• English
  • Русский

FROM THE FIELD: Humanitarian crises of concern in 2021

A woman survivor of gender-based violence in Kalemie, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. , by UNOCHA/Alioune Ndiaye

Syria and Yemen are probably the best known long-running conflict zones. A decade of fighting in Syria has seen millions of people displaced, many requiring humanitarian assistance. Yemen, meanwhile, remains the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, where the risk of large-scale famine has never been more acute.

Insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has compounded the country’s economic decline, and DRC now has the world’s second highest number of people who are classified as severely food insecure, and the highest number of internally displaced people in Africa. 

And in the Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, a perfect storm of climate change, weak governance, poverty and chronic underdevelopment have combined to create an unprecedented security and humanitarian crisis. 

Read more here about these, and other crises of major concern.
 

Palestinian elections raise hopes for two-State solution, Middle East Coordinator tells Security Council

“The depth of the task is daunting, but not insurmountable”, said Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General. “We must seize emerging opportunities.” 

With the upcoming elections offering just such an occasion, he pointed to the “extraordinarily high” registration rate among Palestinians as a “resoundingly positive” response. 

The elections will provide a crucial step towards re-establishing Palestinian national unity – and renewing the legitimacy of national institutions, including a democratically elected Legislative Council and Government in Palestine, he assured.

Palestinian Progress

He said Palestinian factions are making progress towards holding legislative, presidential and Palestinian National Council elections.  Earlier this month, they met in Cairo, reaching agreement on several outstanding issues and emphasizing that elections must be held throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, without exception.

Meanwhile, on 17 February, the Central Elections Commission announced 421,000 new registrants during the period, he said, raising the total registered voters to over 2.6 million – 93 per cent of all eligible voters, according to estimates from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. “It is encouraging to see such strong public participation in the democratic process”, he said.

International support

For its part, the international community is focused on helping the parties return to the negotiating table, he said.  On 8 February the League of Arab States reiterated its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State based on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Envoys of the Middle East Quartet – the Russian Federation, United States, European Union and United Nations – met virtually on 15 February to discuss the political developments, with all agreeing to meet on a regular basis. And a Chair’s summary of a 23 February virtual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee highlighted that the parties expressed renewed commitment to enhance cooperation.

For its part, the UN is working with the parties and international partners to address the pressing socioeconomic needs of Palestinians, including in the context of the pandemic.  It is also advancing the goal of ending the occupation and realizing a negotiated two-State solution based on UN resolutions, international law and prior agreements.

<!–

–> <!–

–>

Vaccine Roll-out

On COVID vaccination prospects, he welcomed the announcement of the Palestinian vaccination strategy and the initial allocation to the Palestinian Ministry of Health of 37,440 doses of vaccines by the COVAX-AMC facility.  In February, 30,000 doses of vaccines were delivered to Palestinians, including in Gaza, by the Russian Federation and the United Arab Emirates. 

He said this is in addition to Israel’s earlier transfer of 5,200 vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, vaccination of 5,000 Palestinian educational and health workers working in Israel, and efforts to vaccinate the population in East Jerusalem, which is 50 per cent complete.

Home demolitions

He went on to describe developments on the ground, expressing concern over Israel’s demolition or seizure of 170 Palestinian structures in Area C and 10 in East Jerusalem.  The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

Regional tensions simmer

Turning to the region as a whole, on the Golan, he said the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained. However, the security situation continues to be volatile, with continued violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement by the parties.

In Lebanon, the population faces increasing hardship, due to deteriorating economic conditions and impact of COVID-19. In the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations, incidents of weapons pointing between the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces across the Blue Line contributed to heightened tensions.

USA: Rights experts call for reforms to end police brutality, systemic racism

Affected communities must be included in shaping these reforms, which include diverting funding from policing to alternate safety measures, they added. 

“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the excessive force used by American police in the context of peaceful demonstrations, and the use of lethal force against individuals who did not present a threat to life at the time of the police intervention”, the experts said in a statement. 

“In this time of political change, the United States must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism.” 

Excessive force used 

African American communities have long decried police brutality and racial profiling. 

The issue gained global attention last year when protests broke out across the US, some of them violent, following the death of George Floyd, the unarmed African American man whose death while in police custody was captured on video. 

The rights experts welcomed a recent report on protest response in the city of Philadelphia which found authorities failed to sufficiently plan for the demonstrations and that excessive force had been used. 

They urged other municipalities to assess their response and allegations of systemic racism. 

“In Philadelphia, as in other parts of the country where Black Lives Matter protests took place, law enforcement interventions were not limited to areas where lootings and vandalism had allegedly occurred”, they said. “Police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and used pepper spray from close range against protesters, residents and bystanders indiscriminately. Tear gas canisters even landed in home yards hurting children.” 

 Revise laws on use of lethal force 

The experts were also concerned that law enforcement officers in the US are allowed to use lethal force whenever it is deemed “reasonable”. They called for relevant legal and policy frameworks to be revised urgently to reflect established international human rights standards. 

“The use of potentially lethal force is an extreme measure, which may be resorted to only when strictly necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat”, they said. “Likewise, less lethal weapons must be employed only subject to strict requirements of necessity and proportionality, in situations where less harmful measures would be ineffective.” 

Relatedly, they called for reform of laws and policies regarding the use of tear gas, pepper spray and other “so-called less-lethal weapons” during protests. 

“The expanding and improperly regulated use of less-lethal weapons raise serious and dramatic concerns for the respect of the right to life and the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment”, the experts said. “They can kill and have killed; they can harm and wound horribly, leading to permanent disability.”  

Against ‘militarisation’ of policing 

Noting the increased “militarisation” of policing, the experts said the use of military equipment by law enforcement cannot be justified, adding that studies show military gear and armored vehicles do not reduce crime or increase officers’ safety. 

With misdemeanours accounting for some 80 per cent arrests in the US, the rights experts said reducing “unnecessary interactions” between the police and community members would lead to decreased violence and deaths. 

“We have witnessed many police killings that have resulted from police action related to petty offences. Instead, non-serious offenses, including minor traffic violations, should be addressed through mechanisms outside the criminal legal system”, they recommended. 

The experts said ensuring equality and justice in law enforcement will require the participation of affected communities, who must be involved in shaping policing and related reforms. 

 “Policing reforms must adopt genuine and substantive measures to dismantle systemic racism in policing, including against racial, ethnic and other minorities, by divestment from current policing budgets and reinvestment in alternative social and economic resources that are vital for the safety of these communities”, they stated. 

“We hope that the new US administration will be able to pursue the necessary reforms with resolve, determination, and a strong political and financial commitment.” 

The role of UN experts 

The 18 experts who issued the statement were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on specific thematic issues.  They include members of a Working Group studying racial discrimination faced by people of African descent globally. 

The experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization. 

UN envoy: Democratic processes ‘pushed aside’ in Myanmar, as Ambassador denounces coup

Speaking at an informal General Assembly meeting on the Myanmar crisis, Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said, “I told you in 2019 that I would sound the alarm if necessary…This is now the case”. 

‘Fragile and fluid’ situation 

The situation in Myanmar is “fragile and fluid”, the UN envoy said, calling it “a people’s fight without arms”.  

Ms. Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the military’s “recent steps” and urged the Ambassadors to “collectively send a clear signal” supporting democracy. 

She underscored the urgency in helping to lay the foundations of a “pluralistic democracy”, balanced with the complex domestic challenges of the civilian leadership.  

“I have tried again and again to explain the complex situation, namely that the army holds the real power”, the UN envoy said. “Genuine democracy requires civilian control over the military”. 

Reject regime 

Noting that “the takeover has not stabilized”, the UN official upheld that the international community must “not lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime”. 

She labeled it a “coup”, calling the military takeover and declaration of the state of emergency “a clear violation of the constitution regardless of what they claim”.  

Recalling that the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won the November election with 82 per cent of the vote, Ms. Schraner Burgener emphasized: “There is no justification for the military’s actions, and we must continue to call for the reversal of this impermissible situation, exhausting all collective and bilateral channels to restore Myanmar’s path on democratic reform”. 

Myanmar ambassador denounces ‘coup’

Responding to the envoy, Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, announced that he was representing not the military leadership, but the NLD, saying he was speaking instead, for the democratically-elected parliamentarians of the country. 

Denouncing the coup, he said that the continued and strong support for the people, was “imperative”, and appealed for all Member States and the UN, to condemn the takeover, and take “all strongest possible measures to stop the violent and brutal acts committed by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators, and end the military coup immediately”.

His voice breaking in the General Assembly Hall, he gave the three-fingered salute adopted by protesters in Myanmar.

The Ambassador said he would join those continuing “to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

‘Egregious’ violations 

Although the Secretary-General had called on Myanmar’s military and police to ensure the right of peaceful assembly, hundreds of people are being detained without charges or fair trial proceedings, leaving frantic families unable to locate or contact them, according to the UN envoy. 

“Ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel, and deliberate acts to create insecurity and instability, as well as the enactment of draconian laws which deprive people of their basic human rights, some of which are also in violation of their own Constitution, are egregious”, she said. 

Among other grievances, Ms. Schraner Burgener pointed to the release of some 23,000 prisoners associated with political murders as “regretful”, and the ensuing chaos as a lost opportunity for an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ongoing violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel… are egregious — UN envoy

Collective responsibility 

With her “unique access to key stakeholders”, the UN official has directly relayed international concerns, advocated for dialogue and requested a country visit in which she meets with detained government leaders, which was rejected.  

“It seems they want to continue making large-scale arrests and have been coercing people to testify against the NLD Government”, she said. “This is cruel and inhumane”.  

Ms. Schraner Burgener urged influential Member States to step up, saying they have “a collective responsibility towards the people of Myanmar and safeguard their democratic aspirations”. 

“Clearly, regional engagement is needed on all fronts”. 

If there is any escalation in terms of military brutality against people exercising their basic rights, “let us act swiftly and collectively”, the UN envoy said. 

End the crackdown, urge rights experts 

At the same time, independent UN human rights experts called on the military to end the violent crackdown on peaceful protests. 

“The people of Myanmar have the right to protest peacefully and express their discontent with the military coup”, the experts said. “We call on the military to refrain from using force against peaceful protests, stop using live bullets against protesters immediately and respect their right to peaceful protest”. 

The experts also spoke against the arbitrary detention and harassment of those voicing their dissent or organizing and participating in peaceful protests as well as the journalists covering the events.  

“Deliberate attacks on journalists and their arbitrary detention are serious violations of international human rights law and must immediately stop.” 

Worrying measures 

The experts noted “a worrying series of regulatory measures” that would entrench military control over internet information and strip individuals of their human rights. 

“These vague and overly broad provisions would give the military unfettered power to censor dissenting voices on social media, disrupt the internet at will and access user information with no restraint or regard for their right to privacy”, they said. 

The experts urged the military to restore democratic institutions and ensure the release of all those detained for exercising their human rights. 

“We warn the military junta that those who are responsible for repression and killing of peaceful protesters as well as the detention of government officials and journalists will be held accountable before international jurisdictions”, the experts said. 

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific country situation. The experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. 

Click here for names of the experts.

Mother of terrorism victim works to ‘turn the page’ on violent extremism

Latifa Ibn Ziaten is co-recipient of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, an honour she received earlier this month alongside the UN Secretary-General. 

Her son, Imad, a 30-year-old paratrooper in the French Army, was among seven people murdered by Mohammed Merah, a self-proclaimed jihadist, during a nine-day killing spree in southern France in March 2012. 

Barely a month after her son’s death, Mrs. Ibn Ziaten established The Imad Association for Youth and Peace, which promotes tolerance.   

Since then, she has worked with families and communities in France and abroad to prevent young people from becoming radicalized, spreading a message of peace, dialogue and mutual respect. 

A grieving mother’s journey 

Speaking to colleagues from the UN News Arabic language service, Mrs. Ibn Ziaten recalled how she travelled to Toulouse, the city where Imad was killed, to search for an explanation for this tragedy. 

“I searched on my knees”, she said. “I found his blood on the ground. I took the sand between my hands and rubbed my son’s blood, and said: ‘O Lord, help me, oh my God.’ I screamed out loud.” 

The grieving mother also experienced something that would cause her even more pain.  

She was in Les Izards, the rough neighbourhood in northeastern Toulouse where her son’s killer grew up, and where he met his end in a police siege. 

Mrs. Ibn Ziaten approached a group of young men who were hanging out on the street.  She asked them where Mohammed Merah lived.  When one responded with a sarcastic smile, she wondered if there was something wrong with her question. 

“He told me ‘No, but aren’t you watching TV? Do you not read the newspapers, madam?’  I said, ‘I am asking you where does Mohammed Merah live, please?’  He told me: ‘Mohammed Merah is a martyr. A hero of Islam. He brought France to its knees!’” 

From anguish to activism 

Mohammed Merah’s murderous rampage shocked the nation.   

Imad Ibn Ziaten was the first person he killed in a series of shootings in Toulouse and nearby Mountauban, between 11 and 19 March 2012. The other victims were two more off-duty soldiers, and a rabbi and three small children at a Jewish school. Five people were also injured. 

Like Imad, Merah was the son of immigrants. But while one man chose to serve his country, the other pursued the path of terrorism. Explaining why is not so simple, according to Mrs. Ibn Ziaten. 

“Unfortunately, some young people lack education, they lack the presence of parents, they lack a supportive framework”, she said.  

“There are lost youth and we have to get them back, we really have to work with them. We really have to communicate with these young people because they are the future.” 

IMAD Association
Latifa Ibn Ziaten received the Zayed Prize for Human Fraternity 2021

Message of tolerance 

Mrs. Ibn Ziaten has been fulfilling this mission through the organization that bears her son’s name, crisscrossing France to share her testimony and message of tolerance.  She lectures high school students, parents and others who reach out to her, such as teachers and prison directors. 

In his statement on receiving the peace award, UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised the mother of five, saying “her dedicated efforts to support young people and promote mutual understanding, arising out of immense personal tragedy, have won admirers at home and beyond.” 

Mrs. Ibn Ziaten has carried out projects in other parts of the world. Several years ago, the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, together with Sarcelles College in France, collaborated to bring 17 young “Ambassadors for Peace” to Israel and Palestine. 

The tireless campaigner has also spoken to inmates as part of a programme to prevent violent extremism in French prisons.   

‘Dream about something beautiful’ 

She recalled meeting one young man in particular, who revealed that he felt rejected and excluded in the land of liberté, égalité and fraternité. Mrs. Ibn Ziaten told him about how she wants to build a “fraternal and cosmopolitan France” where everyone has a place. 

She also offered him words of advice so he would not “fall into this trap” of extremism, like Mohammed Merah. 

“Try to turn the page,” she said. “Read. Dream about something beautiful…and when you pray, pray a prayer of peace; a prayer of love.” 

Central African Republic ‘very volatile’, despite important progress – UN peacekeeping chief 

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, praised the peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, in providing security to thousands of internally displaced, helping to safeguard democratic order and protecting civilians “in the face of persisting attempts by the armed group coalition to asphyxiate the country”. 

However, notwithstanding these “outstanding efforts”, he upheld: “The situation remains very volatile”. 

Alarming humanitarian situation  

At the same time, insecurity has blocked the passage of more than a thousand trucks carrying lifesaving supplies, food and medical necessities, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ongoing violence has also resulted in “significant renewed displacement and increased humanitarian needs and pushed civilians to again seek refuge in neighbouring countries”, said Mr. Lacroix.  

The Central African Republic “is now the most dangerous place for humanitarian work”, he added, noting it that it accounted for over 46 per cent of worldwide incidents registered by international non-governmental organizations last month.   

Glimmer of hope 

And yet, in “a major achievement”, the country is on track to successfully conclude a democratic transfer of power within the constitutional timeline, according to the UN official.   

Two years since its signing, the Political Agreement remains “the only viable framework for peace”, said Mr. Lacroix.  

“It is now essential that these democratic gains are preserved by completing the electoral process and advancing a peaceful resolution to the crisis”, he asserted. 

To start “healing the national trauma”, the UN peacekeeping chief advocated for “inclusive and meaningful dialogue…without delay” and for the international community to support national efforts by “promoting cooperation and coherence in the peace process”.   

Bolstering the mission 

Mr. Lacroix told the Council that as “the main guarantor of security for the civilian population”, MINUSCA is addressing the volatile situation and responding to increased protection needs. 

However, warning that the mission is being overstretched, he recommended the addition of 2,750 military and 940 police personnel to “strengthen MINUSCA’s ability to implement its priority mandated tasks…namely, to protect civilians, create the conditions for progress in the political process, and to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance”.  

Against the backdrop of seven peacekeepers killed in hostile attacks during electoral violence and two others in the line of duty during the same period, Mr. Lacroix upheld that an augmentation would also contribute to safeguarding UN staff.  

A reinforcement would “address increased needs, as well as the existing capacity of MINUSCA”, he continued, pointing to ongoing efforts to optimize the peacekeeping mission’s performance.  

MINUSCA/Hervé Serefio
A woman casts her vote at a polling centre in the Central African Republic.

Advancing peace 

Mr. Lacroix painted a picture of rising human rights violations, increased civilian abductions and killings. Attacks against humanitarian workers, extrajudicial executions and conflict-related sexual violence are also on the rise, and he said that advancing peaceful dialogue must be coupled with fighting impunity, including for grave crimes committed in the electoral period.   

“This will require a commitment by national authorities to pursue accountability for violations by State and non-State actors, while safeguarding human rights and preserving and expanding civic space”, he said. 

The UN peacekeeping chief underscored the importance of reviewing and adjusting security needs with a view to re-establishing operational readiness for national defence and internal security forces.  

“The Central African people have suffered so much and deserve our steadfast support and attention”, he said, while also recognizing the “bravery and sacrifice” of MINUSCA personnel in this “exceptionally challenging context”.  

Central African people have suffered so much and deserve our steadfast support — UN peacekeeping chief

Other voices 

Meanwhile, Rita Laranjinha, Managing Director for the European External Action Service in Africa, outlined for ambassadors her support for all efforts to end impunity for rights abuses, as a key component of reconciliation and a sign of respect to and justice for victims and their families.   

She stressed that official corruption must end and urged prompt attention to the “disinformation” and hate speech that endanger peacekeepers and undermine trust in governance. 

Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Director of youth-led peacebuilding organization URU, spoke of a climate of “fear” that permeates much of CAR society, but maintained that the cry for peace was still being heard, loud and clear. 

“Our hopes are stronger than our fears”, she said, calling for redoubled efforts to “silence the guns” and honour the dreams of communities for peace.  

Myanmar: Stop harassment of workers, UN agency urges military

In a statement on Tuesday, the agency said it received allegations that police and military are conducting door-to-door searches for trade unionists at their dormitories and hostels in the Hlaingtharyar industrial township, in the country’s largest city, Yangon. 

It is alleged that the acts of harassment and intimidation are “largely targeted” at young female workers working in the private sector industries of Yangon, who are living far away from their families in the rural areas, ILO said. 

“The ILO urges the military authorities to cease all acts of harassment and intimidation against these workers, in particular young female workers, and ensure that all workers can exercise their rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression as well as other human rights in a climate free of violence, pressure, fear and threat of any kind”, the agency added. 

Ongoing protests 

Mass protests have grown steadily across Myanmar since the military takeover on 1 February, and arrests of several key leaders and elected officials, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.  

The takeover followed escalating tensions between the government and the military over the November 2020 elections, which were won by Ms. Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD). 

At least two individuals, including a child, are reported to have been killed and many injured, since the crisis erupted. There are also reports of use of excessive and lethal force by security forces, including live ammunition, against demonstrators.  

Fears of disruption of essential services 

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has voiced deep concerns over the use of force, cautioning that it may contribute to an escalation of violence against women, girls and young people. 

In a separate statement, the UN sexual and reproductive health agency, also expressed fears that essential services, including safe pregnancy and childbirth programmes, could be disrupted due to the ongoing crisis. 

“In light of the unfolding events in Myanmar, UNFPA joins the wider UN family in expressing its strongest concern over the adverse impacts on the rights, safety, health and well-being of the people of Myanmar, including women, girls and young people” UNFPA said. 

Disruptions to essential services to meet the health needs of women and girls, including safe pregnancy and childbirth, “will have serious, even life-threatening implications if timely access to emergency obstetric and newborn care is compromised or not provided in general”, it added, noting that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities would be hit the hardest. 

“UNFPA stands with women, girls and young people in Myanmar and their right to sexual and reproductive health care, even during the crisis”, the agency added. 

ILO and UNFPA reiterated the call of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for the military and security forces to respect the fundamental human rights of the people of Myanmar.

UN to review deadly convoy attack in DR Congo which led to Italian Ambassador’s death

The UN’s Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) will be leading a detailed review into the incident, the agency said in an update on Tuesday. 

Forced to disembark 

Ambassador Luca Attanasio and his security escort, Vittorio Iacovacci, were among seven people travelling in two WFP vehicles from Goma, capital of North Kivu province, to visit one of the agency’s school feeding programmes in Rutshuru, approximately 40 kilometres away. 

The group left Goma at approximately 9:00 AM, local time, on Monday.  An armed group stopped the vehicles around 10:15 AM, forcing all the passengers to disembark.  One of the drivers, Mustapha Milambo, was killed at this time. 

“The remaining six passengers were then forced into the surrounding bush at gunpoint where there was an exchange of fire”, WFP said.   

“During the exchange of fire, the Italian Ambassador, Luca Attanasio and his security escort, Vittorio Iacovacci, were mortally injured and subsequently died.” 

The other passengers, all WFP staff, are safe and accounted for. They include the agency’s Deputy Country Director, Rocco Leone; School Feeding Programme Assistant, Fidele Zabandora; Security Officer, Mansour Rwagaza, and the second driver, Claude Mukata. 

Tribute to a brave staff member 

Mr. Milambo, the WFP driver, was buried on Tuesday, according to the agency’s Executive Director, David Beasley, who commemorated the murdered staff member in a post on Twitter. 

“Mustapha was laid to rest today in DRC, following yesterday’s attack that took his life”, he wrote.  “For 16 years, he served with commitment, dedication and bravery as a @WFP driver. He will be greatly missed by us all. Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers”. 

The UN Secretary-General has strongly condemned the attack and has called on the Congolese authorities to swiftly investigate this “heinous targeting” of a UN joint field mission, according to a statement issued on Monday by his Spokesperson. 

 

World risks ‘collapse of everything’ without strong climate action, Attenborough warns Security Council

Climate shocks such as record high temperatures and a “new normal” of wildfires, floods and droughts, are not only damaging the natural environment, said UN chief António Guterres, but also threatening political, economic and social stability. 

“The science is clear: we need to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century,” the Secretary-General said.  

“And our duty is even clearer: we need to protect the people and communities that are being hit by climate disruption. We must step up preparations for the escalating implications of the climate crisis for international peace and security.” 

A matter of when, not if: Boris Johnson 

Heads of State and Government, as well as other senior political leaders, participated in the Council meeting, which was convened by the United Kingdom, co-host of the latest global climate change conference, known as COP26, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired the online meeting, calling for action now. 

“Whether you like it or not, it is a matter of when, not if, your country and your people will have to deal with the security impacts of climate change”, he said, urging them to show the global leadership necessary to keep the world safe. 

Sir David Attenborough’s warning 

The UK holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member Council this month, and renowned British naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough issued a sobering warning to leaders. 

“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature, and ocean food chains,” he said, adding “and if the natural world can no longer support the most basic of our needs, then much of the rest of civilization will quickly break down.”  

<!–

–> <!–

–>

While there is no going back, Sir David stressed that if countries act fast enough, “we can reach a new stable state.”  He pointed to the immense public support worldwide for climate action. 

“People today all over the world now realize this is no longer an issue which will affect future generations,” he said.  “It is people alive today, and, in particular, young people, who will live with the consequences of our actions.” 

‘Young people are the solution’ 

Nisreen Elsaim, a young activist from Sudan, spoke of how climate vulnerability is forcing young Africans and their counterparts elsewhere to leave their homelands, which can contribute to conflict.   

“As a young person I am sure that young people are the solution”, said Ms. Elsaim, chair of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. “Give us more space, listen to us and engage youth.” 

She also welcomed the Council’s resolution establishing the new UN political mission in her country, UNITAMS, which specifically mentions climate change and youth participation as priority issues. 

<!–

–> <!–

–>

‘The multilateral challenge of our age’ 

The UN Secretary-General has repeatedly referred to climate change as “the defining issue of our time”.   

In his briefing to the Council, Mr. Guterres outlined the need for action in four priority areas: prevention, protection, security and partnerships. 

Under prevention, he emphasized the need for countries to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which seeks to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

“The climate crisis is the multilateral challenge of our age”, he said, underlining the need for unparalleled global coordination and cooperation.  

“I urge Council members to use their influence during this pivotal year to ensure the success of COP26, and to mobilize others, including international financial institutions and the private sector, to do their part.”

Haiti needs ‘democratic renewal’ top UN representative tells Security Council

Helen Meagher La Lime, Head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), told the Security Council – meeting via video-teleconference – that the polarization that has defined most of President Jovenel Moïse’s term in office has become even more acute, as civic space shrinks and acute food insecurity grows.

Haiti has been in the grips of a renewed crisis since Parliament ceased to function in January 2020, leaving the President to postpone elections and rule by decree.  In response, large crowds have poured into the streets, echoing opposition demands for Mr. Moïse to step down.

Elections imperative

“Only a democratic renewal, resulting from the prompt holding of credible, transparent and participatory elections, can provide Haiti with the opportunity to overcome its protracted political crisis,” Ms. La Lime said.

That in turn would allow Haitian society and leaders to focus their attention on undertaking the governance and economic reforms necessary to set the country back on the path towards sustainable development, she added.

Joining the meeting from Port-au-Prince, President Moïse defended his administration, saying that it is confronting not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also “corrupt oligarchs” and a “radical and violent opposition” which have tried repeatedly to stage a coup d’état.

‘Policy of chaos’

“This policy of chaos has meant that the Government has had to take off the gloves”, he said, adding however that parliamentary elections that originally should have taken place in October 2019 will go ahead in September.

Mr. Moïse, 52, says that his own presidential tenure ends in 2022, five years after he took office.  But his opponents, citing the Constitution, claim that his term of office began when elections were held in 2016 – and that now is the time for him to step aside, according to news reports.

Dissent noted

Ms. La Lime, presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on Haiti, reported that the opposition has been unsuccessful in mobilizing significant public support in its campaign to oust the President.

But she noted that a raft of Presidential decrees has prompted judges to go on strike and threatened civic space through an overly broad definition of terrorism – and this at a time when an estimated 4.4 million Haitians will be in need of humanitarian assistance this year.

Against this volatile backdrop, preparations for this year’s elections – and for a Constitutional referendum – are going ahead.  But she warned that much remains to be done, and that voting could be delayed due to a lack of international funding.

“Above all else, a minimal consensus among relevant political stakeholders would greatly contribute to creating an environment conducive to the holding of the Constitutional referendum and subsequent elections”, she said, adding that the United Nations stands ready to help.

Hopeful amid strife

Also briefing the Council today was Vivianne Roc, 23, from Plurielles, an eco-feminist youth group, who described a Haiti gripped by lawlessness, banditry and gang violence – but also hopeful that things can still take a turn for the better.

“The young woman before you today is outraged by the wind of insecurity that is sweeping her country,” she said, presenting the 15-member body with several recommendations – including a crackdown on arms and drug trafficking, and the establishment of call centres for victims of domestic violence.

Get help now

Send a message with a description of your problem and possible ways of assistance and we will contact you as soon as we consider your problem.