This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Philippines drug campaign directive seen as ‘permission to kill’: UN rights office
A campaign to eradicate illegal drugs in the Philippines that began in 2016 has led to the killing of at least 8,600 people but the real figure could be three times that number, the UN human rights office OHCHR said on Thursday. In a report citing “near-impunity” for the killings and abuse, which have continued along with other alleged abuses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN office noted that the High Commissioner for Human Rights stood ready to assist “credible efforts towards accountability”, both nationally and internationally.
According to report co-author Ravina Shamdasani, police forces received a “command circular” referring to drug suspects using words such as “negation” and “neutralization”, echoing pledges made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“This ominous-sounding language was never really defined in this command circular, but this language, coupled with verbal encouragement at the highest level of government for police to kill drug suspects, may have been interpreted as permission to kill.”
The findings detail how officers “repeatedly recovered guns bearing the same serial numbers from different victims in different locations”, suggesting some victims were unarmed at the time of their deaths.
The coronavirus pandemic has not brought a halt to killings of drug suspects and human rights defenders in the first four months of the year, according to the UN report, which was commissioned by the Human Rights Council last year.
It also highlights how enforced quarantine measures have involved locking people in dog cages in the sun after breaking curfew.
Transformative actions urgently required to protect environment and human rights
Countries should take urgent action to protect the environment and stop climate disruption, biodiversity loss, toxic pollution and diseases that jump from animals to humans. That’s the message ahead of World Environment Day – on Friday 5 June - from UN Special Rapporteur David Boyd, who said that “at least 70 per cent of emerging infectious diseases” such as COVID-19 are crossing from the wild, to people.
Treating the symptoms of the pandemic crisis with closed borders, lockdowns and working on a vaccine were all necessary, “but a preventive approach would save millions of lives and trillions of dollars”, Mr Boyd insisted.
To date, 156 countries have recognised the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
More nations should to put their name to these rights as soon as possible, the independent rights expert said, calling on them to put in place post-COVID-19 recovery plans that respected these norms.
Ending deforestation, tightly regulating wildlife trade, and closely monitoring hotspots where people, wildlife and domestic animals mix, will help prevent future pandemics, Mr Boyd said.
FAO Food Price Index falls to 17-month low
Food prices around the world fell for the fourth consecutive month in May, amid strong production levels but weakened demand, partly from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Last month’s index of the most commonly-traded food commodities reached its lowest reading since December 2018, with price falls in cereals, meat, vegetable oil and especially the dairy sector, the FAO reported.
Worst-hit were butter and cheese, with prices almost 20 per cent down on what they fetched a year ago.
Milk powder price falls were less marked, though, with low prices and renewed economic activity in China fuelling strong demand.
Bucking the trend was demand for sugar, which was up more than seven per cent in the month of May, thanks to a rebound in international crude oil prices.
Higher sugar prices were also the result of poorer-than-expected sugar harvests in India and Thailand, which are respectively the world's second-largest sugar producer and the second-largest exporter.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.