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Over 26,000 people flee South Sudan into Uganda; influx sets single-day record

INTERNATIONAL – Some 26,500 South Sudanese, mostly women and children, have crossed into Uganda since fighting between rival forces erupted in and around the capital, Juba, on 7 July, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Yesterday alone, an estimated 8,337 refugees crossed into Uganda, setting a single-day record since the influx began in 2016.

“Thousands of people continue to flee uncertainty and fighting in South Sudan,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Andreas Needham, told reporters in Geneva, adding that more than 90 per cent of those are women and children.

The influx is severely stretching the capacity of collection points, transit centres and reception centres, he said. On Wednesday night, more than 7,000 people slept at Elegu collection point, significantly beyond its 1,000-person capacity. Similarly, Kuluba collection point is hosting 1,099 refugees, compared to its 300-person capacity. Torrential rains are further hampering registration efforts, he added.

Mr. Needham said that new arrivals in Adjumani reported that fighting was continuing between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing First Vice-President Riek Machar. There are reports from Magwi that armed gunmen continue to loot properties, forcibly recruit boys and young men, and murder civilians.

Another Uganda People's Defense Force convoy evacuating Ugandan nationals from South Sudan is expected today, the spokespersons said, noting that on previous occasions, a large number of refugees have taken the opportunity to flee the country by accompanying the convoy.


Ban urges Turkish authorities to respect constitutional order, human rights amid state of emergency

INTERNATIONAL – Following the declaration of a three-month state of emergency in Turkey as a result of an attempted military coup late last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Turkish authorities to ensure that constitutional order and international human rights law are fully respected.

“The Secretary-General urges the Turkish authorities, consistent with the assurances given, to do their utmost to ensure that the constitutional order and international human rights law are fully respected, in line with Turkey’s international obligations. These include the freedoms of expression, movement and peaceful assembly; independence of the judiciary and of the legal profession; and adherence to due process,” said a statement attributable to Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

The statement noted that in relation to the declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey, the Secretary-General takes note of the repeated assurances by senior Turkish government officials regarding full adherence to the rule of law and due process when investigating and prosecuting those deemed to be responsible for the attempted coup of 15-16 July.

“This is particularly important in the aftermath of the declaration of the state of emergency and the ongoing widespread arrests, detentions and suspensions,” the statement said.

In addition, the Secretary-General expressed hope that procedures under the state of emergency will be carried out in full transparency.

According to media reports, thousands of soldiers have been arrested and hundreds of judiciary members removed since Friday's uprising, which left at least 290 people dead and more than 1,400 injured following a night of violence.


Syria: After week of ‘horrific’ incidents, UNICEF calls for end to all violence against children

INTERNATIONAL – In a week marked by the brutal on-camera murder of a 12-year-old boy in Aleppo and the killing of more than 20 children killed during air strikes in Manbij, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for an immediate end to all forms of violence against children in Syria and urged all parties to the conflict there to make every effort to avoid the loss of civilian lives.

The agency estimates that 35,000 children are trapped in and around Manbij, in eastern rural area of Aleppo Governorate, with nowhere safe to go. Furthermore, since the intensification of fighting in the last six weeks, about 2,300 people, including dozens of children are reported to have been killed.

“Absolutely nothing justifies attacks on children,” said Hanna Singer, UNICEF representative in Syria, in a statement issued yesterday. “No matter where they are or under whose control they live,” she stressed.

This week alone, more than 20 children were reportedly killed in air strikes in Manbij, and a 12-year-old boy was brutally murdered on camera in Aleppo.

According to information received by the agency, families in the al-Tukhar village near Manbij, some 80 kilometres to the east of Aleppo, were preparing to flee when the air strikes hit.

In her statement, the UNICEF representative also underscored that such horrific incidents are a reminder that it is the responsibility of conflicting parties to respect international humanitarian laws that protect children in war.

“We deplore all forms of violence and urge all parties to the conflict to make every effort to avoid the loss of civilian lives,” expressed Ms. Singer.

“All forms of violence against children must immediately come to an end.”

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are feared to be trapped in Aleppo, Manbij and other Syrian towns as fighting between Government and opposition forces continues around them. Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein voiced serious concern for their safety and urged the conflicting parties to ensure that no harm comes to them.


2016 on pace to be hottest year ever as climate change trends reach ‘new climax’– UN

INTERNATIONAL – Global temperatures for the first six months of this year reached new highs, setting 2016 on track to be the hottest-ever on record, the United Nations weather agency said today.

“Another month, another record. And another. And another. Decades-long trends of climate change are reaching new climaxes, fuelled by the strong 2015/2016 El Niño,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

The El Niño event, which turned up the Earth’s thermostat, has now disappeared, but “climate change, caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will not,” he stressed. This means more heatwaves, more extreme rainfall and potential for higher impact tropical cyclones.

Arctic sea ice melted early and fast, another indicator of climate change. Carbon dioxide levels, which are driving global warming, have reached new highs.

To calculate global temperature statistics for its annual state of the climate report, WMO uses datasets from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA GISS), and the UK’s Met Office and reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF).

Two separate reports from NOAA and NASA GISS both highlighted the dramatic and sweeping changes in the state of the climate.

June 2016 marked the 14th consecutive month of record heat for land and oceans. It marked the 378th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th century average. The last month with temperatures below the 20th century average was December 1984.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have passed the symbolic milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere so far this year. CO2 levels vary according to the season, but the underlying trend is upwards. They showed a surprising increase for the first half of 2016, rising in June 2016 to nearly 407 ppm, 4 ppm greater than June 2015.

“This underlines more starkly than ever the need to approve and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change, and to speed up the shift to low carbon economies and renewable energy,” said Mr. Taalas.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders to a special event on 21 September to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was adopted by last December. The event will also provide an opportunity to other countries to publicly commit to the agreement before the end of 2016.

It’s getting hotter

The average temperature in the first six months of 2016 was 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the pre-industrial era in the late 19th century, according to NASA.

NOAA said the global land and ocean average temperature for January–June was 1.05 degrees Celsius (1.89 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century average, beating the previous record set in 2015 by 0.20 degree Celsius (0.36 degree Fahrenheit).

Each month in 2016 was record warm. Most of the world’s land and ocean surfaces had warmer to much-warmer-than-average conditions.

The El Niño event which developed in 2015 and was one of the most powerful on record contributed to the record temperatures in the first half of 2016. It dissipated in May.

Arctic Sea ice is melting faster

The extent of Arctic sea ice at the peak of the summer melt season now typically covers 40 per cent less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Arctic sea ice extent in September, the seasonal low point in the annual cycle, has been declining at a rate of 13.4 per cent per decade.

Depending on where you are, it’s either too wet or too dry

Rainfall in June 2016 varied significantly around the world. It was notably drier than normal across the western and central contiguous US, Spain, northern Colombia, northeastern Brazil, Chile, southern Argentina, and across parts of central Russia.

Wetter-than-normal precipitation was observed across northern Argentina, northern and central Europe, much of Australia, and across central and southern Asia.

From January to 4 July, China saw 21.2 per cent above average precipitation. South China entered the flood season on 21 March, 16 days earlier than normal and more than 150 counties were record wet, according to the China Meteorological Administration. More than 300 rivers crossed the water level warning mark.

Coral reefs are under increasing threat

Temperatures in the Coral Sea (including the Great Barrier Reef), and the Tasman Sea were highest on record for extended periods since late summer 2016, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

These warm waters have also contributed to surface temperature warmth over Australia and unprecedented bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, according to Australia’s independent Climate Council. There has been widespread bleaching of reefs in many other parts of the world.


UNICEF calls for urgent action to protect girls, women from sexual violence

INTERNATIONAL – A key adviser to the United Nations children’s agency today decried the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence against women and girls around the world, following a recent case of gang rape in India.

“Outrage is not enough,” said Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Gender Advisor.

“We need action now to end this brutality that has become routine and to give the victims of violence the justice and protection they deserve.”

The statement was issued in response to a reported gang rape of a young Dalit woman in India by the same five men who had raped her three years prior.

The case “underlines the heinous culture of impunity that surrounds violence against girls and women,” Ms. Malhotra said.

About one out of every 10 girls in the world will experience sexual violence, according to UN figures – the majority between the ages of 15 and 19.

In 2013, following nationwide outrage and protests sparked by the death of a 23-year-old woman who was gang-rape in New Delhi in 2012, India enacted new laws to prevent and prosecute rape and other sex crimes.

At that time, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, had said the reforms, though commendable, “did not go far enough” to address systemic gender inequalities in Indian society.


Trees contribute to reducing carbon footprints even after being cut down – UN report

INTERNATIONAL – Trees contribute to reducing carbon footprints even after being cut down – UN report

Forests can contribute greatly to the fight against climate change even after trees have been logged, according to a new United Nations report which looks at the impact of wood products on carbon storage.

“Forests are at the heart of the transition to low-carbon economies, not only because of their double role as sink and source of emissions, but also through the wider use of wood products to displace more fossil fuel intense products,” the Assistant Director-General for Forestry at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), René Castro-Salazar, saidfrom Rome, where she is participating in the UN agency's World Forest Week.

According to FAO, the report – Forestry for a Low-carbon Future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies – is aimed at highlighting a “virtuous cycle” that exploits the life-cycle of wood products to boost the ability of forests to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.

Trees lock carbon in their leaves, branches and soils, while deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 12 per cent of worldwide gas emissions.

Promoting wood as a renewable energy source may seem counter-intuitive, but 1.86 billion cubic metres of wood – more than half the world's wood output – is already used for that purpose, according to the report.

More directly, when wood is transformed into furniture, floors, doorways or beams to be used in construction, it does not instantly oxidize but continues to store the carbon it took in as a tree.

So the framing in a house might store carbon for up to 100 years, a dining room table less than 30, and paper a few years. The carbon is only released back into the atmosphere when the wood product is burnt or decays.

The report – the end result of collaboration among more than 100 experts – was designed primarily for policy-makers and experts, but is also tailored for architects and the energy industry.

Its guiding message is that optimal engineering of the carbon life-cycle of trees and wood products allows over the long-term – through technological advances and cleaner, greener methods of processing, the industrial use of wood – for sustainably harvested forests to complement and even enhance the climate mitigation benefits provided by conserved forests.


First progress report on Sustainable Development Agenda aims to leave no one behind

INTERNATIONAL – The first ever progress report on the new global development agenda provides the most up-to-date statistics on poverty, hunger, education and sanitation, among others, so that the world can address urgent global challenges over the next 15 years.

Officially launched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the ministerial meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on Wednesday, the report was detailed today to highlight its most important asset – the global data it contains.

“We have the chance to truly set the world on a different sustainable path leaving no one behind,” Assistant-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, Thomas Gass, today told the press in New York.

The annual Sustainable Development Goals Report is an opportunity “to review where the world stands at the start of this collective journey,” Mr. Gass added.

He then listed a number of figures – about 800 million people around the world live in extreme poverty and hunger, 5.9 million children die before they reach the age of five, 59 million of primary school age are out of school, 2.4 billion people still lack improved sanitation facilities, one in two children under the age of five lack birth certificates.

These statistics are at the core of the progress report which is the baseline for evaluation and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs.

“It is crucial to build a global data ecosystem replete with quality reliable and timely data,” said Mr. Gass, speaking alongside Francesca Perucci, Chief of the Statistical Services Branch.

The global data is part of the 169 targets which will guide the plan of action for people, planet and prosperity from this year through 2030.

The Indicators were developed by experts representing 28 national statistical systems through an “open, inclusive and transparent process,” Mr. Gass said.

While the 17 Goals were universally accepted and approved by all 193 Member States last year, the indicators still have to be adopted by the UN’s Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly.

“The idea is that every country would provide the data – all the goals and all the targets are valid for all the countries,” Mr. Gass underscored in today’s press conference.

This week’s report is the first progress report since the launch of the SDGs. Progress reports are expected every year for the next 14 years and will be presented to the High-level Political Forum, which is the UN’s central platform for the follow-up and review of the SDGs.

During his speech yesterday, Mr. Ban said he would convene an event on 21 September for countries to deposit their instruments of ratification on the Paris Agreement on climate change, an accord that was adopted in December last year and will enter into force when 55 countries ratify, and 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for.

In April, 178 countries signed the Paris Agreement at the UN Headquarters, and 19 countries have so far ratified. But these 19 countries accounted for less than 1 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Ban encouraged at least 40 countries who committed that they will ratify this Paris Agreement before the end of this year, including the United States, China, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, and Argentina.

He noted that a key feature of this year’s Forum is the voluntary national reviews, a mechanism that allows Governments to voluntarily present what they and their societies are doing to implement the 2030 Agenda. This year, 22 countries will share their experiences.

“Ensuring progress in achieving the SDGs will be greatly enhanced by making sure that lessons are shared and best practices are replicated,” he explained, calling on Member States to intensify efforts at follow-up and review through a participatory process, with the full engagement of the business sector and civil society.


‘World has ignored hepatitis at its peril,’ warns UN health agency ahead of World Day

INTERNATIONAL – With some 400 million people around the world infected with hepatitis B and C, the United Nations health agency today encouraged countries to boost testing and access to services and medicines for people in need.

“The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). “It is time to mobilize a global response to hepatitis on the scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV AIDS and tuberculosis.”

The number of people with hepatitis B and C is more than 10 times the number of people infected with HIV, according to UN figures.

Only about 1 in 20 people with viral hepatitis know they have it; and just 1 in 100 with the disease is being treated.

In May of this year, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – called for treating 8 million people for hepatitis B or C by 2020, to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 per cent, and to decrease the number of deaths by 65 per cent in 2030, as compared with 2016. These targets are part of the first ever Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis.

“We need to act now to stop people from dying needlessly from hepatitis,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s Director of the HIV Department and Global Hepatitis Programme. These comments come ahead of World Hepatitis Day, marked annually on 28 July. This year’s theme is “Know hepatitis – Act now” encourages people to get tested and demand treatment.

Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through contaminated blood, as well as through contaminated needles and syringes in healthcare setting and among people who inject drugs.

The viruses can also be transmitted through unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child.

There is a vaccine and treatment for hepatitis B, but not for hepatitis C. Some countries are working to curb the rate of infection of the virus by lowering the prices of hepatitis C medicines, such as in Egypt, where the price of medicines fell from $900 in 2014 to $200 in 2016 as a result of access to generic drugs.

According to WHO, Brazil and Pakistan are also expanding treatment coverage, and Georgia plans to eliminate the disease entirely.


One year on, Iran deal ‘best’ way to ensure peaceful nuclear programme – UN chief

INTERNATIONAL – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said that the nuclear deal agreed to last year by Iran and six world powers is the best way of ensuring the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, calling for the comprehensive implementation of the accord, as well as a subsequent Security Council resolution that endorsed it.

In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General congratulated the Council and the participants in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the first anniversary of the “historic achievement” and commended progress made so far.

On 20 July last year, the Council adopted resolution 2231 (2015), endorsing the JCPOA under which Iran pledged that it would not seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons. The resolution called the deal a “culmination of diplomatic efforts” by Iran and the so-called E3+3 – China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In his statement, Mr. Ban said the JCPOA was “a triumph of diplomacy” for conflict resolution and prevention, and strengthened global norms for nuclear non-proliferation.

He explained that, combined with a robust verification regime, the agreement ended one of the Council’s strictest sanctions regimes, and provided Iran with the opportunity for greater engagement with the international community.

“Resolution 2231 (2015) heralded a fundamental shift in Iran’s relationship with the Security Council, and provided a defined time schedule for the removal of the Iran nuclear issue from the Council’s agenda,” the Secretary-General said.

He also commended Iran for implementing its nuclear-related commitments, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, while also applauding the steps taken by the European Union and the United States.

“One year on, I remain certain that the JCPOA is the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and to realise the great aspirations of the Iranian people,” he said, calling for the agreement and resolution 2231 to be implemented in a comprehensive manner, based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

That would facilitate greater cooperation to achieve international peace and security, he added.


Countries need to be reminded they are built on diversity, says UN Deputy Secretary-General

INTERNATIONAL – United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today called for an alternative narrative on migration, where human mobility is seen as a positive development and a driver for economic prosperity and social progress.

A narrative “that recognizes the inherent worth of each individual, and welcomes the vast contribution migrants make to economic and social progress as well as for the diversity of societies,” the Deputy Secretary-General told the Global Forum for Migration and Development which was meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“We also need to be reminded in today’s world that our nation states are built on diversity and recognition of minorities,” Mr. Eliasson added.

He urged participants and the UN to address the factors that lead people to leave their homes, saying that people vote with their feet.

“Migration is a fact of life in our interconnected, highly mobile, world,” Mr. Eliasson noted. “They want to invest their talents, their children’s futures and their money where they see the best opportunities.”

That also means that no one should be forced to migrate against his or her wishes, and risk exploitation and abuse in search of a better life.

The briefing came as Member States are preparing for a Summit on Refugees and Migrants to be held in New York on 19 September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Transnational criminal networks and human trafficking will be on the Summit’s agenda.

In his briefing today, Mr. Eliasson also linked migration with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which range from eliminating poverty and hunger to providing quality education and taking urgent action against climate change.

He said implementing the SDGs will give all people “the chance to fulfil their potential without being forced to cross borders.”

The Global Forum was initiated in 2007, as a result of the 2006 UN High-Level Dialogue on International migration, and the UN participates in many of its meetings, but it is not an official entity of the UN system.

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