Thursday’s Daily Brief: the European Charlemagne prize, sexual abuse, transgender rights, Somalia and Libya updates

30 May 2019

Top stories this Thursday: UN chief Guterres received the Charlemagne Prize for services towards European unification; sexual abuse in Somalia and within the UN; a leap in transgender rights; news from Libya; and new political appointments at the UN.  

A ‘strong and united Europe’ has never been more needed, declares UN chief Guterres

With the post-world war international institutions eroded and under threat, a “strong and united Europe” standing alongside the United Nations, has never been more essential, said UN chief António Guterres in Germany on Thursday.

The Secretary-General was in the ancient continental capital of Aachen, close to the French border, where he received the Charlemagne Prize, awarded each year since 1950, for services towards European unification.

Read our full story here.

UN’s women’s health agency ‘strongly’ condemns gang rape of child in Somalia

The UN sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, has issued a statement “strongly” condemning a gang rape of a nine-year-old girl on Wednesday, in the central Somali town of Bulo-Burde, some 425 km west of the capital, Mogadishu. UNFPA said that it stands with the girl’s family and called for a speedy investigation into the “grave crime”.

Calling the violation a “gruesome act”, the agency reaffirmed its commitment to the Government and people of Somalia “to ensure that sexual and gender-based violence is eliminated”. Moreover, it underscored it stance that girls and women must “experience their fundamental dignity, human rights and equality”. UNFPA urged everyone to work together for “adequate protection measures for girls and women in Somalia”.

The UN’s unyielding effort to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation: our quarterly update

In the first quarter of 2019, according to latest figures released on Thursday, the United Nations recorded a total of 37 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) against UN personnel, including civilian and uniformed personnel from peacekeeping operations, agencies, funds and programmes. So far, most of these allegations remain under investigation.

To date, only one of the 37 allegations has been substantiated through an investigation, and referred to the relevant Member State for follow-up; four were not substantiated by the investigation that ensued; 26 are still under investigation; and six are still in the preliminary assessment phase to determine if there is enough information to investigate.

Read our full report here.

A major win for transgender rights: UN health agency drops ‘gender identity disorder’, as official diagnosis

“To reflect critical advances in science and medicine”, the World Health Organization, WHO, has removed so-called “gender identity disorder” from its official manual of diagnoses, which is being hailed as a major win for transgender rights.

The update to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) has reclassified gender identity disorder, or identifying as transgender, in terms of sexuality, not a “mental disorder”.

Read our full coverage here.

Libya: Close to 150 refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated to safety 

Against of backdrop of violent clashes in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, 149 vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers trapped in the hostilities were safely evacuated to Rome on Thursday, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. The evacuees – nearly half of whom are children – are from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, and many need medical treatment after months of dire living conditions in detentions centres in Tripoli.

More than 1,000 refugees and migrants have been evacuated or resettled out of Libya by UNHCR in 2019, while more than 1,200 others have been returned to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard in just May alone after being rescued or intercepted while attempting to flee by boat.

“More humanitarian evacuations are needed,” said Jean-Paul Cavalieri, UNHCR Chief of Mission in Libya. “They are a vital lifeline for refugees whose only other escape route is to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers on the Mediterranean Sea.”

Violence in Libya has uprooted the lives of 83,000 civilians, and hundreds have been killed. This week, six health workers were killed and seven injured when two clearly-marked ambulances were hit by shelling on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A new leader for the UN mission in Somalia, and other appointments

Secretary-General Guterres announced on Thursday the appointment of James Swan of the United States as his Special Representative for Somalia and new Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). He succeeds Nicholas Haysom of South Africa, to whom the Secretary-General expressed deep gratitude.

In addition, Anita Bhatia of India has been appointed as Assistant Secretary-General for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women; Najat Maalla M’jid of Morocco will be the new Special Representative on Violence Against Children; Gilles Michaud has been appointed Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security; Tatiana Valovaya of Russia, as Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva.
 

Listen to or download our audio News In Brief for 30 May on SoundCloud:

 

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Syria: Thousands of children ‘hemmed in’ by ‘brutal and gratuitous’ spike in violence

A marked escalation in fighting has put tens of thousands of children in northwest Syria at “imminent risk of injury, death and displacement”, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) chief warned on Thursday.

‘Ground-breaking innovation’ needed in cities, where battle for sustainable development will be won or lost, says UN agency chief

If the battle to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to be won or lost in cities, then they need to “achieve a lasting impact on communities and to ensure that no one is left behind,” the head of the UN agency dealing with sustainable urban development said on Wednesday.