Syria still suffering ‘staggering levels’ of humanitarian need, Security Council hears

Syria still suffering ‘staggering levels’ of humanitarian need, Security Council hears

© UNICEF/UN0248372/WatadChildren at a school tent in the northern Idlib, Syria. Humanitarian emergencies deprive children of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and other basic needs.    26 February 2019Peace and Security

“Staggering levels” of humanitarian need persist throughout Syria, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told Security Council members on Tuesday.

Speaking on behalf of UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock, Reena Ghelani, OCHA’s Director for Operations and Advocacy, said that this year, an estimated 11.7 million people will require life-saving humanitarian assistance across the country.Developments in Syria from December to January:

  • Some 25,000 people displaced from this the south-eastern Deir-ez-Zor Governorate to the Al Hol camp.
  • The humanitarian situation in Rukban continued to deteriorate, additional humanitarian assistance is being prepared to accommodate 42,000 people.
  • Heavy flooding in the north-east and north-west destroyed IDP camp shelters and secondary displacements of already extremely vulnerable people.
  • In Idlib, changes in control in some areas, led to funding suspensions, reducing health services cover for some civilians.
  • Humanitarian organizations continued to report attacks on educational and medical facilities, include eight incidents targeting schools and hospitals.
  • UN humanitarian assistance fed an average of 3.37 million people each month and provided treatment for nearly three million people.
  • The UN and NGOs continued to deliver assistance to more than 700,000 people each month in the country’s north-eastern part.

Nearly eight years on since mass-protests first began against the Syrian Government in 2011, she painted a picture of what life is like for some 41,000 displaced mainly women and children in Rukban camp, near the Syria-Jordan border, calling it “a dire humanitarian situation” where people struggled for survival, face hunger and lacked the most basic necessities.

Although the UN and Syrian Arab Red Crescent delivered essential aid, as part of the largest convoy of the entire war – vaccines and logistical items in 133 trucks during a 10-day mission earlier this month – “the gravity of the situation for civilians in Rukban means that sustained humanitarian access is needed moving forward”, she explained, noting that supplies are expected to last “only 30 days.”

Moreover, she flagged that internally displaced persons (IDPs) expressed concerns over their lack of documentation, safety and security, worrying particularly about detention and military conscription.

The UN remains “extremely concerned” for civilians who remain in the last ISIL-held areas in south-eastern Deir-ez-Zor Governorate, and for those who were able to flee the fighting, Ms. Ghelani told the Council.

She pointed out that since late last year, over 37,000 people fled from Hajin to the A1-Hol camp some 300 kilometres to the north, where “three-quarters of the total population…is now made up of women and children under the age of five.” Moreover, thousands more are expected to arrive at in the coming days.

“Response efforts are being scaled up in Al Hol camp, but also in Hajin and surrounding areas, despite considerable security challenges,” she stated. Adding that the UN had established a transit centre midway between Hajin and A1 Hol.

Meanwhile, although the demilitarized-zone agreement between Turkey and Russia to protect millions of civilians in Idlibstaved off an immediate escalation of fighting in the last rebel-held enclave in Syria, dozens of civilians have still died or been injured due to conflict increased fighting over the last few weeks.

She thanked donors for their generous $5 billion support in 2018 and urged Member States to “ensure timely funding” for humanitarian operations in Syria and neighboring refugee-hosting countries in 2019.

“The [pledging] Conference in Brussels on 12-14 March will be a critical marker in this regard”, Ms. Ghelani said.

Yemen sanctions renewed

Earlier on Tuesday, the Security Council adopted a resolution renewing for a year, financial and travel ban sanctions against any actors who threaten the peace, security and stability of Yemen.

The Council also reaffirmed a 2015 arms embargo against the Houthi rebel group and forces loyal to the deceased former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his son Ahmed Saleh.

In addition to renewing the sanctions, it extended the mandate of the Yemen Panel of Experts until March 2020, requesting that an update be presented to the Yemen Sanctions Committee by the end of July, and a final report to the Council by 28 January next year.

Last week, the Council issued a press statement stressing the “critical importance” of the parties’ implementing their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement, and called for “the immediate implementation” of the first phase of the redeployment of forces.

‘Informing is not a crime’ UN chief calls for better protection of journalists, press freedom

‘Informing is not a crime’ UN chief calls for better protection of journalists, press freedom

Public DomainA video journalist covers a news event.    25 February 2019Culture and Education

Paying tribute to reporters around the world who “put their lives on the line” to tell important stories, UN chief António Guterres lamented on Monday that freedom of the press was increasingly “shrinking” worldwide, and called on decision-makers to better protect journalists and media workers.

“We’ve come a long way towards realizing freedom of expression, and other fundamental freedoms. The right to access to information is entrenched in law in over a hundred countries,” said Secretary-General Guterres during the event, which marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Association of UN Correspondents (ACANU). “But despite these advances, in recent years, civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate”, he explained.

In just over a decade, more than 1,000 journalists have been killed while carrying out their work. In nine out of 10 cases, no one was held accountable. Last year alone, the UN agency advocating for freedom of the press, UNESCO, reported that at least 99 journalists were killed and thousands more were attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process. Women journalists are often at greater risk of being targeted, including through online threats of sexual violence.

The Secretary-General stressed that the vast majority of those detained and attacked are local journalists working in their own countries and communities, and that “most of the journalists and media workers killed, injured and detained were covering politics, crime, corruption and human rights,” not conflict.

Calling this state of affairs “outrageous,” the UN chief stated that “when journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price” as “no democracy is complete without press freedom”.

“Journalism and the media are essential to peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights for all – and to the work of the United Nations,” he noted, paying tribute to reporters who “go to the most dangerous places on earth, to bring us important information, to give a voice to people who are being ignored and abused, and to hold the powerful to account”.

“In the two years since I became Secretary-General, the media has brought to light dramatic human suffering in conflict zones, major cases of corruption and nepotism, ethnic cleansing, premeditated sexual and gender-based violence and more, from every corner of the globe,” said Mr. Guterres. “In some cases, these reports were the basis for further investigations by independent observers and human rights reporters”.

The UN chief called on Governments and the international community to “protect journalists and media workers, and to create the conditions they need to do their essential work, and to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of attacks on them”. 

The United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council have condemned attacks on journalists and expressed their support for media freedom through many different frameworks and processes, including the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, a strategy to support the environment journalists need, to perform their vital work. In addition, the UN General Assembly has designated 2 November as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

Deploring the increasing amount of misinformation in the digital age, Mr. Guterres went on to explain that the UN is stepping up its work in media and information literacy, to help people with the knowledge and skills they need to detect deliberate disinformation, counter hate-speech and defend media freedom. The organisation is also working on monitoring violence against journalists, “an important indicator for sustainable development”.

Finishing on what he termed “a positive note,” the UN chief said that the digital age is also full of opportunities. 

“There are many clear signs that the public is starting to understand how important it is to look for information sources that are authoritative,” said Mr. Guterres. “The public will always need reliable information and analysis provided by free and diverse media,” he noted.

“Your work reminds us that truth never dies, and that our attachment to the fundamental right that is freedom of expressions must also never die… Informing is not a crime,” he concluded.

Secretary-General’s remarks to UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit [as delivered]


Secretary-General’s remarks to UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit [as delivered]

Welcome to the United Nations. 
 
I am very grateful to Kathy Calvin and the UN Foundation for making this happen.
 
I also thank Teta Banks, and the leadership of the United Nations Association of the United States. 
 
I want to congratulate you on the 75th Anniversary. We will have next year the commemoration of the 75th anniversary at the United Nations.
 
I hope there will be lots of occasions for interaction with the peoples of the world starting by the peoples of the United States of America in order for the UN to be able to reform and to be more able to respond to the aspirations and the needs of the peoples of this world.
 
Now before we start our conversation, allow me to make three very quick points.
 
First, a simple thank you — to you all as Americans.
 
Even at the height of the Second World War, UNA-USA’s founders knew that grassroots American support would be essential to create an organization that could win the peace.
 
Among them was Eleanor Roosevelt, who had such a profound influence in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and who worked so hard to build your organization after she retired as U.S. Ambassador to the General Assembly.
 
Throughout the history of the United Nations, since its founding in San Francisco in 1945, United States’ leadership and generosity have always been indispensable.
 
It is no coincidence that the first words of the UN Charter, “We the peoples” echo the U.S. Constitution. I believe the US Constitution starts by “We the people”. Here it is “We the peoples”, but it is the same inspiration.
 
I recall from my time as High Commissioner for Refugees the importance of U.S. support – the largest donor in humanitarian aid around the world.
 
The largest contributor to the United Nations’ core budget and to our peacekeeping operations.
 
Over the years, the United States has played a critical role in helping to provide multilateral answers to global challenges.
 
I always say that the US engagement in the world is one of the strongest forms of support to the United Nations and to our activities.
 
So, I’m very happy to be with all of you here today.
 
And then we need multilateralism and the engagement of the US more than ever because we live in testing times.
 
From climate change to migration to terrorism to the downsides of globalization, our challenges are more and more global, and more and more integrated.
 
But, the responses are more and more fragmented, despite the fact that no single country or organization can address these issues alone. It’s a kind of a paradox.
 
As our threats become more global our capacity response becomes more fragmented. That is why we are facing the enormous difficulties and problems we are facing in today’s world.
 
But of course, saying this is simply not enough.
 
Because there is a trust deficit out there in the world.  As inequality grows, people in all regions are questioning the effectiveness of international cooperation and organizations like the UN.
 
The biggest challenge for governments and for institutions like ours is to be able to show that we care – that we care especially for those people that feel like they are being left behind with the technological progress and globalization in the Rust Belts of this world – to show that we are able to mobilize solutions that respond to people’s fears and anxieties with answers, with concrete answers for the problems we view.
 
We need to demonstrate that the UN is standing up for people left behind and is connected to their needs, aspirations and everyday problems.
 
And I believe the UN is delivering. 
 
In the last two months alone, we won approval of the work programme of the Paris Climate Agreement on climate change in Katowice. 
 
Many people thought we would not be able to do it, but it was possible to bring together all countries of the world.  We didn’t solve the climate change problem, but at least we approved the work plan and the Paris Agreement.
 
We adopted also the Global Compact on Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees. 
 
And in our surge of diplomacy for peace – supported by the UN – we are trying and we are starting to succeed in some very important situations of conflict resolution. 
 
You have seen that it was possible to broker a ceasefire in Hudaydah in Yemen. Let’s hope it brings peace and the political agreement.
 
We have recently had an important peace agreement in Central African Republic. South Sudan it was possible to bring together the two leaders and to finally look for the possibility of peace in this country where people have suffered so much. 
 
And, the US was so strongly engaged for the independence of South Sudan. I believe that peace in South Sudan has a huge meaning for the population of the United States.
 
But, to deliver more, we need to have a UN that is more nimble, more effective, more cost effective and is more able to overcome the bureaucratic problems and impediments that always exist in international organizations.
 
To do all this we need you.
 
When I look out on all of you from dozens of states and universities around this country –
I see ambassadors. 
 
Ambassadors for understanding, cooperation and connecting the world of the United Nations with the grassroots.
 
There is no more important issue today than – in this context, and I would single out this problem because it is probably the most dramatic that we are facing – we need together to address the climate change crisis.
 
And, I know you agree with me.
 
A recent UN Foundation poll found that climate change is a top priority for young Americans.
 
Climate change is unfortunately running faster than our efforts to slow it.
 
There is good news because there are solutions at hand in the pipeline. There is technological evolution that makes more and more the green economy – the economy of the future.
 
But political will is still lagging behind.
 
That is why I am convening a climate action summit in September here in New York to raise ambition – ambition for mitigation, for adaptation, for financing, for innovation to really defeat climate change.
 
Today, I am asking for your help in sounding the alarm and highlighting the solutions.
 
I am going to Tweet a call for #ClimateAction, and I want you all to respond on Twitter, highlighting the steps you are taking to beat the climate challenge.
 
I will feature some of your responses on my Twitter account – that [way] we will be together in this very important endeavour.
 
I firmly believe that we can win this race if we all pull together.
 
And, the same argument goes for all our other challenges – all other challenges we face in today’s world.
 
You are all committed multilateralists.
 
I thank you for your service as ambassadors for a better world.
 
I feel inspired by your energy and by your engagement. 
 
Keep it up. Because we need you more than ever.
 
Thank you.
 
 
 

Parliamentarians directly called to take action on global issues by UN chief

Parliamentarians directly called to take action on global issues by UN chief

UN Photo/Cia PakThe 17 Sustainable Development Goals projected on UN headquarters, New York, 2015.    21 February 2019UN Affairs

Addressing parliament elected officials from around the world gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Thursday for an annual hearing, UN chief António Guterres called for their support on legislation and financing of global solutions to global problems, such as climate change, uncoordinated migration and the dangers of some new technologies.

“As a former parliamentarian, I have felt the heavy responsibility of representing people and trying to advance their aspirations,” said UN Secretary-General Guterres, who was elected to the Portuguese Parliament seven times, and served as Prime Minister for the country for over six years.

Parliaments can be bastions of democracy, and crucial links between the national and the global. Through legislation and spending decisions, parliamentarians can contribute significantly to the Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs)” he told members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the 130-year-old an organization that works in partnership with the UN  to enhance accountability and ensure parliamentarians are involved in global decisions. 

The Secretary-General, who was elected to parliament at 26, lamented that “parliaments are still largely a sphere dominated by older men,” noting that “the world needs more women parliamentarians, and more young parliamentarians”.

It is our duty in parliaments and in the UN to re-establish trust – UN chief Guterres

The paradoxes and challenges of our time

He went on to highlight the main paradoxes the world faces today, namely: the fact that issues are more and more connected but that responses remain fragmented; a growing but slowing economy; the advances enabled by globalization and technological progress, which are also responsible for increased inequality.  

“People, sectors and regions are being left behind – creating a sense of frustration,” he noted. “This in turn has been a factor in reducing trust in governments, in political establishments, and in international organizations.”

“It is our duty in parliaments and in the UN to re-establish trust,” Mr. Guterres stated, delivering his remarks alongside UN General Assembly President, Maria Fernanda Espinosa.

Warning against the dangers of multipolarity, which he described as “a factor of equilibrium”, but “not a guarantee of peace and security”, he said the world needs a “networked” and “inclusive multilateralism”.  

“I am deeply convinced that there is no other way to deal with global challenges than with global responses, organized in a multilateral way,” he explained, saying this should include close cooperation with and among inter-governmental institutions such as the World Bank, the African Union, the Arab League and others, but also with the business community, civil society, academia, and parliaments.

‘Tests’ of cooperation

Mr. Guterres listed some current and growing major “tests” for international cooperation: climate change, migration, growing populism and nationalism, and emerging new technologies often described as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. 

“It’s time to show people that multilateralism can deliver,” he stated, highlighting the need to understand “why large sectors of the population in different parts of the world today feel abandoned”. 

Citing the many recent “good news” that prove the benefits of multilateralism and the UN – such as the recent peace deals in the Central African Republic and Yemen, the massive amounts of humanitarian aid delivered in 2018, UN reform, and recent global agreements on climate action and migration – he appealed to the parliamentarians in the room: “We need to show that politics is a noble undertaking and not merely the pursuit of power. And we need to demonstrate that our ideas, policies and programs aim at solving their problems.”

Increasing collective ambition for 2019

With the aim of achieving “even more in 2019,” the UN Secretary-General said he will be convening a Climate Summit in September “to mobilize action, partnerships, financing and, above all, ambition”.

Regarding new technologies, the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation is expected to report in the months ahead on how best to harness the benefits of new technologies and artificial intelligence while safeguarding against the risks.

In meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, safe and orderly migration, and women empowerment, he highlighted the “critical role” played by parliaments in defining good governance, ensuring oversight, building partnerships and allocating funding.

As a strategy and global plan of action is in the works for the prevention of genocides, the UN is also continuing to work to “prevent, mediate and resolve conflicts” and “tackle the rise of hate speech, xenophobia and the poisonous views that are penetrating political debates”.

“In all of these endeavours, I ask for your support, as the legislative branches of your governments, as political leaders in your countries, and as partners in advancing these common global goals,” concluded Mr. Guterres.

UNITED TO REFORM

https://reform.un.org

United to Reform UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made proposals to reform the United Nations since the beginning of his term in January 2017. To improve the delivery of our mandate, the United Nations is making sweeping changes in the following areas: Development Management Peace and Security Development. The 2030 Agenda will require bold changes to the UN development system for the emergence of a new generation of country teams, centred on a strategic UN Development Assistance Framework and led by an impartial, independent and empowered resident coordinator. Management. A new management paradigm for the Secretariat and a United Nations that empowers managers and staff, simplifies processes, increases transparency and improves on the delivery of our mandates. Peace and Security. The overarching goals of the reform are to prioritize prevention and sustaining peace; enhance the effectiveness and coherence of peacekeeping operations and special political missions and move towards a single, integrated peace and security pillar.

African continent ‘an example of solidarity’ towards migrants and refugees: UN chief

African nations are setting an example for richer countries when it comes to the treatment of refugees, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a press conference on Saturday, following a meeting with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The UN chief is in the Ethiopian capital to attend the annual African Union summit, which brings together Heads of State from across the continent. This year’s event, which begins on Sunday, will focus on the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons. Mr. Guterres, who spent 10 years as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, before taking up his position at the head of the organization, said that, in Africa, borders are open for refugees, and that the continent is in the leadership when it comes to addressing migration flows. The UN chief pointed out that, contrary to popular perception, there are more African migrants in other African countries than in Europe, and migration has been dealt with in a much more humane way. Mr. Guterres appealed for the UN’s global compacts on Migration and Refugees to be fully implemented. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR says that Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 per cent of the world’s refugee population. 18 million people in the region are of concern to UNHCR, with conflicts and ongoing crises in the Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria and South Sudan, as well as Burundi and Yemen, driving large increases in the numbers of refugees and displaced people. On the eve of the summit, the UN Childrens’ Fund, UNICEF, published a press release warning that 13.5 million children have been uprooted in Africa – including those displaced by conflict, poverty and climate change – and called on African leaders to implement policies and programmes to protect, empower and invest in refugee, migrant and displaced children. Mr. Guterres struck a generally positive note in the press conference, pointing to recent peace deals and conflict de-escalation across Africa. He cited the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea; the establishment of peace agreements in South Sudan; and elections in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mali, that took place in a peaceful context. The combined efforts of the African Union and the UN, he said, are producing results in conflict resolution and the prevention of conflicts, and Africa is seeing a “wind of hope” that can be extended to other parts of the world. However, he went to say that there cannot be peace without development, and that the international community must show more political will in this area, particularly in climate action, and show ambition for mitigation, adaptation, and finance: “We are losing the race with climate change and this can be a disaster for Africa and for world. Africa will pay an even higher price because of the dramatic impacts in the continent.”

Engaging women and girls in science ‘vital’ for Sustainable Development Goals

Boosting the number of women and girls entering careers involving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, UN chief António Guterres said on Monday, in a message to mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. However, women and girls remain “woefully under-represented”, said the Secretary-General, for reasons that include gender stereotyping, a lack of visible role models and unsupportive – or even hostile – policies and environments, at a national level. The Secretary-General called for concerted efforts to overcome these obstacles, tackle misconceptions about girls’ abilities, and promote access to learning opportunities for women and girls, particularly in rural areas. The International Day was established in 2015, following the adoption of a General Assembly resolution, signalling the international community’s interest in achieving equality and gender-parity in science for sustainable development, and recognizing that full access and participation in STEM subjects is imperative for the empowerment of women and girls. The 2019 theme of the Day is “Investment in Women and Girls for Inclusive Green Growth,” and a two-day event began on Monday at UN Headquarters in New York, bringing together global experts and leaders to evaluate the economic and social impact of women’s participation in science-based sustainable development programmes. The event featured a high-level panel focusing on the public-sector financing of science for green growth, investment to attract and retain high calibre women in science, and financing to ensure gender equality in science. The second day of the event, will discuss the factors that influence whether girls choose STEM subjects, as they transition from school to higher education: UN data shows that only around 30 per cent of female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. There will also be a panel convened by young change-makers and passionate advocates for girls in science from around the world, which aims to give girls the chance to gain core leadership skills, and the opportunity to present a vision for the use of science, to achieve sustainable development goals. Organizations and UN agencies across the world, led by UN Women and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have been commemorating the International Day through various events, articles and videos. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a video on Monday to coincide with the Day, in which eight successful nuclear scientists are asked how their gender has affected their career, highlighting the bias and prejudice that still exists in the industry.

Central African Republic: UN chief hails signing of new peace agreement

Following the signing of a peace agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and 14 non-state armed groups active in the country on Wednesday, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, congratulated all stakeholders and encouraged them to now “live up to their commitments”.

CAR has been grappling with conflict since 2012, as fighting between the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia and the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition killed thousands and left two out of three civilians dependent on humanitarian aid. In 2013, armed groups seized the capital and then President François Bozizé was forced to flee. After a brief period of reduced violence in 2015, and elections held in 2016, fighting intensified again at the end of the year.

Peace talks had started on 24 January this year in Khartoum, Sudan, and lasted 10 days under the auspices of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in CAR, led by the African Union (AU) with UN support. The deal was agreed in Khartoum, but formally-signed on Wednesday in CAR’s capital, Bangui.

Mr. Guterres commended the stakeholders for the successful conclusion of the talks, highlighting the “leadership role” of the AU and encouraged “all stakeholders to live up to their commitments in the implementation period”.

He reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to assist the Central African Republic “at this critical stage”, and called “on neighbouring countries, regional organizations and all international partners to support the courageous steps that Central Africans have made to bring lasting peace and stability in their country”.

Among other recent positive developments towards stability and accountability in the Central African Republic, political coordinator of the mainly Christian anti-Balaka militia faction, Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona, was transferred two weeks ago to the International Criminal Court to face accusations of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He had been arrested on 12 December last year in France, on a warrant for crimes allegedly committed in CAR during 2013 and 2014.

As the Central African Republic enters this new phase, the UN chief announced on Wednesday also that Mankeur Ndiaye of Senegal will be his new Special Representative to the country, mandated to head the UN’s stabilization mission there (MINUSCA). He succeeds Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon, who had been leading the Mission since August 2015.

The UN Secretary-General said he was “grateful” for Mr. Onanga-Anyanga’s “unwavering commitment”, stating that his “leadership, integrity, personal commitment and tireless efforts have been crucial, including in support of the ongoing peace process as part of the Panel of Facilitators of the African Initiative”.

Dramatic drop in South Sudan political violence since peace agreement signing

Since the signing of a September 2018 deal between the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his political rival and former deputy Riek Machar to end conflict in the country, political violence has “dropped dramatically,” David Shearer, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan told reporters on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Shearer said that many “positive things” have happened since the peace agreement, including several peace meetings around the country, and the integration of opposition and Government figures in the armed forces.

Despite the fall in political violence, conflict is still ongoing, said Mr. Shearer, pointing to, among others, ethnic violence that has led to killings, and in the South of the country, where the fighters of Thomas Cirillo’s National Salvation Front have been involved in clashes with Government forces.

Although Mr. Shearer expressed concern at a loss of momentum in the peace process, with recent meetings lacking substance or real outcomes, he stated that, overall, progress has been much better than expected, and urged the international community to “speak as one voice,” sending the message that the peace process is the only game in town.

Mr. Shearer’s press conference coincided with an appeal for funds from the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support displaced people and returnees in South Sudan. The UN Agency is appealing for $122 million, to help nearly one million people, and over 80 humanitarian and development partners throughout 2019.

In the five years since conflict broke out in South Sudan, more than four million people have fled their homes, and almost two million are displaced within the country. Since the peace deal between the warring parties was agreed last September, there have been signs of stability, leading to the prospect of more people returning to their homes: during his press conference,

Mr. Shearer, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan,  said that the success of the peace agreement will be partly measured by the extent to which people go back to their home towns and villages.

Welcoming this development, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission, cautioned that “although some people have decided to return home, many are still living in displacement sites. They will not be able to return in 2019. So, despite the signing of the revitalized peace agreement, conflict related displacement continues, albeit on a smaller scale than in the past.”

 

Libya: $202 million needed to bring life-saving aid to half a million people hit by humanitarian crisis

The United Nations and its aid partners, together with the interim Government of Libya, launched on Tuesday a humanitarian response plan (HRP), appealing for $202 million to bring urgent life-saving assistance to some 550,000 women, children and men affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The protracted political crisis that started in 2011 with demonstrations leading to the fall of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has developed into an armed conflict, forcing tens of thousands of families into displacement, and driving over a million people to depend on aid to survive as they are unable to afford the most basic things.

The UN Humanitarian/Resident Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro and Dr. Milad Al Taher, Minister of Local Governance, launched the plan at an event in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, alongside Fayez al-Sarraj, President of the Presidency Council, and Dr. Ghassan Salame, head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

Years of instability and insecurity have taken a toll on the wellbeing of many children, women and men in Libya. Each passing year, people struggle to withstand the impact of a crisis that has destabilized the country, put them in harm’s way, and ravaged the economy.” said Ms. Ribeiro.

In the foreword to the HRP, Ms. Ribeiro stressed: “Libya is now producing well over one million barrels of oil a day. However, this has not yet translated into tangible benefits for people. “Many Libyans get poorer every year. Basic health and education services decay, and frustrated citizens cannot understand why oil production and increased government revenue does not lead to improved living standards, security and well-being for all in Libya”.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), today, some 823,000 people, including around 248,000 children, are still in need of humanitarian assistance. This includes internally displaced persons and returnees, conflict-affected people, host communities and refugees and migrants who face grave human rights violations and abuse in the absence of rule of law.

The majority of people in need are in highly populated urban areas in the western and eastern regions of Libya. However, people with the most critical and severe needs are in the coastal area of Sirt and in the southern parts of the country (Murzuq, Sebha and Alkufra) where access is difficult due to violence and instability.

The funds required in the 2019 HRP are meant to provide food, health care, protection especially from buried explosive hazards which threaten the lives of entire communities, water and sanitation services, shelter, basic household items, and emergency education support for the most vulnerable.

In terms of food, the plan aims to provide immediate life-saving food supplies, but also support longer term recovery with the distribution of seeds, tools and other inputs for farming and fishing communities.

If adequately funded, humanitarian agencies will set up emergency medical teams and dispatch mobile teams to areas where medical staff is limited, to reinforce disease surveillance and control.

Water and sanitation is a high priority in detention centres which are crowded and unsanitary, schools in marginalized areas and camps for internally displaced people and refugees. Families in need of shelter will receive construction materials but also cash assistance – in the form of emergency grants, rental subsidies and actual cash.

“Ultimately, the future of Libya is very much in the hands of the Libyans… and many efforts are ongoing in this regard,” said Ms. do Valle Ribeiro. “But right now, while people are suffering, it is absolutely critical that the international community work together with national partners to make sure vulnerable people are supported and protected.”