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Despite major gains, world's education goals far from achieved – UNESCO

INTERNATIONAL – Just one third of countries have achieved all the measurable education goals set in 2000 and only half of all countries have achieved universal primary enrolment, the United Nations agency mandated with promoting learning spotlighted today, urging countries to bridge the $22 billion annual finance gap needed to achieve quality basic education for all by 2030.

“The world has made tremendous progress towards'Education for All'…however the agenda is far from finished,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on the heels of the key findings produced in the2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR).

Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges, produced by UNESCO tracks the progress of a set of six goals ranging from improving quality of education to ensuring equal access to learning. Released today, the report found that 47 per cent of countries reached the goal of early childhood education, and another eight per cent were close. Twenty per cent were very far from the goal. Yet, in 2012, nearly two-thirds more children were enrolled in early childhood education than in 1999.

“Despite not meeting the 2015 deadline, millions more children are in school than would have been had the trends of the 1990s persisted,” Ms. Bokovasaid. “However…we need to see specific, well-funded strategies that prioritize the poorest – especially girls – improve the quality of learning and reduce the literacy gap so that education becomes meaningful and universal.”

As far as achieving universal primary education, particularly for girls, ethnic minorities and marginalized children, 52 per cent of countries met this goal, 10 per cent are close and the remaining 38 per cent are far or very far from achieving it. This leaves almost 100 million children not completing primary education in 2015. And the world's poorest children remain five times less likely to complete a full cycle of primary education than the richest.

At current rates, only half of all children in low-income countries are expected to complete lower secondary education by 2030. In many countries even the core goal of achieving universal primary education will remain out of reach without concerted efforts.

And yet UNESCO point out that there has been some important progress. Around 50 million more children are enrolled in school now than were in 1999. While education is still not free in many places, cash transfer and school feeding programmes have made a positive impact on enrolment for the poor. Forty-six per cent of countries reached universal lower secondary enrolment. Globally, numbers in lower secondary education increased by 27 per cent and more than doubled in sub-Saharan Africa.

In terms of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in levels of adult illiteracy by 2015, only 25 per cent of countries reached this goal, and 32 per cent remain very far from it. While globally the percentage of illiterate adults fell from 18 per cent in 2000 to 14 per cent in 2015, this progress is almost entirely attributed to more educated young people reaching adulthood. Women continue to make up almost two-thirds of the illiterate adult population. Half of sub-Saharan African women do not have basic literacy skills.

Gender parity will be achieved at the primary level in 69 per cent of countries by 2015. Child marriage and early pregnancy continue to hinder girls' progress in education as does the need for teacher training in gender sensitive approaches and curriculum reform.

The numbers of pupils per teacher decreased in 121 of 146 countries between 1990 and 2012 at the primary level, but 4 million more teachers are still needed to get all children into school. Trained teachers remain in short supply in one third of countries; in several sub-Saharan African countries, less than 50 per cent are trained.

In many countries, funding remains a major obstacle, the report finds. Governments must find ways to mobilize new resources for education and international partners must ensure that aid is distributed to those most in need.

“Unless concerted action is taken and education receives the attention that it failed to get during the past 15 years, millions of children will continue to miss out and the transformative vision of the new sustainable development agenda will be jeopardized,” said Aaron Benavot, the Director for today's report.

The report recommends that governments and civil society develop programmes to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged so no child is left behind in the post-2015 development targets for education, which must be specific, relevant and realistic.

Education should be free for all children and fees for tuition, textbooks, school uniforms and transport must be abolished. Policy makers should identify and prioritize skills to be acquired by the end of each stage of schooling. Literacy policies should link up with the needs of communities. Teacher training should be improved to include gender-focused strategies. Teaching styles should better reflect student needs and the diversity of classroom contexts.

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As chaos deepens in Yemen, UN expert warns of ‘worst case scenario’ displacement

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations expert on the human rights of internally displaced persons today urged the international community “to prepare for massive displacement and humanitarian crisis as conflict torn Yemen further descends into chaos and civilians flee the fighting.”

“The international community must prepare for a worst case scenario. While efforts to reach a diplomatic solution are essential, the picture on the ground is extremely bleak and humanitarian responses must be stepped up as a matter of urgency,” UN Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani warned in anews releasefrom Geneva.

“Unless rapidly resolved, the crisis could lead to mass displacement in the wake of heavy and ongoing fighting and airstrikes,” he added.

Over the last two weeks of increased fighting, more than 540 people have been killed, of which 311 are civilians, including 77 children, according to UN humanitarian agencies. At least 513 civilians have been injured, and more than 100,000 have been displaced.

On 30 March, an airstrike carried out against the Al-Mazraq camp, home to over 4,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Hajjah Governorate, northern Yemen, led to the deaths of 25, with 37 others injured, including 12 children. The UN expert condemned the attack and described it as “a grave violation against some of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable civilians.”

In addition to the IDP camp, reports have indicated that numerous hospitals, schools and other civilian buildings have been damaged by airstrikes and power and water supply cuts. Thousands of people are in an extremely vulnerable situation having been forced to flee their homes in areas where fighting has become intense and spread to residential neighbourhoods.

“Those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, must be held accountable,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. The Special Rapporteur joined humanitarian actors, including the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Johannes van Der Klaauw, in calling on all parties to allow unhindered access to civilians by humanitarian actors. He underscored that IDPs must be protected against direct or indiscriminate attacks or acts of violence and attacks against their camps or settlements.

“While the scale of internal displacement remains unclear at this stage, it is certain to grow significantly over the coming days and weeks, as clashes continue to take place,” Mr Beyani said. A total of 14 Governorates out of 22 have been affected by airstrikes or armed conflict.

Special Rapporteurs are part of the Human Rights Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations in all parts of the world. They do not receive a salary for their work and are independent from any government.

Meanwhile, UNICEF Yemen Representative Julien Harneis has warned that yesterday’s airstrike on Al Rasheedi school in Yemen’s Ibb governorate, which left at least two children dead and two injured, “is a stark reminder of the appalling risks facing children as the conflict in Yemen intensifies.”

“Such incidents underline the urgent need for all parties to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and for every effort to be made to protect children from violence. That includes affording special protection to schools and hospitals, which should always be places where children can feel safe and not face the risks of death or injury.”

Also today, the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, updated the press at Headquarters on how UN agencies were coping with the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.

He said that the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that ambulances in Aden are unable to reach injured people in some of the affected districts earlier this week. Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called yesterday’s airstrike on the Al Rasheedi school in Yemen’s Ibb governorate, which left at least two children dead and two others injured, a stark reminder of the appalling risks faced by children as the conflict intensifies.

The head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Office for Yemen, Trond Jensen, has expressed the humanitarian community's concern that the situation could turn catastrophic. He appealed to all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international law, to respect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow unfettered access for humanitarian supplies and workers, so that urgently needed supplies can be brought in.

National aid partners in Yemen are expected to conduct needs assessments in the coming days, including in Hajjah, Al Hudaydah, Aden, Al Dhale’e, Lahj and Abyan. Discussions also continue with authorities to allow partners to undertake a humanitarian needs assessment in Sa’ada.

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High-level UN forum seeks answers to questions on how to make sustainable development reality

INTERNATIONAL – As the Economic and Social Council began today 9 April its Development Cooperation Forum in Incheon, Republic of Korea, senior United Nations officials emphasized the need to build on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and to deliver sustainable development for all by finding strategies to mobilize significant financial resources.

Such means of implementation for the development agenda, which can come from many private, public, national and international sources, will be vital once the world adopts its new development plan for the next 15 years.

“The world faces a fundamental task: to forge a genuine partnership, at all levels, to secure the fate of human beings and of our planet,” said ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik (Austria). “There is broad consensus that the agenda's successful implementation will depend on a comprehensive financing framework for sustainable development.”

The Forum, held under the slogan, 'Development cooperation for people and planet: What will it take?' brought together leaders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society begin a three-day high-level symposium in Incheon, Republic of Korea, to grapple with the topic.

The event aims to generate concrete ideas and policy recommendations to explore how to deliver 'the future we want' – an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations.

As well as ensuring availability of means of implementation, Mr. Sajdik said that success of the new agenda would also hinge upon the effective review of progress on substantive goals and follow-up to commitments made, especially on the full spectrum of means of implementation – financial and other, from capacity building to technology transfer.

“This requires a flexible, multi-layered global framework,” he said. “It must build on existing mechanisms at all levels, following a bottom-up approach.”

The symposium comes as countries are gearing up for the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa this July, the Sustainable Development Summit in New York, and climate negotiations in Paris. The DCF high-level symposium is geared to produce new ideas and policy recommendations into the preparations of the summits.

While underlining the importance of preparations for the Addis Ababa Conference to ensure its outcomes were fully integrated into the negotiations on the post-2015 agenda, Mr. Sajdik added that development cooperation embraces practices that involve both financial and non-financial means of implementation.

“It has to be more at the centre of a coherent narrative, vision and concerted action for the realization of the new agenda,” he said. “Development cooperation is a vital part of the broader global partnership for sustainable development needed to bring about the systemic policy changes for all partners to come closer together and make progress, to leave no one behind, to tackle common global problems and take up opportunities to put the world on a firm path toward sustainable development for all.”

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Calls made for $111 million to address urgent humanitarian priorities in DPR Korea

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations today called for some $111 million to fund its humanitarian operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DRPK) in 2015, covering activities in food and agriculture, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation.

"DPR Korea is both a silent and underfunded humanitarian situation,” said UN Resident Coordinator Ghulam Isaczai in a press release. “Protracted and serious needs for millions of people are persistent and require sustained funding.”

The call comes as the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released its latestassessmentthat addresses the country’s critical humanitarian needs which remain drastically underfunded.

According to the UN, among a population of 24.6 million people, approximately 70 per cent (18 million people) are considered food insecure, and are not able to access an adequate and diverse nutritious diet to live healthily.

Malnutrition rates continue to be a public health concern, with the chronic malnutrition (stunting) rate among children under five at 27.9 per cent; 4 per cent of them are acutely malnourished (wasting), according to the 2012 National Nutrition Survey.

Under-nutrition is a fundamental cause of maternal and child death and disease. Health service delivery is inadequate, and many areas of the country are not equipped with sufficient facilities, equipment or medicines. Safe drinking water and inadequate sanitation services are a fundamental problem, contributing to high and chronic instances of diarrhoea, respiratory infections and waterborne diseases. Food production is hampered by a lack of agricultural resources, such as seeds and fertilizers, and is highly vulnerable to shocks, particularly natural disasters like floods.

Funding these humanitarian priorities will enable the five UN agencies – the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – already working on the ground to continue programmes that provide many vulnerable people with the basics.

"It is vital that donors respond quickly and generously to allow aid agencies to address the humanitarian situation,” emphasized Mr. Isaczai. “Humanitarian needs must be kept separate from political issues to be able to ensure minimum living conditions for the most vulnerable, especially women, children and the elderly.”

The commitment and support of the international community is vital. The UN needs to continue to build on positive developments, otherwise the progress made in the past decade to improve food security, health and nutrition will not be sustained. The UN will continue to work towards addressing the structural causes of vulnerabilities and chronic malnutrition through development interventions agreed with the DPRK Government, the press release concludes.

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‘Education is your right’ says UN agency official at opening of school for displaced Iraqis

INTERNATIONAL – The United Nations education agency today 8 April celebrated the opening of a new school at Dawodiyah Camp in Dohouk, Iraq, as part of its efforts to provide quality secondary education to children and adolescents in internally displaced persons communities.

Theopening of the new schoolrepresents another major milestone in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) work to improve access to quality education in Iraq following the opening of the Baharka Secondary School in March this year.

“Regardless of the circumstances you are in, remember that education is your right, demand for it and take advantage of it,” said Ali Zulfiqar, the UNESCO Project Manager, who spoke on behalf to the new students on behalf of the UNESCO Office for Iraq Director, Axel Plathe.

The Dawodiyah Secondary School, for which UNESCO received financial support from the Government of Saudi Arabia, has six classrooms and will host up to 500 students and 20 teachers in two shifts. Children will attend catch-up classes over the next three months, before sitting for exams at the end of June.

With 4,017 people and 661 families currently residing in Dawodiyah camp, the opening of the new school will allow a large number of students to continue their education and restore a sense of normality and stability to their lives and helps fulfil the aims of UNESCO’s project to continue ensuring that quality education reaches the children of displaced people.

Government and education officials from the regional capital, Erbil, attended the opening ceremony, as did students, parents and teachers along with members of the international humanitarian community and civil society organizations.

“We are thankful for UNESCO’s support in constructing the Dawodiyah Secondary School for IDPs [internally displaced persons],” said Abed Yousef, Director General of Education in Dohouk during his speech at the opening ceremony, “and for helping the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government in conducting teacher training workshops and providing catch up classes as well as the necessary stationery for students to continue their education.”

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Expert urges political action to promote Roma human rights, combat discrimination

INTERNATIONAL - A United Nations rights expert has today 8 April called for strong and tangible political commitment to fight the bias and discrimination that continues to infringe upon the rights of Roma people.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues,Rita Izsák, speaking on International Roma Day, urged the world to focus on putting the human rights of Roma, including minority rights, at the centre of all State inclusion policies and measures.

“Discrimination and racism against Roma come in many different forms, ranging from silent indifference to hate speech and violence against individuals or entire communities,” she said. “Furthermore, growing populism and extremism in many countries with significant Roma populations have deepened societal divisions, causing more stigmatization of Roma communities. Unfortunately this has led to a desensitization of the public, and to the resurgence of unacceptable myths about Roma criminality, unworthiness and inferiority.”

She said it was time for societies to stop tolerating public discourse that perpetuates “stereotypical, racist, hateful or discriminatory” views about Roma, to take effective action against such discourses and to “reject anti-Gypsyism” in every form.

The Special Rapporteur, who will present a report on the human rights situation of Roma and anti-Gypsyism worldwide to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015, called on political and public leaders to combat bias and discrimination against Roma by reinforcing the basic foundations of good governance and democracy and promoting minority rights protection in line with international standards, such as theUN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.

“I also highlight the role of the media, which must take responsibility to guarantee the objective portrayal or Roma, refrain from sensationalist media coverage, and give space to Roma self-representation,” said Ms. Izsák, whose report will reflect her key concerns on Roma inclusion, both inside and outside of Europe, and provide important policy recommendations.

She called for heightened political will, especially at national and local levels, and for openness to learning from past policy and planning mistakes, so that dedicated institutional attention can be given to Roma issues and Roma leadership with the aim of breaking the vicious cycle of stigma, discrimination and marginalization.

“I therefore call on Governments to place Roma rights at the heart of all strategies and policies related to human and minority rights, social inclusion and development, with explicit targets for Roma communities,” she said urging protection and promotion of Roma identity, language and culture, the guarantee of dignity and equality, and effective political and economic participation.

“I also remain deeply alarmed about the lack of Roma representation in local, national and international decision-making bodies, especially in institutions explicitly established to protect and promote their rights,” she said. “Given the unprecedented level of Roma intellectuals, professionals and activists, the slogan 'nothing about us without us' must be put into practice in the field of Roma rights.”

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Reflecting on Rwanda, Ban urges courage ‘to counter the cruelty taking place before our eyes’

INTERNATIONAL – The world must make use of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda to look back on the past – and to squarely confront the challenges of the present, renewing collective resolve and summoning the courage to prevent such atrocities from happening again, United NationsSecretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon said today.

“Our annual sombre observance is all the more meaningful this year as we mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations,saidMr. Ban in his message on theDay, which honours the memory of the more than 800,000 people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, and also moderate Hutu, Twa and others – systematically killed across Rwanda in less than three months just over two decades ago. It is also an occasion to recognize the pain and the courage of those who survived.

The Secretary-General’s message previews the21st Commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide Memorial Ceremony, taking place at UN Headquarters this evening from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Organized by the UN Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations, the programme will include, among others, Mr. Ban, Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly, and Eugène-Richard Gasana, Ambassador of Rwanda and Minister in Charge of Cooperation.

In his message, Mr. Ban stressed that many countries today face grave security threats, with people being subjected to the brutality of violent conflicts and the indignities of poverty.

Discrimination persists in societies torn apart by war, as well as in democracies that largely enjoy peace. Hatred may manifest as institutionalized racism, ethnic strife, or episodes of intolerance or exclusion. In other instances, discrimination reflects the official, national version of history that denies the identity of some segments of the population.

“I deplore the conflicts and atrocity crimes in many parts of the world that continue to divide communities, killing and displacing people, undermining economies and destroying cultural heritage,” declared the Secretary-General, emphasizing that the international community’s first duty is always to prevent these situations and to protect vulnerable human beings in distress.

“MyHuman Rights Up Frontinitiative seeks to prevent serious human rights violations by acting on early warning signs before they become more serious,” he explained, adding that his Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect work to advance national and international efforts to protect populations from atrocity crimes.

“We aim to ensure swift and decisive action to save lives and stop abuses,” stressed the UN chief.

“On this Day, I appeal to the international community to do more than just speak about atrocity crimes and then fail to take timely action to prevent them. I call on all to summon the courage to act before situations deteriorate based on our collective moral responsibility. This is critical for the maintenance of international peace and security,” he said, recalling that at last year’s commemoration in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, he had urged the world to exercise ‘Umuganda’– coming together in common purpose – “to avert what can be prevented and counter the cruelty taking place before our eyes.”

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Interview with Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime

INTERNATIONAL – Former Russian diplomat Yury Fedotov was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in July 2010. As head of the Vienna-based agency, Mr. Fedotov has encouraged countering drug trafficking based on building regional initiatives and providing technical assistance, while also promoting a balanced approach to solving drug demand.

He has called on Member States to ratify and implement all UN conventions on drugs, crime and corruption, and is closely involved in promoting the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which is managed by UNODC, as well as the Blue Heart Campaign against human trafficking.

During a recent visit to New York to participate in a General Assembly event on integrating crime prevention and criminal justice in the post-2015 development agenda, Mr. Fedotov spoke with the UN News Centre about the 13th UN Crime Congress, which will be held in Qatar from 12-19 April. The interview has been edited for content and clarity.

The rule of law, better criminal justice systems, access to justice, well-functioning law enforcement and prosecution authorities - they could be enablers for development

UN News Centre: The 13th UN Crime Congress, taking place in April in Doha, Qatar, will mark the 60th anniversary of the Crime Congress. Could you tell us what has been achieved in 60 years in terms of crime prevention and criminal justice at the international level?

Yury Fedotov: It is an excellent question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer for you. Indeed, as always, there is good news and bad news. The good news is since then, the international community developed a whole set of legal instruments to fight transnational organized crime, such the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention) with three protocols – on human trafficking, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in firearms, the UN Convention against Corruption, as well as three drug control conventions and of course 19 legal instruments against terrorism. Since then, international cooperation has expanded. Quite recently, there have been discussions on how to bridge the gap between different formats and platforms of international cooperation.

All of this is good news. But unfortunately, during these 60 years, transnational organized crime has also evolved. It has become more sophisticated… for instance, using the porosity of the borders, better communications and transportation, as well as sophisticated tools like the Internet to coordinate their criminal activities. National borders do not stop criminals. That’s why international cooperation has to grow. That’s why the 13th Crime Congress is very important. We are going to discuss at this Congress what else could be done to strengthen this response, this consolidated response of the international community under the guidance of the United Nations to this challenge of transnational organized crime.

UN News Centre: The Crime Congress will discuss the nexus between crime and development. Could you give us examples of how transnational organized crime, illicit trafficking and corruption undermine development?

Yury Fedotov: There are many examples. But it works both ways. Not only does transnational organized crime, corruption, illicit drugs undermine development, but poverty and underdevelopment also provide a fertile ground for transnational organized crime and criminality. For example, up to $40 billion are being lost every year just in developing countries as a result of corruption. This money could have been used to support developing countries, the least developing countries, but it vanished. If you count all illicit revenues of transnational organized crime, it’s $870 billion every year. It’s a lot; it’s much more than the GDP of many developing countries. Unfortunately, the law enforcement agencies of these countries, and even of bigger countries, cannot afford a similar budget to counter criminal activities. That’s why international cooperation is of essence.

Other examples are depleting of the environment, illegal logging and wildlife crime, which are not only crimes against future generations but also undermine development in these countries. On the other side, you take the example of piracy off the coast of Somalia. And the origin of the piracy of course was – not on the sea but on the land in Somalia – the lack of prospects for development for many young men and boys in this country torn by conflict for decades. So they have chosen the criminal activities not only to find occupation but also to commit crimes.

Or take the example of Afghanistan, where many impoverished farmers are compelled to grow illicit crops just to survive. The same goes in some countries of South-east Asia. So development and organized crime are closely linked to each other. That’s why the Crime Congress is important, especially this year, just a few months before the UN summit on the post-2015 development agenda. The main theme of the Congress is precisely the link between the rule of law and sustainable development.

UN News Centre: What do you think is the most vital point to address at this year’s Congress? Are there specific crimes or areas that need particular attention above others?

Yury Fedotov: Of course, as I said, the main theme of the Congress is the nexus between rule of law, crime prevention, criminal justice and sustainable development. The rule of law, better criminal justice systems, access to justice, well-functioning law enforcement and prosecution authorities – they could be enablers for development. There will be important discussions not only in the plenary meeting but also in side events with the participation of high-level government officials, UN principals and NGOs. But there are some other important themes which will be highlighted, some of them re-emerging crimes, such as human trafficking, for which we are planning to organize an important side event with high-level participants. There’s also the smuggling of migrants, which is a new, fast-developing concern of the international community, especially after these tragic events in the Mediterranean. Wildlife and forest crime, cybercrime… you name it. There are many areas which need to be discussed. The Crime Congress is important in order to find a common platform to face these global challenges.

UN News Centre: It is extremely difficult to measure the extent of some crimes because of a lack of data. What is being done to improve data collection? Will the topic of data collection be discussed at the Congress?

Yury Fedotov: It will be discussed and rightfully so, because it is one of the three major pillars of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The research and analysis is very important, not for the sake of research and analysis but in order to provide clear guidance to Member States on how to tackle global challenges. And some of our flagship publications like the annual World Drug Reports, or our global report on human trafficking, are well received by Member States. They appreciate the quality of this research and analysis but we need to do more. We are planning another important research initiative on wildlife crime, on smuggling of migrants, on many others. And of course the data is a very important factor.

We are not dealing with official statistics. We need to find ways and means to evaluate the size and the scope of transnational organized crime, and the information is very often hidden. That’s why we need more support – more support from Member States, more support from our peers, other international organizations sharing data and information with us – so that we can come up with a consolidated knowledge and evaluation of the size and dimensions of transnational organized crime, illicit drugs and corruption.

UN News Centre: What do you see as the role of the public in strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice?

Yury Fedotov: We cannot do anything without the public. We cannot do anything without civil society. All our efforts, what UNODC is doing, can succeed only if supported by the public because what we are doing is based on a few principles. One of them is local ownership of all of our projects and programmes. Secondly, a very strong commitment to standards of human rights and thirdly, the need to deliver and to make a real difference in the lives of common people – in their neighbourhoods, in their villages and small towns. If we succeed, that is the best reward for us. Also it is important to raise awareness. Civil society, NGOs can help us a lot and they are doing that, raising awareness about the dangers of transnational organized crime. Take the example of human trafficking, the slavery of the 21st century. This crime is committed not in outer space, but in our own neighbourhoods. And people should be encouraged, should know that it is against the law and if they see something suspicious they have to report it to the police. So it is very important to raise awareness. That is why we are promoting several campaigns, including the Blue Heart campaign, to support victims of human trafficking.

UN News Centre: Could you give us a successful example of international cooperation against the global threat of transnational organized crime?

Yury Fedotov: One of the success stories of course is this spirit of cooperation. By the way, both commissions which provide guidance to UNODC – the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – are adopting core decisions and resolutions by consensus, which demonstrates the consolidation of positions by Member States. And just as I mentioned human trafficking, I think it will be good to give you one example. Before the Palermo Convention, this crime was not defined in national legislations around the globe. It did not exist. It has not been defined as a most serious crime at all. Now, after the Palermo Convention and the Protocol against human trafficking, only five per cent of all Member States have not yet adopted their national laws to criminalize human trafficking.

UN News Centre: What kind of approaches need to be taken to prevent and adequately respond to new and emerging forms of transnational crime?

Yury Fedotov: We need a comprehensive response. We need very close partnership and cooperation within the UN family. We can deliver only if we act as one UN, no doubt about that, because quite often one agency such as UNODC for instance is not able to solve these problems because they are linked to sustainable development, improvement of the quality of life, building infrastructure, creating jobs, establishing a better social climate in societies, ensuring public services such as health, education and so on. So we can succeed only if we combine our efforts.

UN News Centre: Given the transnational character of many crimes, international cooperation in preventing and fighting crime is important. How well does international cooperation in the field of crime prevention really work? What can be done to further enhance international cooperation?

Yury Fedotov: We need to do more to encourage Member States to strengthen this cooperation. In some cases, it works; in some cases, it does not and still there are a lot of mutual suspicions and bureaucratic procedures, which need to be overcome. If we need to act as an international community, we have to be guided by the same principles. Those principles are enshrined in these international instruments that I mentioned. We need to strengthen this cooperation and UNODC is working with Member States. We have 60+ offices around the globe. One of the purposes of our regional, country and thematic programmes is to strengthen this spirit of international cooperation and make success stories.

One example is the global container control programme that helps to protect people from illicit trafficking using trade containers. Annually, there are 500 million containers in circulation across the globe and only 3 per cent of them are inspected. So we need to develop skills and we are doing that. We are acting jointly with the World Customs Organization. Another success could be this counter-piracy programme off the coast of Somalia, where we are helping criminal justice systems in Somalia but also in neighbouring countries in Africa, building capacity, including building prisons and courtrooms. We have succeeded in helping to put more than a thousand pirates in jail.

UN News Centre: What do you expect to come out of the Crime Congress?

Yury Fedotov: This Crime Congress will adopt a declaration – a political document that puts an emphasis on important aspects of fighting transnational organized crime and strengthening criminal justice systems and crime prevention. This declaration will then be translated into resolutions, decisions, and other action by other UN bodies, such as the Crime Commission that will meet in May in Vienna. And of course, the message will be sent as a contribution to the preparation of the summit on the sustainable development goals in New York in September.

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Mounting civilian casualties, humanitarian concerns as Yemen fighting continues

INTERNATIONAL – The violence in Yemen continues to wreak havoc upon the country's civilian population and restrict humanitarian access to those most in need amid a spate of aerial attacks and ground incursions, the United Nations has reported.

In the last 24 hours alone, air strikes aimed at halting rebel activities have hit the Yemeni cities of Aden, Al Dhale'e, Sana'a, Sa'ada, Al Hudaydah, and Hajjah Governorates killing at least eight civilians, according to information provided today 6 April by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the press.

At the same time, clashes are continuing in the country's south as Houthis and Government forces battle in Aden and Ma'ala, where a number of civilian targets have reportedly been destroyed including four residential buildings and a number of bridges connecting two major roads from Aden.

The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. The country continued to be plagued by violence and political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution.

As the fighting has ratcheted up in intensity, the World Health Organization (WHO) today also released its estimates suggesting that more than 540 people have been killed and some 1,700 others wounded by the violence in Yemen since 19 March.

In apress releaseissued this afternoon, the WHO also deplored the deaths of health care workers and damages to health facilities in Yemen as a result of the conflict and voiced concern about “the serious implications of these attacks.”

The UN agency reported that on 4 April two volunteer paramedics with the Yemen Red Crescent Society in Aden were shot when their ambulance was hit by gunfire while, in another incident, one security guard was killed and two nurses were injured in the health centre of Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons.

“In times of crisis, it is vital that [health care workers] be allowed to continue their work without additional risk,” the WHO statement declared. “Health facilities and ambulances must be treated as neutral premises and should never be exploited for military purposes.”

The Geneva-based health agency added its emphasis that all combatants respect the protection of health facilities under international humanitarian law and underscored that patients be guaranteed their basic right to health without further endangerment to their lives.

Against that backdrop, increasing numbers of people from Sana'a and Sa'ada are reportedly being displaced to Amran Governorate, just north of the country's capital. OCHA said local partners estimated that up 28,000 people had moved into Amran since the beginning of the crisis and warned that the fighting risked interrupting humanitarian access, such as medical supplies, to those civilians most in need.

In addition, the ongoing shelling in Aden has disrupted the city's waterworks with the need to ensure a reliable water supply becoming an “urgent priority” for humanitarian partners.

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On International Day, officials underlines role of sport in promoting development, peace

INTERNATIONAL – On the second annual International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the head of the office bringing the worlds of sport and development closer together stressed today 6 April the important role sport plays in addressing many of the challenges society faces.

“Sport has established itself as an effective tool for development and peacebuilding,” said Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace. “As we are moving to a new set of sustainable development goals for the post-2015 development agenda, we have to make sure that sport keeps playing its beneficial role in it.”

Mr. Lemke, who works for the Secretary-General as an advocate, facilitator and representative of sport's social impact in a development context saidthe Day's tagline – 'United action towards sustainable development for all through sport' – targets sustainable for all, which is “the main goal,” and partnerships, which he said were “the foundation” of the Office's work.

“It has been through systematic cooperation that we have been able to make sport and physical activity accessible and inclusive to millions of people of all ages and abilities worldwide,” he said. “Let us work together to make the most use of the great potential that sport has for advancing positive social change all over the world.”

He encouraged stakeholders of all varieties to continue joining efforts to firmly place sport in policies and programmes relating to education, health, development and peace consolidation and called for celebration of the International Day by hosting activities around the world that commemorate the accomplishments of sport in improving the lives of many people all over the world.

The International Day was established to raise awareness of the ideal position sport has to contribute towards the United Nations' objectives for development and peace and adoption of that Day signifies the increasing recognition by the United Nations of the positive influence that sport can have on the advancement of human rights, and social and economic development.

As part of this year's efforts to publicise the Day and to celebrate sport's role in driving social change included avideo contestcalling on all organisations and projects active in the sport for development field to share their stories on film of how they are using sport to make an impact in their communities. The 10 best videos were chosen and will feature on various UNOSDP media platforms and at selected events throughout the year.

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