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More urgency needed to help increasing numbers ‘locked out’, before 2030, says UN Rights Chief

Many countries are failing to protect and promote the interests of all their people – despite pledging to do so in 2016 – the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

In a special meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva to review progress on achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda, Michelle Bachelet insisted that “overall, we are not on track” to meet its ambitious aims:

“The 2030 Agenda is a commitment to achieve greater international cooperation for a more equitable international order,” she said. “But above all, it is a promise extended to people previously locked out of development: the marginalized, disempowered and excluded communities; the millions of women, racial, religious and caste minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, persons with disabilities, Roma and the poor.”

Acknowledging “tremendous progress in some countries” on tackling extreme poverty; mortality rates for the under-fives; and promoting education, particularly in Asia; Ms. Bachelet listed numerous obstacles that continue to prevent fair development for all.

Women’s inequality is a major impediment, she insisted, along with hunger, war and climate change.

44,000 each day forced to flee

“Conflicts are destroying people's lives, hopes and ability to earn a decent livelihood in the places they were born,” she said. “44,400 people are forced to flee their homes every day because of conflict or persecution. Climate change is generating overwhelming environmental disasters, which devastate basic infrastructure and exacerbate tensions and conflicts.”

Questioning whether the world’s nations were meeting the “great goal” of leaving no-one behind by 2030, the UN rights chief cited International Labour Organization (ILO) data, which indicated a growing gap between the rich and poor, despite workers’ higher productivity.

“With just 12 years left to 2030, we need a greater sense of urgency about achieving the Agenda's promise to the world's people,” she said, before explaining that the outcomes of the Human Rights Council meeting would contribute to the work of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) at the UN in New York in July - the organization’s central platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

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From child refugee in Mozambique to school principal in the United States

Growing up in Bukavu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Bertine Bahige was studying hard to become a doctor. At 13, he had his life figured out. Or so he thought.

Everything changed the day the Mai Mai rebel group stormed into his town in eastern DRC, going door to door to abduct new recruits.

“It was the hardest thing,” Bertine recalls with a broken voice. “Looking in your parents’ eyes and knowing that you’re about to be completely separated from everything you have ever known in your whole life.”

Bertine spent two years in captivity. He was horrified by how children were terrorizing each other. “You had to be ruthless to advance in the ranks,” Bertine recalls. “That is not who I am.” He could not stand the violence and decided to escape. “I knew this could be it, but I had to take my chance,” he says.

“I had been given a chance to live a new life and I wanted to get the best out of it.”

His flight took him thousands of kilometres away, crossing lake Tanganyika on a fisherman’s boat who kindly allowed him to board for free and hiding in the back of a truck full of dry salted fish. For three days, that was all Bertine ate. “It was my first gourmet meal in a long time,” Bertine says with his unbeatable optimism.

Exhausted and about to faint, Bertine collapsed by a tree. When he woke up, around him were people speaking a language he could not understand. He did not even know in what country he was. It turned out to be Mozambique. Bertine spent five years in Maputo refugee camp, managed by the UN Refugee Agency.

 

video : He knew little English when he arrived in the US. Now, he's a school principal in Wyoming

 

[ read the full story on UNHCR website ]

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Rising human trafficking takes on ‘horrific dimensions’: almost a third of victims are children

A new UN report published on Monday shows that human trafficking is on the rise and taking on “horrific dimensions”, with sexual exploitation of victims the main driver. Children now account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked, and far more girls are detected than boys.

The study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, draws on information from 142 countries, examining trafficking trends and patterns. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said that "human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters," citing child soldiers, forced labour and sexual slavery as examples.

While the average numbers of reported victims had fluctuated during the earlier years for which UNODC had collected data, the global trend has shown a steady increase since 2010. Asia and the Americas are the regions which have seen the largest increase in the numbers of victims detected, which may be explained by improved methods of detecting, recording and reporting data on trafficking – or a real increase in the number of victims.

Most victims of trafficking detected outside their region of origin are from East Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa: whilst there has been an increase in the number of convictions for trafficking in these regions, the study concluding that large areas of impunity still exist in many Asian and African countries, and conviction rates for trafficking remain very low.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most prevalent form in European countries, whilst in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, forced labour is the main factor driving the illicit trade. Women and girls make up most trafficking victims worldwide: almost three-quarters of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and 35 per cent (women and girls) are trafficked for forced labour.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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Human rights champions from across the world receive top UN prize

The “clear and profound” guidelines enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “have made it the world’s most widely translated document”, the UN Secretary-General told the General Assembly on Tuesday at an event to commemorate the Declaration’s 70th Anniversary, marked 10 December.

“Wherever we live, whatever our circumstances or place in society, our race, colour, gender or sexual orientation, language, religion, opinion, nationality or economic status, we are all equal in human rights and dignity,” António Guterres said.

As part of the UN’s activities in observance of Human Rights Day, which coincided with the Declaration’s anniversary, champions in the field from across the world, convened at the General Assembly Hall to be recognized for their outstanding contributions.

Every five years, The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is awarded to organizations and individuals which embody excellent activism in defending human rights.

The 2018 winners are:

  • Rebeca Gyumi of Tanzania, for her work with women and girls. She lead a campaign that prompted the repeal of a Tanzanian law in 2016, which once permitted girls as young as 14 to be married off.
  • Asma Jahangir of Pakistan, a human rights lawyer – whose daughter, Munizae, received the award on her behalf. Mrs. Jahangir, who passed away in February of this year, fought against religious extremism and for the rights of oppressed minorities.
  • Joênia Wapixana (known also as Joenia Batista de Carvalho) of Brazil, who advocates on behalf of indigenous communities.
  • Front-Line Defenders, an Irish organization which works on the protection of human rights defenders. 

All were announced on 25 October, and celebrated at the ceremonial event today.

The four winners join a small but notable group who have been recognized since The Prize was established by the General Assembly in 1966, including prominent figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and others.

The work they do is often dangerous, “yet these courageous individuals and groups remain committed to shining a light on the dark corners of the globe”, Mr. Guterres said at the award ceremony.

He emphasized that “their work, and that of other human rights defenders around the world, is essential for our collective efforts to sustain peace and ensure inclusive sustainable development and respect for human rights for all.”

To the human rights defenders carrying out the work on the ground, Mr. Guterres said “I admire their courage and sacrifice,” in a separate set of remarks to the General Assembly, honouring the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by consensus 20 years ago.

Threats to people’s rights have taken on many forms, including “a growth of intolerance and shrinking space for civil society,” he said, but despite the persecution of human rights and defenders, including campaigners, journalists, health workers and lawyers, these individuals remain steadfast in standing for “the principles and values on which our Organization is built.” 

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Message on International Migrants Day - 18 December

Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.

But when poorly regulated, migration can intensify divisions within and between societies, expose people to exploitation and abuse, and undermine faith in government.

This month, the world took a landmark step forward with the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Backed with overwhelming support by the membership of the United Nations, the Compact will help us to address the real challenges of migration while reaping its many benefits.  

The Compact is people-centered and rooted in human rights.

It points the way toward more legal opportunities for migration and stronger action to crack down on human trafficking. 

On International Migrants Day, let us take the path provided by the Global Compact: to make migration work for all.

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In historic move, 164 countries adopt the Global Compact on Migration

The Global Compact for Migration was adopted on Monday by leading representatives from 164 Governments at an international conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in an historic move described by UN Chief António Guterres as the creation of a “roadmap to prevent suffering and chaos”.

Speaking at the opening intergovernmental session, Mr. Guterres, said that the Compact provides a platform for “humane, sensible, mutually beneficial action” resting on two “simple ideas”.

“Firstly, that migration has always been with us, but should be managed and safe; second, that national policies are far more likely to succeed with international cooperation.”

The UN chief said that in recent months there had been “many falsehoods” uttered about the agreement and “the overall issue of migration”. In order to dispel the “myths”, he said that the Compact did not allow the UN to impose migration policies on Member States, and neither was the pact a formal treaty.

“Moreover, it is not legally-binding. It is a framework for international cooperation, rooted in an inter-governmental process of negotiation in good faith,” he told delegates in Marrakech.

The pact would not give migrants rights to go anywhere, reaffirming only the fundamental human rights, he said. Mr. Guterres also challenged the myth that developed countries no longer need migrant labour, saying it was clear that “most need migrants across a broad spectrum of vital roles.”

Acknowledging that some States decided not to take part in the conference, or adopt the Compact, the UN Chief expressed his wish that they will come to recognize its value for their societies and join in “this common venture.”

The United States did not endorse the Compact, and more than a dozen other countries either chose not to sign the accord or are still undecided. 

Marrakech Compact, reality vs myth

The Moroccan minister of foreign affairs, Nasser Bourita, banged his gavel announcing the adoption of the Compact, while outlining the various efforts his country has made to bring about global consensus on international migration.

Along with Climate Change, unregulated migration has become a pressing issue in recent years. Every year, thousands of migrants lose their lives or go missing on perilous routes, often fallen victim to smugglers and traffickers.  

Mr. Guterres welcomed the overwhelming global support for the pact, saying that for people on the move, “voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld.”

The adoption of the pact, now known as Marrakech Compact, coincides with the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document which is central to the pact. Mr. Guterres said “it would be ironic if, on the day we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we would consider that migrants are to be excluded from the scope of the Declaration.”

 

newsicon [ full story on UN News ]

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70 years on, landmark UN human rights document as important as ever

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reaches its 70th anniversary on Monday, a chance to highlight the many important breakthroughs brought about by the landmark UN document, and to remind the world that the human rights of millions are still being violated on a daily basis.

Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted, untold human suffering prevented and the foundations for a most just world have been laid.

High Commissioner hails continued relevance of Declaration

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement released on Wednesday that the document has gone from being an “aspirational treatise” to a set of standards that has “permeated virtually every area of international law.”

The Declaration has shown itself to be as relevant today, as it has always been, and is applicable to situations and scenarios that could not have been foreseen at its inception, such as the need to govern artificial intelligence and the digital world, and to counter the effects of climate change on people.

Ms. Bachelet said the she remains convinced that the human rights ideal, laid down in the Declaration, has been one of the most constructive advances of ideas in human history, as well as one of the most successful.

The human rights chief pointed out that women played a prominent role in drafting the document: Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee, and women from Denmark, Pakistan, the Communist bloc and other countries around the world also made crucial contributions. Consequently, the document is, for its time, remarkably free from sexist language, almost always referring to “everyone,” “all” or “no one” throughout its 30 Articles.

Human rights violations perpetrated ‘on a daily basis’

Celebrating the resilience of the human rights system, and the contributions of the Declaration to advancing human progress, peace and development, a team of independent experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, in a statement published on Friday, echoed Ms. Bachelet’s comments, noting that the “protection provided by the international human rights system has increased including by addressing new and emerging human rights issues and demonstrating its capacity to evolve and respond to people’s needs and expectations.”

However, the experts detailed some of the many violations of international law and human dignity that are perpetrated on a daily basis in many countries: “Recent memory is replete with multiple examples of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Impunity reigns supreme in many countries undergoing conflicts or political upheavals, encouraged by narrow national objectives, geopolitics and political impasse at the United Nations Security Council.”

They also said that the upsurge of nationalism and xenophobia seen in countries of asylum, at a time of rising forced-migration, is “reversing the gains of international humanitarian cooperation of the last 70 years.”

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day.

In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, the UN is urging people everywhere to “Stand Up for Human Rights”: www.standup4humanrights.org.

 

This story was originally posted on UN News

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A safer, more dignified journey for all migrants, tops agenda at global conference in Marrakech

Top politicians and officials from across the world will gather in Marrakech, Morocco this weekend, ahead of a major conference convened by the UN, to formally adopt an all-inclusive, extensive global agreement aimed at making migration safer, and more dignified for all.

The text of the agreement, formally known as the Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, was agreed by Member States under the auspices of the UN General Assembly last July, and hailed by Secretary-General António Guterres as “a significant achievement.”

The non-binding Global Compact is grounded in values of State sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. It recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration, while also mitigating its risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination. 

The UN chief said, in a statement, the Global Compact “also recognizes that every individual has the right to safety, dignity and protection.”

With more than 68 million forcibly on the move today, migrants and refugees have made headlines across the globe in recent years; from the refugee crisis in Europe, to the migrant caravans hailing from Central America and heading to the southern borders of the United States.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the two-day Marrakech Intergovernmental Conference beginning on Monday:

 

Regular migrants, irregular migrants, and refugees...What’s the difference?

The Conference in Marrakech will focus on migration. And regular migration, as the Special Representative for International Migration Ms. Louise Arbour puts it, “refers to people who enter or stay in a country in which they are not a national through legal channels, and whose position in that country is obviously known to the government and in conformity with all the laws and regulations.” Regular migrants represent the “overwhelming majority of people who cross borders,” Ms. Arbour added in a recent interview with UN News.

While irregular migration “is the situation of people who are in a country, but whose status is not in conformity with national requirements”, the vast majority of them, explains the senior UN migration official, have actually entered the country legally, perhaps with a tourist or a student visa, and then extended their stay: “They can be regularized, or if not, they need to be returned to their country of origin,” she said.

Refugees, on the other hand according to the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR), is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. They have “a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group”.

newsicon   [ read the full story on UN News

 

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80 adolescents a day will still die of AIDS by 2030, despite slowdown in epidemic

  • 30 November 2018 |
  • Published in Youth

By 2030, around 80 adolescents will be dying of AIDS every day if “we don’t accelerate progress in preventing transmission,” the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

In a report released on Thursday, Children, HIV and AIDS: The World in 2030, current trends indicate AIDS-related deaths and new infections are slowing, but the downward trajectory is not happening fast enough.

“The report makes it clear, without the shadow of a doubt, that the world is off track when it comes to ending AIDS among children and adolescents by 2030,” said UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore, The end of AIDS is an ambitious goal envisioned by the UN agency coalition established to tackle the epidemic, known as the UNAIDSFast-Track strategy.

More than half of those children known to be dying of AIDS won’t reach the age of five, the report reveals.

Currently, 3 million persons 19 years and younger, are infected with HIV worldwide.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

 

 

 

 

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Message on World AIDS Day

1 December 2018

Thirty years after the first World AIDS Day, the response to HIV stands at a crossroads. Which way we turn may define the course of the epidemic—whether we will end AIDS by 2030, or whether future generations will carry on bearing the burden of this devastating disease.

More than 77 million people have become infected with HIV, and more than 35 million have died of an AIDS-related illness. Huge progress has been made in diagnosis and treatment, and prevention efforts have avoided millions of new contaminations.

Yet the pace of progress is not matching global ambition. New HIV infections are not falling rapidly enough. Some regions are lagging behind, and financial resources are insufficient. Stigma and discrimination are still holding people back, especially key populations— including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgenders, people who inject drugs, prisoners and migrants—and young women and adolescent girls. Moreover, one in four people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus, impeding them from making informed decisions on prevention, treatment and other care and support services.

There is still time -- to scale-up testing for HIV; to enable more people to access treatment; to increase resources needed to prevent new infections; and to end the stigma. At this critical juncture, we need to take the right turn now.

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Feature photos

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  • MUN 2019 youth leaders and Lara Quantrall Thomas from Rotary
  • Climate Change Academy students and organisers
  • UNFPA staff Ella presents a gift to a visitor at the UN booth on International Women's Day 2018
  • parent an students who attended in 2nd Climate Change workshop, with UNIC Director, Costa Rican Abassador, ASPnet Coordinator and guest presenter