This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
UN inter-agency team conducts assessment mission to Idlib
Humanitarian aid and protection needs are “growing more desperate by the day” in Syria’s Idlib governorate, where nearly one million people have been displaced by ongoing military operations, according to a senior UN aid official.
Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, was part of a cross-border mission from Turkey conducted on Monday by seven UN agencies to assess the feasibility of having a sustained presence in the northwestern province: the last opposition-held stronghold.
People in Idlib are “traumatized and frightened and urgently need better access to shelter, food, sanitation, basic health services and protection”, he said in a statement.
And while local aid workers are doing a “heroic job”, they are exhausted and also subject to being displaced and killed, he added.
Mr. Kennedy stressed that as needs rise, it is imperative that the UN uses all methods to reach people in need, whether from inside Syria or across borders.
He reported that more than 2,150 trucks carried aid from Turkey into northwestern Syria during January and February: that’s over double the number that made the crossing during the same period last year.
However, he said “we need to do even more and scale up our presence on the ground”.
Syrians suffering ‘unprecedented’ levels of displacement
Meanwhile, human rights violations continue to rise in Syria, where women, children and men face “unprecedented” levels of displacement amidst increasingly dire conditions.
That’s the assessment of the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law in the nearly decade-long conflict.
The Commission has released its latest report, and among the findings is that Syrians who were forcibly displaced through “reconciliation” agreements, or who fled battles, are now being hemmed into ever-shrinking spaces in Idlib and Western Aleppo governorates under the rule of the HTS terrorist group.
Military operations to root out the group have killed and injured scores of people, said the report, while markets, camps and hospitals have been decimated.
The report contains several recommendations for the Syrian Government, but also for warring parties and the international community, to improve the protection of civilians.
It is scheduled to be presented to the Human Rights Council next week.
Rights expert urges countries to repeal gender discriminatory laws
And finally, an independent human rights expert is calling for countries to repeal gender discriminatory laws grounded in religious belief and to address gender-based violence carried out in the name of religion by non-state actors.
Ahmed Shaheed, who is the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, made the appeal in his latest report presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
As a Special Rapporteur, he is appointed by the Council and is not a UN staff member.
Mr. Shaheed told the body that he firmly rejects “any claim that religious beliefs can be invoked as a legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against women, girls or LGBT+ people”, adding that “the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such”.
The rights expert also expressed concern over the rise in political and religious campaigns “which invoke religious freedom to seek to rollback human rights that are fundamental to gender equality”.
Dianne Penn, UN News.