.

Having visited Niger and Nigeria earlier this month, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, told reporters today at UN Headquarters in New York: There are still millions of people who have suffered a lot and continue to suffer, many of them just a step away from starvation.

He said that in field visits to Ngagam in Diffa � the poorest region in the poorest country in the world � and to Maiduguri, Pulka, and Gwoza in Borno state in Nigeria, he met extremely vulnerable people displaced by conflict.

Those people want to go home, they want a chance to rebuild their lives. But they want to do that when it’s safe to do so, stressed Mr. Lowcock.

About 1.8 million people in Niger are food-insecure. Some 800,000 children are affected by acute malnutrition and almost 250,000 people are either internally displaced persons, returnees or refugees from Nigeria, he highlighted.

In north-east Nigeria, around 6.5 million people need life-saving assistance. Nearly 5.2 million are severely food-insecure and 450,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition, this year.

The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, which covers Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad, is complex as countries grapple with insecurity, climatic shocks, extreme poverty, the legacy of inadequate governance across vast parts of the region.

But the way forward is also clear, he asserted, highlighting the need to sustain the effective humanitarian response, and to ensure see better protection for people.

Access has improved in many towns, but there’s also been a recent upsurge in horrific attacks on civilians in all four countries. In Niger, hostage-taking has increased, while in Nigeria children have been used as ‘human bombs,’ he said.

Turning to other areas of the world, Mr. Lowcock said so far in Somalia, famine has been averted while in South Sudan, there was a famine declaration in a couple of counties in Unity state, that affected about 50,000 people earlier in the year, but that situation was brought under control pretty quickly.

Calling it the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, Mr. Lowcock pointed out that in Yemen, we have so far again averted formal famine declaration, but the levels of suffering in Yemen are really astronomical. I mean, there’s a really dreadful situation.

Source: UN News Centre

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Cameroon Tries to Quash Independence Movement in English Regions

EKOK, CAMEROON About 700 pro-independence protesters � mostly youths � are attacking government buildings and police stations at the Cameroonian border town of Ekok, and hoisting what they call the flag of their independent state of Ambazonia.

Elias Tambe, a leader of the separatists, says they no longer recognize Cameroon president Paul Biya as their leader.

“He is nobody and he will never mean anything to the Ambazonians,” said Tambe, 27. “This is the border between Southern Cameroon and the Republic of Nigeria at the frontier Ekok. You can see the flags, you can see the flags, this is the border. Now they have closed the border, they don’t want us to cross to Nigeria, but we are there. Biya must go.”

Members of the group tried to cross over to the Nigeria border state of Enugu to inform authorities there that a new nation has been born, but were blocked by Nigeria immigration police.

The separatists promised to declare their independence on October 1, and have appointed Julius Ayuk Tabe, who is in exile, as their interim leader.

In response, Cameroon has deployed thousands of troops to the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions to stop all demonstrators. However, observers say the separatists may be relocating to smaller localities such as Ekok where the military is not yet present.

French-speaking Cameroonian Debong Ignatius says the presence of the military can exacerbate the crisis.

“Men in uniform and the police circled our neighborhoods, entered the various houses, insisting that people should bring out Ambazonina flags they were hiding,” Debong said. “I do not think it is their duty to go harassing people at this precise moment because it can exacerbate the situation.”

President Biya has told English-speaking ministers and senior state functionaries working in Yaounde to go home, in an effort to urge the population not to accept separatists’ ideas.

Fame Ndongo, communication secretary of the ruling CPDM party, says party officials were dispatched to encourage supporters to rally on Saturday and Sunday as a sign of disapproval and condemnation of violence and anti-constitutional acts perpetrated by secessionist groups.

Schools have been closed in the English-speaking northwest and southwest since November, when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they believe is the overuse of the French language.

Leaders of the strike were arrested, but pressure groups have been calling for their immediate and unconditional release. Fifty-five of the 75 protesters were released, and charges against them were dropped.

While separatists are calling for complete independence, Biya has said he is not open to any negotiation on the matter and that Cameroon is one and indivisible.

Source: Voice of America

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UN chief urges all parties to refrain from acts that could escalate tension in Cameroon

28 September 2017 &#150 Expressing “deep concern” over the deteriorating security situation in parts of Cameroon as well as heightened tensions related to planned events this Sunday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to further tensions and violence.

According to a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Guterres encouraged the Cameroonian authorities to continue their efforts to address the grievances of the Anglophone community.

“He urges the authorities to promote measures of national reconciliation aimed at finding a durable solution to the crisis, including by addressing its root causes,” the statement added.

It also noted that the UN chief supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of the country and believes that genuine and inclusive dialogue between the Government and the communities in the South-West and North-West regions is the best way to preserve the unity and stability of the country.

The Secretary-General stands ready to support these efforts, including through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), the statement read.

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Deeply Concerned about Cameroon Situation, Secretary-General Urges All Parties to Refrain from Actions that Could Escalate Tensions, Violence

SG/SM/18729

28 September 2017

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the situation in Cameroon, including with regard to the recent security incidents in Bamenda and in Douala, and mounting tensions in the south-west and north-west regions related to planned events on 1 October.  The Secretary-General has encouraged the Cameroonian authorities to continue their efforts to address the grievances of the Anglophone community.  He urges the authorities to promote measures of national reconciliation aimed at finding a durable solution to the crisis, including by addressing its root causes.  The Secretary-General supports upholding the unity and territorial integrity of Cameroon and urges all parties to refrain from acts that could lead to an escalation of tension and violence.  The Secretary-General believes that genuine and inclusive dialogue between the Government and the communities in the south-west and north-west regions is the best way to preserve the unity and stability of the country.

The Secretary-General stands ready to support these efforts, including through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).

For information media. Not an official record.

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Lake Chad Basin: Vulnerable people ‘a step away from starvation,’ says UN aid chief

28 September 2017 &#150 The scale up of international assistance to the Lake Chad Basin this year has averted a famine in north-east Nigeria, even though millions of people are still suffering, according to the United Nations aid chief.

Having visited Niger and Nigeria earlier this month, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, told reporters today at UN Headquarters in New York: “There are still millions of people who have suffered a lot and continue to suffer, many of them just a step away from starvation.”

He said that in field visits to Ngagam in Diffa – “the poorest region in the poorest country in the world” – and to Maiduguri, Pulka, and Gwoza in Borno state in Nigeria, he met “extremely vulnerable people” displaced by conflict.

“Those people want to go home, they want a chance to rebuild their lives. But they want to do that when it’s safe to do so,” stressed Mr. Lowcock.

About 1.8 million people in Niger are food-insecure. Some 800,000 children are affected by acute malnutrition and almost 250,000 people are either internally displaced persons, returnees or refugees from Nigeria, he highlighted.

In north-east Nigeria, around 6.5 million people need life-saving assistance. Nearly 5.2 million are severely food-insecure and 450,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition, this year.

The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, which covers Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad,
is complex as countries grapple with insecurity, climatic shocks, extreme poverty, the legacy of inadequate governance across vast parts of the region.

“But the way forward is also clear,” he asserted, highlighting the need to sustain the effective humanitarian response, and to ensure see better protection for people.

“Access has improved in many towns, but there’s also been a recent upsurge in horrific attacks on civilians in all four countries. In Niger, hostage-taking has increased, while in Nigeria children have been used as ‘human bombs,’” he said.

Turning to other areas of the world, Mr. Lowcock said “so far in Somalia, famine has been averted” while in South Sudan, there was “a famine declaration in a couple of counties in Unity state, that affected about 50,000 people earlier in the year, but that situation was brought under control pretty quickly.”

Calling it the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, Mr. Lowcock pointed out that in Yemen, “we have so far again averted formal famine declaration, but the levels of suffering in Yemen are really astronomical. I mean, there’s a really dreadful situation.”

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General Assembly: plenary

Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.

Statements

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between the efforts made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Jamaica had made a strong political commitment not only in prevention and protection, but also in prosecuting crimes of human trafficking.  It had developed a sophisticated legislative and institutional framework to cope with that heinous practice.  The country had also appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the first to have been appointed in the Caribbean.  Since 2010, 76 victims had been rescued, with sentences ranging between 16 and 18 years, four human traffickers had been convicted and restitution costs had been paid to victims.

PER-ANDERS SUNESSON (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said cooperation on counter-trafficking measures must be based on the common definition of the practice, and a shared view of relevant legal definitions.  It was crucial that all States ratify international instruments and share data and best practices.  Warning against selective efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as counterproductive, he called for work across all three of the Agenda’s pillars.  Requesting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to produce an annual report on measures to reduce demand — especially for sex trafficking and slave labour — he said weak national laws allowed such demands to flourish.  Legislation much be revised, he stressed, adding that all States bore an obligation to deliver on their commitments to support victims.  That required cooperation between Government and civil society, and adequate funding, he said, endorsing the work of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in that regard, and announcing Sweden’s decision to commit $100,000 in 2017.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) highlighted the need for greater attention to trafficking victims and adopting more effective countering measures at the national level.  Assistance to victims must be guaranteed to prevent them from becoming victimized twice‑over through indictments for any unlawful conduct in which they were forced to engage.  In April 2016, Italy’s Parliament addressed the legal protection of undocumented migrants arriving in the country.  A new law harmonized existing legislation and activated additional resources that were tailored to the specific needs of migrant minors without families.

VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, said the causes of trafficking were complex and multi‑dimensional, with “push and pull” factors such as inadequate employment, poor living conditions, conflict, war, famine, loss of livelihood, forced marriage, dissolution of families and natural disaster.  She highlighted the role of the family as a “basis of unity”.  Nigeria, a destination and export country, had zero tolerance for trafficking and had put in place strong institutional measures and legislation to ensure prosecution, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and a review of relevant laws to combat the crime.  It also had scaled up domestic laws under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Acts of 2015, expanded its prosecutorial mechanism and strengthened international partnerships.  She urged greater support for the Voluntary Trust Fund, reaffirming Nigeria’s commitments to UNODC and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

 CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [also known as the Palermo Convention], and had taken stern measures to combat trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2014 and establishing the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee.  Highlighting the importance of adequate funding for programs, he commended UNODC and other United Nations agencies for their support.  On a regional level, Botswana had collaborated with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on data collection and analysis to improve the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking initiatives.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, expressed concern that women and children in developing countries, especially sub‑Saharan Africa, continued to be the largest category of victims of trafficking.  Zambia had not been spared from that scourge, as victims continued to be exploited in urban areas in domestic servitude, and other types of forced labour.  The Government had adopted a new national policy that aimed to eradicate all forms of human trafficking through combined measures to raise awareness and address the causes, while ensuring that victims were protected and perpetrators brought to justice.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) described a 2004 national law on combating human trafficking and efforts to enforce legislation through training of judicial and law enforcement departments.  Noting the interrelated root causes of trafficking, he said interventionist and destabilizing polices in the Middle East and Africa had served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in trafficking.  He called on Governments to share information, and provide both capacity building and technical assistance to developing countries.  He reiterated the importance of education and awareness of trafficking in countries of origin, transit and destination, as end users of services provided by trafficked persons required as much training as those who were vulnerable to trafficking.  There was a need for impartial and reliable data, and he questioned the “moral authority”, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He commended UNODC for its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as a follow up to the Global Action Plan, and reaffirmed the role of that body in promoting partnerships in support of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Ms. JOHNSTONE (United States) said while the world’s collective understanding of trafficking had grown significantly in recent years, efforts to support victims remained “appallingly” low, due largely to widespread impunity.  “We must expand our collective response to this crime,” she stressed, adding that resources and strong collaboration were critical.  The United States had taken a victim‑centred approach to its national efforts on those issues, she said, having increased funding for services and the number of victims supported.  On the enforcement side, it had convicted 439 human traffickers in 2016, and established a national council composed of trafficking survivors to provide guidance to the Government.  It had also recently provided $25 million to promote anti-trafficking efforts around the world and was working to raise an additional $1 billion from other donors.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) welcomed collective efforts to improve international cooperation to address migration and displacement.  Whenever people were on the move, they were vulnerable to exploitation.  The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration would provide an opportunity to build global consensus for practical action.  Regional action was also critical.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo‑Pacific region, she said Australia worked closely with its neighbours in Southeast Asia to combat trafficking and forced labour, and funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in that region.  Domestically, Australia was establishing a new reporting requirement for large businesses to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery in supply chains.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ, Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said there was a low prevalence of human trafficking in his country.  In February, the Government approved the national action plan for the 2017‑2020 period, coordinating its actions with civil society to implement a “zero tolerance” policy.  Cuba’s experience had demonstrated it was possible to achieve results in the fight against trafficking in persons even with few resources, under a tight blockade and amid the growing complexity of the crime.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI (Morocco) said his country was an origin, transit and destination country for trafficking.  The Political Declaration would strengthen the international resolve to protect victims, and to that end, Morocco had prioritized the issue.  In line with the National Policy for Migration and Asylum, Morocco had taken measures to ensure the integration, preservation and protection of migrants and refugees, notably through the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to address asylum and migration, while adhering to the main human rights conventions.  He called for the adoption of a global, multi‑sectoral approach to combat trafficking in persons.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said States must enhance efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and bring perpetrators to justice.  Noting that restrictive immigration policies could compound the effects of trafficking, he called for effective approaches that ensured fundamental rights.  Discussions on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration could also help to eliminate the practice, while safeguarding migrants’ rights.  As a global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, Brazil had adopted a national law to prevent and suppress domestic and international trafficking.  It also was working on its third national anti-trafficking plan with involvement from civil society.  He called for greater cooperation among Member States, as well as with the Secretary-General, UNODC and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), commending the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, said the Global Plan of Action was a critical instrument, but would only be useful if States implemented it.  Trafficking in persons was an offense of human dignity and rights that understood no borders, he stressed, pledging that Denmark would do its part, including as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.  “We must raise awareness about this issue, and make sure that no one can ever say again that they did not know about modern slavery,” he said, urging States to put in place flexible and adaptable policies, and work harder to prosecute perpetrators.  Denmark supported victims all over the world, he added, announcing that it would contribute $160,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

SANDI ČURIN (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, and noting that trafficking in persons and related forms of modern slavery were on the rise, said their underlying causes included exploitive tendencies, loss of values, increased demand for cheap labour and global poverty.  The increasing shadow economy, underground labour market and unfair competition reflected a cheap labour force, which too often, stemmed from trafficking.  Calling for a multidimensional approach, he drew attention to Slovenia’s appointment of a National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2002, enhanced efforts to prosecute perpetrators and strong cooperation between law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organizations.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), expressing concern that millions of people were being exploited in forced labour around the world, said trafficking could not be resolved by Governments alone.  Thanking Malaysia and Australia for organizing the Bali Business Forum in an effort to engage the private sector, he noted that Myanmar was a source country.  The Government had adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2005, and recently reviewed its national action plan, with a focus on such issues as forced marriage, debt bondage and forced labour.  The industries in which Myanmar migrant labourers suffered the most included fisheries and forced prostitution.  In response, the Government was cooperating with countries in the region that received large numbers of people trafficked from Myanmar, and had signed on to several regional agreements in that regard.  Voicing concern that people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh could be at risk of trafficking, he said that flight had resulted from terrorist violence by “the so-called Arankhan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Rakhine State on 25 August, whose “scorched earth” tactics had spread fear among the population.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said his country was a transit and destination country for human trafficking, mainly involving cases of sexual and labour exploitation, and forced begging.  Austria paid particular attention to the linkages between migration and trafficking in persons, as it had lately been affected by large mixed migration movements.  It had intensified efforts to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, and supported both regional and international organizations in assisting victims along migration routes.  Advocating a victim‑centred approach, with a focus on prevention, he expressed support for UNODC and the involvement of civil society, especially in protecting victims.

MANUEL ALBANO (Portugal), recalling that his country along with Cabo Verde had co‑facilitated negotiations for of the 2010 United Nations Global Action Plan, said all his country’s national efforts were in line with that instrument as well as the 2030 Agenda.  Portugal had joined the “Blue Heart” global awareness campaign, provided support to victims and was working on its fourth national action plan which took both a victim‑centred and gender‑based approach.  Its Support and Protection Network for Victims of Trafficking had improved coordination between police forces, justice systems, civil society and victims, among others.  The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings, created in 2008, also had allowed Portugal to reinforce its referral mechanisms and consolidate and share both data and best practices.

Ms. PELAEZ (Mexico), recognizing the links between inequality and marginalization in relation to human trafficking, called for enhanced regional cooperation to address that crime.  Only by renewing support to people‑centred policies could States make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Plan.  To that end, Mexico enforced a robust legal framework to care for victims.  It had increased sentences for traffickers and created a reparations fund for victims, working with academic and civil society groups to bolster such work.  At Mexico’s request, UNODC had conducted a national diagnosis which identified gaps in anti‑trafficking efforts.  As a result, Mexico established a national system that featured an information database, care and protection services for victims, and improved reporting, tools and maps.  Those improvements would be used to support investigation and prosecutorial activities, and efforts to protect victims, including through the “Blue Heart” campaign and a new telephone hotline.

REYNALDO A. CATAPANG (Philippines) said the threat of human trafficking could not be overemphasized.  With 10 per cent of its population working abroad, the Philippines adhered to the mandate of migrant protection.  To better serve vulnerable populations, the Government had moved to criminalize attempted trafficking.  Stressing that effective mitigation efforts must acknowledge the link between migration and trafficking, he said multi‑sectoral approaches focused on enshrining cooperation between civil society groups, the private sector and Government.  That approach had energized stakeholders to devise robust responses to trafficking, he said, also noting the benefits of international cooperation in the region.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing support for the Political Declaration, said human trafficking was as complex as the horrors it generated.  It resulted from various dynamics, including the use of social networks, the exploitation of migrants and refugees and armed conflict situations.  Peru’s national strategy to combat trafficking was anchored by such activities as caring for victims, protection and reintegration and prosecution.  However, “we cannot wage this war alone”, and the support of the United Nations was crucial.  The specific challenges and circumstances of certain regions also highlighted the important role to be played by regional organizations, he said.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), pointing out that the crime of human trafficking also threatened sustainable development, outlined national strategies to combat the practice in cooperation with civil society and others.  Paraguay’s national convention against trafficking provided comprehensive care for victims, while a related 2012 law levied a maximum 20‑year sentence for anyone involved in the crime.  Calling for international support in several areas, he stressed that migration must not be criminalized.  States should highlight the link between drug trafficking and human trafficking, while efforts to prosecute offenders must be effective.

JAIDEEP GOVIND (India) said his country had adopted a multi‑pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach to tackling human trafficking, with 264 anti‑trafficking units and 150 investigative units for crimes against women established across the country.  Capacity building for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary had been accorded high priority, while special “Operation Smile” drives were conducted regularly to rescue trafficked children.  The “Track Child” and “Khoya Paya” portals, which showcased the innovative use of information technology, had also produced results.  Greater focus must be placed on development in the countries of origin, and on demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries, he said.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said trafficking in persons had worsened as increased migratory movements had made people more vulnerable.  New forms of trafficking, by groups such as Boko Haram, were also on the rise, marked by the recruitment, forcible removal or luring of girls and boys, who were then exchanged for ransom, indoctrinated or forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Boko Haram also used young people as “human bombs”, sending them into civilian populations to carry out suicide attacks.  Cameroon had become a party to the Palermo Convention and its Additional Protocols, as well as to the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 105 and 138 respectively on the abolition of forced labour and the minimum age of work.  In addition, it had enacted a national law to combat trafficking, regularly organized awareness-raising campaigns in its most vulnerable regions, and cooperated with other States in West and Central Africa under a UNODC supported initiative.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas) said that due to its geographic location and porous borders, the Bahamas experienced large mixed migration and was used as a trafficking transit point.  The Government had signed the United Nations Convention and passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in 2008, which criminalized the practice and prescribed strict penalties for offenders.  Working with non-governmental groups, the Bahamas had created the national anti‑trafficking strategy for the 2014‑2018 period.  It also had established coordination groups, police and task forces, a nationwide campaign, and developed standard operating procedures and protection services for victims.  In August 2017, the Bahamas had convicted two people of trafficking and several trials were ongoing, he said, adding that the success of the national action plan had led to the development of similar models in other Caribbean countries.

JUNGMIN SEO (Republic of Korea), emphasizing that human trafficking “preys on the weakness of individuals and thrives in conflict”, expressed support for the Global Plan of Action and outlined national efforts taken in line with it.  The Republic of Korea had codified human trafficking as a serious crime in 2013 and had ratified the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2015.  As prevention played an important role in combating the practice, the Government sought to build capacity at the national level while addressing social inequalities and discrimination, among other root causes.  “Perpetrators of such crimes thrive in the shadows of lawlessness and must be brought to justice,” he stressed, adding that the sharing of best practices and lessons learned should be more broadly shared and promoted between States.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said his country’s resolutions in the Human Rights Council, submitted alongside Philippines, underscored the need to support victims and employ a human rights approach in all anti-trafficking measures.  “Traffickers treat their victims as mere commodities,” he said, calling for States to address that gross abuse of human dignity.  Describing his country’s support for anti‑trafficking efforts in various regions, including the Sahel in Africa, he underscored the transnational nature of the practice and the fact that refugees and migrants were particularly at risk.  Preventing human trafficking involved many facets, he added, citing the example of forced labour and noting that companies with international supply chains bore a particular responsibility to protect victims and their human rights.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), associating himself with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking, said political will and cooperation were required to achieve results.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed support for a comprehensive approach and efforts to combat root causes, such as the legalization of prostitution, poverty and unemployment.  Recalling that the Russian Federation had hosted a conference on public‑private‑partnerships to combat human trafficking in July, he outlined its involvement in similar efforts under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and spotlighted the central role of the United Nations, especially UNODC.  Every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking, he asserted.

KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) called for international resolve and commitment to clear away bottlenecks and obstacles in implementing the Convention and relevant laws.  Financial and technical support would help developing countries streamline processes, collect and share data, and implement grassroots projects.  Drawing attention to the legislative and regulatory measures that Pakistan had taken, he said there must be coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to develop synergies policies to address human trafficking.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said comprehensive, people-centred approaches were needed to guarantee safe migratory flows and respect for migrants’ human rights.  The dangers of irregular migration must also be discussed.  He advocated cooperation as a way to strengthen the protection and repatriation of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers.  Noting that Guatemala was the first country in Central America to join the UNODC campaign to fight trafficking in persons, and would continue to comply with its commitments, he said the Government also had developed a database and reference cards to assist in tracking missing persons.  To protect victims, it had established temporary shelters, medical programmes, psychological and social support, and initiatives to promote technical and labour training.  On the prosecution front, Guatemala had passed 19 sentences against traffickers, two of which had received 28‑year sentences.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said armed conflict, unemployment, poverty and natural disasters were factors that prompted migration, displacement and trafficking.  The conditions fostering the expansion of criminal networks must be also examined, he said, citing the role of preventative diplomacy in the cessation of conflict.  He also advocated support for developing countries to address poverty, hunger, unemployment and service‑sector performance, while encouraging cooperation in efforts to prosecute traffickers and criminal networks, including by building human and institutional capacities.  He called for solidary in providing new resources to refugees and migrants, as well as improved data collection and analysis, and information sharing related particularly to disasters and migration.  In partnership with the United Nations and others, Libya’s coast guard had saved thousands of migrants on route to Europe, he said.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), calling for further political attention to the “hidden nature” of human trafficking, drew attention to the United Kingdom’s establishment last week of a “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking” plan, which had already been endorsed by 37 nations, and urged others to join it.  All countries should create policies based on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership, and consider producing domestic “estimates of prevalence” reports.  Trafficking must also be stamped out in countries’ economies, which required better regulated labour policies.  The United Kingdom had enacted a Modern Slavery Act and introduced a comprehensive legal framework which was resulting in a growing number of convictions.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he concluded.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said his country had made the eradication of human trafficking a national priority, adopting a policy based on prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.  On prosecution, he said Thailand had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.  On prevention, the Government was working to establish a national screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants, trafficking victims and refugees, which would identify those in need of protection.  It had also signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries, and had strengthened public-private-civil society partnerships.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high‑risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating stronger support for victims and improved data collection and analysis.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the fight against trafficking must be holistic and include a variety of stakeholders at all levels.  Argentina had focused on preventing trafficking, and providing assistance to victims, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 5 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he said Argentina had taken measures to protect victims’ privacy and to ensure their physical, psychological and social recovery through safe housing, counselling, medical and material assistance, as well as offers for employment, education and training.  Victims were given the option to remain in Argentina by filing for refugee status, or offered repatriation assistance.  The Government also had carried out awareness raising, particularly in border areas.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) expressed support for the Political Declaration and Sustainable Development Goal targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to combat human trafficking.  Noting the links with transnational organized crime, he described the challenges in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution.  Each year, Colombia identified and assisted victims of all kinds of trafficking.  It had established sexual and reproductive rights training programmes for children and adolescents, strengthened the legal branch through training initiatives and provided assistance to victims.  He called for greater international commitment, notably through enhanced work with UNODC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said people from areas of conflict were especially vulnerable to being trafficked, as they experienced such “push factors” as a lack of economic opportunity, poverty and low education rates.  It was important to consider the causal link between racism, bigotry, prejudice and human trafficking so as to enhance legal and policy responses.  Noting that Kenya had signed protocols and formulated laws to combat trafficking, she said the Government also had created an advisory committee to guide inter-agency activities, developed a national action plan to promote cooperation, and set aside $800,000 through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.  To protect workers, the Government in 2014 had revoked the licenses of more than 900 agencies recruiting workers for jobs in the Middle East and the Gulf region.  Today, it continued to vet agencies, requiring them to apply annually for fresh licenses, she added.

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Human Rights Improve in Somalia, Big Challenges Remain

GENEVA �A report finds significant improvement is being made in human rights in Somalia, but it notes huge challenges to continued progress, compounded by conflict, drought and poverty, remain to be overcome.

The report, which has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, says both natural and man-made factors are to blame for ongoing human rights abuses in Somalia. A major concern is the violation of the right to life. The report says Al-Shabab militants are killing military personnel and civilians through improvised explosives, ambushes, assassinations and other random attacks.

It also blames fighting between clan militias for civilian casualties. And the report notes severe drought conditions in the country are contributing to a dire situation.

Drought, poverty

Bahame Tom Nyanduga is the Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia and author of the report. He says drought has caused widespread displacement as people search for food for themselves and their cattle. He says food shortages have led to increased child malnutrition and death. Growing poverty, he warns, is putting entire communities at risk of exploitation.

“Somali youth have continued to fall victims of human traffickers due to lack of opportunity in the country, and many of them have ended up in slavelike conditions in some transit countries, while trying to cross the treacherous Mediterranean and the Sinai routes to Europe, he said. Recently, human traffickers abandoned tens of Somali youths in the Red Sea off the Yemen coast, tragically leading to loss of life to several of the victims.”

Rights of women

Nyanduga also expresses concern about the rights of women. He says they are victimized by harmful traditional practices. He also says sexual and gender-based violence are prevalent and cases of gang rape of girls and women by youths and unknown armed men in uniform continue to be reported and go unpunished.

He also criticizes the lack of freedom of expression and attacks on journalists and other media professionals. The Independent Expert urges the government of Somalia to strengthen its laws and judicial system to better promote and protect human rights.

Source: Voice of America

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News in Brief 28 September 2017 (AM)

45% of all abortions are “unsafe”: WHO study

Approximately 25 million “unsafe” abortions are carried out every year, according to a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Guttmacher Institute.

That represents 45 per cent of all abortions carried out annually, during the survey period of 2010, to 2014.

The vast majority of unsafe abortions � 97 per cent � occurred in developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Bela Ganatra, lead author of the study, from WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that extra effort had to made in developing regions “to ensure access to contraception and safe abortion.”

“When women and girls cannot access effective contraception and safe abortion services, there are serious consequences for their own health and that of their families,” she added.

Biggest ever global anti-rabies initiative gets underway

The biggest ever global anti-rabies initiative has got underway, aiming to end human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies by 2030.

The announcement comes on World Rabies Day, marked on Thursday, and the ambitious plan is being led by WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control.

Known as Zero by 30: The Strategic Plan, it aims to address the deadly disease that can be transmitted by biting, in a “holistic and cross-sectoral manner” highlighting the important role of health, veterinary and educational services.

Rabies is 100 per cent preventable, said a statement from the four partners, and the world has the knowledge, technologies and vaccines necessary to eliminate the viral disease.

Rabies is a disease of poverty and neglect, affecting the poorest most of all, added the statement.

World Maritime Day highlights connection between ships, ports, people

A more efficient shipping industry, and government-supported partnerships with ports, can help to drive sustainable development.

That’s the message from the head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Kitack Lim, to mark World Maritime Day, observed this Thursday, 28 September.

He said this year’s theme “Connecting Ships, Ports and People,” highlights ongoing cooperation across the global industry, to ensure a safe and efficient maritime transportation system.

Here’s part of his video message to coincide with the day.

“Shipping and ports can play a significant role in helping to create conditions for increased employment, prosperity and stability through promoting maritime trade. The port and maritime sectors can be wealth creators, both on land and at sea.”

Source: United Nations Radio

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