UN Steps Up Pressure Over Belarus Violence

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.


Torture allegations against Belarusian security forces during a recent crackdown on protesters must be investigated, the UN rights chief said on Monday, turning up the pressure on strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

Michelle Bachelet said there were hundreds of allegations of torture or ill-treatment, including of children, stemming from the response to protests over the disputed re-election of Lukashenko as president of Belarus.

“Given their scale and number, all allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment by the security forces should be documented and investigated, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice,” she said during the opening of the UN Human Rights Council, which has agreed to hold an urgent debate.

Unprecedented demonstrations broke out in Belarus after Lukashenko claimed to have defeated opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya with 80 percent of the vote on August 9.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, has refused to step down and has turned to neighbouring Russia for support to remain in power.

His security forces have detained thousands of protesters, many of whom have accused police of beatings and torture. Several people have died in the crackdown.

– Rare council debate –

Bachelet said there were reports of sexual violence, abductions of people associated with the opposition and targeting of journalists.

“There has been limited evidence of any steps by the authorities to address these reports,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

“Re-establishing social peace in Belarus requires far-reaching dialogue, reforms and accountability for grave human rights violations.”

The council has agreed to a European Union proposal to host a rare urgent debate on Friday over the deteriorating situation.

In presenting the request, German ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg pointed to reports of “unprecedented attacks on, and torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of peaceful protesters as well as harassment, intimidation and detentions of opposition leaders”.

“The situation on the ground clearly warrants an urgent debate. The Human Rights Council should not stay silent on this matter,” he said.

However, Belarusian ambassador Yury Ambrazevich slammed the proposal as a “manipulation of the council” that “has nothing to do with human rights”, but is merely aimed at exerting political pressure on Belarus.

Friday’s debate will mark only the sixth time in the council’s 14-year history that it has agreed to hold an urgent debate, which is a special debate agreed upon within a regular session of the council.

During its last session in June, the council held an urgent debate over racism and police brutality following unrest in the United States and beyond over George Floyd’s death.


UN Calls For ‘Quantum Leap’ In Funding For COVID-19 Fight

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 4, 2020 United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May 6, 2020 called on governments around the world to specifically take into account the billions of people with disabilities in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)


The United Nations on Thursday called for an immediate “quantum leap” in funding for global programmes to combat the coronavirus and restore prosperity.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries to find $15 billion over the next three months to fund the ACT-Accelerator programme, a global collaboration to hunt for a vaccine and treatments led by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

“Either we stand together or we will be doomed,” Guterres told a virtual meeting of the ACT-Accelerator, calling the virus the “number one global security threat”.

“We need a quantum leap in funding to increase the chances of a global solution to get the world moving, working and prospering again,” he said.

He said the near $3 billion contributed so far had been critical for the initial phase since the accelerator’s launch four months ago, but $35 billion more was needed to shift from start-up to scale-up — beginning with $15 billion in the next three months.

Without it “we will lose the window of opportunity”, Guterres said.

He said typical aid budgets would not cover the costs, urging donors to “go deep” into money set aside for combating coronavirus.

– ‘Start saving lives’ –

The virus has killed more than 900,000 people and infected at least 27.9 million since the outbreak emerged in China last December.

According to the WHO’s latest overview, 35 candidate vaccines for the virus are being tested on humans, of which nine have reached Phase III trials where they are tested on tens of thousands of people.

A further 145 candidate vaccines are in earlier testing phases.

Typically only about 10 percent of candidate vaccines succeed.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the speed at which vaccines, diagnostics and treatments for Covid-19 were being developed was “astonishing” but said more needed to be done.

“We need to rapidly scale up our clinical trials, manufacturing, licensing and regulation capacity so that these products can get to people and start saving lives,” he said.

South Africa and Norway are co-chairing the ACT-Accelerator facilitation council.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union, told the meeting that the continent should “not be left behind” once a viable vaccine is produced.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame called the ACT-Accelerator “one of the most important international initiatives under way in the world today, and perhaps ever”.


Record Temperatures Accelerating Rise Of Sea Levels, UN Warns

View of garbage washed away by rains and held by a floating barrier installed in one of the tributaries of the Lake in Amatitlan, 30 kms south of Guatemala City, on September 8, 2020 amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP)


Record temperatures are accelerating the rise of sea levels, melting glaciers and snow coverage and threatening the water supplies for billions, according to a major UN report Wednesday charting the “increasing and irreversible” impacts of climate change.

The multi-agency United in Science report said the world had seen its warmest five years on record in the last five years, adding that extreme weather events bore “a clear fingerprint” of climate change.

It comes after UN chief Antonio Guterres told AFP that nations must use the coronavirus crisis as a springboard to implement “transformational” green policies to make energy, transport, industry and everyday life more sustainable.

If they fail, he warned humanity was “doomed”.

The report, coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said humanity was not on track to meet the targets for emission reductions that would avert devastating global warming.

It highlighted “the increasing and irreversible impacts of climate change, which affects glaciers, oceans, nature, economies and human living conditions and is often felt through water-related hazards like drought or flooding”.

Warmer temperatures have seen reductions in the world’s glaciers and ice sheets, threatening fresh water supplies.

The United Nations’ science advisory panel for climate change, the IPCC, has forecast that oceans will rise by up to a metre by the end of the century, and even more after that.

Hundreds of millions of people live in vulnerable coastal areas.

The new report said that between 2016 and 2019 glacier mass loss was greater than all past five-year periods since 1950, adding that sea-level rise was accelerating.

It said 1.2 billion people are currently at risk of flooding and predicted this will rise to 1.6 billion by 2050.

Meanwhile, water scarcity is set to increase, with up to 3.2 billion people predicted to live in areas with insufficient water by 2050, compared to 1.9 billion in the 2010s.

The loss of glaciers will severely impact access to freshwater, with annual runoff expected to peak at a global level by the end of the century and then decline.

But the report said Central Europe and the Caucasus region were at their peak now.

In the Tibetan Plateau — where runoff from snow cover, glaciers and permafrost provides almost half of the regional river flow — the peak is forecast between 2030 and 2050, threatening water access for 1.7 billion people.

That would affect the mighty Mekong river, for one, which originates in the plateau and threads south through six countries.

– Emission fears –

Earth’s average surface temperature has gone up by one degree Celsius since the 19th century, enough to increase the intensity of droughts, heat waves and tropical cyclones.

The UN report said the last five year period would be the hottest on record and that trend was set to continue.

Under the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal, which goes into effect this year, countries agreed to cap the rise in temperature to “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The United Nations says it is still possible to reach a safer goal of a 1.5C cap in temperature rise, but to get there global emissions must fall 7.6 percent annually this decade.

The report estimated emissions would decline between 4 and 7 percent this year due to the unprecedented measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

During the peak of the lockdowns in April, global emissions were 17 percent lower than in 2019.

But it said this was equivalent to levels seen in 2006, “highlighting both the steep growth over the past 15 years and the continued dependence on fossil sources for energy”.

The WMO said there was a 24 percent chance of at least one year exceeding the 1.5C level between 2020 and 2024.

“The expectations that we have in relation to the next five years about storms, about drought and about other dramatic impacts in the living conditions of many people around the world are absolutely terrible,” Guterres said, in interviews published Tuesday with AFP and other members of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of news outlets committed to increased climate coverage.


UN Decries Attacks On Journalists, Activists In Pakistan

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.


The United Nation voiced alarm Tuesday at growing attacks on journalists and activists in Pakistan, often amid cries of blasphemy, urging Islamabad to protect those facing threats and probe any violence.

The UN rights office said it was growing increasingly concerned at numerous instances of incitement to violence, both online and off, particularly against women and minority journalists and activists, as well as physical attacks.

It pointed to the case of journalist Shaheena Shaheen, who was shot dead last Saturday by unidentified men in Balochistan’s Kech district.

And last year, four journalists and bloggers were killed in Pakistan in connection with their reporting, including Arooj Iqbal, a woman who was shot dead in Lahore as she tried to launch her own local newspaper.

“In the vast majority of such cases, those responsible have not been investigated, prosecuted and held to account,” rights office spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.

He pointed out that women journalists in Pakistan last month had warned of a “coordinated campaign” of social media attacks against anyone who was critical of government policies.

He stressed that accusations of blasphemy were “especially worrying”, pointing out that they “can put accused individuals at imminent risk of violence”.

Colville said the rights office had raised its concerns directly with the Pakistani government and had urged it to take “immediate, concrete steps to ensure the protection of journalists and human rights defenders who have been subjected to threats.”

“We also stress the need for prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations with a view to ensuring accountability in cases of violence and killings,” he said.

The UN rights office had also called on the Pakistani leadership to “unequivocally condemn incitement to violence against religious minorities”, he said, as well as “what appears to be an increase in the use of blasphemy laws for personal or political score-settling”.


UN Urges ‘Independent’ Russian Probe Of Navalny Poisoning


In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 20, 2019 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally to support opposition and independent candidates after authorities refused to register them for September elections to the Moscow City Duma, Moscow. Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP.


The UN rights chief called Tuesday on Moscow to conduct or cooperate with a “thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation” into the alleged nerve agent attack on Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Michelle Bachelet stressed the need to get to the bottom of the poisoning, after German specialists said they had “unequivocal proof” that the weapons-grade nerve agent Novichok was used in the attack.

“It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime, a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil,” she said in a statement.

The 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner and one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics, fell ill on a domestic flight last month and was treated in a Siberian hospital before being evacuated to Berlin.

The attack marked the latest in a long line of assassination attempts against Putin’s critics.

Bachelet stressed Tuesday that “the number of cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination, of current or former Russian citizens, either within Russia itself or on foreign soil, over the past two decades is profoundly disturbing.”

“And the failure in many cases to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice for the victims or their families, is also deeply regrettable and hard to explain or justify,” she said.

– ‘Numerous questions’ –

Germany said last week that toxicology tests conducted by its armed forces found “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny had been poisoned with the weapons-grade nerve agent Novichok, the substance used in the 2018 attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

Navalny’s associates say the use of Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, shows that only the Russian state could be responsible, but the Kremlin fiercely denies any involvement.

Russia had likewise rejected any link to the Skripal case, as well as the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with highly radioactive polonium-210 at a hotel in the British capital.

While UN rights office said that they were not in a position to make direct accusations against Moscow in the case, Bachelet noted that nerve agents and radioactive isotopes such as Novichok and Polonium-210 were sophisticated substances that are very hard to get hold of.

“This raises numerous questions,” she said. “Why use substances like these? Who is using them? How did they acquire them?”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also pointed out that prior to Navalny’s alleged poisoning, he had repeatedly been harassed, arrested and assaulted either by authorities or by unknown assailants.

“Navalny was clearly someone who needed state protection, even if he was a political thorn in the side of the government,” she said.

“It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned, and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt,” she said.


Stop ‘Meddling’ In Hong Kong Affairs, China Tells UN Experts

File photo: China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 2, 2019.  Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP


China issued a fierce rebuke Friday to UN experts who said a draconian national security law imposed upon Hong Kong poses a serious risk to the city’s freedoms and breaches international legal obligations.

Beijing has faced a barrage of criticism over the legislation, imposed late June after pro-democracy protests rocked the semi-autonomous city last year.

The law, which criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, carries a maximum life sentence and has intimidated many protesters into silence.

In a letter made public Friday, the UN special rapporteurs on human rights warned parts of the legislation “appear to criminalise freedom of expression or any form of criticism” of China.

In customarily strong language, China’s foreign ministry was swift to strike down the allegations, saying the law “punishes an extremely small number and protects the absolute majority” in the financial hub.

“Some people disregard the facts and maliciously slander China’s human rights situation… and crudely interfere in China’s internal affairs,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

“Stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s affairs in any way.”


File photo: China’s President Xi Jinping swears under oath after being elected for a second term during the fifth plenary session of the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 17, 2018.


Hong Kong lurched into chaos last year as pro-democracy protesters — furious at perceived encroachment by China on the city’s freedoms — clashed with police.

Unrest has simmered down thanks to coronavirus restrictions and the chilling effect of the security law — under which more than 20 people have been arrested, including a prominent media tycoon.

The letter by the UN advisers — the first issued since the law blanketed the southern Chinese city — gave a vigorous dissection of the damage being inflicted upon the freedoms once enjoyed in Hong Kong, enshrined in an agreement made before the 1997 handover from British colonial rule back to China.

The security law “poses a serious risk that those fundamental freedoms and due process protections may be infringed upon”, the rapporteurs said.

The letter warned the legislation could “impinge impermissibly on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and of peaceful assembly”.

The rapporteurs urged China’s “reconsideration” of the legislation and for a fully independent reviewer to be appointed to ensure it complies with China’s international human rights obligations.

They also expressed concern over one of the most controversial points of the law — which allows cases to be transferred from the jurisdiction of Hong Kong to mainland China — and warned it could undermine the right to a fair trial.

The broadly worded law criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions against China or greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.

Lawyers for some of the more than 20 people arrested under the law so far say police are trawling historical actions of pro-democracy activists to beef up their cases.

The UN experts also raised concerns over the definition of terrorism under the national security law.

They warned it extends to damage of physical property such as transport facilities — which goes well beyond the UN Security Council’s definition of terrorist conduct as aiming to cause death or serious bodily harm.


UN Says Women Need Strong Voice At Afghan Peace Talks

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.


The UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, on Thursday highlighted the importance of including women at upcoming peace talks in Doha with the Taliban.

“Human rights and women’s rights are never negotiable,” Lyons, who is Canadian, told the Security Council, adding that she expected a “rough road ahead” for the talks.

“This issue of women’s rights will be more central in the Afghan peace process than we have ever seen in any other peace negotiation in recent memory,” she said.

The government in Kabul said Thursday that it had freed 400 Taliban prisoners under an exchange deal with the militants and expected talks to begin soon in Qatar.

Lyons welcomed the “energetic outreach and substantive preparations” of the women on the Afghan government’s negotiating team.

“We are not yet aware of any women’s representation on the Taliban side, but we remain hopeful that they, too, will find a way of meaningfully including women,” she told the council.

For Lyons, having women at the negotiating table “offers the best opportunity to ensure that their own rights are upheld, and that their vision for elements of a peaceful Afghanistan is reflected in all aspects of the talks.”

Five Afghan women who endured the Taliban’s oppressive rule are on Kabul’s negotiating team.

Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, warned that “no current nor future Afghan government should count on international donor support” if the rights of women and girls are repressed in any way.

Intra-Afghan peace negotiations were initially supposed to begin in March as agreed in a deal between the Taliban and Washington in February, from which Kabul had been excluded.

But repeated squabbles over the prisoner exchange delayed the start of talks, aimed at bringing an end to nearly 19 years of war.


Half Of Lebanese Could Face Food Shortages – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.


More than half of Lebanon’s population risk facing a food crisis in the aftermath of a Beirut port blast that compounded the country’s many woes, a UN agency said Sunday.

“More than half of the country’s population is at risk of failing to access their basic food needs by the year’s end,” the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said.

“Immediate measures should be taken to prevent a food crisis,” ESCWA executive secretary Rola Dashti said.

Lebanon’s government, she said, must prioritise the rebuilding of silos at the Beirut port, the country’s largest grain storage.

Lebanon was mired in an economic collapse even before the cataclysmic August 4 cataclysmic blast at Beirut’s port, which killed 188 people, wounded thousands and destroyed swathes of the capital.

Lebanon defaulted on its debt, while the local currency has plummeted in value on the black market and poverty rates have soared, on top of a spike in the number of coronavirus cases.

“The yearly average inflation rate is expected to be more than 50 percent in 2020, compared with 2.9 percent in 2019,” ESCWA said in a statement.

Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs and the annihilation of the silos at the Beirut port could worsen an already alarming situation, aid agencies and experts have said.

ESCWA said increased transaction costs of food imports could lead to a further rise in prices.

To prevent a crisis, authorities must set a ceiling for food prices and encourage direct sales from local producers to consumers, Dashti added

She also urged the international community to “expand food security programmes targeting refugees and host communities” to help defuse “potential social tensions”.

Earlier this month, ESCWA said more than 55 percent of the Lebanese are “trapped in poverty and struggling for bare necessities”.


Syrian Talks Resume Despite COVID-19 Cases – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP.


UN-backed talks on a new constitution for Syria resumed in Geneva on Thursday after Swiss health authorities gave the green light despite four delegates testing positive for Covid-19.

The discussions, aimed at rewriting the war-torn country’s constitution, were put on hold almost as soon as they started on Monday when the test results came through.

UN envoy Geir Pedersen, who is moderating the tentative talks between representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the opposition and civil society, has voiced hope they could pave the way towards a broader political process.

His office said in a statement that “following additional testing and further medical and expert advice regarding four earlier positive tests for Covid-19”, Swiss authorities had determined the meeting could go ahead at the UN Palais des Nations. They resumed at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT).

The committee members — 15 each from the government, the opposition and from civil society — were tested for the new coronavirus before they travelled to Geneva, and were tested again on arrival in the Swiss city.

The positive second tests were found among delegates who arrived from Damascus, opposition negotiations leader Hadi al-Bahra told a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

One opposition delegate, one from civil society and two representing the government, tested positive, he said.

Pedersen said further testing in recent days “indicates that the earlier positive cases do not pose any risk,” adding though that “out of an abundance of caution”, the talks would proceed at the UN “only with those who have tested negative.”

He stressed strict precautions would be followed during the talks.

The discussions had been scheduled to wrap up Friday, but Pedersen said the plan now was to extend the talks into Saturday.

He said committee delegates seemed eager to resume dialogue as “a signal of the importance of this process.”

He hailed a “constructive” first meeting on Monday, and said delegates appeared keen to have “substantive discussions” for the remainder of the week.

The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.

Disagreement on the agenda prevented a second round of planned talks from taking place in late November. The pandemic has delayed them ever since.

The United Nations has been striving for more than nine years to nurture a political resolution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than 11 million.


UNESCO In Massive Fundraising Drive For Blast-Hit Beirut


The UN’s culture and education organisation will organise two conferences to seek “considerable” funding for blast-hit Beirut, its director said Thursday in the Lebanese capital.

Audrey Azoulay told AFP during the visit of a school damaged by the colossal August 4 explosion at Beirut port that two events were in the works.

“The first one will be a meeting of the Global Education Coalition dedicated to Lebanon,” she said, referring to a body set up since the COVID-19 pandemic to support remote learning.

“The country absolutely needs to be better prepared on this issue of remote learning,” she said.

According to UNESCO, around 160 schools were destroyed or damaged by the blast, which left more than 180 people dead and devastated entire neighbourhoods of Beirut.

Azoulay said at least 85,000 children were directly affected by the destruction the explosion wreaked in Beirut.

With the start of the new school year theoretically only days away, the explosion compounded a serious crisis the educational system already faced due to Covid-19 and an unprecedented economic crisis.

Azoulay said a preliminary assessment showed $22 million would be needed just to rebuild damaged schools.

She said a second conference would be organised, probably in late September, to raise funds for Beirut’s heritage and the cultural sector.

Azoulay said the aim was to “secure international funding for culture, of the kind that usually comes after reconstruction efforts”.

“It needs to come now,” she said, adding that while estimates were underway, the funding needed would be “considerable”.


How I Was Raped For Years By My Step-Father – Survivor


A rape survivor in Nigeria on Tuesday shared a shocking tale of how she was raped for years by a man she thought was her father.

Fatima Ada Isiaku was first sexually abused at the age of five. Her stepfather started off her nightmare by using his fingers on her.

“At the age of seven, the abuse became worse. I was a sex slave for complete seven years under my mother’s nose without her knowing that I was being abused,” she said during the UN Spotlight Initiative Town Hall on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria.

Her attempts to get help failed as her mother, the person she went to would not believe her.

She endured the abuse and worse for years more, all the while believing her rapist to be her father.

“So, I thought he was my dad; I never knew he was not my dad. It was at the age of 14 that my mum found out (and) she revealed to me that he was not my dad,” she said.

Finding out

After years of trying to convince her mother to believe her, it took another humiliation before the truth came out. Her mother subjected her to a crude virginity test.

After returning home, to the military barracks where they lived at the time, she found herself received coldly by her mom.

“When I came back from school, my younger ones greeted her, I  greeted her; she responded to them but she did not respond to me. She said to me, ‘You stand in the corner’ and she told my younger ones to go inside and not come out. She told me to stand aside.

“So, she poured the water into me and the water went in. She then shouted, ‘So, you are not a virgin?’ 

At that time, at the age of 14, Fatima had not received any sex education and had no clue what the word ‘virgin’ meant.

“I said, ‘so, who is a virgin?’ and she said, ‘a man has been going through you’. And I told her it was my father,” she shared during the show.

It had taken Fatima so long to get her mother to hear and believe her because, according to her, her stepfather did not only make her a sex slave, he successfully ran a campaign to discredit her and turn her mom against her.

An EU, UN Initiative

The Spotlight Initiative is a new, global, multi-year initiative from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).

The Initiative aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG).

According to the United Nations, “violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.”

The Spotlight Initiative aims to bring focused attention to this issue, moving it into the spotlight and placing it at the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

An initial investment in the order of EUR 500 million has been made, with the EU as the main contributor.

UN Expert Urges FBI To Probe Reporter’s Death In South Sudan

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.


Three years on from the killing of US-British journalist Christopher Allen in South Sudan, a UN rights expert on Tuesday urged the FBI to step up and conduct an investigation.

Allen, 26, a freelance reporter, was embedded with rebel fighters and fatally shot in the head during a battle with the South Sudanese army in late August 2017.

“The fact that for three whole years there has been no independent investigation into Mr. Allen’s killing sends a very dangerous signal that journalists and media workers can be targeted with impunity,” said Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

“The governments of South Sudan and the United States can and must take steps to ensure that the circumstances of Mr. Allen’s murder are fully, independently and fearlessly investigated,” she said in a statement.

“The FBI has a duty, both legal and moral, to investigate Mr. Allen’s killing because of well-founded suspicions that war crimes may have been committed by members of South Sudanese forces,” she said.

United Nations experts do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.

South Sudan’s six-year civil war erupted in December 2013, just two years after it obtained independence from Sudan. The war left 380,000 dead and millions displaced.

Callamard said at least 10 other journalists had been killed with impunity during the civil war.

“Mr. Allen’s murder is indicative of the wider climate of hostility towards journalists in the country,” she said.

The rapporteur noted she had written to the South Sudanese authorities on January 30 this year asking about an investigation but had received no response.

Washington said it had raised concerns with the South Sudan government, while London voiced concerns about the lack of an investigation, said Callamard.

She, therefore, urged the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own inquiry.