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Last Updated: 11/04/2009Recent challenges concerning UN's operations
UN News Service
This is a compilation of several UN News articles from the past week. The feature begins with concern of migrants and the UN's efforts to accommodate this massive trend. The second article focuses on the elections in Afghanistan, with withdrawal of Abdullah Abdullah current president Karzai's contender, on the grounds of fraud. The next article outlines the DDR process in Sudan, with the current return of 15,000 former soldiers. Finally, typhoon season in the South Asia has again caused massive destruction in the Philippines and Viet Nam.
Era of increased mobility requires better protection of migrants’ rights, says Ban
4 November 2009 – In an era where people are crossing borders in greater numbers seeking better opportunities, it is more vital than ever that States safeguard the rights of migrants, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level gathering in Athens today.
“Let us never forget than in the end, policies and laws are really about people and values,” he said in his remarks to the opening of the third Global Forum on Migration and Development.
The Secretary-General noted that the number of international migrants today is greater than at anytime in history, with 214 million people living outside their country of birth.
Highlighting the good that such mobility can generate, he said that, when managed well, global migration greatly improves human welfare and development. Also, migrants contribute to development in their homelands by transferring remittances and transmitting new ideas and technologies.
Meanwhile, in countries of destination, migrants fill gaps in labour demand and skills to make the economy more productive.
“But we have work ahead of us,” he told the gathering. “Around the world, migration is often the subject of shrill debate – a wedge to provoke social tensions, drive political extremes, fan the flames of discrimination and hatred.
“We cannot yet say that the development potential of international migration is being fully realized. We cannot yet declare that the rights of migrants are being fully respected.”
He noted that the conditions in which many migrants move and live continue to be “treacherous,” that human trafficking and sexual exploitation are disturbing realities and, in many parts of the world, migrant workers still face appalling working conditions.
Mr. Ban called on all countries to work together to tackle migration, highlighting three challenges that add to the urgency for action – the economic crisis, climate change, and the scourge of human trafficking, particularly of women and girls.
“As we look to these challenges, we recognize that in many ways, migration is not just a journey of people – it is a journey of policy,” he said.
“Our destination is a global system of mobility that allows people to move in legal, safe and orderly ways – with full respect for their dignity.”
The Secretary-General reiterated the importance of promoting and protecting the basic human rights of all migrants, regardless of their legal status, during a press conference with Teodora Tzakri, the Deputy Minister of Interior, Decentralization and E-Governance of Greece.
“Providing basic rights, access to education, social safety networks, sanitation and health – these are basic, which each and every country should provide,” he stated.
Mr. Ban also met with Prime Minister George Papandreou, with whom he discussed a number of regional and global issues, including climate change, migration and development, Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UN peacekeeping operations and reform, and also piracy and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the global anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Secretary-General said he will spare no effort to facilitate progress on the UN-backed talks between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders aimed at unifying the Mediterranean island.
“The international community has invested a great deal in this Cypriot-driven process, and has high expectations. I believe the talks are making reasonably good progress, and this momentum must be kept up.”
While in the Greek capital, Mr. Ban is also scheduled to address a special session of Parliament and meet with President Karolos Papoulias.
Presidential candidate pulls out of Afghan run-off election – UN
1 November 2009 – With Abdullah Abdullah, the challenger to President Hamid Karzai in next week's run-off, withdrawing from the race, the top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan today expressed hope that the elections will be wrapped up shortly.
The 7 November run-off was announced late last month after the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) found evidence of fraud in the first round of voting on 20 August.
On the heels of Mr. Abdullah's announcement today, “the next step must be to bring this electoral process to a conclusion in a legal and timely manner,” Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, said in a statement.
Mr. Abdullah's decision was clearly “taken after a long period of discussion and reflection,” and the UN official voiced hope that the former presidential candidate's reform proposals will be part of Afghanistan's future political agenda.
Last week, five UN staff members were killed and nine others injured in an attack, for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility, on a guest house in the capital, Kabul.
Jossie Esto of the Philippines, who worked for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) election team Louis Maxwell, a close protection officer from the United States Lawrence Mefful, a UN security officer from Ghana and Lydia Wonwene, a UNDP elections officer from Liberia, were killed in Wednesday's attack.
The identity of a fifth UN staff member killed when militants attacked the guest house, where 34 UN staffers were staying, still needs to be confirmed.
“These women and men went to Afghanistan with many talents. But they shared a common goal, that is, to help the Afghan people,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told UN staff members on Friday.
“They went despite the risks. They went to support another election and the opportunity for the Afghan people to shape their destiny,” he said.
Both the Secretary-General and Mr. Eide pledged in the aftermath of the attack that the UN will continue its work in the country.
Mr. Ban said that the UN is urgently reviewing the security environment throughout Afghanistan, and is exploring the feasibility of bringing in additional security units to guard UN facilities and guest houses.
The UN will also be consolidating its staff now scattered among many different locations in Kabul and may suggest that personnel not directly engaged in critical duties be re-located over the coming weeks. In addition, Mr. Ban is dispatching a senior UN official to the Afghan capital to express sympathy and solidarity with the staff.
Top UN official in Sudan hails return to civilian life of 15,000 former civil war soldiers
4 November 2009 – The top United Nations envoy to Sudan has praised the disarming, demobilization and reintegration so far this year of over 15,000 former combatants from the African nation’s north-south civil war.
It is hoped that as many as 180,000 ex-combatants across Sudan will return to civilian life under the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) scheme that was launched in February as part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the war.
“The momentum built up thus far is impressive and continues to grow as new sites will become operational in the Three Areas and Southern Sudan,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan Ashraf Jehangir Qazi told a gathering of partners involved in implementing the DDR on Tuesday.
The DDR process “has given hope to ex-combatants and their communities as they see something concrete being done to promote peace,” said Mr. Qazi, adding that the UN has started to work with its Sudanese partners to extend DDR operations.
Mr. Qazi, who also heads the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), stressed that the return to society of former fighters from the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Popular Defence Forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was “critical to creating a conducive environment for the upcoming elections.”
Highlighting a funding shortfall faced by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in their efforts to demobilize child soldiers, Mr. Qazi that it is “important we regain momentum on the release and reintegration of children associated with armed forces to prevent children from returning to life in the barracks.”
At the partnership meeting, held in the Sudanese city of Kadugli, the representative from Norway announced an additional pledge of around $5 million to support adult and child DDR.
Demobilized combatants are provided with opportunities for alternative livelihoods in agriculture, micro-businesses, vocational training or formal education. The North and South Sudan DDR Commissions implement the programme with support from the Integrated UN DDR Unit, comprised of UNMIS, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
UN assists after another tropical storm pounds the Philippines and Viet Nam
4 November 2009 – United Nations aid agencies are at work in the Philippines and Viet Nam after yet another typhoon pummelled the region, bringing heavy rains, causing power outages and communication problems and raising the threat of renewed floods.
Typhoon Mirinae, also known as Santi, generated winds of around 185 kilometres per hour as it crossed the northern Philippines on Saturday before making landfall in Viet Nam early on Monday.
At least 87 people are thought to have been killed in Viet Nam, the UN Country Team reported, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said more than 115,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes in the Philippines.
Widespread damage has also been reported to rice paddies and other farmland and also to homes and basic infrastructure.
Mirinae is the fourth major tropical storm or typhoon to strike the region in less than five weeks, and the Philippines has been the worst affected country.
Last month the UN and its aid partners issued a flash appeal for $74 million to help typhoon victims, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that so far only $25 million has been provided.
WFP reported it was revising its estimates of aid needed in the wake of Mirinae, and it is now asking for an extra 44,000 tons of food to assist typhoon survivors through March next year. The agency expects to help about 1.5 million Filipinos recover from the storms, including thousands of farmers who lost their entire rice harvests.
WFP said it was particularly concerned about the impact on young children, and is making preparations to start a supplementary feeding programme with the assistance of national nutrition authorities.
The agency’s country director Stephen Anderson said Mirinae “has hit vulnerable people already struggling to cope after the previous storms and flooding. It has made our food assistance even more important to them.”
An assessment mission comprising representatives of WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Health Organization (WHO), government departments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has inspected Santa Cruz municipality, one of the hardest hit areas.
Emergency food supplies have already been distributed in Santa Cruz following Mirinae and logistical supplies are also being provided.
In Viet Nam, the UN Country Team is working with Government officials to help monitor the humanitarian situation and assist where needed.
The damage has been worst in the centre of the country, with Binh Dinh province among the hardest hit and Quang Nam, Ninh Thuan and Gia Lai provinces all at risk from floods and landslides.