News in Brief 07 February 2018

7 February 2018

More than 300 child soldiers released by armed groups in South Sudan

More than 300 child soldiers were released by armed groups in South Sudan on Wednesday, including 87 girls, according to the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS).

It’s the beginning of a process that is expected to see at least 700 children freed in the coming weeks who have already been screened and registered by the UN for phased release.

Mahimbo Mdoe, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in the world’s youngest country, said it was a “crucial step” in reuniting thousands of children with their parents, who’ve been forced to serve in armed groups.

“It’s the largest release in nearly three years”, he added, “and it’s vital that negotiations continue so there are many more days like this.”

More details from UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq.

“The UN mission has been leading the project to release the children for more than six months, including providing peacekeeping troops to escort religious leaders into remote areas to make contact and negotiate with the armed groups. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in South Sudan, David Shearer, said the challenge ahead is to ensure the young people have the financial, practical, and emotional support they need to undertake training, find jobs, and access opportunities to reach their full potential.”

World Urban Forum opens with call for “equal voice” for women in cities

The ninth World Urban Forum has got under way in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a call from the new chief of UN-Habitat to ensure women have an “equal voice” in the world’s cities.

The UN agency’s new Executive Director, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, was the keynote speaker on the first day of the forum, where policymakers, NGOs, experts and politicians will discuss sustainable urban development.

One priority will be advancing the New Urban Agenda agreed in 2016, setting out a common vision for developing cities and towns in the coming decades.

Speaking to the Women’s Assembly, Ms. Sharif said gender equality would be central to her leadership of the agency.

“We want to continue to work with partners, with all of you in this hall, to ensure that women have an equal voice in cities, and cities are providing women with equal opportunities. Gender mainstreaming is very close to my heart and I will continue this principle, this concept, in leading UN-Habitat.”

“All-out assault on democracy” in the Maldives: UN human rights chief

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Wednesday described the current political crackdown in the Maldives as an “all-out assault on democracy”.

His statement came after the President, Abdulla Yameen, declared a state of emergency on 5 February in response to a Supreme Court decision ordering the release and retrial of nine political leaders.

Constitutional guarantees have been abandoned, said the UN human rights chief, including the entire Criminal Procedure Code, as well as Parliament’s authority to remove the President.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has been arbitrarily detained, along with two Supreme Court judges and the Chief Justice.

Zeid also ended an official three-day visit to Indonesia on Wednesday, saying he was concerned about “dark clouds on the horizon”.

He acknowledged government achievements, which include embracing the Sustainable Development Goals.

But at a time when Indonesia is consolidating its democratic gains, serious human rights violations continue, he added, and in some areas, are on the rise.

“The extremist views playing out in the political arena are deeply worrying, accompanied as they are by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence in various parts of the country, including Aceh.”

Audio Credit:
Matt Wells, UN News
Audio Duration:
3'22"