This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
COVID-19 infections and deaths continue global rise
The number of COVID-19 cases rose for a fifth consecutive week globally, the UN health agency said on Wednesday, and deaths also increased for the second week in a row.
In its latest Weekly Epidemiological Update, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that just over 3.8 million new cases of coronavirus were reported in the last week, bringing the grand total to 128 million, since the global health emergency was declared on 30 January 2020.
Deaths also increased - by five per cent, or more than 64,000 people – meaning that more than 2.7 million have succumbed to the virus.
Regionally, all parts of the world reported an increase in infections this week and - with the exception of Africa - all other regions saw a rising death toll.
Europe and the Americas continued to account for nearly eight in 10 of all infections and fatalities, according to WHO, whose COVID-19 online dashboard indicated that as of Monday 29 March, more than 520 million vaccine doses have been administered.
Rights alert over Indonesia’s forced evictions at ‘New Bali’ resort
To Indonesia now, where top UN independent rights experts have condemned suspected abuses linked to a $3 billion tourism project to create a “New Bali”.
In a joint statement on Wednesday led by Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, the experts highlighted reported “aggressive land grabs” and the eviction of indigenous peoples on Mandalika, a coastal resort on the island of Lombok.
They cited credible sources who found that residents had been subjected to threats and forced from their land without compensation.
In their statement, the rights experts explained that the Government’s aim is to create an enormous tourism complex, with a Grand Prix motorcycle circuit, parks and hotels, including Pullman, Paramount Resort, and Club Med.
To date, the project has attracted more than $1 billion in private investment and is being managed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The project “tramples on human rights” and is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of sustainable development,” Mr. De Schutter said.
The independent rights expert insisted that “the time has passed for racing circuits and massive transnational tourism infrastructure projects that benefit a handful of economic actors rather than the population as a whole.
Instead, Governments keen to build back better after COVID-19 “should focus on empowering local communities”, enhancing livelihoods and participation in decision-making, the Special Rapporteur continued, before urging investors “not to finance or engage in projects and activities that contribute to human rights violations and abuses”.
CAR: independent experts’ concerns over ‘Russian advisers’ and close contacts with UN peacekeepers
To the Central African Republic now, and concerns over the recruitment and use of private military and foreign security contractors by the Government, and their close contacts with UN peacekeepers there.
The alert, from UN-appointed independent experts including the UN Working Group on mercenaries, focuses on “the interconnected roles” of Sewa Security Services, Russian-owned Lobaye Invest SARLU, and a Russian-based organisation known as the Wagner Group.
In particular, they expressed concerns about their connections to a series of violent attacks since the presidential elections on 27 December 2020.
The experts also said that they were disturbed to learn of the close working relationship between contractors and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in CAR, MINUSCA.
They pointed to coordinated meetings with “Russian advisers”, their presence at MINUSCA bases, as well as medical evacuations of wounded “Russian trainers” to MINUSCA bases.
The concerns come amid continuing reports of grave human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law which are attributable to the private military personnel operating jointly with CAR’s armed forces - and UN peacekeepers.
Reported violations include mass summary executions, arbitrary detention, torture during interrogation, indiscriminate targeting of civilian facilities and increasing attacks on humanitarian actors, the UN working group said, citing the unacceptable lack of investigations and accountability for the alleged abuses.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.