Tuesday’s stories include: Libya facing “permanent division”, regional war; Africa event highlights forcible displacement; terrorists’ children ‘secretly detained’ in Syria; Venezuelans need protection; global trade tensions rise.
Libya on ‘verge’ of civil war, threatening ‘permanent division’, top UN official warns Security Council
The damage done to Libya will already take “years to mend” but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli stops, the country risks “descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country”.
That was the blunt assessment of UN Special Representative to Libya and UNSMIL chief, Ghassan Salamé, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, following weeks of intensifying conflict in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalif Haftar who also leads a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
“I am no Cassandra” he added, referencing the mythical Greek figure who uttered prophesies which nobody believed, “but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war…imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean”.
Full coverage of this important briefing is here. And the UNSMIL chief's full briefing audio, is below.
UN highlights need to solve growing burden of forcibly displaced Africans
With 24.2 million Africans forced from their homes in 2017 ̶ 4.6 million more than the previous year ̶ the UN is hosting a three-day event at UN Headquarters, focusing on finding durable solutions to the problem, which is a growing burden on the continent’s economy, environment and communities which host those displaced.
The 2019 Africa Dialogue Series, (ADS) which began on Monday under the theme “Towards durable solutions for forcibly displaced persons in Africa,” brings together a wide range of actors with a stake in finding ways to deal with the issue, including representatives of national governments, the African Union, civil society, the private sector and the UN.
Our full report on day one, is here.
Children of ISIL terrorists likely held in ‘secret detention facilities’, OHCHR warns
In Syria, it is suspected that children whose fathers fought for terrorist group ISIL are being held in unidentified “settlements” and “secret detention facilities” away from their mothers, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday.
The UN office cited information suggesting that Kurdish authorities are responsible for holding youngsters over 12 years old in al-Hassakeh governorate, in the far north-east of the country.
Addressing the fate of thousands of vulnerable children of foreign fighters who are living in camps, detention centers and orphanages in Syria, Iraq and other places in the world, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said on Tuesday they were being forced to live in generally “appalling conditions”.
For our full roundup on this Syria and Iraq story, go here. And listen to an interview we did in January about the al-Hol camp, below.
Amidst high trade tensions and policy uncertainty, UN cuts economic growth forecast
Against a backdrop of unresolved trade tensions, high international policy uncertainty and softening business confidence, the UN has announced a broad-based slowdown in economic growth, and cut its growth predictions.
On Tuesday, The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released its mid-year World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report, which finds that all major developed economies, and most developing regions, have weakened prospects for growth. At the launch of its main annual report in January, UN economists warned of “risks on the horizon.”
Five months on, with trade disputes and tariff increases, those fears have been borne out, and the forecasts contained in the January report have now been revised downwards, to a moderate 2.7 per cent for 2019, and 2.9 per cent over next year.
Venezuela’s masses need international protection, urges UNHCR
The UN refugee agency says that the “majority” of Venezuelan’s leaving their crisis-wracked country need international protection.
Since 2015, UNHCR says that about three million people have left overall, amid ongoing social and political unrest and mass demonstrations.
In updated guidance to neighbouring countries, UNHCR is urging them to allow Venezuelans access to their territory.
It highlights in particular the critical need for the protection of people “forced to flee for their lives and freedoms”, in line with the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration that applies in Latin America.
Spokesperson Liz Throssell said it was “taking into consideration the worsening situation, the increasing number of Venezuelans that are leaving. What it does crucially point out is the need for international refugee protection under this Cartagena Declaration of 1984, which has a broader criterion for considering someone in need of refugee protection relating to generalized violence or people at threat from serious disturbances to public order.”
By the end of 2018, some 460,000 Venezuelans had formally sought asylum, says UNHCR, the majority in neighbouring countries in Latin America.
UN food agency still seeking agreement with Yemen’s Houthis to stop aid diversion
UN humanitarians have said they are still seeking an agreement with Houthi opposition fighters in Yemen to stop diverting desperately-needed aid to millions of people.
Most of the 12 million people the World Food Programme (WFP) wants to reach are in Houthi-controlled areas, according to spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: “WFP sincerely hopes that it can reach agreement with the authorities in Houthi areas of Yemen to avoid the suspension, as the needs of 12 million people depend on our assistance, and are of course a priority…all this needs to stop.
We are here to save 12 million people - many of them children and women - to save them from famine. Everybody should work together. And the first interest of everybody today should be the civilian population.”
In an update to journalists in Geneva, Mr. Verhoosel said that 87 aid trucks remain blocked “across different security and customs checkpoints” in Ibb and Al-Bayda governorates.
Since March 2015, more than 7,169 civilians have been killed in Yemen, and nearly 11, 400 have been injured, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday.
Listen to, or download our audio News In Brief for 21 May, on SoundCloud: