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UN, partners warn 108 million people face severe food insecurity worldwide

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 31: Despite international efforts to address food insecurity, around 108 million people worldwide were severely food insecure in 2016, a dramatic increase compared with 80 million in 2015, according to a United Nations-backed report on food crises that offers benchmark for action needed to avoid catastrophe.

“The cost in human and resource terms only increases if we let situations deteriorate,” said UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva, in a news release on the Global Report on Food Crises 2017.

“We can prevent people dying from famine but if we do not scale up our efforts to save, protect and invest in rural livelihoods, tens of millions will remain severely food insecure,” he added.

Civil conflict is the driving factor in nine of the 10 worst humanitarian crises, underscoring the strong linkage between peace and food security, says the report.

The report represents a new and politically innovative collaboration between the European Union and USAID/FEWSNET, regional food security institutions together with UN agencies including the FAO, the World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“Hunger exacerbates crisis, creating ever greater instability and insecurity. What is a food security challenge today becomes tomorrow's security challenge,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “It is a race against time – the world must act now to save the lives and livelihoods of the millions at the brink of starvation.”

"This report highlights the critical need for prompt and targeted action to effectively respond to the food crises and to address their root causes,” said Neven Mimica, Commissioner for EU's International Cooperation and Development, noting that in 2016, the EU allocated €550 million already, followed by another €165 million that we have just mobilized to assist the people affected by famine and drought in the Horn of Africa.

This year, the demand for humanitarian and resilience building assistance will further escalate as four countries are at risk of famine: South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and north-east Nigeria.

Other countries that require massive levels of assistance because of widespread food insecurity are Iraq, Syria (including refugees in neighbouring countries) Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the absence of immediate and substantive action, the food security situation in these countries will continue to worsen in coming months, according to the new report.

Israel, US fight BDS together

NEW YORK, March 29: Over 2,000 representatives from organizations, pro-Israel activists, diplomats and students filled the United Nations General Assembly Hall to speak out against the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement.

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, who convened the summit, opened the event by declaring that, "The halls of the UN are now being infiltrated by the boycott movement. The UN’s Human Rights Council is creating a blacklist of companies and corporations operating in parts of Israel. This is pure antisemitism and together with the US, our greatest ally, we will keep fighting until BDS is eliminated."

The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was the main speaker at the event.

"The effort to delegitimize the state of Israel being waged on college campuses and the anti-Israel obsession at the UN are one in the same. They both seek to deny Israel’s right to exist. They are both efforts to intimidate her friends and embolden her enemies. They are both extensions of an ancient hatred," Ambassador Haley said.

"And how tragic is it that, of all the countries in the world to condemn for human rights violations, these voices choose to single out Israel. Iran, Syria, North Korea and other barbaric regimes are excused by the BDS movement. It makes no sense. And it has no connection to any reasonable definition of justice,” the American ambassador continued.

The event is a partnership between Israel's Mission to the UN, the World Jewish Congress and pro-Israel organizations including ACLJ, ZOA Israel Bonds, StandwithUs, CAMERA, B'nai B'rith International, IAC, Maccabee Task Force, Hillel International, SSI, Hasbara Fellowships, the Jewish Agency for Israel, AEPI, Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Zionist Movement and others.

Summing up the event, Ambassador Danon stated that, "We are here today with a simple message for those who seek to harm the Jewish state and the Jewish people. We will keep fighting until we eliminate BDS completely, from the campuses to the UN, and we will keep fighting until antisemitism is finally defeated."

Possessing nuclear weapons ‘fundamentally incompatible’ with world's aspiration for peace: UN

UNITED NATIONS, March 27: At the start of a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, a senior UN official highlighted that creating a world free of such weapons is a common obligation of all States – both nuclear and non-nuclear – and called for their inclusive engagement.

“Let us all work harder and more creatively, so that we can achieve our common goal of a world, safer and more secure, without nuclear weapons, and better for all,” said Kim Won-soo, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.

Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he also expressed hope that the instrument will also strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and advance the world closer to the total elimination of nuclear weapons and that it would make important contribution to nuclear disarmament and to our ultimate objective of general and complete disarmament.

Yet he acknowledged that defeatism and dismissiveness now permeate international deliberations on disarmament, and cautioned that the public at large seems to be losing interest in the issue. Indeed, it is hard to imagine these days a gathering of one million people in the street in support of nuclear disarmament, as the world witnessed in the 1980s.

“We need to find a new way to inspire and motivate the public in support of disarmament, in the same way that they have been energized to respond to the challenge of climate change, an existential threat facing humanity,” he stated.

According to 2016 estimates, more than 15,000 nuclear warheads remain in global stockpiles.

While this is a considerable reduction from the inventories maintained during the Cold War, the pace of the reduction has declined in recent years and concerns are rising over continued reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines and continuing programmes to modernize and improve nuclear weapons.

In his remarks, Mr. Kim also stressed that purist of nuclear as well as non-nuclear strategic weapons would not create security but instead can provoke “new and destabilizing” arms races as well as exacerbate regional and global tension.

“The possession of nuclear weapons, which are linked with the threat of their use, is fundamentally incompatible with humanity’s common aspirations for peace and security,” he said.

Earth Hour 2017: UN joins iconic landmarks 'going dark' to support protecting the planet

UNITED NATIONS, March 25: The United Nations this evening dimmed the lights at its iconic Headquarters complex in New York and other facilities around the world in observance of the tenth annual 'Earth Hour,' global event to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “Climate change continues to imperil lives and livelihoods around the world. Last year was – again – the hottest on record. The landmark Paris Agreement gives us an unprecedented opportunity to limit global temperature rise, promote clean energy for all and create a sustainable future.”

Governments and businesses must step up. So must individuals. Building a sustainable tomorrow depends today on everyone, said the UN chief, asking the world to join him in turning off their lights on today at 8:30 p.m. local time.

“From the darkness, we can create a sustainable and inclusive world for all,” he said.

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour encourages individuals, companies, organizations and Governments to switch off their lights for one hour at 8:30 p.m., local time worldwide, to focus attention on people-driven solutions to protecting the planet and building a bright, sustainable future.

First launched in 2007 in Australia, Earth Hour has become an annual event, mobilizing hundreds of millions of individuals to participate and growing to become the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment.
According to the WWF, the UN family will join the thousands of homes, offices, skylines and monuments that will go dark on Earth Hour's tenth anniversary to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet, and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.

Hundreds of landmarks – from New York to Uganda and Sweden to Malaysia – are confirmed and will be turning off on the night of Earth Hour, including iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Taipei 101, the Empire State Building and the Acropolis.

To inspire more people to act, this year the Earth Hour movement is also inviting supporters to show their commitment to the cause on their Facebook timelines, in parallel to the lights out rolling across skylines.

People around the world can log onto earthhour.org/climateaction to donate five Facebook posts to Earth Hour and encourage their friends to be a part of local climate efforts. They can also use a new Facebook profile picture frame available on www.facebook.com/earthhour to celebrate Earth Hour on their own personal landmark – their Facebook page.

Record-breaking weather in 2016 pushes world into ‘truly uncharted territory’: UN agency

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 21: Global temperatures set yet another record last year and the world witnessed exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, warning that the extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

According to the agency’s Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016, while global temperatures hit a remarkable 1.1 degree-Celsius above the pre-industrial period, global sea-level touch record highs and the planet’s sea-ice coverage dropped more than four million square kilometres below average in November – an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” explained WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident.”

Each of the year since 2001 has seen at least 0.4 degree-Celsius above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by the UN agency as a reference for climate change monitoring.

The 2016 heating was further boosted by the powerful 2015/2016 El Niño weather system, during which global sea-level also rose very strongly.

Similarly, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO global figures are available – and will not fall below that level for many generations to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

The extreme climate conditions also added to human suffering: 2016 saw severe droughts, affecting millions in southern and eastern African and Central America. For example, in the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew – the first category 4 (CAT4) storm to make landfall since 1963 – tore a path of destruction in Haiti and inflicted significant economic losses in the region.

In the midst of such challenges, Taalas, underlined the importance of implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which also entered into force last year.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark,” he said, adding: “It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies.”

He also called for continued investment in climate research and observations to allow scientific knowledge to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change.

The extreme weather patterns are continuing in 2017, said WMO.

At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic saw what can be called the Polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air, meaning that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point.

Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years, and some areas, including Canada and much of the United States, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In United States alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the UN agency.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system,” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.

“We are now in truly uncharted territory.”

Stand up against intolerance and eliminate discrimination: UN chief Guterres

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIIONS, March 21: Against the backdrop of rising discrimination and violence against those perceived as different, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today urged the world to stand up against intolerance and build communities that recognize diversity not as a source of weakness, but a source of strength and richness.

“In a time of upheaval and change, it is easy to paint vulnerable communities as the cause of problems […] people are being targeted because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” warned Mr. Guterres at an event at the UN General Assembly commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Highlighting the particular plight of migrants as well as those, especially women and girls, from minority communities who are often targeted as “scapegoats” and experience racial profiling by authorities, the UN chief underscored the collective responsibility “to do better” and to protect human rights of all.

“We all have a role to play […] after all, racial discrimination destabilizes societies, undermines democracies and erodes the legitimacy of governments,” he said. “By acting together to end discrimination, we can lift humanity as a whole.”

In his remarks, the Secretary-General also reminded that international law requires States to take effective actions to prevent and eliminate discrimination on all grounds and in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.

“They must be vigilant and respond immediately and appropriately, including by prohibiting incitement to racial, national and religious hatred and ending racial profiling,” he said, making a specific call on politicians and leaders to speak up and counter hateful speech.

“Let us stand up against intolerance and eliminate discrimination,” he noted, “Let us join forces in our global campaign – Together for Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.”

Marked on 21 March, the International Day commemorates the killing of 69 unarmed protestors in 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, who were staging a peaceful protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the racist apartheid regime.

In his remarks Assembly President Peter Thomson said it is challenging to see how far the world is from winning the global fight against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Even though global migration had long been a feature of human history and forcible displacement had driven large number of people from their homes, refugees and migrants too often are met with suspicion, fear and intolerance.

“The world must reaffirm its faith in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,” he said, adding that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights called on the world to stand up against racism, xenophobia and hate where and whenever it appeared.

Moreover, political leaders must be role models for tolerant and respectful attitudes towards migrants. Cross-cultural education in schools must foster respect for diversity and understanding of the positive contribution refugees and migrants made to societies and economies. Most critical, said Mr. Thomson, is the need to fully support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda to secure a safe, more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

“We must use this historic opportunity of the forthcoming negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration to affirm universal respect for the rights of migrants,” he said.

Also addressing the Assembly, Louise Arbour, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, said the New York Declaration and forthcoming global compact negotiations would show societies how to embrace diversity at a time when more than 240 million people were displaced.

With pluralistic societies appearing to be the norm, she said her work involved supporting the ‘Together’ campaign, a new dialogue about refugees and migrants to foster social cohesion while countering negative stereotyping and falsehoods about them.

People with Downs Syndrome ‘speak up’ to influence government policy and action

UNITED NATIONS, March 21: Today, the call that people with Down Syndrome be included to fully and equally participate in all aspects of society echoed widely throughout United Nations Headquarters in New York.

With a full agenda, a special event to mark World Down Syndrome Day identified and turned key issues that affect individuals with Down syndrome into a call for inclusive policy making.

“What we need to see is a paradigm shift towards understanding that people with Down’s syndrome have valuable contributions to make to society and until that happens there are always going to be blockages to getting into school, to getting proper medical attention and living independently,” Andrew Boyd, Director Down’s Syndrome International, told UN News.

For many, prevailing negative attitudes result in low expectations, discrimination and exclusion – creating communities that prevent people with Down Syndrome from successfully integrating with others.

In contrast, the message reverberating from today’s event underscored that “when people with Down Syndrome and other disabilities are given opportunities to participate, all people benefit from this shared environment of friendship, acceptance and respect for everyone and high expectations are created.”

Those gathered for the event agreed that people with Down Syndrome and their advocates must be empowered to influence policy makers at all levels.

The speakers said that these individuals may need additional support in specific areas, such as health, education, work and living accommodations, which underscored the importance for them to directly influence policy formation and implementation covering those and other issues.

The resounding chorus of ‘My Voice, My Community’ encouraged people with Down syndrome and those who advocates for them to speak up, be heard and influence government policy and action.

The special event was organized by Down Syndrome International and sponsored by UN Permanent Missions, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and international agencies and non-governmental organizations.

UN urges building more just, equal societies to increase people’s happiness and well-being

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 20: Speaking at an event today marking the International Day of Happiness, the deputy United Nations chief called for more inclusive, equitable and balanced approaches to development that promote sustainability, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of all peoples.

“Many countries have undertaken efforts to develop broader measures of progress, often through public consultations, parliamentary commissions, and efforts to develop new indicators and understanding of well-being,” said Amina Mohammed, the UN Deputy Secretary-General.

Cautioning that pursing only economic growth and disregarding social and environmental dimensions can have negative impact on human well-being and can result in growing inequalities and environmental degradation, she underlined that development should not take place “at all costs.”

“Not at the cost of environment or the marginalization of the poor and other vulnerable groups,” she added.

In her remarks, Ms. Mohammed noted that well-being did not depend solely on income but also included other factors such as personal and job security, fundamental freedoms, a clean environment, as well as having strong family and social relations.

“These human needs can be fulfilled in societies where people are empowered to pursue their own goals that ensure their personal well-being – in societies that are inclusive and egalitarian, and where human rights are cherished and respected,” she said.

The deputy UN chief recalled that the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have provided a blue print to collectively building such societies and their recognition that ending poverty needs to go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

Highlighting the organization's work to promote and secure the well-being and happiness of all peoples she urged everyone to renew the commitment to continue building more just and equal societies to increase people's happiness and well-being worldwide.

Bicycling for love

Also today, commemorating the International Day, the UN Bookshop in New York hosted the launch of The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love that recounted the story of artist Pradyumna Kumar, or PK.

Born in a poor family belonging to the so called “untouchable” caste in India, PK undertook a bicycle journey through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, (former) Yugoslavia, Germany, Austria and Denmark to be reunited with the love of his life, Charlotte, in Sweden, whose portrait he had drawn a few months earlier, in India.

They have been happily married for more than 40 years now.

UN support for China BRI project passing through PoK puts India’s claim in jeopardy

UNITED NATIONS, March 18: A UN Security Council resolution has for the first time incorporated China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-billion inter-continental connectivity mission that has a flagship project passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

The resolution, which extends an ongoing UN assistance mission to Afghanistan, says international efforts should be strengthened to implement the BRI, President Xi Jinping’s legacy project about which he first spoke in 2013.

Beijing claims it has rounded up at least 100 countries in BRI’s support, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

India is yet to sign up for the initiative. Foreign secretary S Jaishankar spelt it out to the Chinese government in February that India has a “sovereignty” issue with the BRI because its flagship project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through PoK. According to diplomats, India endorsing the BRI would mean giving up its claims on PoK.

The UN endorsing the BRI could complicate the situation as far as India’s claims are concerned.

The resolution in question renewed the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan for one year. In it, the 15-nation UN body urged to promote security and stability in Afghanistan and the region “to create a community of shared future for mankind”.

“Also included in the newly adopted council resolution was China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes,” official news agency Xinhua reported.

The resolution “welcomes and urges further efforts to strengthen the process of regional economic cooperation, including measures to facilitate regional connectivity, trade and transit, including through regional development initiatives such as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road (the Belt and Road) Initiative”.

The council resolution urged “further international efforts to strengthen regional cooperation and implement the Belt and Road Initiative”.

Besides the BRI, the resolution also mentions other projects like “regional development projects, such as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, the Central Asia South Asia Electricity Transmission and Trade Project, the Chabahar port project agreed between Afghanistan, India and the Islamic Republic of lran”.

China has taken the inclusion of BRI in a UN resolution as a diplomatic victory of sorts.

Liu Jieyi, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, told reporters here that the “Chinese concept was put into a Security Council resolution for the first time on Friday, thus showing the consensus of the international community on embracing the concept, and manifesting huge Chinese contributions to the global governance”.

“The Chinese envoy said that latest council move is conducive to creating a favourable atmosphere for China to host a Belt and Road forum for international cooperation in Beijing this May in order to brainstorm on interconnected development,” Xinhua reported.

Liu also said he hoped that all “UN member states will take an active part in the joint efforts to carry out the Chinese initiative and the Chinese concept by implementing the new council resolution. Resolutions adopted by the Security Council are legally binding”.

UN Commission on Status of Women opens with calls for more men to stand up for equality

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 13: With men still dominating even in countries that consider themselves progressive, the world needs more women leaders and more men standing up for gender equality, said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Addressing the Commission on Status of Women (CSW), which began its annual session this morning here, Guterres said “It is true, I am a man, but we need all men to stand up for women's empowerment. Our world needs more women leaders. And our world needs more men standing up for gender equality.”

He was among the UN's several senior leaders addressing CSW, the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Guterres noted that empowerment of women is about breaking structural barriers. With the nearly one billion women entering the global economy in the next decade, empowerment will unleash the potential of all these women and girls – and they will lead the world to a new future.

He also cited one study showing that women's equality can add $12 trillion to global growth over the next decade.

Furthermore, he stressed, when women meaningfully participate in peace processes, the chance of sustainable peace goes up by 35 per cent over 15 years. He asked UN Member States to move beyond the current level, where women make up just 3 per cent of UN peacekeepers.

“We are all better off when we open doors of opportunity for women and girls: in classrooms and boardrooms, in military ranks and at peace talks, in all aspects of productive life,” he said.

Promising that the UN and he personally will support efforts for gender equality, Guterres said “Do not let us off the hook. Keep our feet to the fire.”

He announced that he is joining the International Gender Champions, a global network that brings women and men decision-makers together to break down gender barriers, encouraging other senior leaders to do the same.

With its priority theme 'Women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work,' CSW's sixty-first session will run through March 24.

In her address, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka highlighted a slow progress in gender equality.

“The much-needed positive developments are not happening fast enough, nor are they reaching tipping point in numbers of lives changed,” she said. “Let us agree to constructive impatience.”

She pointed out that more than half of all women workers around the world – and up to 90 per cent in some countries – are informally employed, including care givers whose other life opportunities can be limited while they perform the unappreciated and valuable unpaid work of care at home. There are 190 million women in the informal sector in India alone, she noted.

Women are also clearly earning consistently less than men – a gap that women regard as 'daylight robbery,' Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

There are numerous gaps exist, including in access to digital technologies. Investment in a pipeline of girls well educated in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics subjects could increase the proportion of women in the digital industry workforce from the current 25 per cent and build skills matches for the 'new collar' jobs, she said.

“What you agree to do during this CSW could be an accelerator for the implementation and achievement of the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development],” she said.

In his remarks, General Assembly President Peter Thomson said that all of his grandchildren are girls. “As they grow toward adulthood, I cannot abide the thought that they will not enjoy full and equal rights with their male peers,” he said.

Thomson said he will turn to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to find faith and be assured that his granddaughters will not live in a world still lacking the basic human right of equality between men and women.

“The preamble of the Agenda, its introduction, its transformational vision, and its shared principles and commitments are all suffused with the logic of gender equality,” he said, noting that paragraph 20 declares that achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible, if half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 specifically commits all to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, he added.

Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), said that this year, the Committee has begun to make references to specific Sustainable Development Goals in its recommendations addressed to States parties.

The Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Most of the 27 concluding observations that CEDAW Committee adopted since July 2016, link specific SDGs and targets, to relevant articles of the Convention, she said.

“Linking the Convention to the 2030 Agenda has great potential in advancing women's economic empowerment and enables the Committee to support States in implementing the SDGs,” she said.

UN launches 'Platform of Champions' calling to end global gender pay gap

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 13: With women being paid an average of 23 per cent less than men, the United Nations has launched a high-profile network to call for equal pay for work of equal value.

“We want equal pay now,” yelled Academy Award-winning American actress Patricia Arquette and two-time Olympic gold medalist and soccer superstar Abby Wambach, leading a call in the UN General Assembly Hall Monday evening at the launch of the Equal Pay Platform of Champions.

The launch of the Platform – which is part of a broader UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and UN Women Global Equal Pay Coalition – coincided with the opening day of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women, known as the largest inter-governmental forum on women's rights and gender equality. The theme this year is on women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

“The gender pay gap reflects the unjustifiably diminished position of many women in society and helps to keep them there,” said UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Pointing to the big names participating in the Platform – which in addition to Arquette and Wambach include leaders from the trade unions, civil society, government, private sector, film makers – Mlambo-Ngcuka said she hopes their advocacy will make women's “flagrant inequality a think of the past.”

The goal of the Platform is to call for increased support by proactively reaching out to decision and policy makers, according to a press release from the event.

Speaking at the launch, Arquette said that “women sometimes become invisible if they're not seen beyond the value of the men they are with.”

According to global figures, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same position. Over time, the income inequality results in more women retiring into poverty.

“The quest for women's economic empowerment will be lost or won in the world of work,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. He noted the importance of whether and how women enter the work place and in what types of jobs.

One of the main reasons for the gender gap is that women tend to be concentrated in different jobs than men – for example in teaching or health care – which tend to be underpaid.

There are also differences for men and women who are in the same line of work.

Also speaking at the event, Wambach said that she was “angry because I have to worry about paying my bills, even though I won more World Cups than Cristiano,” referring to the Portuguese soccer player.

Ahead of the launch, UN Women kicked off its #StopTheRobbery campaign to mobilize ordinary people and raise awareness about the gender pay gap.

UN chief Guterres condemns terrorist attacks in Damascus

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 12: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the terrorist bombings in the Syrian capital of Damascus yesterday, his spokesman said today.

“The Secretary-General is appalled by the utter disregard for human life displayed by the perpetrators, and extends his deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, many of whom were pilgrims,” said Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, in a statement issued today.

“Those responsible for the bombings, and anyone carrying out attacks against civilians, must be held accountable,” he added.

According to media reports, twin blasts killed at least 40 people Saturday near holy shrines frequented by Shiites.

UN aid chief urges global action as starvation, famine loom for 20 million across four countries

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, March 10: Just back from Kenya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia – countries that are facing or are at risk of famine – the top United Nations humanitarian official today urged the international community for comprehensive action to save people from simply “starving to death.”

“We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council today.

Without collective and coordinated global efforts, he warned, people risk starving to death and succumbing to disease, stunted children and lost futures, and mass displacements and reversed development gains.

“The appeal for action by the Secretary-General can thus not be understated. It was right to sound the alarm early, not wait for the pictures of emaciated dying children […] to mobilize a reaction and the funds,” O’Brien underscored, calling for accelerated global efforts to support UN humanitarian action on the ground.

Turning to the countries he visited, the senior UN official said that, about two-thirds of the population (more than 18 million people) in Yemen needed assistance, including more than seven million severely food insecure, and the fighting continued to worsen the crisis.

“I continue to reiterate the same message to all: only a political solution will ultimately end human suffering and bring stability to the region,” he said, noting that with access and funding, humanitarians will do more, but cautioned that relief-workers were “not the long-term solution to the growing crisis.”

In South Sudan, where a famine was recently declared, more than 7.5 million people are in need of assistance, including some 3.4 million displaced. The figure rose by 1.4 million since last year.

“The famine in the country is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop,” stressed Mr. O’Brien, calling on the South Sudanese authorities to translate their assurances of unconditional access into “action on the ground.”

Similarly, more than half the population of Somalia (6.2 million people) is need aid, 2.9 million of whom require immediate assistance. Extremely worrying is that more than one million children under the age of five are at the risk of acute malnourishment.

“The current indicators mirror the tragic picture of 2011, when Somalia last suffered a famine,” recalled the UN official, but expressed hope that a famine can be averted with strong national leadership and immediate and concerted support by the international community.

Concerning Kenya, he mentioned that more than 2.7 million people were food insecure, and that this number could reach four million by April.

“In collaboration with the Government [of Kenya], the UN will soon launch an appeal of $200 million to provide timely life-saving assistance and protection,” he informed.

Further in his briefing, O’Brien informed the Council of the outcomes of the Oslo Conference on the Lake Chad Basin where 14 donors pledged a total of $672 million, of which $458 million is for humanitarian action in 2017.

“This is very good news, and I commend those who made such generous pledges,” he said but noted that more was needed to fully fund the $1.5 billion required to provide the assistance needed across the region.

On the UN response in these locations, O’Brien highlighted that strategic, coordinated and prioritized plans are in place and dedicated teams on the ground are closely working with partners to ensure that immediate life-saving support reaches those in need.

“Now we need the international community and this Council to act,” he highlighted, urging prompt action to tackle the factors causing famine; committing sufficient and timely financial support; and ensuring that fighting stops.

In particular, he underscored the need to ensure that humanitarians have safe, full and unimpeded access and that parties to the conflict in the affected countries respect humanitarian law and called on those with influence over the parties to the conflict to “exert that influence now.”

“It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes,” he concluded. “It is all preventable.”

G4 nations urge UNSC to speed up reforms

WASHINGTON, March 7: The G4 countries — India, Japan, Germany and Brazil — on Tuesday asked the United Nations to speed up security council reforms, saying, with ill-concealed frustration, they were willing to discuss anything, even old and rejected ideas, to advance the process.

The G4 nations are four countries which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations security council.

Collate all options and place them on the table for all member states to “seriously begin negotiations”, said Indian permanent representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin in a statement on behalf of the group.

“It is time to get started,’ he added, reflecting the group’s combined frustration with a process that has moved with glacial pace. “For our credibility to be sustained, it is time for honest engagement and exchange on the basis of a text.”

The “text” is UN-speak for a formal proposal on paper that member countries can discuss, parse and reject in total or part, and will be a first major step in what has been a slow process and will likely to be one because of lack of unanimity.

India and the other three G4 countries are leading contenders for permanent membership of an expanded UNSC, the world body’s top decision making organ, that will be more representative of the world.

There are others who oppose expanding the permanent membership and have suggested other options, including membership with full veto power of the current permanent members.

G-4 will not insist on veto for new members, the Indian representative said reiterating -- according to official sources on background -- an old position.

“While the new permanent members would as of principle have the same responsibilities and obligations, as current permanent members they will not exercise the veto until a decision has been taken during a review,” Akbaruddin said.

Pakistan created terror outfits, now 'monster' devouring it: India

GENEVA, March 1: Pakistan created terror outfits against India and the "monster" is now devouring its own creator, according to Ambassador Ajit Kumar, India's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.

Addressing the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) here on Wednesday, Ambassador Ajit Kumar hit out at Pakistan for destabilising the situation in Jammu and Kashmir by promoting infiltration and cross-border terrorism, inciting, promoting and glorifying violence.

Asserting that terrorism is the "grossest violation of human rights", he said members will recognise the irony of a nation that has established a well-earned reputation of being a "global epicentre of terrorism holding forth on human rights".

"Pakistan has created terrorist outfits against India. This monster is now devouring its own creator," Kumar said, adding that in the last two decades, the most wanted terrorists of the world have found "succour and sustenance" in Pakistan.

The fundamental reason for disturbances in parts of Jammu and Kashmir is cross-border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan, he said, noting that for many years now, Islamabad has been carrying out an intense campaign to destabilise the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

He further emphasised that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the situation there is an internal matter of the country. The central government and democratically elected state government have led a system-wide effort last year to restore normalcy in the state in the wake of Pakistan-supported violent unrest, he said in the session's 'General Segment'.

India would also like to point out that Pakistan's unwarranted references to UNSC resolutions are "grossly misleading as Pakistan was required to vacate the parts of the State of J&K under its illegal and forced occupation," Kumar said.

Kumar said the robust and mature Indian democracy proved once again that it has sufficiently strong and adequate mechanisms to redress any internal difficulties even if they are incited from outside. He also mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a USD 12 billion package which was being fast tracked.

Normalcy has returned as 99 per cent of the students of Jammu and Kashmir had taken their high school examinations and schools have reopened, he said. His remarks came on a day when schools reopened in the Kashmir Valley after about 8 months, which included the period of unrest last summer triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

The Indian Ambassador also asserted that as the world's largest democracy with a high degree of diversity, India remains committed to the idea of a just and equitable society. "To conclude, we will continue to participate actively in the work of the Council with a view to enhancing its effectiveness and efficiency," he said.

India welcomes UN Secretary General's initiative to create counter-terrorism office

By Deepak Arora

Syed AkbaruddinUNITED NATIONS, Feb 22: India has welcomed an initiative by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to create a new office for counter-terrorism and promised all possible support in taking the proposal to fruition.

Speaking at the informal meeting on the strengthening of the capability of the United Nations sytem to assist member States in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism strategy, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said "every day our collective conscience is being ravaged by terrorists in some part of the world or other."

Ambassador Akbaruddin said it is variously estimated that since the beginning of 2017, there have been 150 cases of terrorist violence with more than a 1,000 deaths.

Just last week, Bill Gates speaking at the Munich Security conference, drew attention to how unprepared we were to a new kind of terrorism -- bio-terrorism. Quoting Bill Gates, he said "the next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist, intent on using genetic engineeing to create a synthetic version of a small virus or a super contagious and deadly strain of flu". According to Gates, epidemiologists say that a fast moving air borne pathogens could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year.

"It is in this background of growing concerns, that we greatly appreciate the Secretary General's initiative to promptly address the need to enhance coordination of the UN’s counter-terrorism efforts."

Guterres mooted the proposal to move the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Office and the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre out of the Department of Political Affairs and create a new office for counter-terrorism.

This office would be headed by a new Under Secretary General. The UN Chief said the only objective of the new body is to improve efficiency in combating terrorism and not to change the different mandates in the field of counter-terrorism.

Akbaruddin said India envisages the Under Secretary General for counter-terrorism to be able to take positions and speak on behalf of "all of UN" and develop a comprehensive narrative on terrorism including on all issues relating to counter-terrorism.

He saidd that there are differing mandates of various UN bodies and if the counter-terrorism coordinator is to have credibility, the individual needs to be seen as the UN’s voice on counter-terrorism issues, not merely a voice on counter-terrorism.

The Ambassador said "let us not allow turf battles to hobble this initiative, if we have to maintain its credibility."

Akbaruddin said "as terrorism thrives on and is sustained by its trans-boundary networks for ideology, recruitment, propaganda, funding, arms, training and sanctuary, no single nation alone can tackle this menace decisively. There is no stronger case for more multilateral action, more coordination and more cooperation on any matter amongst all stakeholders than on terrorism."

UN Secretary-General Proposes to Create New Counter-Terrorism Office

Antonio GuterresUNITED NATIONS, Feb 22: The United Nations system should have a new office for counter-terrorism, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN General Assembly.

Guterres said the main goal of this initiative is to improve efficiency. The Office will report to the General Assembly through the secretary-general himself.

The Secretary-General invited UN General Assembly members to share their views on the initiative.

UNAIDS urges everyone to make some noise for zero discrimination

By Deepak Arora

GENEVA, Feb 23: Everyone will have experienced discrimination of some kind during their lives; however, non-discrimination is a human right. Equally, states and individuals have a legal obligation not to discriminate. This year, on 1 March, Zero Discrimination Day, UNAIDS is urging people to make some noise around zero discrimination, to speak up and prevent discrimination from standing in the way of achieving ambitions, goals and dreams.

Discrimination has many forms, from racial or religious discrimination to discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or age, and to bullying at school or at work. In only three out of 10 countries worldwide do equal numbers of girls and boys attend upper secondary school, and people living with disabilities are nearly three times more likely to be denied health care than other people.

“Everyone has the right to be treated with respect, to live free from discrimination, coercion and abuse,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “Discrimination doesn’t just hurt individuals, it hurts everyone, whereas welcoming and embracing diversity in all its forms brings benefits for all.”

Zero discrimination is an integral part of UNAIDS’ vision and for this year’s Zero Discrimination Day UNAIDS is calling for zero discrimination in health-care settings. The right to health is a fundamental human right that includes access to affordable, timely and quality health-care services for all, yet discrimination remains widespread in health-care settings, creating a serious barrier to access to HIV services.

“Health-care settings should be safe and supportive environments. It is unacceptable that discrimination is inhibiting access to care today,” said Mr Sidibé. “Eliminating discrimination in health-care settings is critical, and we must demand that it become a reality.”

Data from 50 countries from the People Living with HIV Stigma Index show that one in eight people living with HIV report being denied health care. Around 60% of European Union/European Economic Area countries report that stigma and discrimination among health-care professionals remains a barrier to the provision of adequate HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.

This year, UNAIDS is calling on everyone to make some noise for #zerodiscrimination. Zero Discrimination Day is an opportunity to highlight how everyone can be part of the transformation and take a stand for a fair and just society.

UN seeks urgent funding to tackle famine in 4 countries

Antonio GuterresUNITED NATIONS, Feb 22: The United Nations has announced a $4.4 billion appeal to respond to the escalating risk of famine in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen in a move defined by strengthened coordination between development and humanitarian agencies.

United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark hailed the move as a “new way of working in crisis” that deals with short-term emergency needs as well as planning for a more sustainable future that would help avoid other disasters.

Aid workers are working across U.N. agencies and other multilateral organizations to respond to the short- and long-term needs of the 20 million people in the four countries that the U.N. has declared are on the “tipping point” of famine.

What’s needed, now, is the speedy delivery of the substantial resources that will help “avert catastrophe,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Guterres announced a combined U.N. appeal for $4.4 billion by the end of March to tackle food security, health, water sanitation and nutrition. Only $90 million has been received so far, explained Guterres, speaking alongside Clark, emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien and World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

“Funding shortages have already forced the World Food Programme to cut rations in Yemen by more than half since last year. Without new resources, critical shortages will worsen within months,” Guterres said. “These four crises are very different, but they have one thing in common. They are all preventable.”

In total, humanitarian operations in these four countries will require more than $5.6 billion this year. For context, the U.N.’s largest funding appeals — the Syrian Refugee and Resilience Plan, the Nigerian refugee, the Burundi and South Sudan refugee response plans — each total $5.6 billion. All remain funded at just 17 percent.

The hunger crises, while unique, also share a few other common factors, Guterres said. They are rooted in conflicts and are also exacerbated by some effects of climate change: desertification and water scarcity. While a famine has been declared in South Sudan — impacting approximately 100,000 people — 1 million more are considered to be facing immediate risk of famine, as well.

In northeast Nigeria, 5.1 million people urgently need food assistance; in Yemen, the number of people immediately is at 7.3 million; and in Somalia, 2.9 million immediately require food and livelihood aid, according to U.N. estimates.

Guterres has tasked the UNDP with establishing a steering committee that will link the U.N. agency with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee for humanitarian assistance, a membership coalition of leading U.N. and other organizations tasked with responding to emergencies.

Guterres highlights global significance of a peaceful Europe

By Deepak Arora

Antonio GuterresUNITED NATIONS, Feb 21: Noting that recent crises in Europe show that the continent remains at risk from new outbreaks of conflict, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for reinforcing mutual trust and respect to strengthen stability and cooperation both within Europe and beyond.

The Security Council meeting at which the UN chief delivered this message started with a moment of silence in memory of the Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who passed away yesterday.

“I think [the Ambassador's] passing represents a deep loss for all of us in the UN, including in this Council, where his distinctive voice was ever-present for the past decade, and where, I think, we will all miss that voice in the sessions to come,” said Guterres in his tribute.

Turning to the subject at hand, the Secretary-General, who briefed the Council alongside Lamberto Zannier, the Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Helga Schmid, Secretary-General, European External Action Service of the European Union (EU), said crises in Europe could also adversely impact economic progress and sustainable development.

“Conflict in Europe is not only a tragedy for those directly involved: those killed, injured, displaced, who have lost loved ones, who may be unable to access healthcare and are missing vital years of their education,” Guterres said, adding: “It is also reversing development gains and preventing communities and societies from achieving their full potential and contributing to regional and global prosperity.”

Noting that no single factor is responsible for the emergence and continuation of conflicts, he said that in many cases, peace agreements were “simply not being implemented.”

Other factors included challenges to democratic governance and the rule of law, and the manipulation of ethnic, economic, religious and communal tensions for personal or political gain.

“Whatever the causes may be, the inability of regional and international institutions, including our own, to prevent and resolve conflicts is seriously undermining their credibility and making it more difficult for them to succeed in future,” added the UN chief.

Speaking specifically on the conflict in Ukraine, Guterres said the UN remains committed to supporting a peaceful resolution, in a manner that fully upholds the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, and in accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

He also noted that the UN fully supported the efforts within the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, and that it has repeatedly called for the full implementation by all sides of all of their commitments under the Minsk Process, both in letter and in spirit.

“I urge all stakeholders to avoid unilateral steps or attempts to create facts on the ground, which further complicate and endanger efforts to find negotiated settlements. This is especially relevant in view of the latest actions taken in relation to the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the South Caucasus,” he highlighted, urging all sides to give the highest priority to protecting civilians.

In his remarks, Guterres also spoke of challenges to peace in other parts of Europe, such as in the Balkans, Cyprus, Georgia, Moldova and South Caucasus, as well as on the long-standing name issue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

He also noted new challenges and threats such as the phenomenon of populism, nationalism, xenophobia and violent extremism were both causes and effects of conflict.

“I encourage Member States, this Council, regional mechanisms and all stakeholders to intensify their efforts to define a peace and security agenda to address today's complex challenges,” urged Secretary-General Guterres.

“The status quo is not sustainable.”

Churkin was outstanding diplomat: UN Secretary General

By Deepak Arora

ChurkinUNITED NATIONS, Feb 21: Expressing his shock and sadness of the news of the sudden passing of Ambassador Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was an outstanding diplomat.

He said Ambassador Churkin served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation with distinction through some of the most challenging and momentous periods of recent history.

The Secretary General said "he was appointed as the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in 2006. For more than a decade, Ambassador Churkin was a forceful presence on the Security Council."

"Ambassador Churkin was a uniquely skilled diplomat, a powerful orator with great wit, and a man of many talents and interests."

"Although we served together for a short time, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with him and will deeply miss his insights, skills and friendship. I pay tribute to his contributions to the United Nations and offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and to the Government and people of the Russian Federation," said the Secretary General.

Churkin name will live on in annals of UN histroy: Peter Thomson

By Deepak Arora

ChurkinUNITED NATIONS, Feb 20: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson has said the sudden passing of Ambassador Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, has both shocked and deeply saddened us all.

Speaking at a condolence meeting at the Trusteeship Council Chamber, Mr Peter Thomson said "We have lost one of the most respected and influential members of the UN family. His name will live on in the annals of UN history. We will remember him for his intellect and diplomatic skill, his good humour and consideration for others. We all experienced and respected the pride he took in serving his country and the passion and resolution he brought to his job."

On behalf of the General Assembly, President Thomson expressed heartfelt condolences to Mrs Irina Churkin, to his family, to all the staff of the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN and to the Government of the Russian Federation, which this day has lost one of its truest sons.

He said that he would convene at the appropriate moment in the coming period of mourning a formal meeting of the General Assembly to pay tribute to the memory of the late Vitaly Churkin.

Russia’s Ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin is dead

By Deepak Arora

ChurkinNEW YORK, Feb 20: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, has died after falling ill Monday in his office at the mission, according to Russian officials.

Churkin, 64, was rushed to a hospital in New York, where he died, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, said. His cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

Churkin had been Russia’s envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and was considered Moscow’s great champion at the U.N. He had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee, especially with his American and Western counterparts. He was currently the longest-serving member of the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body.

His death, the day before his 65th birthday, stunned officials at the U.N.’s headquarters.

The President of the United Nations General Assembly Peter Thomson said he was "Greatly saddened at the news of the passing of dear friend Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. The Russian Federation and the United Nations have lost a true son and a great international intellect."

Russia’s foreign ministry called Churkin an “outstanding” diplomat and expressed condolences to his friends and family. Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Facebook post that Churkin was “an extraordinary person. A bright man. We have lost a dear one.”

“Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government,” said U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.

India's Permanent Representative to UN Syed Akbaruddin said "Russia loses a stalwart diplomat; the world of diplomacy a consummate practitioner; India a friend."

Calling Churkin a “diplomatic maestro and deeply caring man,” former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said on Twitter that Churkin had done all he could to bridge differences between the U.S. and Russia.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre, too, said he and Churkin had “always worked together in a spirit of mutual respect and personal friendship,” despite their divides. One of Delattre’s predecessors, Gerard Araud, now French ambassador to the U.S., recalled Churkin as “abrasive, funny and technically impeccable.”

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, tweeted that he was “absolutely devastated” to hear of the death of Churkin, “a diplomatic giant and wonderful character.”

Churkin was previously ambassador at large and earlier served as the foreign ministry spokesman. Churkin had a doctorate in history and was a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. And he was a child actor in what was then the Soviet Union.

India laments as UN fails to define terrorism

BONN, Feb 17: India has lamented that the UN has been unable to define terrorism at a time when radical terror factories like Daesh and their surrogates like LeT are challenging the nation state and asked the national governments to make policies for sustaining peace.

It also sought to differentiate the peace of a garden from that of a graveyard, saying terrorists invest in a graveyard and terrorism has the potential to destabilise societies with consequences that could cast a dark shadow over the 21st century if not confronted with unity.

Addressing the Foreign Ministers of G-20 countries in Bonn, India's Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said it is naive to believe that terrorists have no political objectives.

"Radical terror factories like Daesh, Boko Haram and their allies or surrogates like Lashkar-e-Taiba are challenging the nation state, which is the principle building block of the architecture of stability after the collapse of the age of empires and colonisation," he said.

Asserting that the UN was born as the answer to war, the minister said that responsibility has not diminished but to fight an enemy one must define an enemy. "The UN has been, alas, unable to define terrorism," he said, noting that the UN peace keeping mission is often hampered by uncertain strategy and contradictory tactical response.

Akbar's strong remarks come in the backdrop of the UN's Sanctions Committee failing to proscribe JeM chief and Pathankot mastermind Masood Azhar as a terrorist in view of China's strong opposition.

Guterres announces steps towards reforming UN’s peace and security architecture

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today announced the establishment of an internal review team that will take forward the reforms to the UN Secretariat peace and security strategy, functioning and architecture, which he outlined when he was appointed the Secretary-General last year.

According to a statement issued today by the UN chief’s office, the team will be led by Tamrat Samuel, who held numerous senior UN appointments.

The review team has been tasked to submit recommendations to Mr. Guterres by June this year, which will then initiate a process of consultations with UN Member States and other relevant entities.

In the statement, he further noted that pending those evolutions, the mandates of senior officials working in the peace and security pillar would be maintained for until 1 April next year.

“The mandates of Jeffrey Feltman, as Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, as Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, and Atul Khare, as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, will be extended for one year until the 1 April 2018,” the statement read.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, of France, takes helm of Department of Peacekeeping Operations

Also in the statement, Mr. Guterres announced his intention to appoint Jean-Pierre Lacroix, of France, as Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, for one year beginning 1 April.

He is currently the Director for the UN and International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France and has over 25 years of political and diplomatic experience, mostly handling multilateral organizations, UN activities and programmes.

Mr. Lacroix succeeds Hervé Ladsous, who informed Mr. Guterres that he would be unavailable for an extension at the end of its current term, until end-March.

“I would like to express my gratitude [to Mr. Ladsous] for his service to the United Nations, his tireless efforts and dedication to peacekeeping, especially in modernizing capacities both to address multidimensional crisis and protect civilian populations,” said Secretary-General Guterres.

UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile launching

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 13: The UN Security Council on Monday denounced North Korea`s weekend missile launch, urging members to "redouble efforts" to enforce sanctions against the reclusive state.

Pyongyang`s ballistic missile firing on Sunday was its first direct challenge to the international community since US President Donald Trump took office on January 20.

At a news conference on Monday, Trump said: "Obviously North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly."

US, Japanese and South Korean military officials held a teleconference on Monday in which they condemned the launch as "a clear violation" of multiple Security Council resolutions. The United States "reaffirmed its ironclad security commitments" to South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon said.

The Security Council did not specify what steps might be taken beyond the U.N.-sponsored sanctions regime imposed on North Korea since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"The members of the Security Council deplore all the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ballistic missile activities, including these launches," the council said in a statement that also referred to North Korea`s missile launch on October 19.

The statement "called upon all member states to redouble their efforts to implement fully the measures imposed on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Security Council."

Japan, which called for the emergency meeting of the Security Council along with the United States and South Korea, said it was pleased with the council`s resolve in discussing North Korea`s latest missile firing.

"There was unanimity in condemning the launch and an expression of concern about the situation," said Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador to the world body. "Obviously we have to implement the very robust strong resolution that we already have. That is a starting point."

In December, the Security Council adopted a resolution in response to North Korea`s nuclear test in September. The resolution aimed to slash North Korea`s exports of coal and other metal exports, designed to cost it $800 million a year.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had tough words for North Korea after the Security Council meeting on Monday.

"It is time to hold North Korea accountable – not with our words, but with our actions,” Haley said in a statement.

Late on Monday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said the United States and South Korea would deploy U.S. strategic assets during their annual joint exercise - in what appeared to be a response to the missile launch.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he expected the Trump administration would adopt a tougher stance against North Korea.

"I believe that the stance of the United States towards North Korea will become much tougher, that is clear," Abe said on a NHK public broadcasting news program after returning from meetings with Trump in the United States.

North Korea has said any sanctions against its missile or nuclear programs are a violation of its sovereignty and right to self-defense.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and the South`s main ally, the United States.

Israeli legislation on settlements violates international law: Guterres

By Deepak Arora

Antonio GuterresUNITED NATIONS, Feb 7: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today deeply regretted the adoption by Israel’s legislative body, the Knesset, of the so called “Regularisation bill,” saying the measure contravenes international law and will have “far-reaching legal consequences” for the country.

A statement from the UN spokesperson noted that the bill, adopted yesterday, reportedly provides immunity to settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank that were built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

“The Secretary-General insists on the need to avoid any actions that would derail the two-state solution,” the statement said, adding that all core issues should be resolved between the parties through direct negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions and mutual agreements.

“The United Nations stands ready to support this process,” it concluded.

U.S. Ambassador to U.N. blames Russia for new violence in eastern Ukraine

NEW YORK, Feb 2: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blamed Russia on Thursday for the recent surge of violence in eastern Ukraine and warned Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia will not be lifted until Moscow returns Crimea to Kiev.

"I consider it unfortunate on the occasion of my first appearance here I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia," Haley said, making her first public remarks inside the Security Council since being sworn in as the United States' representative to the United Nations last month.

"It shouldn't happen, or be that way. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions."

Her remarks came amid speculation over U.S. President Donald Trump's intentions towards Moscow. Trump has praised Russia's President Vladimir Putin and expressed a wish for improved relations between the two countries.

Haley made clear that tensions over the Ukraine would not end soon, including the matter of sanctions slapped on Russia related to the annexation of Crimea three years ago.

"Eastern Ukraine of course is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russia’s aggressive actions. The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea," Haley said.

"Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine."

The United States and other Western powers imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, disputed Haley's commentary on Crimea, but welcomed his American counterpart.

"It was friendly enough, given the circumstances and given the subject we were discussing," the Russian ambassador told reporters.

He noted the chance for a new start after ties between Russia and United States frayed in Obama's second term.

"If there is an opportunity to have better relations with the United States, if there is an opportunity for us to work better with the United States... then we should take this opportunity."

He faulted the Obama administration for not doing enough to end the conflict in Ukraine and called on the Trump government to bring its influence to bear.

"Clearly they are the people who are listened to in Kiev."

Ukraine and Russia had blamed each other for a surge in fighting in recent days around the government-held industrial town of Avdiivka that has led to the highest casualty toll in weeks and cut off power and water to thousands of civilians on the front line.

At the Thursday Security Council session, Ukraine's U.N. ambassador, Volodymr Yelchenko, who holds the presidency of the Security Council for February, said the strife around Avdiivka started with artillery shelling by the Russian army and Russian-backed fighters from the two suburbs they control abutting the town.

Churkin blamed Ukrainian security forces for starting the bloodshed.

U.N. under-secretary-general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, painted a grim picture of the situation on the ground.

"Hundreds of thousand of civilians on both sides of the contact line are still at risk of losing all access to water, heating and electricity, bringing the specter of further displacements closer," Feltman said.

"With every new day of fighting, the conflict becomes more entrenched and difficult to resolve. There is no military solution to this conflict."

Amb A GopinathanIndia's Amb. Gopinathan re-appointed to UN Joint Inspection Unit

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2: The UN General Assembly has re-appointed Ambassador Achamkulangare Gopinathan of India to the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations for the term 2018-2022.

G-4 call for text-based negotiations on UN SC reforms

By Deepak Arora

NEW YORK, Feb 2: The Directors General (DGs) on United Nations Affairs and Permanent Representatives to the United Nations in New York of the G4 countries (Brazil, India, Japan and Germany) have welcomed the wish of the overwhelming majority of Member States to swiftly move towards text-based negotiations on Security Council reforms.

The G4 met at the invitation of Germany here to discuss the reform of the United Nations Security Council. The previous meeting took place in Tokyo on June 6, 2016.

Based on the understanding that a strong, more representative and effective Security
Council is more important than ever, the G4 discussed recent developments at the InterGovernmental Negotiations (IGN) and noticed growing convergences among the positions of Member States across all five pillars of the reform.

They welcomed the wish of the overwhelming majority of Member States to swiftly move towards text-based negotiations. The G4 expressed full support for the new Chairs of the IGN during the 71st GA Session, the Permanent Representatives of Tunisia and Romania, in their important role of leading Member States to a concrete outcome of the process and initiating text-based negotiations without further delay.

The G4 confirmed their resolve to work together with all Member States, including within the IGN process, and to accelerate outreach towards achieving an early reform of the Security Council.

In this regard, the G4 welcomed the acknowledgment by Secretary General António Guterres of the need for Security Council reform. To this end, the G4 also underscored the important role the Secretary General can play in supporting meaningful progress.

The G4 welcomed the development of the Group of Friends on Security Council Reform
since its Ministerial/Senior Official level meeting on September 21, 2016 in New York. The group comprises reform-oriented Member States including from the C10, L69, CARICOM, Nordics, as well as from Eastern Europe and Asia, the G4, France and the United Kingdom.

It also welcomes new members committed to its principles of early reform, text-based negotiations and the expansion of the Security Council in both the permanent and non-permanent category of seats.

The G4 reiterated their commitments as aspiring new permanent members of the
reformed Security Council, as well as their support for each other’s candidatures. They
reaffirmed the importance of developing countries, in particular from Africa, to be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of an enlarged and reformed Security Council.

The DGs agreed that Brazil will host the next meeting.




UN Secy Gen Guterres calls for surge in diplomacy for peace
India warns Pakistan at UN, renews call for action against Jaish, Lashkar-e-Taiba


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