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London: Monday: June 12: 2017

First Published: September 24, 2015





Humanity will continue to live an inferior life than what is possible until the two halves: all individuals in them: that make it are absolutely, fundamentally and jubilantly Equal at Liberty

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The Long Walk to Humanics: There can never be an app that will replace a surgeon doing the surgery nor there can ever be a bridge built, symphony composed, epic written, painting painted by a machine. Reading is such a vital thing in pursuit of knowledge for without reading knowledge is rudimentary. The Humanion is for Readers to Read. The Humanion is not for anything else but for Readers to read so to be encouraged to think and ponder about things. The Humanion is a Human Enterprise which is an idea in which no one owns anything but everyone belongs to the whole as the whole belongs to everyone lawfully and equally and, it neither believes in nor makes money but human utilities, needs, aspirations, creativity, imagination and dreams are served without money, where everyone works and creates for others as others create and work for them, thus, bringing in meaning and purpose to life along with it come natural justice, equality and liberty  that establish a true civilisation. And in one word, this system of human affairs management is called, Humanics and a society that runs itself in humanics is called a humanical society.......But in the meanwhile...And thus, The Humanion believes we should seek to ensure that all citizens of a nation have: a: Guaranteed Universal Income; b: A Guaranteed Home; c: A Guaranteed Education Up to College and Guaranteed Subsidised Route to Degree-Level Education; d: A Guaranteed Job; e: Guaranteed Access to Free for All Healthcare at the Point of Need and f: A Guaranteed Universal-Child-Income-Protection Where Every Child is Guaranteed Equal Financial Support from 0-16; g: Guaranteed Social Care and h: Guaranteed Access to Equitable Pension:Provides a living income. So, join us: Join The Humanion Team

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UNICEF Youth Climate Advocates at COP 21 Paris 2015

To Read the Stories Published in The Humanion Section in September-December 2015

Ashleigh Sumner

Young Woman Engineer of 2015 Finalist

Dr Beth Healey

Physician/Antarctic Researcher



Isabelle Boulay


Tatiana Eva-Marie


At Innovation Summit

In Helsinki

Sense TouchBase South East Centre

Orla Murphy

Young Woman Engineer

Katherine Johnson


Florian Fuchs

Student Space Science

Annie Caraccio

 NASA Research Engineer in Deep-Space Exploration

Natalia Carbajosa


At the Innovation Summit

In Helsinki

UNICEF Youth Climate Advocates

At COP21

Noa Eshet

Space Educationist

Claire Askew


Aowen Jin


Rossella Nicolin

Young Woman Engineer of 2015 Finalist

15 Year Old Mohammad

Azraq Refugee Camp Jordan

Sharon Harriott


Vaishali Shah


Aiko Harman


Laura Stub

Student Space Sciences

Adrien Chevalier


Samantha Cristoforetti

Following the Stars Been and Back from ISS

Jonathan Kollmer

Student Space Science

Elyse Aichatou Yahaya Danzara


Emma Goulding

Mary George Prize Winner

Aung San Suu Kyi

Nobel Peace Prize 1991

Adam Michaels

Space Educationist

Nicola Benedetti


Marilyn Horne


Isobel Dixon

Poet/Literary Agent

Juli Jena


Bryan Oliver


Gracia Iglesias


Rebecca Atherton


Tomas Sanchez Santiago


Shola Aleje

Cultural Worker

Christian Ward


Joumana Haddad


Kerry-Fleur Schleifer




March 30, 2016

As We Honour the Past Victims of Slavery Must We Tackle Modern Forms of It Today

This important Day also directs a spotlight on racism, sadly, still prevailing in today's societies. It is seen in untold acts of violence, discrimination, bias and prejudice all over the world. And it is shamefully represented by the millions of people still living in situations of servitude and slavery worldwide.

Forced labour, bonded labour, child labour, human trafficking and forced prostitution are serious human rights violations ''rooted'' in a glaring lack of respect and regard for fellow human beings. The global community's battle cry must be: “a life of dignity for all – enough is enough. UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson









A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

March 29, 2016:  Observing the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery, senior United Nations officials today reflected on past horrors, and warned that the world must also confront current and modern challenges posed by the many forms and manifestations of slavery.

“On this day, we honour the memory of millions of Africans forcibly removed from their families, villages and homelands over hundreds of years,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told delegates at the General Assembly commemorative meeting.

“This important Day also directs a spotlight on racism, sadly still prevailing in today's societies. It is seen in untold acts of violence, discrimination, bias and prejudice all over the world. And it is shamefully represented by the millions of people still living in situations of servitude and slavery worldwide,” he added.

Mr. Eliasson said forced labour, bonded labour, child labour, human trafficking and forced prostitution are serious human rights violations “rooted in a glaring lack of respect and regard for fellow human beings,” advising that the global community's battle cry must be “a life of dignity for all – enough is enough.”

The theme of this year's commemoration is 'Remember Slavery: Celebrating the Heritage and Culture of the African Diaspora and its Roots.'

Also speaking at the event, the President of the 70th session of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, said it is a timely theme “as it draws attention to the vibrant African culture and traditions that have enriched life in countries once involved in the slave trade and how the African Diaspora continues to enhance many aspects of daily life in countries around the world.”

He recalled that in 2007, the General Assembly adopted a resolution to create a permanent memorial to remember the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade and to acknowledge the tragedy and enduring consequences of the enslavement of African peoples.

This memorial – The Ark of Return – occupies a prominent place at UN Headquarters on the visitors' plaza. Mr. Lykketoft described it as “crucial in educating and informing current and future generations about the causes, consequences and lessons of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson also highlighted that last year, the UN launched the International Decade of People of African Descent and that the UN Remember Slavery Programme is reaching out to young and old alike to create awareness, promote understanding and change attitudes.

“On this Day, I ask all Member States, and civil society, to commit to make sure that all people of African descent enjoy equal access to education, employment, health care, development and other vital opportunities,” he declared.

“It is long overdue for us to break the chains that have denied so many equality, and the protection of their human rights, under the law and in practice,” he insisted.


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One in 10 Syrian Refugees Will Need Resettling: UNHCR Filippo Grandi

Refugees have taken over the Idomeni station platform and even the railway lines. Image: Chris Bulstrode

Supporting refugees is a global responsibility that must be widely shared, the UN refugee agency stressed today ahead of a one-day high-level conference it is hosting in Geneva tomorrow, focused on refugees from Syria and the need for generating a substantial increase in resettlement and other answers for their plight.

Refugees fleeing conflict and violence and arriving in Europe carry an important message: addressing their plight cannot only be the task of countries and communities that are close to wars. It is a global responsibility that must be widely shared until peace prevails again: Filippo Grandi: UN High Commissioner for Refugees

March 29, 2016:  Supporting refugees is a global responsibility that must be widely shared, the UN refugee agency stressed today ahead of a one-day high-level conference it is hosting in Geneva tomorrow, focused on refugees from Syria and the need for generating a substantial increase in resettlement and other answers for their plight.

"Refugees fleeing conflict and violence and arriving in Europe carry an important message: addressing their plight cannot only be the task of countries and communities that are close to wars. It is a global responsibility that must be widely shared until peace prevails again," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a press release.

"Giving at least some Syrian refugees an opportunity to move on to better lives, and relieving the burden on countries hosting millions of refugees are important gestures of solidarity. Let us not miss this opportunity," Mr. Grandi added.

The conference is one of several key events in 2016 focused on Syria's refugees. It follows February's London Conference on Syria, dealing with the financial dimensions of the humanitarian challenge posed by the more than 13.5 million people in need inside Syria and the 4.8 million refugees in the surrounding region, along with the needs of communities in host countries. Tomorrow's gathering is also in the run up to September's summit on refugees taking place at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) underlined that the focus of tomorrow's meeting is on the need for expanded, multi-year programmes of resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission, including countries that until now have not been involved in such initiatives.

 The agency also stressed that resettlement is not the only aim – other such pathways include humanitarian transfer or visas, private sponsorship, medical evacuation, family reunion, academic scholarship, and apprenticeships or labour schemes. The event will also showcase innovative approaches, new partnerships, and successful case studies, and is being presented as an opportunity for governments around the world to be part of finding solutions for Syrian refugees.

Representatives from some 92 countries, 10 inter-governmental organizations, nine UN agencies and 24 non-government organizations are expected. Speakers will include the High Commissioner Grandi and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as representatives from key refugee-hosting governments.

Some pledges of additional resettlement and other humanitarian admission places are expected to be announced tomorrow. Given the complex international context and with Syria's conflict continuing, UNHCR said additional places will be needed over the coming months and years, in particular to address the needs of the most vulnerable refugees and to relieve pressure on Syria's neighbours.

In line with refugee situations elsewhere, UNHCR estimates that as many as 10 per cent of Syria's 4.8 million refugees fall into this category, and that well over 450,000 places will be needed before the end of 2018.

Meanwhile, in connection with tomorrow's conference, the Campaign Director of Avaaz, Alice Jay, will today be handing over a petition to Mr. Grandi carrying over 1.2 million signatures in support of refugees. The petition, collected since last summer calls for increased resettlement and reunification of families alongside financial support to countries on the frontline of the crisis.

Avaaz, meaning 'voice,' is a global citizens' movement which campaigns in 15 languages on six continents. A selection of photographs and messages of 'Refugees Welcome' from 23,000 Avaaz members around the world will be shared on a screen outside the conference hall tomorrow.


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 Greater Input, Visibility of Women in Peace-building: Head of UN Women to the Security Council

Paleki Ayang, Executive Director of the South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network, addresses the Security Council open debate. UN Photo/Manuel Elias












March 29, 2016: Emphasizing the consistent, dependable and universal commitment of women to conflict prevention, the head of UN Women today called for greater efforts to reach the goal of allocating at least 15 per cent of peacebuilding resources to gender equality and women's empowerment.

“Women need to be resourced so that they can do more,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women told the Security Council during an open debate on the role of women in conflict prevention in Africa.

“The commitment to allocate at least 15 per cent of peacebuilding funds to gender equality and women's empowerment, must become a reality. This must be extended to all efforts aimed at preventing and countering violent extremism,” she added.

She also stressed that women's organizations must receive the political and financial support needed to engage in violence prevention, mediation and diplomacy, as investing in gender equality as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “is the best recipe for structural, long-term prevention.”

However, the role of women in conflict prevention is often missing in highest-level discussions about peace and security, she pointed out, welcoming today's debate that focused on the relationship between the need to focus on prevention of violence and paying attention to the critical importance of gender equality.

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka went on to cite specific examples of conflict prevention led by women in Africa, including the 'Women's Situation Rooms,' a monitoring mechanism to support women candidates and fight discrimination of women in electoral processes and gender-based electoral violence and harassment.

In the last five years, the mechanism has been established in Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, and the model is being replicated in a growing list of countries across Africa with UN Women's support.

Paleki Ayang (left), Executive Director of the South Sudan Women's Empowerment Network, greets Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), at the Security Council open debate. UN Photo/Manuel Elias














“Our research also shows that women play a key role in de-escalating tensions and preventing radicalization in their families. In Mali, the most important influence for the successful re-integration of many ex-combatants has been the women in their families and communities,” she said.

In the Sahel region, the income, status and resilience of women has been boosted by programmes that address the gender gap in access to land and other productive assets, she said. In poor areas of Kenya, women's organizations are using mothers to identify and prevent the spread of radicalization, and in Burundi, hundreds of women mediators are working tirelessly to address local conflicts.

According to the Global Study on Women, Peace and Security, countries with lower levels of gender inequality are less likely to resort to the use of force; security of women is one of the most reliable indicators of the peacefulness of a State; and women's different spending patterns contribute directly to post-conflict social recovery, she noted.

She also presented some proposals. The UN's prevention work should include more frequent deliberations by the Security Council informed by the perspective and analyses of women on the ground. The practice of hearing from civil society should be extended to consultations on country-specific situations, to the work of the 15-nation body's subsidiary organs, including the Counterterrorism Committee, as well as the Council's visiting missions, she added.

Council members should also demand a robust gender analysis in reports and in all atrocity-prevention efforts, she continued, noting that UN Women serves as the Secretariat for the new Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, which held its first meeting last month on Mali. This mechanism is an important step in ensuring consistent and quality information flows to the Council, she added.

Maria Filomena de Fátima Lobão Telo Delgado, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of the Republic of Angola and President of the Security Council for March, chairs the Security Council open debate. UN Photo/Loey Felipe















Women in conflict mediation

Also briefing the Council was Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who said promoting women's effective participation in conflict mediation and addressing their specific needs in peacemaking efforts had been a priority of the Department of Political Affairs since 2010, when its conflict-prevention work had become increasingly inclusive.

Since 2012, all UN mediation support teams had included women, and women made up half of the participants in the Department's high-level mediation skills training, which focused on enhancing gender parity and the future character and configuration of international peacemaking.

He said the Department also continued to implement, with UN Women, its Joint Strategy on Gender and Mediation, which helped to build mediation capacity for envoys and mediation teams by providing gender expertise and training, while UN Women strengthened the capacity of regional, national and local women leaders and peace coalitions, and supported access opportunities for women in peace negotiations.

Nevertheless, unequal access and opportunities for women's participation in political decision-making processes persisted worldwide. “Prioritizing prevention and inclusive political solutions has never been more urgent,” he emphasized.

Gender-focused peacebuilding strategy

Macharia Kamau, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that women remain a resource that has not been effectively utilized, citing such obstacles as cynical cultural practices that maintained patriarchal attitudes; insufficient political will to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security; militarized approaches to conflict resolution that crowded out organic initiatives; and the absence of gender-sensitive economic recovery.

As such, the Commission had outlined its first gender strategy, which it expected to adopt before July, he said, adding that it set out recommendations on strengthening the integration of gender perspectives in all country-specific and strategic engagements. Going forward, the Commission would use its unique leverage to advocate for technical expertise on gender equality and peacebuilding, as well as funding, he continued.

The combination of commitment on the part of senior leadership, specialized expertise and dedicated financial resources would make a real difference, as had been seen in Burundi, where UN-Women supported a network of 534 women mediators across all municipalities, he said.

Placing a personal emphasis on the gender issue, he said that he had seen the ruin that 100 years of colonial and post-colonial policies had wreaked upon women in the culture and society of his homeland, Kenya. “Women remain firmly at the bottom of the rungs of social progress and empowerment,” he said, underlining that a more inclusive future would require that countries respond forcefully to the condition of women in their midst.


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Young People Are Not Just the Leaders of Tomorrow; They Are the Leaders of Today: Ban Ki-moon at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan

In Jordan’s Zaatari camp, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with young refugees. 27 March, 2016. UN Photo/Mark Garten
















March 27, 2016: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued his trip to the Middle East today with a visit to Jordan alongside World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, where they met with refugees from the Zaatari camp, as well as with senior government officials from Palestine, Turkey and Jordan, including King Abdullah II.

“I was here at the beginning of the establishment of Zaatari camp and I saw a lot of difference: first of all, much more people, unfortunately, are there without being able to return,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference about his second visit to the camp since it opened in 2012.

“I saw lots of activities, signs of life. I could find everything which you may have in the centre of Amman city. Even a theatre was there, not to mention shopping centres and restaurants and sports centres. However nice all those facilities may be, it is not the same as what they could enjoy home in Syria,” he added.

The Secretary-General's activities also included an open dialogue with youth in the capital, Amman, at the University of Jordan. He said thanks to its strong institutions, he is confident the country “will continue to play a principled role in the region and the world.”

“Young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow; they are the leaders of today. And you are part of the biggest generation of young people in history,” he told them.

In meetings earlier today, Mr. Ban expressed his appreciation to Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees, and applauded the increased support by the international community to the countries most impacted by the Syrian crisis.

An international conference was recently convened in London by the UN, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Kuwait, where $5.5 billion in funding was mobilized for this year. Mr. Ban said it was the “most successful one” but believes the global community needs to do much more.

“That is why we are going to convene this World Humanitarian Summit, which will be the first-ever in the history of the United Nations, to discuss and to bring out some predictable sustainable framework to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 120 million people around the world, including Syrian refugees, including many helpless, defenseless people around the world,” he underlined, referring to the upcoming meeting on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul.

In addition, he commended the Jordanian Government for launching the “Jordan 2025” development strategy, based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Secretary-General and King Abdullah II also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, stressing the importance of a return to negotiations for a two-State solution. “The Secretary-General thanked Jordan for its important role as custodian of the Jerusalem holy sites,” the readout further indicated.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the UN chief reiterated his deep concern over the ongoing violence and the need for both sides to diffuse tensions.

“The Secretary-General further underscored the need for making progress on Palestinian unity and for greater leadership on the Gaza reconstruction. They also discussed the Middle East Peace Process, including the role of the Quartet,” said the readout.

Later with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the UN chief commended Turkey for hosting Syrian refugees and took note of its recent framework agreement with the European Union in this regard.


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Amnesty International's Calling for Increased Resettlement of Refugees














March 26, 2016: Over one million people reached Europe last year in overcrowded, inflatable boats.

Why did such a staggering number of refugees and asylum-seekers pay smugglers thousands of dollars to risk their lives? It’s simple: Because they had no other option. With borders slammed shut, few can hope to reach another country safely and legally.

No one should have to gamble their life on a dangerous journey to get the protection they’re entitled to. And governments could quite easily stop this happening.

How? By offering people alternatives.

Canada, for example, has opened its doors to 25,000 Syrian refugees since last November. Every single one reached their new home country in the only obvious way: by plane. They were able to do so because of a solution called resettlement.

Some facts About Resettlement

Refugees resettled globally in the first half of 2015 (UNHCR).

Countries worldwide offering resettlement places as of 2016.

Number of resettlement places offered by Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

What is resettlement?















Resettlement is a way of protecting the most vulnerable refugees of all – people who have been tortured, for example, or women at risk of abuse (find out more about who qualifies below).

Put very simply, this is how it works: You’re forced to flee your home and escape to another country. There, you register with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and the local authorities. But you still face threats, abuses like sexual violence, or problems getting life-saving medical treatment.

Refugees Might Qualify for Resettlement If They.....

have survived torture or serious violence
have medical needs, such as a serious illness or long-term health condition
are a woman or girl at risk of abuse or exploitation
are a child or teenager on their own
face persecution because of their gender or sexual orientation
need legal or physical protection – for example, because they face being deported to a country where they could be tortured or killed.
have been on the move for a long time and can’t go home in the foreseeable future.

Are other safe and legal routes available, too?

Yes. Governments can open up so-called pathways to safety in emergency situations, such as the Syrian refugee crisis. They include:

Academic scholarships and study visas allowing refugees to start or carry on studying.
Work visas offering professionals the chance to get a job abroad.
Family reunification – this means refugees can join close relatives already living abroad.
Private sponsorship involving private individuals or organizations funding refugees to settle in their communities.
Opening up these opportunities for many more refugees will allow them to travel to new host countries in a safe, organized way. And that will mean fewer people will risk life and limb to reach a few overcrowded destinations, such as the Greek islands.

What difference can these solutions make?

Safe and legal routes can mean the difference between life and death for refugees.

It can mean not having to hand over your life savings to a smuggler, only to put your family in terrible danger. It can mean not being beaten up, exploited or sexually abused, and avoiding long, exhausting journeys on foot.

It can also offer people an escape from crushing poverty in host countries that can’t cope - such as Lebanon, where every fifth person is now a Syrian refugee.

Above all, solutions like resettlement offer hope to people who have lost everything. They promise simple, basic things that everyone wants - decent healthcare, a home, an education for your kids.

And most importantly, they are a crucial way of protecting people’s human rights when their own country can’t or won’t do it.

Amnesty is Calling for?














This all sounds sensible, fair and doable, right?

Yes. But unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of refugees who qualify for resettlement have actually received that all-important call saying they can move abroad.

That’s because very few countries have followed Canada’s example and offered up enough places to make a real difference. To save lives and stop people suffering, Amnesty is calling on governments to massively increase resettlement, plus other safe and legal routes.

For example, we’re asking countries worldwide to resettle at least 10% of Syria’s most vulnerable refugees from countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan by the end of 2016. That equals 480,000 people. But so far, only 178,195 places have been offered globally, and many have yet to be filled.

Worldwide, we estimate that 1.38 million of the world’s refugees - 19.5 million and growing! - will need resettlement by the end of 2017. Many more places need to be offered, and fast.

Together, we can help make that happen by speaking out for refugees’ rights and pushing governments to open up more safe and legal routes, now.

All Images: Amnesty International


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Photo-Speak: A Chancellor and a Physician Speaking of Health and Humanity at World Health Assembly 2015
















Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General welcomes Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany to the Sixty-eight World Health Assembly. Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany was a guest speaker at the World Health Assembly on Monday, 18 May 2015.


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Progress Made is Impressive But the Country Faces Enormous Challenges: Ban Ki-moon in Iraq

John Ging, Operations Director for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) visits displaced families from Sinjar, living in informal settlements in Erbil. Photo: OCHA/Bahaa Elias

March 26, 2016:  Visiting Iraq today for the eighth time as United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said he is impressed by the progress made, particularly against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Da'esh, but warned that he remains extremely concerned about the enormous challenges the country faces.

“National reconciliation is an important part of the strategy to defeat Da'esh, who have ruthlessly exploited divisions and targeted the marginalized and disenfranchised,” Mr. Ban said at a press conference following a meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and other government representatives.

“We have just held constructive talks […] on the security, political, economic and social reforms, as well as humanitarian and human rights situation in Iraq,” he indicated.

Yezidi children and women who fled Sinjar Mountain re-enter Iraq from Syria at a border crossing in the town of Peshkhabour in Dohuk Governorate. Photo: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie

The UN estimates that ten million people require some form of humanitarian assistance and 3.3 million are internally displaced. Iraq is also among the most deadly countries in the world for civilians; last year, more than 7,500 people were killed in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict.

Joined by the presidents of the World Bank Group and of the Islamic Development Bank, the UN chief said their visit is a joint and combined demonstration of their support for the “noble” and at times difficult efforts of the Iraqi Government in securing peace and stability through national reconciliation and socio-economic reforms.

“I reiterate my call on Iraq's regional and international partners to lend their support to the Government and people of Iraq in this fight. This support must be provided in full coordination and consultation with the Government of Iraq and with respect for the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

Mr. Ban saluted the Iraqi people for their sacrifices, patience and resilience in the face of Da'esh's “murderous campaign,” and offered them his sincere condolences for the “countless lives lost.” Yesterday, a terrorist attack in Iskanderiyeh, south of Baghdad, targeted civilians who were playing in a football stadium.

“That means these terrorists don't care where and when and whom. This is totally unacceptable and should be defeated in the name of humanity,” he warned, adding that Da'esh has subjected all Iraqis, but particularly minority communities, to murder, abduction, rape and other sexual violence.

“By destroying and looting property and places of religious and cultural significance, Da'esh are attempting to eradicate the identity and unity of Iraq and its people. Some 3,500 women, mainly Yezidi, remain enslaved and subjected to horrific violations on a daily basis,” he reported.

Underlining that Iraq also faces enormous economic challenges—including the falling price of oil, inefficiencies and corruption—Mr. Ban stated that the international community is ready to offer more support, but Iraqis themselves must implement reforms that will put their country on the road to recovery. “These reforms must include measures to empower women and young people, and to bring [about] greater social cohesion,” he insisted.

Meanwhile, in an address to Iraq's Council of Representatives, the Secretary-General highlighted how significant areas, including Ramadi, have been liberated from the terrorist group.

“The bravery of the Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga, Popular Mobilization Forces and tribal fighters is admirable. Da'esh is losing its appeal to Iraq's communities,” he declared.

Mr. Ban also paid tribute to the Parliament for their part in stabilizing Iraq and building peace for the future. “In the year since my last visit, you have endorsed the important budget law for 2016 and other important legislation,” he said.

He called on the political leaders to continue their efforts towards a single, unified vision to advance national reconciliation, and urged them to base their response to Da'esh, and all other security operations, firmly on international law, particularly human rights and humanitarian law.

He also reminded the Members of the Council that the United Nations and the World Bank are their partners in addressing human development needs, including healthcare and education.


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Let Us Never Forget: More Than 15 Million Men, Women and Children Suffered and Died During 400-year Transatlantic Slave Trade















Shackles used to bind slaves. UN Photo/Mark Garten

March 25, 2016: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the African diaspora's contributions to society, including culture, medicine, science and spirituality, as the global community gathered to honour the millions of Africans forcibly exploited by slavery.

“The dynamic culture and traditions of Africa continue to enrich life in the countries that were once involved in the transatlantic slave trade,” he said in his annual message on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

On 25 March every year since 2007, the UN observes the International Day as a tribute to the more than 15 million men, women, and children who suffered and died during the more than 400-year transatlantic slave trade, the largest forced migration in history.

This year's theme is “Remember Slavery: Celebrating the Heritage and Culture of the African Diaspora and its Roots.”

“Africa's influence and legacy are plain to see in the vibrant music, bold art, rich foods and inspiring literature that infuse modern culture,” the UN chief said “Less recognized, perhaps, are the contributions that the people of the African diaspora have made to medicine, science, government and general leadership in society.”

Tested to the limits of their spirit and endurance, slaves from Africa left their descendants a wide range of invaluable assets, including fortitude, courage, strength, tolerance, patience and compassion, Mr Ban added.

The Day also shines a spotlight on prevailing racism and prejudice today.

“It is imperative that we work together for equal opportunity, justice and sustainable development for people of African descent,” he stressed, explaining why the UN Remember Slavery Programme is reaching out to young and old alike to create awareness, promote understanding and change attitudes.


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Photo-Speak: Silence of Solidarity and Respect at the EU Headquarters for and with the Belgian People

The EU Headquarters fell silent in solidarity and with respect for the recent terrorist attacks that killed so many and injured hundreds in the Belgian Capital: March 23, 2016: Image: The EU.


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87 Million Children Under Seven Have Known Nothing But Conflict Experience of Which Put Their Brain Development at Risk: UNICEF Report














Photo: UNRWA














Neuron Connections: Image: eLifeSciences

March 24, 2016: More than 86.7 million children under the age of seven have spent their entire lives in conflict zones, putting their brain development at risk, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.

During the first seven years of life a child’s brain has the potential to activate 1,000 brain cells every second, UNICEF highlighted. Each one of those cells, known as neurons, has the power to connect to another 10,000 neurons thousands of times per second. Brain connections serve as the building blocks of a child’s future, defining their health, emotional well-being and ability to learn.

Children living in conflict are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections—with significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development, the agency added.

“In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars,” UNICEF Chief of Early Child Development Pia Britto said in a press release.

UNICEF figures show that globally one in 11 children aged six or younger has spent the most critical period of brain development growing up in conflict.

“Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine. Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood,” Ms. Britto said.

“That is why we need to invest more to provide children and caregivers with critical supplies and services including learning materials, psychosocial support, and safe, child-friendly spaces that can help restore a sense of childhood in the midst of conflict,” she added.

According to UNICEF, a child is born with 253 million functioning neurons, but whether the brain reaches its full adult capacity of around one billion connectable neurons depends in large part on early childhood development. This includes breastfeeding and early nutrition, early stimulation by caregivers, early learning opportunities and a chance to grow and play in a safe and healthy environment.

As part of its response in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises, UNICEF underlined that it works to keep children in child-friendly environments, providing emergency kits with learning and play materials. These have reportedly supported more than 800,000 children living in emergency contexts in the past year alone.


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Progress Made on Humanitarian Track for Syria

A member of UNRWA's medical team treats a young patient (23 March 2016). Photo: UNRWA

March 23, 2016:  The advisor to the United Nations envoy on Syria today reported further progress in the humanitarian relief efforts in that conflict-battered country, including with more areas reached, medical kits getting through checkpoints, and children being vaccinated.

Briefing the media in Geneva, Jan Egeland, the Special Advisor to UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, said that humanitarian convoys have already reached or got verbal Government consent to reach most of the 18 besieged areas, except Darayya and Douma.

Last night, an inter-agency convoy of UN, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Syrian Arab Red Crescent arrived in Al Houla in Homs, for the first time since last October, he said. Also, a convoy reached the Orem area in western Aleppo over the weekend.

“We are now up to 384,000 people reached since the beginning of the year via inter-agency convoys in hard-to-reach areas, besieged areas, and other priority cross-line areas,” he said.

With verbal permissions having just been issued for eight or nine of the 11 areas UN requested for April, that number is expected to double in the coming weeks, he added.

Families evacuated from East Ghouta, Syria, congregate in the courtyard of the Dahit Qudsayya collective shelter for basic aid. Photo: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

He also reported that medical kits went through to Al Houla after extensive negotiations. But surgical material was again taken off the convoys. “It is a war zone; civilians and others need surgical help,” he said.

 Turning to the vaccination campaign, he said vaccinating children is symbolically important in a conflict, and especially in a peace effort. “There is nothing more symbolic than children being able to resume school and being vaccinated against diseases,” he said, noting that one million children in hard-to-reach and besieged areas will be vaccinated by the end of April through the facilitation of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Air drops are expected to start in “days and weeks” over Deir ez-Zor, where 200,000 civilians, mostly women and children, are waiting for relief aid, he said.

 Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported today that it has continued humanitarian operations in Yalda for the sixth consecutive week.

A medical team comprised of two medical officers, two nurses and one assistant pharmacist was deployed for the fourth time since February, when the UN agency was allowed to resume operations to support vulnerable civilians from Yarmouk, Yalda, Babila and Beit Saham. The medical team reportedly treated 253 patients today, including 114 women and 78 children, for a range of non-communicable and other common diseases.


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Brussels Terrorist Attacks: Solidarity and Humanionship With the Belgian People ; And Waves of Condemnations

European Union Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium: Photograph taken after the terrorist attack on 22/03/16: Image: The EU


After the terrorist attack: Brussels: Image: The EU


March 22, 2016: Followed by carnage of the terrorist attacks that were unfolded on Brussels yesterday, killing many innocent human beings as well as injuring scores the world in many voices unite in sympathy, solidarity and humanionship with the Belgian people and unequivocally condemn these barbaric atrocities committed by these terrorists. We publish a few of the statements.

The UN

Image: UN

Senior United Nations officials have strongly condemned today's terrorist bombings in Brussels, extending condolences to the victims and their families while expressing solidarity with the people and Government of Belgium.

A statement issued by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson said “the despicable attacks today struck at the heart of Belgium and the centre of the European Union.”

“The Secretary-General hopes those responsible will be swiftly brought to justice. He is confident that Belgium's and Europe's commitment to human rights, democracy and peaceful coexistence will continue to be the true and lasting response to the hatred and violence of which they became a victim today,” it added.

Also reacting to the terror attack, the President of the UN General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, said he is “horrified.”

“We have in the last week seen atrocities in Turkey, Ivory Coast and now in Belgium. It must be condemned in the strongest terms,” Mr. Lykketoft said in a statement.

“Acts of terrorism are unjustifiable regardless of their motivation and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes on of the most serious threats to international peace and security. Acts of terrorism have no place in the modern world and only serve to strengthen the resolve of governments the world over to find and prosecute the individuals responsible,” he added.

 Meanwhile, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) said it is “deeply shocked by the tragic attacks” perpetrated today.

“This is not an attack on Belgium, it is an attack on us all and sadly these tragic events remind us again that we are facing a global threat that needs to be addressed globally,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. Readmore

Donald Tusk: President of the European Council

Image: The EU

In a statement, President Donald Tusk, following the terrorist attacks in Brussels said, ''I am appalled by the bombings this morning at Zaventem airport and the European district in Brussels which have cost several innocent lives and injured many others.

I extend my sincerest sympathies to the relatives and friends of the victims. These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence.

The European institutions are hosted in Brussels thanks to the generosity of Belgium's government and its people. The European Union returns this solidarity now and will fulfil its role to help Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a whole counter the terror threat which we are all facing.''

Our heart, soul and prayers are with those who are going through the agonies of losing loved ones and coping with the injured and the aftermath of such ferocious carnage of hatred and with the whole of the Belgian people. Readmore

Jean-Claude Juncker: President of the European Commission

Image: The EU

In a message, following the attacks in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker: President of the European Commission, said: I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the people of Brussels, to the many wounded, to the families and loved ones of those cruelly hit by the explosions this morning at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek Metro Station. I would also like to express my full support for and solidarity with the Belgian authorities.

I commend the security forces, emergency services and all those who have helped victims and are still doing so now.

I would like to reassure the employees of the Commission and the European Institutions that their security remains a priority for me and that all possible measures will be taken in full cooperation with the Belgian authorities.

These attacks have hit Brussels today, Paris yesterday – but it is Europe as a whole that has been targeted. The European Union and its Institutions stand united in the face of terrorism.

These events have affected us, but they have not made us afraid. We will continue our work, to face the terrorist threat together, and to bring European solutions to questions that concern us all. Readmore


Joint Statement of the EU Heads of State or Government and the Leaders of the EU Institutions

In a joint statement of the EU Heads of State or Government and the Leaders of the EU Institutions on the terrorist attacks in Brussels said: The European Union mourns the victims of today's terrorist attacks in Brussels. It was an attack on our open democratic society.

Our common European institutions are hosted in Brussels, thanks to the generosity of the government of Belgium and the Belgian people. The European Union and its Member States stand firm with Belgium in solidarity and are determined to face this threat together with all necessary means.

This latest attack only strengthens our resolve to defend the European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant. We will be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism. Readmore

President Barack Obama


Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton released the following statement in response to the terrorist attacks in Brussels this morning: Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today's attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world. Readmore


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Photo-Speak: The Obamas in Havana

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the rainy day walk-about in Havana on March 21, 2016.

Image: White House


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Assault on One Minority Community is Attack on All: Ban Ki-moon on Day to Eliminate Racism

Three children in Akko draw together and smile for the photographer's camera. UN Photo/John Isaac

March 21, 2016: Observing the world's day set aside to bolster efforts on eliminating racial discrimination, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged increased global efforts towards that aim and declared that “an assault on one minority community is an attack on all.”

This year, the the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlights challenges and achievements since the adoption of the agreements at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.

“The world has undoubtedly come a long way in ensuring equal rights and non-discrimination” in the past 15 years, the UN chief said in a message, noting that Member States have adopted new laws and safeguards, and established new institutions dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights, while civil society organizations worldwide working on racism are increasingly active and vocal.

“Yet we have not yet done enough,” he stressed, adding:“Today we are witnessing a surge of intolerance, racist views and hate-driven violence.”

He cited racial profiling and violence against certain communities as well as increased hostility towards minorities triggered by economic hardship and political opportunism. Such sentiment is being manifested most directly in anti-refugee, anti-migrant and, in particular, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks and violence, he added.

Furthermore, extreme right-wing political parties are fomenting divisiveness and dangerous myths, and even once-centrist parties have hardened their views, he said.

In these tumultuous times, it is imperative to stand up for rights and dignity for all, and for diversity and pluralism, and speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate, he urged.

Warning that the collective determination that enabled the far-reaching Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is being undermined by political expediency, he urged the implementation of the framework, which “can uplift not only those who suffer most profoundly but humanity as a whole.”

In her message on the Day, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational;, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that racial discrimination divides and kills. It impedes peace between States and undermines social cohesion within increasingly diverse societies. Sectarian ideologists rely on hatred of the other to carry out large-scale ethnic and cultural cleansing. The historic refugee crisis serves as a pretext to foster prejudices and to foment rejection of others.

“We need more than ever to redouble efforts at the global level to build the defences against racism and intolerance in the minds of every individual and within common institutions,” she said, noting that to counter this evil, “which feeds on ignorance and a hatred of others,” UNESCO promotes global citizenship education and develops tools and expertise capable of enhancing mutual understanding, critical thinking and intercultural dialogue.

Among others she noted the agency's Slave Route Project and initiatives such as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) and the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) as powerful platforms for adding depth to the dialogue to strike down racial prejudice.


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Marking the World Day: Celebrate Potential of People with Down Syndrome

21 March 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). Photo: Down Syndrome International

March 21, 2016:  The autonomy and independence of people with Down syndrome and other disabilities should be supported, so that they can be empowered to contribute to our common future, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said marking World Down Syndrome Day.

“Persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, are more than persons in need of assistance; they are agents of change who can drive progress across society,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day, which is observed annually on 21 March.

This year's theme is “My Friends, My Community” – the benefits of inclusive environments for today's children and tomorrow's adults.

In his message, Mr. Ban recalled the words of actors and writer Pablo Pineda, who has Down syndrome, calling on others with Down syndrome, “They should see themselves as people who can achieve their goals.”

Mr. Ban also urged other in society to appreciate “the potential and power of the members of our human family with Down syndrome.”

He called for this affirmation to be backed by concrete steps to respect, protect and promote the rights of all persons with disabilities.

“I especially call for priority actions to improve opportunities for girls and women with disabilities who often face greater exclusion than boys and men,” Mr. Ban said.

He underscored that the voiced of children and adults with Down syndrome is particularly vital as the international community works towards achieving the new anti-poverty Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to leave no one behind.


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A Doctor's Diary: Written After Visiting Squalid Refugee Camps in Northern Greece

Dr Chris Bulstrode CBE working with the Doctors of the World

Migrants have taken over the Idomeni station platform and even the railway lines.

March 21, 2016: Dr Chris Bulstrode CBE provides medical care to refugees at a Doctors of the World clinic on a ferry sailing from Lesbos to Athens. Here, he recounts his experiences after a visit to the Diavata and Idomeni refugee camps in northern Greece.

When we arrived at the Diavata camp, it was late at night and pouring with rain. Apparently it had already been raining for a day before we arrived. The buildings were pretty run down but the roofs were watertight. The fence was secure so no migrant could enter or leave without the permission of the military. It contained 2,200 migrants. They did not seem overly happy.

This camp was certainly offering the migrants no way of taking advantage of any border opening, nor of finding work in the local area. For them, stuck in this camp, there was no future. If you treat migrants like this, they either get angry or they sink into an ‘acquired helplessness’ mode, where they becoming unwilling or unable to do anything for themselves.

The following morning in continuous heavy rain we arrived at Idomeni, a tiny farming hamlet, on the railway line into Macedonia. It is surrounded by huge flat fields as far as the eye can see, except that now, instead of corn there are tents, tents, and more tents.

Imagine Glastonbury festival in its worst year when it rained all weekend. But add to that - it is winter not summer: there is no music, there are thousands of children and babies, and the stay is long. Everyone, men, women and children are soaked to the skin; so is the bedding in their tents. The tents themselves are filling with water from underneath as well as on top, and the border is closed.

The camp is a dismal sight physically because it is under water and psychologically because it represents, to so many refugees, the end of the line. The border into Macedonia is closed and it does not look as if it will ever open again.

The infamous razor wire fence stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions. Some of the migrants have used the fence to string up their tents, and use it in a vain attempt to dry their clothes. The police guard the railway line.

Despite the appalling conditions everyone, especially the children seem surprisingly philosophical and even cheerful.

The government has said that it will empty Idomeni and move the migrants into more airfields and military bases, but it’s difficult to see how they will manage this. The migrants don’t want to stay if the border is not going to open, but equally, they will not want to be moved into closed camps. It will feel too much like where they have come from.

Chris Bulstrode CBE is an emeritus Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford, and has been with Doctors of the World since 2009, volunteering in Afghanistan, Haiti, Gaza, and Ukraine and others. Chris was awarded a CBE for services to humanitarian medicine this year after he ran a Doctors of the World-supported Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone.

Support Doctors of the World's works in providing vital healthcare to refugees in Idomeni and across Greece. Please donate to  urgent Greece appeal.

 All photos ©Chris Bulstrode


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To the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Across the World: The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini

The EU High Representative Federica Mogherini: Image: The European Union

March 18, 2016: While many positive steps have been made around the world in eliminating racial discrimination, we remain confronted by critical barriers and challenges.

In September of last year, European and world leaders agreed on the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, pledging to leave no one behind in our common commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development across the globe. Conversely, we are also faced these days with increasing challenges connected to the global economic crisis, migration, terrorism, poverty and rising inequalities.

Ahmet Davutoglu: PrimeMinister of Turkey and Federica Mogherini: EU High Representative: Brussels, Belgium: 180316: Image The European Union

These challenges affect in particular those who are already subject to discrimination on the grounds of their colour, race, descent, caste and ethnic or national origin. The European Union will continue to operate to eliminate all forms of discriminations, within its borders and in the world, so that all may enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms, without restrictions or exceptions. The EU also stands firm in addressing and combating hate speech. All human beings are equal in dignity and are entitled to enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On this day, the European Union once again calls on all states that have not yet done so to become parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Determined and effective measures at the national, regional, and international levels are essential if we are to prevent and put an end to racial discrimination.

The European Union will continue to work closely with all our partner countries, regional and international organisations, as well as civil society for the elimination of racial discrimination across the world.


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The Political Will to End Racial Discrimination is Under Threat: Ban Ki-moon

Image: UN

March 18, 2016: Fifteen years after a landmark document to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia was adopted in Durban, South Africa, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said he is concerned that the political will that existed then is under threat.

“The collective determination that enabled such a far-reaching agreement is being undermined by political expediency,” Mr. Ban warned, speaking at a General Assembly meeting to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The date of this annual observance, 21 March, is the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre of peaceful demonstrators in South Africa in 1960. “I draw encouragement by how far we have come since that tragedy. But we have much distance still to travel in our work for equality for all,” said the UN chief.

For this year’s observance, the global community is commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Adopted by consensus at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, these texts remain the most comprehensive framework for international, regional and national actions against racism.

“The international community acknowledged in Durban that no country could claim to be free of racism. This remains the case today,” stressed Mr. Ban, noting that the world has “undoubtedly come a long way” in ensuring equal rights and non-discrimination.

He recalled that Member States have adopted or amended legislation to guard against racial discrimination. An International Decade for People of African Descent was proclaimed by the General Assembly and will continue through the year 2024. Civil society organizations worldwide working on racism are increasingly active and vocal.

“Yet the persistence of racism indicates that we have not yet done enough,” he underline. “I am deeply alarmed by a surge of intolerance, racist views and hate-driven violence around the world. Racial profiling and violence against certain communities is on the rise. Economic hardship and political opportunism are triggering increased hostility towards minorities. This is being manifested most directly in anti-refugee, anti-migrant and, in particular, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks and violence.”

The Secretary-General said extreme right-wing political parties “are fomenting divisiveness and dangerous myths.” According to him, “even once-centrist parties have hardened their views; once-moderate countries are seeing xenophobia rise sharply; and once-sober voices have exploited fears in a dangerous echo of the darkest chapters of the last century.”

“In these tumultuous times, we must stand up for rights and dignity for all, and for diversity and pluralism,” he insisted. “We must speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate. An assault on one minority community is an attack on all.”

The UN chief concluded his remarks by reminding Member States that by implementing the Durban agreements “we can uplift not only those who suffer most profoundly but humanity as a whole.”

Echoing this message was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who said it is urgent that States honour the commitments made at Durban, and their obligations under international human rights law.

He warned that one of the most alarming challenges is the resurgence of racial discrimination and xenophobia in Europe and elsewhere, warning that migrants are “becoming scapegoats for deeper problems.”

“Now more than ever, States must focus their attention on fulfilling their obligation to protect the most vulnerable sectors in society,” he told delegates in the General Assembly Hall.

“We must be vigilant, to ensure that the stress of factors such as rising unemployment is not displaced into racist harassment, abuse, discrimination and attacks. We must not condone the manipulation of such sentiments for political gain, or their manifestation in official policies,” he said.


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Dear Ileana, I Send You a Letter From The White House: Barack Obama
















March 18, 2016: An American president has not traveled to Cuba in almost 90 years. But on March 20, President Obama will set foot on the island country that's only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The visit is a historic milestone after more than a year of progress from the day in December of 2014 when the President first announced he was abandoning a failed, Cold War-era approach to Cuba in favor of a new course to normalize relations.

Since then, we've restored non-stop flights between our two countries. We’ve helped facilitate more people-to-people interaction and commercial enterprise. We've allowed U.S. dollars to be used in more financial transactions with Cuba. And today, we're restoring direct mail for the first time in 50 years.

The first flight carrying that first batch of U.S. direct mail to Cuba took off yesterday -- a development that may please Ileana Yarza, a 76-year-old letter writer in Cuba who has been waiting for the President to visit for years. "I think there are not many Cubans so eager as I to meet you in person," she wrote on February 18. "Not as an important American personality, but as a charming president whose open smile wins hearts."

Yesterday's flight carried a personal response from President Obama to Ileana, which will reach the island before he touches down in Havana on Sunday.

Mr President,

I heard last night by telesur -- not the Cuban broadcast news -- that you will visit Havana in March. I could not be happier to hear this.

An American president finally taking this so much needed step, the second best one after your open admittance that the over half a century cruel embargo on this lovely, enduring and resilient little island just did not work. We Cubans believe it's a black page on American history and geopolitics. Very sorry to say this...

Dear President Obama: I've followed your political career since you were running for office the first time. Then I drank to your victory at/with the CNBC Havana office that glorious night. I also celebrated your second term election with friends at home. I wish there would be a third, perhaps one day...

I've written you many times introducing myself. Also I have invited you to a cup of Cuban coffee at my place in Vedado, if and when you would finally come.

Please, please, do visit me. Give this 76 year old Cuban lady the gift of meeting you personally. I think there are not many Cubans so eager as I to meet you in person not as an important American personality but as a charming president whose open smile wins hearts.

Please understand I very much look forward to it.

I would also love for you to come with your wonderful, lovely wife.

God bless you son, also bless your family.

Ileana R. Yarza

Dear Ileana:

Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your support over the years, and I hope this note -- which will reach you by way of the first direct mail flight between the United States and Cuba in over 50 years -- serves as a reminder of a bright new chapter in the relationship between our two nations.

I am looking forward to visiting Havana to foster this relationship and highlight our shared values -- and, hopefully, I will have time to enjoy a cup of Cuban coffee.


Barack Obama

The types of mail that customers in the United States can send to Cuba include First-Class Mail International items, First-Class Package International Service items, Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority Mail International Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes.

Employees at the United States Postal Service shared in a moment of excitement as they prepared to send the letter on its way. "I've worked for the Postal Service for 27 years, and this has been my goal for 26 years," one employee shared. "So this is a pretty big day for me."

Presentation: Tanya Samanader: The White House

Images: The White House


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UN Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt Shines Light on Emergency Response for Thousands of Refugees in Greece

Image: UN

Emergency Support for Refugee Crisis: European Council Approves Financing of €100 Million in Commitments and €80.2 Million in Payments in 2016


On March 16, 2016 the Council agreed to the use of funds from the EU budget to finance emergency support for Greece and other member states overwhelmed by the refugee crisis.

By backing draft amending budget no 1 as proposed by the Commission on 9 March 2016, Council agreed to make available of €100 million in commitments and €80.2 million in payments from the 2016 EU budget.

“This decision enables the EU to cover immediate and urgent needs resulting from the massive inflow of refugees. We want to alleviate the poor humanitarian situation for migrants within the EU as soon as possible. That's what this EU emergency support mechanism is all about”, said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Minister for Finance of the Netherlands and President of the Council. Readmore

March 16, 2016: Angelina Jolie Pitt, the United Nations refugee agency’s special envoy, is today visiting Greece, which has become the main entry point to Europe for refugees and asylum seekers fleeing Syria and other strife torn countries.

“I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR [Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” she said. “I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected.”

A mother holds her crying child, as her three other daughters sit by the fire outside their makeshift tent in Idomeni, Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev

Ms. Jolie-Pitt is highlighting the humanitarian situation of thousands of refugee families in Greece, most of whom were forced to flee Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly 85 per cent of all the refugees and asylum seekers who have arrived in Europe landed in Greece since January 2015.

Her first trip to Greece on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees comes the day after her visit to Lebanon, on the fifth anniversary of the Syrian conflict, where she stressed the need for leadership and coordinated international action to address the root causes of the global refugee crisis.

The Special Envoy's visit comes on the eve of a critical meeting between European Union Member States and the Government of Turkey that will potentially affect thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, according to UNHCR.

In Greece, she expressed her appreciation for the support and solidarity Greece has shown the hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers who have landed on their shores after dangerous and difficult, sometimes deadly, journeys.

Syrian refugees on the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia They were among the last group of people allowed to cross from Greece, before the Serbian and other borders along the Balkan route were closed. Photo: UNICEF/Suzie Pappas-Capovska

Ms. Jolie-Pitt also focused on access to adequate reception conditions and protection, including those legal pathways available to refugees and asylum seekers, such as the EU relocation programme.

She has highlighted challenges and constraints facing the emergency response, as well as ways UNHCR could further support the Government and communities in Greece, and promote support for refugees with specific vulnerabilities, such as women-headed households, unaccompanied children, disabled, or those who have been exposed to sexual or gender based violence.

UNHCR has set up eight field offices with hundreds of staff and significant resources to support shelter, water and sanitation, health and protection services among other priorities.

There are more than 40,000 people in Greece who have arrived during the past weeks, who desperately need protection and humanitarian support, but efforts are not meeting all the needs on the ground and the situation is deteriorating daily, according to UNHCR.


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Love – Act – Discover – Innovate: Celebrating Women in STEM

NASA Deputy Administrator Dava J. Newman: Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls

By Dava Newman: Deputy Administrator: NASA

March 16, 2016: NASA women are not just part of history. We are making history in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To mark Women’s History Month this year, several of us spent the day with about 100 students from high schools in Washington, Baltimore and suburban Maryland. We met up at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and talked to them about our jobs – what we do, what we love most about what we do, how we prepared to do our work, and where we find our inspiration. This is the story I shared with them.

When I started college, I expected to become a lawyer. I enjoyed basketball and many sports agents were lawyers, so combining a law degree with athletics seemed like a sure way to succeed. I dreamed I would be the world’s best sports lawyer and I would represent one of the legendary names in my favorite game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. My older brother, who already was a lawyer, reminded me I also was a whiz at science, math and loved art. He urged me to build a career on those talents instead. Great advice!

Later in my freshman year at Notre Dame, U.S. space policy ignited my passion for the peaceful exploration of outer space and changed my mind about my future. I ended up being one of two female aerospace engineering majors in my graduating class. I went on to earn advanced degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, technology and policy, and aerospace biomedical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I became a university professor and have loved teaching students and performing space research. I’ve flown four spaceflight experiments. I designed a spacesuit for Mars. I wrote a textbook to introduce college freshman to the field of engineering. I also taught leadership development at MIT. The proudest moment of my career was in 2014, when President Obama asked me to serve as deputy administrator of NASA.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my life, and I even used my scientific know-how to save it. Another dream of mine had been to sail around the world. My husband and I were making that dream come true in 2003 when our sailboat lost hydraulic steering. We were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far from any land. We tried everything to steer the boat, but fluid it needed had drained away. Nothing was working, until I remembered the gallon of extra virgin olive oil we bought for the Pacific crossing. Maybe we could substitute it. I did a mixing experiment or two to prove olive oil has the same viscosity as hydraulic fluid, and we rigged up an IV-like system to feed the autopilot that enabled us to steer and sail the remaining 1,000 miles to safety in the Marquesas islands. Eureka! I couldn’t have done that with a law degree!

It was a fantastic day at Goddard, but it’s not all about me. I was among my women heroes all day and honored to hear a keynote from Dr. Jo Handelsman, associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as eight NASA colleagues who are brilliant examples of what women can accomplish in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (and I also include art and design – STEAMD) careers. They are Julie Robinson, chief scientist for the International Space Station; Sandra Cauffman, deputy system program director for the GOES-R satellite program; Aprille Ericsson, manager of the SBIR/STTR Program; Lori Perkins, a scientific data visualizer; Ellen Ochoa, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and a former astronaut; Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist; and Lesa Roe, NASA deputy associate administrator.

My message to the students was simple and I shared my motto: Love – Act – Discover – Innovate (LADI). Be open to possibilities. Know your talents. Rely on your strengths. Follow your passion. You will succeed!


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All These Hurts of Years: Syrian Crisis

Syrian mother and child in the Zaatari refugee camp ©Olivier Papegnies

March 16, 2016: Doctors of the World: Since 2011, one Syrian has fled their home every 20 seconds.

The conflict hit its devastating five-year milestone on March 15, and the consequences for the country’s population have been shattering. More than 10 million Syrians have been uprooted with thousands more leaving every day.

Messaoud, Sohad and their eight children have lived in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan since 2013. Their youngest son, Nabil, was born in Jordan. In fact, he’s part of the reason they’re there.

“When I was pregnant, the hospitals in Deraa weren’t safe," says Sohad."They were constantly targeted and bombed, that’s why we left Syria.”

Doctors of the World has medics working in clinics and camps in Lebanon and Jordan as well as in the north of Syria. Our medics in Zaatari have been providing essential healthcare and mental health to families like Sohad’s since 2012.

“My son is in good health, and that’s all that really matters,” adds Sohad. “I take him to the clinic where the doctors are very nice to him.”

In Lebanon, Doctors of the World provides vital healthcare to Syrian refugees who now make up more than a quarter of the country’s population.

Syrian sisters Hyam and Houda fled Damascus four years ago only to be abandoned by their husbands once in Lebanon. Despite the difficult living conditions, it’s the psychological pressure that’s hardest to bear.

“Without our husbands, we have to be both mothers and fathers for our children,” says Hyam.

Both sisters receive psychological support from the Doctors of the World mental health team operating in the Bekaa Valley. At our Lebanon clinics, we conduct 8,000 consultations a month for women and children alone, from both the Syrian and Lebanese communities. These include 5,000 sexual and reproductive health consultations.

These families are only a few of the thousands Doctors of the World helps every day in Syria, across the Middle East and in Europe. The reality is that 13.5 million Syrians, including six million children, are now in need of humanitarian aid including healthcare, shelter and food.

Doctors of the World provides life-saving healthcare to refugees at every step of their fraught journey to safety, including in Turkey, Greece, the Balkans and Calais. Support our work, donate to our urgent refugee appeal.


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Ashley Judd: New Goodwill Ambassador for UN Population Fund

UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin (right), introduces acclaimed actor Ashley Judd as the agency’s new Goodwill Ambassador. UN Photo/Mark Garten


March 15, 2016: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the lead UN agency for delivery a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled, today appointed actor and activist Ashley Judd as its Goodwill Ambassador.

“Ashley and UNFPA will be joining forces to raise awareness of the huge work that still needs to be done across the world to stop women dying giving life and to empower women to choose when and how often to become pregnant,” said UNFA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

In a press conference with Dr. Osotimehin announcing the appointment, Ms. Judd told journalists that that it was an “honour” to be appointed as UNFPA’s Goodwill Ambassador and to advocate for women’s rights.

“At the heart of sustainable development is the ability of a woman to regulate her fertility,” Ms. Judd said.

She also spoke out about violence against women, saying that the family is often the seat of gender-based violence and other violations of human rights.

In a press release, UNFPA commended Ms. Judd for her strong commitment to social justice and passionate advocacy of the right of every girl and boy to enter adulthood safely and empowered.

“Being a girl is not a crime, it is a privilege,” she said. “I am excited to do what I can to help girls and women everywhere contribute to their potential – which is indeed awesome – to the progress of all humankind.”

Ms. Judd’s appointment comes at the opening of the historic 60th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The priority theme for the 60th session is women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.

Goodwill Ambassador Judd will give the keynote address tomorrow, at a special event at the UN General Assembly Hall, using words and music to call for an end to female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage and son preference.


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World's 60 Million Domestic Workers are Outside Social Security Protection; 80% of Whom are Women: ILO

A domestic worker in Nepal washes family clothes while her four year-old son stands by her side drinking tea. Photo: UNICEF/Sangharsha Bhattarai


March 14, 2016: Sixty million of the world’s 67 million domestic workers – 80 per cent of whom are women – lack access to any kind of social security coverage, according to a new report prepared by the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO).

“Most of their work is undervalued and unprotected, when domestic workers become old or injured, they are fired, without a pension or adequate income support. This can and must be redressed,” explained Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department in a press release on the press release on the launch of the report, Social protection for domestic workers: Key policy trends and statistics.

Domestic work is considered a sector that is difficult to cover, partly because work is performed in private households and frequently for more than one employer. The occupation is also characterized by high job turnover, frequent in-kind payments, irregular wages and a lack of formal work contracts.

“Given that it is predominantly a female workforce highly subject to discrimination as well as social and economic vulnerability, policies to extend social protection to domestic workers are key elements in the fight against poverty and the promotion of gender equality,” said Philippe Marcadent, Chief of the ILO’s Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions Branch.

While the largest gaps in social security coverage for domestic work are concentrated in developing countries – with Asia and Latin America representing 68 per cent of domestic workers worldwide – the study finds that social protection deficits for domestic workers also persist in some industrialized countries.

In Italy, for example, some 60 per cent of domestic workers are not registered with, or contributing to, social security systems. In Spain and France, 30 per cent of domestic workers are excluded from social security coverage.

Social security is a human right for all

The study underscores that “there is no justification for domestic workers to remain excluded from social security, which is a human right for all.”

Senior ILO Economist Fabio Duran-Valverde stressed: “Looking at ways to improve the current coverage, there is no single protection model that works best for domestic workers everywhere. But mandatory coverage (instead of voluntary coverage) is a crucial element for achieving adequate and effective coverage under any system.”

However, because of the uniquely vulnerable situation of domestic workers, mandatory coverage will not be effective alone. Strategies should include – among other measures - fiscal incentives, registration plans, awareness-raising campaigns targeting domestic workers and their employers as well as service voucher mechanisms.

Domestic work should also be integrated into broader policies aimed at reducing informal work.

The study also warns that migrant domestic workers – currently estimated at 11.5 million worldwide – often face even greater discrimination. Around 14 per cent of countries whose social security systems provide some type of coverage for domestic workers do not extend the same rights to migrant domestic workers.


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The Humanitarian Situation in Greece Has Sharply Escalated and People are Suffering Too Much

Image: MdM

The humanitarian situation in Greece has sharply escalated in the past two weeks. More than 12,000 refugees are stuck after being refused entry to Macedonia, with huge numbers arriving every day.

Children and babies are suffering. Many have fevers, coughs, dehydration, diarrhoea and terrible nappy sores. They are damp, cold and are forced to inhale smoke from fires lit to keep them warm.

Doctors of the World has volunteer doctors and nurses providing urgently needed medical care in clinics in Idomeni, Chios, Lesvos, Athens as well on the ferries travelling between these locations.

Doctors of the World MdM Needs Your Support


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Suffering Has Been a Part of My Life. But I Fight. I'm Still Standing: Jeanine, a Displaced Mother Fighting on in DRC

Jeanine and her daughter at an internally displaced camp around Goma.

March 10,  2016: We meet Jeanine at her home, in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) near Goma, around 9 am. After the introductions, she tells us about her life, one that resembles that of many women in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. "I’ve had a difficult life and I’ve known poverty. My mother raised me and my siblings on her own. My husband abandoned me because I had too many children; I have felt the bitterness of life...”

Like many other women in North Kivu Province, Jeanine suffered forced displacement and has since lived in an IDP camp. "One day I was at home in my village and heard mortar fire and bombs. Looking outside, I saw our neighbors fleeing. The whole village fled. Then we walked 24 hours to get here. That was 4 years ago. "

The pillar of her family, Jeanine works daily for her children. "Since my first child was born, I have been working hard, daily, to support them. I’ve managed to raise my six children, although not all have had the chance to go to school.”

When we ask about her daily life, Jeanine mainly talks about her children. "I go to bed thinking of my children. I think about what they will eat the next day. Every day I wake up early in the morning and look for daily work in the community. If you wake up too late, the work may already be taken. "

Every day, Jeanine puts all her energy into securing a job for the next day.

"Every time I find a job, I invest lots of energy into doing well, so the boss will rehire me in the future." Her daily life is also touched by violence "Sometimes I go to the nearby Virunga Park in search of firewood, which I can sell to others to make a living. Unfortunately, the area is very insecure and park rangers and rebels can be very violent against us women. "

"But I fight. I'm still standing! "

After work, Jeanine goes home and cooks for her children. "They eat only once a day.” Then she adds, “Yesterday and today, I could not go to work, so I do not know yet what my children will eat. I had to take care of my oldest daughter who got very sick. She is at the MSF cholera treatment centre (CTC) right now. I am very concerned for her. I am looking after her daughter, Rita, who is two years old. She is also sick, but it's not cholera, so I do not know where to bring her for treatment.”

Jeanine tells us later that her daughter, Francine, seems to have recovered and that she plans to pick her up at the CTC. She agrees that we can come along.

At the CTC, we meet Francine, who seems to be doing well. For the first time that day, we see Jeanine’s face lighting up with a smile as she walks towards her daughter. "I came to the CTC yesterday," Francine tells us. "My colleagues, who work with me in the fields, brought me here because they were concerned about my condition. The nurses took great care of me. Now I feel better!"

Leaving the CTC, the women bump into neighbours who came to see Francine. Together they all return home, to the camp.

This evening, Jeanine will cook with her neighbours. Tonight she will fall asleep thinking of her children. And tomorrow she will wake up early and search for a job, so her children will be able to eat.

Jeanine’s story is not isolated case. It is representative of the incredible will and courage of many of the women of North Kivu, who fight every day to stay standing.



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This is the Way the Story Goes: Where are All Halley's Children Now? ESA Would Like Them to Get in Touch

Giotto approaching Halley: Giotto approaching the nucleus of Halley's Comet at 68km/s, protected by its white dust shield. The shield's black patches are part of the Dust Impact Detection System (DIDSY) experiment. The cylindrical Halley Multicolour Camera (HMC) is at right, imaging the nucleus every time Giotto's 15 rpm spin brings it within the field of view. Released 01/01/1998 12:00 am: Copyright ESA

March 11, 2016: Thirty years ago, ESA’s first deep space mission Giotto met with Comet Halley and inspired an art competition for children.

Giotto was designed to help solve the mysteries surrounding Comet Halley by passing as close as possible to the comet's nucleus, which it achieved on the night of 13–14 March 1986. The Giotto probe swept within 600 km of Comet Halley, obtaining the first close-up images of a comet.

At the time, we invited children aged ten years and under from all Member States to send in their drawings inspired by the encounter.

Halley’s comet (more correctly known as Comet 1P/Halley) is one of the most famous comets in history. Its close approaches every 75–76 years have clearly visible from Earth and much recorded.

At the time of the 1986 encounter, Prof. Roger Bonnet, then Director of the ESA’s Scientific Programme, who conceived the idea, explained: “At the time of its next closest approach to the Sun in 2061, those 10 year olds will be in be in their mid-eighties and most likely still alive to witness it.

“There will undoubtedly be a very big celebration at this next perihelion and most likely new space missions in orbit to watch the comet 75 years after Giotto. The idea was to invite these ‘children’ to celebrate the event with interviews and photos in front of the paintings they had sent in 75 years before.”

ESA received 25 paintings and on 15 June 1986 all the participants, together with their parents, were welcomed at ESA Headquarters in Paris by the then Director General Prof. Reimar Lüst, together with Prof. Bonnet, who presented them a diploma and a small model of the Giotto spacecraft. At the end of the ceremony, the children were invited back to ESA again in 2061.

Comet Halley's nucleus as seen by Giotto: This view of Comet Halley's nucleus was obtained by the Halley Multicolour Camera (HMC) on board the Giotto spacecraft, as it passed within 600 km of the comet nucleus on 13 March 1986. Released 11/03/2011 2:29 pm: Copyright ESA/MPAe Lindau

Rather than waiting until 2061, we invite any of the original contest participants to get in touch with us to receive a memento from ESA’s Rosetta mission and its more recent comet landing. You can contact us via or via @esa on Twitter mentioning #Giotto30.

Following in Giotto's footsteps, Rosetta has been studying Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for nearly two years. Rosetta was the first spacecraft to go into orbit around a comet in August 2014, and its Philae probe made the historic landing on 12 November 2014.

In September of this year, the Rosetta orbiter will make its own controlled landing on the comet’s surface with all instruments active to get as much data possible after observing the complete cycle of a comet in our Solar System.

The full set of Giotto-inspired drawings sent in 1986 can be seen here

About Giotto
Launched on 2 July 1985 on an Ariane 1 rocket, Giotto was part of an ambitious international effort to solve the mysteries surrounding Comet Halley. It was also the first deep-space mission to change orbit by returning to Earth from an interplanetary trajectory for a gravity-assist.


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British Red Cross Postcards for Syria Exhibition and Auction March 14-18: British Red Cross Headquarters , Moorfields, London: Online gallery and auction

Aleppo 2009: John Keane: British Redcross Postcards For Syria 2016

On International Women’s Day, UN Officials Call to ‘Step It Up’ for Gender Equality

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

March 08, 2016: Senior United Nations officials from around the world are marking International Women’s Day with calls to “Step It Up” with more resources and greater political action to achieve gender equality by 2030.

“I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.

“Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”

Listing successes during the past eight years within the UN linked to gender equality and women’s empowerment, Mr. Ban said he has signed nearly 150 letters of appointment for women in positions for Assistant Secretary-General or Under-Secretary-General.

“We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards,” he said. “Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers.”

The theme for this year’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The year 2030 is the deadline for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets on achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, as well as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning.

The other half of the theme is a reference to UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, which asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap, by the 2030 deadline.

As part of this initiative, more than 90 Member States have pledged concrete actions “to crack some of the fundamental barriers to achievement of gender equality in their countries,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

 Given the “unprecedented” expressions of political will, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka called for the beginning of a countdown to substantive gender equality by 2030, supported by accountability and measurable actions.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

Adding his voice to the call increased participation of women across society was the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft.

Speaking at a special event in New York organized by UN Women on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Mr. Lykketoft said one of the ways to “step it up” is to tackle gender stereotypes head-on.

 “Why should gender-based violence be accepted as the norm? Why should others control the bodies and the futures of women and girls? Why is it not ok for men to show fear or weakness, or to take on the role of primary care-giver?” he asked.

“For too long, we have talked about gender equality. Now we have to act,” he added.

Mr. Lykketoft was part of an event which also featured messages from the Secretary-General, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, and inspirational speakers, such as activist and acid attack survivor Monica Singh, as well as musical stars, including soprano Renee Fleming.

The event kicked off with a rendition of “I am a girl, I am a queen, I can be anything I want to be” by singer Tennille Amor and a moment of silence for indigenous leader, environmentalist and defender of human rights, Berta Cáceres, who was killed in Honduras on 3 March.

Promoting gender equality is also a top priority guiding the work of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

In her message, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called the promotion of gender equality “a transformational force for more just, inclusive and sustainable development.”

She noted that despite progress, steep obstacles remain before genuine equality is a reality for all women and girls.

“The new global agenda will succeed only if every country advances the rights, ingenuity and innovation of every one of its citizens, starting with girls and women,” Ms. Bokova said referring to the SDGs and Agenda 2030.

In Geneva, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke about his conversations with Syrian women who have been affected by the country’s five-year war.

In a video message, Mr. de Mistura said he has been able to see the women’s “enormous suffering and their dignity” and yet they have retained hope and given the international community hope.

 “They have, and must have, the right to be part of the political process and the negotiations which we, at the UN, are planning to have. They are part of the future of Syria, of the present and of the past. They have much to say and much to teach us,” said Mr. de Mistura, who has established a special advisory board comprised solely of Syrian women to advise him about what is really needed in political aspects of Syria.

From Tunis, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called for greater participation of Libyan women in all spheres of life.

In remarks for the Day, Mr. Kobler said the 2011 revolution would not have been possible without “courageous Libyan women,” and highlighted their participation in reconciling communities and delivering humanitarian aid.

Events are being held around the world to celebrate the Day. In New York, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka and Deborah Fuhr, Managing Partner, ETFGI LLP, will ring the Nasdaq Stock Market Bell. Nasdaq is one of 34 exchanges from around the world expected to join the effort by UN Global Compact, UN Women, the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Women in ETFs and the World Federation of Stock Exchanges, to “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality,” raising awareness about the importance of gender equality to sustainable development and business.

Also in New York, the Empire State Building will be lit up in magenta in honour of UN Women and HeForShe Arts Week, during which city venues, such as ballets, operas, Broadway shows and galleries, will highlight the issue of gender equality in their work.


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Ban Ki-moon Calls for More Female Police in UN Peace Operations to Combat Violence Against Women

Female police officers of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). UN Photo/Logan Abassi

March 07, 2016: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Member States to contribute more female police, especially French-speaking women, to serve in UN peace operations.

“They can put communities at ease and stand as inspiring role models for local women,” he said at the opening of the Fifth General Assembly of the Kigali International Conference on the role of security forces in combatting violence against women, held in Algiers, the capital of Algeria.

He said that the deplorable problem of law enforcement personnel being implicated in the perpetration of violence against women and girls happens “too often,” and the UN remains firmly committed to a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

“Since I became Secretary-General almost a decade ago, I have been a staunch advocate for ending violence against women and girls,” he said, noting that in 2008, he launched the UNiTE campaign aimed at raising public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls worldwide.

Today, scores of leaders and ministers, hundreds parliamentarians and millions of individuals have added their names to the action call, and their tireless efforts have put this struggle at the centre of the2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.

Police play an essential role in fighting abuse, Mr. Ban said. They work with judicial counterparts, investigate allegations, identify alleged perpetrators, promote accountability and ensure access to remedies for victims. These are important conditions for effective prevention.

Bringing Security Council resolution 1325 to life

Through community policing, they empower societies, manage criminality, deter violence, help rebuild safety and promote public trust, he continued. They bring to life Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security.

Stressing the need for strong laws to end violence against women, including female genital mutilation, he said that UN and African Union police in peace operations help prevent and address sexual violence in conflict, which disproportionally affects women and girls.

The UN will hold a Chiefs of Police Summit, or UN Cops, in New York this June, Mr. Ban noted, encouraging all to participate in this valuable opportunity to exchange views on how to address the pressing security and rule of law challenges and how police personnel in the field can gain skills that they can bring home to their national services.

Visit to Elementary School

Mr. Ban Ki-moon also visited Primary School Mohamed Maazouzi, together with Nouria Benghabrit-Remaoun, Minister of National Education of Algeria, and chatted with five-year-old and 11-year-old students.

In Algeria, the net school enrolment rate for children six to 16 years old rose from 88.3 per cent in 2006 to above 96 per cent in 2015 with full parity between boys and girls, according to the UN. From 1996 to 2013, the illiteracy rate for all Algerians over 10 years old dropped from 75 per cent to 20 per cent.

In 2014, Algeria spent 16 per cent of the national budget in education, the second highest allocation after national defense. In 2015, the Ministry of Education’s budget reached approximately $8 million, for the benefit of 8.5 million children and students representing 22 per cent of the total population learning in more than 25,000 schools.

Amid the impressive achievements, the UN points out that there are 330,000 children under 16 years old who are out of school and 500,000 at risk of dropping out.

Mr. Ban Ki-moon also met with the survivors and the families of the victims of the 2007 bombing of the UN House in Algiers as well as UN staff before he left for Germany.

Refugee influx into Europe

Upon receiving the German Media Award while in Baden-Baden, Mr. Ban Ki-moon highlighted the plight of refugees fleeing war and persecution and arriving in great numbers in Germany and other European nations.

While lauding the generosity shown to the refugees in many places across Germany and Europe, he noted that the border restrictions being put in place by Governments along the Balkan land route are not a solution.

“I call on all countries to keep their borders open, to expand legal pathways to asylum, and act in a spirit of solidarity,” said the Secretary-General, while adding that there is a need for greater sharing of responsibility among all States, not just those in Europe.

On Tuesday, he will be in Berlin, where he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials.


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6 Reasons Why We Still Need International Women’s Day

By Shiromi Pinto, London, 3 March 2016, 17:49 UTC

Image: Malika 'La Slammeuse' photographed by Leila Alaoui in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, January 2016. © Leila Alaoui for Amnesty International

Since 1975, 8 March has been a rallying point for feminists worldwide. Established by the UN, it has traditionally been a moment to celebrate women’s achievements while highlighting serious inequalities between the sexes. But 41 years later, is it still necessary?

The answer is yes. Women and girls may have scaled unimaginable heights in politics, science, arts, sports and business, but they are still struggling. Not just for equal pay, which is a concern on so many people’s minds today – but for their basic human rights. Nowhere is this plainer than in women’s struggle for their sexual and reproductive rights. Here are six reasons why we think International Women’s Day is more important than ever.
1. Women and girls can’t get the abortions they desperately need.

About 39% of the world’s population live in countries where abortion is either totally banned or allowed only if a woman’s life or health are in danger. Among those countries are Chile, where abortion is totally banned, and Ireland, where it is only allowed if a woman is at risk of dying. In both countries, women carrying foetuses with fatal health problems are forced to carry their pregnancies to full term or bear the cost of travelling to another country to access these vital services. Similarly in both, women with fatal health conditions are often refused life-saving treatment because of the risk it poses to the foetus. Withholding medical treatment in these contexts – or forcing a woman to endure the pain of carrying to full term a foetus they know will die – amounts to torture.

We can’t let this go on. Chile is debating its abortion law now and momentum is building in Ireland for abortion law reform. Your pressure can make a difference. Call on Chile and Ireland to decriminalize abortion.

2. Girls continue to be forced into marriage.

About one in every three women alive today was married before she was 15, according to UNICEF. Among the countries with the highest number of forced and early marriages is Burkina Faso, ranked 7th, with 52% of girls married before the age of 18. When a girl is forced into marriage, she usually has to give up school and accept early and often consecutive pregnancies. Despite the risk of losing their own families, many girls in Burkina Faso rebel against forced marriage - finding their way to shelters sometimes thousands of kilometres from their homes.

Stand with them today. Sign our petition calling on Burkina Faso to enforce its laws against forced and early marriage.

3. Marital rape still isn’t always considered rape.

It took feminist groups the better part of the last century to get marital rape recognized by law. In 1993, the UN declared it a human rights violation. Nevertheless many countries still do not explicitly consider marital rape a crime. In Tunisia, for instance, sex is considered a marital duty for both men and women. In reality, however, this means that women feel obliged to submit to their husbands’ demands. As one woman told Amnesty: “No is not an option, he doesn’t like that, so whatever situation I’m in, whether I’m tired or sick, I have no choice.”

Tell the Tunisian authorities to stop punishing survivors of sexual violence. Email the Prime Minister today.

4. Women are being jailed for decades after suffering still-births.

It’s happened in El Salvador and Nicaragua. It’s happened in the USA as well. Women in these countries have been arrested after suffering a miscarriage or complications with their pregnancies – and jailed for decades. This can only happen in a state where abortion is illegal. Teodora is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence after suffering a still-birth. Charged with “aggravated homicide”, she is another casualty of El Salvador’s inhuman ban on abortion.

5. Survivors of forced sterilization are still waiting for justice.

Throughout history, sterilizing people against their will has been used to control the population of some of the most marginalized groups in society: those with disabilities, people living in poverty, and ethnic minorities. Women in particular have been targeted. In the 1990s, around 200,000 mainly Indigenous or poor women were sterilized, many without their informed consent, in Peru.

Eighteen years on, and survivors are still calling for those responsible to be brought to justice. Join them.

6. Women continue to be sexually harassed in public places.

Sexual harassment is a daily reality for women wherever they are. One UN study revealed that 43% of young women in London, UK, had experienced harassment on the street. In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, the UN found that 90% of women and girls experienced some form of sexual violence. Sexual harassment and sexual violence are similarly a scourge for refugee women. Syrian refugee women like Maryam, currently in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, have said that they are frequently targeted for abuse: “Whether I’m single or married, I’m always harassed,” she says.

Women’s ability to control what happens to their own bodies still remains out of reach for millions. On International Women’s Day, let’s remember those women far and wide, and take as many actions as possible in solidarity with them.


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MSF Report: Greece: "Help us to Find a Safe Path"

Syrian refugees blocked at the Greek border with Macedonia (FYROM): Image: Alex Yallop/MSF

The winding road across the wheat fields near the Greek village of Idomeni is full of people carrying large bags on their shoulders, babies in their arms and putting one step in front of the other. The stream of humanity continues day and night but not an average of 150 a day, (and only Syrians and the Iraqis who are lucky enough to have a passport or ID card from their home country) can continue the journey out of this place and across the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and onwards to western and northern Europe. Few are leaving but more, many more keep coming, only to end up getting stranded in what is becoming unsustainable humanitarian situation. Today, in a transit camp that has the capacity to host 1,500 people, there are more than 11,000 crammed in trapped without information, in a mix of anxiety and delusion.

Among those stuck at the freezing Idomeni camp are many families. Piman, who worked as an English teacher before leaving Syria, has been on the road for two months now. “I’m here with my family, sleeping in this small tent, we never thought to find us in this horrible situation. When we left our city, my kids wanted to bring their toys and their books with us, I was telling them, don’t worry. We will get new toys in our new house. They keep asking, where is our new house?”

In Idomeni camp the situation remains extremely chaotic

Daniela, an MSF nurse in Idomeni sums it up “there is confusion, stress. Lack of reliable information. There is a growing feeling of anger. Many refugees have been waiting here for over ten days. People are extremely exhausted.”

In the clinic that MSF operates in Idomeni, whole families, pregnant woman and kids arrive in a constant stream, as do many disabled people and elderly people suffering from chronic diseases. People, including babies and the elderly, are forced to sleep out in the cold, with just with a sleeping bag to keep them warm. The big tents made available by MSF have been full for days, and hundreds of small tents, are spread everywhere, even next to the train track. Omar, 24 years old, a Palestinian refugee from Homs camp in Syria is exhausted “This is making me very nervous, I don’t know what is coming next. This waiting is killing me. We feel ignored here.”

Portrait of Rula and Fahad from Syria. "We left Aleppo two months ago. The journey was really difficult. Now here in Idomeni we don’t have a place to stay.It is really painful to be here, without protection. We feel that our rights are not respected." The couple arrived to the MSF clinic at Idomeni camp but Rula was later taken to Kilkis hospital and gave birth to baby Abdulrahman. Image: Alex Yallop/MSF

"I've been here for a week and I have no idea how much longer I'll have to stay. The border is closed and they don’t allow us to cross. The camp is unliveable. It is horrible. I want to find a safe way to continue, I want to find a place where I can raise my son. Help us to find a safe path," repeats Mustafa, a refugee from northern Syria who arrived in Idomeni with his wife Zuzan and two young cousins. He is one of the hundreds sleeping in a bed. We won’t call them the lucky ones but for other families the night is too cold outside on the ground of a muddy campsite.

Entire families huddle round the makeshift fire to stay warm, as they wait for another night to pass. At the same time, in the local hospital of Polykasto, Rula, a 30 year old woman from Aleppo, gives birth to her second son who she names Abdulrahmane. She arrived heavily pregnant in Idomeni with her husband Fahad and her one years old son, Oman but her waters broke in the MSF clinic and the team transferred her to hospital.

From 27 February to 1 March, MSF medical teams conducted 756 medical consultations. The main diseases are respiratory tract and gastrointestinal infections (associated with inadequate access to hygiene facilities). The majority were women and children under the age of five. MSF is providing shelter to more than 4,000 people and 34,000 meals per day.


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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Presents 6-Point Plan to Solve Crisis in Europe

Mother and children waiting with other refugees to enter Vinojug reception centre at Gevgelija, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, at the border with Greece. Photo: UNHCR/Mark Henley

March 04, 2016: Warning Europe is running out of time to solve the current refugee situation, the UN refugee chief today outlined a detailed six-point plan ahead of a key meeting of European Union leaders and Turkey in Brussels next week.

“This is as much a crisis of European solidarity as it is a refugee crisis,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in a press release. “The collective failure to implement the measures agreed by EU Member States in the past has led to the current escalation in the crisis,” he added.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is highlighting that the situation is quickly deteriorating with some 30,000 people now in Greece, almost a third of whom are in Idomeni just near the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Although the Greek authorities and military have ramped up their response, thousands are sleeping in the open without adequate reception, services, aid or information. With tensions mounting, the situation could escalate quickly into a full-blown crisis.

But Mr. Grandi also said it is not too late if the right actions are taken now. "We are running out of time, and strong leadership and vision are urgently needed from European leaders to deal with what is, in our view, a situation that can still be managed if properly addressed," he stressed.

UNHCR is supporting the Greek Government's efforts by deploying staff, helping coordinate the response and providing emergency shelter, technical support and information to refugees and migrants.

Mr. Grandi's plan to EU Member States to manage and stabilize the refugee situation includes the relocation of asylum seekers out of Greece and Italy, and the return of individuals who do not qualify for refugee protection; stepping up support to Greece to handle the humanitarian emergency; ensuring compliance with all EU laws on asylum; making available more safe and legal ways for refugees to travel to Europe; safeguarding individuals at risk such as children who are unaccompanied; developing Europe-wide systems of responsibility for asylum-seekers, including the creation of registration centres in main countries of arrival.

UNHCR's proposals make clear that equitable sharing of responsibility is key to bringing about a managed and orderly solution, and that EU Member States would need to agree a system of percentages of asylum-seekers for each Member State to take.

"Europe has successfully dealt with large-scale refugee movements in the past, during the Balkans Wars for example, and can deal with this one, provided it acts in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility sharing," said High Commissioner Grandi.

"There is really no other option than working together to solve this," he added.


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Governments Must Commit to Eliminating Homelessness by 2030: UN Rights Expert

UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

March 03, 2016: Homelessness is found in every country in the world and is spreading with impunity, a United Nations human rights expert today warned, calling on governments to recognize homelessness as a human rights crisis and commit to its eradication by 2030, in line with the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Presenting her report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha said that homelessness is found throughout the world, in all countries regardless of the level of development of their economic and governance systems.

“Widespread homelessness is evidence of the failure of States to protect and ensure the human rights of the most vulnerable populations,” Ms. Farha said, pointing to the social stigma, discrimination, violence and criminalization experienced by people who are homeless.

She blamed “persistent inequality, unfair distribution of land and property and poverty occurring on a global scale,” among the factors for homelessness, saying that State acquiescence to real estate speculation and unregulated markets is “the result of treating housing as a commodity rather than as a human right.”

Addressing the Council, Ms. Farha urged the need for “fighting the invisibility of the issue” through national strategies anchored in human rights and rights to adequate housing.

“We have been silent and have failed to tackle one of the most pervasive violations of human rights, but our lack of action can make us complicit,” she underscored.

The Special Rapporteur called on governments to commit to destroying homelessness by 2030, the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which seek to eliminate poverty, hunger and a raft of social ills.

She noted that this year could be a catalyst for the discussion on homelessness as the global community also prepares for Habitat III, the upcoming UN world conference on housing and sustainable urban development.

The UN Special Rapporteurs work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

End Homelessness The Humanion Campaign


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Twice As Many Girls As Boys Will Never Start School: UNESCO Report


March 02, 2016: Almost 16 million girls between the ages six and 11 will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about eight million boys if current trends continue, according to a new report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics (UIS).

In the run-up to International Women's Day on March 08, the UNESCO eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education shows that girls are still the first to be denied the right to education despite all the efforts and progress made over the past 20 years.

“We will never achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals without overcoming the discrimination and poverty that stunt the lives of girls and women from one generation to the next,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a press release.

“We must work at all levels, from grassroots to global leaders, to put equity and inclusion at the heart of every policy so that all girls, whatever their circumstances, go to school, stay in school and become empowered citizens,” she added.

Gender disparities remain highest in the Arab States, sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 9.5 million girls will never set foot in a classroom compared to five million boys, according to UIS data. In total, more than 30 million children aged of six to 11 are out of school across the region. Some will start at a later age, but many more will remain entirely excluded with girls facing the biggest barriers.

The gender gap is even wider in South and West Asia, where 80 per cent of out of schoolgirls will never enter formal education compared to 16 per cent of out-of-school boys. This affects about four million girls compared to less than one million boys.

 Girls form the majority of the millions of children excluded from school in the Arab States, although precise estimates are impossible to produce due to conflicts in the region.

The eAtlas of Gender Inequalities in Education shows gender gaps from primary to tertiary education using the latest available data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. With about 100 interactive maps and charts, the eAtlas shows the educational pathways of girls and boys in more than 200 countries and territories.

“We clearly see where the injustices begin and how they accumulate through the lives of the most marginalized girls and women,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. “But the data also show that girls who do manage to start primary school and make the transition to secondary education tend to outperform boys and continue their studies.”

The UIS produces annual data on the number of out-of-school children and estimates concerning their likelihood to start school in the future. UNESCO is highlighting the importance of noting that the numbers of girls and boys likely to remain excluded from education can vary considerably from one year to the next due to fluctuations in population estimates.


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Photo-speak: There is Nothing Like the Earth in the Universe! Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko Enjoy the Cold Fresh Air Back on Earth


Image: NASA TV

NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko enjoy the cold fresh air back on Earth after their historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station.

And, please. note, once we leave this earth, we do not leave a country, we leave the earth and when we return back we do not return to a country but to the Earth. And whenever we take leave, humanity takes the best of its expressions and likewise, it takes the same best expression when come back from somewhere.

There is nothing American or Russian or German or Indian or Arabian or Jamaican or Canadian or Chinese about the smiles that adorn these two faces of returning human beings: what words can describe their infinite joy of simply 'being back home'! Home, that's our humanity, that's our home and it is housed on the Earth, located at various places, may be: But we are one.


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Harsh Evidence of How Syrian War is Taking Its Toll on Children: UNICEF Head

A child watches a truck carrying humanitarian aid for the besieged town of Moadamiyeh in February. In all, UNICEF delivered 16 truckloads of winter clothing and diapers. Photo: UNICEF/UN011402/El Ouerchefani

March 02, 2016: Wrapping up his visit to Syria, the head of the United Nations children's agency has urged both the Government and armed opposition groups to facilitate access to all children in need, especially so the UN and its partners can implement a nationwide immunization programme.

“Senior Government officials in Damascus have agreed that together with WHO [World Health Organization] and our partners, including the Ministry of Health, we can go ahead and immediately plan and seek to implement a nationwide immunization programme against childhood diseases,” UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake said yesterday in Homs.

“This will require sustained access in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, and that both government and armed opposition groups facilitate access to all Syrian children,” he said.
Possibility of Peace

He said his previous trip had come on the eve of the third anniversary of the Syrian war, after two years of people suffering. This time, he completed the visit on the eve of the fifth anniversary, amid a ceasefire, which offers the Syrian people “the possibility of peace.”

“Everywhere I have visited – in Damascus, Homs, Hama and Al-Salameya – people spoke of hope,” Mr. Lake said. “Hope that there will be peace, hope that peace can be found in more than a diplomatic piece of paper, hope that peace will return in their daily lives. The children I met in their class rooms spoke of their hopes for their futures – as doctors, engineers, teachers.”

 He visited the encircled neighbourhood of Al Waer, where he saw things that he had not seen two years ago, such as shops open for business, people walking freely, children learning in classrooms above ground instead of huddling in basements for fear of snipers. Even in the shattered old city of Homs, people displaced by the fighting are returning.
Signs of Havoc

But with that hope, there were still signs of havoc and harsh evidence of the toll the war has taken on children, he said. Entire neighbourhoods have been flattened. A children's centre in Al Waer, formerly an orphanage, was struck by a mortar attack two years ago, killing eight children and injuring 30 more.

In Homs, doctors took him into a surgical ward as they treated a victim who had just been shot in the face by a sniper. The doctors had only old surgical instruments with which to remove pieces of the patient's shattered jawbone. The anaesthetic medicine was past its expiry date.

He said that the doctors, nurses, and especially the father of the victim, expressed their anger – not only at the Government, which continues to deny access to surgical and medical supplies to such areas, but also at the United Nations and the whole world.

“We can't blame him because the world has allowed this suffering to go on for five long years,” Mr. Lake said.

Over the past five years, with our partners such as the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, UNICEF has reached more than 10 million people, mostly children, with water, health and nutrition services, education and supportive counselling.

But there are so many more children to reach, he said. There are more than eight million children who need assistance: six million inside Syria and more than two million who have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.

“For every time we educate a Syrian child, wherever she may be, we are helping build Syria's future,” he said.
UN and Inter-agency Humanitarian Convoys reach Moadamiyeh

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that medical supplies that were initially not allowed to be included in convoys for Moadamiyeh in Syria by security services on the 29th of February have been delivered today. However, some surgical items were still rejected from entering the area.

OCHA also reported that inter-agency humanitarian convoys to the Kafr Batna sub-district in East Ghouta are planned for tomorrow, Thursday. The convoys are expected to be carrying food, nutrition and health supplies for an estimated 20,000 beneficiaries. Further convoys to reach additional areas in East Ghouta are planned for the coming days.

The second round of inter-agency humanitarian convoys to the Four Towns - Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya - is tentatively scheduled for Saturday. The Four Towns were last accessed on the 17th of February, when three joint convoys reached approximately 60,000 beneficiaries.


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The UK Houses of Parliament Programmes to Celebrate International Women's Day 2016

Image: House of Commons

March 01, 2016: To celebrate International Women’s Day 2016, a range of free events are taking place around the UK focusing on women, politics and the UK Parliament.

Women in Parliament 2016 event in London

Join us for a free event in Westminster focusing on the role of women in Parliament and in wider society, looking at the challenges and opportunities ahead - what has changed and what should change?

Guest speakers at the event include:

The Lord Speaker, Rt Hon Baroness D’Souza
Rt Hon Dame Margaret Hodge MP
Baroness Young of Hornsey

Where and when?

Venue: Jubilee Room, Houses of Parliament, SW1A 0AA
Date: Thursday 10 March, 2-4pm.

Spaces are limited so book your place in advance.

South Derbyshire CVS International Women's Day event

An afternoon event featuring a mixture of stalls, health, sport and education zones, a packed programme, inspirational speakers and a buffet lunch.
Where and when?

Venue: Hall Farm Road, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, DE11 8LH
Date: Friday 4 March, 12 noon - 3pm

Email to book a place.

Discover Parliament: Women and Democracy event in Hatfield

This event will include an introduction to Parliament and its work, plus practical advice and tips on taking action, with a special focus on how women can get more involved and get their voices heard.
Where and when?

Venue: Hatfield Fire Station, Wellfield Road, Hatfield, AL10 0DA
Date: Friday 8 March, 5.30-7pm

Email Michal Siewniak to book your place:

Engaging with Parliament event in Belfast

A free public event with the Ethnic Minorities' Support Project engaging with Parliament plus practical advice and tips on taking action, with a special focus on how women can get more involved and get their voices heard.
Where and when?

Venue: Ballymoney Community Resource Centre, BT53 7LH, Northern Ireland
Date: Tuesday 8 March

Email Tomek to book your place:

WEA 'Getting together to make a difference' event in Birmingham

A free event for women in the West Midlands to celebrate International Women's Day and featuring inspiring speakers, discussions and networking opportunities.

Where and when?

Venue: Austin Court, Birmingham, B1 2NP
Date: Tuesday 8 March, 10.30-1.30pm

Spaces are limited so book your place in advance.
Further information

Women in Parliament workshops

The UK Parliament offers free workshops and presentations especially for women and women’s groups across the UK. Find out more or request a session for your organisation.


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Women and Girls Should Be at the Core of Disaster Risk Reduction: UN Agency

In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, women at a community meeting discuss the reconstruction of their village in the wake of the 2006 tsunami and earthquake. Photo: World Bank/Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo

February 29, 2016: Women and girls need to be at the core of disaster risk reduction, given that they often bear the brunt of climate change and hazards such as storms and floods, United Nations experts tasked with monitoring implementation of a landmark UN convention on ending discrimination against women heard today.

In a special session on the gender-related dimensions of disaster risk reduction and climate change, convened in Geneva by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Robert Glasser, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), underscored that the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – a 15-year international blueprint adopted last March in Japan with the aim of saving lives and curbing the economic impact of natural and man-made hazards – puts the issue of gender squarely in the spotlight.

“The Sendai Framework places significant importance on human rights, gender equality and climate change adaptation,” said Mr. Glasser. He added that gender is a key component of the Framework's shift from managing disasters to managing risk and to address the underlying causes and drivers of disasters, which lie in ill-conceived development policies, practices and investments.

Among the gender equality gaps that need addressing, Mr. Glasser emphasized, are participation in decision making and resource management, and access to social protection measures, education, health and early warning.

“Women are greatly affected by disasters, and more precise information and disaggregated data on the impact of disasters are needed to take better correction measures. Furthermore, climate change exacerbates weather-related hazards and at least 90 per cent of disasters are linked to natural hazards,” Mr. Glasser added.

Disasters affect men and women, and boys and girls, differently for a range of reasons. For example, gender inequalities can constrain the influence and control of women and girls over decisions governing their lives as well as their access to resources, thus sidelining them from planning on how to curb disaster risk, according to UNISDR.

Due to socio-economic conditions, cultural beliefs and traditional practices, women and girls are more likely to be affected if a hazard strikes, facing increased loss of livelihoods, gender-based violence, and even loss of life during, and in the aftermath of, disasters. That makes empowerment a critical ingredient in building disaster resilience.

Nahla Haidar, who heads CEDAW's work on disasters and climate change, added that these disadvantages are “exacerbated by viewing women as victims, as simply vulnerable, when they should be acknowledged as actors.”

Also speaking at the session was Elena Manaenkova, Assistant Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), who stressed that more women than men died in the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 because they were less likely to know how to swim and long clothing hampered their movement. In Bangladesh, of the 140,000 people who died from the flood-related effects of Cyclone Gorky in 1991, women outnumbered men by 14 to 1, partially due to insufficient access to information and early warnings, she noted.

“Sixty to seventy per cent of women in developing countries are active in agriculture. However, in a project in India where weather information was given over mobile phones, it turned out that only 11 per cent of the users were women. We also found out that there were 300 million women in the world without a mobile phone,” said Ms. Manaenkova.


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Long-term Peace and Security Cannot Exist Without Human Rights for All: Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council, and the High-level panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

February 29, 2016: At the opening of the 31st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, senior UN officials emphasized the powerful link between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the right to development, highlighting that people on the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian need are hoping the Organization can help ease their suffering.

“Long-term peace and security cannot exist without human rights for all,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council members at UN headquarters in Geneva.

“Sustainable development is impossible without peace and security. Human rights are the very foundation of our common humanity. These fundamental links have led the United Nations to undertake wide-ranging advocacy and defence of human rights,” he underlined.

Mr. Ban stressed that the agreement last December between Japan and the Republic of Korea on the so-called “comfort women” subjected to tremendous suffering during the Second World War highlights the need to address the pain of the victims, no matter how many years have passed.

“I hope the faithful implementation of the agreement, guided by the recommendations of UN Human Rights mechanisms, will help such wounds to be healed,” he stated, adding that “at this time of multiple conflicts and skyrocketing humanitarian need,” the global community must do more to prevent crises and protect people.

“This will be one of the main calls to action at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, in the history of the United Nations, in Istanbul on May 23 and 24 – an opportunity to come together with solutions and partnerships to uphold human dignity and our common humanity,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Insisting that the 2030 Agenda is a major step forward for human rights, the UN chief said its commitment is to “reach those who are farthest behind,” meaning the most vulnerable people – the victims of inequality and injustice. He explained that many of these are people trapped in situations of conflict, affected by climate change, and who are migrants, refugees, displaced and stateless.

“Building higher walls and creating stricter asylum regimes does nothing to address the reasons for mass movements of people, which are often rooted in festering development and governance challenges,” he declared.

Just last week, the Secretary-General was in Africa visiting some of the front lines of armed conflict and humanitarian need. “What I saw most of all in the faces of these people was their yearning for freedom and prosperity and justice. They hope and expect the United Nations to help ease their suffering and help them build a better future,” he reported.

Concluding his remarks, he said he also has hope, “thanks to an inspiring new development Agenda, the enduring power of human rights and the best of the human spirit.”

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said the struggle to bring down discrimination is at the heart of both the right to development and the 2030 Agenda.

 “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seek to realize the human rights of all,” he underlined. “The onus is now on implementation, to deliver on the Agenda's promises of transformative change. We need to take action to ensure that human rights principles, including the right to development, are at the core of this vital new drive for human progress and well-being.”

Mr. Zeid insisted that the global community cannot fix problems that cannot be seen. “Only if data is accurately gathered, and disaggregated according to all grounds for discrimination prohibited under human rights law, will we be able to gauge our progress in reaching the most vulnerable and excluded,” he said.

The UN rights chief highlighted that the Agenda's resonance with the right to development is unmistakeable. “And as a detailed programme for action, the Agenda – our 'declaration of interdependence,' as the Secretary-General has said – offers the people of the world enormous hope,” he concluded.

Along with his address to the Council, the Secretary-General also appointed today the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as United Nations Global Advocate for Cultural Understanding.

 Speaking to reporters with the co-founder and UN Messenger of Peace (MOP), Maestro Daniel Barenboim, Mr. Ban said that Orchestra's every performance is a testimony to the power of music to break down barriers, to promote cultural understanding and to build bridges between communities.

He added that Maestro Barenboim and the Orchestra have agreed to perform at the World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey which, as you know, will take place in May.


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UN Opens Blue Dots Support Hubs in Europe to Offer Protection for Refugee Families and Children Moving Across Europe

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, refugees take shelter beneath a metal pavilion on a rainy day, near the town of Gevgelija, on the border with Greece. Photo: UNICEF/Tomislav Georgiev

February 26, 2016: As part of a joint effort to increase protection for the growing numbers of children and others with specific needs arriving in Europe, two United Nations agencies have agreed to set up special support centres for children and families along the most frequently used migration routes across the continent.

Some 20 Child and Family Support Hubs, called 'Blue Dots', will provide a safe space for children and their families, as well as vital services, play, protection and counselling in a single location, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in joint press release today.

The hubs aim to support vulnerable families on the move, especially the many unaccompanied or separated children at risk of sickness, trauma, violence, exploitation and trafficking.

“We are concerned about the welfare of unaccompanied boys and girls on the move and unprotected across Europe, many of whom have experienced war and hardship in making these journeys alone,” said UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk.

“The hubs will play a key role in identifying these children and providing the protection they need in an unfamiliar environment, where they may be at risk,” he added.

The first hubs are now operational or about to open in Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Serbia and Slovenia. All 20 will be operational within the next three months, the agencies said.

The hubs come at a time when women and children account for two thirds of those crossing to Europe. In February, women and children made up nearly 60 per cent of sea arrivals, compared with 27 per cent in September 2015, according to the agencies. The centres will also aim to identify and protect children and adolescents travelling alone, and reunite them with family wherever possible.

“The lives of children on the move have been turned upside down, they have faced turmoil and distress every step of the way. The hubs will offer a level of predictability, certainty and safety in their uncertain lives, a place where they can get the help and support that is every child's right. And they will contribute to stronger national child protection systems,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF's Special Co-ordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe.

The agencies underscored that identifying children in need is challenging. In some countries, young travellers pretend to be adults to avoid being delayed or detained on their journey, exposing them to the risk of exploitation. This past year, more than 90,000 unaccompanied or separated children registered and applied for asylum or were in care in Europe, mostly in Germany and Sweden.

The hubs will be located in select strategic sites – border entry/exit points, registration sites and some strategic urban centres – as well as through mobile/outreach teams. The services include restoring family links – services provided by the Red Cross and Red Crescent network; family reunification; child-friendly spaces and dedicated mother and baby/toddler spaces; private rooms for counselling; psycho-social first aid; legal counselling; safe spaces for women and children to sleep; outreach social workers; and an information desk with Wi-Fi connectivity.


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UNDP at 50: Leading the Fight Against Poverty and Inequality

Image: UNDP

February 24, 2016: United Nations efforts to enhance international peace and security may grab headlines, but the vast majority of the Organization’s resources are devoted to development, and to advancing the Charter's pledge to "promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development."

Through its system of specialized agencies and funds, the UN is dedicated to ensuring that economic expansion and globalization are guided by policies promoting human welfare, sustainable development, poverty eradication, fair trade and the reduction of foreign debt.

Since its inception in 1966, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) – the Organization’s largest provider of grants for sustainable human development worldwide – has been on the front lines of UN development efforts, partnering with countries and organizations to reduce poverty, empower women, create jobs, protect the environment and narrow the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’

UNDP now works in support of more than 170 countries to build institutions, increase resilience and help implement reforms. Through its efforts, it has contributed to major development gains in many countries around the world.

As the agency marks its fiftieth anniversary, the UN News Centre takes a look at the evolution of UNDP’s work over the years as the agency looks forward to what remains to be done to empower people, build resilient nations, drive sustainable economic growth and improve the quality of life for all.

To mark its 50th anniversary today, UNDP hosted a meeting in New York, attended by more than 80 ministers from around the world, to consider how to translate global development commitments, embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), into concrete action and results. “Government leadership is vital for achieving the SDGs, together with partnerships with civil society, the private sector, philanthropy and the multilateral system,” said UNDP chief Helen Clark on the eve of the meeting. “Working together, we can achieve our goals of a world which is free of poverty and inequality.”


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UNESCO Head Condemns Murder of Journalist in the Philippines

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

February 24, 2016: The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today called for an investigation into the murder of journalist Elvis Ordaniza in the Philippines earlier this month.

“I condemn the killing of Elvis Ordaniza,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement.

“Journalists must be able to carry out their work in reasonably safe conditions, which is why I urge the authorities to spare no effort in bringing its perpetrators to justice,” she added.

Mr. Ordaniza, a crime reporter for dxWO Power99 FM radio, was shot on 16 February in the town of Poblacion, in Mindanao.

UNESCO issues statements on the killing of media workers in line with Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO Member States at the Organization's General Conference of 1997, entitled 'Condemnation of Violence against Journalists'.


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Displaced People Need to Be Given Opportunity to Rebuild Their Lives: Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Bwerangula Primary School in Kitchanga, North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

February 23, 2016:  United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his call for support from Member States to resolve such global humanitarian issues as the refugee and migrant crisis and ensuring human dignity for all, during a visit to a site hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“We have to give hope to […] young people,” said Mr. Ban on the first stop of his two-day visit. “Particularly, we have to do much more to bring all these children back to school; we have to do much more to protect human dignity and human rights of women and girls to save them, to protect them from sexual violence.”

He said he plans to meet with President Joseph Kabila and other senior Congolese Government officials to discuss all these matters tomorrow.

Today, he spoke with some women in the IDP camp in Mungote, describing the experience as “very humbling.” As Secretary-General, “I will do my best efforts, working together with the United Nations Member States,” he said.

He said his visit to IDP camps, meeting so many people, particularly young people, reminded him of when he was six years old in Republic of Korea in 1950. “When the Korean War broke out, it was a deadly horrible war. There were millions of people killed and tens of millions had been separated, displaced. I was one of them. I had to flee,” he said, adding that the United Nations had been a “beacon of hope” then and had rescued his country “from the brink of collapse.”

Now the United Nations are doing the same, despite a lack of resources, to protect the rights of 60 million IDPs and refugees around the world, the highest number since the end of the war.

To that end, he will convene the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, as well as a summit on global migration and refugee issues in September. “We need support from the Member States as the UN cannot do it alone,” he said. “No country can resolve all these issues alone.”

Responding to a question about authorities wanting to close some IDP camps in North Kivu, he said he told the Governor not to close them. The authorities seem to be lacking resources, but the UN will work together with the local and central Governments. “It is important to provide life-saving assistance to those people who need daily humanitarian assistance,” he said.

On a question on efforts to improve security in the areas of origin of IDPs, he said people should be protected from violence, particularly women and girls. But there are clearly limits for peacekeepers to do it all. That is why the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by the French acronym FARDC, and the national police are working very closely.

“The protection of civilians is the number one priority for UN peacekeepers,” he said.

On 24 February, Mr. Ban will be in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, for the opening session of the Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference. He is also expected to meet with President Kabila, as well as several Government officials, and political and civil society representatives.

On 25 February, the Secretary-General will leave Kinshasa for Juba, South Sudan, where he is expected to meet with President Salva Kiir and visit a Protection of Civilians’ site that is run by the UN mission.


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Syria Has Been Reduced to Ruins, With Civilians Paying the Biggest Price: UN Human Rights Probe

In the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, people are waiting desperately to be allowed out because of lack of food and skyrocketing food prices. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh


As their country is reduced to ruins around them, Syrian men, women and children – often the objects of deliberate attack – are fleeing their homes in an uncertain and often perilous search for safe haven:  Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Commission Chair

The damage wrought on Syria by this war cannot be measured solely by loss of life and the physical destruction of the country: Commissioner Vitit Muntarbhorn

Humanitarian space is shrinking daily, while flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law continue with blatant impunity:  Carla Del Ponte, Commission Member


February 22, 2016 – As the Syrian conflict is entering its sixth year, civilians are bearing the brunt of intensifying hostilities conducted by an ever-increasing number of warring parties, with aerial bombardments by pro-Government forces leaving “few safe places,” a new United Nations-mandated report has found.

The new report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, a body mandated by the UN Human Rights Commission, to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011, details the catastrophic destruction of civilian infrastructure, including medical care and educational facilities, public spaces, electricity and water installations.

The report, the Commission’s eleventh to the Council, draws on 415 interviews with victims and eyewitnesses in and outside the country, collected between July 2015 and January 2016.

“As their country is reduced to ruins around them, Syrian men, women and children – often the objects of deliberate attack – are fleeing their homes in an uncertain and often perilous search for safe haven,” said Commission Chair Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro.

“We are seeing an overwhelming yet consistent intensification of external military involvement in Syria by all parties, with devastating consequences for civilians and various communities,” he stressed, adding that: “With the intensification of airstrikes, there are few safe places for civilians.”

He also emphasized that “relevant Security Council resolutions remain largely unheeded and unimplemented.”

The report further finds that crimes against humanity continue to be committed by Government forces and by terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL/Da’esh. The commission of war crimes by belligerents is rampant.

Aerial bombardments by pro-Government forces of areas not controlled by the Government have caused hundreds of civilian casualties, mass displacements, and destruction of vital civilian infrastructure, the report notes.

All warring parties, including pro-Government forces, anti-Government armed groups, and the terrorist groups, such as ISIL/Da’esh and Jabhat al-Nusra, carry out indiscriminate attacks by firing shells onto civilian-inhabited areas under control of the opposition, the report says.

“The damage wrought on Syria by this war cannot be measured solely by loss of life and the physical destruction of the country,” said Commissioner Vitit Muntarbhorn. “The war has also devastated the nation of Syria, ripping asunder the ties that bind its communities and cultures together.”

The report also finds that cultural heritage sites, which are important to Syria and the world, are also being destroyed and damaged through deliberate and incidental attacks.

The report emphasises the need for concerted and sustained international action to find a political solution to end the violence and to stop the rampancy of war crimes and grave violations of human rights.

“Humanitarian space is shrinking daily, while flagrant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law continue with blatant impunity,” said Commission member Carla Del Ponte. “The call for peace is now more urgent than ever, but momentum must be sustained to ensure an all-inclusive, Syrian-led process.”

Ms. Del Ponte stressed that Security Council resolution 2139 underlined the need to end impunity and reaffirmed the necessity of bringing perpetrators to justice. “Accountability is an essential part of this process,” she said.


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NASA Invites Public to Send Artwork to an Asteroid

Image: NASA

NASA is calling all space enthusiasts to send their artistic endeavors on a journey aboard NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft. This will be the first U.S. mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in September and travel to the asteroid Bennu. The #WeTheExplorers campaign invites the public to take part in this mission by expressing, through art, how the mission’s spirit of exploration is reflected in their own lives. Submitted works of art will be saved on a chip on the spacecraft. The spacecraft already carries a chip with more than 442,000 names submitted through the 2014 “Messages to Bennu” campaign.

“The development of the spacecraft and instruments has been a hugely creative process, where ultimately the canvas is the machined metal and composites preparing for launch in September,” said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It is fitting that this endeavor can inspire the public to express their creativity to be carried by OSIRIS-REx into space.”

A submission may take the form of a sketch, photograph, graphic, poem, song, short video or other creative or artistic expression that reflects what it means to be an explorer. Submissions will be accepted via Twitter and Instagram until March 20. For details on how to include your submission on the mission to Bennu, go to

“Space exploration is an inherently creative activity,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “We are inviting the world to join us on this great adventure by placing their art work on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, where it will stay in space for millennia.”

The spacecraft will voyage to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) and return it to Earth for study. Scientists expect Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona, Tucson leads the science team and observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information on OSIRIS-Rex, visit:

Dwayne C. Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077 /

Nancy Neal Jones
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

( Editor: Karen Northon: NASA)


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MSF Statement on TB Drugs Donation From Otsuka Pharmaceutical

16 year-old-Shahnoza started MDR-TB treatment in October 2012 but was later diagnosed with XDR-TB. Image: Wendy Marijnissen

February 19, 2016: MSF appreciates Otsuka’s donation of 400 treatments of a novel drug, delamanid, which enables MSF and its partners to initially treat a specific number of MDR-TB patients worldwide.

Donations are an exception to MSF policy. They are not a solution to relieving the world’s global TB burden. MSF avoids donations wherever possible and advocates for fair commercial terms on drugs access. Otsuka has not yet announced delamanid’s commercial conditions. Until then, this donation represents a way to offer quick access to delamanid for at least some of the estimated 40,000 patients who need it worldwide.

Only about 100 patients worldwide have been treated with delamanid so far on a compassionate use basis. Many of these patients obtained access to the drug within the remit of MSF’s DR-TB programmes.

Some of these programmes belong to the “Expand New Drug Markets for Tuberculosis” (‘endTB’) project, a partnership between MSF, Partners in Health (PIH), Interactive Research and Development (IRD) and their financial partner, UNITAID.

“In recent years we have provided delamanid to a restricted number of patients with no therapeutic options left”, Dr. Francis Varaine, leader of MSF’s international working group for TB and endTB project leader, explains.

“This donation will allow us to treat more patients with delamanid earlier in their illness,” Dr. Varaine adds. As part of the endTB project, a larger cohort of patients worldwide will receive delamanid treatment as part of an operational treatment study. Other partners involved in the endTB project, namely PIH and IRD, will administer delamanid from this donation. Other DR-TB programmes run by MSF will also access delamanid from the donation.

The project will observe World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the use of delamanid, which has yet to complete its clinical development process.

“We will continue to advocate for quick and wide access to delamanid, to provide more effective treatments against DR-TB in the future,” Dr. Varaine adds. “It is essential to put the needs of patients first. This means boosting these new drugs’ uptake in countries with high TB burdens, where access remains a major issue.”

About the end TB partnership
endTB (expand new drug markets for TB) aims to find shorter, less toxic & more effective treatments for MDR-TB, using the first two drugs developed in 50 years: bedaquiline and delamanid.

Enrollment of a minimum of 2,600 MDR-TB patients who will receive new TB drugs (bedaquiline or delamanid) will take place in 15 countries: Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Lesotho, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Peru. Each patient will be monitored closely for response to treatment and for potential adverse events.

Clinical trials will take place in five sites (Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Peru) and will study the safety and efficacy of several 'user-friendly' MDR-TB treatment regimens, each containing one new drug or both.

The project will also reduce existing country-level barriers to the uptake of new TB drugs. It will provide evidence to facilitate their registration in countries, advocate for simple and swift procurement mechanisms. Moreover, the project will build a broader evidence-base for WHO recommendations for the use of new TB drugs.

The four-year project is funded by a UNITAID grant of up to 60,4 million dollars.


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Bring People in From the Margins: Ban Ki-moon On World Social Justice Day

Pedestrian waits to cross in Mumbai, India. Photo: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

February 20, 2016:  The United Nations top official today called on Member States to build inclusive societies free of discrimination, in which all people can live with dignity and opportunities to improve their lives, as he observed the World Day of Social Justice.

“With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message, stressing the need to “build inclusive societies, promote decent work, bolster social protection floors, and bring people in from the margins.”

In 2015, the UN adopted a new 15-year development plan involving all Member States, known as 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also adopted a framework for development financing, or Addis Ababa Action Agenda, as well the Paris Agreement, pact to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The international community has thus pledged to end poverty by 2030 through effective integrated social, economic and environmental policies, he said, emphasizing that these landmark blueprints for a better world provide invaluable tools and a powerful vision to meet the needs of today's generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

“Social justice must be at the heart of our efforts,” Mr. Ban said.

In all efforts, partnerships are essential, as sustainable development is only possible with the active engagement of governments, parliaments, employers, workers, civil society, the private sector and other agents of change, he said.

In 2007, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice, inviting Member States to devote the day to national activities in line with its purposes. Observing the World Day should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.


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With Rising Numbers of Child Deaths at Sea, UN Urges for Safety Measures for Those Fleeing Conflict

Greek volunteer life-guards help a young child out of a boat that reached the shores of Lesbos, having crossed the Aegean sea from Turkey. Photo: UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis

February 19, 2016: Two children have drowned every day on average since September 2015 as their families try to cross the eastern Mediterranean, and the number is growing, three United Nations humanitarian agencies said today, calling for enhancing the safety of those escaping conflict and despair.

In a joint statement, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) warned that since this past September, when the tragic death of toddler Aylan Kurdi captured the world's attention, more than 340 children – many of them babies and toddlers – have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. The total number may be even greater become some bodies have been lost at sea.

“We cannot turn our faces away from the tragedy of so many innocent young lives and futures lost – or fail to address the dangers so many more children are facing,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We may not have the ability now to end the desperation that causes so many people to try to cross the sea, but countries can and must cooperate to make such dangerous journeys safer. No one puts a child in a boat if a safer option is available.”

The stretch of the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece is among the deadliest routes in the world for refugees and migrants, the agencies noted. The winter's rough seas, overloading, and the poor quality of boats and lifesaving equipment increase the risk of capsizing, making the journey significantly more dangerous.

“These tragic deaths in the Mediterranean are unbearable and must stop,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Clearly, more efforts are needed to combat smuggling and trafficking. Also, as many of the children and adults who have died were trying to join relatives in Europe, organizing ways for people to travel legally and safely, through resettlement and family reunion programmes for example, should be an absolute priority if we want to reduce the death toll,” he added.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a high-level meeting on global responsibility-sharing through legal pathways for admission of Syrian refugees, to take place in Geneva on 30 March.

With children now accounting for 36 per cent of those on the move, the chance of them drowning on the Aegean Sea crossing from Turkey to Greece has grown proportionately. During the first six weeks of 2016, 410 people drowned out of the 80,000 crossing the eastern Mediterranean. This amounts to a 35-fold increase year-on-year from 2015, the agencies said.

“Counting lives is not enough. We must act,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM's Director General. “This is not only a Mediterranean problem, or even a European one. It is a humanitarian catastrophe in the making that demands the entire world's engagement.”


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UN Mourns Death of Former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali

In September 1993, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali greets Nelson Mandela, then President of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), at UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/John Isaac

16 February 2016 – Boutros Boutros-Ghali, veteran Egyptian diplomat and the first United Nations Secretary-General from Africa, passed away today at the age of 93. He is being praised for guiding the Organization through the tumultuous early 1990's and for helping shape the UN's response to post-Cold War realities, drafting a seminal report on preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.

The UN Security Council announced Mr. Boutros-Ghali's death this morning, after which the 15-member held a moment of silence.

Mr. Boutros-Ghali had a long association with international affairs as a diplomat, jurist, scholar and widely published author. He became a member of the Egyptian Parliament in 1987, and at the time of his appointment as UN chief, he had been Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt since May 1991, and had served as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from October 1977 until 1991.

Over four decades, Mr. Boutros-Ghali participated in numerous meetings dealing with international law, human rights, economic and social development, decolonization, the Middle East question, international humanitarian law, the rights of ethnic and other minorities, non-alignment, development in the Mediterranean region and Afro-Arab cooperation.

In September 1978, Mr. Boutros-Ghali attended the Camp David Summit Conference and had a role in negotiating the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel, which were signed in 1979.

 The sixth United Nations Secretary-General, his term was marked by brutal conflicts in Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, among others. Soon after his inauguration, the Security Council met in its first-ever summit of Heads of State. At their request, Boutros-Ghali authored the report called 'An Agenda for Peace,' an analysis on ways to strengthen UN capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Also during his tenure, he spearheaded UN structural and management reform.

At UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed his predecessor as a respected statesman who brought “formidable experience and intellectual power to the task of piloting the United Nations through one of the most tumultuous and challenging periods in its history, and guiding the Organization of the Francophonie in subsequent years.”

“As Secretary-General, he presided over a dramatic rise in UN peacekeeping. He also presided over a time when the world increasingly turned to the United Nations for solutions to its problems, in the immediate aftermath of the cold war,” Mr. Ban told reporters.

“He showed courage in posing difficult questions to the Member States, and rightly insisted on the independence of his office and of the Secretariat as a whole. His commitment to the United Nations – its mission and its staff – was unmistakable, and the mark he has left on the Organization is indelible,” Mr. Ban stressed.


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Conflicts and Violence Take 'Huge Toll' on Children in 2015: Leila Zerrougui

In Syria, two boys head home after school in East Aleppo in a snow day for the city. Photo: UNICEF/UN06848/Al Halabi

15 February 2016 – Increasingly complex and widening conflicts have taken a huge toll on children in much of the Middle East in 2015, with parts of Africa and Asia facing protracted and relapsing wars that show no signs of abating, a senior United Nations child rights official said today.

Describing in her annual report to the UN Human Rights Council how extreme violence affected countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,

Leila Zerrougui, stressed that groups perpetrating extreme violence particularly targeted children.

“Children were disproportionately affected, displaced and often the direct targets of acts of violence intended to cause maximum civilian casualties and terrorize entire communities,” Ms. Zerrougui said in the report, which covers the period from December 2014 to December 2015.

The report also found that military responses targeting groups using tactics of extreme violence continued to generate additional protection challenges for children. Throughout the year, militias and vigilante groups allied with States used children in support roles or as combatants. The use of airstrikes was also of particular concern due, in many instances, to their indiscriminate nature.

The Special Representative noted that respect for human rights must be the basis of an effective response to extreme violence and actions must be undertaken in full compliance with international, humanitarian, human rights and refugee law.

Addressing the root causes of extreme violence, such as poverty and lack of economic opportunities for youth, lack of good governance, alienation of communities and political grievances, are necessary steps to find a lasting solution, Ms. Zerrougui stressed. She added that the crucial role of prevention, as detailed in the UN Secretary-General's proposed plan of action to prevent violent extremism, must be emphasized.

In the report, the Special Representative expressed her deep concern at the increasing number of attacks on schools, as well as military use of schools, in countries affected by war. Again in 2015, conflict disrupted the education of millions of children, creating a direct challenge to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring quality education for all children.

Ms. Zerrougui called for additional funding for education in emergencies and reminded all parties to conflict of their responsibility to ensure safe access to school.

In addition, she noted that in 2015, the momentum generated by the campaign Children, Not Soldiers, which was launched in 2014, remained strong and led to a significant reduction of verified cases of recruitment and use of children by national security forces, especially in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Myanmar.

However, renewed conflict reversed most progress accomplished in South Sudan and Yemen, the Special Representative said.

“Through the campaign, Governments are developing or strengthening the legal framework to criminalize the recruitment of children and investing more resources and energy to fight impunity,” Ms. Zerrougui said. “This has created new openings to address other grave violations committed against children committed by all parties to conflict.”

In her report to the Human Rights Council, Ms. Zerrougui detailed how she used “every opportunity of engagement” with non-State armed groups and urges Governments to facilitate dialogue with a view to ending grave violations against children.

Among her recommendations, she encouraged Member States to treat children associated with armed groups primarily as victims and to use deprivation of liberty as a last resort and for the shortest time possible.

She also called for the universal ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and for adequate resources to set up and maintain sustainable reintegration programmes for former child soldiers.


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Syria: First Time in Nine Months, UN Agency Delivers Aid to Residents of Yarmouk Camp

UNRWA distributes life-saving assistance to displaced civilians from Yarmouk in Yalda, Syria. Photo: UNRWA

14 February 2016 – The United Nations relief agency charged with the well-being of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East has been able to deliver urgently needed humanitarian supplies to the civilian residents of the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk, on the outskirts Damascus, for the first time in nine months.

“Although we did not enter the camp itself, were able to reach the nearby area of Yalda, where 900 families from Yarmouk, Yalda and the neighbouring areas of Babila and Beit Saham were provided with a 35 kilogram food parcel,” according to Chris Gunness, Spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

In a press statement yesterday he noted that the camp had been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group on 1 April last year. And although some humanitarian assistance had entered the areas since the last UNRWA distribution in June, 2015, humanitarian needs remain acute, he stressed.

“There are clear indications that disease is on the rise, particularly among the most vulnerable such as children. There is an acute lack of medicines to treat them,” Mr. Gunness explained, noting that one resident told UNRWA aid workers: 'People are getting sick all the time, especially the kids with hepatitis. We do not have the health services here to treat them.'

Mr. Gunness said the community also indicated that food, non-food items, particularly winter blankets and clothing, but also water, sanitation and healthcare items, were the greatest priorities. UNRWA plans to continue distribution operations today, aiming to provide 6,000 families with food parcels by the end of the week. The following week, the agency hopes to distribute winter blankets, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and establish mobile health points, he said.

“UNRWA is coordinating closely with other humanitarian partners and hopes this renewed access, facilitated by the Syrian authorities, will lead to sustained operations in the area,” said Mr. Gunness.

He went on to stress that as armed violence continues to threaten the lives and safety of Palestine refugees throughout Syria, the agency appeals for donors to increase their support to the UNRWA Syria Emergency Appeal. More than 95 per cent of Palestine refugees now rely on UNRWA to meet their daily needs of food, water and healthcare.


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'Rise to the Challenges' to Shape a Common Future, UN Chief Tells McGill students

In Canada, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shakes hands with students at McGill University, where he delivered a lecture. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

12 February 2016 – Humanitarian action must address the concerns of young people, who should be mobilized and empowered to effect lasting change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told students at McGill University in Montreal earlier today, as part of a three-day visit to Canada.

Speaking to political science, law and international students at an event on “Threats and Opportunities: The power of young people to shape a new future,” the UN chief stressed that young people are at the nexus of the world's greatest hopes as well as worst problems.

“You are not here at McGill just for yourselves, but for our common future,” Mr. Ban said.

“I call on you to give back as a global citizen. Rise to the challenges of your generation,” he added.

Noting that among the best advice he ever received was the essence of how to balance idealism and realism, the UN chief recalled that in the late 1950s, his middle school principal told him: “Keep your head above the clouds and your feet firmly planted on the ground – then advance step by step.”

That has been his approach at the United Nations, he said, where the international community defends “high ideals against tough realities.”

 Turning to the issues of unemployment, climate change, armed conflict and humanitarian crises, Mr. Ban pointed to the four global responses on the part of the UN and its partners – namely, the

Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate change agreement, the Security Council resolution on youth and the World Humanitarian Summit.

Encouraging students to help turn those ideals into actions, Mr. Ban stressed the necessity of investing in youth, and working with them for a new future.

“We have to put young people in influential positions,” he said, referencing his 2013 appointment of the first-ever Envoy on Youth at the UN, Ahmad Alhendawi, when he was 28 years old.

Turning to sustainable development, the Secretary-General said that young people can hold their governments accountable and, as consumers, innovators and voters, can continue to lead on climate action.

“You can invest in green solutions, invent new technologies, and elect leaders who are committed to climate action,” he stressed. “You can be the entrepreneurs who do more than fill jobs – because you create them.”

Yesterday, Mr. Ban met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, himself a McGill alumnus.


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The World Needs Science and Science Needs Women: Irina Bokova on 1st International Day of Women and Girls in Science

A scientist at an FAO-sponsored facility in India culls seeds from a variety of wheat. Photo: FAO/Jon Spaull


11 February 2016 – More than ever today, the world needs science and science needs women, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said today marking the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

“UNESCO's message is clear – the new [2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development] will not meet its promise without investing in women's and girls' empowerment through and in science,” Irina Bokova highlighted in a message.

According to the most recent UNESCO Science Report, women account for only 28 per cent of researchers across the world, with the gap deepening at the higher echelons of decision-making. Women also have less access to funding, to networks, to senior positions, which puts them at a further disadvantage in high impact science publishing.

“This calls for deep and sustained change, starting in the earliest years through improved participation of women and girls in science education, training and research activities at all levels,” Ms. Bokova stressed.

“Girls' and women's access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) cannot be envisaged when girls and women remain the majority of out-of-school children, youth and illiterate adults. This gap throws a shadow over entire societies, as no country can move forward with only half its creativity, energy, and dreams,” she added.

Based on a study conducted in 14 countries, the United Nations estimates that the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor's degree, Master's degree and Doctor's degree in science-related field are 18, eight and two per cent respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37, 18 and six per cent.

“Gender equality is a global priority at UNESCO, and promoting women and girls in science stands at the heart of this action, through a range of initiatives,” noted Ms. Bokova, inviting all partners and Governments to redouble efforts to empower girls and women through and in science, as a foundation to take forward the 2030 Agenda.


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UN Agency Provides Food to Syrians Fleeing Aleppo Fighting

Syrian children stand in the entryway of their tent shelter in the Bab Al Salame camp for internally displaced persons in Aleppo Governate. Photo: UNICEF/Giovanni Diffidenti

9 February 2016 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it has started distributing urgently needed food to people displaced by the recent surge in violence in Syria’s northern Aleppo.

The food was transported on cross-border convoys from Turkey into the small town of A’zaz in northwest Syria, 30 kilometres northwest of Aleppo city and close to the Syrian-Turkish border. Over the next few days, distributions will reach 21,000 people with more food to meet the urgent needs of the new wave of displaced people.

“The situation is quite volatile and fluid in northern Aleppo with families on the move seeking safety,” said Jakob Kern, WFP’s Country Director in Syria, in a press release.

“We are extremely concerned as access and supply routes from the north to eastern Aleppo city and surrounding areas are now cut off but we are making every effort to get enough food in place for all those in need, bringing it in through the remaining open border crossing point from Turkey,” he added.

The food includes rice, lentils, bulgur, pasta, white beans, chickpeas, vegetable oil, sugar and wheat flour in parcels that are enough to feed a family for one month. WFP is also sending ready-to-eat rations such as canned food for those who have no access to cooking facilities.

According to the agency, thousands of displaced people have gathered in A’zaz in search of refuge close to the Bab Al Salam border crossing point, and thousands more are expected to arrive if the fighting continues. More than 30,000 people are reported to be on the move, many of them fleeing towards the Turkish border, and the towns of A'zaz and Afrin.

Prior to the escalation in fighting in northern Aleppo, WFP was regularly delivering food across the Turkish border into Aleppo and Idleb governorates through the Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salam border crossings.

“WFP urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate unimpeded access to these communities in order to provide immediate relief to families who have already suffered for far too long,” Mr. Kern added.

At a press briefing in Geneva, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in northern Aleppo have also been providing assistance and humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities have been accepting a number of vulnerable and wounded people into the country. According to UNHCR’s spokesperson, William Spindler, WFP asked Turkey to open its border to all civilians from Syria who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection. Moreover, he said there has to be a political solution to the conflict but that in the meantime, UNHCR is “dealing with its consequences on the humanitarian side.”

Mr. Spindler also noted that there have been humanitarian deliveries from Turkey close to the border, where about 5,000 people are hosted in communal tents in the vicinity of Kilis. He underscored that Turkey has had a very generous policy in terms of receiving refugees, and that all countries have an obligation to open their borders to people fleeing persecution.


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No Refugee: Central American Children on the Run in Mexico

Writes Amy Stillman, IRIN News. Photos: Jonathan Levinson

Children watch television at the Buen Pastor shelter in Tapachula



Behind an unmarked brown door sandwiched between a rundown motel and a fried chicken joint in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, lunch is being prepared on an outdoor stove, while children sit around dusty picnic tables scrawling in school notebooks.

“If they don’t study, they can’t stay here,” said José Ramón Verdugo Sánchez.

Verdugo, a member of the Evangelical Church, founded Todos por Ellos (“All for Them”), a children’s shelter, in 2009 in response to the growing number of Central American minors arriving in Tapachula – a sleepy, tropical city about 40 kilometres from Mexico’s border with Guatemala.

In a bid to keep them off the streets, he struck a deal with a local primary school to allow the children staying at the shelter to attend classes. “Kids in school are less likely to be recruited by gangs,” he reasoned.

Six years ago, most of these forgotten youths were Guatemalan. But as gang violence has spread across the so-called “Northern Triangle” region, many more children from El Salvador and Honduras are also crossing Mexico’s southern border.

In recent years, these tiny Central American nations have competed for the unwanted title of global murder capital. Last year, violent deaths in El Salvador shot up by 70 percent, putting the country ahead of Honduras as the most dangerous place in the world outside of warzones. In 2015, there were 6,657 murders, a level of violence not seen since the country’s bloody civil war three decades ago.

One of the victims was Norma Alicia Martínez’s 16-year-old son Carlos, a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (also known as MS-13), who was gunned down last May on the streets of Usulután, El Salvador.

Hoping to save her two youngest children from a similar fate, Martínez, 41, bundled her eight-year-old son Wilber and 10-year daughter Liliana into a taxi and headed to the capital, San Salvador. From there, they took a bus to the northern border of Guatemala, where locals instructed them on how to reach a migrant shelter in Tapachula. “My only concern is getting my remaining children as far away from the gangs as humanly possible,” said the tearful Salvadoran mother, from the stoop of the All for Them building.

Diana Guadalupe Caballero, 29, from Honduras, talks to her family back home at the Buen Pastor shelter where she is staying while she awaits the outcome of her asylum application

In another nearby shelter, Jesús el Buen Pastor (“Jesus the Good Shepherd”), Digna Hernández Turcios, 13, sits on the cement floor, her knees pulled up to her chest, staring listlessly at a TV screen. On Christmas Day, she watched as three men stormed into her family’s home in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and sprayed her uncle with bullets. Her mother, Damaris Yamileth Turcios Lara, 30, told IRIN he’d been murdered because he refused to join Barrio 18, the deadly Central American street gang. Fearing further reprisals, the family fled to Mexico. “There are no human rights in my country,” said Turcios. “It is useless to go to the police; the only thing you can do is run.”

As the violence shows no signs of abating, experts warn that the United States can expect to see a rising number of Central American children arriving on its doorstep.

“What we are seeing is that the deteriorating situation in the Northern Triangle is fuelling a looming refugee crisis, with people fleeing anywhere they can to find safety,” said Alice Farmer, a protection officer at the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, in Washington.

According to US Borders and Customs Protection data, as many as 21,469 people in family units were apprehended at Mexico’s northern border in the last three months of 2015, almost triple the number compared to the same period the previous year.

At the same time, the number of unaccompanied children or youths travelling without an adult family member more than doubled to 17,370. In December alone, which is usually a slow month for undocumented crossings because of the cold weather, 6,782 unaccompanied minors were apprehended.

A boy works on his homework at the Todos posr Ellos family shelter in Tapachula


Under pressure from the US, Mexico has attempted to stem these flows by beefing up border security in the south of the country through its “Southern Border Plan”, launched in mid-2014. The initiative has come under heavy criticism by human rights groups who say it has increased the unlawful detention of asylum seekers, including children, and is forcing them to use more dangerous routes to avoid detection.

Undocumented migrants are now finding it more difficult to ride on top of “La Bestia”, the cargo trains commonly used to travel north to the Mexico-US border. Instead, they are taking buses and walking through the jungles and mountains, leaving them more exposed to the elements and to bandits, said Andremar Galván Serrano, chief coordinator of the migrant support group Coami in Mexico City.

“Of course I’m worried,” said José Campos when asked about his plan to cross Mexico by bus and on foot, skirting around border security checkpoints by detouring through jungle. “But not for me,” added the 43-year-old Salvadoran, indicating the slim teenage girl perched on a rock outside the Belén migrant shelter in Tapachula. “I’m worried for my niece.”

Children and women face additional risks from Mexican criminal organisations and Central American gangs (whose reach extends well into Mexico) who seek to recruit them or sell them into sexual slavery. Local police and migration authorities are sometimes complicit in the abuse.

The risks of the journey are enormous,” said Farmer. “I think people worry a great deal about bringing their young children with them, but they feel they have no option.”

Increasing numbers of Central American children are also being detained in Mexico. In the first 11 months of 2015, authorities apprehended 31,625 Central American children, including those traveling with adult relatives, a 50-percent rise compared to the same period a year ago, according to official statistics.

While some unaccompanied minors are returned by plane to their home countries, others are brought to child shelters run by the Mexican family welfare agency, DIF. In spite of a 2014 law that prohibits child detention, some are also sent to detention facilities run by the National Institute of Migration, INM, due to a lack of space at the DIF shelters.

Milagro Del Socorro Romero Aguilar (right) is hosting Damaris Yamileth Turcios Lara and her children (left) in her family home while they apply for asylum in Mexico


“In many cases, children are waiting in detention because there are not sufficient alternatives,” said Mark Manly, a UNHCR representative in Mexico City. “Many Mexican states do not have DIF shelters, and implementing the law requires additional human resources, financial resources, and infrastructure."

At Tapachula’s two DIF shelters, which cater to unaccompanied minors and those travelling with female relatives, “children spend all day long doing nothing,” said Perrine Leclerc, head of UNHCR’s field office in the city. “They don’t have enough staff to look after the children or to organise activities. It is only the basics,” she told IRIN. “They give you a bed and they give you food.”

Detention can last for as long as three months if children make asylum claims while in government custody. Only those who manage to apply for asylum at the offices of the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance, Comar, before being apprehended by migration authorities can avoid detention and legally stay in the Mexican state where the claim has been made for the duration of the process.

According to Leclerc, the Byzantine system has acted as a deterrent for children to apply for asylum. “What we are witnessing is that they prefer to be deported and re-enter Mexico, where they can apply for asylum directly at Comar and avoid being detained.”

Between January and October last year, more than five times as many unaccompanied minors were apprehended in Mexico than applied for asylum. Moreover, 60 percent of the applications that were made ended in rejection.

The number of asylum applications made on behalf of unaccompanied minors is nevertheless rising. In the first 10 months of 2015, Comar received 2,745 such applications, up from 2,137 cases for the full year of 2014, and only 1,296 in 2013.

Mexico has limited resources to accommodate the growing numbers of child asylum seekers. The few civil society-run shelters were mainly designed to provide brief respite for migrants transiting through Mexico and are ill-equipped to take in asylum seekers whose accommodation needs span months rather than days.

Damaris Yamileth Turcios Lara, 30, from Honduras, at the home where she is staying with her husband and three children while they await the outcome of their asylum request


The dilemma led Milagro Del Socorro Romero Aguilar, a cook at one of the Tapachula shelters, to offer Damaris Yamileth Turcios Lara and her children a room in her two-bedroom flat. “What could I do? The two girls are my daughter’s age,” said the bubbly Romero, stroking a pet Chihuahua in the tiny living room she now shares with the family of five.

Once an undocumented migrant herself, the Nicaraguan moved to Tapachula in 2003, where she met and married her Mexican husband. “It was very different back then; things were easier for migrants,” she told IRIN. “Now there is nowhere for them to go. There is no place for children.”



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An Old Story Retold of a Lost Ring, the Lady Who Found It, the Gentleman Who Lost It and the Lady-love Who Gave it All Were Found

Image: SWNS Digital

A Facebook campaign to find the owner of a gold ring was initiated after a holidayer in Bali found an engraved ring on a beach.

The campaign, which went viral  looked to locate the owner using the family crest on the front of the ring and a heartfelt birthday message at the back. The campaign made headlines.

The ring was bought in 2009 for its owner, Joe, but was found underwater at Finns Beach Club.

A picture and message had been sent out to the Facebook community. It reads:

“So here’s a super long shot. Found this gold ring snorkeling at Finns Beach Club in Bali today. It’s got some sort of family crest on it, and an engraved message that says “Darling Joe, Happy 70th Birthday 2009, Love Jenny” Sometimes hear of these things finding their way home so worth a shot, please share/repost etc.”

Now, the question is: what happened to this Ring-Story? Did the Ring find Joe? And where are Joe and Jenny?

The ring was found, the search began, the owner was found and the person who gave the ring, too, was found.

The Ring, the Lady who found the ring, the Gentleman who lost the ring and the Lady-love who gave the ring all were united for a happy occasion, The Humanion is happy to report.


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Work Together to Build Bridges and End Anti-Semitism, Bigotry Against Muslims and All Other Forms of Hatred: Ban Ki-moon at a New York Synagogue

6 February 2016 – Visiting Park East Synagogue in New York City to honour the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on people to work together “to build bridges and end anti-Semitism, bigotry against Muslims, and all other forms of hatred.”

“The world faces a crisis of protection,” Mr. Ban told members of the congregation. “That is why it is so important that we never forget the lessons of the Holocaust.”

The UN chief said the testimonies of Holocaust survivors remind the world what happens when inhumanity prevails but also serve as a reminder “of the power of the human spirit and the inherent dignity and worth of every person.”

This year, the United Nations and its partners organized more than 120 Holocaust remembrance events in 36 countries, with a focus on “the Holocaust and Human Dignity” in the context of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Mr. Ban stressed that new conflicts and genocide can only be prevented by “breaking down the walls of intolerance and division.”

“The Holocaust was a colossal crime. Six million Jews were systematically rounded up and murdered. Millions of others were killed alongside them – prisoners of war, political dissidents, members of minority groups, such as Roma and Sinti, homosexuals and persons with disabilities,” he recalled, adding that the evidence is irrefutable, and those who deny it only perpetuate falsehoods and make a mockery of the pain.

“We must ask ourselves why and how this could happen and together work to prevent such atrocities from happening again,” the Secretary-General stressed, noting that he has been reminded of this “stark truth” many times, visiting a genocide memorial in Rwanda, the site of the massacre at Srebrenica in Bosnia Herzogovina, and the Tuol Sleng prison in Cambodia.

“Today, I am deeply disturbed by the massacres in South Sudan, by the continued carnage in Syria, and by the atrocities being inflicted by Daesh and Boko Haram,” he stated. “In today's climate of growing of global fear and alienation, we must not lose sight of the fundamental truth that all humans are born with inalienable rights, dignity and worth.

“The memory of the Holocaust guides us by reminding us what can happen when we stop seeing our common humanity,” he concluded. “Only by remembering the past can we hope to shape a better future.”


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Migration and Multilateralism Will Be Hallmarks of 2016: UN Official

Local volunteer groups help provide hot meals for the increasing numbers of refugees and migrants arriving in Calais, France. Photo: UNHCR/ V. Cochetel

5 February 2016 – The world is facing a political, economic, moral and social crisis as governments and communities struggle to provide effective solutions for the unprecedented numbers of people fleeing war, instability or persecution, the top United Nations migration official said today, calling for deceive multilateral action to tackle “the global issues lurking behind today’s vast movement of people.”

The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Peter Sutherland, said today in Geneva that 2016 “is the year of migration and multilateralism,” and that series of comprehensive initiatives is needed to drive home – and effectively address – the global nature of the issue.

Indeed, he told reporters, while there has been an understandable focus on migrants arriving on the shores of European countries, this has often obscured the fact that the global dimensions of the phenomenon are very real; 85 per cent of the total numbers of global migrants are moving from developing to developing country.

Yet the response in Europe, for instance to the crisis in Syria, has at times sparked “incipient nationalism,” which is evidenced in xenophobic and racist reactions rather than anything to address the challenges of free movement of people, he said. “But this is not just a European issue, we’ve seen this in the Andaman Sea, in Asia […] in movements from Latin America into North America,” said Mr. Sutherland.

He noted that the conference yesterday in London on the Syria crisis achieved substantial commitments to financial support, particularly to frontline States – Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan –which are “close to the scene of devastation” and carry an “enormous proportion” of the global refugee population. “European States in comparison are taking minuscule amounts of refugees, and refusing to share in the concept of solidarity that one might have expected,” he stressed.

Highlighting the presence of new razor wire fences, the UN official warned that borders “challenge the moral responsibility” of States to help refugees and provide asylum.

Against this background, one of the main messages that Mr. Sutherland conveyed was that migrants bring significant benefits to their host communities, and that European countries in particular stand to benefit from the influx. “We have to have a greater understanding of the positive values that the migrant communities are bringing to countries who badly need them," Sutherland said.

“The 10 countries with the lowest population growth in the world are in Europe. In 30 or 40 years’ time those who are retired as opposed to those who work will massively have increased in Europe. We have to learn to integrate into our societies those who seek refuge in them,” he added.

As an example, Mr. Sutherland noted that “migrants in general, and in every country in Europe, make greater fiscal contribution than they take in benefits. They have lower levels of unemployment, and in general a greater interest in education. They do not contribute to the current narrative create terrorist threats in large numbers. The handful of those who have been involved in terrorism in Europe have in general been born and brought up in Europe.”

Questions from the audience turned the discussion to the situation in northern France, where the UN refugee agency earlier sounded the alarm on behalf of thousands or refugees and migrants crowding into informal camps in Calais in need of both shelter and adequate protection.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern about some 4,000 refugees and migrants currently reported to be living in the Calais "jungle" and almost 2,500 in Grande-Synthe, on the edges of Dunkerque, often in dire circumstances, aggravated by the winter conditions.

At present there are limited facilities that attend to the specific protection needs of children, including those under the age of 15. Among the few is the Maison du jeune réfugié centre in St Omer, which is run by France terre d’asile.

At an earlier press conference, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, underscored that addressing the situation is “primarily a French responsibility. But since the people are seeking asylum in [United Kingdom], and they are in France, it is a matter of a societal response – French, British and European.”


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The Supporting Syria and the Region Conference,

The EU Will Spend More Than 3 Billion Euros for the Syrian Refugees in Syria and Neighbouring Countries: Donald Tusk

Mr Donald TUSK, President of the European Council; Mr David CAMERON, UK Prime Minister. London: 040216: Image Credit The European Union

London, February 04: We are here today to forge a common response to the biggest humanitarian challenge of our time: the Syrian refugee crisis. Refugees have had little choice but to flee their country. Many of them have lost everything. And now after so many years of conflict, people have lost hope. We have a moral duty to bring their hope back.

Syria's neighbours have shown tremendous efforts in accommodating over 4.6 million refugees. The international community recognizes that countries like Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey are providing a global public good in assisting refugees. We are all here because this public good has to be financed by the global community. We have to support Syria's neighbours in accommodating refugees.

Since the start of the conflict the European Union has spent 5 billion euros helping to manage this crisis. Last year, the European Union exceeded its commitment to give an additional 1 billion euros to the region. We now stand ready to offer more help.

I am pleased to announce that the European Union and its member states will commit more than 3 billion euros to respond to the needs of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for 2016. Looking beyond that, from 2017 onwards, the EU and Member States intend to maintain this level of financing.

On top of this pledge, the EU's bank will also play its part. The European Investment Bank plans to lend around 12.5 billion euros to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt over the next five years. This could be stepped up to a possible total of 23 billion euros for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. President Hoyer from EIB will present the details later today.

I will continue to convince my G7 and G20 partners to step up our global efforts.


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Oxfam: Leading UK Authors Raise £1m for Syria and Call on Rich Countries to Do Their Fair Share

Image: Oxfam

3rd Feb 2016: On the eve of a major conference on Syria in London, a host of bestselling authors are celebrating the success of Waterstones' Buy Books for Syria campaign which has today hit its target of raising £1 million for Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal.

The authors, who include Caitlin Moran, Mark Haddon, Victoria Hislop and Tracy Chevalier, have also taken the opportunity to call on wealthy governments to ramp up their aid response, and to resettle more refugees.

This comes as rich countries meet in London this week, to pledge more money and support for the people of Syria. According to new analysis by Oxfam released this week, wealthy countries have given barely half the aid money needed to help people in and around Syria and many countries are failing to do their fair share to resettle refugees. While the UK has given a generous share of financial aid, it has resettled less than a quarter of the refugees it should.

Author and columnist Caitlin Moran said: 'It's shameful - as we approach the fifth anniversary of the war on Syria - that rich countries have given barely half the aid money needed to help. I'm proud to have joined the literary world in raising money for Oxfam's work there - but it's increasingly clear that this is a growing disaster that needs international action in forming a proper, legal and humanitarian plan to find the refugees permanent places of safety, and that it is in the interests of the whole world to act with decency, rigour, imagination and speed, before an already awful humanitarian crisis destabilises entire regions, and threatens the entire notion of peaceful coexistence."

Mark Haddon, well-known author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, said: "What a fantastic achievement this campaign is. Waterstones getting together with authors, publishers and readers to raise money to help the people of Syria, both those inside the country and those who have had to flee.

"It is up to wealthy governments to do their bit and give their fair share of support. More money, and a warmer welcome to refugees, will go a long way to helping Syrians across Europe. I've been to Jordan with Oxfam and seen the work they're doing and all I can say is that it's essential, it's efficient and it's working. By buying books for Syria and hitting our £1m target, we can now do so much more."

Bestselling author of The Island, Victoria Hislop, said: "I'm so pleased to have been a part of this campaign to raise £1m for Syrian refugees. Reaching the target is a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of all involved. We now call on governments to do their fair share and ensure that funds go to help the people of Syria, and agree to resettle more refugees who are in desperate need of help."

Tracy Chevalier, author of the bestselling novel Girl With a Pearl Earring, said: "I'm really glad Buy Books for Syria has raised its £1m target. There is still much to do, however, as the conflict in Syria shows no signs of ending. Let's hope governments note that they need to contribute much more to help."

Bill Bryson, who recently published The Road to Little Dribbling, said of the campaign: "I couldn't be more pleased or impressed. It was a fantastically ambitious target and it is wonderful news that it has been achieved."

All proceeds from Buy Books for Syria have gone to Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal.

James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, said: "Everyone at Waterstones is proud to have contributed so meaningfully to Oxfam's work with Syrian refugees, whilst recognising the on-going needs are both urgent and substantial. Oxfam, and all those working to alleviate the crisis, require committed support."

Oxfam GB Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: "Thanks to all those involved in Buy Books for Syria for making a difference to the people of Syria and taking this timely opportunity to call on governments to do their part. The £1m raised will have a huge impact on Oxfam's continuing work to help the Syrian people. It will help to provide clean water for hundreds of thousands inside the country, as well as support the many refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Europe who have been forced to flee their homes.

"With every penny going to Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal, Buy Books for Syria proves that even a small purchase can make an enormous difference to people's lives. Now we are calling on wealthy governments to do their fair share."

Other authors who supported the campaign include Mary Beard, Alan Bennett, Michael Bond, William Boyd, Lee Child, Julia Donaldson, Neil Gaiman, Matt Haig, Robert Harris, Max Hastings, Khaled Hosseini, Marian Keyes, Lynda La Plante, Andrea Levy, Hilary Mantel, Peter May, Alexander McCall Smith, Michael Morpurgo, Jojo Moyes, Patrick Ness, David Nicholls, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Salman Rushdie, Ali Smith, Tom Rob Smith, David Walliams and Jacqueline Wilson.

UK publisher support includes Atlantic Books, Bloomsbury, Canongate, Egmont, Faber, Granta, Hachette, HarperCollins, Oneworld, Pan Macmillan, Penguin Random House UK, Profile, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Titan, Usborne and Walker.

Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal

The Buy Books for Syria campaign has now wrapped up since hitting its target, however people who wish to support the cause can donate directly to


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There are No Other Qualifications Good Enough for a Mother and Child But Humanity and They Ought to Be Treated with That

Doctors of the World at Work in Slovenia: Image: Doctors of the World

Citing 'New Agenda for Humanity,' UN Deputy Chief Urges Bold Action on Humanitarian Funding


3 February 2016 – Maintaining the United Nations momentum towards the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit – set for 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, Turkey – Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson today urged bold action to alleviate the suffering of 125 million people who depend on the international community to survive.

"We now need a mobilization to live up to the humanitarian imperative and to help the millions of men, women and children in desperate need around the world," he told a briefing on the report of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, which is entitled Too Important to Fail – Addressing the Humanitarian Financing Gap.

Since the report was commissioned, "the conditions on the ground have become even more dire," said Mr. Eliasson, adding that this has in turn made the convening in May of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit that much more important.

In Central America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, millions of people are food insecure, often caused by drought, sometimes related to the effects of El Niño. Millions more are at risk of more extreme weather events, he said.

"Apart from these natural disasters, the world is trying to with a number of atrocious man-made catastrophes. The suffering is enormous and international humanitarian law is being disregarded to a shocking degree," Mr. Eliasson.

Indeed, the conflict in Syria has generated the worst contemporary humanitarian crisis, Mr. Eliasson continued, noting that in recent weeks, the world had been shocked by the images of the suffering endured during the siege of Madaya. “Tragically, there are hundreds of Madayas throughout the country. Humanitarian conditions in besieged and hard-to-reach areas are insufferable and with time without relief, getting even worse," he said.

"The resulting tensions in neighbouring countries are enormous," he continued. "Refugee flows are spectacular and shocking. The social and political consequences may become uncontrollable," he said, and these events and conditions are an affront to our common humanity and the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law."

In this context, he stressed the importance of international humanitarian conference on Syria to be co-chaired tomorrow in London, by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait and Norway.

"We have seen the power of global solidarity with the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. We must fulfill our promise to leave no one behind, acting boldly in for the 125 million people who now depend on the international community for their survival, "he said.

Mr. Eliasson went on to say that the World Humanitarian Summit will be the international community's opportunity to unite in the name of common humanity – and to take a stand against the horrific levels of suffering and misery that we witness in the world today.

“We must now stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable people of the world – and we must be committed to represent their interests at the Summit in Istanbul in May,” he said.


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With 4 Million Syrian Children Out of School, $1.4 Billion Sought by UN to Save ‘Lost Generation’

Displaced Syrians receive UNICEF winter clothing kits. Photo: UNICEF/Aho Yousef

2 February 2016 – With four million Syrian and host community children in need of education and no let-up in sight in the fighting tearing the country apart, the United Nations and its partners are seeking $1.4 billion at a major conference in London on Thursday to save the current youth generation.

“The scale of the crisis for children is growing all the time, which is why there are now such fears that Syria is losing a whole generation of its youth,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Peter Salama, whose agency is coordinating the ‘No Lost Generation Initiative'.

“As a result of all the work being done by partners and donors, education and protection for children are now being prioritized. But what we must see in London is the step-change necessary to bring all children back to learning; to protect those who are at risk of dropping out; expand safe and inclusive learning environments; recruit and train more teachers; improve the quality of education, and support the development of technical, vocational and life skills opportunities for youth.”

The London conference is being co-hosted by Britain, Germany, Kuwait and Norway, and leaders from more than 30 countries are expected to attend, with the aim of raising new funding to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of those affected by the crisis.

Nearly five years into the Syrian war, some four million Syrian and host community children and youth aged 5-17 years are in need of education assistance, including 2.1 million out-of-school children inside Syria and 700,000 Syrian children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

Last year, the combined efforts of Governments and international partners helped more than one million children and youth inside Syria benefit from formal or non-formal learning opportunities. But with no political solution in sight to one of the most brutal conflicts the world has seen in decades, the number of children missing out on an education continues to climb.

Governments at the London meeting will also be urged to put more pressure on parties to the Syria conflict and those who support them to end attacks on schools and other places of learning, in accordance with international humanitarian law.

According to UNICEF, the killing, abduction and arrest of students and teachers has become commonplace, as have arbitrary attacks on schools. About one in four schools cannot be used because they have been damaged, destroyed or are being used as shelters for the internally displaced or for military purposes.

The No Lost Generation Initiative was set up in 2013. By the end of 2015 1.2 million children and youth inside Syria benefitted from improved formal and non-formal learning opportunities and more than 650,788 in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey received school supplies or support through cash grants.


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Crucial UN Aid Reaches Syrian Town Cut Off by Fighting for Three Years

Families evacuated from East Ghouta, Syria, congregate in the courtyard of the Dahit Qudsayya collective shelter for basic aid. Photo: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

3 February 2016 – Working with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), the United Nations refugee agency has delivered crucial humanitarian aid to a rural town near Damascus that has been cut off by fighting for three years, stranding thousands of residents in dire conditions without clean water or fuel for warmth.

"People were asking for extra plastic sheeting and blankets as they don't have any other means for heating their homes, many homes have been destroyed, with many families sharing residences with relatives and neighbours,” said a volunteer involved in the delivery to Al-Mleiha, which lies on the edge of the eastern Ghouta region at a strategic road leading to Damascus airport.

The SARC convoy delivered non-food aid on Sunday to more than 1,300 people living in the buffer zone around Al-Mleiha, where families living in shattered homes are burning plastic to keep warm.

Around 50,000 people lived in Al-Mleiha before the present crisis, although many have since sought safety in neighbouring towns and villages. There are currently only around 26,000 people living in the town, according to UN reports, 10,000 of them internally displaced.

"These items are of crucial support to the residents of Al-Mleiha as it helps them reinforce their shelters and provide them with warmth in this cold season," Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Senior Field Officer Pablo Vizcaino said of the aid, which included hygiene kits, plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, and blankets, along with food parcels provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

As the crisis in Syria nears its sixth year, up to 4.5 million people still live in hard-to-reach areas, including some 400,000 in 15 besieged locations, without access to the aid they desperately need.

Access to Al-Mleiha "boosts hopes for upcoming regular deliveries of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Al-Mleiha and other besieged and hard to reach locations," UNHCR Representative in Syria Sajjad Malik said.

The deliveries to local residents in the town will be continued periodically according to SARC.

Last month, UNHCR and its partners finally managed to reach the besieged town of Madaya with life-saving health and food supplies 42,000 desperate residents after reports of people starving to death under encirclement by pro-Government forces.

At the same aid was also delivered to Kafraya and Foah, two towns under siege by opposition forces near the Turkish border in northwest Syria, where 20,000 people were also in desperate need, cut off from humanitarian and commercial access since October.

In 2015, UNHCR reached 3,213,275 people with core relief items that included blankets, winter clothes, jerry cans, household items and diapers.


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Don't Shoot the Messenger, Israel – Ban Ki-moon Writing in The New York Times

On the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel, Muslims leave the Dome of the Rock after Friday prayers. Police presence is always tight and young males are not allowed or have their ID’s seized going in. Photo: Edward Parsons/IRIN

1 February 2016 – Writing in The New York Times, in an Op-Ed the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says: ''In Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, 2016 has begun much as 2015 ended — with unacceptable levels of violence and a polarized public discourse. That polarization showed itself in the halls of the United Nations last week when I pointed out a simple truth: History proves that people will always resist occupation.''

He writes: "Some sought to shoot the messenger — twisting my words into a misguided justification for violence. The stabbings, vehicle rammings and other attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli civilians are reprehensible. So, too, are the incitement of violence and the glorification of killers.''

''Nothing excuses terrorism. I condemn it categorically.

It is inconceivable, though, that security measures alone will stop the violence. As I warned the Security Council last week, Palestinian frustration and grievances are growing under the weight of nearly a half-century of occupation. Ignoring this won’t make it disappear. No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.''

This opinion piece by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-moon appeared in The New York Times  on 31 January 2016.


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Hailed as ‘Role Models,’ All-female Indian Police Unit Departs UN Mission in Liberia


President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (left) with members of the all-female Indian Formed Police Unit serving with the UN Mission in Liberia. Photo: Emmanuel Tobey/UNMIL

12 February 2016 – “We see you as family,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently told the women of the all-female Indian police unit serving in her country under the United Nations flag.

“If I had my will, I would have recommended for another unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to leave, so that the Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU) would continue its stay in the country for the time being,” she said, speaking to a large crowd at their recent farewell ceremony, organized to coincide with India’s Republic Day.

Since 2007, there have been nine rotations of all-female police units from India, whose primary responsibilities have been to provide 24-hour guard duty and public order management and to conduct night patrols in and around the capital, Monrovia, while assisting to build the capacity of local security institutions.

On Sunday, 125 women and supporting personnel that constitute the unit will pack their bags and return home to all corners of India following their one-year rotation in the post-conflict nation. Since the civil war ended in 2003, UNMIL has been supporting Liberia to rebuild its institutions so it can maintain stability without its presence.

“When the local women see the female peacekeepers, they get inspired by them – [they see] ladies can perform the same role as male counterparts,” Colonel Madhubala Bala, the contingent’s commander, told the UN News Centre in an interview.

And the proof is in the numbers. Liberian women now make up 17 per cent of the country’s security sector, as compared to 6 per cent nine years ago before the arrival and influence of the all-female Indian contingent.

“They’ve served as role models for the local girls, and the effect on Liberian women was very significant,” added the Colonel.

In a statement issued today in New York ahead of this weekend’s departure, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the FPU’s “unwavering performance, professionalism and discipline,” and commended its contributions in creating an environment for the Government of Liberia to assume fully its security responsibilities by 30 June 2016.

“Through their work, they managed criminality, deterred sexual and gender-based violence and helped rebuild safety and confidence among the population,” said the statement, in which Mr. Ban also underscored that the conduct of the FPU served as an example of how the deployment of more female uniformed personnel can help the UN in its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.

“The Secretary-General thanks all the women who served in the FPU for inspiring all Liberians, as well as current and future generations of female police officers, and becoming role models for gender equality,” the statement added.

According to the UN, India has been an unequivocal supporter of women in peace and security worldwide. It is currently the fourth largest police-contributing country with 1,009 police officers worldwide, and the third largest contributor of female police officers with 115, just behind Bangladesh and Nepal.

“You have certain professions that are seen to be traditional masculine jobs,” explained Clare Hutchinson, a gender adviser for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

“What we’re doing with the military and the police is breaking down the perception that this is a male domain and that women can’t be involved. We know that the obstacles aren’t that it’s too dangerous or that they don’t want to travel or leave their children. Those aren’t the most prevailing obstacles; it’s mainly that they’re not aware of opportunities.”

Ms. Hutchinson emphasized that to increase the presence of women in peace operations, the UN relies on its Member States to recruit them at the country level first. To support the effort, the Organization has helped train over 555 female police officers in five countries, leading to 174 additional women being deployed last year.

“What comes out as very striking to me when you talk to women in the services, the first thing they say is that they’re a police officer, not a woman. So they’re not women police officers, they’re police officers who are women. And I think that’s very important for us to remember,” she noted.

Inspector Sangmitrai Kittappan, 40, was encouraged to join the Indian police force by her family – especially her father and husband, who is also a police officer. She has served two one-year rotations in Liberia, returning in February 2015 for the second time because Ebola had ravaged the country and she wanted to help.

“Female infanticide was [practiced] in our society. That’s why my father always told me ‘one day you will play a big role in the world, you will be an example to the female community,’” she said.

“Girls talk with us freely, there’re always asking if it’s hard to live away from our families for a long time,” she added. “I tell them I love my country and I want to sacrifice my life for my nation.”

Meanwhile, Inspector Santha Bhargavi, 49, shared that she especially enjoyed helping to restore calm during riots, even when the situation sometimes grew violent. “It was a very big moment for us,” she said. “We controlled the situation, we are well trained. It is a pride for any woman to serve in such a mission.”

The Indian contingent is not just controlling crowds; the women have earned the respect of Liberians thanks to their engagement within the community on many levels. For example, they gave map reading lessons to their peers in the Liberian National Police. More broadly, they taught Liberian women self-defence skills, conducted classes on sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, and provided medical services. Some got involved with a local orphanage and school in Congo Town.

“It was a challenging job 24 hours a day,” said 31-year-old Sub-Inspector Subashini Mahunta. “It was a big responsibility to protect the people, save strangers, and bring safety and comfort to the people. Being a police officer is a very respectable thing.”

This message was recently echoed by many UN officials, who in light of the contingent’s imminent departure, have been praising the women’s important contribution to the nation.

“The all-female Indian FPU played an outstanding role in Liberia since 2007 and put the soul of Security Council resolution 1325 into operational action and visibility,” said UN Police Adviser Stefan Feller, referring to the UN document adopted in 2000 that urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all peace and security efforts.

“These courageous women patrolled Monrovian streets at night together with their Liberian counterparts, maintained calm during the Ebola crisis and devoted time and resources above and beyond the call of duty to protect the communities. The legacy these peacekeepers leave behind is the next generation of female Liberian leaders, already serving in the national police today.”

Ten years ago, there were 16,000 UN uniformed personnel in Liberia. By the end of June, there will be 1,240 military and 606 police. “The all-female Indian FPU will not be replaced, but its legacy will continue in Liberia and throughout peacekeeping,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL, Farid Zarif.

“By having served with distinction, they have earned the deep respect of the Liberian people, and have also made themselves, their families and their nation very proud of their sacrifice and service,” he added.


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An Interview with Jamal, MSF Cultural Mediator & Logistician in Italy

Jamal, an MSF cultural mediator, welcoming new guests. Image: Sara Creta/MSF

Jamal, a refugee from Afghanistan, is working as cultural mediator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the reception centre of Gorizia, Italy, at the border with Slovenia.

Italy: "My work is a real opportunity to help those in need, just like me."

28 January 2016: Jamal, a refugee from Afghanistan, is working as cultural mediator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the reception centre of Gorizia, Italy, at the border with Slovenia.

During the last years I have had to face many difficulties: I have lived in refugee camps in France, the United Kingdom and Greece. I was repatriated twice from Greece, and have had to live in a detention centre , so I understand the fears and problems of people like me, who find themselves in this situation of uncertain future.

The first time I arrived in Italy, in 2005, it was just to pass through before going on to the UK. Now, after facing death several times and experiencing hardships, I have been granted international protection. I am happy to work with MSF as a cultural mediator and to provide a warm welcome and adequate housing for asylum seekers arriving in search of shelter, food, medical care and protection.

When did you start working for MSF?

I started in Sicily, providing psychological first aid to new arrivals with a group composed of a psychologist and cultural mediators. I met the survivors of the sea crossing, people extremely traumatized by distressing moments during their journey. In the beginning, it was not easy to absorb people’s pain, sometimes I could not hold back my tears.

I felt very strong emotions, but I was happy to be able to help people who needed support and information, just like me when I first arrived in Italy in 2005 and I was tired, fragile and confused as they are. Today, my work is a real opportunity to help those in need, just like me.

Can you tell us about an episode that particularly touched you during your work as cultural mediator?

In Palermo this summer I met and supported a Nigerian man who lost his wife during the trip; he was alive, but completely immobile. He could not eat or even walk alone. I have been very close to him, I knew that he was feeling an immense pain, but I told him to be strong and I advised him to share his pain with the others. He could not even recognise the body of his partner. His heart was broken.

During your work as a cultural mediator with MSF, what do refugees ask you? What are their concerns?

Their biggest concern is about their future, they are confused, some of them have medical needs, others want to go to another destination to reunite with their family, they are asking for advice. You can see in their eyes that they are worried; they are confused because they do not know how the system works. They are afraid. Also during my trip, I was afraid to die. I was afraid of drowning when I was crossing the Aegean Sea, or when I was hidden under a truck between France and England for three hours. I struggled to survive with the snow on my face, holding with my hands the tube connecting the wheels. But finally I managed to arrive in UK.

What do you think Europe should do?

There is a European side that is able to host, but unfortunately there is also a EU that turns a blind eye to the abuses at its borders. Equal human treatment and dignity protection should be the priority and Europe must provide this. I have also experienced violence and abuses. In Turkey, the police humiliated me while I was very sick. In Istanbul, for 20 days I was locked in a smuggler’s house. When I tried to run away, they beat me and tortured me, putting whiskey into my nose. In Greece, I ran away because I didn’t want to be identified, I was beaten and forced to leave my fingerprints even if I didn’t want to. Then I was held in an identification and expulsion centre. They told me that I had to leave the country.

Why do you think your presence here is important?

People have in front of them a positive example of integration – this reassures them and makes them feel more comfortable. I’ve also passed through different countries and it was very difficult because I've never found someone that was willing to make the effort to help me understand the context. No one explained what was happening to me; I always had to find the way, alone, through my friends who were here.

It's crucial to have someone who speaks your language, understands your situation, who reassures you on the legal process. Being here is a new challenge for me. I can encourage and support these people who come here. Like them, despite the obstacles on my way, I’ve always tried to be strong and to reach my goals.

MSF News


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‘Rights up Front’ Strategy Ever More Vital to Prevent Genocide and Abuses, Says Deputy UN Chief


28 January 2016 – The United Nations ‘Rights up Front’ initiative, which seeks to strengthen the preventive work of the UN to recognize the value of early warning signals of crises to come, is more vital than ever as the world facing ever more grave and complex challenges, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has told the General Assembly.

“When we look around us today, we see the urgent, even desperate, need to react early and to take effective action before situations get out of control, leading to immense human suffering,” he told the 193-member body yesterday.

“If there was ever a time to strengthen United Nations prevention work, it is now. With the Human Rights up Front initiative and process, we have a tool in our hand, which can make a difference in the lives of millions of people. It can strengthen a dimension of the UN, which can and should inspire confidence and much-needed hope for the future in today’s troubled world.”

The initiative was launched by Secretary General Ban-Ki moon in December 2013 to address the ‘systemic failure’ identified by an Internal Review Panel in meeting UN responsibilities to prevent and respond to serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

Human Rights up Front aims to help the UN act more coherently across the pillars of the Organization’s work ¬– peace and security, development, and human rights – by achieving three types of change. It seeks cultural change to make sure that UN staff understand their prevention responsibilities and pursue them, operational change to ensure that the UN works on the basis of shared analysis, and enhanced engagement with Member States.

“Human Rights up Front is about improving how the UN system functions and how staff members are to perform,” Mr. Eliasson stressed. “It does not directly address the role of Member States in prevention. But I would hope that Member States will identify elements of the initiative, which they can usefully adopt in their national efforts.

“Member States – in the General Assembly, the Security Council as well as in ECOSOC (UN Economic and Social Council) – have an important role to play in promoting the approaches and changes, which Human Rights up Front seeks to achieve. We count on you to not least provide political support for preventive action,” he said.


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MSF: Syria: Starvation Continues in Madaya - MSF Denounces Continued Blockage of Essential Aid and Medical Evacuations

29 January 2016: Brussels - Residents of the besieged Syrian town of Madaya continue to die of starvation, despite the provision of aid in convoys, as the Syrian government-led coalition blocks life-saving medical supplies from the town, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said Friday.

“It is totally unacceptable that people continue to die from starvation, and that critical medical cases remain in the town when they should have been evacuated weeks ago,” said Brice de le Vingne, MSF’s director of operations.

After the heavy shelling of Madaya last summer and the tightening of the siege during the winter, massive restrictions placed on humanitarian assistance mean that essential medical supplies – including enough therapeutic food to treat the most severe cases of malnutrition – are not available.

MSF estimates that between 1.5 and two million people are trapped in sieges imposed by the Syrian government-led coalition, as well as by opposition groups. In many of these places, medical evacuations are prevented and medical material, drugs and therapeutic food is repeatedly blocked at checkpoints. As a result, medical teams in these areas simply cannot cope with the demands they face. The situation in Madaya is even worse as there are no doctors present in the town.

According to health workers supported by MSF inside Madaya, 16 people have died since the delivery of aid in three convoys earlier this month.

There are an estimated 320 cases of malnutrition in the town of 20,000 people, of which 33 are severe, meaning that they are in danger of death if they do not receive prompt and effective treatment.

“There needs to be a permanent and independent medical presence in Madaya immediately, as we expect the medical situation to worsen as access to healthcare for people inside remains extremely limited,” said de le Vingne, the operations director.

MSF-supported medics are now reporting malnutrition in other towns in Syria, including in Moadamiyah, southwest of Damascus.

“The warring parties responsible for these besiegement strategies need to allow unhindered medical and humanitarian access immediately, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. This includes lifting any restrictions on medical evacuations from these zones,” said de le Vingne.

MSF News


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Education Key to Preventing New Genocides: Ban Ki-moon at UN Special Event Honouring Holocaust Victims

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses event marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. UN Photo/Mark Garten

27 January 2016 – As the global community gathered to commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi extermination camp 71years ago, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the most effective ways to stand up for human rights, fight xenophobia and prevent new genocides is by educating new generations about the horrors of the Holocaust.

“Today, with a rising tide of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of discrimination, we must do even more to defend these rights for people everywhere,” Mr. Ban told hundreds of people at UN Headquarters in New York, attending a memorial ceremony.

Noting that “violent extremism, sectarian tensions and hate-filled ideologies are on the march,” the UN chief underlined that civilians are in the crosshairs, and that international humanitarian law is being “flouted on a global scale.”

“The international community is failing to hold perpetrators to account,” he warned. “Today, we see actions of Da’esh [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] that may amount to grave crimes against minority groups such as the Yazidis. And the conflict in Syria has generated the worst humanitarian crisis of our time,” he said.

Meanwhile, recalling that the Holocaust was a “colossal crime,” Mr. Ban said those who deny it only perpetuate falsehoods and make a mockery of the pain.

“I was profoundly disappointed to learn of another so-called “Holocaust cartoon contest” being planned this year in Iran,” he lamented. “At this time of sectarian tensions, mutual respect must be foremost in our minds. Spreading hatred and toying with historical facts only leads down the dead-end of discord and danger,” he stressed.

In his remarks, the President of the UN General Assembly said evidence suggests that lessons from the past have not been put into practice, noting that the world still sees hate speech and actions by governments which incite hatred of others.

“All of us, therefore, at the United Nations and beyond, have a responsibility to take greater steps to promote tolerance, human rights and human dignity,” insisted Mogens Lykketoft, noting that this includes “The Responsibility to Protect” or R2P – a doctrine which recognizes the vulnerability of populations in many regions of the world, and calls on the international community to intervene to protect them.

Mr. Lykketoft also called on all present to listen carefully to the stories and music of those speaking and performing at today’s event. The activities will be hosted by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach.

Following remarks by UN officials and representatives from the diplomatic community, a video tribute will be made to Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from the Holocaust on the Czech Kindertransport. Beate Klarsfeld of Germany will be keynote speaker. Personal testimony will be delivered by Jewish Holocaust survivors Marta Wise and Haim Roet, and by Mr. Zoni Weisz, a Sinto survivor. The event will also include a performance by the United States Military Academy at West Point Jewish Chapel Choir.


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UNICEF Launches $2.8 Billion Humanitarian Appeal for Children Worldwide

26 January 2016 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today announced the launch of a $2.8 billion appeal to reach 43 million children in humanitarian emergencies worldwide, with for the first time ever the largest portion of the appeal – 25 per cent – going towards their education.

“Millions of children are being robbed of their education,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, in a press release.

“Education is a life-saving measure for children, providing them with the opportunity to learn and play, amidst the carnage of gunfire and grenades,” she continued. “This year, a quarter of our appeal is devoted to education. By educating the minds of children and young people we are building hope so they can envisage a better future for themselves, their families and their societies and help break the cycle of chronic crisis.”

The agency says it plans to dramatically increase the number of children in crises who are given access to education – from 4.9 million at the beginning of 2015 to 8.2 million in 2016. More than half – five million – will be Syrian children inside the country or in neighbouring countries.

Noting that its Humanitarian Action for Children 2016 has doubled since this time three years ago, UNICEF is warning that the twin drivers of conflict and extreme weather are forcing growing numbers of children from their homes and exposing millions more to severe food shortages, violence, disease, abuse, as well as threats to their education.

According to UN estimates, around one in nine of the world’s children is now living in conflict zones. In 2015, children living in countries and areas affected by conflict were twice as likely to die of mostly preventable causes before they reached the age of five, than those in other countries.

 Meanwhile, climate change is a growing threat, with UNICEF estimating that over half a billion children live in extremely high flood occurrence zones and nearly 160 million live in high or extremely high drought severity zones. One of the strongest El Niño weather events on record poses further risk.

The number of people forced from their homes also continues to grow, with Europe alone receiving more than one million refugees and migrants in 2015.

“In the past few months I have seen with my own eyes children pushed beyond the boundaries of human suffering in Burundi, northeast Nigeria and along the migrant and refugee route in Europe,” says Ms. Khan.

“Across the world, millions of children have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and conflict. The global refugee crisis is also a protection crisis for children on the move, who are at increased risk of abuse, exploitation and trafficking,” she added.

UNICEF’s 2016 appeal targets a total of 76 million people, in 63 countries. In 2015, the agency reached millions of children with humanitarian aid – including providing 22.6 million people with access to safe water, vaccinating 11.3 million children against measles, treating two million children for the most serious form of malnutrition, offering two million children vital psychological support and giving four million children access to basic education.


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Save the Children Report: Refugee Children in Europe at Risk as Temperatures Plummet to -20 °C

Refugees walk through the night across the Macedonia-Serbia border in the snow and freezing cold conditions. They are travelling towards the reception centre in the town of Presevo, Serbia. Image: Save the Children

Charity of The Day Save the Children Child Refugee Crisis Appeal Donate Now

Europe is facing its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War: Child refugees are frightened and homeless. Some are alone and in desperate need of protection. Many have witnessed unspeakable horrors. Our teams are working across Europe and in the countries they are fleeing to provide vital aid and support. Help us reach more children.  Thousands of children and families fleeing bombs, bullets and torture in warzones like Syria are in desperate need of care and protection. This year, more than 820,000 people have made the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to Europe. For those who do survive the journey, the terrifying ordeal is not over. Bundled into trucks or walking many miles, children are afraid and exhausted, and the physical impact of travelling is clear. Waits for registration can take days. Toilets are scarce, and food and water are often in shortly supply. With winter setting in, many children are sleeping in freezing tents or out in the open. You’ve already given so much to our child refugee crisis appeal – thank you. But the number of child refugees is growing. Please help









Please help

Thousands of child refugees and their families have made the perilous journey across Europe in search of safety this year.

We’ve heard stories of children falling out of boats, children who are travelling alone disappearing – some into the hands of traffickers, others working as prostitutes – and of course, children drowning.

But today, as temperatures are forecast to drop as low as – 20°c on the border between Macedonia and Serbia – a route used my many refugees – children and their families now face the threat of hypothermia and pneumonia as they travel across Europe.

Children battling the cold

Aid workers on the ground in Presevo on the Serbian border – where there are six inches of snow on the ground – say that children are arriving with blue lips, shaking from the cold and clearly distressed.

Mothers say that they can’t keep their babies dry, and that they’re slipping over while carrying them on the icy roads.

Forced to walk long distances and even sleep outside in this bitterly cold weather, many children at reception centres have high fevers and respiratory problems, according to our staff on the ground.

A dangerous journey

Nasir* fled the war in Syria five months ago with his wife and small children.

He told our staff that he attempted the crossing from Turkey to Greece twice – on the first attempt someone had drowned.

“It was extremely cold, everything was wet, the babies were ill. We threw our bags off the boat to stop it from sinking any further,” he says.

“Sometimes I fear for my children.”

Despite the freezing weather, many refugees are making the journey every day. In Lesvos, where it is currently snowing, children are arriving off the rubber dinghies wearing only t-shirts.

More must be done

We’re running a ‘Safe Space’ shelter in Presevo where mothers and babies, and children who are travelling alone can stay for the night.

We’re also handing out children’s rain jackets, socks and shoes, as well as hot drinks and hygiene items.

But these children and their families desperately need more to be done, to help them on what was already an incredibly long, hard and risky journey.

Save the Children worker Valentia Bollenback, who is currently in Presevo, says: “Instead of focusing on closing their borders, Europe’s government should be doing more to give people fleeing war a dignified and humane reception.”

*Names changed to protect identities.


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100,000 Human Beings Were Murdered in the Last Decade by Gun Violence in America

''Over the past decade, 100,000 men, women and children across the country were killed by acts of gun violence where they live, learn, play, work, and worship. Our state is the fourth deadliest state for gun homicide. And it’s far too easy for dangerous criminals to gain possession of firearms in our state and across the country. We cannot let inaction be our answer to this senseless violence.'' Writes Joseph P. Riley Jr. in The Post and Courier: January 23, 2016


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No One Must Be Left Behind: Ban Ki-moon in Zurich

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers his keynote address at the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Zurich, Switzerland. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

22 January 2016 – If the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a pact between donors and recipients, the 2030 Agenda must become must become the basis of a new social contract, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging governments to show strong ownership in the framework by aligning policies, legislation and resources so that people and the planet can benefit.

“Governments made a universal promise to all people – and citizens of the world can now demand that governments honour these promises,” the Secretary-General told delegations at the told delegations attending the Zurich Development Conference, where he made a strong call on governments to back the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“All States and all actors own this Agenda, which aims to finally end the tyranny of poverty,” continued the UN chief, adding that where the MDGs were carried out through the development system, the SDGs must become the object of a dialogue between the State and its people, “between duty-bearers and rights-holders, between those with resources and those in need.”

He said that in the course of discussions on the 2030 Agenda, particularly business community and civil society were urging the Governments and the UN to provide a far-reaching vision. “I think UN Member States have now delivered,” he said emphasizing that the Goals represent virtually all the aspects and spectrums of our lives, including the environmental conditions of our Planet Earth.

“Now I am urging business communities and civil society to respond to the visions of world leaders. The world leaders, of course, have political responsibility to make sure these are owned by each and every government through their national legislations and other administrative measure,” the Secretary-General said, adding however that without the strong support, contributions and engagement by civil society and the business community, this might not be implemented.

The 2030 Agenda, he continued, commits to leaving no one behind. The basic [premise] is that 7 billion people – maybe 8 billion by the end of 2030 – that everybody without any exception should be able to live sustainably and a healthier way.

“This is a pledge that resonates well here in Switzerland. The preamble of your Constitution perfectly expresses this spirit by affirming that ‘the strength of a people is measured by the wellbeing of its weakest member,’ he noted, adding that the Swiss Government has already presented that far-reaching vision.

This applies to cantons in Switzerland – and it also applies to the most vulnerable in the international community. This applies not only to the least developed, fragile and failed States – but also applies to struggling people in any society.

“The only challenge greater than achieving agreement on the SDGs is the one we face now, it has been very difficult, sometimes passionate, emotional in the process of negotiation every single world, every single paragraph was the subject of intense negotiation. Now this is over, the greater challenge is to implement these agreements,” said Mr. Ban.

As such, he stressed that each and every Government needs to show strong ownership by aligning policies, legislation and resources in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. “We need visionary political leadership that sees beyond the national borders. We need effective institutions that break silos. These 17 goals, they are universal, they are all integrated, all are indivisible, you cannot separate one from the other,” he said.

He explained that they had been negotiated globally in two threads. One thread was climate change: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had negotiated during the last 18 years on Goal 13. The rest of the 16 goals were negotiated at the last UN General Assembly. “They were negotiated differently but they are one. Nothing can, and should operate in separation. They are one part of our vision,” said the UN chief.

The recent Paris Agreement on climate change represents a first of many steps the international community will have to take to achieve the SDGs, he said, adding that there are many cross-cutting issues like food, water, energy, gender and climate. Those are cross cutting issues which affects us all. Particularly if Goal 13 is not properly addressed, “all the gains which we will make will be seriously undermined.”


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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi Speaks of the Plight of the Refugees

In June 2013, then UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi (second from left) accompanies Heidi Hautala, Finnish Minister for International Development, during a visit to the Summer Fun Weeks programme in Gaza which provides activities such as football, kite flying and drawing for the territory’s children. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

I have worked with refugees since I was a young volunteer. I know the pain of exile very well from having experienced it in many places.

Resolving conflicts key to stemming global displacement


20 January 2016 – Multiple conflicts have resulted in the massive displacement of men, women and children around the world in record numbers. Last year alone, more than one million refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean to Europe. And yet, the arrivals in Europe represent only a fraction of the world’s current 60 million refugees and displaced people – the highest level since the end of the Second World War.

As UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, heads the agency tasked with protecting, assisting and finding solutions for refugees, internally displaced people and stateless populations. A veteran UN official who was most recently Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Mr. Grandi spoke with the UN News Centre just days after taking up his new post about his priorities, the critical shortfalls in humanitarian funding and what motivates him to work with refugees.

Refugees and migrants wait in line to be registered as asylum-seekers in Berlin, Germany. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

I have worked with refugees since I was a young volunteer. I know the pain of exile very well from having experienced it in many places.

UN News Centre: You’ve just taken up your post as High Commissioner for Refugees. Can you tell us what your priorities are going to be?

Filippo Grandi: Forced displacement of refugees, internally displaced people and other people seeking refuge from war, human rights violations and other forms of hardship has become a very central feature, unfortunately, of our world. The number of people of concern to my office, to UNHCR, has multiplied and we’re now dealing with 60 million, plus 10 million stateless women and men. And this is a staggering figure, the highest that has existed since the Second World War. So our priorities are really to ensure that all of these people enjoy protection of their lives and rights, and that we are able to respond to numerous emergencies, created mostly by war. And a very important priority, which is enshrined in our mandate, is also to help States seek solutions for these people.

UN News Centre: UNHCR and other agencies launched an appeal for nearly $8 billion for the Syrian crisis. How do you plan to make that happen when financing has been an issue?

Filippo Grandi: Yes, this is a major problem. We managed to keep the financial ask in that huge appeal – which is for inside Syria, internally displaced and other people in need, and for outside Syria, for refugees and for host communities and States hosting them – we managed to keep the ask at a level which is not much higher than last year, although the needs have multiplied as you can imagine. The real problem here is that on the one hand, the volume is such and there are so many other crises that these appeals are on average 50, 60 per cent funded, which means that part of the needs are not met. This creates additional hardships on host communities but also on refugees.

We’ve seen this very clearly in the Syria crisis – people receiving insufficient assistance, moving on to other countries, in particular to Europe. This is not the only cause for this secondary movement but certainly it is an important cause. This is how people in the end use trafficking networks, die in the sea, and go through very difficult journeys towards other countries, causing, in doing so, further problems… or becoming a very difficult issue to deal with.

Let me just add here that to address this particular phenomenon, we’re working with States on another conference which will take place in Geneva at the end of March which will address the issue of how we can help people that want to move from first asylum countries to other countries… thus, sharing the burden better. How can we help them follow legal ways to get out rather than adopt or go through trafficking networks… so resettlement, scholarships, family reunification and so forth.

I elaborated a bit on your question to show that the lack of funds has many consequences, but until the war ends in Syria and in many other places, not just in Syria… Yemen, Libya, many countries in Africa and so forth… until there is a peace process that is successful and peace holds, the cost of the consequences will continue to rise.

UN News Centre: Which calls for innovative solutions?

Filippo Grandi: Which calls for, number one, solidarity towards the victims. Number two, or perhaps another number one, really looking at mechanisms to solve conflicts. The mechanisms that are in place are old ones. There has to be much more political will and better configuration of this mechanism to make them effective and find quicker solutions. On our side, we will continue to be very innovative, I can assure you, in how we take care of those that are the victims of this situation – internally displaced, refugees and others – and since we have to do more and more with less and less, innovation is indispensable.

UN News Centre: You’ve worked with refugees throughout your career, and you’ve taken on this very challenging post now at a moment, as you’ve said, of crises. What is it that makes you want to work for refugees? What is it that has made you want to take this position on?

Filippo Grandi: You know there’s a lot of discussion about vulnerable people. The central theme of the Sustainable Development Goals is no one left behind. I think very few categories around the world are as vulnerable as refugees, internally displaced people, stateless people. It is very important that we don’t leave them behind. I have worked with refugees since I was a young volunteer. I know the pain of exile very well from having experienced it in many places. And this has given me the motivation to continue to work for people. This is not bureaucratic, abstract work. This is very concrete and person to person.

UN News Centre: Can you tell us a story that impacted you?

Filippo Grandi: When I was a young volunteer, I visited for the first time a refugee camp in Thailand. In those days, there were Cambodian refugees and I saw a small child die of malaria in front of me. This affected me greatly because I realized that this child would never have died in another context but because he was in that refugee camp, because he was a refugee, he died. And this was a powerful, if dramatic, motivation to start working for refugees, and here I am 30 years later still doing it.


P: 210116


Harsh Winter Poses Additional Hazards to Child Refugees and Migrants Arriving in Europe – UN

A young girl stands outside a tent at the Vinojug reception centre for refugees and migrants in Gevgelija, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

19 January 2016 – With children now accounting for more than one in three of the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants flooding into Europe, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced concern at the impact recent sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions were having on them.

The children arriving into a harsh winter in south-eastern Europe are physically exhausted, scared, distressed and often in need of medical assistance, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told the regular bi-weekly news briefing in Geneva.

The conditions are exacerbating the poor physical condition of the children, as many lack access to adequate clothing and age-appropriate nutrition, a situation worsened by lack of shelter and inadequate heating in some reception centres, as well as on buses and trains, he said.

The proportion of children amongst refugees and migrants has continued to increase over the past three months. According to national sources, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the ratio in December was 37 per cent, compared to 23 per cent in September. In Serbia, the figures were 36 per cent in December compared to 27 per cent in September.

In December most children transiting through UNICEF spaces in Serbia were babies, infants and those between five and nine years old. In 2015, more than one million refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean, arriving on Europe’s shores, of which an estimated 253,700 were children, one in four people.

In a press release, UNICEF’s Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, Marie-Pierre Poirier said that children are particularly susceptible to respiratory infections, digestive problems and diarrhoea. Non-controlled use of baby formula may also seriously affect babies’ health.

UNICEF warned that there remains insufficient cross-border information-sharing and follow-up on the most vulnerable children, mainly d to the speed of the population movement.

Ms. Poirier said UNICEF was engaging with its partners and counterparts to develop contingency plans for population movement slow-downs and an increasing number of people being stranded along the route.

In the past three months, UNICEF and its partners have provided 81,000 children with services in UNICEF-supported winterized child-friendly spaces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. In addition, nearly 18,000 babies and infants had received specialized services through UNICEF mother-and-baby care spaces.


P: 200116


Red Cross Brings Aid to Syrians in Madaya

Please, Donate to British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal

Three Red Cross aid convoys are delivering life-saving food, water and healthcare to Syrian people in the beseiged areas of Madaya, Kafraya and Foua.

Aid deliveries by Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)and United Nations (UN) aid workers took place on Monday (11 January) and will continue for two more days.

Speaking from Syria, ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek said: “It’s really heartbreaking, you see a lot of people on the street, some of them smiling to us and waving to us but many simply too weak with a very, very bleak expression, very tired.”

‘Did you bring food?’

“I was just approached by a little girl and her first question was just ‘Did you bring food?...Because we are really hungry,’and I believe she looked hungry,” addedKrzysiek.

As well as food and water the Red Cross is delivering essential medicines for children, people with chronic health conditions and emergency surgical supplies to treat up to 200 seriously wounded people at each location.

Around 60,000 people are believed to be trapped in the three settlements. Recent images reportedly showing emaciated children from Madaya threw a spotlight on the food shortages in these besieged communities.

Access roads to these besieged towns in Syria have been blockaded making them difficult to enter and just as hard to leave. No aid has reached these communities since October 2015.

Regular access is essential

Marienne Gasser, head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, said: "The operation has started. It is likely to last a few days. This is a very positive development. But it must not be just a one-off distribution. To relieve the suffering of these tens of thousands of people, there has to be regular access to these areas.”

Last month, following local agreements, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the ICRC helped to evacuate 338 people in need of urgent medical help - and their close relatives - from Kafraya and Foua, and 126 people from Zabadani.

"We have to remember that there are more than 400,000 people living in besieged areas across Syria,” added Gasser.

“The suffering is intense. Aid agencies must be given safe and unimpeded access to all these people to provide them with the aid they need, especially now in the midst of winter."

British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal

You can help people in Syria. Money raised from the British Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal supports relief work in Syria and neighbouring countries. Please donate today.  

The British Red Cross delivers food aid through our partner the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Find out more about our work in Syria


P: 170116


On His 10th and Final Year as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Hopes to Do Lot More

Our place must be with the boy fleeing conflict, the girl denied a seat in the classroom, and the children still at risk of dying of preventable causes before their fifth birthday. We must stand with women and men facing daily discrimination, and with millions still living in extreme poverty: Ban Ki-moon


14 January 2016 – Sharing his thoughts on the direction of the United Nations’ work in 2016, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said the global community begins the year needing to get its “priorities right,” while underlining that more and better work needs to be done.

“This is a moment heavy with responsibility,” Mr. Ban told delegates during an annual informal briefing to the General Assembly. “Year one of the new 15-year agenda, and year 10 of my 10-year mandate. One year may seem very short in UN time. But I believe we can make it dynamic and productive.”

The UN chief began by declaring that 2016 must be a year in which landmark decisions on sustainable development “gain solid footing on the ground.”

“If 2015 was a year of global sustainable development action, 2016 must be a year of national SDG traction,” he stated, after congratulating Member States for adopting the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a set of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

Underlining that gender equality is at its heart, the UN chief said progress has been “too slow and uneven.”

“I have seen too many parliaments, ministries, cabinets, board rooms and peace processes with few or no women at the table,” he regretted. “Sadly, that has sometimes been the case within this Organization. I have worked determinedly to change this – with some inroads but much distance still to travel,” he said.

Recalling that climate action is good for people and the planet, beneficial for the economy, and essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Ban called the Paris Agreement a turning point.

“I encourage leaders to continue providing direct political oversight and guidance on climate,” he said. “We have no time to lose and much to gain by acting now. I will spare no effort to ensure the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement,” he underscored.

In his remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, echoed the strong linkage between the SDGs and climate change, reminding delegates that a high-level signing ceremony of the agreement is scheduled in New York on 22 April.

Mr. Ban also listed a number of other events taking place in the upcoming year, such as the Special Session of the General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, and the General Assembly High-level Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum in February. On the issue of youth, he also noted that 2016 will set in motion the first-ever UN system-wide Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

Turning to peace and security matters, the Secretary-General said the global community must end the conflicts that global divisions have helped prolong, and do far more to protect vulnerable populations.

“Today, the price of neglecting prevention is plain to see: widening sectarian tensions, shrinking democratic space in many places, and an arc of crisis stretching from the Sahel to the wider Middle East,” he stressed, noting that across the world more than 125 million people need humanitarian assistance.

Tomorrow, he is expected to present a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. “Our challenge is to defeat Da-esh, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and other such groups –without defeating ourselves through counter-productive approaches that fuel the extremism we are trying to extinguish.”

Drawing attention to recent events in the Middle East, Mr. Ban recalled the “shocking scenes” and stories that have emerged from Madaya, Syria, as humanitarian workers finally gained access after being blocked since October.

“The town has been the victim of deliberate starvation – the use of food as a weapon of war – a clear war crime,” he stressed, calling for immediate, unconditional and unimpeded humanitarian access. “All sides in the Syria conflict are guilty of heightening the suffering of civilians – of committing unconscionable abuses.”

He noted that with his Special Envoy, they will continue to press for the convening of a further round of political talks on 25 January, and not let regional tensions derail the “quest to end this war.”

On the issue of people fleeing conflict and disaster, the Secretary-General recalled that arrivals in Europe were less than two per cent of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced, as he called for support to reach all people yearning for a stable home.

“Afghans, Somalis, Congolese and South Sudanese fleeing a resurgence of fighting; the Rohingya of Myanmar, escaping threats by extremist Buddhists; Eritreans escaping repressive governance; and all those who have languished for generations in camps from Dadaab in Kenya to Dheisheh in the West Bank.”

Nuclear disarmament was also featured as a top priority in 2016, with Mr. Ban underlining that nuclear weapons are an “existential threat to humanity.” He warned that countries that regard their security “as a matter of retaining or attaining nuclear weapons are only increasing risk – their own and the world’s.”

Ending his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the international community has much work still to do, including strengthening the UN itself and addressing its own shortcomings.

“Our place must be with the boy fleeing conflict, the girl denied a seat in the classroom, and the children still at risk of dying of preventable causes before their fifth birthday. We must stand with women and men facing daily discrimination, and with millions still living in extreme poverty,” he concluded.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon embarks on his final year in office, President Lykketoft told the Assembly he wishes him the very best in strengthening the effectiveness of the Organization and assisting Member States in addressing common global challenges.


P: 150116


Deputy UN Chief Presents New Report on Global Migrant Trends, Highlighting Rising Numbers for 2015

Migrants and refugees from several countries arrive by special train in Berlin, Germany. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

12 January 2016 – Presenting the key finding of the latest United Nations survey on international migrant trends, the UN Deputy Secretary-General today stressed that the issue of migration is one of the most challenging and important that the Organization is taking on in the new global landscape.

“When we get into a period of dealing with the migration and refugee issues, it’s important that we have the facts,” Jan Eliasson told reporters at a press briefing, at UN Headquarters, thanking the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) for producing the latest international migration report.

The senior UN official was speaking alongside Karen AbuZayd, the new Special Adviser on a meeting scheduled next September called the Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, as well as Bela Hovy, from DESA’s Population Division.

“The number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow,” noted the Deputy Secretary-General. “Back in 2000, there were 173 million international migrants, in 2010 there were 222 million, and this past year in 2015, 244 million migrants.”

These figures, Mr. Eliasson explained, also include 20 million refugees for the purpose of “statistical correctness” and despite there being a “different legal regime” for them as compared to migrants.

“Not included in this figure […] are around 40 million internally displaced people – refugees inside a country,” he added.

Offering additional details, Mr. Hovy said that the motive of migration is not taken into account when DESA produces statistics on international migrants, and that the numbers include people who may have arrived to their new place of residence 10 to 40 years ago.

According to the Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision, nearly two thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million). North America has the third largest number of international migrants (54 million), and globally, women comprise half of all of them.

Meanwhile, two thirds of all international migrants were reported to be living in only 20 countries, with the largest number in the United States – about a fifth of the world’s total migrants. The next in line is Germany, followed by Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

Turning to refugees, they are mainly in Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan – and come mainly from three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

“What I found particularly interesting is how important migration has been for population growth, which is sorely needed in certain parts of the world,” Mr. Eliasson stated.

“In Europe, the size of the population would have fallen between 2000 to 2015, in the absence of positive net migration, so here is something related to what I would call the positive narrative about migration and refugees – the contribution to the demographics […] and of course what they do in terms of remittances.”

The Deputy Secretary-General highlighted that remittances to international migrants’ countries of origin is about two or three times bigger than the official development assistance in the world, which supports many health and education efforts worldwide.

“We have a series of very important meetings and events which relate to the political significance of migration and refugees,” noted Mr. Eliasson, recalling that in November, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented a road map for the work on migration and refugees.

One of the most important global events on refugee and migrant flows will take place on 19 September in New York, led by Ms. AbuZayd, who will begin meeting with Member States starting next month and work closely with DESA and other UN partners in the lead up to it.

“The summit is intended to work towards solutions as a global community,” Ms. AbuZayd underlined. “Because I think that many countries that may not have much to do with migration or with refugees may also want to come in and contribute and participate in this action working toward solving this problem.”


P: 130116


The First Lady Michelle Obama Invites You to President Barack Obama's Last State of the Union Address Tomorrow

On Tuesday, my husband will deliver his seventh and final State of the Union address.

He'll be talking about making things better for you and your family right now -- and he'll also be sharing his vision for how, together we can make this country a better place for the next generation, and generations to come.

That's been his mission since the day he took office, and he'll be doing everything he can with every minute he has left as President to deliver on behalf of the American people.

This speech is for you, and we want to know you'll be there watching.

Say, you'll join me and millions of other Americans on Tuesday to watch the State of the Union.

Each year, I have the honor of attending this address with a few of the many Americans who have inspired Barack -- and this year is no exception.

Braeden Mannering, after attending the White House Kids' "State Dinner," started his own nonprofit to provide healthy food to homeless and low-income individuals in his community. Formerly homeless Navy veteran Cindy Dias works with Veterans Village, a non-profit that has answered our Joining Forces call to End Veterans' Homelessness in Las Vegas.

Oscar Vasquez, an immigrant from Mexico, fought for the right to become an American citizen so that he could fulfill his dream of joining the U.S. Army. Refaai Hamo, a scientist and cancer survivor, fled Syria with his family hoping to "make a lasting contribution to humanity."

You can see all the inspiring people who will be joining me. Read their stories and watch them receive their invitations.

That kind of passion and perseverance are at the heart of this great country. And while we have made so much progress, there's so much more left to do to ensure all Americans have the opportunities they deserve to get ahead. That's what my husband will be talking about on Tuesday. So let us know you'll be watching.

Thanks so much

First Lady Michelle Obama


P: 11.01.16


UN Welcomes Opening of Madaya for Humanitarian Access and Calls for Access to Besieged Areas in Syria

In December 2015, a mother loads preserved food supplies in a truck as the family prepares to move out of Nashabieh village to a neighbouring safer town within besieged East Ghouta, Syria. Almost 400,000 people are trapped in besieged locations. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

7 January 2016 – The United Nations is calling today for unimpeded humanitarian access to reach people in need in hard-to-reach and besieged areas of Syria, while welcoming the recent approval by the Government to access the towns of Madaya, Foah and Kefraya.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to 4.5 million people in the war-torn country live in hard-to-reach areas, including nearly 400,000 in 15 besieged locations that do not have access to the life-saving aid they urgently need. In the last year, only 10 per cent of all requests for UN inter-agency convoys to these areas were approved and delivered.

A statement issued by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Yacoub El Hillo, and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Kevin Kennedy, underlined the particular concern about the plight of these hundreds of thousands of people besieged by parties to the conflict in locations such as Deir Ez-Zor city, Daraya, Foah and Kafraya, as well as besieged areas of East Ghouta.

Meanwhile, almost 42,000 people remaining in the town of Madaya are at risk of further hunger and starvation; the UN has received credible reports of people starving to death and being killed while trying to leave. According to OCHA, a 53 year-old man reportedly died of starvation last Tuesday while his family of five continues to suffer from severe malnutrition.

The statement further highlights the ongoing conflict continues to hamper the humanitarian response, and that freedom of movement is restricted by the presence of armed actors and landmines. Madaya last received a joint UN, Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoy on 18 October, and some medical evacuations took place in December, but the town has been inaccessible since then despite numerous requests for access.

While the UN prepares to deliver humanitarian assistance in the coming days, it is recalling that international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians and their starvation as a tactic of war, and reiterates its call for immediate humanitarian access and for the facilitation of safe evacuation of civilians.


Posted: 08.01.16


MSF Emergency Team Vaccinates 10,000 Children Against Measles and Pneumococcal Disease in Central African Republic

Photo: MSF

4 January 2016: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency teams have vaccinated almost 10,000 children in the Gadzi area of the Central African Republic, about 300 kilometres west of Bangui, after the appearance of several cases of measles led the local authorities to raise the alarm. The vaccination teams had to cope with major access problems due to the poor state of the roads and the dispersion of the population in the area, where more than 70,000 people live with virtually no basic healthcare.

After two weeks of the campaign, a total of 9,717 children were vaccinated. Some 9,000 children between six months and five years old received measles immunisation. Of these, nearly a thousand were also vaccinated against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcus is a bacterium responsible for various infections, especially respiratory ones. Additionally, about 700 babies under six months were vaccinated just against pneumococcus disease.

“The campaign began after the alert from a Gadzi local authority, who warned us in late September that there were cases of measles in the area. Initial laboratory tests were negative, but in spite of that a first distribution of drugs was still carried out,” says Montse Pubill, emergency team medical coordinator. “The intervention was complicated by the violence that erupted in the country in October, which caused dozens of deaths in the capital. But the warnings from Gadzi continued and in November a second round of analyses confirmed the presence of measles, so an emergency vaccination was launched,” explains Pubill, a specialist in family medicine who had already worked in the Central African Republic in 2012.


The vaccination campaign was launched in late November from Djomo village, near Gadzi, and for more than two weeks covered a dozen health posts, some of them very remote due to the great dispersion of the population. “Access to some of the posts designated for vaccination was very difficult for us and sometimes for the people as well, so we had to send teams on the fly to look for people with mobile posts. The 13 initial points ended up being about 30,” explains Pubill. In total, more than 300 people participated in the campaign, mostly members of the community and Ministry of Health staff.

To raise awareness about the dangers of the disease and the benefits of vaccinating children, health promotion teams went around the areas to be vaccinated two days before the arrival of the medical teams. “In some places, like the town of Gadzi itself, some people were prejudiced against vaccines, so the work of the health promoters was very important, as usual,” says the medical coordinator. “In many cases they had to go door to door looking for children, and I remember one day that the promoter himself arrived holding two children in his hands with their parents following behind,” recalls Pubill with a smile.

The Gadzi region has been the scene of other MSF emergency interventions. “Despite its important mining activity, it is an area with huge health gaps where most health posts are just empty rooms with no ability to provide assistance to people,” says Pubill. “It is paradoxical that in the region there are areas of diamond mining, which generates income for some but doesn’t generate a minimum wellbeing for most of the population,” he says. “There are men who get some money in the mines, but they generally go to Carnot (a city in the west) to spend it.” Thus, many families don’t have even the minimum required to pay for basic treatments and, although MSF gives free service in the Carnot hospital, “the 100-kilometre journey to get there is a difficult barrier to overcome because hardly anyone has resources to pay for a motorcycle taxi in case of illness,” regrets the MSF member.

MSF has worked in the Central African Republic since 1997 and currently has more than 300 international staff and over 2,000 Central African workers in the country. Since December 2013, MSF has doubled its level of medical care in response to the crisis. Currently, MSF is running some 20 projects, including several to assist Central African refugees in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Posted: January 5, 2016


The UN Reviews 2015: May 2016 Be a Year of Light, of Hope, of Compassion, of Humanity

May 2016 be a Year of Light: In Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, a woman and her daughters sit in a candlelit bomb shelter on the outskirts of the city of Debaltsevo. UNICEF/UNI179968/Filippov

23 December 2015 – Looking back at the year 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summed it up in two words: “breakthrough and horror.”

On the positive side, as the UN turned 70 it took landmark steps toward charting a better future for people and the planet – adopting, in September, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 goals to end poverty and build peaceful societies.

Then, in December, countries adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, which after years of negotiations, surpassed expectations, according to the UN chief. “World leaders recognized that we could and must do better than settling for the lowest common denominator. So they reached higher,” he said.

Another milestone for the year included, in July, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda – a blueprint for financing for development. “Investing in development early will avert crises down the road,” Mr. Ban said. Earlier, countries signed on to the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction – a plan to make the world safer from natural disasters that have been occurring with increased frequency.

But 2015 was also marked by upheaval and human suffering at levels not seen in a generation. With conflicts raging in many parts of the world, scores of people were compelled to flee their homes in record-breaking numbers and global forced displacement topped 60 million for the first time.

At the same time, extreme storms, drought and earthquakes threatened the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. The UN and its partners launched their largest-ever humanitarian appeal to deliver life-saving aid to more than 87.6 million people in need across 37 countries, most of which are in conflict.

The year was also witness to a proliferation of bombings, mass shootings and other atrocities committed in the name of religious extremism. In a Security Council debate on conflict prevention, Mr. Ban stressed that counter-terrorism efforts must also tackle root causes such as bad governance, injustice and exclusion. He also warned against reprisals against Muslims. At a meeting of the UN General Assembly on the refugee crisis that took place in the shadow of recent terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris, top UN officials made a plea for countries not to shut their doors to refugees in the name of security.

In December, following round-the-clock negotiations in Paris, 195 countries made history by pledging to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and take common action to check global warming.

In September, world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and a bold new set of goals to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.
Read more:

UN adopts new Global Goals, charting sustainable development for people and planet by 2030

On the Greek island of Lesbos, a group of young Afghan refugees huddle together under an emergency blanket to try to keep warm after a treacherous crossing from Turkey. UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

People uprooted from their homes in record numbers

Forced displacement in 2015 surpassed all previous records – for the first time topping 60 million – with one in every 122 people worldwide compelled to flee due to conflict, persecution and natural disasters, the UN warned. In boatload after boatload, refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, risked their lives in growing numbers to find a safe place to live in Europe and beyond. Nearly 4,000 perished along the way this year.
Read more:

Global forced displacement for 2015 on track to break all records, topping 60 million – UN

In Hungary, police stand guard at a border fence topped with razor wire aimed at stopping the flow of refugees and locking them out of the European Union. UNHCR/Mark Henley

UN warns against xenophobia as refugees shut out

Amid various restrictions imposed by some countries in Europe, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and its partners have consistently called for refraining from actions that promote intolerance and fuel xenophobia against refugees and migrants.
Read more:

Hungary urged to halt campaign portraying refugees and migrants as ‘invaders’ – UN agency and partners

Residents of Vienna, Austria, welcome footsore refugees – many of whom have walked dozens of kilometres shod only in sandals – with donations of shoes to replace their worn-out footwear. UNHCR/Michael Schöppl

Countries welcoming refugees draw praise from UN

May 2016 be a Year of Humanity: on the Greek island of Lesbos, a group of young Afghan refugees huddle together under an emergency blanket to try to keep warm after a treacherous crossing from Turkey. UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

At a General Assembly meeting on the refugee crisis, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson praised communities that host refugees – from Kenya and Ethiopia to Pakistan, from Iraq and Iran to Bangladesh, from Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and beyond. He also stressed the vital need for financing humanitarian assistance to refugees.
Read more:

Ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine inflicts toll of suffering on civilians

Fighting in eastern Ukraine that began nearly two years ago has left over 9,000 people dead and nearly 21,000 injured. The UN was stepping up aid deliveries to non-Government-controlled areas where more than 100,000 people whom authorities had cut off from assistance for months were facing added hardship as the winter set in.
Read more:

Burundi: On the brink of civil war… again

An upsurge in violence in the small African nation of Burundi, following a decision by President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a controversial third term, awakened fears of a relapse into the decades of war in the not-so-distant past, between Hutus and Tutsis, that killed tens of thousands. “A frightened, uninformed population, fed a diet of hate speech and paranoia, is one that may be recruited to the path of violence by either side of the current political impasse,” warned UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a meeting of the Human Rights Council on Burundi.
Read more:

Yemen: Civilians bear the brunt of crisis

Ongoing conflict in Yemen wreaked havoc on the country, inflicting damage on civilian infrastructure, straining depleted resources and exacerbating an already precarious humanitarian situation. By year’s end, 2.5 million people had been internally displaced and 3 million were added to the ranks of the hungry. Despite some progress in identifying a framework for negotiations and defining a set of confidence-building measures, UN-facilitated peace talks in December had to be adjourned until a ceasefire could take hold.
Read more:

Syria: International community’s focus shifts to politics of ending five-year war

Although UN officials have been pressing for a political solution to end the crisis in Syria since the war began five years ago, it was only in December 2015 that the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to focus on the politics of ending Syria’s brutal war which has left the country in ruins, scattered its people across the world and fuelled radicalism and sectarianism.
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Security Council calls on countries to eradicate safe havens and cut off funding for terrorist groups

At the end of a year marked by terrorist bombings and mass shootings in cities around the world, the UN Security Council intensified efforts to thwart terrorists. In November, it called on countries to destroy terrorist safe havens in Syria and Iraq. In December, the Council stepped up efforts to cut off all sources of funding for groups such as ISIL and Al-Qaida, calling for increased international cooperation in sharing information and closer collaboration with the private sector to identify suspect transactions.
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Progress being made towards a united Cyprus in ongoing negotiations

On a more optimistic note, talks between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders in July were being conducted in a positive and results-oriented manner, offering the hope that decades of division might soon come to an end, said the UN Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide. The UN Security Council urged the parties to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to creating an environment that could lead to a united, federal Cyprus.
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Central African Republic: People turn out in unprecedented numbers to vote for change

 May 2016 be a Year of Hope: Avoter casts her ballot in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, during a December referendum on a new draft constitution for the country. UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis

As the Central African Republic attempts to regain stability following more than two years of fighting between Muslim and Christian factions, a constitutional referendum in mid-December was successfully carried out in the majority of the country, despite violent disruptions in some areas. Nearly two million voters registered for the poll, representing 95 per cent of the estimated electorate. UN-supported presidential and legislative elections are slated for the end of the year.

South Sudan: Protecting civilians as conflict drags on

In strife-torn South Sudan, the UN peacekeeping operation – UNMISS – continues to provide shelter to more than 185,000 civilians at risk due to ongoing violence and repeated ceasefire violations by both Government and opposition forces. Thousands of people have been killed, more than 2.4 million displaced, while 4.6 million face food insecurity due to the conflict that broke out two years ago. In December, the Security Council warned that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity…have been committed by both Government and opposition forces.”
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Children at risk in earthquake-ravaged Nepal as winter sets in

May 2016 be a Year of Compassion: Children warm themselves by a fire inside their temporary shelter in Rasuwa, one of the areas worst affected by the earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier in the year. Their tent is not winter-resistant and often gets cold even in the pre-winter season, and the family does not have warm clothing. UNICEF/UN04381/Karki

As Nepalis continue to struggle in the aftermath of the earthquakes that struck the country in April and May, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that more than 3 million children under the age of five are at risk of death or disease during the harsh winter months due to severe shortages of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines. More than 200,000 families affected by the temblors are still living in temporary shelters.
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Central America: Refugee crisis in the making as women flee gang violence in increasing numbers

A surge in deadly, unchecked gang violence, is forcing women in Central America and Mexico to flee their countries in rising numbers, fuelling a looming refugee crisis in the Americas that demands urgent action by the States of the region, UN refugee chief António Guterres warned in October. In a report issued by UNHCR, women from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and parts of Mexico describe how criminal armed groups terrorise populations to establish control over large areas of those countries. Women, especially, are subjected to extreme forms of gender-based violence.
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Small island nations under threat

In March, Cyclone Pam ravaged the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, leaving devastation in its wake. Extreme weather is just one of the threats to small island countries, where sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters exacerbate conditions leading to community displacement and migration and threaten to increase tensions over resources.

‘Human beings take precedence over partisan interests,’ Pope Francis tells world leaders

Ahead of the General Assembly’s summit to adopt the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, Pope Francis urged world leaders to take action to protect the environment and to end the suffering of “vast ranks of the excluded.” He added, “Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict… real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be.”Read more:


Posted: January 4, 2016


David Nabarro Speaking of UN SDGs

David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UN Photo/Loey Felipe


27 January 2016 – “It’s about the toughest job any human being could be given” – that is how David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, describes the task the United Nations chief entrusted to him last month.

And Dr. Nabarro knows something about tough jobs encountered during his 30 years of experience in public health, nutrition and development work at country, regional and global levels in positions in non-governmental organizations, universities, national governments and the UN system.

He was Senior UN Coordinator for Avian and Pandemic Influenza from 2005 to 2014, at a time when many feared a global explosion of the disease; coordinator of the UN High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security from 2009 to 2014, dealing with the perennial problem of feeding the hungry; and most recently Senior UN Coordinator on Ebola, which killed more than 11,400 lives in West Africa.

Now the London-born UN veteran is facing his widest-ranging task yet – to mobilize efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda.

“My job is to try and help make sure that that gets put in place quickly,” Mr. Nabarro said in a recent interview with the UN News Service.

Asked which area required the most progress, he said the SDGs formed a complex whole that require equal progress on all fronts.

“The 17 Goals represent an indivisible tapestry of thinking and action that applies in every community, everywhere in the world,” he stressed. “They are universal. But they’re also indivisible and that means that we really do not believe that any one goal should be separated out from the others.

UN Special Envoy on Ebola David Nabarro (left) and Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (right), were joined by actor Idris Elba at a high-level meeting on the response to the Ebola outbreak held in September 2014. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“And as you study them, you realize that although they’re presented as individual goals, they actually represent a total and completely intertwined lattice of action that is relevant for every human being everywhere.”

The SDGs comprise everything from zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and partnerships to achieve the Goals.

Mr. Nabarro said he looks to the countries that themselves developed and adopted the SDGs at last September’s UN summit to make sure that implementation takes place in a comprehensive way, to businesses and civil society organizations to fully support the Goals, and to the entire UN system to ensure implementation.

“I can’t do it all myself so it’s all done working through others, on behalf of the Secretary-General, helping him to work out where he should concentrate his attention,” he added.


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Refugees Unwelcome: Border Closures and Freezing Temperatures in Greece

Reports Tania Karas, Irin News, from Idomeni with pictures by Dimitris Tosidis

A disabled refugee, bundled up against the cold, outside one of the tents MSF has been allowed to erect outside the petrol station that has become a holding area for refugees and migrants trying to reach the border

Over the weekend, thousands of refugees and migrants were forced to sleep outside in temperatures that dipped to -8 degrees Celsius as Macedonia allowed only small numbers of refugees to cross its border with Greece.

There is a strong sense among those waiting at the border that they may be among the last allowed into Europe.

Thirty-year-old Mohammed and his wife Reem, 27, from Baghdad, spent Friday night in an aid tent, huddling under blankets as they waited for Macedonian authorities to reopen the crossing.

The couple – he a computer engineer, she a translator – had only been willing to put up with Iraq’s deteriorating security and economy for so long. They felt the doors to Europe, their escape hatch, might be closing, so they decided to act fast.

"At first, we wanted to wait until the spring," said Mohammed, who asked that his last name not be used. "But the situation in Europe is escalating, especially after the attacks in Cologne.

"Many, many countries are closing their borders. So we left Iraq on Tuesday, and it's been boom-boom-boom, flying through as fast as we can until we get to Germany."

Indeed, major changes are afoot as European leaders become increasingly desperate to stem the flow of refugee arrivals before spring, when another spike in numbers is expected.

Last week, Austria, which received some 90,000 asylum seekers in 2015, became the first European country to set a cap on how many it would accept in the future. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said the country would limit applications to 37,500 this year and 127,500 by mid-2019. Only refugees wishing to seek asylum in Austria or Germany will be allowed into the country.

A Syrian boy in the small cafe run by the petrol station where Greek police are forcing buses carrying refugees and migrants to stop for days at a time before proceeding to the Macedonian border. Many wait so long there that they are forced to buy food. Free food along with clothes and medical assistance is available at a transit camp just 20 kilometers away.

The announcements set off a chain reaction among countries along the Western Balkan corridor into Europe. Seeking to avoid bottlenecks in their own countries, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Macedonia all announced similar control measures, saying they would deny entry to people seeking asylum anywhere else besides Austria or Germany.

Greek officials at the transit camp in Idomeni have become the de facto implementers of any new policies announced further up the Western Balkan route. In early December, for example, violent mass protests broke out among the thousands of people stranded at Idomeni following a November decision by several Balkan nations to only admit Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis.

On Thursday, Greek police set up a mobile office at the transit camp to ask people where they plan to apply for asylum. Refugees and migrants must now wait outside in sub-zero temperatures for their hartia (Greek for 'papers') to be stamped and labelled with their final destination. Those who state they are heading to Germany or Austria are sent to wait in tents until Macedonia briefly reopens the border again.

So far, unsurprisingly, everyone has been giving Germany and Austria as their final destination. As yet it is unclear what the repercussions may be if they later try to proceed to another country.

The Idomeni camp, which has capacity for 1,200 people, is equipped with giant heated tents, showers, food, blankets, warm clothing, and separate spaces for particularly vulnerable refugees. But since last month's protests, Greek police have been forcing buses carrying refugees to Idomeni from Athens to stop at a petrol station 20 kilometres away, ostensibly for crowd-control reasons. Fewer than 300 people are allowed into the camp at a time. For the past several nights, this has forced more than 2,500 people to sleep at the petrol station – often outside on the ground in below-freezing temperatures.

A group of young Iranian migrants who have been stranded at Greece's border with Macedonia for three days, try to keep warm around a small fire. While only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis are allowed to cross, other nationalities often find alternative, irregular ways.

"We are begging the police to let us use the camp, but they won't let us and won't say why," said Gemma Gillie, a spokeswoman for Médecins Sans Frontières at Idomeni. She shuttles between the camp and the petrol station where the owners have allowed the medical charity to set up six tents. Other aid groups have not been allowed to provide services there.      

NGOs and volunteers working at Idomeni say they fear what will happen when Austria reaches its quota. Nearly 45,000 migrants and refugees have already arrived in Greece since the beginning of the year, despite harsh winter conditions. The vast majority will have transited through Austria in order to reach Germany or other destinations in western and northern Europe. About 6,000 have applied for asylum in Austria so far in 2016, according to Karl-Heinz Grundböck, a spokesman for the interior ministry. The chancellor's office is seeking legal opinions on whether Austria can keep out additional asylum seekers once this year's limit of 37,500 is reached.

German President Joachim Gauck said last week that a similar limit was "extremely likely" for Germany this year.

"For everyone who can't cross, where are they going to go?" asked Gillie. "It's already hard enough to get people's basic needs met."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has warned that his country risks becoming a 'black box' for refugees as migration flows continue unabated and other countries seal their borders.

The majority of the more than one million refugees and migrants who crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe last year, came via Greece, a country already struggling to recover from a protracted financial crisis. Greece is facing a new round of threats from other member states that it will be forced out of the EU's passport-free Schengen zone if it does not start doing more to control the EU’s external borders.

European interior ministers were due to discuss new border measures, including the possibly of temporarily excluding Greece from Schengen, at a meeting in Amsterdam on Monday.

But at Idomeni, aid workers and volunteers say it is refugees and migrants who will pay the ultimate price for Europe's quotas and fences, with many being forced into the hands of smugglers.

"When you have people who will do anything to reach their final destination, it's quite simple that they will need to find other routes, and these routes are usually [with] smugglers," said Alexandros Voulgaris, who heads the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) field unit at Idomeni. "They are desperate. So they will find a way."

Reports Tania Karas, Irin News, Photos: Dimitris Tosidis

Irin News


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UN Agency and Partners Seek $500 Million for Nigeria and Central African Republic Refugee Crises

25 January 2016 – The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners today called on donor nations for more than half-a-billion dollars this year to help hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR), and for the host communities providing them with shelter and other basic services.

“These two humanitarian crises must not be forgotten; they are not going away,” said Liz Ahua, UNHCR’s Regional Refugee Coordinator for the CAR and Nigeria situations, in a press release.

“The suffering is great and the needs acute among both the displaced and host communities. Violence occurs on almost a daily basis in north-east Nigeria and CAR, generating fear and new displacement in the region,” she added, citing suicide attacks, kidnapping, indiscriminate killings and massive human rights abuses.

The two Regional Refugee Response Plans (RRRP), presented at a donor briefing in Yaoundé, Cameroon, include $198.76 million for 230,000 Nigerian refugees and some 284,300 members of host communities in Niger, Chad and Cameroon as well as $345.7 million for 476,300 CAR refugees and some 289,000 people hosting them in Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo.

According to UNHCR, both response plans cover needs in sectors such as protection, education, food security, health and nutrition, livelihoods, shelter, basic aid and water, hygiene and sanitation. The CAR appeal is being made by 25 organizations, and the Nigeria one by 28. UNHCR alone is seeking $189.54 million under the Central African Republic RRRP and $62.33 million for the other.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we won’t see it unless there is a much stronger commitment from African governments and the international community to help re-establish stability and peace,” Ms. Ahua said, urging donors to give more generously.

In 2015, the Nigerian RRRP received 52 per cent of its financial requirements while the Central African Republic RRRP received just 27 per cent.

Meanwhile, despite important steps towards restoring peace in both north-east Nigeria and CAR, the UN is underlining that there were also reverses and continuing significant population displacement in 2015. In Nigeria, the Government rolled back Boko Haram gains, but the insurgent group turned to terror tactics that spread into neighbouring countries.

In CAR, relative peace was punctuated by waves of violence that triggered flight within the country and into the DRC, but the first round of the presidential election passed peacefully in late December with the participation of tens of thousands of refugees in Chad, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon. The second round is due in February.

“We need funding to prevent malnutrition among children; to run schools, build up proper sanitation systems and provide clean water; and to make sure that families have shelter over their heads,” stressed Ms. Ahua.

The Nigeria and CAR regional response plans are part of the wider 2016 humanitarian appeal, asking for $20.1 billion to reach 87 million people around the world, launched last December.


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El Niño Threatens at Least 60 Million People in High-risk Developing Countries – UN Agency

A man rests on a bag of rice distributed by Qatar Charity for iternally displaced people (IDPs) affected by flooding and clan conflict in Jowhar, Somalia. November (2013)UN Photo/Tobin Jones


22 January 2016 – El Niño threatens at least 60 million people in high-risk developing countries – UN agency The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners announced today they predict a major global increase in health consequences of emergencies this year due to El Niño.

El Niño is a warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which affects rainfall patterns and temperatures in many parts of the world but most intensely in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America which are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. Typically, some places receive much more rain than normal while others receive much less.

“From Ethiopia to Haiti to Papua New Guinea, we are seeing the damage from El Niño, and we believe the impact on public health is likely to continue throughout 2016, even after El Niño winds down,” said Dr Richard Brennan, Director of WHO’s Emergency Risk Management & Humanitarian Response Department, in a press release.

“To prevent unnecessary deaths and illnesses, governments must invest now in strengthening their preparedness and response efforts,” he highlighted.

According to a new report by WHO, severe drought, flooding, heavy rains and temperature rises are all known effects of El Niño that can lead to food insecurity and malnutrition, disease outbreaks, acute water shortages, and disruption of health services.

The health implications are usually more intense in developing countries with fewer capacities to reduce the health consequences. The current El Niño from 2015 to 2016 is predicted to be the worst in recent years, and comparable to the El Niño in 1997-1998 which had major health consequences worldwide.

In Eastern Africa, as a result of the El Niño in 1997-1998, WHO found that rainfall patterns were unusually heavy and led to serious flooding and major outbreaks of malaria, cholera and Rift Valley Fever.

Based on the latest UN figures, the report estimates 60 million people will be impacted by El Niño this year with many suffering health consequences. Thus far, requests for financial support by seven high-risk countries – Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda – have reached $76 million.

WHO expects more countries will seek financial support to respond to El Niño effectively. Part of the response will be to provide additional health services to those in need, such as increased surveillance and emergency vaccination. Immediate needs also require funds to provide treatments for severely malnourished children in many countries, such as Ethiopia.


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Fate of Civilians in Armed Conflict ‘Grim’ with Thousands Killed, Hospitals Under Attack, Security Council Told

A group of children at the UNMISS Protection of Civilians (POC) camp in Bentiu, Unity State, South Sudan. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

19 January 2016 – With scores of civilians being killed in conflicts worldwide, tens of thousands facing starvation in besieged cities, and hospitals under attack, the United Nations Security Council held a day-long session today amid calls for greater accountability and expanded use of the International Criminal Court.

“The reality on the ground is grim and bleak,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Council at the start of the session on the ‘Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.’ “In conflicts around the world, great numbers of civilians are deliberately or recklessly killed, maimed, tortured and abducted. Sexual violence is rampant,” he said.

“Hospitals must be sanctuaries in wartime. But recently we have seen a surge in attacks on hospitals and health centres. In Afghanistan, an airstrike destroyed a surgical ward with devastation everywhere. In Yemen, hospitals have been attacked and children, who have not been killed by bullets and bombs, are dying from the lack of medicine and health-care,” he stressed.

He noted that in 2014, 92 per cent of those killed or injured by explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians, with 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 and the “horrible reality” in the Syrian town of Madaya, where thousands of people have been denied food and medical treatment for months, leading to starvation and death.

“This carnage of innocent people must not continue,” he declared. “Let us remember that Madaya is just one place where this, shamefully, is happening – and this, today, in the 21st century,” Mr. Eliasson underscored.

“A siege that denies people access to the basic necessities of life is one of the gravest violations of international law and an affront to our shared humanity,” he continued, noting that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recently condemned such violations, naming them war crimes. “These crimes simply must stop, end now,” he added.

Mr. Eliasson cited the new challenges presented by non-State extremist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram in West Africa. “These groups brazenly and brutally murder thousands of people, kidnap young girls, systematically deny women’s rights, destroy cultural institutions and undermine the peaceful values of religions,” he said.

In the face of such ubiquitous violations of human rights he called for enhanced efforts to prevent conflicts in the first place, and where this failed to ensure full accountability through the accession of all States to the International Criminal Court which was set up to judge war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as by domestic adoption of robust criminal legislation.

Also briefing the Council, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Vice-President Christine Beerli warned that violations of international humanitarian law are occurring daily. “Explosive weapons are used indiscriminately in populated areas. Civilian populations and civilian objects are deliberately targeted,” she said.

“Civilian communities are forcibly displaced and trapped in lengthy sieges, deprived of means of survival. Women and men, girls and boys are regularly the victims of rape and sexual violence. Schools are attacked or used for military purposes, leading to their loss of protection against attack. Detainees are summarily executed, tortured and kept in inhumane conditions and denied due process of law,” she explained.


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Despite Age of 'Mega-crises,' UN Chief Says Humanitarian Finance Gap is a 'Solvable Problem'

WFP delivering humanitarian aid. Photo: WFP/Giulio D'Adamo


17 January 2016 – Highlighting that people around the world are living at an age of “mega-crises,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the launch of a new report on finding solutions to the growing gap between the increasing numbers of people in need of assistance and sufficient resources to provide relief.

“Globally, the world is shattering records we would never wish to break,” Mr. Ban told reporters in Dubai at the release of the High-Level Panel report on Humanitarian Financing, entitled “Too important to fail – addressing the humanitarian financing gap.”

“We are seeing all-time-high numbers for the amounts of money requested through humanitarian appeals, the amounts raised from generous donors, and scale of the global humanitarian funding gap,” he continued. “That is why, in May last year, I asked a high level panel of eminent independent experts to urgently seek solutions to the funding gap.”

Earlier today, the UN chief met with the panellists to discuss their recommendations to tackle the estimated $15 billion shortfall in funding. He underlined that since they began their work, the needs created by the demand for humanitarian aid have continued to rise dramatically.

“We are living in the age of the mega-crises,” he stated. “But, as this report clearly demonstrates, the gap in funding is a solvable problem.”

Noting that the report's title indicates that the global community “simply cannot fail,” the Secretary-General said the world needs “fresh thinking and the determination to take bold decisions.”

“I believe the panel has seized this opportunity and delivered,” he stated, thanking them for the important contribution to shaping the priorities for the World Humanitarian Summit, scheduled next May in Istanbul. “In a few weeks I will publish my report and vision for the future humanitarian agenda. I will build on the excellent report launched today to shape this important thinking.”

The report focuses on three areas to address the funding gap: shrinking the needs, growing the resource base for funding, and improving efficiency through a “Grand Bargain” between key humanitarian partners.

To reach their conclusions, the panel conducted hundreds of interviews with all parts of the humanitarian ecosystem, including meetings with affected people in ongoing crises.

“Our starting point was the stark facts and figures: 125 million people in need; a record $25 billion a year going to aid them; but, in spite of that, the needs continuing to outpace resources,” explained the report's co-chairs, Kristalina Georgieva, Vice- President of the European Commission, and Sultan Nazrin Shah of Malaysia, in a press release.

“A gap of $15 billion is a lot of money but in a world producing $78 trillion of GDP it should not be out of reach to find,” they added. “Closing the gap would mean nobody having to die or live without dignity for lack of money and a victory for humanity at a time when one is greatly needed.”

The co-chairs noted their ambition for this report is to carry it forward, so that by the time of the Summit in Istanbul “there will be significant engagement by the global humanitarian system for making the necessary changes which will ensure that the needs of vulnerable people can always be adequately met.”


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Deprived of School, Future of 24 Million Children in Conflict Zones Under Threat – UN Report

On 5 January 2016, during a school day, 9 year old Ayman sells candies in the streets of Kafar Batna village in Rural Damascus, Syria. Photo: UNICEF/Amer Al Shami

12 January 2016 – Nearly 24 million children living in crisis zones in 22 strife-torn countries are being deprived of a school education, threatening their own future and that of their societies, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported today.

“Children living in countries affected by conflict have lost their homes, family members, friends, safety, and routine. Now, unable to learn even the basic reading and writing skills, they are at risk of losing their futures and missing out on the opportunity to contribute to their economies and societies when they reach adulthood,” UNICEF Chief of Education Jo Bourne said.

The analysis highlights that nearly one in four of the 109.2 million children of primary and lower secondary school age – typically between six and 15 years – living in conflict areas are missing out on their education.

South Sudan, which was thrown into turmoil when conflict erupted between President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President Riek Machar two years ago, killing thousands, displacing over 2.4 million people, and impacting the food security of 4.6 million, is home to the highest proportion of out-of-school children.

Over half (51 per cent) of primary and lower secondary age children have no access to an education. Niger is a close second with 47 per cent unable to attend school, followed by Sudan with 41 per cent and Afghanistan with 40 per cent.

In countries affected by conflict, collecting data on children is extremely difficult and therefore these figures may themselves not adequately capture the breadth and depth of the challenge, UNICEF stressed.

The agency fears that unless the provision of education in emergencies is prioritized, a generation of children living in conflict will grow up without the skills they need to contribute to their countries and economies, exacerbating the already desperate situation for millions of children and their families.

Education continues to be one of the least funded sectors in humanitarian appeals. In Uganda, where UNICEF is providing services to South Sudanese refugees, education faces an 89 per cent funding gap.

"School equips children with the knowledge and skills they need to rebuild their communities once the conflict is over, and in the short-term it provides them with the stability and structure required to cope with the trauma they have experienced,” Ms. Bourne said.

“Schools can also protect children from the trauma and physical dangers around them. When children are not in school, they are at an increased danger of abuse, exploitation and recruitment into armed groups.”

During episodes of instability and violence, schools become more than a place of learning. UNICEF is working to create safe environments where children can learn and play to restore normalcy to their lives. Despite these efforts, security restrictions and funding shortfalls are affecting education and the distribution of learning materials in conflict situations.


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Alcohol: How Much to Drink or Not to Drink?

By Dr Sally Norton

The unpalatable truth is that alcohol contributes to more than 60 medical conditions, including many cancers, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis and depression. Hospital admissions due to alcohol have doubled in the past decade and it directly causes around 9,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Why new advice says one drink may be too many - plus what makes Dry January more than a passing fad.

With the hangovers of the New Year celebrations now receding, and more stringent alcohol guidelines out today, it’s a good time to re-evaluate the role alcohol plays in our lives. Whether it’s a glass of something to help you unwind at the end of the day, or meeting for a drink (or three) with friends or work colleagues, alcohol is a regular and accepted pleasure for most of us.

And it’s easy to see why. Alcohol can act as a social lubricant and a reason for people to get together, helping conversation and enjoyment flow (though of course, beyond the ‘sweet spot’ of a couple of drinks, the effect can be reversed!).

And until recently the science-backed wisdom was that taken in moderation it could even be good for our health. Just what most of us wanted to hear.

But today new public health advice says there is no ‘safe’ alcohol limit as even small amounts can increase the risk of some cancers. It says people who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week (the equivalent of six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine). Which means for the first time the limits are the same for men as for women. 

It also says if people drink, it should be moderately over three or more days, and we should keep some days alcohol-free. And it warns us against saving up our units and downing them in one or two goes, because this qualifies as heavy drinking – so think again if you like a heavy splurge on a Friday and Saturday night!

So why are they so intent on spoiling our fun?

It’s not just that alcohol consumption in the UK is creeping up (along with the health problems that go with it). But also the science has moved on. There are new studies debunking previous research linking moderate consumption with a range of health benefits, particularly reduced heart risk.

One huge UK-based population study published last year showed simply comparing alcohol consumption with health outcomes gave a clear protective benefit from moderate drinking. But once former drinkers were taken out of the non-drinking group, these supposed benefits all but disappeared.

As a result the advice concludes that the benefits of alcohol for heart health only apply for women aged 55 and over - and even then in very small amounts, around five units a week. And that is not enough to justify recommending drinking on health grounds.

The unpalatable truth is that alcohol contributes to more than 60 medical conditions, including many cancers, high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis and depression. Hospital admissions due to alcohol have doubled in the past decade and it directly causes around 9,000 deaths a year in the UK.

And of course, what we often forget is alcohol can also pile on the calories, which contributes to soaring obesity levels, with all the health issues that brings.

Between 4% and 30% of cancer deaths worldwide could come down to alcohol use - 8% for the commonest of these, breast cancer. Crucially even moderate drinking increases our risk. Even one glass a day increases the risk of breast cancer by 4%, while heavy drinking (three or more drinks a day) increases it by a whopping 40-50%.

Then there are other problems. Have you ever got embarrassingly drunk or had issues with family or friends because of your drinking – or know someone else who has?

Not to mention what it can do to your memory, concentration, sleep patterns, sex life and fertility. Trying to work with a hangover or going a step too far at the office party means alcohol can seriously affect your career too. And of course for some it becomes an addiction that seriously wrecks their lives.

Even those who don’t think they have an alcohol problem can be damaging their health without realising it. We are seeing more young people with alcohol related health problems. Also more men and women in their 30s and 40s, who wouldn’t call themselves heavy drinkers, with liver disease.

All more reason to sign up to Dry January, the month when Alcohol Concern challenges us to ditch the booze. Particularly as recent studies show going dry for a month can give rapid health improvements and reduce your alcohol consumption long term. Apparently, even trying and failing still leads to healthier drinking habits!

Of course, many of us aren't ready to give up alcohol completely. We may live longer without it. But would we lose the quality of life we enjoy sharing a chilled bottle of white with friends on a summer evening or chatting over a pint of beer by the pub fire after an bracing winter walk?

What’s more, the new guidance concedes that if you stick to the recommended limits, the 1% increased health risk is no more than that of driving your car.

But accepting that alcohol doesn't seem to have the health benefits we hoped it did - and could be doing us a lot more harm than we thought - may make that gin and tonic slightly less tempting. And before we know it, Dry January may lead to Dry February and March too.

Dr Sally Norton is a leading Health Expert in the country and an NHS Weight Loss Consultant & Surgeon. She is the Founder of Vavista Life

Posted: 09.01.16


Karen AbuZayd is Appointed Special Adviser on 2016 Un Refugee and Migrant Summit

Karen AbuZayd. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

5 January 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today the appointment of Karen AbuZayd of the United States as Special Adviser for an upcoming UN summit on managing large-scale movements of migrants and refugees.

The Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants is scheduled in the UN General Assembly for 19 September, one day before the opening of the Assembly’s 2016 General Debate.

According to a statement issued by the UN Spokesperson, Ms. AbuZayd will work with UN entities and undertake consultations with world body’s Member States and other relevant stakeholders in the lead up to the Summit. This will include overseeing the Secretary-General’s report on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be submitted to the General Assembly in May.

Ms. AbuZayd has extensive United Nations experience in humanitarian and human rights work in numerous countries. Since 2011, she has served as a Commissioner on the Independent Inquiry Commission on Syria. In 2005, Ms. AbuZayd was appointed Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and served in that position until 2010.

The new Special Adviser also worked for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for 19 years, including as Chief of Mission in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, as well as positions in Sudan, Namibia and Sierra Leone. She also served in UNHCR’s Geneva headquarters, as Chef de Cabinet to the High Commissioner and as Regional Representative for the US and the Caribbean.


Posted: 08.01.16


NASA Celebrated the Earth-Martian Women at the Curiosity Mars Rover Team

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover this week completed its first Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- since landing in August 2012. Each day of the rover working on Mars requires several dozen rover team members completing tasks on Earth.

To celebrate reaching this longevity milestone, which had been set as one of the mission's goals from the start, the Curiosity team planned staffing a special day, with women fulfilling 76 out of 102 operational roles.

"I see this as a chance to illustrate to girls and young women that there's not just a place for them in technical fields, but a wide range of jobs and disciplines that are part of the team needed for a project as exciting as a rover on Mars," said Colette Lohr, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

"There's no practical way any one person could learn all the disciplines needed for operating Curiosity," she said. "It takes a team and we rely on each other."

Disciplines range from soil science to software engineering, from chemistry to cartography, in duties ranging from assessing rover-temperature data freshly arriving from Mars to choosing where to point the rover's cameras. Descriptions of the roles, along with names and locations of the team members filling them today, are part of Curiosity Women's Day information available at:

Lohr's role today is strategic mission manager, which means she is responsible for review and approval of plans being developed and modified during the day for rover activities more than three or four days in the future.

She and most of the other engineers and managers on the team are at JPL in California. Today's team, not atypically, also includes members working in 11 other U.S. states, from Massachusetts to Montana, and four other nations: Canada, France, Russia and Spain. Each of the rover's 10 science instruments has people responsible for evaluating newly received data and planning to get more data. Other scientists participating in operations serve on theme groups that pull together information from multiple instruments and choose priorities for upcoming activities.

Curiosity Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp of JPL helped organize the special day and will fill the project scientist role, providing scientific leadership in the strategic planning process. She said, "The team has both scientists and engineers, but it's one team working together to accomplish the mission goals."

Each day's rover activities must be planned to fit within budgets of how much time, power and data-downlink capacity are available.

The operational roles fall into categories of tactical, supra-tactical and strategic, which focus, respectively, on the next day's rover activities, the activities two to five days ahead, and planning for weeks or months ahead.

"While some people are focused on today's plan for tomorrow, we need other people to be looking further ahead," Crisp said. "We wouldn't be able to plan complex activities for the rover if we started from scratch each day. We do a lot of work to get a head start on each day."

The operations team for Curiosity is larger than the operations teams for the previous generation of rovers, NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. In an experience similar to Women's Curiosity Day, one day in February 2008, Spirit's tactical operations team of about 30 people was almost entirely women.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Curiosity, visit: and

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

( Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)


Posted: January 6, 2016


Filippo Grandi Takes over UNHCR at Time of Record Numbers and Unprecedented Challenges

Filippo Grandi. UN Photo/Mark Garten

4 January 2016 – Filippo Grandi of Italy, a veteran of United Nations efforts to help refugees, took up his post today as head of the UN refugee agency at a time of unprecedented challenges, with record numbers of people worldwide forced to flee war and persecution.

“UNHCR is navigating extraordinarily difficult waters,” said Mr. Grandi, a 27-year UN veteran who succeeds Antonio Guterres of Portugal as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a five-year term.

“The combination of multiple conflicts and resulting mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia is very dangerous,” added the former head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

More than one million refugees and migrants, mostly from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe during the past year, the highest number of people displaced by war and conflict seen in Western and Central Europe since the 1990s, when several conflicts broke out in the former Yugoslavia.

Other challenges facing the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has twice been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – in 1954 and 1981 – include critical shortfalls in humanitarian funding, fewer voluntary returns than at any time in over three decades, people staying in exile for longer periods and increased politicization of refugee issues in many countries.

“The road ahead is a challenging one, but I hope that – working with governments, civil society, and other partners – we will make progress in ensuring international protection and improved living conditions for millions of refugees, internally displaced and stateless people,” Mr. Grandi stressed.

“I also hope that solutions to crises of displacement will be pursued with renewed determination by addressing their root causes and investing adequate political and material resources. UNHCR, whose mandate includes the search for solutions, stands ready to work with all those pursuing this goal.”

Mr. Grandi, 58, has worked in international affairs for over 30 years, 27 of them with the UN. Prior to heading UNRWA, he worked for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as Deputy Special Representative, following a long career with UNHCR in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1950, UNHCR has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of over 9,700 people in 126 countries, many working in humanitarian emergencies and in close proximity to regions of conflict, continues to help and protect millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and stateless people.

In June 2015, it reported that worldwide forced displacement had reached a new post-Second World War high of 59.5 million people. Displacement levels have continued to rise since, most visibly with the more than one million refugees and migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe over the past year.


Posted: January 5, 2016


Amnesty International UK: Writing Poetry is No Crime: Release Ashraf Fayadh

Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, living in Saudi Arabia faces death sentence for 'apostasy': Image: Amensty International UK

Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet and artist who lives in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to death for ‘apostasy’. The Saudi Arabian authorities claim that his poetry has questioned religion and spread atheism.

Ashraf has committed no crime. He is a prisoner of conscience. Ask the Saudi Arabian authorities to free him now.


Posted: January 4, 2016


The Humanion Photo-speak A Researcher at Work at NASA













Readmore P: 240216


German Chancellor Angela Merkel discusses
the Refugee Crisis and the future of Europe
during her address at The European
Parliament as French President Francois
Hollande sat, listening.











P: 150216 Image: The European Parliament

Photo-speak: To Go Where We Have Never Been







NASA Astronaut Joe Acaba, center, moderates a panel discussion with NASA's 2013 astronaut candidates, from left, Christina M. Hammock, Andrew R. Morgan, Victor J. Glover, Jessica U. Meir, Tyler N. "Nick" Hague, Josh A. Cassada, Anne C. McClain, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, at the annual White House State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SoSTEM) address, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls. (Editor: Sarah Loff: NASA). P: 180216. Readmore

British Red Cross Postcards for Syria Exhibition and Auction March 14-18: British Red Cross Headquarters , Moorfields, London: Online gallery and auction













Aleppo 2009: John Keane: British Red Cross Postcards For Syria 2016: P: 120316

The Humanion Photo-speak: There is Nothing Like the Earth in the Universe! Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko Enjoy the Cold Fresh Air Back on Earth

NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko enjoy the cold fresh air back on Earth after their historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. Image: NASA TV

And, please. note, once we leave this earth, we do not leave a country, we leave the earth and when we return back we do not return to a country but to the Earth. And whenever we take leave, humanity takes the best of its expressions and likewise, it takes the same best expression when come back from somewhere. There is nothing American or Russian or German or Indian or Arabian or Jamaican or Canadian or Chinese about the smiles that adorn these two faces of returning human beings: what words can describe their infinite joy of simply 'being back home'! Home, that's our humanity, that's our home and it is housed on the Earth, located at various places, may be: But we are one. Readmore P: 030316


Photo-speak: The Human Minds That Work to Support The ISS Mission 24-7 From Earth















Hearteogenics ISS on Earth Where Science Never Sleeps; Tracy McMahan Writing

Readmore   P: 290216  Image: NASA

Photo-speak: The Human Minds That Work to Support The ISS Mission 24-7 From Earth

Hearteogenics ISS on Earth Where Science Never Sleeps; Tracy McMahan Writing

Readmore   P: 290216 Image: NASA
















UNDP Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary: The Fight Against Poverty and Inequality Continues: P: 260216

The Humanion ESA Sentinel 3A Team of Teams: The Human-Mind-Symphony
Called, Sentinel 3A












ESA Sentinel 3A Team of Teams: The Human-Mind-Symphony Called, Sentinel 3ATitle Sentinel-3A

Sentinel-3A, the third ESA-developed Copernicus satellite carrying four Earth-observing instruments, was launched on 16 February 2016, and will provide a ‘bigger picture’ for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The 1150 kg satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk, Russia, at 17:57 GMT (18:57 CET; 20:57 local time). The first signals were received from space after 92 min via ESA’s Kiruna ground station in Sweden. Telemetry links and attitude control were immediately established by teams at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, allowing them to monitor the health of the satellite and take over control of the mission. This ‘team of teams’ involves some 50 engineers and scientists at ESOC, including spacecraft engineers, specialists working on tracking stations and the sophisticated ‘ground segment’ – the hardware and software used to control the satellite and distribute its data – and experts working in flight dynamics, software and networks, as well as simulation and training teams. Representatives from ESA’s Sentinel project team, as well as several operations engineers integrated within the Flight Control Team and shared with Eumetsat, the European organisation for the exploitation of meteorological satellites, are also working to ensure the success of this crucial mission. Released 18/02/2016 10:55 am: Copyright ESA/J. Mai. Readmore    P: 190216   Up

In Remembrance of the Holocaust Memorial Day, Today, 2016, of the 11 Million Human Beings Exterminated by Hitler and the Nazis






















Found on the pavement on January 26: Posted: January 27, 2016 Readmore

Professor Mike Brown and Assistant Professor Konstanin Batygin Found and Presented Evidence of Planet Nine, the 9th Planet of our Solar System. The Planet Nine : Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth











Caltech professor Mike Brown and assistant professor Konstanin Batygin have been working together to investigate distant objects in our solar system for more than a year and a half. The two bring very different perspectives to the work: Brown is an observer, used to looking at the sky to try and anchor everything in the reality of what can be seen; Batygin is a theorist who considers how things might work from a physics standpoint. Image Credit: Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech. Readmore P: 230116

IWMF Courage in Journalism Award 2015 Recipients with Eva Longoria and Cindi Leive










The Recipients of the IWMF Award  (of International Women's Media Media Foundation) are Anna Nemtsova, Mwape Kumwenda and Lourdes Ramírez. Linda Deutsch, a special correspondent and trial reporter (retired) for the Associated Press, received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. Posted 07.01.16 Image: IWMF Readmore













NASA's Earth-Martian Women of the Curiosity Mars  Rover Team: On June 26, 2014: Image: NASA. Posted: January 6, 2016.
The Lake Eden Eye





The Window of the Heavens Always Open and Calling: All We Have to Do Is: To Choose to Be Open, Listen and Respond




Imagine a Rose-Boat

Imagine a rose floating like a tiny little boat on this ocean of infinity
And raise your soul-sail on this wee-little boat and go seeking out
All along feed on nothing but the light that you gather only light
Fear shall never fathom you nor greed can tempt nor illusion divert
For Love you are by name by deeds you are love's working-map


Only in the transparent pool of knowledge, chiselled out by the sharp incision of wisdom, is seen the true face of what truth is: That what  beauty paints, that what music sings, that what love makes into a magic. And it is life: a momentary magnificence, a-bloom like a bubble's miniscule exposition, against the spread of this awe-inspiring composition of the the Universe. Only through the path of seeking, learning, asking and developing, only through the vehicles and vesicles of knowledge, only through listening to the endless springs flowing beneath, outside, around and beyond our reach, of wisdom, we find the infinite ocean of love which is boundless, eternal, and being infinite, it makes us, shapes us and frees us onto the miracle of infinite liberty: without border, limitation or end. There is nothing better, larger or deeper that humanity can ever be than to simply be and do love. The Humanion

















The Humanion Online Daily from the United Kingdom for the World: To Inspire Souls to Seek

At Home in the Universe : One Without Frontier. Editor: Munayem Mayenin

All copyrights @ The Humanion: London: England: United Kingdom

First Published: September 24: 2015

The names, some without images, and images used on the Home Page of The Humanion of these astonishing human  beings, a tiny representation of the human endeavours, whose lives and works not only enriched and enhanced humanity but will continue to do so in the future. The images and names are placed in random order. This is meant to be our effort to create a 'portrait of humanity' and we hope you take it as such. And let this be an open invite to everyone to learn more about these names and their works.