News in Brief 21 November 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Member States to cooperate with the Human Rights Council. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Zeid: threats to Human Rights Council are unacceptable

Efforts by three Member States to undermine the Human Rights Council have been criticised strongly by UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.

In a statement on Tuesday, Zeid said he found it "unacceptable" that Burundi had threatened legal action against the authors of a UN report on the country, which had been requested by the Council.

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte was also censured for threatening to assault

UN Special Rapporteur Agnès Collamard.

The UN rights chief also singled out Eritrea's Ambassador to the Human Rights Council for accusing Special Rapporteur Sheila Keetharuth of carrying out a "witchhunt".

Rupert Colville is a spokesperson for the High Commissioner:

"As I said in the case of Burundi, the High Commissioner has written to the government making it very clear he finds their attack on the Commission of Inquiry report totally unacceptable. …you know, when these words come from the mouth of a president of a country they can lead to real harm occurring ."

Mr Colville underlined that government officials should cooperate with the Human Rights Council and its mandates, and that none is established "without good cause".

The 47-member body is scheduled to meet in Geneva three times a year.

Its next session is in March, but it is also gathering on Thursday for a special session on the Myanmar refugee crisis.

 

Half of all Syrians still in urgent need of help: OCHA

More than 13 million Syrians need humanitarian help urgently, the UN warned on Tuesday, a week before a new round of peace talks gets under way in Geneva.

Nearly seven years of war have ravaged the country, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced by fighting between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and opposition fighters.

In addition, 5.6 million people face "acute" needs, according to UN spokesperson Jens Laerke.

He's been speaking to journalists in Geneva, ahead of the launch of a report into Syria's most pressing humanitarian needs.

"The numbers have not changed that much, and that is in fact the tragedy of it. They remain extremely high, over half, the number of, half of the population in need of humanitarian assistance."

Meanwhile, it was also announced on Tuesday that Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura has travelled to Saudi Arabia, where Syrian opposition parties are due to meet for the second time.

The development comes ahead of an eighth round of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva beginning on Tuesday 28 November.

A statement issued by Mr de Mistura's office noted that the meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh was in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254.

It calls for the Syrian Government and opposition to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process "on an urgent basis".

Manus island refugees at increasing risk, warns UNHCR

To Papua New Guinea now, where there's serious concern for refugees and asylum-seekers involved in a "stand-off" at a detention centre on Manus Island, three weeks after Australia closed the facility, the UN has warned.

The UN Refugee Agency, (UNHCR) made the announcement on Tuesday, its third such statement in recent weeks.

Deputy Regional Representative Nai Jit Lam said that nearly 400 individuals are refusing to leave the facility, in protest at being moved to Manus Island.

Here he is speaking over the phone to journalists in Geneva:

"We are seeing for ourselves, visiting the former centre, people are increasingly physically and mentally unwell. The lack of clean water as you probably have seen with refugees and asylum-seekers digging for wells, you know, that and together with the associated risk of disease is becoming a major concern."

UNHCR has called on the Australian government to help find a solution to the problem amid growing security concerns for the refugees and asylum-seekers on the island.

$3 billion appeal for Caribbean after hurricane devastation

And finally, international donors gathered in New York on Tuesday in support of a $3 billion appeal to rebuild Caribbean communities devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.

Major pledges totaling nearly $300 million have already been flagged by the European Union, Canada and the World Bank.

In addition to the much-needed investment, the UN Development Programme's Deodat Maharaj said that the twin aim of the conference was to make the Caribbean less vulnerable to future climatic threats, with the help of the international community:

"We don't expect to get $3 billion in pledges but what will happen is we will get a significant amount of pledges and what we are keen on is to help facilitate a long-term partnership for the Caribbean, one of the most climate-vulnerable places on the planet which faces an existential threat from climate change."

Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean region days after each other in early September.

One of the worst hit islands was Barbuda, which lost 90 per cent of its houses when the storms hit.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 5’04″

 

 

 

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