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Why the UN must set up an independent body to tackle sexual abuse

Why the UN must set up an independent body to tackle sexual abuse

ANDERS KOMPASS SIX years ago, I became a UN whistleblower, intervening to stop the sexual abuse of children by soldiers in Central African Republic. The revelation led to an independent investigation into how the UN had handled the affair and, in 2015, to a damning report that identified severe structural and systemic weaknesses within the UN system. At the end of it, in 2016, I resigned from the United Nations, making a final call for structural change in the ethical standards of the organisation. Since then, I have looked from a distance as Sweden’s ambassador in Central America, still hoping…
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‘UN Security Council must act against Israel’s violations and illegal actions’

‘UN Security Council must act against Israel’s violations and illegal actions’

JERRY MATJILA  WE are meeting here today, as we do every month to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine. Unfortunately, there is very little progress in resolving this conflict despite the continued and necessary focus on this conflict that has spanned over seven decades. Month after month we have heard of continued settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, we have heard of the seizure and demolitions of Palestinian land, we have heard of the continued violations of the rights of the Palestinian people and the rejection of the internationally recognised parameters for direct…
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Code red: UN calls for urgent shift to planet-friendly development

Code red: UN calls for urgent shift to planet-friendly development

MEGAN ROWLING UNDER huge pressure from COVID-19, climate change and natural destruction, warning lights for the planet and societies are "flashing red" - and now is the time to choose a safer, fairer path for human development, the United Nations said on Tuesday. "We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of humankind and in the history of our planet," it said in a report, urging efforts by governments, business and citizens to pursue a new kind of progress that protects the environment. "The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest harrowing consequence of imbalances writ large," said the Human Development Report…
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UN in New York cancels in-person meetings due to COVID-19 infections

UN in New York cancels in-person meetings due to COVID-19 infections

THE United Nations has cancelled all in-person meetings at its New York headquarters after five people in Niger's U.N. mission were infected with the coronavirus, diplomats said. After largely operating virtually since New York became a global COVID-19 hotspot in March, the 193-member world body had been holding some in-person gatherings again, with COVID-19 precautions such as requiring diplomats to wear masks, social distance and restricting the number of people at meetings. In a letter to member states late on Monday, U.N. General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir said the U.N. medical unit had recommended cancelling in-person meetings on Tuesday, pending…
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Locked out by COVID, refugees’ lives on hold

Locked out by COVID, refugees’ lives on hold

EDWARD MCALLISTER WHEN Michelle Alfaro left her office at the United Nations in Geneva on March 13, her job finding homes for the world’s most vulnerable refugees was under control. Four days later, the new coronavirus had knocked it into chaos. Governments across the world announced border closures, lockdowns and flight cancellations. The United Nations was forced to suspend the programme. “Everything collapsed that week,” said Alfaro, who manages resettlements for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. Millions of people have been thrown into limbo by the new coronavirus. Those Alfaro works with had been promised escape from war, violence, conflict…
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UN criticised for holding back review of troubled Congo Ebola response

UN criticised for holding back review of troubled Congo Ebola response

PHILIP KLEINFELD and BEN PARKER A review by leading aid agencies of Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo was not widely circulated to organisations involved in the response until several months after the epidemic was declared over, despite containing details of mismanagement, sexual abuse and exploitation, and coordination problems during the deadly outbreak. The internal report from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a grouping of major UN agencies and NGOs, is one of the clearest acknowledgements – by humanitarian agencies themselves – of mistakes made during the Ebola crisis, which claimed more than 2,200 lives between August 2018 and June 2020.…
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Kenya woman’s ordeal highlights newly identified sex trafficking route

Kenya woman’s ordeal highlights newly identified sex trafficking route

AYENAT MERSIE J's cousin promised her a well-paid job in India as a housekeeper. Instead, she found herself in a brothel until the United Nations brought her home to Kenya when it was alerted to the human trafficking route. "When I heard there were job vacancies in India, I was so happy," said J, asking that only her initial be used to protect her privacy. When she got there, her passport was confiscated and she was forced into sex work to pay off $9,000 her traffickers, fellow East Africans, told her she owed them for her travel and lodging, she…
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Protect Journalists, Protect the Truth

Protect Journalists, Protect the Truth

In the past fourteen years (2006-2019), close to 1,200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public. In nine out of ten cases the killers go unpunished. Impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and judicial systems.  These figures do not include the many more journalists, who on a daily basis suffer from non-fatal attacks, including torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment in both conflict and non-conflict situations. Furthermore, there are specific risks faced by women journalists, including sexual attacks. Worryingly, only one in…
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World leaders to mark United Nations at 75 as pandemic challenges organization

World leaders to mark United Nations at 75 as pandemic challenges organization

MICHELLE NICHOLS WORLD leaders will come together, virtually, today to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, as the deadly coronavirus pandemic challenges the effectiveness and solidarity of the 193-member world body. As COVID-19, which emerged in China late last year, began to spread around the world, forcing millions of people to shelter at home and dealing a devastating economic blow, countries turned inward and diplomats say the United Nations struggled to assert itself. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Reuters that the pandemic has exposed the world's fragilities. He plans to tell world leaders on Monday that they need…
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UN rights experts urge Uganda to halt pre-election violence, arrests

UN rights experts urge Uganda to halt pre-election violence, arrests

UNITED Nations human rights experts have called on Uganda to rein in violent security forces and drop charges against political opponents and activists arrested in what the experts termed an election clampdown. Popstar Bobi Wine has emerged as the strongest challenger to President Yoweri Museveni in the presidential election scheduled for January 14. On Sunday Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, said one of his bodyguards was killed when military police ran him over while Wine's convoy was taking a wounded journalist to seek medical help. Military police said the bodyguard had fallen from a speeding car. "We are…
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