Author Archives: Mohammed Al-Zuhairi

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict Report

New York, 27 June 2018

The United Nations has verified more 21,000 violations committed against children in 2017. The United Nations has reliable reports of more than 10,000 children killed or maimed in armed conflict last year. The Secretary-General is outraged at this number, a significant increase compared to previous years and documented in his Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict published today. Children are also affected by other verified violations, including the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and armed groups, sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals.

Boys and girls have once again been overly impacted by protracted and new violent crisis. Despite some progress, the level of violations remains unacceptable.

The Secretary-General reiterates that the best way to address this horrific situation is to promote peaceful solutions to conflicts. He calls on all parties to exert maximum efforts in this regard.

The Secretary-General reminds parties to conflict of their responsibility to protect children, in line with international humanitarian and human rights laws. He calls on all parties to conflict to engage with the United Nations to develop concrete measures to end and prevent grave violations against children and to provide support and relief to affected children.

Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Children Faced with Unspeakable Violence in Conflict as Number of Grave Violations Increased in 2017

Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC)

New York, 27 June 2018 – The number of children affected by armed conflict and the severity of grave violations affecting them increased in the past year, concludes the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict released today.

“The report details the unspeakable violence children have been faced with, and shows how in too many conflict situations, parties to conflict have an utter disregard for any measures that could contribute to shielding the most vulnerable from the impact of war,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Virginia Gamba, declared.

Over 21,000 grave violations of children’s rights have been verified by the United Nations from January to December 2017, an unacceptable increase from previous years (15,500 in 2016).

The crises unfolding in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen brought about serious increases in verified grave violations. In Syria, children have suffered the highest number of verified violations ever recorded in the country. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crises in the Kasais led to an eightfold increase of attacks on schools and hospitals (515). In a despicable trend, almost half of the 881 verified child casualties in Nigeria resulted from suicide attacks, including the use of children as human bombs.

Over 10,000 children were killed or maimed in 2017 with numbers growing substantially in Iraq and Myanmar, while remaining unacceptably high in Afghanistan and Syria.

“When your own house or your school can be attacked without qualms, when traditional safe-havens become targets, how can boys and girls escape the brutality of war?” SRSG Gamba asked. “This shows a blatant disregard for international law by parties to conflict, making civilians, especially children, increasingly vulnerable to violence, use and abuse,” she added.

Protracted and New Crises Heavily Impacted Children

In South Sudan, violence against children continued unabated with 1,221 children verified recruited and used. Rape and other forms of sexual violence against children remained disturbingly high with over 900 verified cases against boys and girls

The number of children detained for their alleged association with armed groups remained extremely worrisome. For instance, in Iraq, at least 1,036 children were held in juvenile detention facilities on national security-related charges, mostly for their alleged association with ISIL. In Nigeria, over 1,900 children were deprived of liberty because of their or their parents’ alleged association with Boko Haram.

In his report, the Secretary-General reminded the authorities that children formerly associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims and detention only used as a last resort.

Large scale abductions of children remained another worrying trend. In Somalia, Al-Shabab abducted over 1,600 children, many of which were also victims of recruitment and use or sexual violence. Massive cross-border recruitment by actors such as ISIL and Boko Haram was also documented as a continuous trend requiring concerted regional efforts.

Another disturbing trend was the denial of humanitarian access used as a tactic of war. Children in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen were prevented from receiving life-saving support. In Syria, 400,000 persons, including children, trapped in besieged areas such as Ghutah and Rural Damascus, faced deteriorating living conditions.

The number of unaccompanied children fleeing wars and violence also underlines the importance of a coordinated international response, including with regional and sub-regional actors, to multiply child-protection efforts and address the cross-border dimension of grave violations. Continuing cross-border recruitment and use by actors such as ISIL and Boko Haram was also documented as a continuous trend requiring concerted regional efforts.

“I’m committed to working with parties to conflict and UN partners to develop strong prevention mechanisms. Efforts and resources should be directed toward this end to ensure that in the future, children will be better protected from grave violations,” SRSG Gamba said.

Increased Engagement with Parties to Conflict & Progress

Over 10,000 children were formally released from armed groups and forces to commence their reintegration process.

In Sudan, the Government Forces have been delisted for the recruitment and use of children following the completion of their Action Plan with the UN. In Colombia, as part of the peace process, the FARC-EP put in place measures to release children and prevent their recruitment and has been delisted. The signature of a new Action plan with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Nigeria (September 2017) and with theMouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC) in CAR (June 2018) is bringing the groups closer to stopping and preventing grave violations against children. Several armed groups, including in Myanmar and CAR, have also expressed their readiness to sign Action Plans with the UN.

“Enhanced engagement between my office and parties to conflict is more likely to bear fruit when coordinated supporting action is also available. In this regard, we have seen the country visits of the Security Council Working Group to conflict situations and the active support of CAAC Groups of Friends as key enablers for our work,” SRSG Gamba concluded.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL–“UNITING THE WORLD AGAINST TERRORISM”: OP-ED ON THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE ON COUNTER-TERRORISM

June 2018

Terrorism is a persistent and evolving global menace.  No country is immune.  Social media, encrypted communications and the dark web are being used to spread propaganda, radicalize new recruits and plan atrocities.  The threat ranges from the crude tactics of lone actors to sophisticated coordinated attacks and the horrific prospect of terrorists using chemical, biological or radioactive weapons.  

Our response needs to be equally agile and multifaceted.  That is why I am convening the first-ever United Nations High-level Conference on Counter-Terrorism this week in New York.  Heads of national counter-terrorism agencies and representatives from international institutions and civil society will discuss how to improve international cooperation and build new partnerships.  

The conference will focus on four key areas.  First, it will consider how governments, security agencies and law enforcement bodies can improve the exchange of critical information and strategies to detect, disrupt and prosecute terrorist networks.  Second, the conference will discuss how the United Nations can do more to assist countries around the world affected by terrorism.  

Third, it will address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters.  With the military defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, large numbers of these ideologically-driven mercenaries are relocating to other theatres of conflict or returning home, passing on their battlefield expertise, recruiting new followers and planning further attacks.  

Fourth, I intend the conference to focus on how we can prevent terrorism and violent extremism.  Improved security will never be enough.  We need to address the underlying conditions that make people susceptible to toxic ideologies.  

Terrorism is a transnational threat that cannot be defeated by any single government or organization.  It needs a concerted multilateral response at global, regional and national levels.  It is essential to strengthen counter-terrorism structures and institutions.  But we must also address root causes by promoting education, tackling youth unemployment and addressing marginalization.  That means engaging with local communities, religious organizations and the media.  Civil society is central to the conference and our broader counter-terrorism strategies.  

Clearly, the response to terrorism and violent extremism must respect human rights and comply with international law.  That is not just a question of justice, but of effectiveness.  When counter-terrorist policies are used to suppress peaceful protests and legitimate opposition movements, shut down debate, target human rights defenders or stigmatize minorities, they fail and we all lose.  Indeed, such responses may cause further resentment and instability, and contribute to radicalization.  

No cause or grievance can justify terrorism.  But we will only diminish the threat by ending the conflicts, human rights abuses, poverty and exclusion that drive so many to violent extremism.  Most new recruits to terrorism are between 17 and 27 years old.  We must offer them better prospects, economically and socially.  And we must reverse the polarization, xenophobia and hate speech that are proliferating around the world.  

Let us also remember the tens of thousands of people killed, wounded and traumatized by terrorism.  Survivors need our support in seeking justice and rebuilding their lives, both financially and psychologically.  We must also listen to them and learn from their experiences.  

Finally, terrorism and violent extremism have a profound gender dimension.  Terrorists continue to violate the rights of women and girls through sexual violence, abduction, forced marriages and preventing free movement and access to education.  Involvement in domestic abuse is a common thread among many perpetrators.  That is why we must urgently prioritize the rights, participation and leadership of women.

The international community has come a long way in its efforts to counter terrorism.  There is a clear international framework that makes it easier to prosecute terrorists, disrupt their financial networks and prevent online radicalization.  But there is much still to be done.  

Terrorist groups share an agenda of authoritarianism, misogyny and intolerance.  They are an affront to the common values encapsulated in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Our responsibility is to unite to build a world of peace and security, dignity and opportunity for all people, everywhere, so we can deprive the violent extremists of the fuel they need to spread their hateful ideologies.

Note to Correspondents: Statement by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen

Amman, 21 June 2018 

I will continue my consultations with all parties to avoid further military escalation in Hudaydah, which I fear would have severe political and humanitarian consequences.

My priority now is to avoid a military confrontation in Hudaydah and to swiftly return to political negotiations.

I am encouraged by the constructive engagement of the Ansar Allah leadership in Sana’a and I look forward to my upcoming meetings with President Hadi and the Government of Yemen. I am confident that we can reach an agreement to avert any escalation of violence in Hudaydah.

While in Sana’a, I also briefed the Security Council on 18 June and announced my intention to relaunch political negotiations in the coming weeks.

I reiterate the commitment of the United Nations to reach a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict in Yemen. I welcome the commitment and willingness of the parties to engage in a UN facilitated intra-Yemeni political process.

MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT “The Plight and Rights of Children Born of War”

19 June 2018

Sexual violence in conflict is a threat to our collective security and a stain on our common humanity.

Its effects can echo across generations, through trauma, stigma, poverty, poor health and unwanted pregnancy. Children conceived through wartime rape often struggle with issues of identity and belonging for decades after the guns have fallen silent.

They may be left in a legal limbo, or at risk of becoming stateless. They are vulnerable to recruitment, trafficking and exploitation, with broad implications for peace and security, as well as human rights.

Their mothers may be marginalized and shunned by their own families and communities. These women and children are sometimes seen as affiliates of armed and violent extremist groups, rather than as victims and survivors.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we amplify the voices of these forgotten victims of war, who suffer stigma, shame and exclusion in societies polarized by armed conflict.

The United Nations stands ready to work with governments, civil society, traditional and religious leaders, and all partners to support children born of rape in wartimeand their mothers, and those working on the frontlines to support them.

Let us reaffirm our global commitment to eliminate the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence and to provide justice, services and support to all those affected.

Note to Correspondents: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on the situation in Hudaydah, Yemen

New York, 14 June 2018

The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed grave concern at the potentially disastrous impact on civilians of the militaryoffensive against the port of Hudaydah, launched on 13 June by pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), against Houthi fighters who have been holding the port.

Yemen is currently considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 10.4 million people at risk of famine and Hudaydah is the entry point for seventy per cent of humanitarian aid. In addition to the destruction that the offensive is likely to cause – and the risk to the estimated 600,000 civilians who live in and around the port – closing the port for any length of time could have a disastrous impact on the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to a population that desperately needs it.

“Starvation of civilians as a method of war is a war crime and was condemned by the Security Council in resolution 2417 of 24 May 2018. It seems that the first test of this resolution is Yemen: the Yemeni port of Hudaydah is a lifeline for the delivery of aid and the Coalition’s air strikes can kill many more people over time through famine and hunger when damaging such civilian infrastructure.”

Special Adviser Dieng fully supports the call by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, for all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and to find a political solution to the conflict, stressing that there can be no military solution.

He called on the parties to uphold their obligations under international law in the conduct of hostilities, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution. “Attacks that are indiscriminate or directly target civilians or civilian objects may constitute war crimes. All the parties to the conflict, as well as the international community, have a responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes in Yemen.”

The Special Adviser called for accountability for alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the conflict in Yemen.

New York, 14 June 201

Note to Correspondents: Statement by Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy for Yemen on the situation in Hudaydah

13 June 2018

I am extremely concerned about the military developments in Hudaydah. Further military escalation will have serious consequences on the dire humanitarian situation in the country and will have an impact on my efforts to resume political negotiations to reach an inclusive political settlement to the conflict in Yemen. I cannot overemphasize that there is no military solution to the conflict.

We continue to use every opportunity to avoid military confrontation in Hudaydah. We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hudaydah that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties.

I call on the parties to engage constructively with our efforts to spare Hudaydah any military confrontation. I also call on the parties to exercise restraint and to give peace a chance.

The United Nations is determined to move ahead with the political process despite the recent developments. I reiterate the strong commitment of the United Nations to reaching a political solution to end the conflict in Yemen.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — REMARKS AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY REVIEW OF HIV-AIDS

New York, 12 June 2018

[as delivered]

I am pleased to be with you today.

We are at the halfway point to the 2020 Fast-Track commitments agreed by the General Assembly in 2016.

The world is making good progress towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

More people have access to HIV testing and treatment.

Access to antiretroviral therapy has expanded by more than 20 million people since 1990.

As mother-to-child transmission continues to decline, and fewer children are living with HIV, we are moving closer to bringing about an AIDS-free generation.

But progress is uneven and fragile.

On all continents, key populations at higher risk of infection continue to be left further and further behind.

And young women remain unacceptably vulnerable where prevalence is high.

We must empower young people to protect themselves from HIV.

This includes providing a full range of sexual and reproductive health services and rights, harm reduction for people who use drugs, and access to anti-retroviral treatment for young people living with HIV.

Prevention is the key to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission.

The Prevention 2020 Road Map focuses explicitly on adolescent girls, young women and key populations at risk.

This sharpened focus on human rights, key populations and gender equality is essential.

Greater leadership and investment must follow suit to remove the social and political barriers that keep so many beyond the reach of necessary services.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for an integrated approach to development challenges.

Our efforts to end HIV are connected to other areas, such as malaria, tuberculosis, access to medicines, and the increasing threat of anti-microbial resistance.

Success will require us to strengthen links across these areas and build resilient and sustainable systems for health, underpinned by principles of human rights and equity.

This year’s High-Level Meetings of the General Assembly on Tuberculosis and Non-Communicable Diseases, as the President just mentioned, are key opportunities to inform a new way of thinking and working that moves beyond the disease-specific silos of yesterday.

Let us also look ahead to the 2019 High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Care to build coherence across the global health landscape on financing, programming and accountability.

The progress towards ending this epidemic would not have been possible without forceful advocacy, solidarity and a spirit of shared responsibility.

We must maintain this spirit.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of one of the most significant commitments to ending the AIDS epidemic: the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR.

We commend the United States of America for its steadfast and generous commitment.

Next month, scientists and advocates from around the world – many of whom are with us today – will gather in Amsterdam for the 22nd International AIDS Conference.

From the beginning of the global response, this intersection of science and advocacy has helped to shape policy and expand access to rights-based treatment and support for millions around the world.

At this pivotal moment, we must renew our focus and shared commitment to a world free of AIDS.

The pandemic is not over, but it can be.

We must all do our part.

Let us move forward in a bold new spirit of partnership to overcome the cycle of HIV transmission and deliver health and well-being for all.

Thank you.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — OPENING REMARKS TO THE 11TH SESSION OF THE CONFERENCE OF STATES PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

New York, 12 June 2018

[as delivered]

Distinguished Chair,

Excellencies,

Fellow panellists,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to join you at this 11thsession of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This Convention protects the rights of some
1.5 billion people around the world, and is one of the most widely-ratified international human rights treaties, with 177 ratifications since its adoption in 2006.

It is a historical commitment which reaffirms that people with disabilities are entitled to exactly the same rights as everyone else, and that societies must be organized so that all people, including those with disabilities, can exercise their rights freely.

But signing and ratifying the Convention is not enough. Implementation is essential. Countries must apply the Convention to their development policies, investments and legal systems, if we are tofulfil the central pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.

Societies will never achieve the SDGs without the full participation of everyone, including people with disabilities. We cannot afford to ignore or marginalize the contributions of 1.5 billion people.

Upholding the rights of people with disabilities is a moral imperative. But it is not an act of charity. It is a recognition of rights and a practical necessity, if we are to build healthy, sustainable societies to the benefit of everyone – those with disabilities, and those without.

 

Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I strongly believe that despite many international agreements and initiatives, we must all – Member States, the UN system, civil society, the private sector, and all stakeholders – do much more to ensure that people with disabilities have full access to opportunities and can participate fully in society.

This is why advancing the rights of persons with disabilities is firmly situated at the heart of the 2030 Agenda – our global blueprint for peaceful, prosperous societies on a healthy planet.

From the workplace to public transport systems, from concert halls to cyberspace and daily social interactions, people with disabilities face overt discrimination, stereotyping, and lack of respect for their basic human rights.

There is also a strong gender dimension to disability. Women and girls are disproportionately affected, particularly in the poorest countries in the world. Every minute, more than 30 women are seriouslyinjured or disabled during childbirth.

Women and girls with disabilities face multiple barriers to accessing education, health services and jobs. Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, millions of women will continue to suffer from double discrimination based on both their gender and their disability.

We must all find new approaches and tools to work for and with people with disabilities.

These should include mainstreaming disability in national legislation and development strategies; and engaging and empowering people with disabilities, and the organizations that represent them.

It must also include raising awareness. Discrimination against people with disabilities has been going on for centuries. It will take major efforts to challenge stereotypes and to change mindsets.

The powerful advocacy of the disability rights movement and the inspiring achievements of women and men with disabilities in all walks of life, from the science lab to the sports field, are creatinglasting change.

It will also be crucial to continue and expand the work that United Nations agencies are doing to support Governments and develop their capacity on these issues.

We need to strengthen the policy frameworks and laws on disability at the multilateral and global level, in line with the Convention and the 2030 Agenda. If people with disabilities are to be part of our efforts to achieve the SDGs, we must make institutions, mechanisms and processes coherent and coordinated.

This is the backdrop for the first flagship report on disability and development, which I will release later this year. I thank the many experts from Member States, United Nations Agencies, organizations representing people with disabilities and other stakeholders who are contributing for the preparation of that report.

At the same time, in order to make sure that the United Nations is leading by example, I have also initiated a comprehensive review of our work in this area.

The review will look at all aspects of how the United Nations addresses disability, from accessibility, where there is still a lot to go, and employment to mainstreaming disabilities across all our work, particularly development and humanitarian aid. It will inform a new UN Action Plan and an accountability framework to help us aim higher and live up to our promises.

I count on the strong support of Member States and other stakeholders as we move forward with this effort.

This 11th session of the Conference of States Parties is an opportunity to reflect on gaps and identify concrete steps to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in full, and in a timely way.

I look forward to the outcomes of this Conference.

I count on your continued efforts by, for and with people with disabilities.

Together, we can remove barriers and raise awareness, so that people with disabilities can play a full part in every sphere of society, around the world.

Thank you.

THE SECRETARY-GENERAL — MESSAGE ON WORLD OCEANS DAY

8 June 2018

The oceans make our blue planet unique in our solar system — and not just visually. They help regulate the global climate and are the ultimate source of the water that sustains all life on Earth, from coral reefs to snow-covered mountains, from tropical rain forests to mighty rivers, and even deserts. However, the ability of the oceans to provide their essential services is being threatened by climate change, pollution and unsustainable use.

On this World Oceans Day, we are highlighting the problem of plastic pollution. Eighty per cent of all pollution in the sea comes from land, including some 8 million tons of plastic waste each year. It chokes waterways, harms communities that depend on fishing and tourism, kills turtles and birds, whales and dolphins, and finds its way to the most remote areas of the planet and throughout the food chain on which we ultimately rely. Unless we change course, plastic waste could soon outweigh all the fish in the oceans.

We must work individually and collectively to stop this preventable tragedy and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, including plastic. Action starts athome, and speaks louder than words. The United Nations aims to lead by example, and more than 30 of our agencies have now begun working to end the use of single-use plastic.

But everyone needs to play a part. You can make a difference today – and every day — by doing simple things like carrying your own water bottle, coffee cup and shopping bags, recycling the plastic you buy, avoiding products that contain microplastics and volunteering for a local clean-up.

If we all do a little, our combined actions can be massive. On this World Oceans Day, I urge governments, communities and individuals alike to celebrate our oceans by helping clear them of pollution and ensure they remain vibrant for generations to come.