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Plan for troop pullback ‘now accepted’ by rival forces around key Yemen port, but fighting intensifying elsewhere, Security Council warned

INTERNATIONAL, 15 April 2019, Peace and Security - A plan to withdraw forces from front lines in and around the key Yemeni port of Hudaydah has been accepted by pro-Government forces and Houthi rebels, the UN Special Envoy to the country told the Security Council on Monday, warning however that war shows “no sign of abating” elsewhere.

Martin Griffiths said that after a “long and difficult process” agreeing the details of a UN-backed plan, which the warring parties signed up to in Sweden last December to de-escalate fighting around Hudaydah, as the start of a process to hopefully end the fighting nationwide, “both parties have now accepted the detailed redeployment plan for phase one”, and the UN was now “moving with all speed towards resolving the final outstanding issues”.

He said the breakthrough would mark the “first voluntary withdrawals of forces in this long conflict”, noting that violence had “significantly reduced” around the Red Sea port city, which is the entry point for the vast majority of aid and goods for the whole country, since the fragile ceasefire began.

Mr. Griffiths told Council members he was committed to helping facilitate a political solution to end the war: “My primary responsibility in the next few weeks will be to winnow down differences between the parties so that when they meet they can, in all efficiency, be asked to answer precise questions about the nature of the arrangements to end the war”, he said.

“I seek the support of this Council for this approach. I ask you to put your faith in the desperate need for peace which is the daily prayer of the millions of Yemenis who still believe in its prospect.

Without more support ‘the end is nigh’ for Yemenis: Lowcock

UN Affairs Chief, Mark Lowcock, was next to brief the chamber, also via video-link, picking up Martin Griffith’s passionate plea for the international community to act now, to save countless Yemeni lives.

He reiterated his earlier call for a nationwide ceasefire, adding that "all the men with guns and bombs need to stop the violence. We again remind the parties that international humanitarian law binds them in all locations and at all times.”

But bullets are not the only risk to life and limb he warned, citing that so far this year, 200,000 suspected cases of deadly cholera had been reported, almost three times the same period last year.

“We see the consequences of the destruction of the health system elsewhere too. More than 3,300 cases of diphtheria have been reported since 2018 - the first outbreak in Yemen since 1982. Earlier this year, new measles cases surged to nearly twice the levels reported at the same time in 2018”.

Looming over everything, the risk of famine continues, he warned, saying that the World Food Programme (WFP) was upping the reach of support for the world’s largest aid operation, from nine million a month, to 12 million “in the coming months”.

Access to the vulnerable remains a key challenge he said, making clear that grain that could feed 3.7 million hungry Yemenis in Hudaydah’s Red Sea Mills, remained trapped due to conflict. Secondly, money was running out to save lives, he said, with only $267 million received so far, out of $2.6 billion pledged.

WHO, he said, “projects that 60 per cent of diarrhoea treatment centres could close in the coming weeks, and services at 50 per cent of secondary care facilities, could be disrupted.”

“We remain keenly aware that a sustainable peace - as Martin has said many times - would be the most effective remedy for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen”, Mr. Lowcock concluded. “Without peace, we will simply go on treating the symptoms of this crisis, instead addressing the cause.”

“Let me summarize. Violence has again increased. The relief operation is running out of money. Barring changes, the end is nigh.”

Level of violence, abuse against children ‘simply unacceptable’: Gamba

The UN’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, focussed on how Yemen’s most vulnerable had borne the brunt of war with a “staggering” figure of more than 3,000 children “verified as recruited and used”, while more than 7,500 were killed and maimed, with over 800 cases of humanitarian access denied, during nearly five years of fighting.

Almost half of those killed and maimed, she said, were victims of airstrikes, for which the Saudi-led coalition supporting the Government, “bears the main responsibility”.

On the ground however, “the Houthis were responsible for the majority” of casualties, predominantly through shelling, mortar and small arms fire.

Ms. Gamba said she had secured agreements with both warring parties during her time in office, to strengthen the protection of child lives, and to cut down on the recruitment of children as part of the war effort.

“The violence Yemeni children have been subjected to - and still are - is simply unacceptable. I urge all parties to the conflict to take immediate measures to ensure that their military operations are conducted in full compliance with international law, including through respecting the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.”

She too, called on the international community to prioritize funding for Yemen, “in order to provide children with a chance to survive, learn, and construct the Yemen of the future”.

The Stockholm Agreement had provided hope, “yet as fighting continues and intensifies in parts of the country”, said the Special Representative, “I urge the parties to swiftly implement the commitments made. The tragedy of Yemeni children and their role in the Yemen of tomorrow emphasizes the need to put them at the heart of the peace process.

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‘Critical moment’ for sustainable development, UN chief tells major financing forum

INTERNATIONAL, 15 April 2019, SDGs - “Uneven growth, rising debt levels, possible upticks in financial volatility, and heightened global trade tensions” are hampering progress on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN chief António Guterres told the Forum on Financing for Development on Monday, during what he called “a critical moment” to “accelerate action for sustainable development”. 

Ministers, senior UN officials, high-level finance officials, civil society, business representatives and local authorities, are meeting at UN Headquarters for the four-day FfD Forum, as it is known for short.

Mr. Guterres said climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and technologies disrupting labour markets, were a major challenge, saying “We are here today as part of an effort to coordinate an urgent global response to reverse these trends”.

“Simply put,” he spelled out “we need more money to implement the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Noting that development aid remains essential, “especially for the poorest countries”, the UN chief shone a light on the importance of countries themselves generating more funding, including by increasing tax revenue and the impact of investment.

“National policy frameworks are key to reducing risks, creating an enabling business environment, incentivizing investment in public goals, and aligning financial systems with long-term sustainable development”, he stated.

‘Broad transformation’ needed

Inga Rhonda King, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) opened the meeting by highlighting that while progress has been made, “we have not seen the broad transformation that we need, to achieve the SDGs by 2030”.

Pointing to economic and other risks, she homed in on “climate change, from the Caribbean to the Sahel”, which has actively reversed development gains; rising debt levels, which stifle investment in sustainable development; and increasing trade tensions dampening economic growth and inequalities within countries.

To address these risks, Ms. King stressed the need to: renew commitments to global multilateral cooperation; align financing frameworks to integrate the 2030 Agenda into national development strategies; and accelerate the financing of sustainable development.

“This Forum represents a critical milestone that sets the tone for the year ahead” she said.

Wanted: 600 million ‘decent jobs’

María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the General Assembly, noted that while global economic growth has remained steady, it was not enough just to support the 2030 Agenda.

She underscored the need to generate “600 million new decent jobs” up to 2030, which requires policies to take advantage of public and private SDG funding; mobilizing national resources by targeting tax policies, and more international tax cooperation to deal with tax evasion. 

“A sustainable development future requires investing now, in the present”, she maintained. “Now it is time to act, to take decisive steps to make the promise to ‘free the human race from the tyranny of poverty’ a reality and contribute to make our Organization more relevant for all”.

‘A delicate moment’ for the economy

“The world economy right now is at a delicate moment”, said the Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Tao Zhang, echoing the outcome of the World Bank and IMF’s spring meetings in Washington last week.

While global expansion continues, he stated that it was at a slower pace than anticipated.

“We need to do better”, he spelled out, noting that stronger medium-term growth will be “essential for developing countries” to achieve the SDGs.

He detailed three “complimentary and reinforcing areas of policy action” to address this, namely, domestic policies to build resilience and promote inclusion; upgraded international cooperation; and the commitment to work together on broader global challenges.

Actions required today

From the World Bank, Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, UN Relations, and Partnerships, said that “business as usual, simply put, will not get us into ending extreme poverty by 2030”.

“There will be hundreds of millions of people will be suffering from extreme poverty by 2030 if business remains as we do it today”, with nine-out-of-ten of those affected, in Africa. “Actions are required today”, he exclaimed.

As an outcome of the spring meetings he said “we need bold and urgent reforms in development policies and financing” to achieve job growth opportunities and sustainability in the next decade. 

Youthful demographics

Delivering a keynote address, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and Chair of the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance highlighted the importance of mobilizing young people.

Noting that the size of the “youthful bulge” in our populations “vastly exceeds what we’ve seen before”, he said “the largest challenge” was that “we are not prepared to create the jobs required” for them.

We are ill-prepared by “every measure” of education, skills development and ability to provide young people with decent jobs”, he lamented.

Mr. Shanmugaratnam painted a picture of a failure to create jobs intersecting with other global challenges, such as climate change, loss of the world’s biodiversity and the spread of infectious disease, as having consequences that would surpass just economic costs.

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Greater transparency, fairer prices for medicines ‘a global human rights issue’, says UN health agency

INTERNATIONAL, 14 April 2019, Health - While developing countries have long struggled with the price of medicines, today’s costs have rendered it a world-wide challenge, and the key topic of concern at a global medicines forum in South Africa, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is a global human rights issue”, said WHO Assistant Director-General for Medicines and Health Products Mariângela Simão on Saturday at the WHO Forum on Medicines in Johannesburg. “Everyone has a right to access quality healthcare”.

The forum on fair pricing and access to medicines provided a discussion platform for governments, civil society organizations and the pharmaceutical industry to identify strategies to reduce prices and expand access for all.

It also called for greater transparency around the cost of research, development and production of medicines, to allow buyers to negotiate more affordable prices.

According to WHO, the price of out-of-pocket medicines each year has pushed 100 million people into poverty. Moreover, health authorities in high-income countries are increasingly having to ration medicines for cancer, hepatitis C and rare diseases. And the problem extends to older medicines whose patents have expired, such as insulin for diabetes.

“Medical innovation has little social value if most people cannot access its benefits,” stressed Ms. Simão.

A 2017 WHO report showed that the cost of producing most medicines on its Essential Medicines List was a small fraction of the final price. 

Some forum delegates noted that a lack of transparency around prices paid by governments actually translates into many low- and middle-income countries paying more for certain medicines than wealthier countries do.

Positive steps forward

Among other successful examples of countries’ collaboration around achieving more affordable medicine prices, information-sharing between the so-called Beneluxa network – Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Austria – was cited has having yielded promising results, as was a bulk-rate discount when several regional countries purchased medicines as a block.

The forum highlighted WHO’s database on vaccine markets and shortages, called MI4A, as a useful tool to achieve competitive vaccine prices. It also pointed out that some European countries have been sharing policies to expand access to medicines through the WHO-supported Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies (PPRI).

Industry bodies at the forum supported access to medicines for all, and recommited to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for private partnerships to address global challenges, such as access to medicines.

WHO announced that over the coming weeks, it will launch a public consultation online to collect views from relevant participants on what actually constitutes a fair price.

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Cholera surges, children in urgent need one month after Cyclone Idai slammed southern Africa – UNICEF

INTERNATIONAL, 13 April 2019, Humanitarian Aid - One month after Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed to the international community to  help some 1.6 million children still reeling from its impact.

“Children living in crowded shelters or away from their homes are at risk of diseases, exploitation and abuse,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, who visited Mozambique’s busy port city of Beira immediately after the cyclone hit.

Citing one million children in Mozambique, followed by more than 443,000 in Malawi and 130,000 in Zimbabwe, UNICEF said that the needs of children remain “massive”, including for healthcare, nutrition, education and water assistance.

Since the cyclone hit Mozambique, cholera has surged in to 4,600 cases and malaria to 7,500 cases. 

UNICEF said that any prolonged interruption to essential services could lead to disease outbreaks and spikes in malnutrition – where children are especially vulnerable. 

“The road to recovery will be long”, asserted Ms. Fore. “It is imperative that humanitarian partners are there every step of the way”. 

According to the UN Children’s Fund, over 200,000 homes were destroyed in Mozambique alone and because the storm demolished crops just weeks before the harvest, food security is precarious.

Meanwhile, as thousands of people remain in evacuation camps, UNICEF expressed particular concern over the more than 130,000 displaced children, mostly in Mozambique and Malawi. 

“We need to help children and families survive and then get back on their feet”, stressed the UNICEF chief.

To support its humanitarian response for children and families affected by the storm and its aftermath in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the next nine months, UNICEF has launched an appeal for $122 million.

UNICEF response actions to date include:

  • Mozambique: Providing vaccines to immunize 900,000 people against cholera; distributing 500,000 mosquito nets to protect against malaria; and helping to restore Beira’s water supply for 500,000 people. 
  • Malawi:  Providing safe water to more than 53,000 people  and toilets to over 51,000 people; in evacuation centres, provided child friendly spaces, water trucks, toilets, medicines, recreation kits and volunteer teachers.
  • Zimbabwe: Providing over 60,000 people with information to prevent waterborne diseases; distributing hygiene  kits; rehabilitating water systems; restoring sanitation facilities; providing vital health and nutrition supplies; and, with partners, delivering psychosocial support to vulnerable children in child-friendly spaces. 
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Impact of high debt levels on least developed countries ‘cannot be overstated’, says UN

INTERNATIONAL, 13 April 2019, SDGs - The impact of high levels of debt on development efforts “cannot be overstated”, the head of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) told a Ministerial Breakfast Meeting on least development countries (LDCs) on Saturday.

“While debt financing remains an important source for achieving positive development outcomes in LDCs, the recent trends are a cause for concern” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at the meeting on strengthening resilience to LDCs’ debt vulnerability.

He mentioned that some countries, such as Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi where Cyclone Idai wreaked havoc last month, faced intersecting development threats.

“Cyclone Idai not only demonstrates the devasting effects of a climactic shock, it also amplifies other vulnerabilities that we need to pay close attention to in order to build resilience within countries to maintain their sustainable development”, said Mr. Steiner.

He elaborated on how global stock debts have risen to levels not seen since the 1980s deb crisis and called even “more concerning” the LDCs debt build-up after being written off in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Attributing this to “increased public investments” and “a shift from traditional sources to commercial sources of financing”, Mr. Stiner said: “This has presented new and significant challenges in debt management at the country-level”.

According to the most recent International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank debt sustainability analyses, 40 per cent of LDCs and low-income countries are either in or at high risk of debt distress, while 164 others are at extreme risk. 

“The trends are particularly unsettling for Sub-Saharan Africa”, he asserted.

On a positive note, most LDCs have used government borrowing to finance public investments – significantly improving human development outcomes. 

As an example, the UNDP chief said that between 1990 and 2017, the human development index of LDCs as a group increased more than twice the global annual average of 0.7 per cent.

Collective efforts needed

“Our collective efforts and continued support” remain “of critical importance” stressed Mr. Stiner, pointing out that not only do debt obligations compete with other public expenditure for resources, but that many economies also lack resilience to economic or environmental shocks.

He highlighted that LDCs need “comprehensive policy and programmatic support” to ensure enhanced debt management, sound macroeconomic policies and development financing to scale.

“UNDP is supporting countries to expand their fiscal space through domestic resource mobilization efforts, amongst other instruments” he said.

“I would like to reaffirm UNDP’s continued strong commitment to work with Governments, international financial institutions, other UN agencies, the private sector and other stakeholders in order to bring development financing to scale in order to ease the debt burden in LDCs”, concluded the UNDP Administrator. 

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Ebola not an international ‘health emergency’ but risks spreading across DR Congo border, warns UN health agency

INTERNATIONAL, 12 April 2019, Health - The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) “does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern”, according to a statement issued on Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO).
But acknowledging the potential risk that the disease may spread to neighbouring countries, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed on behalf of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee, “deep concern” over a recent surge in the transmission of the virus in specific areas, namely North Kivu and Ituri provinces, both of which are heavily populated by armed groups.

Latest data indicates a total of 1,206 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola in this latest deadly outbreak in DRC which began last August, while 764 people have died up to last Wednesday, making the oubreak - which is endemic in the DRC - the worst in the country’s history. The numbers spiked this week, with 20 new cases on Wednesday alone. 

Up to the end of March, more than 320 patients had recovered and been discharged from treatment centres, according to the Government’s health ministry.

Because there is a very high risk of regional spread, the Committee said that neighbouring countries should continue to accelerate preparedness and surveillance, including vaccinating healthcare and front-line workers in surrounding countries.

The Emergency Committee recommended that cross-border collaboration be strengthened, including through the timely sharing of Ebola data and alerts; community engagement, and awareness raising.

Moreover, work should be done to better map population movements and understand the community networks which bridge national boundaries. The Committee maintained its previous advice that no international travel or trade restrictions should be applied.

While exit screening, including at airports, ports, and land crossings, is of great importance, entry screening is not considered beneficia, said the committee, appealing for more financial support, to strengthen efforts in both preparedness and response.

The Committee commended efforts of the Government, WHO and other partners in containing the outbreak “in a complex and difficult setting” and advised the WHO Director-General “to continue to monitor the situation closely and reconvene the Emergency Committee as needed”.

Emergency Committee for Ebola Virus Disease in the DRC advises:

  • Redoubling efforts to detect cases early, identify and follow up all contacts, and administer vaccinations as widely as possible.
  • Sustaining efforts to prevent transmission and shorten the time between onset and care.
  • Addressing the rise in cases in the remaining epicentres, notably Butembo, Katwa, Vuhovi, and Mandima.
  • All partners to identify, target, and scale up community dialogue and participation, engagement of traditional healers, and other community engagement tactics to strengthen and broaden community acceptance. 
  • Prioritizing the safety of responders, while avoiding the securitization of the response.
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From ‘dead on the inside’ to ‘truly alive’: Survivor of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda recounts her story as UN marks 25th anniversary

INTERNATIONAL, 12 April 2019, Human Rights - “Miraculously I had no machete marks” a survivor of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda told a solemn United Nations event in New York on Friday, 25 years on, to remember the systematic killing of more than one million people, over less than three months.

“Most of the survivors we have today were broken in their bodies and their souls”, Esther Mujawayo-Keiner told those gathered in the General Assembly Hall, to reflect on what UN chief António Guterres referred to as “one of the darkest chapters in recent human history”, which overwhelmingly targeted Tutsi, but also moderate Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.

Esther Mujawayo-Keiner, survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, shares her story during the International Day of Reflection, 2019, by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

She recounted how the genocide took almost all of her immediate family, including her parents, most of her siblings and her husband. She thought she might be the last woman left standing, “because it was almost impossible to survive”.

But slowly, she discovered there were other widows - a new kind of family - adding that the “widows clan” helped her to be “truly alive” and no longer “dead on the inside”, and together with other female survivors, she founded the widows' association AVEGA.

Beware of ‘dangerous trends’

“Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Rwanda”, Secretary-General Guterres told the gathering, calling on everyone present to acknowledge “dangerous trends of rising xenophobia, racism and intolerance” at work throughout the world today.

Calling the current widespread proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence “an affront to our values, which threatens “human rights, social stability and peace”, he saw them as the “dangerous trends” that were “clearly present in Rwanda immediately before the genocide”.

“Today’s commemoration gives us an opportunity to once again raise our voices against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, including social and ethnic discrimination, anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Semitism”, the UN chief asserted. “Wherever they occur, these evils should be identified, confronted and stopped to prevent them leading, as they have in the past, to hate crimes and genocide”.

Mr. Guterres called on all political, religious and civil society leaders to
“reject hate speech and discrimination”, and to root out the causes that “undermine social cohesion and create conditions for hatred and intolerance”.

“Let us all pledge to work together to build a harmonious future for all people, everywhere” he said, calling it “the best way to honour those who lost their lives so tragically in Rwanda 25 years ago”.

‘Enshrine’ past lessons for future generation

“Tutsi were decimated”, General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa stated. Beginning on 7 April 1994, “those [who] opposed the genocide, including Hutus, were also targeted and killed”.

Putting the bloodshed into perspective, she said that “an average of over 8,000 people a day, more than 30 in the time allocated to this ceremony” were slaughtered.

“The international community watched in horror, but we did not prevent the atrocities”, lamented Ms. Espinosa, asking those gathered to “rekindle our efforts to realize our promise of ‘never again’” by investing in education “to enshrine the lessons” of the past, fight hate speech and “call out those who dehumanize others”.

Rising from the ashes

Keynote speaker Rwandan President Paul Kagame attested to his country’s fighting spirit, of how it went from darkness to hope, and called honour and prevention acts of remembrance.

“We honour the victims. We honour the courage of the survivors, and we honour the manner in which the Rwandans have come together to rebuild our nation” he asserted.

Citing “denial and trivialization” as the foundation of genocide, Mr. Kagame stressed that “countering denial is essential for breaking the cycle and preventing any recurrence”.

Lighting candles during the commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda., by UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

He pointed out that Rwanda has been among the top five UN peacekeeping contributors, explaining that his nation contributes soldiers and police, “with values instilled by our tragic history”.

“As a nation once betrayed by the international community, we are determined to do our part to working with others to make things better going forward”, President Kagame concluded.

For her part, Valentine Rugwabiza, Rwanda’s UN Ambassador, reflected on the time, 25 years ago, when “the world and the United Nations abandoned Rwanda”.

She viewed the event underway in “this very house that let Rwanda down”, as a historic one and expressed gratitude that although her country had experienced “interrupted” peace and security, it is now on the solid foundation “of social cohesion”.

No crime ‘like any other’

“I was asked to provide a photo of my family”, said survivor Marcel Uwineza, a Jesuit priest. “I actually don’t have any”.

He painted a picture of Hutus and Tutsis being pitted against each other, where “uncles turned against their nephews and nieces” and where his family “lost everything”.

Reverend Uwineza underscored that the genocide “was born of racist policy rather than war”, as many claim.

“We have to challenge the many deniers who use war as a means to minimize the gravity of the genocide, knowing that all lives matter, but a genocide is no crime like any other” he underlined.

Speaking about the “joy of reconciliation”, the priest described meeting the man who killed his two brothers and sister, saying that he had initially thought he was going to be murdered as well. But instead, the man knelt before him and asked for forgiveness.

“When finally I said ‘I forgive you’, I felt free”, Reverend Uwineza said.

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Sudan military committed to ‘ensuring stability’ and ‘peaceful transition’ says senior diplomat, as UN rights chief appeals for protesters’ rights to be upheld

INTERNATIONAL, 12 April 2019, Peace and Security - Sudan’s military has an “overarching duty” to refrain from using violence against protesters and ensure that their human rights are protected amid concerns of a further escalation, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Friday.

Her comments followed the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir, announced on State television on Thursday, accompanied by the declaration from the defence minister, that a military council would govern the country for up to two years.

Those developments come amid protests that erupted nearly four months ago when the Government attempted to raise the prices of bread and basic commodities, and which are also believed to have claimed dozens of lives.

Transition back to civilian rule 'could be shortened'

Speaking in the Security Council on Friday morning, Sudan’s Deputy Ambassador, Yasir Abdullah Abdelsalam, said that the military council’s imposition of a State of Emergency for three months, a suspension of the constitution and nightly curfew, had been done in response to “the demands of the crowds…who have expressed their aspirations and their demands”

He said the military council was committed to respecting all international agreements, and “a peaceful transition”, in which it would be the “guarantor” of a return to “civilian government”.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Sudan’s Deputy Ambassador, Yasir Abdullah Abdelsalam, addresses a Security Council meeting on Sudan and South Sudan on 12 April 2019.

“No party will be excluded” from the future electoral process, he added, including armed groups. He told Council member the suspension of the constitution “could be lifted at any point” and the transitional period back to civilian rule “could be shortened, depending on developments on the ground and agreements reached between stakeholders”.

But he noted firmly that Sudan’s political crisis was “a domestic matter” and a “delicate situation” that posed a “threat to its immediate and future stability”

“Any democratic process requires time and that should not be threatened. We do not wish to see the nascent gradual democratic process unravel in the name of democracy”, he said.

“We therefore call on our partners in the international community to support peaceful transition in the country in a way that will help to build on gains, and open up the path to stability development and prosperity, and allow us to move away from the scourge of violence which will positively impact the regional and international situation.”

‘Critical, volatile moment’ for Sudan

“This is a very critical, volatile moment for Sudan and there is deep uncertainty and unease about the future,” High Commissioner Bachelet said in a statement, delivered in Geneva by Ravina Shamdasani, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

In an update to journalists, Ms. Shamdasani said that it was “encouraging that there was no violence overnight” in the capital Khartoum – “even though the curfew that had been imposed was not respected by peaceful protesters”.

The OHCHR official also noted unconfirmed reports that some political detainees had been released, before urging the authorities to release all political prisoners.

However, amid uncertainty about how the crisis might play out, Ms. Shamdasani noted that the demonstrators might be unwilling to accept the military council’s declaration.

“I wouldn’t want to get into details on who our sources are, but there are clear indications from them that they are not happy with what happened yesterday and that the protests will continue,” Ms. Shamdasani said. “Which, again, is why we are calling on the authorities to address the people’s demands.”

Reiterating the High Commissioner’s comments, Ms. Shadasani noted that the protests against President Bashir stemmed from widespread human rights grievances: economic, social, civil and political.

“We also understand that the announcement that was made yesterday didn’t indicate any possibility for people to participate in this transition,” she said. “Which is why we are, again, calling on the authorities to ensure that there’s a concerted effort with the meaningful participation of civil society, of dissenting voices, in charting a way forward.”

Asked whether former president Bashir should stand trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity including genocide linked to violence in Darfur - issued by the International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 - Ms. Shamdasani said: “We would encourage the Government of Sudan to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court”.

“We are also calling for full accountability, including for the use of excessive force that has taken place since December this year”.

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‘Democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people’ must be met urges Guterres, following military removal of al-Bashir from power

INTERNATIONAL, 11 April 2019, Peace and Security - UN chief António Guterres said on Thursday that the “democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people” need to be realized through “an appropriate and inclusive transition process”, following the overthrow and arrest of President Omar al-Bashir by order of the country’s new military governing council.

In a statement issued in New York by his Spokesperson, the Secretary-General said he would continue to follow development “very closely” and reiterated his call for calm and “utmost restraint by all”.

In announcing the end of Mr. Bashir’s rule via State television, Sudan’s defence minister said that he was being held “in a secure place”, and the army would now oversee a two-year period of transition back to full civilian rule.

But on Thursday night, according to news reports, thousands of Sudanese in the capital Khartoum defied a military curfew which was supposed to keep citizens off the streets from 10pm until 4am, raising fears of fresh violence between security forces and protesters, as well as possible clashes between militia and army units.

An official message carried on State-run media stated that “the armed forces and security council will carry out its duty to uphold peace”, protect citizens’ security, and “citizens’ livelihoods”.

Mr. Guterres said in his statement that the UN “stands ready to support the Sudanese people as they chart a new way forward.” Earlier in the day, a group of UN human rights experts condemned reports of “excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in Sudan” during the past six days of heightened protest leading up to the overthrow of President Bashir, when tens-of-thousands took to the streets, holding a sit-in outside army headquarters in central Khartoum.

“While taking note of the latest reports that a military council is being formed”, the experts called on the authorities to respond to “the legitimate grievances of the people.” 

More than 20 killed, 100 injured in protests

More than 20 people have been killed and over 100 injured since 6 April, the experts said, adding they had also received reports of widespread arrests and attacks on journalists by the security forces.      

At the sit-in prior to the military takeover, the National Intelligence and Security Services used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters, prompting the army to move in to protect them.

"In this moment of crisis, the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly needs to be protected and guaranteed," said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye

Protests erupted nearly four months ago when the Government attempted to raise the prices of bread and basic commodities.   

"I urge the authorities to lift the national state of emergency and respond to the legitimate grievances of the Sudanese people through inclusive peaceful political process," Mr. Voule said. “The Sudanese people, including human rights defenders, have the right to express their views and concerns through peaceful means, in particular on issues concerning fundamental rights,” added Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Sudan, Aristide Nononsi, said the State’s institutions are obliged to protect civilians and respect the people’s legitimate demands and constitutional rights.

"I call on State authorities to uphold their primary responsibility to protect the civilian population in Sudan, and I strongly urge the Sudanese military and security forces to exercise the utmost restraint to avoid further escalation of violence and to take immediate measures to protect the constitutional rights of the Sudanese", Mr. Nononsi said.

Rapid-response aid, from UN’s emergency fund

Also on Thursday, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock released a $26.5 million Rapid Response allocation from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to provide life-saving food, livelihood, nutrition, health, water and sanitation assistance to over 800,000 people affected by a worsening economic crisis and food insecurity across seven states in Sudan, over the next six months.

“The economic crisis has had knock-on effects on the wider humanitarian situation that go beyond food insecurity. Higher food prices, mean that families are eating less nutritious food and more young children and pregnant women are getting sick. Families struggle to afford even limited medical treatment,” said Mr. Lowcock.

The CERF allocation will target internally displaced people, refugees, host communities, and vulnerable residents in areas with some of the largest increases in food insecurity, including in East, North, South and West Darfur, Red Sea, West Kordofan and White Nile states.

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‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

INTERNATIONAL, 11 April 2019, SDGs - Pointing to climate change, inequalities and other serious challenges, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a forum on Thursday Development that “the clock is ticking” down, to making the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Climate change is ravaging the planet… staggering numbers of children and youth – especially girls and young women – still lack access to basic education and healthcare services, [and] people in many countries are starved of economic opportunities, decent work and social protection measures”, she told the  2019 ECOSOC Partnership Forum, where governments, business representatives and other influencers met to discuss how partnerships can best advance and the 17 (SDGs).

Under the theme, “Partnerships Driving Inclusive Implementation of the SDGs”, the Forum will capture key policy messages to inform the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in in September.

“Our task is immense, but many of the pathways to change are in plain sight”, she asserted, adding that while “success is still possible”, it requires difficult conversations around “the need to fill partnership skillset gaps, tackle financing shortfalls, and address data deficiencies”.

The economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development call for “a fully integrated approach” that engages everyone.

“Partnerships are critical for achieving progress across the full agenda” stressed Ms. Mohammed, calling SDG 17 on partnerships, “the ‘connective tissue’ which will ensure an integrated and holistic approach to sustainable development”.

The deputy UN chief shared four points for discussion, beginning with a commitment between the UN, governments, private sector and civil society to work together in a more coordinated and integrated way. 

“The transformation we need requires us to acknowledge that everyone is a development actor,” she argued. “Governments alone cannot achieve the SDGs”. 

Secondly, she pointed to the need to prioritize investments in platforms and coalitions that engage a larger ecosystem of partners. 

“Investments in cross-cutting, high-return priorities have strong potential to unlock progress across multiple SDGs”, she stated, flaggin a range of areas, from quality education and health services to zero-carbon energy and environmental conservation.

Ms. Mohammad’s third point focused on leadership, innovation and strategic collaborations “at the local level”. 

“We must draw on the knowledge and experience of local communities and actors on the ground to ensure that we replicate and scale up the most promising models”, she emphasized. 

Ensuring that the process to socialize the SDGs and strengthen ownership is “inclusive, transparent and accountable”, was her final point.

“All stakeholders, big or small should find a place to play their role and make their contribution”, she maintained. 

The transformation we need requires us to acknowledge that everyone is a development actor – Deputy Secretary-General

She urged everyone to “reflect honestly about where we are falling short, because those shortcomings are also where the opportunities lie to make a difference”. 

“Only with this kind of pragmatic approach will we realize our aspiration of leaving no one behind”, said Ms. Mohammed, with the reminder that promoting equitable access and equal participation by all, including the most marginalized, “is a fundamental ethic of the SDG era”. 

Turning to capacity-building for vulnerable groups, she encouraged the forum to apply “a lens of inclusion and empowerment” to ensure that they “are put in the driver’s seat for SDG implementation”. 

Recalling that young people, particularly women and entrepreneurs, are at the forefront of SDG progress, the Deputy Secretary-General concluded: “Let’s make sure we listen carefully to their vision and draw inspiration from their determination and commitment to creating a better world”.

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