General Assembly elects 22 new members of UN Economic and Social Council

26 October 2009The General Assembly today elected 22 countries to serve on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the United Nations and the body responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of various UN specialized agencies, regional commissions and functional commissions. The General Assembly today elected 22 countries to serve on the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the principal organs of the United Nations and the body responsible for coordinating the economic, social and related work of various UN specialized agencies, regional commissions and functional commissions.During a secret ballot this morning at UN Headquarters in New York, Member States elected 18 countries to serve three-year terms starting on 1 January next year and four nations to replace New Zealand, Sweden, Greece and Portugal, which asked to relinquish their seats before the end of their current terms.The four countries proposed as replacements were Australia, Finland, Malta and Turkey, and they were duly elected today after obtaining the necessary two-thirds majority of countries present and voting. Australia and Finland will serve on ECOSOC from the start of next year until the end of 2010, while Malta and Turkey will serve through the end of 2011.ECOSOC’s 54-strong membership is chosen according to a formula to ensure geographical distribution, and the remaining 18 countries elected today were allocated thus: five seats for African States, four to Asian States, two for the Eastern European category, three for Latin America and the Caribbean, and four seats for the category of Western European and other States.In each of the five geographical categories, the number of endorsed candidates did not exceed the number of available seats.Ghana, Comoros, Zambia, Rwanda and Egypt were chosen for the African category, while Bangladesh, Mongolia, the Philippines and Iraq were selected in Asia. Ukraine and Slovakia won the two seats allocated to Eastern Europe.In Latin America and the Caribbean, Chile, the Bahamas and Argentina were each elected, while in the Western European and other States grouping, the countries selected were Italy, Belgium, Canada and the United States.ECOSOC’s membership includes 16 other countries whose terms expire at the end of next year: Brazil, Cameroon, China, the Republic of Congo, Malaysia, Moldova, Mozambique, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia, Saint Lucia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.Another 16 countries will end their terms on 31 December 2011: Côte d’Ivoire, Estonia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, India, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. read more

Women still suffer discrimination 30 years after global treaty banned it –

“Violence against women and girls is found in all countries,” he told a session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) marking the three decades of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). “The results are devastating for individuals and societies alike: personal suffering, stunted development and political instability.“So while we recognize the Convention’s successes, we must also acknowledge the urgent need for the entire UN system to support its full implementation,” he added, calling on the few countries that have not yet ratified the treaty to do so. Over 90 per cent of UN members – 185 countries – are party to the Convention, which Mr. Ban called “one of the most successful human rights treaties ever,” noting that is at the core of the global mission of peace, development and human rights. “From Cameroon to Morocco, from Kyrgyzstan to Thailand, it has been a catalyst for legal reforms and new national laws that enshrine women’s human rights and gender equality,” he said, citing “the huge strides” made towards realizing women’s human rights on the national and international stage, including at the UN, which has registered a 40 per cent increase in women in senior posts since he assumed office three years ago.“We must move beyond debates to concrete action that will increase the impact of the Convention,” he concluded. “Let us all work even harder to raise awareness and to work for the Convention’s full implementation worldwide.” 3 December 2009Thirty years after an international treaty banning discrimination against women came into force, women and girls are still suffering from the scourge, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today. read more

Pirates off Somalia committing more violence despite naval patrols – Ban

“The trend of the increased levels of violence employed by the pirates as well as their expanding reach is disconcerting,” Mr. Ban says in his latest report to the Security Council on piracy and armed robbery off Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast.“I appeal to all ships traversing the high seas off the coast of Somalia to follow IMO [International Maritime Organization] recommendations and industry-developed best management practices, which have proved to significantly reduce the risk of being hijacked,” he says.In the report, he welcomes steps taken to prosecute suspected pirates and imprison convicted offenders, expressing particular appreciation of efforts by Kenya and Seychelles in that regard, as well as to a number of UN Member States that have provided resources for the trial and incarceration of convicted pirates. He stresses, however, that much more needs to be done, including improvements in the collection of evidence and other investigative activities following arrests at sea, as well as finding long-term legal solutions to the scourge.UN Member States, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the European Police Office (Europol) are working together to expose international criminal networks that profit from acts of piracy off the Somali coast, Mr. Ban writes.“We need to know more about whether there are any connections to the financing of militias or insurgent groups in Somalia or elsewhere. Also, little is known about the impact of piracy on women, especially those living in areas where the criminals operate,” the Secretary-General says.He observes that piracy has had an immense impact on the economies of East Africa and other regions of the world, with international trade routes threatened and prices of goods rising as a result. He applauds efforts by Member States to coordinate international and bilateral response to piracy, both at the military and political levels, but stresses that sustainable resolution of the problem will only come when Somalia itself is stabilized.“There is an urgent need to combine the vital sea-based and judicial counter-piracy initiatives described in the present report with the search for a solution for Somalia as a whole, in support of the Djibouti Peace Agreement,” Mr. Ban says.He underlines the importance of Member States providing funding and resources directly to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as these funds and resources would help build the Government’s capacity to maintain law and order..The Secretary-General also expresses concern over the fate of the hundreds of seafarers held captive by pirates.“Their continued captivity, in some cases in confinement for extended periods, is unacceptable,” Mr. Ban writes, urging the TFG and regional administrations in the country to do their best to bring the maritime kidnapping for ransom to an end. 3 November 2010Naval patrols off Somalia’s coast have increasingly disrupted the activities of pirates, with many sea bandits arrested and prosecuted, but others have continued to seize ships using increasingly violent methods, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report. read more

Millions in Niger need help to avoid another food crisis warn UN

Last year the Government of Niger, supported by the UN, launched a massive humanitarian intervention which averted the worst effects of a food and nutrition crisis that threatened the lives of more than seven million people and the livelihoods of the country’s farmers and pastoralists. As part of that effort, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivered emergency food assistance to more than 5 million people, including vulnerable groups such as children under five, and pregnant or lactating women.In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) provided 13,000 tonnes of animal feed and distributed over 3,400 tonnes of quality seeds, covering 94 per cent of affected villages. These interventions, coupled with a good rainy season in 2010, led to a 60 per cent increase in domestic cereal production. Livestock that survived the drought were also restored to health as pastures returned.However, according to a joint assessment published today by the two Rome-based UN agencies, the acute malnutrition rate was still above 15 per cent in most parts of the country in October and November, reaching 17 per cent in the area around Agadez and Zinder.“Food and non-food assistance is still necessary to reconstitute the resilience capacity of the affected populations to allow them to have independent access to food,” said the report.The agencies are calling for assistance to pastoralists to help them replenish their livestock, help with restoring cereal banks and reconstituting the national grain stock, as well as continued support of feeding centres for malnourished people. Assistance needs to begin immediately, they stressed, so that farmers will have the necessary quality seeds and fertilizers before the next planting season that starts in May. 20 January 2011The United Nations food agencies are urging continued assistance for Niger, where acute malnutrition rates remain high despite a good harvest and millions need help to avoid another food crisis. read more

UN officials laud vital role of civil society in tackling HIVAIDS epidemic

“The engagement of civil society and the private sector is indispensable in holding governments accountable, in ensuring that the AIDS response respects human rights, and in advocating for the creation of legal and social environments that protect people from infection and support social justice,” General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said at the start of the civil society hearing held at UN Headquarters. Today’s meeting will inform discussions at the High-Level Meeting on AIDS, which will be convened by the General Assembly from 8 to 10 June in New York. The participants include people living with HIV as well as those representing segments of the population most affected by the epidemic.Mr. Deiss emphasized that the response to AIDS must include – at all levels – people living with, and affected by, HIV. “Their perspective and experience are unique and have provided a wellspring of insight and breakthroughs,” he said, noting in particular that civil society’s involvement in today’s hearing should help boost effort to overcome stigma and discrimination.Also speaking at the hearing, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked civil society for its energy and activism, which has contributed to preventing the spread of HIV, helping millions of people access treatment and pushing for a cure.“Even though you were not in government, you knew all governments had a responsibility to respond to this epidemic with compassion and action,” he said. In a report launched last month in preparation for the June meeting, Mr. Ban urged world leaders to take bold decisions to tackle the AIDS epidemic, warning that recent gains, while laudable, are fragile.“My report does more than just take stock,” he stated. “It is a cry for action. This year is a moment of truth in the global AIDS response.”He noted that while there have been extraordinary gains in recent years, funding has flatlined and HIV continues to spread. His report sets out a number of specific goals, including halving the sexual transmission of HIV, providing treatment for 13 million people, stopping all mother-to-child transmission, and ending stigma and discrimination.While governments are working to address these issues, constructive collaboration on the part of civil society can boost their efforts, he pointed out.“That is why I need you,” said the Secretary-General, who also pledged to take action and continue to personally urge government officials to advance the goals of no new infections, no stigma or discrimination, and no AIDS-related deaths.Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Luiz Loures, the Director of UNAIDS Executive Office, also participated in today’s hearing. Civil society has played a “pivotal” role in the response to AIDS, Dr. Loures told a news conference held on the sidelines of the event. In addition, the hearing is taking place at a “very special moment,” given that 2011 marks 30 years of the epidemic. There have been significant changes in that time, he said.“We have much more progress, there is no question,” he said, noting, among other elements, that there are about six million people receiving treatment for AIDS today as compared to less than 200,000 at the time of the last General Assembly special session on the issue in 2001. But challenges remain, he added, citing issues such as ensuring the rights of men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, sex workers, migrants and other vulnerable groups. 8 April 2011As representatives of civil society and the private sector met with governments today to discuss how to advance the response to HIV/AIDS ahead of a high-level meeting in June, United Nations officials lauded the vital role played by non-governmental actors in tackling the epidemic. read more

UN agency welcomes G20 decisions aimed at boosting food security

G20 agriculture ministers meeting in Paris, plus international specialists, announced a series of measures they said are aimed at stabilizing world food prices. “Today’s agreement sends a clear message that the world’s largest economies are serious about protecting the poorest and most vulnerable from the crushing impact of high and volatile food prices,” WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, commenting on the agreement. “It offers hope for the nearly one billion people on the frontlines of hunger.” ensure the hungry have access to food through WFP in emergencies by removing export barriers for humanitarian food; give vulnerable nations predictable access to sufficient food in times of need; protect humanitarian food supply chains against price and supply shocks; and strengthen assessments of food needs by launching a new global Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) and a Rapid Response Forum. The declaration, “which comes at a critical moment for the world’s hungry,” would reaffirm “the right of all people to safe, sufficient, nutritious food and the critical importance of rapid action to meet urgent food requirements,” she added. 23 June 2011The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed today’s declaration adopted by the Group of 20 (G20) as a message that the world’s largest economies are serious about helping the poor and strengthening food security. read more

UN envoy welcomes step on sanctions against violators of children in Somalia

“Starting today, in Somalia, if you kill, maim, recruit, use or sexually violate children, or if you attack their schools and hospitals, you can be sanctioned,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, in a statement.“This is one step closer to ending impunity of the worst violators of children in war.”Council members approved the tougher measures on Friday as part of a resolution extending and expanding the mandate of the eight-member UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia.The sanctions that can apply to individuals or entities which violate the rights of children include arms embargoes, travel bans and asset freezes.Ms. Coomaraswamy urged all partners working in child protection, including the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), “to redouble their efforts to gather reliable information on grave violations against children” so that they can help the Monitoring Group carry out its work. 2 August 2011The United Nations envoy advocating for the rights of children during armed conflicts today welcomed the Security Council’s decision to agree to apply sanctions against any individuals or entities that violate children’s rights. read more