Category: Middle East

UN humanitarian chief urges: ‘prevent entire generation from being lost in Syria.’

Some 13.4 million Syrians throughout the beleaguered country are in need of assistance, the UN humanitarian office said on Saturday, calling for “greater access and expanded funding”, to better help them.

Concluding a seven-day visit to Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, in his first official mission in the region since assuming the function of UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths stressed that “the UN needs to be able to reach people who depend on its aid both from Turkey and from within Syria”.

Humanitarians and donors must keep Syria high on our collective agenda to prevent an entire generation being lost”, Martin Griffiths underscored.

During meetings with the Syrian Foreign Minister and his deputy, Mr. Griffiths emphasised the need to expand humanitarian access, protect civilians and help Syrians envision a future for themselves.

So far, the United Nations and its partners have received only 27 per cent of the funding needed for its 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria, which seeks $4.2 billion.

And the $5.8 billion Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan aims to help over 5.5 million Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey is only 19 per cent funded, according UN News.

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UN rights chief tells Member States: Afghanistan women’s rights are ‘red line’.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet led calls on Tuesday for Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders to respect the rights of all Afghans and warned that the treatment of women and girls is a “fundamental red line” that should not be crossed.

Speaking at the opening of an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a little over a week since the Taliban swept to power, Ms. Bachelet reminded UN Member States of credible reports of violations of international humanitarian law against civilians in areas under their control.

These reports, she said, make it especially important that the Human Rights Council work in unison to prevent further abuses, and that Member States establish a dedicated mechanism to monitor the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan and, in particular, the Taliban’s implementation of its promises. 

Ms. Bachelet added that “a fundamental red line will be the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls, and respect for their rights to liberty, freedom of movement, education, self-expression and employment, guided by international human rights norms.

In particular, ensuring access to quality secondary education for girls will be an essential indicator of commitment to human rights”, according UN News.

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UN official briefs Security Council: no end to Yemen civil war on the horizon.

No progress has been made by parties in Yemen to reach a political agreement to settle the civil war, which is now in its seventh year, a senior UN official for the Middle East region told the UN Security Council on Monday. 

It is imperative to resume an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict,” said Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Khaled Khiari.

Khaled Khiari referred to a 2015 peace plan, which called for a nationwide ceasefire, the reopening of Sana’a airport, the easing of restrictions on fuel and goods flowing through Hudaydah port, and the resumption of face-to-face political negotiations

Mr. Khiari said that the Houthis continue to make the opening of Hudaydah ports and Sana’a airport, as well as on the ending of what they call the “aggression and occupation”, conditions of their renewed participation in the political process.  

Moreover, negotiations facilitated by Saudi Arabia on the Riyadh Agreement – which were focused on the return of the Prime Minister and other ministers to Aden – have yet to resume following the Eid break in July.  

Timely progress on the accord’s implementation remains vital to address the tensions in the south, he explained, according UN News.

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UN chief tells Security Council: ‘now is the time to stand as one’ on Afghanistan.

As desperate Afghans were trying to escape the Taliban and board planes, during chaotic scenes at Kabul airport on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for international unity on Afghanistan, in a briefing to an emergency session of the UN Security Council

Antonio Guterres appealed for the UN Security Council to stand as one, and ensure that human rights are upheld, humanitarian aid continues, and that the country does not again become a platform for terrorism.

“The following days will be pivotal”, said the UN chief. 

“The world is watching.

We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan”. 

The UN Secretary-General noted that the international community is following the developments in Afghanistan “with a heavy heart and deep disquiet about what lies ahead.” 

After seizing large swaths of territory in recent months, the Taliban on Sunday took control of the capital, Kabul, home to some six million people.   

President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, according to media reports, and desperate residents have been scrambling to the airport to get flights out. 

“At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met,” said Mr. Guterres. 

Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Ghulam M. Isaczai, spoke of the fear that has gripped Kabul; people displaced from other provinces had flocked to the capital, viewed as the last refuge in the country.   

“Kabul residents are reporting that Taliban have already started house to house searches in some neighborhoods in Kabul, registering names and looking for people in their target list”, said Mr. Isaczai.

There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city”. 

Invoke Chapter VII 

The experts further urged the Security Council “to take appropriate action under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to safeguard the human rights and humanitarian needs of the people of Afghanistan, including its most vulnerable, and to address the role of Member States to prevent acts of terrorism under international law.” 

Chapter VII concerns Council response to threats to peace, breaches of peace, or acts of aggression, and allows for non-military and military action

They also recommended that countries should apply international sanctions against terrorist organizations, and ensure civilians have access to humanitarian aid as needs increase, according UN News.

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United Nations chief urges restraint as Taliban reach Kabul, UN Security Council set to meet Monday.

As the crisis in Afghanistan deepens by the hour, with reports that insurgent forces reached the country’s capital, Kabul, earlier on Sunday.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the Taliban and all other parties “to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and ensure that humanitarian can be addressed.”

Mr. Guterres is following with deep concern the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, as the conflict is forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

There continue to be reports of serious human rights abuses and violations in the communities most affected by the fighting.

“The United Nations remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement, promote the human rights of all Afghans, notably women and girls, and provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and critical support to civilians in need”.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters this past Friday, the UN Secretary-General stressed that there was still potential for stalled intra-Afghan talks taking place in Doha, Qatar, supported by the region and the wider international community, which could lead to a negotiated settlement.

On Monday, the Secretary-General will address the UN Security Council‘s open meeting on Afghanistan, according UN News.

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United Nations: Beirut’s youth rebuild the Lebanese capital.

Young people in Beirut, which was devastated by an explosion in a warehouse at the city’s port on 4 August 2020, have been pitching in to get the Lebanese capital back on its feet with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

With no employment prospects in sight, Rafah found it hard to stay positive, amid the destruction of her city.

A UNICEF project has since given her, and hundreds of others, fresh purpose, providing them with an income, and setting them a daunting task: the clean-up, and rehabilitation, of Beirut.

In the aftermath of the explosion, UNICEF staff, alongside partners on the ground, conducted house-to-house surveys of families, and a series of technical assessments of larger buildings.

They estimated that 300,000 people, including 100,000 children, were directly affected by the disaster.

Rafah is part of a 1,900 strong youth network, mobilized by the UN agency, focusing on cleaning, minor rehabilitation of houses and, critically, helping to reconnect homes to municipal and private water supplies.

The programme, Cash 4 Work, provides knowledge and training from fully-qualified professionals and, in a country whose economy is in a critical state, financial assistance.

‘There are no job opportunities in Lebanon’

The participants, primarily the most vulnerable and poorer members of society, who cannot find employment in the local job market, are paid to work.

The programme is also playing a part in bind this fractured society together, as the young men and women bond through teamwork, and a shared goal of successfully completing their projects and improving their surroundings.

“There are no job opportunities in Lebanon, so this programme helped me”, says Rafah.

“Now, when I look forward, I feel I did something for myself, and this is a nice achievement.

My personality has changed a lot”.

Her colleague, 24-year-old Mohammad, is equally upbeat about his time spent on the programme:

“We are training youth as painters and, in parallel, we are working with others on renovating houses damaged in the explosions, that haven’t been repaired in almost a year.

I am happy that I gained a skill, and I am still learning. To work on my future and achieve my goals, especially in these difficult times, is something special”, according UN News.

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