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Women's rights will be raised at UN meeting being attended by Taliban: UN official

UNITED NATIONS, June 27: The United Nations (UN) political chief who will chair the first meeting between Afghanistan's Taliban rulers and envoys from about 25 countries answered sharp criticism that Afghan women have been excluded, saying on June 26 that women's rights will be raised at every session.

Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo stressed to a small group of reporters that the two-day meeting starting on Sunday is an initial engagement aimed at initiating a step-by-step process with the goal of seeing the Taliban “at peace with itself and its neighbours and adhering to international law,” the UN Charter and human rights.

This is the third UN meeting with Afghan envoys in Qatar's capital, Doha, but the first that the Taliban are attending. They weren't invited to the first and refused to attend the second. Other attendees include envoys from the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the United States, Russia, China and several of Afghanistan's neighbours, DiCarlo said.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021 as United States and NATO forces withdrew following two decades of war. No country officially recognises them as Afghanistan's government, and the UN has said that recognition is almost impossible while bans on female education and employment remain in place and women can't go out without a male guardian.

When Ms. DiCarlo met with senior Taliban officials in Kabul in May, she said she made clear that the international community is concerned about four things: the lack of an inclusive government, the denial of human rights especially for women and girls, and the need to combat terrorism and the narcotics trade.

“The issue of inclusive governance, women's rights, human rights writ large, will be a part of every single session,” she said. “This is important, and we will hear it again and again, I'm sure from quite a number of us.”

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticised the United Nations for not having Afghan women and civil society representatives at the table with the Taliban.

Ms. DiCarlo described the meeting as a process. "This is not an inter-Afghan dialogue,” she stressed. “I would hope we could get to that someday, but we're not there.”

The Taliban's Foreign Ministry on June 26 reiterated the concerns they want to raise — restrictions on Afghanistan's financial and banking system, development of the private sector and countering drug trafficking. Ms. DiCarlo said they also raised Afghanistan's vulnerability to climate change.

She said discussions on the first day of the Doha meeting on Sunday will focus on how the world would engage with the Taliban to achieve the objectives of peace and its adherence to international law and human rights.

The assessment calls for a step-by-step process, where each side would respond to actions taken by the other.

On the second day, the participants will discuss the private sector, including getting more women into the workforce through microfinance projects, as well as counter-narcotics efforts, such as alternative livelihoods and support for drug addicts, she said. “Hopefully, it will achieve some progress, but it will be slow,” Ms. DiCarlo said.

She stressed that the meeting isn't about the Taliban and doesn't signify any recognition of Afghan's rulers as the country's official government. “That's not in the cards,” she said.

“This is about Afghanistan and the people and their need to feel a part of the international community and have the kinds of support and services and opportunities that others have — and they're pretty blocked off right now,” Ms. DiCarlo said.

Before the meeting, the UN political chief met with the Afghan diaspora. After the meeting on Tuesday, she said the UN and the envoys will meet with civil society representatives including women, and private sector representatives mainly living in Afghanistan.

UN approves Israel's ‘pause’ to fighting in Gaza; urges for more concrete measures

UNITED NATIONS, June 16: The UN on Sunday welcomed an Israeli decision to "pause" fighting around a south Gaza route daily for aid deliveries, but urged more "concrete measures" to unblock the humanitarian response.

Israel's military announced Sunday a "local, tactical pause of military activity" during daylight hours in an area of Rafah to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

"We welcome this announcement," said UN aid agency OCHA's spokesman Jens Laerke, noting though that "this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need".

"We hope this leads to further concrete measures by Israel to address longstanding issues preventing a meaningful humanitarian response in Gaza."

UN agencies and aid groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm of dire shortages of food and other essentials in the Gaza Strip, exacerbated by overland access restrictions and the closure of the key Rafah crossing with Egypt since Israeli forces seized it in early May.

Israel has long defended its efforts to let aid into Gaza including via its Kerem Shalom border near Rafah, blaming militants for looting supplies and humanitarian workers for failing to distribute them to civilians.

"The UN and our humanitarian partners are ready to engage with all parties to ensure life-saving assistance reaches those in need across Gaza, where catastrophic hunger is widespread," Laerke said.

"Living conditions for affected and displaced families in Gaza are dire. They urgently need food, water, sanitation, shelter, and healthcare, with many living near piles of solid waste, heightening health risks."

The UN was insisting, he said, that "humanitarian operations in Gaza must be fully facilitated, and all impediments must be lifted".

"We need to be able to deliver aid safely throughout Gaza."

Laerke said that meant ensuring the movement of aid within Gaza, including through checkpoints, "is predictable and expedited".

"It means all roads are operational. It means allowing the regular entry of fuel, which is in critically short supply in Gaza. It means providing the necessary communications equipment and logistical materials, which have long been denied by Israeli authorities," he said.

"And importantly, the issue of rule of law must be addressed immediately," he said, warning that "desperation and scarcity of aid have led to a near-total breakdown in law and order" in Gaza.

Iran Expands Its Nuclear Capacities Further: UN Watchdog

VIENNA, June 14: Iran is further expanding its nuclear capacities, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Thursday, one week after the agency's board of governors passed a resolution criticising Tehran's lack of cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The IAEA informed its members that Tehran told the agency it was installing more cascades at the enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, according to a statement.

A cascade is a series of centrifuges, machines used in the process of enriching uranium. A diplomatic source deemed this development as "moderate".

The motion brought by Britain, France and Germany -- but opposed by China and Russia -- at the IAEA's 35-nation board last week was the first of its kind since November 2022.

The resolution -- which Tehran slammed as "hasty and unwise" -- came amid an impasse over Iran's escalating nuclear activities and as Western powers fear Tehran may be seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim Iran denies.

Although symbolic in nature at this stage, the censure motion aims to raise diplomatic pressure on Iran, with the option to potentially refer the issue to the UN Security Council.

In the past, similar resolutions have prompted Tehran to retaliate by removing surveillance cameras and other equipment from its nuclear facilities and ratcheting up its uranium enrichment activities.

"The report issued today by the IAEA makes clear that Iran aims to continue expanding its nuclear programme in ways that have no credible peaceful purpose," US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

"Iran must cooperate with the IAEA without further delay to fully implement its legally binding safeguards obligations."

According to the IAEA, Iran is the only non-nuclear weapon state to enrich uranium to the high level of 60 percent -- just short of weapons-grade -- while it keeps accumulating large uranium stockpiles.

The IAEA has said that Tehran has significantly ramped up its nuclear programme and now has enough material to build several atomic bombs.

The Islamic republic has gradually broken away from its commitments under the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015.

The landmark deal provided Iran with relief from Western sanctions in exchange for curbs on its atomic programme, but it fell apart after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States under then-president Donald Trump in 2018.

Efforts to revive the deal have so far failed.

UN Adopts US-Drafted Gaza Ceasefire Resolution, Hamas Welcomes Move

UNITED NATIONS, June 11: The United Nations Security Council on Monday adopted a US-drafted resolution supporting a ceasefire plan in Gaza, as Washington leads an intense diplomatic campaign to push Hamas to accept the proposal.

The text -- passed with 14 votes in favor and Russia abstaining -- "welcomes" the truce and hostage release proposal announced on May 31 by President Joe Biden, and urges "parties to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition."

The resolution says Israel has accepted the truce plan, and "calls upon Hamas to also accept it."

Hamas said Monday that it "welcomes" the vote.

The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has been widely criticized for having blocked several previous UN draft resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

But Biden late last month launched a new US effort to secure a truce and hostage release.

"Today we voted for peace," US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the UN session.

"Today this Council sent a clear message to Hamas: accept the ceasefire deal on the table. Israel has already agreed to this deal and the fighting could stop today if Hamas would do the same."

However, the deal remains uncertain as Hamas officials have insisted that any ceasefire agreement must guarantee a permanent end to the war -- a demand Israel has firmly rejected, vowing to destroy Hamas and free the remaining captives.

Under the proposal, Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centers and Hamas would free the hostages. The ceasefire would last an initial six weeks, with it extended as negotiators seek a permanent end to hostilities.

The "text is not perfect," said Algeria's UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama. "But it offers a glimmer of hope to the Palestinians, as the alternative is continued killing and suffering."

After the vote, Israeli diplomat Reut Shapir Ben Naftaly emphasized that the "war will end" only when Israeli "goals are met," including the release of hostages and the destruction of Hamas.

"Hamas' refusal to release the hostages through diplomacy has proven that the effort to bring our hostages home must also include military means," she said.

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, meanwhile welcomed the council's vote, stating that the "burden" of implementing the resolution and ceasefire "is on the Israeli side."

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas added that he considered "the adoption of this resolution a step in the right direction to end the war of genocide against our people in the Gaza Strip."

Since the unprecedented attack by Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on October 7 against Israel, and the subsequent Israeli counterattack, the UN Security Council has struggled to act.

Following two resolutions focused on humanitarian aid, the Security Council finally at the end of March demanded an "immediate ceasefire" for the duration of Ramadan, after the United States abstained from the vote.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas's attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,124 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The first phase of the truce would see an "immediate, full and complete ceasefire," the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and the "withdrawal of Israeli forces from the populated areas in Gaza."

This would also allow the "safe and effective distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale throughout the Gaza Strip to all Palestinian civilians who need it."

Russia's UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, countered that the council was singing on to the plan without "details" and "giving a carte blanche."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the latest effort to halt the eight months of war.

UN Nuclear Watchdog Resolution Calls On Iran To Step Up Its Cooperation

VIENNA, June 5: The U.N. nuclear watchdog's 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution on Wednesday calling on Iran to step up cooperation with the watchdog and reverse its recent barring of inspectors despite concerns Tehran would respond with atomic escalation.

The resolution was passed by a vote of 20 in favour and two against with 12 abstentions, diplomats said. It follows up on the last resolution 18 months ago that ordered Iran to comply urgently with a years-long International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

While the number of sites under investigation has been narrowed to two from three, Iran still has yet to give the IAEA satisfactory answers on how the traces got there.

"The need for the Board to hold Iran accountable to its legal obligations is long overdue. Iran must urgently, fully and unambiguously co-operate with the Agency," Britain, France and Germany said in a statement to the Board on the resolution they proposed.

Since the last resolution the list of problems the IAEA faces in Iran has grown, and the new text also called on Iran to address several of those issues.

In September Iran barred many of the IAEA's top enrichment experts on the inspection team, which IAEA chief Rafael Grossi called "disproportionate and unprecedented" and a "very serious blow" to the agency's ability to do its job properly.

"(The Board) calls on Iran to reverse its withdrawal of the designations of several experienced Agency inspectors which is essential to fully allow the Agency to conduct its verification activities in Iran effectively," the resolution said.

Radhika Sen a role model, her service is true credit to UN as whole: Antonio Guterres

UNITED NATIONS, June 1: Major Radhika Sen of India is a true leader and role model and her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, as he conferred a prestigious award on the Indian woman peacekeeper.

Major Sen, who served with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), received the prestigious ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ from Guterres during a ceremony at the world body's headquarters on Thursday on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

“ Major Sen is a true leader and role model. Her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole.  Please join me in congratulating Major Radhika Sen of India. I could not be prouder to confer her with the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award,” Guterres said, as he presided over the Dag Hammarskjold medal and Military Gender Advocate of the Year ceremony.

Major Sen served in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from March 2023 to April 2024 as the Commander of MONUSCO’s Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion (INDRDB).

Guterres thanked Major Sen and all peacekeepers for their service, leadership, and commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. He noted that as commander of the Indian contingent’s engagement platoon, Major Sen led her unit on countless patrols.

“During these patrols, in an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu, her troops actively engaged with conflict-affected communities, including particularly women and girls,” he said adding that “She earned their trust. Doing so with humility, compassion, and dedication.”

The UN chief said that Major Sen provided a safe and welcoming platform for women to share their ideas and concerns so that the Mission could better respond to their needs.

“In her one-year deployment, Major Sen also served as gender focal point, and took on civil-military tasks — including vocational trainings for women and young people,” he said, adding that she was also her battalion’s sexual exploitation and abuse focal point, undertaking important efforts to prevent misconduct.

Born in Himachal Pradesh in 1993, Major Sen joined the Indian Army eight years ago. She graduated as a biotech engineer and was pursuing her Master's degree from IIT Bombay when she decided to join the armed forces.

She was deployed to MONUSCO in March 2023 as the Engagement Platoon Commander with the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion and completed her tenure in April 2024.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix congratulated Major Sen for receiving the award, saying that during the years she served in MONUSCO, she “always kept women at the centre of her work in line with the vision of resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. She protected civilians and supported efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse.”

"We really congratulate you. You make us and your country proud,” he said.

Lauding her “outstanding service” in DR Congo, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that “her dedication and bravery highlight the invaluable role of #women peacekeepers in building a better world. We are incredibly proud of her achievements and inspired by her commitment to peace and equality.”

In her remarks at the ceremony, Major Sen said she is “deeply honoured and humbled" to accept the award on behalf of her colleagues in MONUSCO and “my home country, India.”

Calling on the UN and member states to tap into the rich network created by the award, she expressed hope that “one day a peacekeeper of another gender” will be honoured with this prestigious award. “Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everyone's business, not just us, the women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity,” she said.

“Serving as an engagement platoon commander in MONUSCO has been a privilege beyond measure. This award is special to me as it recognises the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in MONUSCO’s challenging environment,” she said, adding that the engagement team serves as the face of the contingent within the community, tirelessly striving to reach out to every segment of the DRC population.

She said that her team had the opportunity to engage with the communities on topics ranging from women's health, education, child care to gender equality, women employment and combating sexual violence in conflict, along with interactions on various skill development programmes to foster self-reliance.

"A gender perspective in UN peacekeeping is essential for effective, inclusive and sustainable peace process. Women and girls are disproportionately affected in conflict, facing increased risk and abuse. The need of the hour is to mainstream the women in nation-building, particularly in sectors of security and governance,” she said.

Major Sen emphasised that “we as peacekeepers should continue to address the needs of all those affected in the conflict and act as role models for the society to implement a gender-sensitive approach for lasting peace.”

Major Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the prestigious award after Major Suman Gawani, who had served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and was honoured in 2019.

Created in 2016, the United Nations 'Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award' recognises the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

India is currently the 11th largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the United Nations with 124 now deployed. India has traditionally been among the largest troop and police-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions.

On the occasion, 64 military, police, and civilian peacekeepers were honoured posthumously with the Dag Hammarskjöld Medals for their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.

Naik Dhananjay Kumar Singh, who served with the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and lost his life serving under the UN flag, was honoured with the medal, which was received by Kamboj.

India is the second largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping. It currently deploys more than 6,000 military and police personnel to the UN operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, the Middle East, Somalia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara. Nearly 180 Indian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, the highest number by far from any troop-contributing country.




UN honours Indian Peacekeeper posthumously for sacrifice in line of duty
UN Security Council For The 1st Time Demands Immediate Gaza Ceasefire


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