This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Protect ordinary Afghans ahead of peace talks, urges UN Mission chief
Ahead of hoped-for peace talks between Afghan Government and Taliban negotiators, UN peacekeepers have urged parties to “redouble” their efforts to keep civilians safe.
The appeal from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), also calls for a de-escalation of the conflict to save lives and facilitate discussions in Qatar.
It follows a recent spate of deliberate attacks against religious leaders, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary, activists and journalists.
In the first six months of the year, more than 800 civilians were killed and injured in deliberate attacks.
UNAMA attributed responsibility for approximately half of these casualties to the Taliban, calling them “shocking and criminal”.
The Mission’s chief, Deborah Lyons, meanwhile, warned against “spoilers who do not wish to see an end to war”.
Ms. Lyons, who is also the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that it had taken “enormous work and …brave decisions for Afghans” to reach the point of being on the eve of unprecedented intra-Afghan negotiations.
“No matter what tactics they employ to de-rail the peace process, they cannot be allowed to succeed,” she insisted.
‘Transfats’ from processed foods may increase risk of developing ovarian cancer: UN scientists
A likely link between processed and fried foods containing so-called “transfats” and ovarian cancer, has been identified by UN scientists, they said on Thursday.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued the announcement at the end of a study of nearly 1,500 patients suffering from the disease, which is the eighth most common cause of cancer death in women.
Previous smaller studies have suggested a link between these industrially manufactured fatty foods and ovarian cancer, but the evidence has been “inconclusive” until now, said IARC’s Dr Inge Huybrechts.
“This is the first Europe-wide prospective study showing a relationship between intake of industrial trans fatty acids and development of ovarian cancer”, added the scientist from IARC, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Although there is limited research into the effect of trans-fatty acids on cancer development, previous studies have suggested that industrially produced ones affect obesity and inflammation.
These are “known risk factors” for ovarian cancer according to IARC scientist and study co-author Dr. Véronique Chajès.
This could explain, “at least partly, the positive association between these fatty acids and ovarian cancer”, she added.
There were nearly 300,000 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2018 and more than 184,000 deaths worldwide.
UN’s top rights official urges Nicaragua to release political prisoners
To the UN Human Rights Council finally, where Nicaragua’s Government faced renewed calls to release dozens of anti-Government demonstrators.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that while she welcomed the mass release of detainees to prevent COVID-19 transmission, 86 "political prisoners" had not been freed.
The development relates to protests that began in April 2018 during which the UN human rights office reported the disproportionate use of force by the police.
This included extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence, as well as widespread arbitrary or unlawful detentions, occasionally by pro-Government armed elements.
In her comments to the Council, Ms. Bachelet noted that the COVID-19 crisis had resulted in greater restrictions on civic and democratic space, with people stigmatized for criticising the State’s response to the pandemic.
Violence has also increased against women, the High Commissioner said, with 32 recorded femicides in the first five months of the year, compared with 27 over the same period last year.
In response, the Nicaraguan delegation said that it had taken steps to uphold the rights of the country’s people.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.