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News in Brief 9 December 2020

News in Brief 9 December 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations. 

Ethiopia’s Tigray region still at war, warns UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet 

Fighting is reportedly ongoing in Ethiopia’s Tigray region despite official claims to the contrary and civilians are suffering dreadfully, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday. 

Warning of grave allegations of abuse and violations against non-combatants, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that towns including Mekelle, Sherero, Axum and Abiy Addi were affected, as well as areas bordering the Amhara region. 

The development follows several weeks of fighting between federal forces and militias loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has caused mass displacement inside Tigray and beyond. 

Ms Bachelet told journalists in Geneva that the situation was “exceedingly worrying and volatile” and – as she had warned previously – spiralling out of control. 

“We have corroborated information of gross human rights violations and abuses – including indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls. There are reports of forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities.” 

The High Commissioner called for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in Tigray, before appealing to the Government “to fulfill the Prime Minister’s pledge” for humanitarian access and access to water, electricity and other basic needs. 

Guterres: Ending corruption vital to world’s recovery after COVID-19 

Corruption has thrived under the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Secretary-General has said, insisting that profiteers must not be allowed to exploit the rollout of new vaccines. 

Noting how Governments were “spending rapidly to…provide emergency support and procure medical supplies”, António Guterres warned that oversight “may be weaker”.  

The development of vaccines and treatments added to the risk of bribery and graft, he said, in his message for International Anti-Corruption Day, on Wednesday 9 December. 

Stimulus funds and vital emergency resources must be not diverted, the UN chief continued, adding that recovery from the pandemic must include measures to prevent graft in all its forms. 

In addition to draining resources from people who need them, bribes undermine trust in institutions and deepen “the vast inequalities exposed by the virus”, Mr Guterres maintained. 

Number of displaced worldwide passes 80 million: UN refugee agency 

Global forced displacement has passed the 80 million mark, as existing and new conflicts – and the coronavirus pandemic - have dramatically affected the lives of vulnerable people this year. 

The data, issued by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, represents an increase of 500,000 people since last year. 

In its report on people forced to leave their homes released on Wednesday, UNHCR said that the overall total included nearly 46 million internally displaced, more than 29 million refugees and 4.2 million asylum seekers. 

It comes despite the UN Secretary-General’s global ceasefire appeal in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, UNHCR said, pointing to violence in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Somalia and Yemen – all of which have driven new displacements in the first half of this year.  

Significant new displacement has also been registered across Africa’s Central Sahel region as civilians are subjected to brutal violence, including rape and executions, the UN agency warned. 

Some of the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 had “made it harder for refugees to reach safety”, UNHCR maintained.  

In April, 168 countries fully or partially closed their borders, it said, with 90 countries “making no exception” for asylum seekers.  

Daniel Johnson, UN News

  • Ethiopia’s Tigray region still at war, warns UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet 

  • Guterres: Ending corruption vital to world’s recovery after COVID-19 

  • Number of displaced worldwide passes 80 million: UN refugee agency 

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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© UNFPA Sudan/Sufian Abdul-Mout