News in Brief 01 March 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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A boy clutches and looks through a chain-link fence, on a rainy day near the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia town of Gevgelija, on the border with Greece. September 2015 Photo: UNICEF/UNI196199/Georgiev

Europe urged to "wake up" on refugees' issue

Europe's inaction on refugees has brought it to the brink of a "self-inflicted humanitarian crisis", the UN said Tuesday, warning governments to "wake up" to the issue once and for all.

As thousands of people continue to arrive in Greece every day, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said it was crucial that the European Union relocates the more than 60,000 people it has pledged to take in.

To date, only a fraction of that number has been helped, risking a repeat of the chaotic movement of people through Europe last year.

Here's UNCHR's Vincent Cochetel:

"You look at the number of pledges, it's below the daily arrival rate in Greece. So what (does) Europe want? It's time for Europe to wake up. Either we have massive orderly relocation , either we will have a repeat of what we had last year."

One of the refugee agency's main concerns is that more European countries have imposed border restrictions.

In the first two months of 2016, more than 122,000 people made the perilous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece – it took around six months last year to reach that number.

Russia proposal aims to thwart "chemical terrorism"

A Russian bid to take the lead at the UN against so-called "chemical terrorism" might just break the decades-old deadlock at the organisation's Conference on Disarmament, delegates heard Tuesday.

Announcing the proposal was Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called for a "fresh approach" on Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMD, as they're also known.

Lavrov's comments were spoken by an interpreter:

"The threat of WMD falling into the hands of non-state actors is generally recognised… However, we still face significant gaps related, in particular, to the use of chemicals for terrorist purposes."

Based in Geneva, the UN-led Conference on Disarmament has produced fundamental international treaties aimed at upholding global security.

Despite major achievements, however, such as the Comprehensive-Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention in the 1990s, the Russian Foreign Minister noted the "serious differences" at the Conference on Disarmament that have blocked progress.

Sergey Lavrov also highlighted reports that terrorist groups have seized factories with the aim of making chemical weapons, and that this should be addressed with a new convention at the Geneva assembly.

Celebrating 50 years of two UN treaties that fight inequality

The 50th anniversary of the adoption of key UN treaties is a cause for celebration, but they need much wider ratification to stop ongoing inequality, the UN's chief human rights official said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said that the UN's International Covenants on Human Rights committed states to ensure respect for the rights of all their people.

But despite their broad remit, the world's economic inequalities are deepening, High Commissioner Zeid said:

"When 62 people enjoy the same wealth as 3.8 billion individuals and the wealth of the poorest part of the world's population is diminishing steadily, we are far from the  covenants' vision of freedom from want.

There are in fact two international covenants and both were adopted in 1966 by the UN General Assembly.

One covers civil and political rights, the other focuses on economic, social and cultural  responsibilities.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3'23"

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