Dismay As US Formally Starts Pullout From Paris Climate Accord

Photo combination of US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron

 

The United States has formally notified the United Nations that it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, triggering expressions of concern and regret from other major powers on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump went ahead with the pullout despite mounting evidence of the reality and impact of climate change, with September the fourth month in a row with near- or record-breaking temperatures.

Washington presented its withdrawal letter to the UN on the first possible date under the accord negotiated by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, making the world’s largest economy the sole outlier from the agreement.

The US will be officially out on November 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second term on appeals to the white working class.

Announcing the move, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Trump’s rationale in 2017 that the accord would disadvantage US businesses.

“It was America that would suffer the straitjacket,” Pompeo told the Fox Business network. “It would be quintessentially unfair to the American people and to the American workers.”

Pompeo said in a statement that the United States would advocate a “realistic and pragmatic model” that included renewable energy but preserved a role for fossil fuels.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who unsuccessfully tried to persuade Trump to stay in the accord named for his nation’s capital, lamented the decision.

“We regret this and it makes the Franco-Chinese partnership on climate and biodiversity even more necessary,” the French presidency said as Macron visited China, the world’s largest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.

Beijing also expressed “regret” over Washington’s decision ahead of the planned signing Wednesday of a joint document on climate by President Xi Jinping and Macron.

“We hope the US can take more responsibility, and do more to contribute a driving force to the multilateral cooperation process, instead of adding negative energy,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Russia warned that the US withdrawal seriously undermined the Paris accord.

“Without the largest economy in the world, it’s very, very hard to talk about any kind of climate agreement,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The United States, the number-two emitter, is still planning to attend this month’s COP climate negotiations in Spain, according to a State Department official.

 Trump rolls back action

Pompeo in his statement pointed to a 13 percent US reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2017 even as the economy grew.

But Trump, who took office in 2017, has pledged to turn back environmental regulations as states such as California and New York try to take stronger action on their own.

Trump has sought to block California from setting tighter standards on car emissions and moved to let states set their own standards on existing coal-fired power plants.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Trump administration has “once again thumbed its nose at our allies, turned a blind eye to the facts and further politicized the world’s greatest environmental challenge.”

Former vice president-turned-climate champion Al Gore deplored Trump’s decision — but said that a new president could re-enter the Paris accord within 30 days.

“No one person or party can stop our momentum to solve the climate crisis, but those who try will be remembered for their complacency, complicity and mendacity in attempting to sacrifice the planet for their greed,” Gore said.

The Paris accord set a goal of limiting temperature rises to well within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that scientists say is vital to check the worst damage from global warming such as increasing droughts, rising floods and intensifying storms.

Limited diplomatic effect

Contrary to some predictions, Trump’s decision did not trigger a domino effect of withdrawals by countries such as Brazil and Australia.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ideological ally of Trump, has belittled environmentalists but has held off on threats to withdraw from the Paris accord, with the European Union requiring adherence as a condition for a major trade deal.

Trump has cast the climate accord as elitist, saying that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

But a Washington Post poll last month found that even in his own party he faces growing opposition on the issue, with 60 percent of Republicans agreeing with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.

AFP

Military Action Alone Won’t Tackle Insurgency, UN Tells Nigerian Govt

 

The United Nations has advised the Nigerian government to step up its fight against insurgency as military action is not enough to address the situation in the North East.

UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, gave the advice in a statement.

The UN humanitarian chief who visited Nigeria recently said he has watched with growing concern the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Borno State.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s First Female Science Graduate, Deborah Jibowu Dies At 95

He was clear that military and security measures against the insurgents were a necessary and legitimate part of the response led by the government.

He appealed that the military should be cautious in its effort at fighting the insurgents and avoid worsening the condition that the devastated victims had already found themselves in.

Lowcock said, “Military action needs to be proportionate and avoid adding to the plight of civilians, huge numbers of whom have suffered terribly as a result of the actions of the terrorists and insurgents. And military action on its own will not solve this problem.

“It is, therefore, extremely important that the Nigerian Government, including through institutions like the North East Development Commission, is also implementing wider measures to address the root causes of the crisis, relieve humanitarian suffering, and promote stabilisation, recovery, and development. I strongly support these measures.”

 

Hungry Victims?

The UN humanitarian chief thanked the government and others who between 2016 and 2018 made successful efforts to regain control of areas previously ravaged by the insurgents, leading to the return of more than two million displaced people.

He was, however, worried that no fewer than seven million people currently need humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.

Lowcock added that renewed violence, most of it perpetrated by Boko Haram insurgents, has sparked an upsurge in forced displacement in Borno, with more than 140,000 people forced to move in 2019 alone.

He said, “Many farmers have missed multiple planting seasons and more than three million people are food insecure.

“I am glad to have had the opportunity during my visit this week to review the situation with senior figures in the Nigerian government, with the military and other authorities in Borno, with international, national and local NGOs, and others.”

The UN humanitarian chief insisted that NGOs – through their rich networks and capacity to reach people, and their expertise and experience in operating at the community level – have a very important role to play in the fight against insurgency.

He pointed out that the UN and humanitarian partners have supported the humanitarian response in the North East since the beginning of the crisis and have so far provided critical and life-saving assistance to more than 3.8 million people in 2019.

 

Groups Resume Operation

Lowcock said they have been operating in the most challenging circumstances such that a total of 38 UN and NGO workers, most of them Nigerian, have been killed since 2011.

He added that 10 aid workers have died as a result of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other criminal groups in the past 18 months while six others were still missing.

The UN humanitarian chief stressed that all humanitarian organisations working in Nigeria which receive support from the international community have operated in full compliance with international standards, including counter-terrorism related conditions, national laws, and humanitarian principles.

He explained that operating in such a manner was that not only a matter of principle but was required as a practical condition of funding from the major donors.

“It is important to recognise that all the international NGOs working in the North East are authorised to do so through the government registration process and local approvals from the relevant authorities.

“I have received assurances from the relevant authorities that the suspension of the activities of Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger announced in September will be lifted in the next few days,” he confirmed.

Lowcock believes this will allow an immediate resumption of life-saving assistance to nearly 400,000 people who have been without food and other essential help for the last month.

He said the government also planned in the next fortnight to bring together all the relevant stakeholders, including the UN and NGOs, to discuss the shared challenges in Borno.

“I greatly welcome all this. Enhanced dialogue between the Government and the international community, including international NGOs, in pursuit of the shared goals of bringing peace, promoting recovery, and assisting and protecting innocent civilians in the north-east who have been the main victims of the conflict is in everyone’s interest.

“The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, and his team based in Nigeria remain at the disposal of the Government and others in support of those goals,” Lowcock added.

First Let Me Take A Selfie, El Salvador’s President Tells UN

 

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, whose social media savvy helped win him power earlier this year, took a selfie before his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly, which he called “obsolete” and suggested scrapping.

In a dark suit and no tie, his hair slicked back in his signature style, the 38-year-old thanked the other leaders present and said he especially wanted to greet his wife and baby daughter sitting in the gallery.

“If you’ll just bear with me a second,” he then added, pulling out his iPhone 11, lifting it up to his grinning face and snapping a photo he later posted on Twitter to his 1.1 million followers.

“Believe me, many more people will see that selfie when I share it than will listen to this speech — I hope I took a good one.”

“A couple of images on Instagram can have more impact than any speech delivered in this assembly,” he said, quipping that the annual summit of the world’s leaders could be done by video-conference.

The conservative businessman and former mayor of the capital San Salvador was sworn into office in June in the small Central American country of 6.6 million people, tasked with turning around grinding poverty and rampant gang violence that are sending thousands fleeing to the United States.

He traded on his telegenic looks and promises of a break with the past, but critics have called him light on policy and substance.

Trump bromance

On Wednesday, he held his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, a fellow prolific social media user and self-styled iconoclast whom Bukele has aggressively courted — a contrast with his predecessor Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a leftist former guerrilla.

The two countries reached an agreement last week to curb illegal migration that opens the door for the United States to send refugees back to the violent Central American country, a move slammed by migrant rights advocates.

“For us, the United States is not only a partner and an ally, but also a friend,” Bukele told reporters after that meeting.

“We’re hoping that this meeting will only strengthen our relationship even more, and I think it will because, you know, President Trump is very nice and cool, and I’m nice and cool, too. We both use Twitter a lot, so, you know, we’ll get along.”

Talking to journalists on Thursday after his speech, he defended his show of bonhomie with the US leader.

“Someone made fun of the fact that I joked with Trump. Did they want me to come fight with him — or for me put on a cranky face or something?”

On the controversial migration agreement, he appeared to agree that those Salvadorans fleeing to the US were involved in gangs.

“We’ve supported our natural and biggest ally,” he said. “We’ve caught human traffickers, we’ve seized their money, their arms, false documents.”

“El Salvador has to propose a positive migration, academic migration, business migration, work migration, not those with false documents or drugs.”

India Planning ‘Bloodbath’ In Kashmir, Pakistan’s Khan Tells UN

 

India is planning a “bloodbath” in Kashmir, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

The Indian-controlled part of the disputed territory has been under lockdown since New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, and Khan said armed forces there would turn on the population after the curfew was lifted.

“There are 900,000 troops there, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” he said.

Over 1,400 Killed By Gunmen Within Six Months In Nigeria – UN

Chief Imam’s Son, Two Others Kidnapped In Ogun Community

The United Nations on Tuesday lamented over the spate of killings in Nigeria noting that over 1,400 people have been killed as a result of kidnapping and banditry within a period of six months.

The UN Country Director, Edward Kallon disclosed this in Makurdi, the Benue state capital at a meeting with Governor Samuel Ortom, noting that killings by armed herdsmen and bandits outweigh killings by the Book Haram terrorist in the country.

“Pockets of conflicts and insecurity in the country at large especially where I am today (Benue), the herders and farmers crisis and also kidnapping and banditry. This is now really getting out of hand.

READ ALSO: Abducted OSUSTECH Professor Found Dead

“The last statistics I saw from the government was that over 1,400 people were killed as a result of kidnapping and banditry since the elections.

“This is not a pleasant statistics,” he said.

Kallon also claimed that institutional failure at all levels of governance is responsible for the killing of over 1,400 persons since March 2019, particularly by armed herdsmen, bandits, and kidnappings.

He, therefore, called on the government to pay attention to issues of insecurity.

“We all know the statistics and the menace of herders/farmers problems. There were more people killed by the herders and farmers crisis than the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria.

“When I said this in Abuja, it was not being welcomed but that was one statistics we have.  These are all due to weak institutions and governance deficit at the Federal, state and local level,” Kallon said.

Governor Samuel Ortom at the event claimed that those responsible for fashioning out a solution to herdsmen attacks choose to politicise the issue.

According to him, adopting the position of the National Economic Council which recommended ranching is the best solution to animal husbandry.

Kallon is in Benue state to follow up on earlier commitment by the UN to support the rehabilitation and resettlements programme for victims of herdsmen attacks in the state.

After signing the visitor’s register at the end of the meeting, the UN delegation moves to Gbajimba in Guma local council to take possession of the land donated to them by the state government for the rehabilitation projects to ensure these IDPs are properly reintegrated back to the society.

UN Appoints New HIV/AIDS Chief After Controversy

 

 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed a new HIV/AIDS chief on Wednesday after the previous incumbent left accused of serious mismanagement.

Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima of Uganda will lead UNAIDS, a spokesperson for Guterres said in a statement.

She succeeds Michel Sidibe who stepped down in May after he was accused of creating “a patriarchal culture tolerating harassment and abuse of authority.”

An Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report commissioned by UNAIDS’s governing body said the agency’s culture under Sidibe also failed “to uphold the United Nations’ laws and values.”

Sidibe left UNAIDS after a decade-long tenure to become Mali’s health minister.

Guterres continued to praise Sidibe despite his being reprimanded for mishandling a sexual assault investigation involving one of his top deputies.

Sidibe’s divisive era led AIDS experts to voice concern over the future of the UN body, which UNAIDS leads a global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

In the statement announcing Byanyima’s appointment, Guterres said she “brings a wealth of experience and commitment in harnessing the power of government, multilateral agencies, the private sector and civil society to end the HIV and AIDS crisis for communities around the world.”

Byanyima, 60, said she was “honored” to be joining UNAIDS “at such a critical time in the response to HIV.”

AIDS-related illnesses have killed 35 million people since the first cases were reported more than 35 years ago.

AFP

1,800 Dead As Malaria ‘Epidemic’ Rages In Burundi – UN

Malaria has killed more than 1,800 people in Burundi this year, the UN’s humanitarian agency says, a death toll rivaling a deadly Ebola outbreak in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

In its latest situation report, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 5.7 million cases of malaria had been recorded in Burundi in 2019 — a figure roughly equal to half its entire population.

Of those cases, a total of 1,801 died from the mosquito-born disease in Burundi between January 1 and July 21, OCHA said.

READ ALSO: 148 Arrested In Hong Kong During Monday’s Protests – Police

The tiny country of 11 million people in the African Great Lakes region has still not declared a national emergency, despite OCHA saying the outbreak crossed “epidemic proportions” in May.

“The national malaria outbreak response plan, which is currently being validated, has highlighted a lack of human, logistical and financial resources for effective response,” OCHA said in its latest weekly bulletin on humanitarian emergencies.

“All stakeholders, including the national authorities and partners are called upon to provide the requisite resources to mount a robust response to this event before it escalates.”

A lack of preventative measures like mosquito nets, climatic changes and increased movements of people from mountain areas with low immunity to malaria were driving the crisis, OCHA said.

‘Many crises’

An OCHA official told AFP that “the decision to declare an epidemic is the sovereignty of the Burundian state”.

The country declared a malaria epidemic in March 2017, when the country had recorded 1.8 million cases and 700 deaths, but was resisting doing the same now.

A senior government official, who declined to be named, said the government did not want to admit weakness with elections set for 2020.

“We are less than a year away from the presidential election. (President Pierre) Nkurunziza, who is facing many crises, does not want to recognise what could be considered a failure of his health policy,” the official told AFP.

Burundi has been in crisis since 2015, when Nkurunziza ran for a third term and was re-elected in elections boycotted by most of the opposition.

At least 1,200 people were killed and more than 400,000 displaced in violence the UN says was mostly carried out by state security forces.

Nkurunziza announced in 2018 that he would not stand again, confounding critics who accused him of working to extend his grip on power.

UN investigators said in July that “drastic” steps were needed to boost democratic freedoms in Burundi if the government wanted the elections to be considered credible.

Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the region, abuts DR Congo, where the second-worst Ebola outbreak in history has killed more than 1,800 people amid fears the infectious fever could spread beyond its borders.

But malaria is a much bigger killer on the continent.

The World Health Organization recorded nearly 220 million cases of the parasitic illness in 2017, with an estimated 435,000 deaths. More than 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths were in Africa.

AFP

Conflict, Climate Change Enable ‘Human Trafficking To Flourish’, Says UN Chief

 

 

To mark the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed that “human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects every region of the world” – especially women and children.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), some 72 per cent of detected victims are women and girls, and the percentage of child victims has more than doubled from 2004 to 2016.

“Most detected victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation; victims are also trafficked for forced labour, recruitment as child soldiers and other forms of exploitation and abuse”, Mr. Guterres said in his message on the Day, marked annually on 30 July.

Many of those falling prey to traffickers are migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers who have left their country of origin for various reasons.

Pointing to armed conflict, displacement, climate change, natural disasters and poverty as factors that “exacerbate the vulnerabilities and desperation that enable trafficking to flourish”, the UN chief emphasized that “migrants are being targeted”.

“Thousands of people have died at sea, in deserts and in detention centres, at the hands of traffickers and migrant smugglers plying their monstrous, merciless trades”, he continued.

Mr. Guterres also spotlighted the “everyday indifference to abuse and exploitation around us”, mentioning that “from construction to food production to consumer goods, countless businesses and enterprises benefit from the misery”.

Speaking on the need to step up protection for the most vulnerable, Mr. Guterres added that most countries have the necessary laws in place, but “more needs to be done to bring transnational trafficking networks to justice and, most of all, to ensure that victims are identified and can access the protection and services they need”.

“On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to stop criminals from ruthlessly exploiting people for profit and to help victims rebuild their lives”, concluded the Secretary-General.

“Profound changes are needed in States’ approaches to migration and trafficking”, said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, in a statement marking the Day, stressing that “restrictive and xenophobic migration polices and the criminalisation of migrants, as well as of NGOs and individuals providing humanitarian aid, are incompatible with effective action against human trafficking”.

Presenting social inclusion as the “only and right answer” to exploitation and trafficking, Ms. Giammarinaro argued that “politicians fuelling hatred, building walls, condoning the detention of children and preventing vulnerable migrants from entering their territories are working against the interests of their own countries”.

Highlighting that what is needed is “safe, orderly and regular migration”, Ms. Giammarinaro asserted that making provision for the social integration of migrants is “crucial also for victims of trafficking, including women suffering discrimination, gender-based violence and exploitation, and children subjected to abuse during their journey, especially when travelling alone”.

Solidarity and friendly social environment needed during recovery process
The Special Rapporteur added that survivors of trafficking need “solidarity and a friendly social environment to regain control of their lives”, flagging the need for financial resources during that process.

“Access to remedies is not limited to compensation”, she continued, “but it also encompasses restitution, which implies the reuniting of families and the restoration of employment for victims, as well as guarantees of non-repetition”.

Ms. Giammarinaro urged all States to “remove obstacles hampering access to justice for victims by giving residency status to people who have been trafficked, and by ensuring they are not detained or prosecuted for illegal activities they may have been involved in as a result of being trafficked”.

The UN expert added that the empowerment process for survivors of trafficking should include education and training, “opening new paths to help them acquire new skills and equipping them for job opportunities”.

“I believe that effectively including survivors in society and valuing their potential, skills and expertise can give them an opportunity to rebuild and change their lives, prevent re-trafficking and actively contribute to the dismantling of criminal networks”, she concluded.

UN Special Rapporteurs serve in their individual capacity, independent from any government of organization.

Focus on protecting migrants

Also marking the day, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued a statement from the United Nations Network on Migration calling on the international community to accelarate its efforts to stop human trafficking and to protect those who fall victim to traffickers.

Reiterating that migrats are particulary vulnerable, the statement stressed that “countries need to urgently adopt holistic, human rights-based approaches to counter-trafficking which place migrants and their protection at the centre”.

Globally, countries are identifying and reporting more victims and convicting more traffickers, according to the latest UN Global Report on Trafficking in Persons. Despite some progress, however, “victims continue to face significant obstacles in accessing assistance, protection, redress and justice”, the statement added.

New UN Report Shows Alarming Record Number Of Children Killed, Maimed In Conflict

 

A new UN report has found that 2018 was the worst year on record for children caught up in armed conflict; the year saw the highest numbers killed or maimed since the United Nations began monitoring the violation.

In the 20 conflict situations monitored in the 2018 edition of the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, released Tuesday, more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed that year.

A ‘disheartened’ Secretary-General António Guterres said that he was “particularly appalled” by the unprecedented numbers of grave violations committed against children.

Children continue to be used in combat, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria: some 7,000 have been drawn into frontline fighting roles around the world, during 2018. They also continue to be abducted, to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence: more than half of the 2,500 reported cases were in Somalia.

Some 933 cases of sexual violence against boys and girls were reported, but this is believed to be an under-estimate, due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals.

Attacks on schools and hospitals have decreased overall, but have intensified in some conflict situations, such as Afghanistan and Syria, which has seen the highest number of such attacks since the beginning of the conflict in the country.

Mali provides the most serious example of children being deprived of access to education, and the military use of schools: 827 schools in Mali closed at the end of December 2018, denying some 244,00 children access to education.

“It is immensely sad that children continue to be disproportionately affected by armed conflict, and it is horrific to see them killed and maimed as a result of hostilities”, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba. “Parties to conflict must protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations”.

Detention and release of children involved in conflict

Rather than being seen as victims of recruitment, thousands of children around the world were detained for their actual or alleged association with armed groups in 2018: in Syria and Iraq, the majority of children deprived of their liberty are under the age of five.

The report calls on nations to work with the UN to help relocate foreign children and women actually or allegedly affiliated with extremist groups, with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.

The number of children benefiting from release and reintegration support, however, rose in 2018 to 13,600 (up from 12,000 in 2017). The report recommends increased resources and funding to meet the growing needs, as more children are separated from armed groups.

Peace remains the best protection for children affected by armed conflict António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

Three Action Plans to end and prevent violations, and protect children, have been signed, following engagement with parties to conflicts in 2018. The countries involved were the Central African Republic, where two armed groups signed up to Action Plans; and Syria, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) agreed to a deal.

Progress on increased child protection, and ending child recruitment, has also been made in Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In his statement, the Secretary-General reminded all parties to conflict of their responsibility to protect children, adding that they must “refrain from directing attacks against civilians, including children”, and reiterating that “peace remains the best protection for children affected by armed conflict”.

At Least 28 Killed As Afghan Bus Hits ‘Taliban’ Bomb

An injured Afghan man is transported on a stretcher after being injured when a bus hit a roadside bomb on the Kandahar-Herat highway, at a hospital in Herat on July 31, 2019. PHOTO: HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP

 

Dozens of passengers, mainly women, and children, were killed in western Afghanistan early Wednesday when the bus they were travelling in hit a roadside bomb, officials said.

The attack, which came one day after the United Nations said Afghan civilians are being killed and wounded at a “shocking” level and as the country gears up for presidential elections, occurred around 6:00 am (0130 GMT), authorities said.

“A passenger bus travelling on the Kandahar-Herat highway hit a Taliban roadside bomb. So far at least 28 killed, 10 wounded,” said Muhibullah Muhib, the spokesman for Farah province.

All were civilians, mostly women and children, he said.

Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan presidency, put the toll slightly higher at 34 killed and 17 wounded, also blaming it on the Taliban.

There was no immediate confirmation from the insurgents that they were behind the blast.

The group, which has resurged since its regime was toppled by the US invasion in 2001, made a vague pledge this month to reduce civilian casualties.

Civilians have long paid a disproportionate price in the nearly 18 years since the US invaded Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the UN released a report showing that casualties have dropped 27 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year, which was a record — but nonetheless 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 injured.

Child casualties represented almost a third of the overall total of civilian casualties.

The UN also said that US and pro-government forces caused more civilian deaths than the Taliban and other insurgent groups for the second quarter running.

It branded efforts to reduce the violence “insufficient”.

The bloodshed is expected to intensify now that official campaigning for Afghanistan’s presidential election, set for September 28, is underway.

At least 20 people were killed on Sunday, the first official day of the campaign, and 50 wounded when a suicide attacker and gunmen targeted the Kabul office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate, Amrullah Saleh.

There are also doubts the election will happen at all, with lingering questions about whether Afghanistan should hold a key poll amid a months-long, US-led push to forge a peace deal with the Taliban.

This week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump wants to begin withdrawing troops before the vote, though he emphasised in comments to reporters Tuesday that there is “no deadline”.

But the push has ignited widespread concern among Afghans that in Washington’s rush to exit its longest war the Taliban will be returned to some semblance of power.

AFP

UN Calls For Stronger ‘Global Response’ To Terrorism, Organized Crime

 

The UN Security Council called Friday for a better-coordinated “global response” to international terrorism and organized crime by working together to identify and eliminate such threats.

The council unanimously adopted the Peru-drafted resolution, which calls for increased cross-border collaboration in efforts to investigate and dismantle the links between terrorist groups and organized crime networks.

The resolution asks states to “enhance coordination of efforts at all levels in order to strengthen a global response to linkages between international terrorism and organized crime, whether domestic or transnational.”

The nature and scope of such linkages could be better understood by combining research, the resolution explained, adding that states should “accelerate the timely exchange of relevant operational information and financial intelligence” regarding terrorist networks’ actions.

Additionally, financial intelligence could help states better understand the “nature and scope” of potential links between terrorism and organized crime.

READ ALSO: One Dead, 14 Wounded In Clash Near DR Congo Gorilla Sanctuary

The resolution also called for states to “investigate, disrupt and dismantle organized crime networks” in accordance with national legislation regarding money laundering, corruption and bribery in addition to terrorism.

While speaking, Russia urged its allies in the Security Council not to politicize the question of links between organized crime and terrorism, though without specifying why.

The country emphasized that the work must continue after the resolution’s first steps had been taken.

This is not the Council’s first attempt at cracking down on international terrorism. In March, it ordered countries worldwide to step up the fight against terrorism financing by ensuring they have laws that make it a serious crime to fund terrorist acts.

AFP

UN Condemns Attack On Aid Workers In Borno

 

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria Edward Kalon has reacted to the attack on aid workers in Northern Borno.

Country Director of Action Against Hunger, Shashwat Saraf had earlier said that a vehicle belonging to the organisation was ambushed by an Armed Group 15 kilometers away from Damasak town, with some of the occupants reportedly abducted.

The UN Coordinator, Mr Kalon, in a statement issued on Friday, said he was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the reports and is concerned about their safety.

“I am deeply disturbed by reports of an incident involving aid workers from International NGOs in northern Borno State. As details are still coming in and information has yet to be confirmed, the humanitarian community in Nigeria is concerned about the safety of our ACF colleague, partners, and contractors involved in the attack against an aid convoy reported on 18 July on the Gubio-Damasak road.” The statement read.

The statement further added: “They devote their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence. I call on all who may have the influence to do everything they can to keep them unharmed and work towards their safe return.”

RELATED: One Dead, Six Missing After Attack On Aid Workers In Borno

Mr Kalon pleaded with the public to refrain from sharing any unconfirmed information, as according to him, the spread of misinformation may put the concerned aid workers at risk and jeopardise their way back to safety.

“This attack occurs only a couple weeks before the ongoing crisis affecting the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe enter its tenth year. Today, 7.1 million people still need humanitarian assistance. Violence, insecurity, and inaccessibility to remote areas of Borno State continue to hamper the response to urgent needs.

“These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services. All parties should protect and facilitate the delivery of aid. Despite constraints, the humanitarian community remains committed to doing its utmost to provide lifesaving assistance and help the people in north-east Nigeria rebuild their lives.” Kalon stated.