News in Brief 5 December 2017 - Geneva (AM)

5 December 2017

Zeid: Myanmar refugee crisis may be genocide

Violence in Myanmar that has caused more than 625,000 people to flee to Bangladesh may amount to genocide, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva in a special session called in response to the ongoing exodus.

He described how Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State had reported being subject to terrible rights violations by the Myanmar military following attacks against state police posts earlier this year:

“The Rohingya have been physically attacked, oppressed, deprived of rights and nationality. How much do people have to endure before their rights are acknowledged by their government and by the world…Given all of this, can anyone, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?”

In response, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Htin Lynn, told the Council that his government was seeking to find a solution to the crisis - with the help of the international community.

The Myanmar ambassador also denied that it was official policy to target the Rohingya and instead blamed “extremist individuals”.

He added that his government had struck an agreement with Bangladesh on the “voluntary, safe and dignified return” of the displaced, and this process would be launched “within two months”.

The UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) and other international organisations would be participating in “various stages of returns and resettlement”, Mr Lynn said, by helping assess their needs as “members of the Myanmar community”.

To address long-term challenges in Rakhine State, the Ambassador added that the government was following the “clear roadmap” contained in a recent report on Myanmar by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The report’s recommendations include poverty alleviation, development, human rights assurances and reconciliation.

Yemenis emerge from homes amid pause in Sana’a fighting

To Yemen now, where a senior UN aid official reported on Tuesday that families in the capital, Sana’a, are beginning to emerge from their houses amid a pause in fighting that has claimed at least 230 lives.

Speaking over the phone from Sana’a, UN Resident Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said that in the past five days civilians had been sheltering from street battles and airstrikes.

“Our ability to get to people over the last five days has been impeded because of the airstrikes, because of the fighting. And our lifesaving support and activities I think were blocked. We’ve sent supplies, trauma kits to hospitals. But we hear stories of pregnant women stuck in their houses, we hear stories of wounded people who were shot while they were moving across the street.”

Mr McGoldrick said that fighting had moved to the outskirts of the city where international coalition forces in support of President Abd Mansour Hadi have engaged Houthi rebels.

He added that a team from the United Nations is set to travel to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to secure the relaxation of the coalition’s blockade on Yemen.

One of the key aims is to loosen the embargo on the western port of Hodeida, to allow ships to unload desperately needed fuel, food and medicines.

Children’s reading proficiency marks new chapter

And finally, a bit of good news from researchers who announced on Tuesday that children’s reading could be a success story.

No less than 96 per cent of 9-10 year-olds from more than 50 countries demonstrated fundamental competency in reading, according to a joint report by UNESCO, the UN Scientific, Cultural and Educational agency, and the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The report also shows that there are more good readers globally than there were 15 years ago, when tests began, with improvements in 29 countries and declines in 12.

Students from the Russian Federation and Singapore outshone other nationalities in the latest assessments, followed by youngsters from Hong Kong, Ireland, Finland and Poland.

For the first time, the assessment included online reading too.

Results showed that good readers have an advantage in digital literacy skills, with 50 per cent of students deemed to be good to excellent readers.

And in case you were wondering whether boys or girls fared best, the 2016 study showed that female students outshone their male counterparts … in nearly all countries.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4'18"


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