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As World Heritage Committee opens session, UNESCO urges protection of sites targeted for destruction

INTERNATIONAL – The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) strongly appealed for the international community to help counter the emerging threat of violent extremism and cultural cleansing, in remarks to the opening of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee today in Bonn, Germany.

“Heritage is under attack today. In Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, we see the brutal and deliberate destruction of heritage on an unprecedented scale. This is a call for action,”said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, as she addressed participants at the Committee's current session, which runs through 8 July.

“Our response to ignorance and criminal stupidity, must also have a cultural dimension: knowledge, the sharing of Islam's millennial learning and wisdom, sharing the message of Palmyra, the 'Venice of the Sands', that is like a bridge between the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome, the Persian Empire and the Arab culture from ancient times to the present,” declared Mrs. Bokova.

Committee Chair, Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office and member of the Bundestag, said the fury of terrorist organizations like ISIS [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levans, or ISIL] in Iraq surpasses the imagination.

“World Heritage is the foundation of people's existence and cohesion […]. It is the wellspring of social identity,” she added, invoking the role of culture in peacebuilding.

During the opening session, the International Young Experts Forum presented the outcome of their meeting, taking place from 18 to 29 June in Koblenz and Bonn. They read out the Declaration they adopted calling on States Parties to the World Heritage Convention to include teaching about World Heritage in national school curricula.

TheWorld Heritage Committeeis responsible for the implementation of theWorld Heritage Convention, defines the use of theWorld Heritage Fundand allocates financial assistance upon requests from States Parties.

It has the final say on whether a property is inscribed on theWorld Heritage List. It examines reports on the state of conservation of inscribed properties and asks States Parties to take action when properties are not being properly managed. It also decides on the inscription or deletion of properties on theList of World Heritage in Danger.

Thirty-six sites are nominated for inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List at this year's session. They arelisted here.

Also during its session, the Committee will also examine the state of conservation of 94 sites already on the World Heritage List, and of the 46 sites inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Debates will be webcast.

A number of parallel events will be held during the current session, notably the launch of the Global Coalition for the Protection of Cultural Heritage:#Unite4Heritageon 29 June.


SG concerned over Burundi's insistence on holding elections despite prevailing political crisis

INTERNATIONAL – Reiterating his appeal to all Burundian political leaders to consider the wider interest of the people of their country, United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon on June 28 expressed concerns about the Government's insistence on going ahead with elections on 29 June despite the prevailing political and security environment in the country.

“The Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes the responsibility of the Government of Burundi to ensure that elections take place in a secure environment and also to guarantee the safety and security of UN observers so that they can perform their mandated responsibilities free from intimidation or harassment,” according to astatementissued this afternoon by the UN Spokesperson.

The Security Council, including through its resolution 2137 (2014), has mandated the UN Observer Mission in Burundi (MENUB) to observe the elections, while the International Facilitation Team “has been working hard” in Bujumbura to assist the Burundian parties to reach a consensus on the way forward for holding “free, fair inclusive and peaceful elections.”

“The Secretary-General deplores the intransigence of the parties that caused those important efforts to be inconclusive,” the statement adds.

He reiterated his appeal to all Burundian political leaders to consider the “wider interest” of the people of their country and to resolve political issues through dialogue “in order to preserve peace and strengthen national reconciliation.”

Condemning recent attacks reported in the country, Mr. Ban in the statement also appealed to all Burundians to refrain from violent acts, in line with the Charter of Non-Violence agreed by all parties.

“MENUB will continue to work in a professional and impartial manner, in accordance with national laws applicable to electoral matters and international instruments, principles and rules of election observation,” adds the statement.

Burundi's political turmoil started in early April when President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would stand for a third term, a decision denounced as unconstitutional by the opposition.

Warning that the governing party and its youth militia use violence to limit freedom of speech and hate speech to obtain certain electoral outcome, Pablo de Greiff, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence stressed the utmost importance to disarm those youth militias.

“Voters must be free to support or to oppose any political party…without undue influence or coercion of any kind which may distort or inhibit the free expression of the elector's will,” Mr. de Greiff underscored.

Today's statement closely follows a similar expression of concern issued this past Friday, 2 June, when the Secretary-Generalencouragedthe country's authorities to consider the postponing of the elections. The legislative elections are scheduled for tomorrow, the presidential election for July 15.


New UNESCO report finds some $2.3 billion required to send children to school in war-torn countries

INTERNATIONAL – It will cost $2.3 billion to send to school the 34 million children and adolescents of conflict–affected countries who are currently not attending educational institutions, which is 10 times the amount being received from humanitarian aid now, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a new report released today.

“Present targets are hugely insufficient and diverting attention from the true needs of children and youth on the ground,”saidAaron Benavot, Director of UNESCO's report Education For All Global Monitoring Report (EFA GM).

For primary education, Mr. Benavot said, an extra $38 is needed per child in conflict situations, and $113 is needed per adolescent in lower secondary education.

“Surely we can find these funds,” he said. “Most of us carry the cost for one child in our pocket.”

According to the report, 34 million children and adolescents are out of school in conflict-affected countries.

“The most vulnerable are the hardest hit: the poorest are twice as likely to be out of school as their counterparts in peaceful countries,” UNESCO said in a press release on the launch of the2015 report. “The paper shows that $2.3 billion is required to place them in school – 10 times the amount that education is receiving from humanitarian aid right now.” In 2014, education received only 2 per cent of humanitarian aid.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Returning to school may be the only flicker of hope and normality for many children and youth in countries engulfed in crises.”

“TheIncheon Declarationadopted [in May at the World Education Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea] by 160 countries commits to meeting the needs of these populations through more resilient, resistive and inclusive education systems and a response to crisis that spans the phases of emergency, recovery and building,” Ms. Bokova said. “Education must be seen as part of the first response when crisis hits and an integral part of any peacebuilding strategy.”

According to UNESCO, thethe 2014 papershows that only a third of countries had reached global education goals set in 2000, and identified conflict as one of the major barriers to achieving better results. Today's paper shows the extent of the challenges that conflict presents.

“Children in conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely, and adolescents two-thirds more likely, to be out of school than in non-conflict affected countries,” it said, adding that “young women are almost 90 per cent more likely to be out of secondary school in conflict affected-countries than elsewhere.”

The report also said that media attention unfairly prioritizes some countries over others: more than half of available humanitarian aid to education was allocated to just 15 out of 342 appeals between 2000 and 2014.

It proposes a new, evidence-based finance target, and makes recommendations for tightening the current aid structure for education in crises.

“Any new global emergency education fund should ensure that resources for education in crises are additional, flexible and predictable,” the report said.

Developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO, the agency says thee Education for All Global Monitoring Report is an authoritative reference that aims to inform, influence and sustain genuine commitment towards Education for All.


Perpetrators of ‘reprehensible’ terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait and Tunisia must be brought to justice - UN

INTERNATIONAL – Strongly condemning the terrorist attacks carried out separately today in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon underscored that, far from weakening the world’s resolve, the heinous incidents will only strengthen commitment to defeating all forms of terrorism.

In astatementreleased by his spokesperson in New York, Mr. Ban condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, and stressed, “those responsible for these appalling acts of violence must be swiftly brought to justice.”

In a separate statement, the UN Security Council condemned the incidents equally strongly, laying out the specific circumstances of the attacks: against a chemical products factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, France, triggering an explosion and killing at least one through a gruesome beheading while injuring others; a bomb attack in a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City, Kuwait, killing at least 24 and injuring many more; and gunmen attacking a tourist hotel near Sousse, Tunisia, killing at least 37 and injuring many others.

The Secretary-General in his statement affirmed that, far from weakening the international community’s resolve to fight the scourge of terrorism, such heinous attacks would only strengthen the commitment of the United Nations to help defeat those bent on murder, destruction and the annihilation of human development and culture.

Mr. Ban, as well as the Security Council extended condolences to the families of those killed and injured in today’s attacks and expressed his solidarity with the peoples and Governments of Tunisia, Kuwait and France.

Also condemning the attacks, President of the UN General Assembly Sam Kutesa said the unrelenting wave of terrorist attacks across the world today, across three continents, once again attest to the need for continued resolve and engagement by Member States to find combat violent extremism and intolerance."

Later in the day, the UN High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser also strongly condemned the series of attacks.

In a statement, he stressed that such heinous acts and all other attacks targeting innocent people are criminal and unjustifiable and their perpetrators must be brought to justice.

“Crimes as such, will only lead to more hatred and violence, posing a serious threat to international peace and security,” joining other UN officials in extending heartfelt sympathy to the victims’ families and loved ones.

He also expressed support to the peoples and Governments of Tunisia, Kuwait and France.


SG welcomes US Supreme Court ruling guaranteeing right to same-sex marriage

INTERNATIONAL – United NationsSecretary-General (SG)Ban Ki-moon welcomed today the United States Supreme Court ruling that the US Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court that paves the way for gay and lesbian Americans to have their relationships legally recognized, no matter what part of the country they live in,” said a UN spokesperson during his daily briefing.

In an interview this morning, Mr. Ban called the decision a “great step forward for human rights”, reminding that his strong belief in equality and in the equal worth and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

“Denying couples legal recognition of their relationship opens the door to widespread discrimination. This ruling will help close that door and marks a great step forward for human rights in the United States. The Secretary-General joins the LGBT community and its millions of allies in celebrating this historic decision,” added the Spokesperson.


Haiti: UN envoy urges that deportations do not result in statelessness of people born in Dominican Republic

INTERNATIONAL – Amid ongoing concern about the status of thousands of immigrants living in the Dominican Republic, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Haiti, Sandra Honoré, said that deportations carried out by Santo Domingo authorities should not result in statelessness of people of Haitian descent.

Ms. Honoré also considered that such acts should be consistent with the dignity, human rights and international humanitarian law.

This call comes as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last Friday appealed to the Government of the Dominican Republic to ensure that people who were arbitrarily deprived of their nationality as a result of a 2013 ruling of the Dominican Constitutional Court would not be deported.

According to UNHCR, in May 2014, the Dominican Republic adopted a naturalization law which provided for the re-issuance of nationality documents for some individuals born in the Dominican Republic and gave others the possibility to apply for special registration until February 2015, opening a path to eventual citizenship.

In a welcome development, the agency said, the Dominican authorities have concluded an audit of the first group whereby some 57,000 individuals could be reasonably presumed to have found a solution, but tens of thousands of people who were born in the Dominican Republic and are of Haitian descent remain stateless. The consequences of their eventual expulsion to Haiti could be devastating.

In an interview withUN Radio, Ms. Honoré said that in a recent meeting with the Foreign Minister and the immigration authorities in the Dominican Republic, those officials explained to her that during the process they would “take all necessary measures so that there was full respect for the basic guarantees of the people.”

Ms. Honoré, who is also head of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), said that to date, there has been an increase in the flow of returnees and that both governments have decided that there would be two official points for carrying out deportations.

“We encourage the dialogue recently begun at the level of foreign ministers of both countries to continue, to agree on the best way to…address these measures,” she said.

She said that at several points along the border where people have gathered, the Haitian Government does not have the capability to receive or process them. “This will, in fact, be a challenge for the Government,” she acknowledged, and added that in response, Haitian authorities have established a committee of national solidarity to deal with the question of returnees from the Dominican Republic.

In addition, Ms. Honoré said the Government of Haiti does have a contingency plan that it has developed to deal with the return of large numbers of Haitian citizens and the Government is working with UN agencies, funds and programmes regarding the support it needs to enact the plan.

“Our mandate for stabilization in Haiti dictates that we support the Government as best we can and within the resources that are available to us,” she said, explaining that two rounds of elections – legislative and presidential – are scheduled to take place in Haiti over the coming months.

The UN would aim to maintain support for the Government to ensure that the climate surrounding these elections would be a serene as possible, and “we would do everything that we possibly can to ensure that the challenges posed by this situation do not translate into any undesirable effects on the overall election process,” concluded Ms. Honoré.


‘Business can be a global force for good,’ Bans says as General Assembly honours UN Global Compact

INTERNATIONAL – The business community and the private sector can make a difference as United Nations Member States are in the process of formulating a new sustainability agenda,Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon said at the General Assembly on June 25, which was meeting to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the UN Global Compact.

“The business agenda and the sustainable development agenda are converging in new and exciting ways. What began as a simple call to action has become a global force for good,” the UN chieftolda special Assembly meeting, 'Global Compact+15: Business as a Force for Good' which marked the initiative's 15th anniversary.

TheGlobal Compactis a UN initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. So far, more than 8,000 business participants have committed to doing business responsibly, in line with universal principles encompassing human rights, labour rights, environmental protection and anti-corruption efforts.

As Member States are forging a new development agenda for the next 15 years and a collective way forward on climate change, “our gathering today takes place in a potentially transformative year,” stressed Mr. Ban, convinced that business will be “indispensable” in the period ahead.

“Sustainable development is not charity; it is smart investment. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) offer an extraordinary pipeline for investment and platform in which responsible business can thrive,” he went on to say.

By respecting and supporting universal principles in their operations, and by pioneering new business models and forming innovative partnerships, the Secretary-General advised, business leaders are “poised” to make long-lasting contributions to the cause of global sustainability.

“This is a time of grave test but also one of tremendous promise. We can be the first generation to erase poverty from the face of the planet. We have a golden opportunity in Paris in December to reach a meaningful agreement that can stave off planetary disaster,” he stressed, referring to the upcoming Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

On the governance front, he emphasized, Governments and political leaders need to work with the UN to stamp out corruption, which includes aligning lobbying efforts with sustainability commitments.

“You should not speak out publicly for climate action while working behind-the-scenes against sensible climate-friendly legislation,” the UN chief urged.

While encouraging business leaders to work within their trade and industry associations to spread the tenets of sustainability, he asked leading investors to reward good business practices in financial markets.

“We are here together in the belief that business can and must be a force for good,” he concluded.

In his remarks, Assembly President Sam Kutesa said that since its founding, The Global Compact had played an invaluable role in enlisting new actors, particularly in the business sector, to address many of the world’s most pressing problems.

“This event is particularly timely because in the context of ongoing negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, the discussions provide and important opportunity to reflect on the important progress made through the Global Compact and the important role the business sector can play in helping to achieve our future development objectives.”

Indeed, Mr. Kutesa continued, achieving the proposed SDGs will require provision of adequate means of implementation for the post-2015 development agenda and a strengthened global partnership for development.

“In working towards greater involvement and contribution of the private sector, we must find innovative ways of scaling up investments that contribute to equitable and sustainable growth and development. More private capital is required for investment in critical sectors…such as energy, infrastructure and ICT,” and with this in mind, he said the Global Compact, which brings together a diverse cross-section of companies from a broad range of countries, has a major role to play in this regard.

Georg Kell, outgoing Executive Director, UN Global Compactstresseda similar point in an interview with theUN News Centreearlier this month, saying that the initiative’s job has been to win over companies that going global does not just mean having more short-term profits and looking for the cheapest allocation or sourcing capabilities.

“But rather to understand that for markets to grow, and for your own future prospects to be successful, it makes sense to integrate, in your strategic thinking and operations, environmental, social and governance issues,” he said.

The day featured addresses by business leaders, including: Henrik Madsen, CEO of DNV GL; Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé; Monica de Greiff, President of Chamber of Commerce of Bogota; Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Yilmaz Argüden, Chair of Global Compact Network Turkey; Fu Chengyu, Chairman of Global Compact Local China; Erika Karp, Founder and CEO of Cornerstone Capital Inc; and Dov Seidman, Founder and CEO of LRN.

Also addressing the audience were key voices from civil society, labour and academia, including Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and President of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice; Julia Christensen Hughes, Dean of College of Business and Economics, University of Guelph, Canada; and Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.

Also today, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Lise Kingo, of Denmark, as Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact. She will succeed Georg Kell, who retires later this year after over 25 years of service to the United Nations.

Ms. Kingo, who assumes the role on 1 September, was most recently the Chief of Staff, Executive Vice President and member of the Executive Management at Novo Nordisk A/S from 2002 to 2014.


New UN report finds drop in global foreign direct investment in 2014

INTERNATIONAL – Global foreign direct investment (FDI) declined in 2014 but flows to developing countries actually reached their highest level ever, says a new United Nations report released today that also calls for systematic reform of the current international investment agreement regime.

According to the2015 editionof the World Investment Report, FDI fell by 16 per cent to $1.23 trillion in 2014, while flows to developed countries declined by 28 per cent to $499 billion.

The report, produced by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), says this is mostly because of “the fragility of the global economy, policy uncertainty for investors and elevated geopolitical risks,” adding that new investments were offset by some large divestments, the most important being in the United States.

In the meantime, inward FDI flows to developing economies reached their highest level ever, at $681 billion with a 2 per cent rise. Among the top 10 FDI recipients in the world, five are developing economies, with China taking the lead.

For 2015, UNCTAD projects global FDI inflows to grow by 11 per cent to $1.4 trillion. Expectations are for further rises to $1.5 trillion in 2016 and to $1.7 trillion in 2017.

The Geneva-based UN agency is also calling for a systematic reform of the international investment agreement regime in order to bring coherence to the almost 3,300 agreements currently in existence.

“The case for reform is clear,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. “We are now faced with a global patchwork of agreements, with unintended and sometimes far-reaching consequences for the right, of developed and developing countries alike, to regulate.”

“‘Old style’ international investment agreements have increasingly come to a dead end. Reform should make the global network of international investment agreements better fit the needs and realities of today and tomorrow,” explained Mr. Kituyi, stressing the importance of achieving such harmonization as the international community is in the process of formulating a new development agenda.

“Reform should be guided by the goal of more effectively harnessing international investment agreements for sustainable and inclusive development, focusing on key reform areas, and following a multi-level, systematic and inclusive approach,” Mr. Kituyi stated. “Only a common approach will deliver an international investment agreement regime in which stability, clarity and predictability help achieve the objectives of all stakeholders.”

Among the areas where governments should undertake efforts, UNCTAD mentions the need to safeguard the right to regulate in the public interest, to reform investment dispute settlement and to expand investment promotion and facilitation in international investment agreements.


New UN study calls for boosted AIDS treatment efforts amid threat of viral resurgence

INTERNATIONAL – The world risks a deadly AIDS rebound unless the countries most affected by the virus expand access to antiretroviral treatments and boost their focus on stopping new infections, a new United Nations report has warned.

According to the findings of the study released today by the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and famed medical journal,The Lancet, sustaining current HIV treatment and prevention efforts in the most affected African countries over the next 15 years would require at least a third of total government health expenditures, emphasizing the growing need for continued international support for these countries.

“We have to act now. The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, in apress release. “If we don't, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

The report does acknowledge that unprecedented progress has been made over the years towards increasing access to HIV treatment globally. The UN, in fact, has steadily been rolling out a so-called fast-track approach highlighting the need to focus on the counties, cities and communities most affected by HIV, and recommends that resources be concentrated on the areas with the greatest impact in order to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

In particular, the approach calls for efforts in the 30 countries that together account for 89 per cent of new HIV infections worldwide. To fast-track national responses in these 30 priority countries, UNAIDS maintains, will require extensive mobilization of human, institutional and strategic international partners, as well as significant commitments from both national and international sources.

Despite some advances in the battles against the disease, however, the joint UNAIDS-Lancet report warns that the rate of new HIV infections is not falling fast enough. This, combined with high demographic growth in some of the most affected countries, is increasing the number of people living with HIV who will need antiretroviral therapy to stay alive.

As a result, the study calls for an urgent need to scale up AIDS efforts, calls on governments to ramp up HIV prevention efforts, and continue expanding access to treatment.

“We must face hard truths—if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries,” Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of the report confirmed.

“Expanding sustainable access to treatment is essential, but we will not treat ourselves out of the AIDS epidemic. We must also reinvigorate HIV prevention efforts, particularly among populations at highest risk, while removing legal and societal discrimination,” he concluded.


Celebrating vital role of seafarers, UN officials encourage young people to consider life of ‘real adventure’

INTERNATIONAL – On the Day of the Seafarer, the United Nations is issuing a strong call to young people to consider seafaring as a career, including with the UN maritime agency, which could offer them a chance to experience “real adventure” in a workplace that might be a hundred thousand-ton oil tanker or a cargo ship navigating the world’s oceans with beautiful landscapes and also a stimulating job in a truly hi-tech environment.

Marking theDayfrom the Seamen’s Center at Intramuros, in Manila, operated by the world’s leading supplier of manpower to the global maritime industry, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Koji Sekimizusaid: “This year, I want to speak about how fulfilling and rewarding a seafaring career can be; and I particularly want to address this message to young people, who may now be actively considering the options open to them.”

United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon, in hismessageon the Day, commemorated annually on 25 June, did the same and also noted that “seafaring remains one of the world’s most important professions.”

“But as the global population grows, so does the demand for shipping, and there are fears that, in the future, there may be shortage of seafarers,” Mr. Ban cautioned, adding that seafaring is a particularly attractive option for people in developing countries.

“Imagine sailing the world’s oceans, seeing the northern lights, experiencing arctic snow or a tropical storm for the first time – and meeting people from all over the world while doing so,” said Mr. Ban. IMO’s Mr. Sekimizu said: “Today, more than ever, seafaring is a job that demands highly trained and qualified personnel.”

“Modern ships are designed and built to the highest technical standards and require crew members with a high level of professional competence,” he said. “To operate them safely and efficiently is a stimulating job in a truly hi-tech workplace.”

Seafaring can provide not only an opportunity to earn money to live and provide for your families, it also offers unique opportunities to navigate the seas of the globe and encounter the wonders of the ocean. “It offers young people the opportunity to experience a world of real adventure on the seas and oceans of our planet, to interact with people from all over the world, and to experience the huge variety of mankind’s culture and heritage,” said Mr. Sekimizu.

IMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for measures to improve the safety and security of international shipping and to prevent pollution from ships, has launched a social media campaign#CareerAtSeato show what a career at seacould look likeand hope to inspire young people to consider seafaring as a livelihood.

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