Malala Yousafzai designated youngest-ever UN Messenger of Peace

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today designated children’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on girls’ education.

“You have been to the most difficult places […] visited several refugee camps. Your foundation has schools in Lebanon, in the Beka’a Valley,” said Mr. Guterres at a ceremony in the Trusteeship Council chamber at UN Headquarters, in New York.

“[You are a] symbol of perhaps the most important thing in the world, education for all,” he highlighted.

Secretary-General António Guterres designates children’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai as a UN Messenger of Peace. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-General António Guterres designates children’s rights activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai as a UN Messenger of Peace. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Ms. Yousafzai, who was shot in 2012 by the Taliban for attending classes, is the youngest-ever UN Messenger of Peace and the first one to be designated by Secretary-General Guterres since he assumed office in January this year.

Accepting the accolade, Ms. Yousafzai underscored the importance of education, especially education of girls, for advancing communities and societies.

“[Bringing change] starts with us and it should start now,” she said, adding: “If you want to see your future bright, you have to start working now [and] not wait for anyone else.”

UN Messengers of Peace are distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of art, literature, science, entertainment, sports or other fields of public life, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the global Organization.

Backed by the highest honour bestowed by the Secretary-General on a global citizen, these prominent personalities volunteer their time, talent and passion to raise awareness of UN’s efforts to improve the lives of billions of people everywhere.

Following the official presentation, Secretary-General Guterres and Ms. Yousafzai conversed with youth representatives from around the world on the theme of girls’ education.

Taking a question from a young speaker in the audience, Ms. Yousafzai said the most difficult time she faced had been from 2007 to 2009 in the Swat Valley, “because we were at a point of making a decision about whether to speak out or remain silent. And I realized that if you remain silent, you are still going to be terrorized. So speaking out, you can help people.”

While recovering from the Taliban attack, she realized that “extremists tried everything to stop me [and the fact that they didn’t] is clear evidence that no one can stop me. I have second life for the purpose of education and I’ll continue working on [this issue].

Ms. Yousafazi went on to say that brothers and fathers must also support women and girls in the global effort to ensure education for all and, more importantly, “be who they want to be.” Indeed, she has that her father always told people not to ask him what he did for Malala, ‘but as what I didn’t do – I didn’t clip her wings.’

Summing up the conversation, Mr. Guterrers called Ms. Yousafzai’s life “a remarkable example of solidarity.” Yet, he said, Pakistan was also such an example. “We live in a world where so many borders closed; so many doors are closed, but Pakistan has received seven million refugees with open borders, open doors and hearts – open a symbol of generosity.” He hoped this spirit could serve as an example that “it is not by closing doors that we will all be able to move forward.”

Secretary-General António Guterres’s statement on Syria

Secretary-General António Guterres’s statement on Syria

I continue to follow the situation in Syria closely and with grave concern.

I was abhorred by the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, and the death and injury of many innocent civilians.

I have long stated that there needs to be accountability for such crimes, in line with existing international norms and Security Council resolutions.

I have been following reports of the air strikes against the Shayrat Airbase in Syria conducted by the United States.

Mindful of the risk of escalation, I appeal for restraint to avoid any acts that could deepen the suffering of the Syrian people.

These events underscore my belief that there is no other way to solve the conflict than through a political solution. I call on the parties to urgently renew their commitment to making progress in the Geneva talks.

A political solution also remains essential for progress in the fight against terrorism.

The Security Council has the primary responsibility for international peace and security. I call on the Council to unite and exercise that responsibility.

For too long, international law has been ignored in the Syrian conflict, and it is our shared duty to uphold international standards of humanity. This is a prerequisite to ending the unrelenting suffering of the people of Syria.
New York, 7 April 2017

U.S. funding cuts to UN population agency based on ‘inaccurate perception’ – UN chief

U.S. funding cuts to UN population agency based on ‘inaccurate perception’ – UN chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today voiced deep regret at the decision by the United States to cut financial support for the United Nations population agency, stating that the announcement is based on a misinterpretation of the UN agency’s work.

The Secretary-General “believes that the decision is based on an inaccurate perception of the nature and importance of the work of UNFPA,” the spokesperson said referring to the acronym for the UN Population Fund.

In a statement from his spokesperson, Mr. Guterres said that the cuts “could have devastating effects” on the health of vulnerable women and girls and their families.

The UN agency’s aim is to deliver a world “where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” according to its website.

In the past year, the agency saved the lives of more than 2,340 women from dying during pregnancy and childbirth, and helped to ensure more than 1,250 fistula surgeries, for example.

Mr. Guterres, who was previously the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that he saw first-hand the life-saving character of UNFPA, which is active in more than 150 countries and territories.

“He appeals to donors to increase their support for UNFPA to allow it to continue its critical work during this difficult period,” the spokesperson said.

The funding cut was announced in a memo from the US State Department on 30 March, stating that the UNFPA “supports, or participates in the management of, a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.

The UNFPA refuted the claim, calling it “erroneous”.

“UNFPA refutes this claim, as all of its work promotes the human rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination,” the agency said.

UNFPA called the US “a trusted partner” and said that support received from the country over the years “have saved tens of thousands of mothers from preventable death and disabilities.”

Security Council extends peacekeeping mandate in DR Congo with reduced troop strength

The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year but reduced the number of troops.

In a resolution unanimously adopted, the 15-member body decided to keep the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) until 31 March 2018, but approved 16,215 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

 

In a previous mandate extension, the Council approved 19,815 military personnel, 760 military observers and staff officers, 391 police personnel, and 1,050 personnel of formed police units.

The Council also decided that the strategic priorities of MONUSCO are to contribute to the protection of civilians and support the implementation of the 31 December 2016 agreement on the electoral process.

In that regard, the Council called on the Government of the DRC and its national partners, including the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), to ensure a transparent and credible electoral process, in fulfilment of their primary responsibility to create propitious conditions for the forthcoming elections.

The Council tasked the Mission, with, among other responsibilities, ensuring effective and dynamic protection of civilians under threat of physical violence, including by preventing, deterring, and stopping all armed groups and local militias from inflicting violence on the populations.

The Secretary-General was requested to take the necessary measures to ensure full compliance of MONUSCO with the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to keep the Council fully informed through his reports to the Council about the Mission’s progress in this regard.

It also urged troop- and police-contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action including pre-deployment awareness training, and to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.