Global perspective Human stories

Wednesday's Daily Brief: African youth pivotal to silencing the guns, UNHCR prize winner announced, street clashes in Iraq, Haiti humanitarian update

A young boy photographed at Al-Hol refugee camp in the northeastern desert of Syria. (July 2019)
© UNICEF/Delil Souleiman
A young boy photographed at Al-Hol refugee camp in the northeastern desert of Syria. (July 2019)

Wednesday's Daily Brief: African youth pivotal to silencing the guns, UNHCR prize winner announced, street clashes in Iraq, Haiti humanitarian update

Peace and Security

A recap of Wednesday's top stories: Kyrgyz lawyer honoured by UN refugee agency; Positive but realistic outlook in runup to Syria talks; Security Council debates how African youth can bolster peace; refugees in Mexico pursue innovative labor initiatives; UN laments violent clashes in Iraq; Roadblocks in humanitarian aid for Haiti.

UN envoy positive but realistic about upcoming Syria Constitutional Committee meeting

Layla is a 111-year-old Kurdish refugee from Syria who arrived in Greece at the end of 2017 and has been granted asylum. But Layla’s wish is to be reunited with her grandchildren in Germany.

Less than 30 days before the newly-formed Constitutional Committee for Syria meets in Geneva to attempt to secure a peaceful end to years of conflict, the UN Special Envoy for the country acknowledged that progress depends on overcoming several obstacles: from the release of prisoners to a reduction in violence in the country’s war-ravaged north-west.

Speaking on Wednesday to journalists in the Swiss city, Geir Pedersen appeared upbeat about the 30 October face-to-face meeting of the 150-member Committee, comprising 50 representatives each from the Government, opposition and civil society.

A smaller body consisting of 45 members will also meet separately to prepare and draft proposals in line with agreed terms framed by the key principles of respect for the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions, and Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Kyrgyz lawyer wins top UN Refugee Agency award

Azizbek Ashurov, a  lawyer from Kyrgyzstan, has been selected as the 2019 winner of the UN Refugee Agency’s Nansen Refugee Award.

A lawyer whose work helped the Kyrgyz Republic to become the first country in the world to end statelessness, has won a top honour from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. Azizbek Ashurov, 38, was on Wednesday named the 2019 recipient of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.

His organization, Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB), has helped more than 10,000 people to gain Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Mr. Ashurov was motivated by his own family’s difficulties in achieving citizenship after arriving from Uzbekistan. Full story here.

Africa must ‘value youth’ in the drive towards lasting peace, young envoy tells Security Council

Local youth join popular South Sudanese artist Emmanuel Kembe as he sings about peace, reconciliation and nation building. The concert was part of a series of peace events that have been conducted in the area by UNMISS, in collaboration with the local aut

Recognizing the potential of African youth caught up in conflict to forge peace, is crucial for nurturing their developing identities, and could help them turn away from violence, a youth representative told the Security Council on Wednesday.  

“We have to value youth and their contribution to society, they will look for recognition elsewhere, if we don’t,'' Aya Chebbi, youth envoy for the African Union (AU) who hails from Tunisia, explained during the Council’s meeting on peace and security, in line with a flagship AU project to “silence the guns by 2020.”  

The meeting, convening under the presidency this month of South Africa, follows a vision established by African leaders to end all wars in Africa by 2063, which involves stamping out gun violence by 2020.  

Read the full story here.

Mexico: Helping refugees go into business, a ‘win-win situation’, says UNHCR’s Grandi

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi talks with a Guatemalan family at a shelter in Tapachula, Mexico, on September 28, 2019.

Through an innovative and collaborative scheme, some refugees in Mexico have started their own businesses creating what the UN refugee chief called on Wednesday “a win-win situation” for the local economy.

The programme involves Government authorities, private enterprise, civil society and UN refugee agency, UNHCR. It’s helping to fill labour shortages in some regions, while also giving refugees and their families “access to jobs, education and housing and, above all, safety and dignity”, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, after a five-day visit to the country.

“It is an excellent model that could be replicated, not only throughout Mexico but in other parts of the world”, he added. 

Here's the full story.

UN urges for safe and peaceful protests in Iraq

A young girl looks through a hole in the wall from damage from conflict in a school in Ramadi, Anbar Governorate, Iraq. Photo: UNICEF/Wathiq Khuzaie

The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said on Wednesday that she regrets the casualities among protesters and security forces resulting from violent clashes in Baghdad and other governorates this week. 

"Every individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law", Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert said in a statement on Wednesday, urging authorities to exercise restraint in handling of the protests. 

Several have been killed in escalated anti-government protests, according to media reports, in a display of disapproval against the Government and the political establishment. 

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert met with a number of protesters in Baghdad on Wednesday night, according to a press release from the UN Mission, UNAMI. "The Special Representative reiterated her call for calm and emphasized the importance of a direct dialogue between the people on the streets and Iraq’s leadership."

She said protesters were demanding economic reforms, jobs, reliable public services, accountability, prudent and impartial governance, and an end to corruption. "These are legitimate and longstanding demands. A direct dialogue, to discuss ways forward and to bring about immediate and tangible results, is of great importance.” 

Humanitarian response efforts barred in Haiti

An informal settlement in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

The humanitarian response in Haiti is being hindered by security incidents and roadblocks, restricting access for the UN and humantiarian programmes run by NGOs.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Stéphane Dujarric, shared the update in a daily press briefing on Wednesday, highlighting that the health sector is likely the most impacted, as hospitals face operational challenges.

In addition, fuel shortages, lack of safe water and other essentials are interfering with the operation of emergency services, as well as services such as orphanages, which had already been functioning with limited capacity. 

Read the full update in the transcript of Wednesday's noon briefing from the UN Spokesperson's Office, here. 

Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 2 October on Soundcloud: