Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Refugees, indigenous languages, Niger, Syria and Kyrgyzstan

17 December 2019

Our top stories for Tuesday include: UN chief at refugee forum; eyes of the world need to be on Niger; International Year of Indigenous Languages closes; Strengthening minority rights in Kyrgyzstan; hostilities in Syria’s Idlib.

World must ‘reboot’ approach to refugees: UN chief

The world needs to transform the way it responds to refugee situations and do more for the struggling countries that shelter almost all of them, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday, at a high-level forum seeking solutions to a turbulent decade of mass displacement.

More must be done to protect refugees, respect their rights and address the reasons why people leave their homes in the first place, he told the World Refugee Forum in Geneva, meeting for the first time.

Here’s our full coverage.

Niger needs far ‘greater attention’ says deputy UN relief chief

Mounting challenges in Niger demand far more attention from the international community, the deputy UN relief chief said at the end of a six-day visit to the West African nation.

Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, said the UN was “extremely concerned” about Niger, and in particular the humanitarian consequences of growing insecurity in neighbouring countries and “the devastating effects of climate shocks”.

She said she’d been "extremely moved by the courage shown by the IDPs [internally displaced persons], refugees, migrants and asylum seekers” she had met and at the “generosity and solidarity” shown by vulnerable communities hosting them.

Extremist armed groups and transnational crime have become an increasing threat along Niger’s border with Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso.

This year so far, more than 250 civilians were killed and nearly 320 people abducted, mainly IDPs, refugees and members of the host communities.

Two indigenous languages are dying every month: UN Assembly President

Despite UN efforts throughout this International Year of Indigenous Languages to highlight the daily disappearance of mother tongues across the world, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) warned on Tuesday that “challenges persist nonetheless”.

“Every fortnight, at least one indigenous language vanishes from the face of the earth”, spelled out Tijjani Muhammad-Bande. “This translates into two extinct indigenous languages each month”.

Read our story here.

Minority rights needs strengthening in Kyrgyzstan: UN expert

Despite some progress, Kyrgyzstan needs further measures to guarantee the human rights of minorities, strengthen its democratic institutions and ensure a more inclusive society, according to the UN independent human rights expert on minorities

After visiting the landlocked Central Asian country, Fernand de Varennes also welcomed Kyrgyzstan’s continued engagement with international human rights bodies and the adoption of a new human rights action plan.

Moreover, the Special Rapporteur urged the Government to put forward comprehensive human rights legislation, prioritizing new anti-discrimination laws.

He noted the country’s significant strides towards ending Statelessness, which mainly affects minorities, and especially minority women and children, adding that Kyrgyzstan this year became the first country to, in effect, outlaw it.

“Nonetheless, discrimination against minorities is persistent in some areas, including with regard to minority political representation and participation in public life”, said Mr. de Varennes, highlighting access to civil service jobs, including the police and judiciary, and access to education, especially in minority languages.

Syria: Idlib under fire

Following ongoing reports of airstrikes in Syria’s north-west Idlib area, the UN remains deeply concerned for the safety and protection of over three million civilians – more than over half of whom are internally displaced.

Over the weekend, airstrikes reportedly impacted dozens of communities across Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Lattakia governorates, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told journalists at his daily press briefing on Tuesday.During the last few weeks alone, hostilities have displaced up to 60,000 people – adding to the more than 400,000 others who had already been displaced this year.More than six months on, Mr. Dujarric relayed that clashes, shelling and air strikes have taken a devastating toll on critical civilian infrastructure in the area, including schools and hospitals.“We continue to call on all parties to the conflict to do their utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians in the conduct of military operations and strictly follow international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution”, the spokesperson concluded.

Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 17 December on SoundCloud:

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Bold, innovative measures for refugees and their hosts sought, at first ever Global Forum

As refugee numbers approach 26 million, heads of state, top UN diplomats, powerful figures from the private sector and civil society are heading to Geneva to agree on “bold, new” ways to help, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, which got underway on Monday.

Missile strike kills at least 12 civilians, including children, in Syria’s Idlib: UN humanitarians

Violence in Syria continues to kill and maim civilians with reports that missiles fired into settlements for people fleeing conflict in the country’s northwest on Wednesday night, killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more, including children, UN humanitarians said on Thursday.