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More urgency needed to help increasing numbers ‘locked out’, before 2030, says UN’s Bachelet

INTERNATIONAL, 16 January 2019, Human Rights - Many countries are failing to protect and promote the interests of all their people – despite pledging to do so in 2016 – the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

In a special meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to review progress on achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, Michelle Bachelet insisted that “overall, we are not on track” to meet its ambitious aims:

It is a promise extended to people previously locked out of development: the marginalized, disempowered and excluded communities - UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on the 2030 Agenda

“The 2030 Agenda is a commitment to achieve greater international cooperation for a more equitable international order,” she said. “But above all, it is a promise extended to people previously locked out of development: the marginalized, disempowered and excluded communities; the millions of women, racial, religious and caste minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, persons with disabilities, Roma and the poor.”

Acknowledging “tremendous progress in some countries” on tackling extreme poverty; mortality rates for the under-fives; and promoting education, particularly in Asia; Ms. Bachelet listed numerous obstacles that continue to prevent fair development for all.

Women’s inequality is a major impediment, she insisted, along with hunger, war and climate change.

44,000 each day forced to flee

“Conflicts are destroying people's lives, hopes and ability to earn a decent livelihood in the places they were born,” she said. “44,400 people are forced to flee their homes every day because of conflict or persecution. Climate change is generating overwhelming environmental disasters, which devastate basic infrastructure and exacerbate tensions and conflicts.”

Questioning whether the world’s nations were meeting the “great goal” of leaving no-one behind by 2030, the UN rights chief cited International Labour Organization (ILO) data, which indicated a growing gap between the rich and poor, despite workers’ higher productivity.

“With just 12 years left to 2030, we need a greater sense of urgency about achieving the Agenda's promise to the world's people,” she said, before explaining that the outcomes of the Human Rights Council meeting would contribute to the work of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) at the UN in New York in July - the organization’s central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UN News/Daniel Johnson
UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet (right) and former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson (left) speaking at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Equalities widening everywhere

At Ms Bachelet’s side, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson echoed the need to address widening inequalities “both between and within countries”, insisting that wealth and opportunities were “increasingly concentrating in the hands of the few”.

Such inequalities, create winners and losers, Ms Robinson maintained, serving to “catalyse social unrest, deepen divides and increase xenophobia; all major concerns for the realisation of rights”.

Ms Robinson, who heads a “climate justice” foundation which seeks to protect the rights of people who are affected by climate change, noted its impact on vulnerable communities.

“When dams flood the land of indigenous people, mining pollutes local water supplies and infrastructure projects displace impoverished communities, development efforts are being realised at the expense of the realisation of human rights for all,” she said.

Governments in many parts of the world were “failing to provide essential services”, Ms Robinson continued, “including access to healthcare, education, quality housing, sanitation or drinking water with little accountability. Populations are routinely denied access to information and justice; this must change. Human rights norms constitute a bulwark against incoherent and unequal progress towards the SDGs and should be used as such.”

After calling for Governments to link their efforts to limit global warming with implementation of the 2030 Agenda for rights-based sustainable development, Ms Robinson highlighted how the Human Rights Council had showed what was possible, by tasking its subsidiary bodies and investigators to incorporate the sustainable development goals into their reports.

“I urge all states and other actors to make use of the synergies between human rights and the 2030 Agenda,” she said, “by integrating development reporting with human rights reporting, and by working closely with rights holders, national human rights institution and equality bodies to ensure transparent and effective approaches.”

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‘Historic’ moment: Palestine takes reins of UN coalition of developing countries

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2019, Economic Development - Acknowledging “a long road ahead” on the United Nations ambitious agenda, Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed on Tuesday “the historic leadership of the state of Palestine” as the new Chair of the Group of 77’s (G77).

“Palestine and its citizens have first-hand experience of some of the most challenging and dramatic global issues we face” said Mr. Guterres in his remarks at the annual ceremony for handover of the rotating Chairmanship of the G77.

Egypt was the previous Chair of the bloc, a coalition of 134 developing countries, along with China.

The decision to elect Palestine as 2019 Chair of the G77 was taken in September 2018 by the foreign ministers of the Groups’ member States. 

A month later, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution that enabled Palestine – a non-member Observer State at the world body – additional privileges and rights, such participating in international conferences held under its auspices, for the duration of its role as G77 Chair.

“You are well-placed to take up the chairmanship of this important group of countries,” Mr. Guterres said today.

As multilateralism continues to come under “intense pressure from many sides”, the UN chief underscored the importance of the G77 and China’s continued support.

“The Group of 77 and China has demonstrated strong leadership throughout 2018 and proved once again to be a central force in demonstrating that multilateralism is the only way to address our shared challenges,” said Mr. Guterres.

He credited the Group and the prior Egyptian presidency as having been “at the heart” of the progress made in challenges that ranged from climate change to rising inequality and fast changing and new technologies.

He singled out Egypt’s “highly effective” leadership and advocacy on finance for developing countries to meet their climate action commitments.

He called the group “instrumental” in achieving both: a comprehensive agreement that deals with migration in all its dimensions, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration; and a Development System to eradicate poverty, implement programmes on a national level and to position development “at the centre of UN activities”.

“You help to keep the United Nations focused on the issues that count for the most vulnerable, and we owe you a debt of gratitude for your extremely constructive role”, the Secretary-General said.

Palestine and its citizens have first-hand experience of some of the most challenging and dramatic global issues we face –UN chief

With climate action at the forefront, Mr. Guterres laid out how critical a year 2019 will be for ending poverty, reducing inequalities, and transiting to more inclusive and sustainable economies.

“If we do not put policies and commitments in place to launch a decade of climate action by 2020, it will be too late to avoid catastrophic climate change with unforeseeable consequences” he argued. “Many of the Group of 77 countries would be among the first and worst to suffer.”

He urged the G77 to bring “solutions and commitments” to, among others, the Climate Summit in September and enumerated other upcoming events in need of the bloc’s support, including the General Assembly’s High-Level Political Forum; the high-level meeting to review progress made on the SAMOA pathway for small island developing States to help lay foundations for progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this coming March.

“I anticipate that the G77 and China will have a central role in all these negotiations and processes, and I urge you to consider them in an integrated, coherent and unified way” urged the UN chief.

Mr. Guterres recalled that last week he informed Member States about the serious financial challenges facing the Organization and appealed to the G77 to support his proposals to the General Assembly over the coming months aimed at putting the UN on “sound financial footing,” saying “we must press on and keep up the momentum won over the past weeks and months.”

“In this period of transition and change, we count on the continued engagement and support of the Group of 77 and China,” concluded the Secretary-General.

On Monday, the UN chief met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before handing over the Chairmanship, when he offered his congratulations, wished the Group a successful year and reiterated that the two-State solution is the only viable option to sustainable peace.

Triumph of multilateralism

Calling the work of the outgoing Egyptian Chair, “impeccable”, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, underscored the importance of the G77, which represents 80 per cent of the world's population.

“Not only is the work of the Group vital to defending the interests of the global South and promoting economic and social equality in the world, but it must now do so in a more complex international context” that is growing more polarized, she said. 

Dubbing it “an historic moment”, Ms. Espinosa recalled the years it took to get to this point and the critical role the General Assembly played.

In 2012, the Assembly accorded non-Member observer status to Palestine, which, among other things, gave it the right to make statements, submit and co-sponsor proposals and give explanations of vote.

 “That today we can celebrate this handover of the Presidency of the Group of 77 and China is without a doubt a triumph of multilateralism and a demonstration of the important role of the most democratic and representative organ of the United Nations”, she stated.

For his part, President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestine would use its chairmanship to preserve the multilateral international order and strengthen ties with its UN partners.

“People are the real treasure for nations,” he said, “and real and sustainable development can only be achieved when opportunities are enhanced to ensure for all people, full and free participation in all relevant matters in life”.

He stated that under the guiding principle of “unity in diversity”, the G77 focus on the least developed countries, small island developing States, middle income countries, and peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, “so as to ensure no one is left behind.”

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Top UN officials strongly condemn ‘horrible terrorist act’ in Nairobi

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2019, Peace and Security - Following a deadly terrorist attack in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on Tuesday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, condemned the act and said they stand in solidarity with the Kenyan people.

Expressing “total solidarity with the people, the Government, and the President of Kenya”, Mr. Guterres condemned “the horrible terrorist act,” during a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

In a statement later in the day, UN Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said “the Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes those injured a swift recovery,”  noting that the UN chief “is following developments in the Kenyan capital closely.

General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés also expressed her “most sincere condolences to the government and people of Kenya”.

“I stand in solidarity especially with the victims of these acts of violence and with their families,” she added, strongly condemning “these unexplainable acts of extreme violence.”

According to news reports, the attack took place in a Nairobi luxury hotel complex, the DusitD2, in the Westlands neighborhood, where several armed assailants are reported to have opened fire and blasted their way into the compound. The reports state that the attack was claimed by the group Al-Shabab, an Islamist extremist group with ties to Al Qaeda, which has carried out many attacks across Africa in the past decade.

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Thousands of Syrians in ‘life and death’ struggle amid harsh conditions in remote desert camp, UN warns

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2019, Humanitarian Aid - Conditions in a makeshift Syrian camp near the border with Jordan are “increasingly desperate” and “have become a matter of life and death”, United Nations officials warned on Tuesday, after at least eight children died there from extreme cold and a lack of medical care.

The development comes as the newly appointed UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pederson, arrived in Damascus, for his first meeting with the Government, since taking over from veteran UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura.

In a message on Twitter, the Norwegian diplomat said he was “looking forward to productive meetings” in the Syrian capital, which has been hit by seven years of fighting that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel echoed a warning from UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that children only months old are succumbing to the harsh winter conditions in the Rukban settlement at the south-western border of Syria with Jordan, which last received aid in November.

“The United Nations remains seriously concerned about the increasingly desperate conditions for more than 40,000 people staying at the Rukban site” he said. “The majority are women and children, who have been staying at the site for more than two years in harsh conditions with limited humanitarian assistance, access to medical care and other essential services.”

Amid security concerns, Jordan closed its border with Syria at Rukban as tens of thousands of Syrians arrived at the camp, fleeing expanded Russian and United States-led coalition air strikes against areas held by Islamic State of Iraq and the levant (ISIL) terrorists in central and eastern Syria.

Following the delivery of joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent aid to Rukban in November, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that “colleagues returned shocked from what they saw on the ground, reporting grave protection issues, increasing food insecurity and no certified medical doctors among the stranded population”.

Mr. Lowcock warned then that “without sustained access, the situation of tens of thousands of Syrians – stranded in the harshest desert conditions – will only further deteriorate as the winter cold sets in”.

Echoing that message today, Mr. Verhoosel reiterated the call by WFP and the UN “for a second inter-agency convoy with critical assistance to take place as soon as possible”, urging “all parties to ensure safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to people in need, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

The plight of those stranded in Rukban dates is not new, but the harsh winter and lack of regular supplies have made the situation much worse, according to UNICEF’s Geert Cappelaere, Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Needs for assistance in Rukban are beyond urgent,” he said in a statement. “They are extremely acute and have become a matter of life and death.”

Mr. Cappelaere stressed: “Once again, UNICEF calls on all sides to urgently facilitate a humanitarian convoy to Rukban, including mobile health clinics, so that lifesaving supplies and services can be delivered.”

In eastern Syria, meanwhile, heavy violence in the Hajin area of Deir-Ez-Zor Governorate has displaced 10,000 people since December, the UNICEF official warned.

“Families seeking safety face difficulties leaving the conflict zone and wait in the cold for days without shelter or basic supplies,” he said. “The dangerous and difficult journey has reportedly killed seven children, most of them under a year old.”

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First aid in six months reaches families in western Yemen, 'timelines' slip over Hudaydah ceasefire talks

INTERNATIONAL, 15 January 2019, Humanitarian Aid - Thousands of families in conflict-affected communities south of the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah in Yemen have received aid for the first time since last July, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

Spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel confirmed that Tuhayat and Darayhimi had been reached thanks to a partial ceasefire deal agreed at UN-led talks between Government forces and Houthi opposition militia in the west of the country:

“For the first time since the increase in fighting in Hudaydah in June 2018 WFP managed to assist hard-to-reach areas of Tuhayat and Darahimi,” he said. “This can be thanks to an inconsistent de-escalation over recent days following the December peace talks in Stockholm, Sweden.”

Aid was distributed from Hudaydah – a Houthi stronghold – and Aden, which is controlled by the internationally recognized Government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“So far WFP has dispatched more than 3,334 metric tonnes of food assistance to these areas, and that is simultaneously from both Aden and Hudaydah,” the WFP spokesperson explained, adding that “8,125 households in Al Tuhayat have received enough assistance for two months and 2,662 families in Al Darayhimi, south of Hudaydah, have received food rations. Those are the first humanitarian shipments delivered since July 2018 when a WFP contracted truck was hit in the area.”

Last month, WFP scaled up the delivery of food and food vouchers to around nine million people in Yemen, up from seven to eight million in November. 

The aim in coming weeks is to reach 12 million people to help avert famine in the country, which was already one of the poorest countries in the world before conflict escalated in March 2015.

“We will adapt on a daily basis to the security situation on the ground,” Mr Verhoosel said. “We encourage of course all parties to keep negotiating under the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy. The situation is better already, I mean, we are not exactly at the target, but we are not far away from the target.”

UN monitoring team in Hudaydah continues work, but ‘timelines have slipped’

The UN monitoring team which is overseeing the implementation of the Stockholm peace agreement signed by Government and Houthi opposition leaders last month, is continuing it work, but the warring parties have refused to hold face-to-face meetings in recent days.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said on Monday that the retired Dutch General, Patrick Cammaert, who is chairing the Redeployment Coordination Committee, has held two joint meetings involving both sides, but “in the last week, due to the inability of the parties to have a joint meeting” he had meet them separately twice, “seeking to find a mutually acceptable way forward for the redeployment of forces from the three ports and critical parts of the city associated with humanitarian facilities, as provided for in phase one in the Stockholm Agreement.”

“While projected timelines have slipped, recent discussions have been constructive”, added Mr Dujarric, briefing reporters at UN Headquarters. 

“The chair continues to encourage the parties to resume the joint meetings in order to finalize a mutually agreed redeployment plan. Currently, plans are being discussed on how to facilitate humanitarian operations.”

Hudaydah carries more than 70 per cent of all humanitarian aid and commercial goods into the war-ravaged nation, and future talks towards a listing peace settlement for Yemen, rely on a ceasefire holding, in line with the agreement made in Sweden.

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UN refugee agency ‘deeply shocked’ at stabbing death of ‘deeply courageous’ Polish mayor

INTERNATIONAL, 14 January 2019, Migrants and Refugees - The Mayor of the historic port city of Gdansk in Poland, has died in hospital after being stabbed at a televised charity event on Sunday, prompting the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, to issue a statement on Monday praising him as “a deeply courageous, moral leader, who showed the way in helping refugees and migrants to integrate”.

Pawel Adamowicz, had been mayor since 1998, and according to Montserrat Feixas Vihe, UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe, “he received hate mail for his pro-refugee stance, but did not weaken in his belief that integration - which brings with it new talents, new skills, new colours, new languages, and a new mentality - was a winning proposition for everyone in his city.”

According to news reports, the alleged assailant, is a 27-year-old Gdansk native, with a track record of violence, who was released from prison only last month. 

The UN Refugee Agency, is deeply shocked and saddened to hear that the Mayor of Gdansk, Pawel Adamowicz, has died - UNHCR statement

After attacking Mr. Adamowicz on stage, in front of hundreds of onlookers, he told the crowd that he held a grudge against the mayor’s former political party, after he was imprisoned in 2014 for violent offences. There is no evidence so far, that his attack on the mayor was politically motivated.

There has been an outpouring of grief across Poland following the assassination, with President Andrzej Duda, reportedly describing it as an “evil hard to imagine”. He has declared the day of the mayor’s funeral, a day of national mourning.

The UNHCR statement said that agency staff were “deeply shocked and saddened” at the news of the Mayor’s death.

Mayor Adamowicz launched the Gdansk “Immigrant Integration Model” after meeting Pope Francis in 2016, a model that has inspired other Polish cities, said UNHCR, adding that “our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

In February last year, UNHCR published this story about Mr. Adamowicz’s efforts to show “a new kind of solidarity” with migrants and refugees, building on the city’s famous legacy as a birthplace of the struggle to throw off Communist dictatorship.

“For me, it is all about the moral arguments,” he told the agency, adding that the integration model, which was subsequently taken up by other cities in Poland, needed to be established.

“Most important are our Christian values, the humanitarian obligation to help people. I felt it was up to us to take a lead,” he said.

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FROM THE FIELD: Liberia boosts efforts to guard against rising seas

INTERNATINOAL, 14 January 2019, SDGs - With rising sea levels due to climate change already affecting coastal communities in Liberia, there are fears that densely populated parts of the capital Monrovia could be submerged, unless action is taken.

It’s projected that a one-metre sea level rise could permanently inundate 95 square kilometres of land in Liberia’s coastal zone, which is already under threat of heavy seasonal rains and continuing erosion.

What’s more, eroding infrastructure is causing massive repercussions for housing, education and livelihoods, with fishing chief among them.

But the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has taken “28,000 steps in the right direction” during the second phase of its Coastal Defense Project to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience. Here’sthe full story.

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Ahead of street protests, UN rights chief urges Guatemalan Government to respect democratic freedoms

INTERNATIONAL, 14 January 2019, Human Rights - With demonstrations expected to take place in various Guatemalan cities on Monday and Tuesday, the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, is urging the Guatemalan Government to guarantee freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to peaceful assembly and association.

"Freedom of expression, without fear of reprisals and intimidation, is the backbone of democracy," Ms. Bachelet said. "A culture of human rights and peace is strengthened when diverse social groups can express themselves in the public space and freely exercise their rights."

The demonstrations have been organized by various civil society groups to highlight several issues, including the Government's unilateral decision on 7 January to terminate the work of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a UN anti-corruption body set up 11 years ago in conjunction with the Guatemalan Government. CICIG’s mandate was initially due to run through 3 September this year.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed great concern about the ongoing erosion of various State institutions, including recent attacks on the independence of the Constitutional Court.

Freedom of expression, without fear of reprisals and intimidation, is the backbone of democracy - UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet

"I would also like to stress that it is essential to guarantee the rule of law, judicial independence and impartiality and respect for democratic institutions, particularly the Constitutional Court, the judiciary, the National Human Rights Institution, the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Electoral Tribunal," Ms. Bachelet said.

Noting the crucial role played by these institutions in respecting and guaranteeing human rights, the rule of law and democracy, she explained that “the proper exercise of their functions is fundamental in the current context and for the general elections to be held in the coming months”.

She added that “respect for their safety and their physical integrity, as well as that of their families, must be guaranteed by the State of Guatemala in compliance with its international human rights obligations." 

Ms. Bachelet said she and her Guatemala office stand ready to continue to support the State authorities in fulfilling their international human rights obligations and commitments.

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World ‘not yet on track’ to ensure children a better future: UN rights chief

INTERNATIONAL, 14 January 2019, Human Rights - Some Member States have fallen short of offering a better future to children who continue to die prematurely or fall victim to poverty, trafficking and slavery, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.

In her opening address to the 80th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in Geneva – which reviews the records of Member States according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child - the High Commissioner noted that 2019 marked the pact’s 30th anniversary, and that it was “by far the most widely ratified human rights treaty”.

Despite this almost universal recognition, and the fact that it had “driven significant progress in many countries” with laws passed to protect youngsters in “virtually every State party”, Ms Bachelet insisted that “not all States Parties ensure, to the maximum extent, the survival and development of all children everywhere”.

And in an appeal to listen to youngsters’ “ideas, innovations and solutions”, she insisted: “In almost every context, children are still viewed as passive recipients of care, their voices dismissed or ignored.”

This week, the UN panel of 18 independent experts is set to review the reports of Bahrain, Belgium, Guinea, Italy, Japan and Syria, in exchanges with representatives from the countries involved.

Tragically, there is still much to be done before we realise the four core principles of the Convention: non-discrimination, the child's best interests; right to life, survival and development and right to be heard - Michelle Bachelet, UN Rights Chief

Turning to another powerful human rights platform – the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which world leaders adopted in September 2015 - “we are not yet on track” to deliver on its promises, the High Commissioner insisted.

“Based on current trends, more than 60 countries will miss the SDG neo-natal mortality target,” Ms. Bachelet said, citing a UN Children’s Fund(UNICEF) estimate that 60 million children under five, will die between 2017 and 2030 from preventable causes.

On trafficking and slavery, the High Commissioner explained that children were “particularly vulnerable” to its worst manifestations: forced labour – involving some 5.5 million youngsters - domestic slavery, sexual slavery and forced marriage.

Testimonies collected by the staff and other UN bodies “clearly indicate that child migrants and internally displaced children, in every region, are at heightened risk”, she said, “and as you know, these populations are growing sharply”.

Quoting from a recent study by a UN Special Rapporteur – or independent rights expert - Ms Bachelet noted that the share of children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour “is increasing, and the share of children involved in forced labour is particularly high”.

The High Commissioner also cited data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), indicating that one in three detected victims of trafficking was a child.

Victims included almost double the number of girls than boys, she continued, while the trafficking of children for sexual exploitation “greatly facilitated by digital technologies, which create new marketplaces and streamline the organisation of trafficking networks”.
And on the “millions of girls” who become mothers while they are still children, Ms Bachelet underlined that the practice damaged their health and entrenched a destructive cycle of poverty.

© UNICEF/Shafiqui Alam Kiron
13 years old Sonamoni feeds her 11 months old daughter in Ashkarpur, Satkhira, Bangladesh. Sonamoni was married at the age of 8 years and 6 months to her husband who is now 29 years old. (file)

Armed conflict had also “traumatized and harmed millions more, she continued, adding that in 2016, UN monitors had verified more than 20,000 boys and girls who had been forcibly recruited by armed groups “as fighters or, in effect, as slaves”. 

“These numbers are a calamity,” the UN rights chief said. “Each of them stands for a precious individual, whose hopes and dreams are being dashed. Tragically, there is still much to be done before we realise the four core principles of the Convention: non-discrimination, the child's best interests; right to life, survival and development and right to be heard.”

The number of ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child remains unchanged at 196, although South Sudan recently ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, bringing the total number of ratifications to 168. 

South Sudan also ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which now has 175 States parties. 

Recalling a special event at the UN in Geneva in December to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ms Bachelet noted the appeal by 16-year-old Nayeli Quiroz, from Ecuador, who said more youngsters should be able to participate in decisions that directly affect them.

“We need the power, the clarity, the foresight and the good sense of these children and adolescents to help us overturn many current trends”, the High Commissioner said. “Empowering them, respecting their dignity and upholding their rights benefits everyone.”

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UN welcomes progress in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia naming dispute

INTERNATIONAL, 13 January 2019, Peace and Security - The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the naming dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, has welcomed the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament’s decision to ratify an agreement on a new name for the latter country, following a dispute that has lasted some 28 years.

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Nimetz congratulated the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia parliament and the country’s citizens – who approved the name change in a referendum held in September 2018 – for the move, and the democratic manner in which the process was undertaken: “this historic Agreement between two neighbours opens the door to a new relationship between them and to a firmer basis for peace and security in the Balkans. I look forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement,” said Mr. Nimetz, adding that the United Nations remains “committed to working with the two Parties in finally resolving the difference between them.”

However, in order for the country to be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia, the Greek parliament must also vote to ratify the deal. On Sunday, it was reported that the issue has led to a Greek government crisis, with the governing coalition split over the name change: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reportedly planning to call a confidence vote, which is expected to be held on Wednesday.

The dispute stretches back to 1991, when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, and announced its intention to be named “Macedonia.” Neighbouring Greece refused to recognise the name, insisting that only the northern Greek region of the same name should be called Macedonia, and arguing that the former Yugoslav Republic’s use of the name was a challenge to Greek sovereignty.

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