World News in Brief: Peace day, high seas treaty, Palestinian displacement rises, polio in Ukraine
Peace requires strong mobilization for human rights, sustainable development and the environment, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on the International Day of Peace observed on Thursday.
“People and our planet are in crisis”, the UN chief said, highlighting how conflicts continue to drive the vulnerable from their homes, while heatwaves and floods claim lives and division prevails.
‘Leave no one behind’
This year’s Peace Day coincides with the halfway point on the road to the Sustainable Development Goals, and the UN’s message is that the promise of the 2030 Agenda to “leave no one behind” is a key enabler of peace.
Amid the high-stakes political encounters underway at the General Assembly and Security Council in New York, the UN chief also called for the use of the “timeless tools of diplomacy, dialogue and collaboration” to defuse tensions and end conflict.
“Peace is not only a noble vision for humanity. Peace is a call to action,” Mr. Guterres insisted.
Historic treaty opens for signatures at General Assembly
After almost two decades of negotiations, the first-ever international agreement to conserve marine biodiversity and preserve the world’s oceans is now open for signatures at the UN General Assembly.
The so-called high seas treaty was adopted in June, when UN chief António Guterres hailed it as a “victory for multilateralism”. It was signed by 67 countries on Wednesday but must still be ratified by each State according to its own procedures.
The treaty is a legally binding instrument under the UN Convention of Law of the Sea to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
These areas cover over two-thirds of the ocean.
The high seas treaty will come into force 120 days after it’s been ratified by a minimum of 60 countries, which could take years. The UN said it hopes that all Member States will join the agreement.
More and more Palestinians displaced by settler violence
Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians has been steadily increasing across the occupied West Bank, displacing over 1,000 people since last year, according to the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA).
OCHA said on Thursday that in the first eight months of 2023, an average of three settler-related incidents affecting Palestinians occurred on average every day - the highest rate since the UN started recording this data in 2006.
In an assessment of the humanitarian needs of 63 Palestinian herding communities in the occupied West Bank conducted last month, the UN found that around 12 per cent of the population have been displaced since 2022, citing settler violence and being prevented access to grazing land by settlers as the primary reasons.
Most of those displaced were in the governorates of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron, which also have the highest number of Israeli settlement outposts.
Four of the communities have been completely displaced and are now empty, OCHA said.
The expansion of settlements into grazing land for livestock, takeovers of land by settlers, destruction of crops, confiscation of land and herds following the declaration of a closed military area, and deliberate pollution of water sources, were all cited as issues affecting the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian herder communities.
OCHA said that Palestinian herders “should be self-reliant” based on traditional patterns, but instead, they need humanitarian assistance because of settler violence and the “failure of Israeli authorities to hold perpetrators accountable”.
The ensuing displacement of Palestinians “may amount to forcible transfer”, a grave breach of international humanitarian law, humanitarians warned.
Polio outbreak in Ukraine closed: WHO
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a poliovirus outbreak in Ukraine officially over.
WHO said it was a “public health success story” that Ukraine had managed to stop transmission of the virus that “threatened the lives and futures of its children” and prevent its spread to other countries, all in the face of the ongoing war.
The outbreak was first detected in a young child in Ukraine in October 2021, subsequently linked to a poliovirus episode in Pakistan.
WHO said that the comprehensive outbreak response initiated by Ukraine’s health ministry faced multiple challenges since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, including massive population displacement, destruction of healthcare infrastructure and disruption of logistics routes.
The Government response, supported by WHO and partners, included contact tracing, disease surveillance and an accelerated immunization catch-up campaign for children aged six months to six years who had not received the required doses through routine immunization.
The UN health agency said that “tremendous credit” should go to the health professionals and parents who continue to make every effort to vaccinate children on schedule, “even while navigating the daily realities and dangers of war”.