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News in Brief 20 October 2020

News in Brief 20 October 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations. 

India: UN rights chief dismayed over NGO, activist restrictions 

The UN Human Rights High Commissioner has expressed dismay over restrictions against non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the arrests of activists in India. 

Michelle Bachelet has appealed to the Government to safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, her office reported on Tuesday. 

The UN rights chief has expressed regret at the tightening of space for these groups, including by the application of vaguely worded laws that restrict foreign funding. 

Spokesperson for the UN human rights office (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, pointed to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act as an example: 

“This Act has been invoked over the years to justify an array of highly intrusive measures, ranging from official raids on NGO offices and freezing of bank accounts, to suspension or cancellation of registration, including of civil society organizations that have engaged with UN human rights bodies.” 

Mr. Colville said activists and human rights defenders have also come under mounting pressure in recent months, particularly following mass protests earlier this year against the Citizenship Amendment Act.  

More than 1,500 people have reportedly been arrested in relation to the protests.  

Many were charged under another law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which has drawn widespread criticism for its lack of conformity with international human rights standards. 

Act now to reverse Central Sahel ‘downward spiral’: UN Secretary-General 

The UN Secretary-General has appealed for action to reverse the situation in Africa’s central Sahel region, where humanitarian needs are at “a breaking point”.  

More than 13 million people in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, require aid assistance due to rising violence, insecurity and the impacts of climate change as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UN agencies are appealing for $2.4 billion to provide aid assistance through the coming year, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message to a high-level conference held on Tuesday: 

“We need to reverse this downward spiral with a renewed push for peace and reconciliation.  And we need to make space for vital humanitarian assistance and investments in development and people.” 

Donor conference to support Rohingya refugees, host communities 

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has highlighted the need for greater international action to find solutions for Rohingya refugees displaced both within and outside Myanmar. 

UNHCR, together with the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, will host a virtual donor conference on Thursday to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of this population and host communities. 

The Rohingya are a mainly Muslim minority group, mostly living in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.  

Nearly one million Rohingya have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, most of whom arrived after escaping a violent crackdown by security forces in August 2017. 

The UN has appealed for more than $1 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh this year. 

Less than half of the funding has been received. 

Dianne Penn, UN News

  • UN rights chief urges India to safeguard rights of NGOs, activists
  • Central Sahel humanitarian needs at 'breaking point': Guterres
  • UNHCR and partners to hold donor conference for Rohingya refugees
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Dianne Penn, UN News
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UN India