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2,300 migrant children in Central American ‘caravan’ need protection, UNICEF says

As some 7,000 mostly-Honduran migrants continue their journey northwards toward the United States, governments must prioritize the needs of migrant children when it comes to applying immigration laws and procedures, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday.

Highlighting the vulnerability of children on the move, the agency advised all transit and destination countries, to consider alternatives to immigration detention.

According to the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), thousands of men, women, and children, including unaccompanied children, are still making their way through Mexico toward the southern border of the US.

Their journey is arduous, especially when opting for irregular migration routes. The dangers of inclement weather, including soaring temperatures and lack of shelter are high, especially for children, say UN agencies.

Some have already fallen ill or are suffering from dehydration, said UNICEF, while the danger of extortion by criminal smuggling gangs, or threats of robbery and sexual violence are also present; perils from which many are already fleeing.

‘When I saw our house burning…it was time to flee’ Eduardo, 16

Eduardo, a sixteen-year-old from Honduras, told UNHCR that the gang violence in his hometown of Colon had become so intense, he felt he had no other option but to leave the country.

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UN Chief: ‘full respect’ needed for national control of borders as human caravan moves through Mexico

With more than 7,000 Central-American refugees now on the march through Mexico towards the southern border of the United States in search of safety and work, all countries involved are being urged by the UN to liaise with key agencies on the ground providing support.

Answering questions from reporters at the daily press briefing on Monday, UN Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), had been boosting resources on the ground, as the caravan of mainly Honduran refugees and migrants made its way north, across the border between Guatemala and Mexico.

Mr. Haq said that UN Secretary-General António Guterres was urging all parties to abide by international law, including the principle of “full respect for countries’ rights to manage their own borders.”

According to media reports, what started as a small group of under 200 just a few days ago, has grown considerably. Mr. Haq told journalists that “it is estimated that the caravan comprises some 7,233 persons, many of whom intend to continue the march north.”

US President Donald Trump has reportedly responded to the march, by threatening to cut off foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador should the caravan of people fleeing their homeland, attempt to cross into the US illegally.

Earlier this week, a UN rights expert urged Member States not to prioritize security concerns over the basic human rights of migrants and refugees.

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World population set to grow another 2.2 billion by 2050

The world’s population is set to grow by 2.2 billion between now and 2050, the UN said on Wednesday, and more than half of that growth - 1.3 billion - is likely to be in sub-Saharan Africa, where women’s rights are hampered by limited access to healthcare and education, along with “entrenched gender discrimination”.

Monica Ferro, Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Geneva, said the trend globally is towards smaller families, indicating that more people are making choices about exactly how many children they want, or can afford to raise.

Despite the gradual transition to lower fertility rates, which began in Europe in the late 19th century, no country can claim that all their citizens enjoy reproductive rights at all times, Ms Ferro told journalists at a press briefing. “No matter if it is a high fertility-rate country or low fertility-rate country, in both of them, you will find individuals and couples who say they don’t have the number of children they want. They either have too many or too few.”

In 43 countries, women have more than 4 children

According to UNFPA’s State of World Population 2018, there are 43 countries where women have more than four or more children, and 38 of these are in Africa.

In all but five East African countries, fewer than half of all women surveyed, said they would prefer not to have any more children.

If UNFPA’s predictions are correct, Africa’s share of the world population will grow from 17 per cent in 2017, to 26 per cent in 2050.

Staying with the African continent, fertility rates are “significantly lower” in cities than in rural areas, the report indicates. In Ethiopia, for example, women have around 2.1 children in cities, whereas they have around five in the rest of the country.

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Message on World Mental Health Day 2018

Health encompasses both physical and mental well-being.

Yet for too long, mental health has been mostly an afterthought, despite its overwhelming impacts on communities and young people, everywhere.

This year’s World Mental Health Day focuses on young people.

One in five young people will experience a mental health problem this year. Half of all mental health conditions start by the age of 14. Most cases are, however, undetected and untreated.

Poor mental health during adolescence has an impact on educational achievement and increases the risk of alcohol and substance use and violent behaviour. Suicide is a leading cause of death in young people.

Millions of people are caught up in conflict and disasters, putting them at risk of a range of long-term mental health problems. Violence against women -- physical, sexual and psychological -- results in lasting scars, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite these challenges, a great deal of mental health conditions are both preventable and treatable, especially if we start looking after our mental health at an early age.

The 2030 Agenda is clear: We must leave no one behind. Yet, those struggling with mental health problems are still being marginalized.

Healthy societies require greater integration of mental health into broader health and social care systems, under the umbrella of universal health coverage.

The United Nations is committed to creating a world where by 2030 everyone, everywhere has someone to turn to in support of their mental health, in a world free of stigma and discrimination.

If we change our attitude to mental health – we change the world. It is time to act on mental health.

 

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Peace is at risk and violated in many places, but ‘we will not give up,’ says UN chief Guterres

On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres cited the strong correlation between the International Day of Peace and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a basis for peace.

According to the UN chief, the Declaration, which turns 70 this year, provides a reminder that peace takes root when people are free from hunger, poverty and oppression and can thrive and prosper.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by UN Member States in 2015, also aim to serve this purpose by building a peaceful world through economic and social development for all with guaranteed human rights.

And yet, “when we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we know that human rights are violated in so many parts of the world, we even know that the human rights agenda is losing ground,” he said at the ceremonial ringing of the Peace Bell to commemorate Peace Day.

“But we don’t give up because respect for human rights and human dignity is a basic condition for peace,” Mr. Guterres stressed. “We are here because we are determined, and we do not give up.” 

“Peace is at risk. Peace is violated in so many places. But we will not give up,” he underscored.

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 What is Peace and Security?

 

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Scourge of genocide remains a ‘threat and a reality’ today: UN human rights chief

Genocide remains a “threat and a reality” in the 21st century, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday, in an appeal to States to do more to act on the “warning signs” that often precede grave violations of international law.

At an event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, Ms. Bachelet highlighted the findings of a UN probe into “the military-led campaign of murder, rape and assault” against Myanmar’s Rohingya people, as well as brutal acts committed against the Iraqi Yazidi community by ISIL.

“This leaves us in no doubt that the genocide convention matters as much today as it did on 9 December 1948. The day it became the very first human rights treaty to be adopted by the UN General Assembly - followed the next day by the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

... Michelle Bachlet

Insisting that it was time to “take stock” of recent violations in Myanmar and Iraq, Ms. Bachelet also welcomed last week’s decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it had jurisdiction to rule over the alleged mass deportation of some 750,000 Rohingya, from Rakhine state.

The ICC decision did not specifically address the crime of genocide “but it offers real hope” that those responsible will be brought to justice, she noted, while underlining the importance and “preventative impact” of the work of the Human Rights Council and the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR.

“Accountability matters,” the UN official continued. “Prevention and punishment – the explicitly stated twin aims of the genocide convention – can never be seen in isolation from each other. Punishment is key to prevention. Impunity is an enabler of genocide; accountability is its nemesis.”

To date, 149 States have ratified or acceded to the Genocide Convention, whose full name is the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

It was signed in the aftermath of World War Two and the Holocaust, when Member States of the young organization drew up an international treaty to prohibit the crime of genocide, which required signatory governments to take all necessary steps to prevent or stop it.

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 microphone Audio - Listen to Michelle's speech

 

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UN hails ‘ground-breaking’ Supreme Court ruling to decriminalize gay sex in India

A landmark ruling in India that decriminalizes gay sex has been welcomed as a “ground-breaking decision” by the UN agency leading the fight against HIV/AIDS.

India’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a key section of a colonial-era law which made specific sexual acts between adults illegal.

“Today is a day of gay pride, a day of celebration, a day when respect and dignity was finally restored in India for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people,” 

“I hope this decision sets the trend and is followed by similar decisions in other countries that remove unjust laws criminalizing homosexuality.”

...Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the decision by India’s highest court, applauding the verdict of the Chief Justice, who said that discrimination and prejudice are always “irrational, indefensible, and arbitrary.”

The UN system in India expressed hope that it will boost efforts to stamp out stigma and discrimination against LGBTI people, which violates their human rights.

The UN office in Delhi issued a statementwhich stressed that “focus must now be on ensuring access to justice, including remedy; effective investigations of acts of violence and discrimination; and effective access to economic, social and cultural rights.”

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UN Free and Equal campaign link

The UN and LGBTIQ rights  - UN Free and Equal website


Infographic from UN Free and Equal 

psa_companies that support lgbti equality

 

 

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Act now to save children from rise in climate-driven extreme weather – UNICEF

Governments are being pressed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to act now to safeguard younger generations from the immediate and long-term impacts of so-called “extreme weather events.”
 

The devastating floods in southern India, wildfires ravaging the western United States and the record-breaking heatwaves baking countries across much of the northern hemisphere, are putting children in immediate danger while also jeopardizing their future, the agency said in a press release issued on Friday.

 “In any crisis, children are among the most vulnerable, and the extreme weather events we are seeing around the world are no exception,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Director of Programmes.

“Over the past few months, we have seen a stark vision of the world we are creating for future generations. As more extreme weather events increase the number of emergencies and humanitarian crises, it is children who will pay the highest price.”

These extreme weather events during June and July, causing injury, death, environmental damage and other losses.

UNICEF stated that although individual weather events cannot specifically be attributed to climate change, their increasing frequency and severity correspond with predictions of how human activities are affecting the global climate.

These conditions have numerous impacts on children. For example, they contribute to the increased spread of “childhood killers” such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea, UNICEF explained.

Heatwaves put children at risk, with infants and younger children more likely to die or suffer from heatstroke, while floods threaten their survival and development through causing injuries or death by drowning, or compromising water supply and damaging sanitation facilities. Meanwhile, poor families are particularly affected by drought, which can lead to crop failure, livestock deaths and loss of income.

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 UNICEF infographic on child malnutrition 

pie chartmore data from UNICEF 

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Defending people - An interview with the UN rights cheif - Zeid

In his last major interview with UN News, the outgoing UN human rights chief tells us that the “real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us.”

If you don't sometimes speak out, if you don't threaten to speak out, you don't grab their attention. And I would rather err on the speaking out part than staying silent

 Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Full interview:

UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN LOOKS BACK ON HIS TERM

The real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us. And that’s the pressure that I think matters most and is most consequential on us in terms of the need to do the right thing.

Our job is to defend the individual victims, vulnerable communities, marginalized communities. Oppression is making a comeback. Repression is fashionable again. I don't believe anyone holding this position, even if they felt differently, ultimately can conduct business in a manner that departs too radically from the way that I've done it and my predecessors have done it. My belief is if you try to depart, you're going to hear it, and it will be extremely unpleasant for you because you're going to hear it from the very people who are suffering. 

ON HIS LEGACY

People who mattered to me are in the civil society, victims groups, human rights defenders. And if they say Zeid has, done a good job, I'd be very content with that.

If they say Zeid could have done better, I'll have to learn to live with it and accept it.

ON THE FIGHT AGAINST INJUSTICE

I met with four young girls. They had been sentenced to 30 years in prison for - and they claim these were obstetric emergencies, these were miscarriages - the State claimed that these were terminations of pregnancy. And when I sat with them, and I had with me a full team, my office was there; I think within the space of about ten minutes we were all weeping, we were in tears because their suffering was so extreme.

I saw the President after that and I said, “Why is it that all these girls are poor?” I think in many, many parts of the world, this is the point that really strikes home: that time and again, the poor suffer all the consequences.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEAKING OUT

I first worked with the UN in 1994, 1995 in the former Yugoslavia, and I saw what catastrophes silence can bring. And I think from that point on, I was determined not to be silent when the evidence before us was presented.

ON THE CHALLENGES OF THE UNITED NATIONS

It’s very difficult to tolerate abuse of the UN when I keep thinking of the heroic things that people do in the field, whether they be humanitarian actors or humanitarian personnel, my human rights people, the people who are monitoring or observing. And I take my hat off to them. I mean, they are the UN that I will cherish and remember.

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Former UN Women Director to be the new High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ms. Bachelet was most recently President of Chile between 2014 and 2018, having served previously from 2006 to 2010, the year in which she was appointed the first Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN‑Women).  Ms. Bachelet also held ministerial portfolios in the Government of Chile, serving as Minister for Defence (2002‑2004) and Minister for Health (2000‑2002),

Please see below the official transcript from the SG 

REMARKS AT PRESS ENCOUNTER ON APPOINTMENT OF MICHELLE BACHELET AS UNITED NATIONS

HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

New York, 10 August 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that the General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of Ms. Michelle Bachelet as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ms. Bachelet has been as formidable a figure in her native Chile as she has at the United Nations.

At home, she has known the heights and the depths – as the first woman to serve as the country’s President, but also as a survivor of brutality by the authorities targeting her and her family many decades ago.

She was also a pioneer here at the United Nations – the first leader of UN Women, giving that new entity a dynamic and inspiring start.

Now, she takes on a role for which she is perfectly suited. In this year in which we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, I could not think of a better choice.

She has lived under the darkness of dictatorship.

As a physician, she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights.

And she knows the responsibilities of both national and global leadership.

She takes office at a time of grave consequence for human rights.

Hatred and inequality are on the rise.

Respect for international humanitarian and human rights law is on the decline.

Space for civil society is shrinking.

Press freedoms are under pressure.  

To navigate these currents, we need a strong advocate for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

We need a person who can ensure the integrity of the indispensable human rights mechanisms of the United Nations.

I want to express my deep gratitude to my good colleague and friend Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his leadership, passion, courage and skill in serving as High Commissioner for the past four years. I wish him well as he takes time with his beloved family, and in all his future endeavours. 

Michelle Bachelet brings unique experience to the United Nations and to all of us, and is strongly committed to keeping human rights at the forefront of the work of the United Nations. She has my full confidence and support, and I ask all Member States and our partners to extend to her their support.

I look forward to working together to promote and encourage respect for human rights for “we the peoples”, everyone and everywhere.

Thank you very much.

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