10 Confirmed Killed In Boko Haram’s Latest Attack On Damasak

 

Ten civilians have been confirmed killed in Tuesday night’s attack on Damasak, the headquarters of the Mobbar Local Government of Borno State.

This is according to the Chairman of the local government, Mustapha Bako Kolo.

An unspecified number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were also injured during the attack, according to Kolo.

Although sources say fighters of the Islamic State West Africa Province met stiff resistance from the Nigerian Army who were supported by the Airforce, the encounter left many civilians injured.

According to sources, the terror group stormed the area in over a dozen gun trucks and could be seen heading towards the Army base in Damasak, as residents were forced to flee for safety.

Last night’s attack on Damasak is the second within the week.

The insurgents had shared a video of their weekend attack on Damasak town during which they burnt UN buildings and food storehouses.

As of the time of filing this report, an official statement from the military was yet to be released.

READ ALSO: Damasak Attack: Civilians, Aid Workers Should Not Be Targets For Terrorists – UN

Nigeria’s military has struggled to end a jihadist insurgency in the northeast for more than a decade, with two million people displaced from the homes by fighting.

The latest attack prompted residents to flee towards the border.

“The locals are currently relocating to Niger Republic due to state of insecurity in the town,” said the military officer, who asked not to be identified.

Many residents had fled the town towards the regional capital Maiduguri or into the town of Diffa across the Niger border following three previous attacks, but other residents decided to stay back.

On Wednesday, residents who remained left the town across the border when militants in several trucks fitted with machine guns engaged troops in a fight outside the military base in an attempt to overrun it.

“This is the situation we found ourselves again, as you can see now we are going to take refuge in another country that is not even our own,” a resident said in a video clip sent to AFP by sources.

In the recording, hundreds of residents are seen on foot and on donkeys moving along a winding bush path with personal effects.

Jihadist warning

The fleeing residents wanted to seek refuge in nearby Gamari village across the border but were told that the jihadists had warned the villagers not to host anyone from Damasak.

“The insurgents went to Gamari last night (Tuesday) and gathered the people and warned them not to accept any humanitarian aid from NGOs and not to accommodate anyone from Damasak,” said another Damasak resident.

“The only option left to us is to go to Diffa where most of our kinsmen fled to in the past two days,” the resident said.

Meanwhile, fighting between the jihadists and troops was continuing around the base, said the resident and the military officer.

The insurgents had attacked the town on Saturday and Tuesday, causing the destruction of humanitarian facilities and at least four deaths, including a soldier.

Late on Tuesday, the jihadists stormed Damasak, burning a divisional police station after a failed attempt to raid the base, residents and military sources said.

Damasak has repeatedly been targeted by ISWAP militants who have made several failed attempts to overrun a military outpost outside the town.

ISWAP, which split from the jihadist group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping passengers at fake checkpoints.

Nigeria’s 12-year-old jihadist conflict has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million more to flee their homes to escape fighting.

Terrorists Attack United Nations Hub In Borno

Borno is situated in northeast Nigeria.
A map of Borno, a state in north-east Nigeria.

 

Islamic State-linked jihadists in Nigeria attacked humanitarian facilities in the restive northeastern town of Damasak, aid workers told AFP on Saturday.

The attack, ongoing late on Saturday, is the second in two months affecting one of the United Nations nine hubs in the country.

Fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) stormed Damasak, in Borno state, setting fire to facilities of international aid organisations.

“ISWAP fighters are still inside Damasak, moving on the streets, firing guns and setting humanitarian facilities on fire,” said an aid worker who asked not to be identified.

The UN hub was gutted after fire set on the nearby office of an international charity spread to the UN facility, said a second aid worker.

The offices of three other international NGOs were also burnt by the insurgents who took over the town, the second aid worker added.

Ongoing fire burning in the vicinity of an NGO warehouse has escalated into humanitarian hub facilities, read a UN memo seen by AFP.

A military source confirmed the Saturday attack on Damasak but said militants failed to overrun the town.

“They came through the town towards the Brigade but they were repelled,” the military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity, without providing details.

Some residents were reported to be fleeing from the town towards neighbouring Niger.

Damasak has repeatedly been targeted by ISWAP militants who have made several failed attempts to overrun a military outpost outside the town.

ISWAP, which split from the jihadist group Boko Haram in 2016, has become a dominant threat in Nigeria, attacking soldiers and bases while killing and kidnapping passengers at bogus checkpoints.

On March 1, ISWAP jihadists overran a UN hub in Dikwa, killing six civilians and forcing aid workers to temporarily retreat from the town despite urgent humanitarian needs.

Due to worsening security, humanitarian workers in Nigeria are struggling to provide aid, with the number of people requiring urgent assistance forecast to rise to 8.7 million this year.

President Muhammadu Buhari reshuffled the military command this year, raising hopes of a shift in strategy to end a 12-year-old conflict that has killed 36,000 people and forced around two million to flee their homes.

At Least 40 Dead In Fighting In Sudan’s Darfur – UN

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.

 

At least 40 people have been killed and 58 injured in three days of clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur state, the United Nations said Monday.

“Since April 3, 40 people have been killed,” the UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA said in a statement.

It said the clashes pitted Arab groups against the non-Arab Massalit ethnic community in the city of El Geneina, where the situation remained “tense”.

After clashes at the weekend, residents of El Geneina, capital of West Darfur and close to the border with Chad, said gunfire erupted in the city at dawn on Monday, with shells exploding in the suburbs.

Plumes of smoke rose high into the sky as people fled the violence, witnesses reported.

“On Monday, we woke up to the sound of gunfire,” Abdelrahman Ahmed, an eyewitness, told AFP. Clashes “spread to the western suburbs”.

It is unclear what sparked the latest violence.

– Women and children fleeing –
The vast Darfur region was ravaged by a civil war that erupted in 2003, leaving around 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, according to the UN.

The conflict has subsided over the years, and the latest in a string of peace deals was agreed in October.

But clashes still erupt, often over land and access to water.

Eyewitnesses said fighting still raged on Monday afternoon, as thick smoke billowed over El Geneina.

“We stayed in our homes, but we’ve been hearing gunfire close by — a shell landed at our neighbour’s home,” said Adam Issa, another resident.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Millions Mark Easter As Pope Urges Jabs For Poor

The West Darfur Doctors’ Committee said an ambulance carrying wounded victims was attacked.

After years of conflict, the region is awash with automatic weapons.

Clashes often pit nomadic Arab pastoralists against settled farmers from non-Arab ethnic groups.

“I live in the eastern part of the city, and I am seeing a cloud of smoke covering the western, southern and southwestern districts,” said Saleh Issa, another El Geneina resident.

“Some residents from these neighbourhoods have fled towards our area — most of are women and children,” he added.

Sudan is in the midst of a rocky transitional period following the toppling of long-time president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 off the back of mass protests against his rule.

The transitional government has pushed to build peace with rebel groups in Sudan’s main conflict zones, including Darfur.

On December 31, the UN and African Union ended a 13-year peacekeeping mission in Darfur, even as residents feared further violence.

More than 200 people were killed in clashes in January, in some of the worst bloodshed the region had witnessed in years.

AFP

Yemen Receives First COVID-19 Vaccines – UN

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.

 

War-torn Yemen received the first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, the UN children’s agency said, a week after the country’s coronavirus committee warned of a public health “emergency”.

The AstraZeneca doses arrived in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen’s de facto capital, where the internationally recognised government is based after being routed from Sanaa in the north by Huthi rebels in 2014.

“Yemen received 360,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses shipped via the Covax facility,” UNICEF said in a statement, referring to the World Health Organization-backed global scheme to provide jabs to countries in need.

“This first batch is part of 1.9 million doses that Yemen will initially receive throughout 2021,” it added.

Last week Yemen’s coronavirus committee urged the government to declare a public health “state of emergency” amid a surge in infections.

It called for the implementation of a “partial curfew” and for the closure of wedding halls, shopping centres and mosques outside of prayer times.

READ ALSO: Biden To Unveil $2 Trillion ‘Once-In-A-Century’ Infrastructure Plan

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has also warned the number of critically Covid-19 patients was rising across the country, urging assistance from donor countries and specialised groups.

MSF is “seeing a dramatic influx of critically ill Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalisation in Aden, Yemen, and many other parts of the country,” the medical charity said.

“We are urging all medical humanitarian organisations already present in Yemen to rapidly scale up their Covid-19 emergency response,” said Raphael Veicht, MSF head of mission in the country.

– ‘Game changer’ –

Yemen has officially recorded more than 4,000 virus cases among its 30 million people, including 863 deaths — but experts say the real toll is likely higher.

“The arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine doses is a critical moment for Yemen,” Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF representative to Yemen, said Wednesday.

“As Covid-19 continues to claim lives around the world, Yemen now has the capacity to protect those most at risk, including health workers, so that they can safely continue to provide life-saving interventions for children and families.”

The country has been mired in a disastrous war for over six years which has left it on the brink of famine. Its healthcare system is in ruins.

Adham Ismail, WHO representative in Yemen, said the vaccine shipment was a significant step forward.

“It will help save lives, including of those at highest risk of serious disease, and will help protect the health system,” Ismail said.

“These safe and effective vaccines will be a game changer, but for the foreseeable future we must continue wearing masks, physically distance and avoid crowds.”

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to shore up the government, and since then the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, and displaced millions.

The United Nations calls the situation there the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

AFP

UN Announces Winners Of 2020 SDG Action Awards

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 Nations on Thursday announced the winners of its 2020 SDG Awards at a ceremony in Bonn, Germany, which highlighted nine inspiring finalist initiatives, a press release from the global agency said.

The Awards, a signature programme of the UN SDG Action Campaign, seeks to highlight initiatives that Mobilize, Inspire and Connect, three categories that can help spur citizen engagement and affect positive change.

Marina Ponti, Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, noted in her welcoming speech that not even the current health crisis could hold these initiatives back.

“They show how they’ve turned things around using creativity, data, communication and accountability,” Ponti said. “And – more importantly – through pride, passion and perseverance.”

The Awards recognize individuals and organizations who take action while building coalitions across communities, as well as those who shift behaviours and policies towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and those who increase progress on the Goals whilst strengthening dialogue and trust between people and institutions at all levels.

The open call for submission received over 2,000 initiatives submitted to the three application categories from 140+ countries. Leading up to the live ceremony, 21 judges from across sectors and countries reviewed the entries submitted, assessing overall impact and approach, and gauging the potential for the initiatives to be replicated and scaled up.

Lysa John, Secretary General of CIVICUS, presented the award in the Mobilize category to The Sexual Harassment Project represented by Funmi Ayeni. By targeting policy makers and mobilizing students, the project empowers students – the most vulnerable group impacted by campus sexual harassment in Nigeria – to take action. Having lobbied legislators to push a sexual harassment bill, the initiative has the potential for broader, sustainable and long-lasting impact.

Immersive Production Specialist and MY World 360° Creator, Charles Muchiri presented the Inspire Award to Signs TV, an initiative which advocates for inclusive communication while building cultural bridges and removing barriers. Not only is Signs TV on the forefront of supplying sign interpretation, but 60% of their staff consists of persons with disabilities, which ensures that everything they do is inclusive.

Ambassador Giorgio Marrapodi, Director General for Development and Cooperation with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handed out the Connect award to Dune Ives of NextWave Plastics. By creating the first ever global network targeting multinational supply chains to keep plastic out of the ocean, the initiative’s members have prevented 1,300+ metric tons of plastic from entering the ocean in just two years.

Award finalists were also given special attention, having demonstrated their innovative approach to scale up action for the Sustainable Development Goals.

– El Avispero – a digital platform that has brought 2 million people together through a digital citizen action and crowdsourcing platform, to build a more peaceful, active, diverse and sustainable Colombia

– From Syria, EntrePioneers 2030 connects and mentor young Syrians in their home country and abroad to rebuild better

– Rap2Rep, harnesses the power of music as a tool for social change in Liberia

– Targeting SDG5, Equal Measures 2030 provides data and evidence in connecting feminist organizations to end systematic discrimination against women and girls

– Organized by the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development (ASviS), The Sustainable Development Festival brings together millions of people to connect, discuss and contribute to the Goals

– The Fight Forever Chemicals Campaign converges an impact campaign with a narrative feature film to unveil an unseen health crisis and aims to enact policy change and mobilize the conscious consumer.

Efforts that were driven by – or related to – UN agencies were not eligible to compete for the Awards but were given Honourable mentions. They included: Youth Climate Report, Samsung Global Goals App, Be The One Campaign, and Change the Sequence.

In his closing remarks Dr. Ingolf Dietrich, Commissioner for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), stated that “looking ahead we need a new paradigm to recover forward better.

Guided by the 2030 Agenda, this paradigm recognizes the current situation as an opportunity to kick-start a transition from crisis to sustainable transformation.”

The UN SDG Action Awards highlight the inspiring and transformative initiatives which do just that.

About the SDG Action Campaign

The United Nations Secretary-General established the UN SDG Action Campaign to bring people together from every part of the world to act on the SDGs and to hold decision-makers to account for progress. Through compelling and creative SDG outreach and communications, the Campaign serves UN Member States and the United Nations whilst bridging thinkers and doers from civil society, local governments, think tanks, the arts and culture, the media and the business world. It mobilizes individuals to champion the SDGs in homes, communities and beyond. Through tailored advocacy and communications, they build powerful networks that reach millions worldwide, urge decision-makers to act and impel momentum.

Boom In Innovation For Overcoming Disabilities – UN

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.

 

Innovations aimed at helping people overcome mobility, sight and other disabilities have exploded in recent years, and are becoming ever more integrated in regular consumer goods, the United Nations said Tuesday.

More than one billion people worldwide currently need technology-based assistance to overcome a disability — a figure expected to double in the next decade as populations age, UN data shows.

Meanwhile, only one in 10 people globally currently have access to the assistive products they need.

To meet the growing demand, innovations in new assistive products have shown double-digit growth in recent years, according to a fresh report from UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization.

“People living with impairments have long relied on new technologies for increased independence and fuller interaction with their world,” WIPO chief Daren Tang said in the foreword to the report.

“From the invention of the crutch in ancient Egypt through the simple prosthetics of the Middle Ages to our latter-day Braille tablets, we are now on the cusp of a future where autonomous wheelchairs, mind-controlled hearing aids and wearables monitoring health and emotion alleviate the impact of human limitations.”

– ‘Mass use’ –

A key finding in the report, he said, is “the evolution toward mass use of assistive tech.”

Using patent and other data, the report found that more than 130,000 patents were filed for conventional and emerging assistive technologies between 1998 and 2020.

More than 15,500 of those filings were for so-called emerging assistive technologies, like assistive robots, smart home applications, wearables for visually impaired people and smart glasses.

That was eight times fewer than the 117,000-plus patents filed for conventional technologies for well-established products like wheelchair seats or Braille-enabled devices.

READ ALSO: Germany To Enter Strict Easter Shutdown Amid ‘New Pandemic’

But WIPO pointed out that filings for new assistive technologies were growing 17 percent on average each year — three times faster than the growth rate for conventional technology filings.

The report found that China, the United States, Germany, Japan and South Korea were the countries where most innovation in assistive technology was taking place.

Universities and public research organisations are the most prominent when it comes to filing patent applications for emerging assistive technologies.

WIPO experts hailed how assistive technologies were rapidly converging with mainstream consumer electronics, paving the way for a greater commercialisation and lower prices.

– Going mainstream –

Marco Aleman, a WIPO assistant director general who leads the agency’s IP and Innovation Ecosystems Sector, pointed to the swelling interest in enabling technologies like brain-machine interfaces.

As a result, big tech companies, like IBM, Google and Microsoft, and consumer product companies like Samsung and Panasonic were eagerly entering a market once dominated by specialised assistive technology companies, like WS Audiology and Second Sight.

“This creates a condition for a very healthy competition environment, in which we should see the positive impact of that competition into market prices and on the availability of those products,” Aleman told reporters.

The WIPO experts stressed that policies and regulations would be needed to ensure that assistive technologies become more widely available to those who need them.

But the market was also playing an important role in improving access, they said, pointing to the positive impact of technologies developed for persons with functional limitations increasingly being applied to mainstream products.

Bone conduction technology that can assist with hearing impairment can for instance also be used in runners’ headsets.

Devices with brain-machine interface or eye movement recognition that help people with cerebral palsy can also for example be used in gaming and communications applications.

“Something that was considered to be a niche area and a specialised product with a very high price starts going down,” Irene Kitsara, an industrial property expert, told reporters.

“This has a benefit for all end-users.”

AFP

200 Peaceful Protesters Cordoned By Myanmar Security Forces – UN

Protesters hold homemade shields during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 8, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

The United Nations said Monday that Myanmar security forces had cordoned some 200 peaceful protesters in Yangon, voicing concern about their safety and demanding they be allowed to leave.

“We are deeply concerned about the fate of some 200 peaceful protesters — incl. women — who have been cordoned by security forces in Yangon,” the UN rights office said in a tweet, warning that the cordoned protesters “may be at risk of arrest or ill-treatment.”

“We urge the police to immediately allow them to leave safely and without reprisals.”

The comments came after three anti-coup protesters were shot dead Monday as demonstrators across the country sought to paralyse the economy with strike action following a weekend of night raids and arrests.

The country has been in turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and triggered mass protests against the new military junta.

The police and military have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown on demonstrators, with more than 50 people killed and nearly 1,800 arrested.

READ ALSO: EU Looks To Secure Vaccine Supplies For Jabs Ramp-Up

After a full day of protests on Monday, UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said an estimated 200 participants “had been stopped from leaving a four-street area in the Sanchaung area of Yangon.”

“The area is surrounded by a large contingent of military and there were concerns that when the curfew hour comes, the security forces will move in to arrest everyone,” she told AFP in an email.

“The military has announced a ‘night-time census of the area’, and the civil society groups are worried about what may happen.”

The rights office said there were also “fears that the military will go house-to-house arresting those who don’t live there.”

The spokeswoman said there had been reports of demonstrators descending on the area from outside to pressure the military to allow everyone to leave.

At around 10 pm, “police began shooting and making arrests,” she said, adding that “it is unclear if they were arresting trapped protesters or newly-arrived demonstrators.”

AFP

UN Seeks $266 mn To Feed Refugees In Covid-Hit E.Africa

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 04, 2018 The “Palais des Nations”, which houses the United Nations Offices, is seen at the end of the flag-lined front lawn in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

 

The United Nations launched an appeal on Tuesday for $266 million (221 million euros) to help feed more than three million refugees and asylum seekers across East Africa, suffering extra hardship because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lockdowns and other measures to contain the contagion have made it more difficult for refugees to get food or earn money, said the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in a joint statement.

“We’ve never had such a terrible funding situation for refugees,” said WFP’s regional director for East Africa, Michael Dunford, adding that $266 million was needed for the next six months just to cover refugees’ minimum needs.

The UNHCR estimates almost three-quarters of some 4.7 million refugees living in the 11 countries where it works in the region do not have enough to eat.

“The pandemic has been devastating for everyone, but for refugees even more so,” said UNHCR’s Clementine Nkweta-Salami. “Unless more funds are made available, thousands of refugees including children will not have enough to eat.”

She said refugees faced with food rationing and cash cuts are already turning to “negative coping strategies” including skipping meals, selling assets, child labour and increased domestic violence.

“There is often a desperation and a feeling of no alternative,” she said.

The funding shortfall has led the WFP to slash its monthly assistance for refugees by more than half in Rwanda, and make big cuts in countries including Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan.

“We are deeply concerned that if cuts continue, (refugees) will be faced with a very difficult decision: stay in the camps where food and nutrition security is deteriorating or consider risking going back when it is unsafe,” Dunford said.

AFP

Environmental Degradation Poses Triple Threat To Humans – UN

File: (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)

 

Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution pose a triple threat to human health and prosperity that may be averted only by transforming how we power our economies and feed ourselves, the United Nations said Thursday.

A scientific assessment by the UN Environment Programme found that galloping economic growth has come at a devastating cost to the planet and urged governments, businesses and people around the world to act to reverse the damage before it is too late.

Drawing on findings from other major assessments on climate and biodiversity from expert international panels, the report titled “Making Peace With Nature” said a rapid shift to renewable energy and eliminating habitat loss are essential to preventing “unacceptable risk” for future generations.

“For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The result is three interlinked environmental crises: Climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution threaten our viability as a species.”

Lead report author Robert Watson told AFP that the three crises threatened far more than nature.

READ ALSO: EU Tells Five Countries To Codify Anti-Racism Law

“They undermine food security, water security and human health,” he said.

The report found that the global economy had grown nearly fivefold in the last 50 years fuelled by a tripling in extraction of natural resources and energy.

Yet amid such prolific growth, the burden of the environmental fallout is borne by the poorest and most vulnerable, it said.

Although average prosperity has doubled over the last five decades, around 1.3 billion people are classed as poor and 700 million go to bed hungry each night.

The assessment said that environmental degradation was undermining progress on ending poverty and hunger and warned that pandemics such as Covid-19 were increasingly likely in future as we continue to strip away species’ natural habitats.

“This is not the first pandemic caused by animal to human infection, so we really have to think how we can prevent the next one,” said Watson, a veteran climate and biodiversity researcher.

“By cutting down vegetation, we humans go into areas we didn’t used to go into and therefore we interact with wild animals.”

– ‘Low-hanging fruit’ –

Despite a record drop in emissions last year as the pandemic curbed international travel, the world is on track to be at least three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

That is a far cry from the aims of the Paris climate deal, in which nations promised to limit warming to “well below” 2C and to a safer cap of 1.5C if possible.

None of the goals the world set itself a decade ago for halting nature loss has been met, with one million species of plants and animals currently threatened with extinction.

The assessment recommended that protected areas be expanded to allow for more space for wild species, as well as addressing the drivers of forest loss, such as unsustainable farming and food waste.

It also found that governments pay out a staggering $5-7 trillion in subsidies to fossil fuel and large-scale farming operations.

These contribute to air pollution that kills an estimated eight million people each year.

Co-author Ivar Baste said that reducing fossil fuel subsidies — which after all most benefit richer, high-polluting firms — should be considered “low-hanging fruit” in the fight against climate change.

“We have to do the obvious,” he told AFP, while noting that “vested interests” are pushing for continued fossil fuel use.

With 2021 set to see two major UN summits on biodiversity loss and climate change, the authors said “piecemeal and uncoordinated” responses would fall well short of what the planet needs.

“While I applaud all the countries in the world that have set zero net carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, the real issue is what will countries do between now and 2030,” Watson said.

“Action really is needed in the short term, not just aspirational goals for the middle of the century.”

Britain, EU Urge UN Human Rights Council Special Session On Myanmar

Protesters face off with police standing guard on a road during a demostration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 8, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

Britain and the European Union requested Monday that the United Nations Human Rights Council hold a special session in response to the ongoing political crisis Myanmar.

The call comes came a week after Myanmar’s generals conducted a coup in the country.

“The United Kingdom would like to inform all colleagues that together with the European Union, we have submitted a request for a special session on the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar,” Julian Braithwaite, Britain’s ambassador in Geneva, told a council organisational meeting.

Myanmar’s military last week detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and dozens of other members of her National League for Democracy party, ending a decade of civilian rule and triggering international condemnation.

Braithwaite said the call was “in response to the state of emergency imposed in Myanmar, the arbitrary detention of democratically elected politicians and civil society by the military,” which he said had “grave implications for human rights in the country”.

READ ALSO: French Health Minister Encourages Use Of AstraZeneca Jab

“We must respond urgently to the plight of the people of Myanmar and the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation there,” he said.

Braithwaite said the backers of the special session call would inform other council members soon about the drafting of a resolution on the issue.

He said the motion had the support of an additional 19 of the council’s 47 members.

That means in principle that the request would fulfil the requirement for the backing of at least a third of the council’s members, paving the way for a special session prior to the next regular council session, which kicks off on February 22.

UN Seeks $100 Million To Aid African Migrants En Route To Europe

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 Nations appealed Wednesday for $100 million to help it boost support for refugees fleeing escalating conflicts and crises in Africa who embark on risky migration routes to Europe.

The UN refugee agency voiced deep concern over swelling displacement from conflicts in Africa’s Sahel region, as well as in the continent’s east.

This, it said, was driving more people to attempt deadly crossings of the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe, resulting in at least 1,064 deaths along the central and western crossing routes last year alone.

“UNHCR is seeking just over $100 million to enhance refugee protection in African countries en route to the Mediterranean,” the agency said in a statement.

READ ALSO: UK To Impose Hotel Quarantine For Returning Britons

“Offering safe and viable alternatives to the perilous journeys marred by abuse and deaths is the critical priority.”

Violence across the Sahel region, which stretches from Senegal through Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan, has forced around 2.9 million people to flee their homes, according to UN figures.

“With no prospects for peace and stability in the region, further displacement is highly likely,” it warned, stressing that “many continue to attempt risky sea journeys to Europe.”

– ‘Alternatives’ –

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s special envoy for the situation in the central Mediterranean, said the insecurity had already contributed to rising numbers of people trying to reach Europe.

“We would like to work more effectively on the alternatives to those dangerous journeys,” he told reporters.

Departures from Algeria, Tunisia and Libya soared by 141 percent last year, as nearly 71,000 people tried to cross the central Mediterranean route.

Only 36,000 made it across though — nearly all of them, more than 34,000, arriving in Italy, which saw arrivals balloon threefold from 2019.

At the same time, more than 23,000 people took the western route to the Canary Islands last year — up 753 percent from a year earlier.

UNHCR pointed to factors driving many to try to make their way towards the Mediterranean, including dire conditions in neighbouring countries where many had already attempted to seek shelter and the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

– ‘Harrowing’ –

The sea crossing itself is not the only dangerous part of the journey for many of the refugees and migrants trying to make their way to Europe.

“We hear harrowing firsthand accounts of brutality and abuses that refugees and migrants suffer along the routes towards the Mediterranean,” Cochetel said.

“Many fall prey to traffickers and smugglers and are abused, extorted, raped, and sometimes killed or left to die.”

UNHCR said that the money it was seeking was part of an updated strategy aimed at increasing outreach, identification and assistance to refugees along the migration routes.

“It is almost too late for us to intervene when people arrive in Libya or in the Western Sahara,” Cochetel said, insisting that investment in life-saving protection and support was needed “along the route, not only in coastal states.”

UNHCR also reiterated its call to countries to make it easier for refugees to move legally across borders, including through family reunification, to reduce their need to set off on dangerous land and sea journeys in the first place.

The UN agency has repeatedly lambasted countries which close their doors to desperate refugees and in particular European nations that have left migrants stranded at sea for long periods of time and supported repatriation to chaos-wracked Libya.

The UN Human Rights Committee meanwhile faulted Italy on Wednesday for failing to protect the lives of more than 200 migrants, including 60 children, who died in a 2013 shipwreck.

The case was brought by three Syrians and a Palestinian who survived the sinking of the ship, which was carrying more than 400 people.

The committee of independent experts said Italy had failed to respond promptly to a number of distress calls from the sinking boat.

Libyan Leaders Approve Interim Executive Mechanism – UN

 

(Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

Libyan envoys at UN-backed talks to end nearly a decade of war voted Tuesday to pass the mechanism to choose an interim executive to govern until polls in December, the UN said.

The UN called it a “significant step forward”.

Libya has been torn apart by civil war since the NATO-backed uprising that ousted long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with an array of militias filling the vacuum and civilian bodies struggling to impose their authority.

But talks held in the Swiss city of Geneva have brought together 75 delegates — selected by the UN to represent a broad range of constituencies — in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

“Following the agreement on a proposal for the selection mechanism of a unified executive authority… the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) conducted a one-day voting process,” the UN said, with the vote running from Monday to Tuesday.

A total of 73 percent backed the proposal.

“Libyans have now a genuine opportunity to move past their differences and divisions, (and) select a temporary government to reunify their institutions through the long-awaited democratic national elections” on December 24, interim UN envoy Stephanie Williams said.

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The UN was “finalising the nomination procedure” and an election timeline, she added.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord controls Tripoli and most of the west, while a rival administration dominated by military strongman Khalifa Haftar controls Benghazi and the east.

Both camps in Libya’s complex war have received extensive backing from foreign powers.

A fragile ceasefire between the two sides, agreed in Geneva last October, has largely held despite threats by Haftar to resume fighting.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed “tangible progress” made in recent months in Libya.

But Guterres also urged “regional and international actors to respect the provisions of the ceasefire agreement”, with its three-month deadline to withdraw foreign forces from Libya expiring on January 23.

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign forces and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.