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Afghanistan women’s rights are ‘red line’: UN rights chief

By Deepak Arora

GENEVA, Aug 24: UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet led calls on Tuesday for Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders to respect the rights of all Afghans and warned that the treatment of women and girls is a “fundamental red line” that should not be crossed.

Speaking at the opening of an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a little over a week since the Taliban swept to power, Ms. Bachelet reminded Member States of credible reports of violations of international humanitarian law against civilians in areas under their control.

These reports, she said, make it especially important that the Human Rights Council work in unison to prevent further abuses, and that Member States establish a dedicated mechanism to monitor the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan and, in particular, the Taliban's implementation of its promises.

Ms. Bachelet added that “a fundamental red line will be the Taliban's treatment of women and girls, and respect for their rights to liberty, freedom of movement, education, self-expression and employment, guided by international human rights norms. In particular, ensuring access to quality secondary education for girls will be an essential indicator of commitment to human rights.”

Among the reported violations received by her office, the UN rights chief cited summary executions of civilians and members of the Afghan national security forces, recruitment of child soldiers and repression of peaceful protest and expressions of dissent.

Echoing those concerns ahead of a vote on a draft resolution calling for investigations and accountability for rights abuses, Afghanistan’s Ambassador, Dr. Nasir Ahmad Andisha, described the prevailing sense of apprehension in the country, with “millions fearing for their lives”.

Dr. Andisha warned that a humanitarian crisis was “unfolding as we speak”, and that thousands people were at risk, from human rights defenders to journalists, academics, professionals, civil society members and former security personnel “who were the backbone – and we hope still will be – of a contemporary and democratic society”.

Speaking in person at the Council, Dr. Andisha reminded Member States that the situation on the ground remained uncertain: “We witness a high number of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses which are documented and most of those gruesome videos are available online. While some Taliban were and are still talking differently, restrictions and violations are already taking place as we speak.”

Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Coordination Committee of UN Special Procedures, also noted that women and girls, and many internally displaced people, face particular risks

“Many of these persons are in hiding as the Taliban continues to search homes door-to-door”, she said, “and there are serious concerns that such information gathering may led to them being targeted for reprisals. Searches, arrests, harassment, and intimidation, as well as seizures of property and reprisals are already being reported.”

Warning that Afghanistan was now “in its worst moment” and in need of the support of the international community like never before, Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, rounded on the emergency session’s draft resolution as a “travesty” that failed to far enough to defend those at risk in the country.

“We have documented that the Taliban advances came with summary executions, disappearances, restrictions on women, media and cultural life. This is not ancient history. This is earlier this month, and this is today,” she said.

“Women in Afghanistan are being turned down (sic) from their offices by the Taliban, universities have been asked to discuss gender segregation possibilities, women are required to be accompanied by male members of their family in public, media are not broadcasting music, journalists and activists are in hiding or in flee (sic), former members of the Afghan National Security Forces are scared of the worst, the summary executions, house-to-house searches and information gathering has led to widespread fear.”

For the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Pakistan Ambassador Khalil Hashmi reiterated the OIC’s commitment “to supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process to reach an inclusive political settlement. The OIC underscores the imperative of active engagement by the international community along political, humanitarian, human rights and development tracks.”

For the United States, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, insisted that the protection of “civilians, including women and girls, academics, journalists, human rights defenders, and members of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups” must remain paramount. “We condemn attacks on them and those seeking to aid them, including UN staff and humanitarian aid providers. Such attacks must stop immediately, and all Afghan nationals and foreign nationals who wish to depart must be allowed to do so safely.”

Following the meeting, a draft resolution on Strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in Afghanistan was adopted without a vote.

UN Security Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution On Peacekeeping

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18: The UN Security Council, currently being presided over by India, on Wednesday unanimously adopted for the first time a resolution on ensuring accountability for crimes committed against UN peacekeepers besides calling on member states hosting peacekeeping operations to bring to justice perpetrators responsible for killing and committing acts of violence against the Blue Helmets.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar chaired an open-debate under India's presidency of the Security Council on UN peacekeeping operations with the theme of "Protecting the protectors: technology and peacekeeping", the second signature event held as India presides over the powerful 15-member UN body for the month of August.

At the meeting, two significant outcome documents were unanimously adopted and overwhelmingly supported - a Presidential Statement on "Peacekeeping and Technology" and a Resolution on "Accountability of crimes against UN Peacekeepers."

Under the Indian Presidency, the Security Council unanimously adopted for the first time the resolution that calls for ensuring accountability for crimes committed against UN peacekeepers.

In line with India's focus on peacekeeping, the Presidential Statement (PRST) in the UNSC was the first to be adopted that focused exclusively on utilising technology to assist peacekeepers.

The PRST encourages the use of modern technology for improving the performance, safety and security of peacekeepers who are operating in increasingly complex and risky environments.

Through the resolution, the Security Council "calls upon Member States hosting or having hosted United Nations peacekeeping operations to take all appropriate measures in accordance with their national law and international law as applicable to bring to justice perpetrators of the killing of, and all acts of violence against United Nations personnel, including, but not limited to, their detention and abduction."

This was the first such Security Council resolution that calls for prevention, investigation and prosecution to bring the perpetrators to justice.

India initiated the first resolution in the UNSC this year, which was co-sponsored by all UNSC members and a total of over 80 UN Member States, signifying the support of the international community to the issue of peacekeeping, which India has highlighted as one of the priority areas during its current Presidency of the Council.

The resolution urges all parties to armed conflict to fully respect their obligations under international law.

It calls on host states to work with peacekeeping missions to enhance the safety and security of mission personnel and to take all necessary measures to investigate such acts, and arrest and prosecute perpetrators of such acts in line with their national law, consistent with applicable international obligations, including under international humanitarian law, and international human rights law and in accordance with the relevant status-of-forces or status-of-mission agreement, as appropriate."

It also calls upon member states hosting or having hosted UN peacekeeping operations to promote accountability for the killing of, and all acts of violence against UN personnel serving in peacekeeping operations.

The resolution encourages Member States, including troop and police contributing countries whose personnel have been the victims of the killing of and all acts of violence against UN personnel, to actively engage and share information with the Secretary-General, consistent with their national law, as and where necessary to assist Member States hosting or having hosted peacekeeping operations, in bringing to justice the perpetrators of such acts.

Through the Presidential Statement, the UNSC, noting that peacekeepers are deployed in deteriorating and complex political and security environments, and face asymmetrical and complex threats including from terrorism, "stresses the need to leverage the technological tools available to support greater situational awareness of peacekeeping missions".

During the signature event, India in coordination with the UN also rolled out a unique technology platform aimed at enhancing security and safety of peacekeepers.

The UNITE AWARE platform helps increase situational awareness and provides terrain-related information to peacekeepers.

India partnered with the UN and contributed USD 1.64 million in the roll-out of the UNITE Aware platform.

Mr Jaishankar, addressing reporters at the Security Council stakeout after the open debate, said that UNITE Aware is a situational awareness software programme that will utilise modern surveillance technology for real time threat assessments to peacekeepers and help them obviously enhance their security.

This will access live video and satellite imagery and in very volatile circumstances also deliver early warnings to peacekeepers. He said this platform will initially be deployed in four Peacekeeping Missions: MINUSMA (Mali), UNMISS (South Sudan), UNFICYP (Cyprus) and AMISOM (Somalia).

Through the UNITE Aware platform, entire peacekeeping operation can be visualised, coordinated and monitored on a real time basis, it will record data on critical incidents and events, follow daily operational activities, access live video and satellite imagery and provide early warning in volatile environment.

As part of India's initiative towards training and capacity building of peacekeepers in the sphere of technology, an MoU was signed between India and the UN in support to the -"Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping" initiative and to UN C4ISR - UN Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Academy for Peace Operations (UNCAP) based in Entebbe, Uganda.

The MoU was exchanged between India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador TS Tirumurti and Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare during a solemn ceremony at the UN Peacekeepers Memorial.

Jaishankar laid a wreath at the memorial and joined by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres paid homage to the UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives over the years in line of duty.

Speaking at the ceremony, Guterres said more than one million men and women have served under the blue flag of the United Nations since 1948.

"More than 4,000 peacekeepers have lost their lives in the line of duty. Among them are 174 Indian peacekeepers, the highest number of all the troop-contributing countries. We are forever grateful for their service. Their remarkable work, and ultimate sacrifice, will never be forgotten," he said.

In his address to the open debate in his national capacity, Jaishankar said: "It is this Council that sends peacekeepers across continents to "keep the peace" and implement the mandate that it decides. It is therefore the duty of this very august body to also ensure that we provide them the means to implement that mandate".

"We have shown today, both in the rollout of the UNITE Aware Platform as well as the actionable elements of training incorporated in the MoU, that India believes in walking the talk when it comes to the safety and security of UN peackeepers.

"We hope that in our discussions today, we get an equally strong reaffirmation of the UN's intent as well," Mr Jaishankar added.

Wednesday's debate was the second signature event held under India's presidency in August.

The first signature event under India's UNSC presidency was held on August 9 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired the High-level Open Debate on "Enhancing Maritime Security - A Case for International Cooperation". The third event on August 19 will be a high-level briefing on "Threats to International Peace and Security caused by Terrorist Acts".

UN peacekeeping missions operating in challenging circumstances: Jaishankar at UNSC

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18: The United Nations peacekeeping missions are operating in arduous circumstances that may include challenges from the armed groups, non-state actors and terrorists, said India's external affairs minister (EAM) S Jaishankar at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday.

“Since deploying for the first time in 1948, UN peacekeeping missions continue to operate in a variety of challenging settings. This could involve armed groups, non-state actors and terrorists," said Jaishankar.

The minister, who chaired the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Technology and Peacekeeping here in the presence of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, underlined the role of technology in the safety of UN peacekeepers and highlighted the role they play in maintaining peace and tranquillity.

“Because the nature of peacekeeping missions and their attendant threats have become more complex, it is vital that our capabilities to secure the peacekeepers keep pace," Jaishankar said.

“We owe it to them to ensure that our protective efforts meet the highest standards," he added.

The 15-member powerful UN body is currently under India’s Presidency for the month of August.

India is one of the largest troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions and has contributed more than 250,000 troops in 49 missions over the years.

Jaishankar also proposed a four-point framework that would lay out a possible architecture for securing UN peacekeepers to meet contemporary threats.

“First, we must focus on operationally proven, cost-effective, widely available, reliable and field-serviceable technologies," he said.

Second, there is a need for a sound information and intelligence foundation which will only ensure early warning and mobilising a coherent and early response, he said.

“A reliable, high fidelity means to collect, use, process and share information and data will create advantages from the start for peacekeeping missions," the EAM said.

Precise positioning and overhead visualisation of mission environments is critically important to provide intelligence and enhance the safety and security of mission personnel, he said.

“Thirdly, we must contribute to ensuring that technological improvements are continuous and are available on the ground, in the gear peacekeepers carry and the weapons and tools they use to enhance their mobility, performance, endurance, range, and load-carrying capabilities while guaranteeing their safety and security," Jaishankar said.

India following events in Afghanistan very carefully: Jaishankar

NEW YORK, Aug 18: India is following the events in Afghanistan "very carefully" and the focus is on ensuring the security and safe return of Indian nationals who are still in the war-torn country, Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar told reporters in New York on Wednesday.

Asked how India views and deals with the Taliban leadership, he said it is still "early days", not offering direct comment on whether or not India was in touch with the Taliban.

"At this point of time, we are looking at the evolving situation in Kabul... as Taliban and its representatives have come to Kabul and I think we need to take it from there," he added when asked whether India has had any communication with Taliban in the recent days.

Asked whether India will continue its investments and engagement in Afghanistan, the minister said the "historical relationship with the Afghan people" continues."

That will guide our approach in the coming days. I think at this time, these are early days and our focus on safety and security of the Indian nationals who are there," he added.

Addressing reporters after a meeting of the UN Security Council, Dr Jaishankar said the situation in Afghanistan is "really what has been very much the focus of my own engagements here, talking to the UN Secretary General and other colleagues who are here as well as the US Secretary of State."

"At the moment we are, like everybody else, very carefully following developments in Afghanistan. I think our focus is on ensuring the security in Afghanistan and the safe return of Indian nationals who are there," he said.

India has assured that it would repatriate Hindu and Sikhs from Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that the country will stand by its friends and allies in the war torn country, which many are desperate to leave.

On Tuesday, India evacuated the last of its staff from the embassy in Kabul including the ambassador and the Indo-Tibetan Border Policepersonnel who were in charge of security. The pullout took place amid curfew declared by Taliban, which made took over Kabul on Sunday.

Dr Jaishankar had reached New York on Monday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan. India - a non-permanent member of the Security Council - holds its Presidency for this month.

This was the second time in 10 days that the UN body met to discuss the situation in the war-torn country.

UNICEF not leaving Afghanistan

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK/KABUL, Aug 18: “During the last phase of the armed conflict until the final takeover of Kabul a few days ago, UNICEF has continued to deliver for Afghanistan’s children and respond to their urgent needs.

“Despite all the unanswered questions that lie ahead, one thing is certain: UNICEF is here to stay and deliver for every child and every woman in Afghanistan. UNICEF has been here for 65 years and we’re not leaving.

“It is true, that for our own safety, in some provincial areas, the Taliban asked us to pause operations until order is restored. But we are in daily contact with the local leadership in almost all provinces, and their message is clear: They want us to stay and continue our work in Afghanistan.

“We have been engaging constructively with the new leadership to preserve our operational presence across the country and we are hopeful that we will scale up our work for women and children in the coming days.

“UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian response in the country. In the short term, we’re providing mobile health and nutrition teams in camps for internally displaced people. UNICEF and partners are scaling up water provision across the IDP camps and across the drought-affected areas to alleviate suffering.

“In the longer term, and once we have a government interlocutor, UNICEF intends to reinforce the current partnership with NGO/INGOs and clarify the working modalities with the line ministries. We are seeing a potential opportunity to have a greater reach across the country. For example, we intend to reach close to 500,000 nutrition cases in the hard to reach areas that were inaccessible previously.

“We are also hopeful that we can take a giant stride on polio. Afghanistan is one of two polio-endemic countries in the world. One of our biggest challenges in recent years has been access to communities, including homes and mosques, to vaccinate children. Now, we are hopeful that access will become easier. I believe that with our partners at the Gates Foundation, we have an opportunity to eradicate polio through the ongoing effective coordination with WHO.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the donors who have made it possible for us to operate in Afghanistan. Without their assistance, we would not be able to expand our operations and deliver life-saving services for the most vulnerable children and women.

“This is a period of transition in Afghanistan; no one can predict what happens next. But I can tell you that as recently as yesterday, primary and secondary schools were open in Herat in the west, and in Marouf, in the south of the country, 1500 children were in school, including 500 girls. And the fact that the Health Commission yesterday asked all doctors, nurses and health workers to return to work, including women, is an encouraging sign.

“But with half a million people internally displaced, and over 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children, the needs are great. Drought is still affecting the country. Without urgent action, 1 million children under the age of 5 will be severely malnourished by end of 2021. So far in 2021, UNICEF has reached 1.7 million people with humanitarian assistance. We still require US$76 million in 2021 to provide lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable, especially children.

“This lifesaving work depends on durable peace and stability. To reach the hardest to reach children, UNICEF is advocating with all parties for safe and unhindered access, in line with the Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies and humanitarian principles.

“We hope that with the new leadership in Afghanistan, we can reach the children that were missed earlier with life-saving health services and education, especially girls.”

UN Women committed to support women, girls in Afghanistan

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Aug 18: In line with the statement by the UN Secretary-General, UN Women remains fully committed to support women and girls in Afghanistan. We will remain operational and engaged with our partners at this critical juncture for the country.

Women’s and girls’ rights in Afghanistan must have only one direction and that is forward. Afghan women and girls have played a pivotal role throughout the history of their country. It is essential that they continue to do so and that their hard-won rights are protected.

We are following the recent events with grave concern. We call on Afghanistan to secure the fundamental human rights of all, including women and girls, and to meet their obligations to protect civilians and to provide humanitarians with unimpeded access to deliver timely and life-saving services and aid.

Women’s and girls’ rights must be at the core of the global response to the current crisis.

UN Security Council calls for cessation of all hostilities and national reconciliation Govt in Afghanistan

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16: The members of the Security Council have called for an immediate cessation of all hostilities and the establishment, through inclusive negotiations, of a new government that is united, inclusive and representative – including with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, according to a statement issued here on Monday.

"They underlined that institutional continuity and adherence to Afghanistan’s international obligations, as well as the safety and security of all Afghan and international citizens, must be ensured."

The statement stated that the members of the Security Council called for an immediate end to the violence in Afghanistan, the restoration of security, civil and constitutional order, and urgent talks to resolve the current crisis of authority in the country and to arrive at a peaceful settlement through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of national reconciliation.

They underscored that a sustainable end to the conflict in Afghanistan can only be achieved through an inclusive, just, durable and realistic political settlement that upholds human rights, including for women, children and minorities. Security Council called on parties to adhere to international norms and standards on human rights and put an end to all abuses and violations in this regard.

The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern about the number of reported serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses in communities affected by the ongoing armed conflict across the country, and stressed the urgent and imperative need to bring the perpetrators to justice.
They underlined that all parties must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law in all circumstances, including those related to the protection of civilians. They underscored the particular situation of vulnerability of humanitarian and medical personnel, interpreters and other international service providers.

The members of the Security Council called on strengthened efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, and on all parties to allow immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations humanitarian agencies and other humanitarian actors providing assistance, including across conflict lines, to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all those in need.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their support to the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). They emphasized the importance of the safety and security of UN personnel as well as of diplomatic and consular personnel of UN Member States.

PM Modi Chairs UN Security Council Debate, A First For India

Global response needed to counter rising security threats at sea

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9: Despite an overall decrease in maritime traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, piracy and armed robbery of ships rose by nearly 20 per cent during the first half of last year, a senior UN official told the Security Council on Monday.

Speaking at a UN Security Council Maritime Security conference chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, the UN Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, highlighted the need for stronger international cooperation.

Incidents in Asia have nearly doubled, while West Africa, the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, and the South China Sea, were the most affected areas, she said.

The open debate through video conference was organized by India, which holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council this month. An Indian Prime Minister has chaired UNSC for the first time. Two Presidents, One Prime Minister and 10 Ministers joined Indian PM on this important occasion. The debate was also attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his address, Narendra Modi said oceans are “our shared global commons” and the “lifeline” of international trade. The UN estimates that more than three billion people worldwide, mainly in developing countries, depend on the ocean for their livelihood and well-being.

“However, today this common maritime heritage of ours faces various types of threats,” said Modi. “Maritime routes are being misused for piracy and terrorism. There are maritime disputes between several countries. And climate change and natural disasters are also challenges to the maritime domain.”

Addressing the virtual open debate on ‘Enhancing Maritime Security: A Case for International Cooperation’, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a veiled attack on China, said a conflict in the disputed South China Sea will have 'serious global consequences' for security and commerce.

Antony Blinken underlined that when a State faces no consequences for ignoring the rules, it fuels greater impunity and instability everywhere.

“Let me just speak if I could specifically to some of the critical areas where we see maritime rules and principles under threat. In the South China Sea, we have seen dangerous encounters between vessels at sea and provocative actions to advance unlawful maritime claims,” Blinken told the debate that was later chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

“The United States has made clear its concerns regarding actions that intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources. And we and other countries including South China Sea claimants have protested such behaviour and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea,” he said.

Blinken referred to the unanimous and legally binding decision taken five years ago by the arbitral tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention 'firmly rejecting unlawful, expansive South China Sea maritime claims as being inconsistent with international law.” He stressed that Washington has consistently called for all countries to conform their maritime claims to the International Law of the Sea as reflected in the 1982 convention.

“This is in keeping with the peaceful resolution of disputes and the sovereign equality of member states, which are core principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” he said, adding that efforts to resolve maritime disputes through threat or use of force flout these principles.

“Some may assert that resolving the dispute in the South China Sea is not the business of the United States or any other country that is not a claimant to the islands and waters. But it is the business, and even more, the responsibility of every member state to defend the rules that we've all agreed to follow and peacefully resolve maritime disputes,” Blinken said.

In his address, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the creation of a maritime security body in the United Nations Security Council to address maritime crimes, piracy and maritime terrorism.
Putin vowed that Moscow will ensure security in the Persian Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean amid a surge across the globe in piracy-related incidents including robbery at sea accompanied by taking of hostages.

"Unfortunately, there are also many threats along sea routes. And that is why it is so important that today we are considering substantive, practical issues related to the fight against piracy of the 21st century, meaning to establish a more effective counteraction to transnational crime and prevent the use of seas and oceans for criminal purposes", he said.

The Russian president added that the proposed structure could rely on the support of UN member states and that it could actively cooperate with experts, representatives of civil society, scientists, and even business people. "We hope that our partners will constructively consider the Russian proposal", he added.
Russia, he said is also interested in building productive relations with the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the Indian Ocean Commission.

The “unprecedented” levels of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, and more recently in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, were also particularly concerning.

"Maritime insecurity is also compounding the terrorist threat emerging from the Sahel,” Ms. Viotti told ambassadors.

“These growing and interlinked threats call for a truly global and integrated response. A response that addresses these challenges directly as well as their root causes - including poverty, a lack of alternative livelihoods, insecurity, and weak governance structures.”

Maritime security is also being undermined by challenges around contested boundaries and navigation routes, and depletion of natural resources through illegal or unreported fishing, Ms. Viotti added.

She said the meeting was a chance to further advance global action on a vital but complex issue as all countries are affected, whether they are coastal or landlocked.

Ms. Viotti highlighted legal instruments that uphold maritime security, such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“But this framework is only as strong as countries’ commitment to full and effective implementation,” she stressed. “We need to translate commitment into action.”

The UN has welcomed moves by the international community to strengthen cooperation on maritime security. The Organization also supports regional initiatives, including fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia and to try and cut down on the armed robbery of ships in Asia.

Ghada Waly, Executive Director at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that a 2009 programme, initially established to address the Somali piracy threat, is now its largest initiative, with a budget that has grown from $300,000 to over $230 million.
The Global Maritime Crime Programme encompasses some 170 personnel based in 26 countries who provide capacity building and support for legal reform, simulated trials and maritime training centres.

“Yet, the challenges to maritime security continue to grow, and our responses must keep up,” said Ms. Waly.

The UN agency chief encouraged the Security Council to take action towards implementing the related legal framework, building capabilities, expanding partnerships and promoting crime prevention response. She underscored the need to reduce vulnerabilities.

“Pirates, criminals, and terrorists exploit poverty and desperation to seek recruits, gain support, and find shelter. To counter these threats, we need to raise awareness and educate people, especially youth, while providing alternative livelihoods and support for local businesses,” said Ms. Waly.

Myanmar military leaders attempting to legitimize power: UN Special Envoy

By Deepak Arora

GENEVA, Aug 10: Six months after seizing power in a coup, Myanmar’s military leaders now appear to be moving to consolidate their rule, the UN Special Envoy for the country said on Tuesday.

Christine Shraner Burgener said the situation in Myanmar “is still very worrisome”, amid a “severe” third wave of COVID-19 infections.

Last week, senior army general Min Aung Hlaing announced he was appointing himself Prime Minister, and pledged to hold elections by 2023.

“In my view, the Commander-in-Chief appears determined to solidify his grip on power with the latest caretaker government announcement; also, with the formal annulment of the election result from last year and declaration of the Commander-in-Chief to be Prime Minister of the country,” the UN envoy said, speaking from Switzerland.

Ms. Schraner Burgener also expressed fear that the National League of Democracy (NLD), which won the November 2020 election, could also soon be forcibly disbanded. State Counsellor and party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside President Win Myint, were detained in the 1 February coup.

“This is an attempt to promote legitimacy against lack of international action taken”, she said. “And I have to make (it) clear that the UN does not recognize Governments, so it’s up to the Member States.”

She underlined that “as long as Member States do not make any decision”, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative in New York, Kyaw Moe Tun, remains the country’s legitimate UN Ambassador, while Ms. Suu Kyi and President Myint are its leaders.

Recently, a plot was uncovered to kill or injure Ambassador Tun, who denounced the coup in the UN General Assembly Hall.

“I was really shocked to hear this, and clearly it’s now up to the investigation team to find out who is behind this attack,” said Ms. Shraner Burgener.

The situation on the ground in Myanmar remains “very difficult”, she reported.

“There is no freedom of speech, and I have still grave concerns about attacks against the free press. And I urge always in my discussions with the army to release political prisoners, including many media workers.”

The military cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations in the wake of the coup, and more than 960 people have been killed so far. Thousands more were arrested and detained, including foreigners and over 100 children.

Meanwhile, clashes between the army and local defense forces continue. Violence has risen, and the defense groups are increasingly using “professional weapons”.

At the same time, Myanmar is also facing a devastating battle against the coronavirus. More than 331,000 cases have been reported.

UN agencies and partners are working to resume provision of health assistance, with priority given to vaccine rollout through the global solidarity initiative, COVAX, and to revitalizing immunizations generally.

Ms. Schraner Burgener continues her engagement to find a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Myanmar, although she has yet to be allowed to travel there.

The UN Special Envoy has been holding talks with the military, ethnic armed organizations, and other stakeholders, who include the National Unity Government (NUG), formed by exiled lawmakers ousted in the coup. Representatives come from the NLD, other parties and ethnic armed groups.

Over the past two months, she has been promoting the idea of an inclusive dialogue organized around four “clusters” covering pandemic response, humanitarian assistance, and issues related to the Rohingya community.

The final and biggest cluster would address root causes of the crisis, such as discussions around the federal system, the constitution, law reforms and the electoral system.

She has also proposed establishing an international observer group on Myanmar. Membership would comprise China, India, Japan, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Switzerland, in addition to the UN, the European Union and the Southeast Asian regional bloc, ASEAN.

"The ethnic armed groups were in the majority very positive of this idea, and really want to find a peaceful solution,” she said, referring to the dialogue proposal.

“The NUG…was interested in the idea but clearly would have pre-conditions to start such a dialogue.”

Ms. Schraner Burgener held “a long conversation” with Soe Win, the army’s Deputy Commander-in-Chief, on 16 July.

Although receptive to some of her ideas, including integrating health workers in COVID-19 prevention measures, “on the dialogue, I didn’t receive an answer: not a positive, not a negative.”

She hoped that with the recent appointment of an ASEAN Special Envoy on Myanmar, an all-inclusive dialogue will take place, otherwise “it goes more and more in the direction of a civil war,” she warned.

Modi to chair UNSC debate on maritime security

NEW DELHI, Aug 8: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair a high-level open debate on "Enhancing Maritime Security – A Case for International Cooperation" on Monday via video conferencing.

His office said on Sunday the meeting is expected to be attended by several heads of state and government of member states of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and high-level briefers from the UN system and key regional organisations.

"Modi would be the first Indian prime minister to preside over a UN Security Council Open Debate," the Prime Minister's Office said.

The open debate will focus on ways to effectively counter maritime crime and insecurity, and strengthen coordination in the maritime domain.

The UN Security Council has discussed and passed resolutions on different aspects of maritime security and maritime crime, the PMO noted.

However, this will be the first time that maritime security will be discussed in a holistic manner as an exclusive agenda item in such a high level open debate, it added.

"Given that no country alone can address the diverse aspects of maritime security, it is important to consider this subject in a holistic manner in the United Nations Security Council. A comprehensive approach to maritime security should protect and support legitimate maritime activities, while countering traditional and non-traditional threats in the maritime domain," it said.

The oceans have played an important part in India''s history right from the time of the Indus Valley civilisation, it noted, adding that based on the country''s civilisational ethos that see the seas as an enabler of shared peace and prosperity, Modi had put forward the vision of SAGAR - an acronym for "Security and Growth for all in the Region" in 2015.

This vision focuses on cooperative measures for sustainable use of the oceans, and provides a framework for a safe, secure, and stable maritime domain in the region.

In 2019, at the East Asia Summit, this initiative was further elaborated through the Indo-Pacific Oceans'' Initiative (IPOI) with a focus on seven pillars of maritime security including Maritime Ecology; Maritime Resources; Capacity Building and Resource Sharing; Disaster Risk Reduction and Management; Science, Technology and Academic Cooperation; and Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport, it said.

UN chief welcomes 'historic' IMF liquidity boost for governments in need

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3: As the COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate restrictions on government spending throughout the world, the UN chief on Tuesday welcomed the decision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve a $650 billion allocation of Special Drawing Rights to “boost liquidity”.

Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement on the policy change towards Special Drawing Rights or SDRs, a type of foreign reserve asset that are IMF defined and maintained, as additional funding that could help to pay down debts.

He also underscored that economies not in need of access to cash should “consider channeling these resources to vulnerable low and middle-income countries that need a liquidity injection by replenishing the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust Fund”.

Yesterday’s IMF’s allocation makes new borrowing available to the fund’s 190 member countries, roughly in proportion to their share of the global economy.

“This is a historic decision – the largest SDR allocation in the history of the IMF and a shot in the arm for the global economy at a time of unprecedented crisis”, said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

“The SDR allocation will benefit all members, address the long-term global need for reserves, build confidence, and foster the resilience and stability of the global economy. It will particularly help our most vulnerable countries struggling to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Secretary-General stressed that it is also “critical to quickly establish the proposed Resilience and Sustainability Trust at the IMF…[for] a comprehensive response and recovery, including providing more support for vaccinations and debt management and to support the efforts of developing economies in restructuring for inclusive growth”.

Last month, he urged the world’s largest economies to spearhead a global COVID-19 vaccination plan and expand debt relief to developing countries battered by the pandemic. 

He also advised supporting a new $50 billion IMF investment roadmap aimed at ending the pandemic and driving a fast recovery. 

As many developing countries are “teetering on the verge of debt default”, the UN chief encouraged the G20 leading industrialized nations to channel unused SDRs to the Fund’s new resilience and sustainability plan, for these nations. 

“Special Drawing Rights also need to be considered as additional funding, not deducted from Official Development Assistance”, he reminded.

WHO calls for moratorium on COVID-19 booster jabs

By Deepak Arora

GENEVA, Aug 4: The head of the UN health organization called on Wednesday for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters until “at least the end of September” to enable the world’s most vulnerable people to be inoculated.

“I understand the concern of all Governments to protect their people from the Delta variant, but we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected”, said Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

During his weekly press conference, Tedros recalled that in May he had requested international support to promote global vaccinations with the goal of enabling a minimum of 10 per cent of each country’s population to be vaccinated by the end of September.

With more than half of the time already elapsed, he regretted that too little progress had been made towards that goal and even less towards the target of vaccinating 30 per cent by the end of this year.

The WHO chief indicated that so far, more than four billion COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered around the globe, 80 per cent of them in high- and middle-income countries – even though less than half of the world’s population live there.

As of May, high-income countries had administered about 50 doses for every 100 people, a figure that has since almost doubled, while a lack of supply in low-income countries have left only 1.5 doses for every 100 people.

“Still, some rich countries are considering booster doses even though there are hundreds of millions of people waiting to have access to a first dose”, stressed Tedros, urging that instead, most of vaccines go to low-income countries.

WHO has insisted that reaching global vaccination goals require everyone’s cooperation, “especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines”.

Tedros said that the G20 leading industrialized nations have a vital role to play as its members are the largest producers, consumers, and donors of COVID-19 vaccines.

“It’s no understatement to say that the course of the pandemic depends on the leadership of the G20 countries”, he said, adding, that one month from now, the G20 health ministers will meet, ahead of the October summit and calling on them to “make concrete commitments to support WHO’s global vaccination targets. We call on vaccine producers to prioritize COVAX".

Tedros also called on Olympians, business leaders, religious leaders and other influential personalities, as well as every individual and community to support the moratorium on booster doses.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) emphasized that so far there is no evidence that a booster dose adds immune benefits to people who already have the full vaccination course.

Both WHO and PAHO reiterated that vaccines are not the only tool to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and reminded that “there is no measure that alone is sufficient to end the health emergency”.

“We can only defeat it with a comprehensive approach to vaccines and proven public health and social measures that we know work”, Tedros underscored.

India takes over as President of UN Security Council for month of August

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1: India take over the Presidency of the UN Security Council on the first day August and is set to host three events major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping and counterterrorism during the month.

“It is a singular honour for us to be presiding over the Security Council the same month when we are celebrating our 75th Independence Day," India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said in a video message on the eve of India assuming the rotating Presidency of the powerful 15-nation UN body.

The first working day of India’s Presidency will be Monday, August 2 when Tirumurti will hold a hybrid press briefing in the UN headquarters on the Council’s programme of work for the month.

Tirumurti will also provide a briefing for member states of the United Nations which are non-members of the Council on its work for the month, according to a schedule released by the UN.

India’s two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the Security Council began on January 1, 2021. The August presidency will be India’s first Presidency during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. India will again preside over the Council in December next year, the last month of its two-year tenure.

During its Presidency, India will be organising high-level signature events in three major areas - maritime security, peacekeeping and counterterrorism.

In the video message, Tirumurti said maritime security has a high priority for India “and it is important for the Security Council to take a holistic approach to this issue".

Peacekeeping is a topic “close to our hearts, given our own long and pioneering involvement" with peacekeeping, he said, adding that India will focus on how to ensure the safety of peacekeepers, especially by using better technology and how to bring perpetrators of crimes against peacekeepers to justice.

As a country that has been at the forefront in the fight against terrorism, India will continue to keep the spotlight on counterterrorism.

Tirumurti said in the last seven months of India’s tenure in the Council, “we have taken a principled and forward-looking position on various issues. We have been unafraid of shouldering responsibilities. We have been proactive. We have focused on issues of our priority."

“We have made efforts to bridge the different voices within the Council to ensure that the Council comes together and speaks in one voice on a variety of important issues of the day. This is what we will bring into our Presidency," he said.

Modi to be first Indian PM to preside over UNSC meeting: Syed Akbaruddin

HYDERABAD, Aug 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM to preside over a meeting during New Delhi's presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), said Syed Akbaruddin, India's former envoy to UN, on Sunday.

Speaking to India, Former Permanent Representative of India to UN, Akkbarudin said that in over 75 years, this is the first time Indian political leadership has invested in presiding over an event of the 15-member UN body and this depicts that the country's leadership wants to lead from the front.

"Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister, who has decided to preside over a meeting of the United Nation Security Council. It shows that leadership wants to lead from the front. It also shows that India and its political leadership are invested in our foreign policy ventures," Syed Akbaruddin, who is currently Dean of Kautilya School of Public Policy.

India on Sunday assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC and will be hosting signature events related to maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism during the month.

Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla will also chair high-level meetings on topics of global importance.

"This is our eighth stint on the UNSC yet in the 75+years, this is the first time that our political leadership has invested in presiding over an event of the security council," Akbaruddin said.

"Although this is a virtual meeting, it's still a first meeting of the sort for us. It is historic. The last time an Indian PM was engaged in this effort was the then PV Narasimha Rao in 1992 when he attended a UNSC meeting," he added.

India took over the presidency from France. Ambassador of India to the United Nations, TS Tirumurti thanked France Permanent Representative to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, for steering the UN Security Council for the month of July.

"India has just assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council on 1st August. India and France enjoy historical and close relations. I thank France for all the support which they've given us during our stint in the Security Council," Tirumurti said in a video message.

During our presidency, India said it is organising three high-level signature meetings focussing on our priority areas--maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism.

India will also be organising a solemn event in memory of peacekeepers.

Tirumurti apprised that the UN Security Council will also have on its agenda several important meetings including Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and the Middle East.

Security Council will also be adopting important resolutions on Somalia, Mali, and UN Interim Force in Lebanon, he added.

This is India's first presidency in the UNSC during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. The two-year tenure of India as a non-permanent member of the UNSC began on January 1, 2021.

The first working day of India's presidency will be on Monday, August 2 when Tirumurti will hold a hybrid press briefing in the UN headquarters on the Council's programme of work for the month.

Russia, France, Uzbekistan congratulate India on assuming UNSC presidency

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: Russia on Sunday congratulated India on assuming the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and said it is "truly impressed" with New Delhi's agenda, which "embraces pressing global issues" including maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.

"Congratulations on #India's taking over the #UNSC presidency! Truly impressed with the agenda, which embraces pressing global issues including maritime security, peacekeeping & counter-terrorism. Expecting fruitful and effective work. Wishing many happy returns & all the success!" Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev tweeted.

Meanwhile, France said it is committed to working with India on strategic issues as maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism.

"Delighted that India is today taking over #UNSC presidency from France. We are committed to working with India on strategic issues as maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism, and upholding a rules-based, multilateral system to face today's many ongoing crises," Ambassador of France to India Emmanuel Lenain tweeted.

Uzbekistan Ambassador to India Dilshod Akhatov also extended support to Indian candidature to obtain the status of a permanent member of UNSC.

"India is one of the biggest members of the United Nation. Of course, it plays a really big role in Southeast Asia. India's non-permanent membership tenure will be an important event for the world community for such key body for the United Nations," said Akhatov.

"Generally, Uzbekistan supports Indian candidature to obtain the status of a permanent member of UNSC and we, of course, have always been supported the candidature of no permanent members in the UN," he added.

The envoy further acknowledged India's work to tackle terrorism and issues concerning the ongoing development in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, India assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC.

India took over the presidency from France. Ambassador of India to United Nations, TS Tirumurti thanked France Permanent Representative to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, for steering the UN Security Council for the month of July.

This is India's first presidency in the UNSC during its 2021-22 tenure as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. The two-year tenure of India as a non-permanent member of the UNSC began on January 1, 2021.

During the presidency of the powerful 15-nation UN body, India said it will be focusing on maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism.

This is India's eighth tenure in the UNSC.

The first working day of India's presidency will be on Monday, August 2 when Tirumurti will hold a hybrid press briefing in the UN headquarters on the Council's programme of work for the month.

 

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