Friday's Daily Brief: Peacekeeping performance, Iranians' rights, Syria, Australia, Haiti updates, Greta Thunberg at COP25

6 December 2019

A recap of the top stories: UN evaluates peacekeeping performance; civilians under greater attack in northeast Syria; UN rights chief on Iranian protester clampdown; ending medical evacuation for refugees to Australia; food crisis widens in Haiti; and Greta Thunberg speaks out in Madrid at climate conference.

UN evaluates progress in improving peacekeeping performance

The international community on Friday took stock of action to improve UN peacekeeping in line with a Security Council resolution aimed at enhancing performance at all levels, both at Headquarters in New York and in the field. 

The UN welcomes opportunities to review its effectiveness, Secretary-General António Guterres told the meeting on Resolution 2436, adopted in September 2018.

The UN chief recalled that his Action for Peacekeeping initiative renews collective commitment to excellence amid an increasingly dangerous landscape for ‘blue helmets’ and their civilian colleagues.

For our full coverage, see here.

Spike in Syria attacks on civilians

Syrian civilians are dealing with a growing threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, despite a fragile ceasefire in the northeast of the country, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, reported on Friday.

Briefing reporters in Geneva, Mr. Colville said that a spike of apparently indiscriminate IED attacks had been noted in residential areas and local markets, mainly in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their allies, since the October offensive into Syria began, but also in some areas under the control of Kurdish groups.

The UN has verified at least 49 attacks between 22 October and 3 December, recording some 78 civilian deaths, including 18 children.

Mr. Colville warned that these killings could amount to a serious violation of international humanitarian law and constitute a war crime.

Another cause of concern for the UN is the continued fighting in the Idlib area, where ground strikes and airstrikes by forces aligned with the Government are resulting in civilian casualties.

Mr. Colville called on all parties to the conflict to refrain from directing attacks against civilians, and from any indiscriminate attack, and to investigate all such incidents.

UN rights chief ‘extremely concerned’ over deadly crackdown on protesters in Iran

In the wake of recent protests in Iran, the top United Nations human rights official expressed alarm on Friday over multiple human rights violations which have reportedly taken place across the country.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet highlighted a continuing lack of transparency concerning casualties, the alleged mistreatment of thousands of detainees and continued arrests reported throughout Iran, after weeks of protests which began over major increases in petrol prices.

More on this story here.

Australia’s end to medical evacuation for refugees may put lives at risk

Repealing an Australian law that allowed sick refugees and other migrants, held in offshore detention centres, to be sent to the country for treatment, deprives them of appropriate medical care, and may put their lives at risk.

This is how the High Commission for Human Rights has responded to the Australian Government’s decision, which came despite rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s recent appeal to Members of Parliament not to reverse the so-called Medevac legislation.

During Rupert Colville’s Friday briefing in Geneva, the spokesperson said that “Medical experts, not politicians, should be at the heart of decisions about people’s medical care”.

Mr. Colville highlighted the fact that, before the laws were passed, twelve people died in offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and noted that, under international human rights law, all individuals, regardless of their status, have the right to health.

The repeal of the laws means that sick people in offshore detention will now have no option but to take legal action in order to access medical care which, he said, will mean place an unnecessary burden on the Australian court system, and will mean further suffering for the affected people.

Haitians facing ‘dramatic’ food crisis

With around one in three Haitians in urgent need, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up operations in the country to provide emergency food assistance to 700,000 people.

On Friday, the WFP announced that, along with its partners, it is doing its utmost to reach a growing number of vulnerable people.

In order to be able to deliver humanitarian services, the agency is appealing for $62 million.

Millions of Haitians have been hit hard by rising prices, a weakening local currency, and a drop in agricultural production. The demonstrations and unrest in the country over the past three months have made it difficult for poorer households to access food, although a slight improvement in security has allowed WFP to deliver food assistance to families cut off since September.

The UN food agency is also providing cash and vouchers to tens of thousands of affected people, in order to help local markets to recover, and allow households to buy local food. So far this year, WFP has met the emergency food needs of around 138,000 people.

Activist Greta Thunberg takes on Madrid climate conference

Young people took centre stage at the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid on Friday, as they took part in “Young and Future Generations Day”.

Young activists made statements and participated in roundtable discussions with decision makers on how to raise ambition, to empower youth to implement the Paris Agreement, and to foster intergenerational cooperation.

The UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, stressed their role to raise awareness of this issue and encouraged them to continue speaking up for change.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg reportedly told the gathering that although people want everything to continue as it is because they are afraid of change, young voices would not be drowned out.

“Change is what we young people are bringing and that is why they want to silence us and that is just a proof that we are having an impact that our voices are being heard that they try so desperately to silence us", she told reporters.

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Independent rights experts sound alarm at Iran protest crackdown, internet blackout

Reports of killed and maimed demonstrators, and a continuing nationwide internet shutdown in Iran’s now week-long protests are of “grave concern”, and the Government and authorities must ensure rights of expression and opinion are protected, a UN group of independent experts said on Friday.

UN peacekeepers warn of increasing global challenges

Organized crime, breakdowns in law and order, and attacks by extremists, are examples of the challenges faced by UN peacekeepers, the Security Council was told on Wednesday, during a briefing by senior UN Police Commissioners, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.