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‘Stand united against anti-Muslim hatred’ urges Guterres, after mosque shootings in New Zealand leave 49 dead

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has urged the international community to ‘stand united against anti-Muslim hatred’ following a mass shooting in New Zealand on Friday targeting two mosques, which has left at least 49 dead and many others wounded, some critically.

 “I’m saddened and strongly condemn the shooting of innocent people as they prayed peacefully in mosques in New Zealand”, tweeted the UN chef, expressing his “deepest condolences to the victims’ families”.

“Today and every day, we must stand united against anti-Muslim hatred, and all forms of bigotry and terror”, he stressed.

A gunman, who police have described as being in his late 20s, has been arrested and charged with murder. According to news reports, he live-streamed himself via a head-mounted camera online, firing at worshippers inside the Al Noor mosque in the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, Christchurch. A second attack also took place at the city’s Linwood Mosque.

According to news reports, police have asked the public not to share the "extremely distressing" footage posted by the gunman online. Meanwhile Facebook has reportedly taken down the gunman's Facebook and Instagram accounts, which reportedly contained racist and anti-immigrant views.

Two other men and one woman were also reportedly detained in connection with the terror attacks, although one was subsequently released.

Other senior UN officials took to Twitter on Friday to express their condolences and horror at the attacks in New Zealand,

António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration, extended his “sincere condolences” to victims’ families and expressed deep sadness over “the terrible loss of life”, pointing out: “It is believed that among the dead and injured were many refugees and migrants”.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, tweeted a picture of the New Zealand flag with a message saying that UNHCR stands “firmly with the people and government of New Zealand “in mourning, prayer and solidarity”.

“We grieve with children facing the profound shock that a parent is never coming home”, tweeted Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund. Saying “our hearts break with news”, she called the aggression “a senseless attack on a peaceful community and the universal right to freedom of worship”.

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The Secretary-General’s remarks at the opening of the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women [prefaced by remarks about plane crash in Ethiopia on 10 March 2019] New York, 11 March 2019

The S-G’s remarks at the opening of the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (11 March)

Welcome.

As you walked into the United Nations today, you saw our flags flying at half-mast. This is indeed a sad day for many around the world, and for the UN in particular.

Yesterday’s terrible air crash in Ethiopia took the lives of all those on board -- including at least 21 of our UN colleagues, according to the latest information, not to mention an undetermined number of people that have been working closely with the UN. 

A global tragedy has hit close to home — and the United Nations is united in grief.

I extend my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims, to the government and people of Ethiopia, and all those affected by this disaster. 

We are working closely with government officials on the ground -- and mobilizing assistance, counseling and any other needed support during this difficult time. 

Our colleagues were women and men —junior professionals and seasoned officials — hailing from all corners of the globe and with a wide array of expertise.

They all had one thing in common — a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all.

It is the same spirit that calls us to the UN every day — and that brings you to this General Assembly Hall today.

As we open this important gathering, let us honour the memories of our colleagues by keeping their spirit of service alive. Thank you.

***

This is the Commission on the Status of Women.

But it could equally go by another name: the Commission on the Status of Power.

Because that is the crux of the issue.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power.

For millennia, women have been systematically marginalized, ignored and silenced, in a male dominated world with a male dominated culture.

I recently came across an interesting book by the Cambridge historian Mary Beard.  It highlights how deep patriarchal roots in Western culture help explain deep power imbalances today.

I believe the same also applies to other regions of the world.

The truth is that, in the celebrated classics in ancient Greece and Rome, speech was quite literally defined as the business of men. 

Homer begins his epic with the son of Odysseus telling his mother to shut up and go back to weaving. 

Aristophanes wrote a play about women leading the state.  It was a comedy.

And, of course, we know that this isn’t ancient history.

You may be familiar with a cartoon of a group of executives sitting around a conference table – all men, one lone woman. 

The woman has just made an important point – followed by a long pause.

In the cartoon, finally, the boss pipes up and says “that’s an excellent suggestion, Ms. Triggs.  Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

I suspect many of you have had similar experiences.

Today, let us be clear about what needs to change.

As Professor Beard has written: “If women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power we need to redefine rather than women.”

I thank you for leading that change and thank you for raising your voices.

We need you here, and we need you now.  And we need you more than ever.

I will be frank. 

Our world is a bit lost. 

Now, and I can recall my experience as a driver. I know men sometimes have difficulties recognizing when they get lost.

We don’t like to admit it. 

We have trouble asking for directions and trouble even looking at a map. 

Well, the fact is that our world today needs direction, and I know you can help guide the way.

Sometimes it feels like we are travelling at full speed … in both directions at the same time. 

People are more connected, yet societies are becoming more fragmented. 

Big challenges are growing outward – climate change, insecurity, conflict. 

Yet people are turning inward. 

More than ever, we need global responses to global challenges.

Yet more than ever, multilateralism – international problem solving – is under fire. 

You are living that paradox, too.

After all, advocates for gender equality are mobilizing like never before. 

You are building global movements.  Raising awareness.  Inspiring change.

At the same time, something else is happening. 

And we must tell it like it is. 

Around the world, there is a pushback on women’s rights. 

That pushback is deep, pervasive and relentless. 

We witness increased violence against women, especially human rights defenders and women running for political office.

We see online harassment and abuse of women who speak out.

In some countries, homicide rates are going down – but murders of women are going up.

In others, we see a rollback of legal protection against domestic violence or even female genital mutilation.

As the ILO just found, women last year were 26 percent less likely to be in employment than men.  Fewer than one-third of managers are women – even though they are likely to be better educated. 

We all know women’s participation makes peace agreements more durable, but we still struggle to make sure women are included in negotiating teams.

Even governments that are vocal supporters of this agenda fail to back their words with action where it counts.

Meanwhile, we see wide and persistent digital divides – an ongoing uphill battle for reproductive rights – terrible endemic sexual and gender-based violence.

And nationalist, populist and even austerity agendas are tearing the social fabric – aggravating inequality, splintering communities, curtailing women’s rights and cutting vital services.

We have a fight on our hands.  And it is a fight we must win – together.

So let us say it loud and clear:

We will not give ground.

We will not turn back.

We will push back against the pushback.

And we will keep pushing. 

For wholesale change.  For rapid change.  And for the meaningful change our world needs, starting by addressing the imbalance in power relations.

That is why here at the UN, I have been pushing for gender parity.  And I am proud to report to you, we are making good progress.

Today, if you look around the table of my Senior Management Group, you will find more women than men. Ms. Triggs is no longer alone.

A first in United Nations history.

Look around the world and you will find parity among our Resident Coordinators – our top officials on the ground.

Again, a first in United Nations history. 

We have the most female heads and deputy heads of peace operations in UN history.  And there is still a long way to go.

We are well on our way to parity in all senior ranks by 2021 – and across the board in the UN by 2028.

But that is not coming without pushback. 

I am told that even within the system some critics have even dared to play the competency card.

I heard it all before when I pushed for greater empowerment in my own political party decades ago in my country. 

The United Nations Charter states: “the paramount consideration in the employment of the staff … shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity”.

The point is: men and women are equally efficient, equally competent, and with the same levels of integrity. 

It is the present situation that penalizes women and the organization as a whole.

With these facts in hand, I have reached a very clear and scientific conclusion: what these critics are saying about competency is complete and utter nonsense.

Or, and I say to our critics, do you truly believe that men are on average more competent than women?  If not, parity is a must for the Charter to be respected.

The way to take profit of all the competence that women bring is to achieve parity. 

The General Assembly made it clear in a resolution all the way back in 1975, stating that 
“a major principle governing the recruitment policy of the United Nations” must be the “equitable distribution of the positions between men and women”. A very strong recommendation unfortunately almost completely forgotten for decades.

And let us be clear – parity is about far more than numbers.

We are striving for greater opportunity for so many outstanding, talented, qualified women for a far more fundamental reason.  Dare I say, a more selfish reason.

Because it is good for us all.

When women are at the table, the chance of sustainable peace increases. 

When women have equal opportunities in the labour force, economies can unlock trillions, as it was forecast recently.

When gender is at the heart of humanitarian assistance, vital assistance goes farther and has greater impact for everyone – men, women, girls and boys.

Parity is about our very effectiveness in securing peace, advancing human rights and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Put simply, when we exclude women, everyone pays the price.

When we include women, the whole world wins.

One of your main themes this year is sustainable infrastructure – a vital issue. 

But you also are focusing on infrastructure in its largest sense:  building better societies.

We know women must be engaged as equal participants in all aspects of society.  That is how we build a better world.

This means changing power relations, closing gaps, tackling biases, fighting to preserve hard-won gains and winning ever-greater ground. 

Above all it means believing – never, ever giving up.

I have hope. 

You give me hope, by your commitment.  Your energy.  Your example.  Your resilience.

I am with you.

I am a proud feminist. 

You have my full support.

As we look to next year’s 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action – the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security – the 75th anniversary of the United Nations – to keep giving direction to our world. 

Keep leading us to a place where women and men enjoy equal rights, equal freedoms and equal power.

We need you more than ever.

Thank you.

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Women’s empowerment ‘essential to global progress’ says Guterres, marking International Day

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are “essential to global progress”, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stressed in his message for International Women's Day which this year puts “innovation by women and girls, for women and girls”, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

“Last year, for the first time, we achieved gender parity in the UN’s Senior Management Group and among those who lead UN teams around the world”, the UN chief said, adding that the Organization is “working to achieve parity across the whole United Nations system within a decade.”

The UN began celebrating the International Day in 1975, which was designated International Women's Year. Over the decades it has morphed from recognizing the achievements of women to becoming a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation, in the political and economic arenas.

“Gender equality is essential to the effectiveness of our work, and we cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of half of the world’s population”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed explained.

Moreover, “women’s equal participation in the labor force would unlock trillions of dollars for global development” she continued.

“Let us be clear,” she spelled out: “We cannot build the future we want and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without the full participation of women”.

Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind, according to the overarching UN strategy. E-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls; affordable and quality childcare centres; and technology shaped by women, are a few examples of the innovation needed to meet the 2030 deadline set out in the Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“And we need more women leaders participating in public life and taking decisions”, flagged General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa, urging everyone to redouble their efforts “against the discrimination and violence women and girls face every day”.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

Video - UN S-G's joint message on International Women's Day 2019

Read the S-G's message   | Learn more about the Day 

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UNAIDS ‘greatly encouraged’ by latest scientific breakthrough showing cure is possible

The UN agency leading the global effort to end AIDS, said on Tuesday that a new case of a patient who has been “functionally cured” of HIV infection, is greatly encouraging, but there is still a long way to go before the illness can be eradicated.

The male patient, who was being treated for lymphatic cancer at a London hospital in the United Kingdom, underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, with cells from a donor carrying a rare genetic resistance to the HIV virus.

Both his cancer and HIV went into remission, and 18 months on, he is no longer taking HIV drugs and all traces of infection have become undetectable, according to doctors treating him. Researchers reportedly say that it is too early, however, to say the patient has been fully cured.

“UNAIDS is greatly encouraged by the news that an HIV-positive man has been functionally cured of HIV”, said the agency in a press statement.

“Although this breakthrough is complicated and much more work is needed, it gives us great hope for the future that we could potentially end AIDS with science, through a vaccine or a cure,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.

“However, it also shows how far away we are from that point,” he added saying it emphasized “the absolute importance of continuing to focus HIV prevention and treatment efforts.”

video: Where? How many? What part of the world?

Treatment ‘not viable’ for large numbers of patients

The agency stressed that as stem cell transplants are “highly complex, intensive and costly procedures with substantial side-effects”, they were not a “viable way of treating large numbers of people living with HIV.”

“However, the results do offer a greater insight for researchers working on HIV cure strategies and highlight the continuing importance of investing in scientific research and innovation,” added UNAIDS.

The so far anonymous London patient, is only the second reported case of a functional cure for HIV, the first being a patient in the German capital, Berlin, who received similar cancer treatment in 2007.

There is currently no cure, and UNAIDS is working to ensure that all people living with and affected by HIV have access to life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

In 2017 – the latest annual figures available - there were just under 37 million people living with HIV and 1.8 million people became newly infected with the virus. In the same year, almost 1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses and 21.7 million people had access to treatment.

Stigma and discrimination against HIV, continue to hold back key vulnerable population groups such as sex-workers, transgender people, intravenous drug users and migrants, and only one in four, living with HIV, are aware of their status.

Marking World AIDS Day in November, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said that the world stood at a “critical juncture”, and the direction of the response to the on-going epidemic, would determine whether or not the world could end AIDS by 2030, in line with the UNAIDS Fast-Track Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Venezuela must guarantee judicial impartiality - UN human rights expert

As political tensions continue to escalate in Venezuela, a United Nations independent human rights expert has called on the Government to “take all necessary measures to guarantee judicial independence,” following concerns that some pressure may have been placed on the country’s justice system “to act against the political opposition”.

“All Venezuelan State institutions must respect, promote and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including judges and prosecutors, so that that they can maintain their independence in the face of undue pressure,” said the expert, Diego García-Sayán, who specializes in safeguarding the independence of judges and lawyers around the world. “It is essential that the Constitution and human rights treaties are respected,” he added.

“I am concerned that pressure is being put on the judicial system to act against the political opposition.”

Tensions started escalating at the end of January, when Mr. Guaidó, head of the country’s National Assembly, challenged the legitimacy of the sitting President, Nicolás Maduro, and was declared interim president by the National Assembly. President Maduro has been in power since 2013 and was sworn in again for a second term on 10 January.

"The measures taken against Guaidó and the pressure being exerted on him are unacceptable,” stated the UN human rights expert, deploring the criminal investigation that is being conducted, “as this could be politically motivated,” he explained.

Mr. García-Sayán further noted that “statements already made by Tarek William Saab, a leading supporter of the incumbent President Maduro, about the Guaidó investigation may already be affecting the legal presumption of innocence” and that "the equitable, independent and impartial administration of justice, requires prosecutors to work in a way that is fair and which avoids any discrimination.”

Mr. García-Sayán called on Venezuela to “organise its State apparatus in a way that is compatible with its international obligations to guarantee the rule of law, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and international human rights standards”.

[ full story on UN News ]

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Tensions escalate in Venezuela, civilians killed and injured: top UN officials lament excessive use of force by authorities

As tensions escalated on Saturday at various points along Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil, as well as within the country itself, resulting in the death and injury of various civilians, the United Nations chief, António Guterres, and the head of the UN human rights office (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, expressed their shock and appealed for calm.

The UN Secretary-General called for violence to be “avoided at any cost and for lethal force not to be used in any circumstances”. He urged “all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent further escalation”.

Ms. Bachelet condemned “the excessive use of force used by the Venezuelan security forces, as well the involvement of pro-government elements”, which have resulted in at least four confirmed deaths and more than 300 injuries on Friday and Saturday, according to OHCHR.

“People have been shot and killed, others have reportedly received wounds from which they will never completely recover, including losing eyes,” she deplored. “These are disgraceful scenes. The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens.”

Ms. Bachelet said she had received reports of numerous and, in some cases prolonged, violent incidents, at different points along the borders with Colombia and Brazil, as the Venezuelan security forces tried to halt the aid supplies coming into the country through closed border points.

OHCHR also received several reports pointing at the involvement of armed pro-government elements in the violent attacks on protestors, and Bachelet urged the Government “to rein in these groups and arrest those among them who have used force against protestors”.

“The use of proxy forces has a long and sinister history in the region,” she added. “And it is very alarming to see them operating openly in this way in Venezuela. The Government can, and must, stop them from exacerbating an already highly inflammable situation.”

 

story originally posed on UN News.

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Holocaust outreach education 2019

UNIC commemorated the Internationald Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (27 January) with an interactive to Model UN Students on the theme of " Dare to stand up for human rights" at one of their training sessions in St. Augustine, Trinidad. Studens were encouraged to express their opinions about the lessons learned from the history of the Holocaust and what they feel is important about demanding their human rights.

On 29 January the students from a secondary school in Port of Spain visit the UNIC to view the film titled- "Who will write our history". The film douments efforts by an underground movement of Jews to document their own experiences to counter the growing spread of Nazi propaganda. The students were also introduced to the Butterfly Project. Those who felt moved enough to create their own, took materials back with them and have are to return the completed projects to the Centre for display.

30 January to 3 February - UNIC in partnership with the UN Depository Library at the Alma Jordan Library on the University of the West Indies Campus hosted an exhibit on the Holocaust on the ground floor of thte main.  Staff and students from the university came to visit the exhibit and enage in dialogue with UNIC about human rights, UN and the Holocaust.

 

 images from the activites for 2019

 

 


 

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Solidarity needed to overcome ‘isolated’ attacks on Venezuela refugees, migrants

Attacks and hate speech against Venezuelans seeking shelter in neighbouring countries should be condemned “with a clear and forceful message of rejection” and solidarity, a top UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and UN migration agency (IOM) official said in a statement on Monday.

Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, made his comments after the UN Security Council met at the weekend to discuss the situation in the country, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself President on 23 January.

“Although isolated and unrepresentative, these acts of hatred, intolerance and xenophobia are extremely worrying,” Mr. Stein said, in his appeal to “several” unnamed countries.

“Racism, misogyny and xenophobia have no place in our countries and must be firmly condemned,” the UNHCR/IOM official added, his statement following a warning in November that the reception capacity of Venezuela’s neighbours was becoming severely strained.

While urging “political and opinion leaders” to call for “peace, justice, calm and restraint”, Mr. Stein also highlighted the importance of responsible traditional and online media reporting.

“The media and users of social networks…must report the facts in a responsible manner, without inciting xenophobic attitudes and actions and must also condemn all physical or verbal attacks against refugees, migrants and other foreign persons, when they occur,” said Mr. Stein, a former Guatemalan Vice-President.

According to UNHCR and IOM, thousands of people continue to leave Venezuela every day, amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis linked to an economy in freefall and continuing political upheaval.

More than three million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, with 2.4 million in neighbouring or nearby countries. Most are in Colombia, which houses well over one million who have fled their homes.

This is followed by Peru (more than 500,000) Ecuador (more than 220,000), Argentina (130,000) Chile (more than 100,000) and Brazil (85,000).

In addition to South American countries, countries in Central America and the Caribbean also recorded increasing arrivals of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. Panama, for example, hosts at least 94,000 Venezuelans.

 

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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New UN bullying report calls for ‘safe, inclusive’ schools for all children

The emotional and physical pain brought on by bullying can be excruciating, yet this behavior continues to abound in schools globally, according to a new report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that is calling for all children to have access to a "safe, inclusive” learning environment.

 

unescpub bullying19UNESCO’s report, Behind the numbers: ending school violence and bullying, released on Tuesday at the 2019 Education World Forum in London, reveals that nearly one-in-three boys and girls have been bullied at least once at school over the last month, and a similar proportion have been affected by physical violence.

Overall, says the report, physical bullying is the biggest problem in most regions, but in North America and Europe, psychological bullying is the most common, followed by sexually-related bullying.

Online and smartphone bullying on the rise

Physical bullying is more common among boys, while psychological bullying is more prevalent among girls. Meanwhile, online and mobile phone bullying is on the rise. Children perceived as different in any way from the norm, are the most likely to be bullied, with physical appearance being the most common cause followed by race, nationality or skin colour.

Bullying must be addressed because it significantly effects children’s mental health, quality of life and academic achievement, the report states.

Frequently bullied children are nearly three times more likely to feel shunned and more than twice as likely to miss school. Their educational-outcomes decline, and they are more likely to leave after finishing secondary school.

 

 

UNESCO-recommended measures to lower school violence and reduce bullying:

  • A commitment to a safe, positive school and classroom environment.
  • Effective reporting and monitoring systems.
  • Evidence-based programmes and interventions.
  • Teacher training and support.
  • Support and referral for affected students.
  • Student empowerment and participation.
  • Better political leadership.
  • Robust legal and policy frameworks.

read the full story on UN News

 

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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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