News in Brief 01 November 2017 (PM)

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Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, addresses the General Assembly meeting on the necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against his country. Cia Pak/UN Photo

United States votes against resolution to end Cuba embargo

The United States voted against a resolution in the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to end its economic embargo of Cuba.

It reverses the position taken last year by the administration of President Barack Obama, to abstain following debate on the measure, for the first time in 25 years.

Overall, 190 countries voted in favour of lifting the embargo, which has been in place for more than 50 years in opposition to Cuban government policies, with only the US and Israel voting against.

The US Ambassador, Nikki Haley, explained the Trump administration's decision by telling the Assembly that the Cuban government was continuing to deny its people basic democratic and human rights.

"The United States opposes this resolution today, in continued solidarity with the Cuban people, and in the hope that they may one day be free to choose their own destiny."

Speaking on behalf of Cuba in the General Assembly, foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said that Ms Haley was "hiding in a cave" and ignoring the truth when it came to lifting the decades-old embargo.

UN chief reaffirms solidarity of UN with New Yorkers following attack

The UN chief António Guterres spoke to the Mayor of New York on Wednesday, to reaffirm his solidarity with the city following Tuesday's deadly attack.

A total of eight people were killed, and 12 injured, according to latest reports, after a man driving a truck hit them on a cycle path in downtown Manhattan.

News reports say that the man, originally from Uzbekistan, left notes indicating support for the terrorist group ISIL, or Daesh.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said the Secretary-General had spoken to US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday night, to express his condolences.

"The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured…This morning, he spoke to Mayor Bill di Blasio a few hours ago to reaffirm his solidarity with the people of New York City."

Vulnerable South Sudanese need to see UN is "impartial, neutral"

Vulnerable South Sudanese civilians living in hard to reach areas need to see for themselves that the UN is impartial and neutral.

That's the view of David Shearer, head of the UN peacekeeping mission in the world's youngest country, UNMISS.

He's promised a more "nimble and proactive" approach, and on Wednesday he visited Akobo, in the north-east of the country, close to Ethiopia.

"It's clear that the needs of people in this location are immense," said Mr Shearer, "so UNMISS is looking at ways of extending a presence in the town."

Some 71,000 displaced people are currently living in Akobo and the  surrounding area after fleeing fighting between government and opposition forces in the north-east.

"Both to communicate with people here but also to demonstrate that UNMISS is impartial and it's neutral, it's important for us to be here and to see this as well."

Akobo lies in an opposition-held part of South Sudan. "As UNMISS, we need to reach communities in need in all parts of the country, regardless of their ethnic or political background," said Mr Shearer.

UN leaders reiterate commitment to eliminate sexual harassment

In a letter to staff on Tuesday, the UN chief and heads of UN staff councils and unions reiterated their commitment to eliminating sexual harassment.

Secretary-General António Guterres and other signatories said that while the organization had a "clear policy" and investigative process on harassment, that in itself was not enough.

Several high-profile men have stepped down or been sacked from leadership positions in recent days, after dozens of women came forward alleging sexual harassment by the powerful US-based film producer Harvey Weinstein.

More details on the letter, from Stéphane Dujarric.

"We all have a duty and an obligation to create an environment that is welcoming to all, where everyone feels valued and where each colleague can perform at their best regardless of who they are or where they are from.  Many staff, both victims and witnesses, accept harassment as an everyday reality.  But this should not be so."

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3'37"

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