Myanmar: UN chief welcomes election of first civilian President in more than 50 years

Following the historic national polls last 8 November, United NationsSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Htin Kyaw, who was elected today by the Myanmar Parliament as the first civilian President in more than five decades.

“He welcomes this as a significant achievement towards advancing the democratic reforms ushered in by the outgoing Government,” indicated a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General hopes the people of Myanmar will continue steadfastly on the path of democracy and national reconciliation and, at this defining moment of transition, calls upon President-elect U Htin Kyaw, as well as all other significant stakeholders, to work inclusively towards a smooth and peaceful consolidation of unity and stability in the country,” it added.

The UN chief also reaffirmed the readiness of the United Nations to continue to support efforts to advance peace, development, human rights and the rule of law for the benefit of all the peoples of Myanmar.

The Organization has long been involved in Myanmar’s transition after more than 50 years of military rule, appointing a Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the issue. In 2007 Mr. Ban set up the “Group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Myanmar,” a consultative forum of 14 countries to assist him in his efforts to spur change in the South-East Asian nation.

On International Women’s Day, UN officials call to ‘Step It Up’ for gender equality

Senior United Nations officials from around the world are marking International Women’s Day with calls to “Step It Up” with more resources and greater political action to achieve gender equality by 2030.

“I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.

“Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”

Listing successes during the past eight years within the UN linked to gender equality and women’s empowerment, Mr. Ban said he has signed nearly 150 letters of appointment for women in positions for Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General.

“We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards,” he said. “Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers.”

The theme for this year’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The year 2030 is the deadline for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, as well as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.

The other half of the theme is a reference to UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, which asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap, by the 2030 deadline.

As part of this initiative, more than 90 Member States have pledged concrete actions “to crack some of the fundamental barriers to achievement of gender equality in their countries,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Given the “unprecedented” expressions of political will, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka called for the beginning of a countdown to substantive gender equality by 2030, supported by accountability and measurable actions.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

Promoting gender equality is also a top priority guiding the work of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

In her message, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called the promotion of gender equality “a transformational force for more just, inclusive and sustainable development.”

She noted that despite progress, steep obstacles remain before genuine equality is a reality for all women and girls.

“The new global agenda will succeed only if every country advances the rights, ingenuity and innovation of every one of its citizens, starting with girls and women,” Ms. Bokova said referring to the SDGs and Agenda 2030.

In Geneva, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke about his conversations with Syrian women who have been affected by the country’s five-year war.

In a video message, Mr. de Mistura said he has been able to see the women’s “enormous suffering and their dignity” and yet they have retained hope and given the international community hope.

“They have, and must have, the right to be part of the political process and the negotiations which we, at the UN, are planning to have. They are part of the future of Syria, of the present and of the past. They have much to say and much to teach us,” said Mr. de Mistura, who has established a special advisory board comprised solely of Syrian women to advise him about what is really needed in political aspects of Syria.

‘We must not allow protectors to become predators’ – UN field support chief

March 04 2016 – With 99 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse uncovered by the United Nations in 2015 – 69 of these in countries where peacekeeping operations are deployed – the Organization is today presenting its latest report on special measures to protect people from these crimes.

Last December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pledged to urgently reviewrecommendations made by an independent panel which found that the UN did not act with the “speed, care or sensitivity required,” when it uncovered information about crimes committed against children by soldiers – not under UN command – sent to the Central African Republic (CAR) to protect civilians.

Meanwhile, new allegations of sexual abuse have continued to emerge against UN peacekeepers in the country, with the UN Mission there, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, recently reporting seven new possible victims in the town of Bambari.

“It is greatly distressing when protectors, in rare instances, turn predators,” the UN Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, told the UN News Centre in an interview.


Under-Secretary-General Atul Khare, talks about the Organization’s latest report on special measures to protect people from sexual exploitation and abuse. Credit: UN News Centre


Mr. Khare, who today is presenting the newest set of measures for protection from sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as giving an update on the implementation of 45 measures introduced last year, noted that 22 of the cases in 2015 took place in CAR, while 16 were reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and nine in Haiti.

Improving assistance to victims

The Under-Secretary-General told the News Centre that first, the Organization and its partners must adopt a victim-centred approach, with urgent psychosocial and medical assistance provided to them, particularly when the victims are very young children.

“In this regard, the Secretary-General is proposing the creation of a trust fund. It would be funded voluntarily, but also from the salaries withheld from those who face significant allegations which have been substantiated,” Mr. Khare explained, noting that some $50,000 has been withheld so far.

Other proposals address the strengthening of the UN’s entire system of response and coordination, creating “safe spaces” for victims to lodge complaints against peacekeepers. These would exist in more locations, closer to the communities affected, and with the support of non-governmental organizations.

Enhanced transparency

A second set of recommendations deals with measures to enhance the UN’s transparency, such as an online database featuring all the information about the cases which is going to be available at the Conduct and Discipline website. It will contain details outlining the nature of the allegations, the number of victims per allegation, and the number of perpetrators per allegation.

“It will also identify the countries from which such perpetrators came, and it will update on the action taken, either by the UN or by the countries concerned, as regards investigation into these cases – whether they have been completed, what disciplinary measures were taken, and what criminal jurisdiction measures were undertaken by the countries to provide adequate, appropriate and exemplary punishment,” Mr. Khare said.

Stronger disciplinary measures

The presence of UN-led immediate response teams will also be strengthened, so that as soon as a complaint is received, evidence can be quickly collected and preserved for national investigators. As the UN does not have criminal jurisdiction, these investigators are expected to be appointed by the perpetrator’s country within a 10-day time limit of the alleged crime, and to have completed their investigations within six months.

“In cases where a particularly egregious offense has taken place, say for the rape of a child, then we will request that this period be shortened by half – appointing an investigator within five days, and completing the investigation within three months,” the senior official underlined.

He further noted that if a country fails to investigate, the Secretary-General has proposed that its peacekeepers no longer be deployed to work under the UN flag. Meanwhile, a very strong vetting mechanism has already been established, by which the Organization can verify the criminal past of prospective peacekeepers.

“Disciplinary measures have been strengthened since last year,” the Under-Secretary-General stressed, pointing out that not only will perpetrators be repatriated, but commanders are also at risk of being sent home “for not being strong enough in their command and control.”

Preventative measures

Prevention is also a key element to the new report presented today. This includes pre-deployment training, mandatory online courses, and additional measures such as the enforcement of non-fraternization policies.

Asked whether deploying more women could further limit the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, Mr. Khare said he does believe that a greater participation of female peacekeepers would help, not only in the fight against this particular issue, but also to improve the overall quality of peacekeeping and the way in which the UN achieves its mandates worldwide.

North Korea: Ban welcomes Security Council measure tightening and expanding sanctions

The United Nations Security Council today unanimously adopted a resolution that imposes new sanctions and tightens some of its existing measures against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), due to the country’s ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile-related activities that “threaten international peace and security.”

“Today’s unanimous action by the Security Council has sent a clear message that the DPRK must return to full compliance with its international obligations,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement issued by his spokesperson, in which the UN chief urged the East Asian country to abide by the resolution and called upon all UN Member States to ensure its implementation.

“This firm response by the Security Council should put an end to the cycle of provocation and lead to the resumption of dialogue in accordance with the unified view of the international community,” he added.

The Secretary-General also reiterated the critical role of international assistance in safeguarding the lives of millions in the country, while renewing his call on the DPRK to do more for the lives of its people. “Genuine improvement in human rights is a necessary basis for long-term security and stability,” he stressed.

In the resolution, which was sponsored by the United States, the 15-member body condemned “in the strongest terms” the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on 6 January, noting that it was “in violation and flagrant disregard” of the Council’s prior resolutions. It further condemned the country’s launch of 7 February, which used ballistic missile technology and was a “serious violation.”

As a result of such incidents, the new measure expands sanctions against the DPRK by imposing a ban on all exports including coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth metals, and banning the supply of all types of aviation fuel, including rocket fuel.

The new resolution also requires States to inspect all cargo to and from the DPRK, not just those suspected of containing prohibited items, as was previously the case. It also bans leasing or chartering of vessels or airplanes and providing crew services to the country, and registering vessels, while calling on States to de-register any DPRK owned or controlled vessels. Additionally, it decides that States shall ban any flights and deny entry into their ports of any vessel suspected of carrying prohibited items.

Regarding financial sanctions, the resolution broadens their scope by imposing an asset freeze on all funds and other economic resources owned or controlled by the DPRK government or by the Worker’s Party of Korea, if found to be associated with its nuclear or ballistic missile programme or any other prohibited activities.

An additional 13 individuals are designated in the resolution as subject to the travel ban and asset freeze, including several representatives of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation and the Tanchon Commercial Bank. It designates 12 new entities as subject to the asset freeze, including the Ministry of Atomic Energy and the Reconnaissance Energy Bureau, described as the DPRK’s premiere intelligence organization.

The text also tightens existing financial restrictions by banning the opening and operation of any offices of DPRK banks abroad, as well as the opening of new offices of foreign financial institutions in the DPRK under all circumstances, unless approved by the Sanctions Committee in advance.

Turning to the arms embargo, which has been in effect since 2006, the resolution broadens its scope to include small arms and light weapons, which had previously been excluded. It includes a provision that imposes a ban on the transfer of any item, except food and medicine, if a State has reason to believe that it can contribute to the development and capabilities of the DPRK’s armed forces.

Finally, the 19-page text underlines several times that measures imposed by it are not intended to have negative effects on the country’s citizens. “Measures imposed […] and this resolution are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK or to affect negatively those activities, including economic activities and cooperation.”