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News in Brief 20 February 2023

News in Brief 20 February 2023

Guterres condemnation for North Korea ballistic missile launches 

A ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – DPRK – has been strongly condemned by the UN Secretary-General. 

António Guterres urged the government of DPRK to “immediately desist from taking any further provocative actions” and to resume disarmament talks, his spokesperson said on Sunday. 

Over the weekend, Pyongygang State media announced that it had fired the long-range weapon on Saturday, which flew a reported 900 kilometres or 560 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan. 

UN Security Council sanctions dating back to 2006, in response to the DPRK’s first nuclear test, ban the development of arms and military equipment by the country. 

Language rights are key to pushing back against populist rhetoric: experts 

To mark International Mother Language Day on Tuesday 21 February, a top UN-appointed rights expert has urged all countries to reject the idea that societies should only have one language, to the exclusion of all others. 

UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, reiterated criticism of attempts by many countries to reduce and in some cases exclude teaching in non-official languages. 

These policies were discriminatory and “thinly disguised efforts to assimilate minorities and indigenous peoples”, said the Special Rapporteur, who reports to the Human Rights Council in an independent capacity. 

Mr. de Varennes also called for greater investment in mother tongue communication, as this would help minority and indigenous children gain the literacy and numeracy skills that they need to learn official languages. 

“This is the most effective way of guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination,” said Mr de Varennes, who also noted that languages help communities to share knowledge, memories and history. 

The rights expert also urged governments “to move away from new forms of nationalist majoritarianism”, that call for only one State language. 

It’s “inconsistent with inclusive societies that are respectful of the human rights of linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples”, the Special Rapporteur said. 

UN atomic energy agency in discussions with Iran over uranium enrichment reports  

The UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA, is in discussions with Iran, after reports that highly enriched uranium had been detected in the country. 

In a tweet on Sunday evening, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Director-General, Rafael Grossi, is discussing “the results of recent Agency verification activities”, and that Mr. Grossi “will inform the IAEA Board … as appropriate”.  

News reports have indicated that inspectors have found uranium enriched to 84 per cent purity, which would be the highest level to date, and approaching suitability for use in weapons. 

UN’s famine prevention expert: drought-hit communities know what they need 

The UN is to spend $250 million addressing “forgotten crises” around the world including the risk of famine in Africa, UN chief António Guterres has said

The relief funding will come from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, Mr. Guterres said, while attending the African Union summit at the weekend. 

Some 349 million people across 79 countries are facing acute food insecurity, according to the UN World Food Programme. 

According to the UN’s famine prevention expert, tackling the hunger crisis should involve listening to what at-risk communities say they need to survive. 

Reena Ghelani, the UN Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator, has been telling UN News that the situation in the Horn of Africa is especially concerning. 

From Ethiopia to Somalia and beyond, up to 222 million men, women and children face acute hunger and multiple famines are looming, after years of violent insecurity and climate shocks. 

After working with communities of pastoralists in Ethiopia, Ms. Ghelani explained that parents wanted two things above all else: education for their children and a chance to learn new farming practices, which they could fall back on, if conditions continue to worsen: 

“They were talking about they're very conscious that there's no rain coming from the sky anymore. And so, they themselves would say without using a climate adaptation language, they would say, you know, ‘Teach us how to grow things that will grow when the rain isn't predictable.’ And so, they're very, very clear about what they what they actually need.” 

The famine relief coordinator noted that in Somalia and Niger, the UN has successful climate resilience-building programmes where women and girls play an active role in developing them. 

“What we do need to do now is get them to scale, and that means getting the financing for it because it can be done, we've proven it,” Ms. Ghelani insisted.  

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  • Guterres condemnation for North Korea ballistic missile launches  

  • Language rights are key to pushing back against nationalist rhetoric: Special Rapporteur  

  • UN atomic energy agency in discussions with Iran over uranium enrichment reports  

  • UN’s famine prevention expert: drought-hit communities know what they need 

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
4'29"
Photo Credit
Unsplash/Micha Brändli