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India to overtake China as most populous country in next 8 years: UN

UNITED NATIONS, June 18: The world’s population will increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, going up by 2 bn from the earlier 7.7 bn, shows a new United Nations report launched on Monday. The global population could reach its peak around the end of the current century, with an estimated population of 11 bn.

India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in next 8 years, according to the report. The global fertility rate, which fell from 3.2 births per woman in 1990 to 2.5 in 2019, will decline further to 2.2 in 2050. India’s current total fertility rate stands at 2.2 births per woman.

Nine countries will make up more than half of the projected growth of the global population between now and 2050: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, Indonesia, Egypt and the United States of America.

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double by 2050, up 99%. Regions that may experience lower rates of population growth between 2019 and 2050 include Oceania excluding Australia/New Zealand (56%), Northern Africa and Western Asia (46%), Australia/New Zealand (28%), Central and Southern Asia (25%), Latin America and the Caribbean (18%), Eastern and South Eastern Asia (3%), and Europe and Northern America (2%). People are growing older due to increasing life expectancy and falling fertility levels, and that the number of countries experiencing a reduction in population size is growing.

“Many of the fastest growing populations are in the poorest countries, where population growth brings additional challenges in the effort to eradicate poverty, achieve greater equality, combat hunger and malnutrition and strengthen the coverage and quality of health and education systems to ensure that no one is left behind,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

In the poorest of countries, people still live seven years less than the global average.

“In 2019, life expectancy at birth in the least developed countries lags 7.4 years behind the global average, due largely to persistently high levels of child and maternal mortality, as well as violence, conflict and the continuing impact of the HIV epidemic,” says the report.

The World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights, which is published by the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, provides a comprehensive overview of global demographic patterns and prospects.

 

India backs Israel to keep Palestinian group out of UN bodies

NEW YORK, June 11: India voted in favour of a resolution moved by Israel at a UN body to bar a Palestinian rights organisation called Shahed being given observer status at UN institutions, with Israeli diplomats describing the move as a significant development.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) “overwhelmingly rejected” Shahed’s request to obtain observer status at UN institutions.

The resolution initiated by the Israeli delegation to the UN was passed in a 28-14 vote on June 6. India, the US, the UK, France, Germany and Japan were among the 28 countries that voted in favour of the resolution, which was opposed by China, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and Russia.

There was no immediate word from the Indian government on the matter.

Though the vote happened on June 6, it came to light on Tuesday when Maya Kadosh, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy, tweeted: “Thank you India for standing with @IsraelinUN and rejecting the request of terrorist organization “Shahed” to obtain the status of an observer in #UN. Together we will continue to act against terrorist organizations that intend to harm.”

The Israeli foreign ministry described Shahed as a Palestinian organisation based in Lebanon that “claims to deal with human rights and humanitarian issues, but in practice is an organisation that Israel has declared a terrorist organization”.

People familiar with developments said Israel considers Shahed an arm of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement. They said Israel had moved the resolution after ascertaining Shahed’s links to terror groups. They added India’s vote on the matter was a good sign for bilateral relations.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines breaks a record, as smallest ever Security Council seat holder

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, June 7: Following a secret ballot held on Friday, the UN General Assembly elected five countries to the Security Council, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the smallest nation ever to secure a seat. Also elected were Estonia, Niger, Tunisia, VietNam.

The five States will take up their seats as non-permanent members of the Security Council in January 2020, replacing Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Peru and Poland.

Every year, five countries are elected to the 15-member Council (10 of whom are non-permanent) for a two-year term, according to a geographical rotation set by the Assembly in 1963, to ensure fair regional representation: five from African and Asian and Pacific States; one from Eastern Europe; two from Latin American States; and two from Western European and Other States (WEOG).

Whilst Niger, Tunisia and Viet Nam were elected unopposed, two of the five seats were contested: El Salvador competed with Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to represent the Latin American and Caribbean group; and Romania lost out to Estonia in the East European group.

Speaking to the press outside the General Assembly Hall, Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, described the election of his multi-island nation of around 110,000 people, as a “historic occasion”.

Gonsalves added that the country is committed to the principle of sustainable development and, as a Small Island Developing State in danger of inundation by rising seas, is very concerned about the consequences of adverse climate change and intends to work very closely with the other members of the Security Council. The UN, he added, has limitations, but it also has “profound strengths.”

Following a 2014 General Assembly resolution, elections to the non-permanent Security Council seats were moved from October to June, to give incoming countries more time to prepare for their terms, before assuming their responsibilities.

UN dedicates August 22 to victims of religious violence

UNITED NATIONS, May 29: The UN General Assembly has declared August 22 as the International Day for Victims of Religious Violence to combat hate crimes and persecution on the basis of beliefs.

Recalling the wave of attacks that targeted a mosque in New Zealand, and churches in Sri Lanka during Easter Sunday services, Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who introduced the resolution on Tuesday, said that the international day will honour the victims and survivors of religious violence who are often forgotten.

“We hope that it will help combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief, and will further strengthen inter-religious dialogue,” he said.

The resolution is not focused on victims of any particular religion or belief and seeks to raise respect for religious diversity, Czaputowicz said.

Pakistan, along with the US, was one of the nine sponsors of the resolution.

During the discussion of the resolution, the US and China clashed over Washington’s criticism of Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority.

The Acting US Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, Austin Smith, said that in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region “more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in camps since April 2017. There are disturbing reports of forced labour, torture, and deaths in these camps.”

“Chinese authorities are restricting religious freedom by labelling peaceful religious practices as manifestations of ‘religious extremism and terrorism’,” he added.

He asked UN members to ask China to close its camps and respect the rights of Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.

China’s delegate called the US allegations unfounded and said that what were described as camps were, in fact, vocational and educational training centres to help minorities learn skills that can help them fight poverty.

He, in turn, hurled a counter-accusation against the US asserting that at the recent Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues many speakers had accused the US government of killing its own indigenous peoples, extinguishing their languages and oppressing their voices.

Compliance on civilian protection has deteriorated: Antonio Guterres

By Deepak Arora

Open debate: Protection of civilians in armed conflict, by UN Photo/Manuel Eliass

UNITED NATIONS, May 23: Marking 20 years since the UN Security Council added the protection of civilians to its agenda, Secretary-General António Guterres told the chamber on Thursday that while safeguards were stronger, “compliance has deteriorated”.

“We are rightly critical when assessing the state of the protection of civilians, for there is great cause of concern”, he said.

The UN chief walked members through 20 years of progress, saying that a “culture of protection” had indeed “taken root” that encompasses a comprehensive framework based on international law, and becoming one of the peace and security body’s “core issues”.

Also, in the plus column, he credited deploying specialist advisors in peace operations and reinforcing humanitarian agencies’ work to strengthen child protection and help shield all civilians from “loathsome acts of sexual violence in conflict”.

Guterres added that monitoring and reporting grave violations against children in conflicts and engaging with warring parties “has led to the demobilization and reintegration of thousands of children”.

Moreover, he continued, Security Council resolutions on the protection of medical care in armed conflict and on conflict and hunger “have given important focus and urgency to these issues”.

Despite these advances, grave human suffering is still being caused by armed conflicts and lack of compliance with international humanitarian law and “civilians continue to make up the vast majority of casualties”, Guterres flagged.

In 2018, UN records revealed that more than 22,800 civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen were killed or injured.

And a new wave of shelling and airstrikes against hospitals, schools, markets and camps for displaced people in northwest Syria’s Idleb has killed and wounded civilians, causing widespread panic.

Guterres spelled out that in all conflicts, “when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 90 per cent of those killed and injured were civilians”.

What’s more, persistent violence against humanitarian and medical workers and facilities along with widespread access constraints continue to jeopardize civilians in need.

“Chief among our challenges is enhancing and ensuring respect and compliance for international humanitarian law in the conduct of hostilities” bemoaned Guterres.

“In many cases, our information suggests that respect for those bodies of law is at best questionable”, he stated, while in others “we have witnessed blatant violations”.

He stressed the need for better accountability by closing the gap between serious violation allegations, their investigation and prosecution.

To do this, the Secretary-General cited his own report on the issue. First, he urged that clear national policy frameworks be established to protect civilians in armed conflict; secondly, that humanitarian organizations engage with non-State armed groups to negotiate safe and timely humanitarian access; and finally, that accountability be ensured for serious violations.

“We also need action at the global and multilateral levels” Mr. Guterres said, signaling that the Council must be “more consistent” and comprehensive in addressing protection concerns “within and across different conflicts”.

The UN chief also said that Member States, UN actors and civil society must sustain implementation.

“For, as bleak as the current state of protection is, there is considerable scope for improvement if we each do our utmost to promote and implement the rules that bind us to preserve humanity in war”, Guterres said.

For his part, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), acknowledged that while political consensus is difficult, “we ask you [the Council] to be clearer in your support for the respect of international humanitarian law – and in stating and following through on the simple truth that no one is above the law and no civilian can be excluded from protection”.

Chairing the meeting, Indonesia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, said that the 20th anniversary commemoration should serve as a reminder not only of our political commitments, but also, of “our duties to implement those commitments”.

Recalling the UN Charter’s mission to ensure the primacy of human safety and security she underscored: “We cannot afford to let our people down”.

David Gressly appointed UN Ebola response coordinator

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, May 23: The United Nations is stepping up its response to the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is now in its tenth month and has claimed more than 1,200 lives. The Secretary-General has appointed David Gressly, Deputy Head of mission, as the Organization’s Emergency Ebola Response Coordinator, according to Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Briefing newsmen here, Stéphane Dujarric said Gressly will oversee the coordination of international support for the Ebola response and work to ensure that an enabling environment — particularly in terms of security and political issues — is in place to allow the Ebola response to be even more effective.

He will work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), which will continue to lead all health operations and technical support activities with the Government.

In separate comments, the Organization’s newly appointed Emergency Coordinator (EERC) said there was “no time to lose”.

Gressly, who also serves as the deputy chief of the UN Stabilization Mission for the DRC, MONUSCO, noted that responders to Ebola are working in an environment of unprecedented complexity for a public health emergency, with insecurity and political protests having led to disruptions in the efforts to fight the disease.

Although the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have supported the Government and Congolese efforts to contain the virus in parts of Ituri and North Kivu provinces, ongoing insecurity and community mistrust continue to hamper access. This hinders the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Health Ministry from detecting, treating and vaccinating sick people, ultimately leading to more intense Ebola transmission.

The increasingly complex environment has prompted the UN, in partnership with the Government and others, to strengthen its political engagement and operational support to negotiate better access to communities; increase support for humanitarian coordination; and bolster preparedness and readiness planning for the Goma region, and neighbouring countries.

For its part, WHO is adapting public health strategies to identify and treat people as quickly as possible; expanding vaccination to encompass more people; and redoubling efforts to stem health facility transmissions.

UN advisers warn hateful attacks pushing Sri Lanka backwards

By Deepak Arora

During Sri Lanka's civil conflict, displaced Muslims take shelter in the ruins of Rasool Puthuveli Mosque in Mannar District, Northern Province. (File from 2007) UNICEF/ Ron HavivNEW YORK, May 14: Growing instances of religious-based violence in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka have prompted two United Nations Special Advisers to call for an end to “hateful attacks” directed towards the country’s Muslim minority.

In retaliation for the deadly violence on Easter Sunday, against Christians churches and upscale hotels in various parts of the country that left more than 200 people dead and hundreds of others injured, revenge attacks reportedly took place against mosques and Muslims’ homes on Monday.

“It is in the interest of all ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka, as well as the Government, the opposition, civil society and the security sector, to work collaboratively in taking appropriate action and immediately stop these hateful attacks”, said Adama Dieng, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Karen Smith, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, in a joint statement.

Since the 21 April suicide bombings, there has been a spate of attacks against Muslim and Christian communities in the Buddhist-majority country.

According to news reports, Sri Lanka declared a countrywide curfew on Tuesday after a man was killed by a sword-wielding mob on Monday in an escalating anti-Muslim backlash .

Recalling their recent statements against violent extremism and hate speech, the UN Advisors acknowledged and welcomed the swift response of the Government, including by deploying the security forces to protect affected communities and addressing the spread of false information and incitement to violence.

They also encouraged the Government to fully investigate these and other similar attacks and bring to justice those responsible for instigating or committing these violent acts.

“The country is trying to move forward from a traumatic period of inter-ethnic armed conflict, but these attacks are pushing Sri Lanka backwards”, the two Special Advisers warned. “If not adequately dealt with, the recent violence has the potential to escalate even further”.

Mr. Dieng and Ms. Smith urged the Government to show that it “will not tolerate the spread of prejudice and hate among groups within its population” at both the national and local levels, “by putting an end to local discriminatory practices that perpetuate religious intolerance and violence”.

They both offered their support to work with the Government on inter-faith, inter-religious harmony and inclusivity.

“Sri Lanka has a pluralistic society” they asserted. “To be a Sri Lankan is to be a Buddhist, to be Hindu, to be a Muslim, to be a Christian”.

Each of these communities are entitled to their identity and to practice their religion in peace and security, as recognized by the country’s Constitution.

“We call on all Sri Lankans to respect one another”, concluded the Special Advisers.

UN Special and Personal Representatives, Envoys and Advisers are appointed by the UN Secretary-General.

In Christchurch, UN chief calls for tolerance, solidarity to extinguish ‘wildfire’ of hate speech

By Deepak Arora

Secretary-General António Guterres speaks to the press after visiting Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, to pay respects and show solidarity for Ramadan. The Mosque was the first site of two terrorist attacks that took place on March 15, 2019. UN Photo/Mark GartenCHRISTCHURCH, May 13: On a three-day visit to New Zealand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid his respects to the victims of the horrific mosque attacks in Christchurch, where dozens of Muslims were gunned down in two separate incidents during Friday prayers on March 15.

Calling for solidarity to counter the recent upsurge in hate speech, the UN chief visited both Linwood Mosque, where he laid a wreath, and Al Noor mosque. On 15 March, a lone gunman killed 51 people at the two places of worship while livestreaming the attacks on social media.

At Al Noor mosque on Tuesday, Guterres told the Muslim community that while there were no words to relieve the hurt and sorrow and pain, “I wanted to come here personally to transmit love, support and total and complete admiration.”

He said that like so many around the world, he had been moved by the poignant stories of compassion and grace from Christchurch.

“But in many ways, I was not surprised. This community reflected a spirit that I have always known to be deeply embedded in Islam – a faith of love, compassion, forgiveness and mercy,” he said.

He recalled that as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, he had seen witness the generosity of Muslim countries opening their borders to people in distress in a world where so many other borders are closed.

Secretary-General António Guterres speaks to the press after visiting Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, to pay respects and show solidarity for Ramadan. The Mosque was the first site of two terrorist attacks that took place on March 15, 2019. UN Photo/Mark Garten“This is in line with what I regard as the most beautiful prescription for refugee protection in world history. It is found in the Surah Al-Tawbah of the Holy Quran: ‘And if anyone seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he can hear the words of Allah. Then escort him where he can be secure,’” quoted Guterres.

He also recalled that during a visit to Cairo last month, he had been honoured to meet the Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, and had thanked him for his recent interfaith meeting with Pope Francis in the United Arab Emirates. The declaration signed by the two leaders calls on people of faith to recognize and respect one another and work together for the good of humanity.

“We must stand together in this period of difficulties,” said the UN chief, adding that: “Hate speech is spreading and public discourse is being coarsened. Social media is being exploited as a platform for bigotry. We must all show solidarity in response to this dangerous upsurge in hatred.”

The Secretary-General spotlighted two recent initiatives he has set in motion two initiatives, respectively to protect holy sites and to address hate speech.

He has asked the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Moratinos, to develop an Action Plan for the UN to be fully engaged in support of safeguarding religious sites.

Meanwhile, Guterres has also asked his Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to bring together a UN team to scale up our response to hate speech and present a global plan of action.

“Hate speech is spreading like wildfire in social media. We must extinguish it,” said the Secretary-General, declaring: “There is no room for hate speech – online or offline.”

Again quoting the Holy Quran, he said: ‘We … made you into races and tribes so that you may know one another.’

Thanking the Christchurch Muslim community “for doing what you’re doing to help us better know each other – and see our shared humanity,” Mr. Guterres said: “In these trying times, I am here to say with a full heart: You are not alone. The world is with you. The United Nations is with you. I am with you.”

The Secretary-General's visit to New Zealand is part of a tour of the Pacific Island States in which the urgent issue of climate change figures strongly. On Wednesday, he will address the Pacific Islands Form, being held this year in Fiji, before moving on to stops in Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Guterres is convening a major UN Climate Summit to be held at UN Headquarters in New York in September.

UN chief praises New Zealand premier’s ‘admirable’ response to Christchurch attacks

By Deepak Arora

AUCKLAND, May 12: While expressing his solidarity with the victims and families of the March Christchurch mosque attacks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her leadership in the aftermath of the killings.

Speaking to newsmen alongside New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern here on Sunday, the UN chief expressed his admiration for Ms. Ardern’s rapid and decisive response to the mass shootings, which saw the Government immediately take measures to significantly strengthen gun control legislation, and her call to prevent hate speech on social media and the Internet.

Ms. Ardern’s appeals and leadership, he added, were extremely important in the context of the UN initiatives to fight hate speech, and to better support countries in the protection of holy sites.

Guterres pointed out that he normally pays a “solidarity visit” to a Muslim country during Ramadan but, this year, he decided to visit the Muslim community in Christchurch, “to pay tribute to their courage, to their resilience, but also to pay tribute to the extraordinary unity and to the message of solidarity that was given by the people and the government of New Zealand.”

The Secretary-General's visit to New Zealand is part of a tour of the Pacific Island States in which the urgent issue of climate change figures strongly.

In his remarks to the press, Guterres thanked New Zealand for its leading stance in combatting the “climate emergency,” and the country's support for the Pacific Island States, which he described as being on the frontline of the dramatic impacts of climate change.

“I’ll be visiting Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu and conveying a very strong message from the Pacific to the rest of the world: we absolutely must catch up, we absolutely must be able to stop this dramatic trend, to reverse this dramatic trend. We cannot allow runaway climate change. We need to protect the lives of all people and we need to protect our planet.”

The Secretary-General also noted New Zealand’s introduction of legislation to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050, and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century, a goal reiterated by the scientific community in a UN report released in October 2018, described at the time by Guterres as “an ear-splitting wake-up call.”

However, he said that political will has been fading in other countries, even though they are conscious of the need to act, which is one of the reasons for launching a special UN Climate Summit to be held at UN Headquarters in New York in September.

Need to counter fake news for effective responses to health crises: António Guterres

By Deepak Arora

António GuterresSAN MARINO, May 10: UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a multi-stakeholder approach encompassing the fields of media and health can we counter disinformation and safeguard health for all.

In a message to the high-level conference on “The Danger of Disinformation — Countering Fake News and Safeguarding Health in the Post-truth Era”, in San Marino, António Guterres said “technology has transformed the ways in which we access and share information, including scientific and medical knowledge. New platforms are enabling scientists, policymakers, journalists, international organizations, the private sector, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and the general public to better engage and collaborate to advance the global health agenda.”

However, he said new technologies were sometimes used to mislead public opinion. “The spread of false information poses a threat to people’s lives, health security and to public health systems across the world."

Misinformation about vaccinations, for instance, has flourished in recent years, including on social media, resulting in a rise in preventable diseases.

UN Secretary-General said the dissemination of inaccurate information during disease outbreaks, such as recent Ebola epidemics, also makes it harder to respond effectively to complex health crises.

Only through a multi-stakeholder approach encompassing the fields of media and health can we counter disinformation and safeguard health for all, he added.

Six new SDG Advocates appointed

UN SDGs Advocates United NationsUNITED NATIONS, May 9: As the UN and partners around the world push towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, six new influential public figures came on board as official SDG Advocates on Thursday, committing themselves to the pursuit of the 17 goals on behalf of “peace, prosperity, people, planet, and partnerships.”

“We have the tools to answer the questions posed by climate change, environmental pressure, poverty and inequality”, said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres. “They lie in the great agreements of 2015 – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

“But tools are no use if you don’t use them. So, today, and every day, my appeal is clear and simple. We need action, ambition and political will. More action, more ambition and more political will,” said the UN chief.

The six new Advocates are:

His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano (Federal Republic of Nigeria).
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Activist, Environment and Indigenous Rights (Republic of Chad).
Dia Mirza, Actress and Film Producer, UN Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador for India (Republic of India).
Edward Ndopu, Founder, Global Strategies on Inclusive Education (Republic of South Africa).
Nadia Murad, Nobel Laureate, Chair and President, Nadia’s Initiative, UN Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador (Republic of Iraq).
Marta Vieira da Silva, Footballer, Orlando Pride, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador (Federative Republic of Brazil).

They are joining and overall group of 17, who are all committed to raising awareness, inspiring greater ambition, and pushing for faster action on the SDGs, which include the end of extreme hunger, poverty, and quality healthcare for all.

The Advocates represent the universal character of the SDGs themselves, hailing from Governments, entertainment, academia, sport, business and activist organizations around the world.

“By joining forces to achieve our goals, we can turn hope into reality – leaving no one behind,” said Co-Chair of the SDG Advocates group, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway.

“This is a time of great hope for the world. If we work smartly together and stay on course, we can raise millions out of poverty and significantly expand basic social services for many more by the 2030 end date of the SDGs,” added Co-Chair of the SDG Advocates and President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Guterres has appointed some members of the previous group of SDG Advocates as SDG Advocate Alumni and said on Thursday he was looking forward to their ongoing support and engagement.

United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme Launched

Recent Attacks Underscore Need to Work with Partners across United Nations System

By Deepak Arora

António GuterresNEW YORK, May 7: Recent terror attacks in several countries underscore the need to work with partners across United Nations system, said Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch of Countering Terrorist Travel Programme.

The Secretary-General urged all to pledge to continue to work together in pragmatic and innovative ways to address serious threats to international peace and security.

The UN Secretary-General established the office of Counter-Terrorism in 2017 for several fundamental reasons: to help strengthen international counter-terrorism cooperation; to expand multilateral networks for sharing information to detect, identify, disrupt and prosecute terrorists; and to ensure that Member States most affected by terrorism have the capacity to tackle this evolving threat.

António Guterres said the recent despicable attacks in Kenya, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, among others, were tragic reminders of the global reach of the scourge of terrorism. These attacks underscore the need to work closely with partners across the United Nations system and beyond.

He said the United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme that has been launched today was about helping to meet all these objectives.

The Secretary-General thanked the Netherlands Government for its generous contribution to this effort. He also appreciate the continued support of the Governments of India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the counter-terrorism work of the United Nations.

Over the last seven years, he said there has been a dramatic movement of terrorists to and from conflict zones around the world. “Just two years ago, we estimated that over 40,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 110 countries may have travelled to join terrorist groups in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq.”

Following the territorial defeat of ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh], the Secretary-General said many terrorists were trying to return home or relocate to safe havens or other troubled parts of the world.

“Many are well trained and could carry out future terrorist attacks. Others hope to radicalize and recruit new followers to their cause.”

António Guterres said they, as well as those they inspire, represent a major transnational threat. Detecting and disrupting these terrorists and other high-risk criminals prior to them carrying out an attack is a high priority for the international community.

The General Assembly and Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) have reaffirmed the need to strengthen our international cooperation and information sharing to improve national detection capacities and prevent the travel of terrorists.

He said the programme would help Member States collect, process and share travel data with other competent national and international authorities, with full respect for privacy and other fundamental freedoms.

He said “we know that policies that fully respect human rights are essential in tackling violent extremism.”

“This information-sharing will enhance the abilities of Member States to effectively detect, prevent, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences, including their related travel. Importantly, this will also enable the detection and disruption of human trafficking and other forms of serious organized crime and to faster identify their victims,” he added.

The United Nations family was ready to assist in protecting and ensuring the rights of all victims whose interests were served by this project.

He said “it represents the kind of cooperative, intergovernmental and institutional approach that I aimed for when I established the Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact last year to enhance counter-terrorism coordination and coherence across the system.”

In that context, António Guterres said the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre has also stepped up its efforts to meet the growing expectations and demands from countries most affected by terrorism.

He expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Abdallah Y. al-Mouallimi of Saudi Arabia for his able chairmanship of the Centre’s Advisory Board.

India ‘absolutely needed’ as permanent member of UN Security Council, says France

François DelattreUNITED NATIONS, May 7: India and nations like Germany, Brazil and Japan are “absolutely needed” as permanent members of a reformed and enlarged UN Security Council to better reflect contemporary realities and the addition of these key members to the UN high-table is among France’s “strategic” priorities, the French envoy to the UN has said.

India is at the forefront of efforts at the UN to push for the long-pending reform of the Security Council, emphasising that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.

“In terms of policy, France and Germany have strong policy which is to work together to enlarge the Security Council and to succeed in terms of the negotiations that should lead to the enlargement of the Security Council that we consider absolutely needed to better reflect the world as it is. There is no question about it,” France’s Permanent Representative to the UN François Delattre told reporters here last week.

Speaking along side German envoy to the UN Christoph Heusgen at the end of Germany’s Presidency of the Council for April, Delattre emphasised that France considers that “Germany, Japan, India, Brazil and a fair representation of Africa in particular are absolutely needed at the table to get towards a fairer representation of the Security Council. This is for us a matter of priority.”

He underlined that Paris believes the enlargement of the Security Council with the addition of a few key members is “one of our strategic priorities.”

Noting that when France and Germany launched their alliance for multi-materialism, he said it signifies that the two nations strongly believe in the UN as the core of today’s global governance and that they strongly believe in “multi-lateralism and means that we are actively working to reform and in some respects to refound, reinvent multi-lateralism so that it is really efficient for the decades to come.”

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, speaking at the informal meeting of the Plenary on the Intergovernmental negotiations on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council earlier this year, had said that on the issue of ‘Categories of Membership’, a total of 113 Member States, out of 122 who submitted their positions in the Framework Document, support expansion in both of the existing categories specified in the Charter.

“In short, more than 90 per cent of the written submissions in the document are in favour of expansion in both categories of membership specified in the Charter,” he had said.

Akbaruddin had said that while reform at the UN is a process rather than an event, “there is no process known to us here that has traversed winding pathways in the manner as this process of the Reform of the Security Council.” “In terms of inertia too, it has no peer. While the world is not what it was when we began the process, the objections to moving forward remain the same. While the global challenges of the 21st century have multiplied, we remain divided even about the process to adopt in order to move forward,” he had said.

France has maintained that if the crises of recent times have confirmed the centrality of the UN, they have also reinforced the need to make the organisation more effective and more representative of the current balances in the world.

“That is why France pushes for the expansion of the Security Council by supporting the accession to a permanent seat of Germany, Brazil, India, Japan, as well as a greater presence of African countries,” according to the Permanent Mission of France.

India scores another UN win as Jagjit Pavadia re-elected to INCB

Jagjit PavadiaUNITED NATIONS, May 7: India scored another victory at the United Nations Tuesday when Jagjit Pavadia was re-elected to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for another term, posting the highest tally of 44.

Next were the candidates fielded by Morocco and Paraguay with 32 and 31 votes respectively. Voting was on till the filing of this report, with two more members remaining to be elected. There were in all 15 candidates competing for 5 seats.

Pavadia has been a member of the International Narcotics Control Board since 2015, and second vice-president and chair of the standing committee on estimates since 2015 and 2017.

The INCB says its a is an independent, quasi-judicial expert body established in 1968 as a monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions.

“Thanks to the support extended by many friends of India,” Syed Akbaruddin, permanent representatives to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter, announcing Pavadia’s victory.

It has 13 members, each elected for a period of five years.. “Once they have been elected, INCB members serve impartially in their personal capacity, independently of Governments,” says the INCB website.

India has been on roll at UN elections in recent year, including the most celebrated re-election of Dalveer Bhandari to the International Court of Justice in 2017, beating the UK nominee in a testimony to India’s growing clout globally.

10 million people in DPRK face imminent food shortages

By Deepak Arora

PYONGYANG/ ROME, May 4: A United Nations food security assessment in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has found that following the worst harvest in 10 years, due to dry spells, heatwaves and flooding, about 10.1 million people suffer from severe food shortages, meaning they do not have enough food until the next harvest.

The aggregate 2018/19 food crop production is estimated at 4.9 million metric tons, which is the lowest since the 2008/09 season. In addition to unfavourable climatic conditions, limited supplies of agricultural inputs, such as fuel, fertilizer and spare parts have had significant adverse impact.

The assessment, which is based on UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme missions to the country last month and in November 2018, concluded that the reduced harvest, coupled with increased post-harvest losses, has led to an uncovered food deficit of 1.36 million metric tons after considering the commercial import capacity of the country.

The report found worryingly low food consumption levels, limited dietary diversity and families being forced to cut meals or eat less.

In particular, it expresses serious concern about lack of dietary diversity which is vital to good nutrition. The situation is particularly worrisome for young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, who are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

The assessment found that the government’s Public Distribution System, on which a large portion of the population relies, has been forced to cut rations to the lowest ever level for this time of the year. There are concerns that in the absence of substantial external assistance, rations may be further cut during the critical months of June-October, at the peak of the lean season.

“Many families survive on a monotonous diet of rice and kimchi most of the year, eating very little protein,” said Nicolas Bidault, co-lead of the mission and WFP Senior Regional Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) Adviser. “This is worrying because many communities are already extremely vulnerable and any further cuts to already minimal food rations, could push them deep into a hunger crisis,” he added.

“We are concerned about this year’s wheat, barley and potato crops, which play an important role in meeting household food needs during the upcoming lean season, despite accounting for only about 10 percent of total production,” said Mario Zappacosta, FAO’s Senior Economist and co-lead of the mission. “Our assessment shows that reduced rains and lack of snow cover during winter, which left crops exposed to freezing temperatures, cut production by about 20 percent,” he added.

The assessment’s recommendations include scaling up food assistance to meet immediate needs, and prioritising areas where food needs are greatest and where climate impacts are the most severe. It also recommends an expansion of nutrition programmes and disaster risk reduction measures to enable at-risk communities to better cope with future shocks.

The assessment also recommends a series of measures to bolster agricultural production including importing fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals, water pumps, greenhouses, and vegetable seed, as well as upgrading grain-drying equipment, threshing machines and storage facilities in order to reduce post-harvest losses.

WFP’s work in DPRK focuses on providing nutrition assistance to some 770,000 malnourished women and children across nine provinces. They are given nutritious cereals and biscuits fortified with micronutrients, fats and proteins crucial for healthy growth, and the assistance is channelled through nurseries, hospitals and child institutions.

“Our programme of specially-designed fortified foods has filled an important nutritional gap among young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women at a crucial period of their lives,” said Praveen Agrawal, WFP’s Country Director in DPRK. “We must ensure that these nutrition gains are not reversed. Supporting this vulnerable group must be our top priority,” he added.

FAO’s work in DPRK provides support to more than 500,000 cooperative farmers, through the supply of vital production inputs for agriculture production. More importantly, it introduces techniques and technologies such as conservation agriculture, sustainable Rice Intensification and climate-resilient agriculture practices such agro-forestry, agroecology and crop-livestock integration to improve the livelihood of farmers and build their resilience against climate change.

‘Through its assistance, FAO supports nutrition-sensitive food production approaches and promotes food diversification to address the current food and nutrition security situation,’’ said Vincent Martin, FAO Representative in China and DPR Korea.

The FAO/WFP Rapid Food Security Assessment Mission visited counties across the country in April 2019 to assess the food security situation there, in addition to other counties visited by WFP in November 2018. Teams were granted access to a variety of locations including cooperative farms, rural and urban households, nurseries, public distribution centres, and were able to speak to households, farmers, government officials, and humanitarian partners.

UN lists Masood Azhar as global terrorist

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, May 1: India scored a major diplomatic victory at the United Nations when Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar was on Wednesday designated a global terrorist after China withdrew its long-standing block to the move.

Soon thereafter, India’s Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin confirmed that the Chairperson of the UN Sanctions Committee, the Permanent Representative of Indonesia, has informed us that Masood Azhar stands designated as an individual who has been promoting terrorism globally.

Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said this was a significant outcome because India has been at it for several years. “The first effort that we have made in this regard was in 2009. More recently, we have been persistent, diligent and in a subterranean manner, making all our efforts towards this goal. Today that goal stands achieved.”

The Ambassador said he was grateful to the many countries who were supportive of this effort. The designating States -- USA, UK and France -- also several others within the Council and outside the Council who came forward without any restraints and supported this Indian effort at not tolerating a terrorist.

Ambassador Syed AkbaruddinAmbassador Syed Akbaruddin thanked the Permanent Representative of Indonesia who was instrumental in ensuring that the process went smoothly and in accordance with our agreed understandings.

“All in all, it has been a happy day, a good day for those who would like to pursue the approach of zero tolerance for terrorism,” he added.

Azhar was listed by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee for his association with al-Qaeda and his role in financing, planning and facilitating terrorist acts by the JeM, shortly after officials announced in Islamabad that Pakistan would no longer object to his designation – a sign to China to lift the “technical hold” it had placed on four attempts to sanction Azhar.

Following the designation, Pakistan will be required to take three steps – freeze the funds and financial assets of Azhar, enforce a travel ban on him, and cut off his access to arms and related materials.

Shortly after the February 14 suicide attack in Pulwama that killed 40 Indian troopers and was claimed by JeM, France, with the backing of the US and the UK, moved a proposal at the 1267 Sanctions Committee to sanction 50-year-old Azhar. After a 10-day period to consider the matter, China blocked the proposal on March 13 by saying more time was needed to discuss the issue.

This angered the US, which threatened to take the matter to the UN Security Council, where discussions are held in public, unlike consultations held behind closed doors by the sanctions committee. The heavy lifting was done by the US as it wanted the terrorist tag for Azhar during consultations on April 23, but China and Pakistan wanted it to happen after the Indian elections.

The date was then moved by the US to April 30, though China was insisting on May 15. A compromise of May 1 was reached after the US hinted it would take the matter to the Security Council.

India and its Western allies also continued to work with China throughout this period. During a visit to Beijing last week, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale shared evidence on the role of Azhar and JeM in terrorist attacks with Chinese officials, including foreign minister Wang Yi.

A fifth proposal to sanction Azhar was moved by France, the US and UK last month. In an apparent face-saving measure for Pakistan at the behest of China, this proposal didn’t contain references to the Pulwama attack and terrorism in Kashmir.

The statement issued by the UN on Azhar’s listing referred extensively to his links with al-Qaeda, its slain chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban, and his role in supporting and facilitating these terrorist entities and providing them arms but made no mention of Kashmir, where JeM has carried out several devastating attacks, or Pakistan, where Azhar is based.

The statement referred to Azhar’s role as former leader of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen but made no mention of this group’s activities in Kashmir. The statement also referred to Azhar’s activities only till 2008, with no mention of attacks such as the 2016 assault on Pathankot airbase blamed on JeM.

India's External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a statement that the designation of Azhar “is a step in the right direction to demonstrate the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and its enablers”.

A statement from China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said all designations of terrorists should be done in “an objective, unbiased and professional manner and based on solid evidence and consensus among all parties”. He added, “Recently, relevant countries revised and re-submitted the materials for the listing proposal to the 1267 Committee. After careful study of the revised materials and taking into consideration the opinions of relevant parties concerned, China does not have objection to the listing proposal.”

Azhar formed JeM on his release from prison in India in 1999 in exchange for 155 hostages on an Indian Airlines flight that was hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan by Pakistani terrorists. The UN Security Council listed JeM as a terrorist group in October 2001 for its links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

However, experts have questioned Pakistan’s enforcement of listing measures imposed by the UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee on other terrorist leaders such as Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Saeed was designated a global terrorist by the UN shortly after the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the US has offered a $10 million bounty for him, but he continues to operate freely, raise funds and recruit members for his group.

The first proposal to list Azhar at the UN was moved by India in 2009, and the second was moved by India with the support of the US, the UK and France in 2016. France, the US and the UK moved the third proposal in 2017 and the fourth one earlier this year. They were all blocked by China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council.

Indonesia to find unity, consensus during its SC Presidency

By Deepak Arora

Dian Triansyah DjaniUNITED NATIONS, May 1: The Security Council’s programme of work for May will feature two open debates, the first on peacekeeping and the other on protection of civilians in armed conflict, Dian Triansyah Djani (Indonesia), Council President for the month, said at a Headquarters press conference today.

Outlining the priorities for his country’s month-long presidency, he said: “The goal is to achieve more interaction.”

The open debate on peacekeeping, to be held on May 7, will examine questions about training and building capacity. “This is an important issue,” he emphasized, pointing out that Indonesia is currently the largest peacekeeper on the Council, with 3,000 personnel involved in eight missions. The country intends to increase the number of its female peacekeepers, he added.

He went on to state that the open debate — to be chaired by Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs — will broadly focus on enhancing peacekeeping missions. It will feature remarks by the Secretary-General and a briefing by the Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), offering a perspective on what is expected of peacekeepers.

The May 23 open debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict is timed to coincide with the seventieth anniversary of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, he said, adding that it will also commemorate 20 years since protection has been on the Council’s agenda. With the Foreign Minister presiding, it will include remarks by the Secretary-General, as well as briefings by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and members of civil society.

More broadly, the Council will hold meetings on the situations in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Libya, he said, noting that it will consider the Group of Five for the Sahel (G-5 Sahel). It could hold a possible Arria formula meeting on May 9 focused on the issue of settlements in Palestine. On May 21, the Council it will hear a joint briefing by the Chairs of its 1267, 1373 and 1540 sanctions committees, he said.

Members will also discuss the situation in Yemen, mandate renewals for the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as the sanctions imposed on South Sudan, which are set to expire.

Speaking in his national capacity, he said Indonesia will endeavour to conduct its Council presidency in a smooth manner, using its culture and diplomacy to find unity and consensus.

In response to questions, he said the Council has not received any request for a meeting on the situation in Venezuela.

Asked about the meeting on Libya, to be held on May 8, he said the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court will brief members on that day.

Responding to a query about the 800,000 migrants in Libya, he said efforts are under way to invite Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), to brief the Council’s 10 May meeting on the latest developments. He added that he has not received any draft resolution on the matter, recalling that the Council recently held a meeting on the ceasefire and is following developments in the country.

Asked whether the Council will move to another format for its May 8meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said the discussion will follow its usual format, but he is open to proposals.

In response to other questions, he said the Council has invited a professor from Ohio to brief the Arria formula meeting on Palestine, as have human rights lawyers.The interactive discussion will be the most important aspect of that meeting, he emphasized.
He concluded by saying there has been request for a meeting on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

 

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