News in Brief 12 October 2017 (AM)

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Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UN Photo/Manuel Elias (file)

Withdrawal of US from UNESCO "deeply regrettable": Bokova

The decision by the United States government to withdraw from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is "deeply regrettable" and a "loss for multilateralism".

That's the view of UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, who on Thursday described the move as a "loss to the United Nations family".

She said that "at the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education" and dialogue between cultures "to prevent hatred", US involvement in UNESCO was more needed than ever.

According to news reports, the US based its decision to leave the 195-member body on financial considerations as well as a perceived bias against Israel.

In her statement, Ms Bokova pointed to multiple UNESCO programmes and partnerships focussing on fighting antisemitism and genocide.

She added that despite the 2011 US decision to withhold funding for UNESCO, the aims and values of many of its programmes were "shared by the American people".

"This is not just about World Heritage" she said, but about "strengthening the bond of humanity's common heritage in the face of forces of hatred and division."

Cambodian democracy "under threat" from constitutional changes

Changes to Cambodia's constitution that seek to dissolve the country's main opposition party are a threat to democracy there, a UN rights expert said on Thursday.

The warning by Rhona Smith, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, comes amid moves to redistribute parliamentary seats held by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to other groups.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha remains in pre-trial detention on conspiracy charges ahead of national elections next year.

Since his arrest last month, almost half of his party's MPs have left the country.

The CNRP is the only opposition party represented in the National Assembly.

Ms Smith stressed that all electoral law must respect international human rights and must reflect the principles of fairness, justice and public participation.

"The move by the Cambodian government to dissolve the CNRP which is currently the main political opposition, removes the voice of those Cambodians who voted for CNRP, and it also limits the choice of Cambodians in the national assembly elections next year."

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan remain "near record high levels"

Figures released on Thursday show that civilian casualties in Afghanistan remain "near record high levels".

The UN Mission in the country, UNAMA, said that in the first nine months of the year there were 2,640 killed and 5,379 injured; largely as a result of fighting on the ground between government forces and extremists.

UNAMA said this represented a six per cent decrease on the same period last year.

Suicide and other insurgent attacks, together with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), also "took a heavy toll" on Afghan civilians, with those living in the provinces of Kandahar, Kabul, Helmand, Nangarhar and Faryab, suffering the heaviest loss of life.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration:  2’51″

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