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People for Peace: Supporting victims of sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The eastern DRC has experienced conflict and instability over many years and many people have been forced to flee their homes making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

Delu Lusambia is the project manager and coordinator of SYAM, (which stands for Siku ya Mazingira in Kiswahili), a local civil society organization in eastern DRC which implements projects for the UN Trust Fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.*

“My organization, SYAM, has been working on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel since 2007. Around that time, many people in the DRC were internally displaced because of conflict and took refuge near MONUSCO camps in North Kivu and eastern provinces.

They were left without jobs, without any means to sustain their lives. As a result, many women and girls exchanged sexual favours with UN peacekeepers for money and food. Economic vulnerability and power imbalances can expose people to the risk of sexual misconduct.

From 2007 to 2016, SYAM conducted surveys and heard many testimonies about sexual exploitation. We shared the result of the surveys and proposed projects to support and empower women and girls in partnership with MONUSCO.

We realized the urgent need to support victims, especially those who had children born of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

A UN peacekeeping patrol passes people on the road in the Beni region in eastern of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti
A UN peacekeeping patrol passes people on the road in the Beni region in eastern of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


That is why we created vocational training centres for women and girls where we train them in pastry-making, tailoring, bread-making, hairdressing, and agriculture.

I am proud of the impact that we are making. First, from our observation on the ground, occurrences of sexual exploitation and abuse have decreased. Also, a large number of beneficiaries have been trained through our projects. I am delighted that a total of 375 beneficiaries between 2020 and 2021 have gained vital skills to sustain their lives.

We are also witnessing changes in the culture and attitudes. SYAM works with local community networks to raise awareness within communities in eastern DRC about sexual exploitation and abuse and how to report these wrongs. Now the reporting of such cases has become a common practice. Whenever they see suspicious activities, the communities speak up to raise concerns with MONUSCO.”

29 May is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers - a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel.

United Nations

* Trust Fund projects are funded by 24 UN Member States and implemented in partnership with development actors, including United Nations agencies and civil society.

More than one million peacekeepers have served under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace. Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships, a theme which is highlighted in this year’s International Day of Peacekeepers.

People for Peace: Breaking prison barriers in Central African Republic

Talking to UN News ahead of the International Day of Peacekeepers, which is marked annually on 29 May, she explains how she continues to break down gender barriers.

“I’m the Coordinator of the Security Teams at the Ngaragba Central Prison in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR).

This is the largest and most notorious prison in the country with some 1,335 inmates, which accounts for 69 per cent of the entire prison population in the country. 

My main task is to work with national partners, in order to build their capacities to maintain law and order and effective justice systems; this is a key function of peacekeeping. 

As the main trainer and coordinator of rapid intervention activities, I and my team of 42 officers, support national prison staff in incident and crisis management. 

I have introduced rapid intervention training modules into the national curriculum of CAR’s prison administration.

A simulation exercise on the management of a riot by inmates takes place in Ngaragba Prison in the Central African Republic.

MINUSCA/Hervé Serefio
A simulation exercise on the management of a riot by inmates takes place in Ngaragba Prison in the Central African Republic.

Male-dominated environment

The field of security is a typically male-dominated environment, where women are often placed second or even ignored, because of stereotypical perceptions that men are better suited for the job.

I had the courage and strength, and vocation, to break down barriers and assert myself confidently in this field.

I believe that a key factor in my success as the main trainer and coordinator of the rapid intervention activities at Ngaragba Prison is my perseverance. Where other colleagues resist, I volunteer to lead. 

This has helped reduce certain prejudices about the capabilities of women in this work environment. I give maximum effort to the tasks entrusted to me; often more than male colleagues.

Today my colleagues admire my work, and encourage me to move forward. This has made other women from MINUSCA and the CAR prison administration more interested, with some women opting to train and work in rapid intervention.

To help increase the number of women deployed in non-traditional roles, I organize team meetings where I sensitize women to take an active part in the tasks that some consider are (better suited for) men.

I invite women to take part in training that aims to give them opportunities and allow them into spaces that were once considered men’s domain. I also entrust them with tasks in the same way as men.

My proudest achievement is the recruitment and initial training of 300 civilian professional prison officers, including five women, who are part of the prison administration’s rapid intervention team set up in 2022.

By setting an example as the Commander of the Rapid Response Team of MINUSCA’s Corrections Unit, I am changing the position and perception of women… in the field of security.

Together, with all the other women pioneers, we have a responsibility to carry the torch and break down gender stereotypes, prejudices and barriers against women in the field of corrections and security.”

29 May is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers - a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel.

United Nations
29 May is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers – a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel.


More than one million peacekeepers have served under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace.

Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships, a theme which is highlighted in this year’s International Day of Peacekeepers.

UN rights chief concludes China trip with promise of improved relations

During Saturday’s virtual press conference, Ms. Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlined the new opportunities for dialogue between her office and the Chinese authorities that were discussed during the visit, which include an annual senior strategic meeting, and a working group that will meet in Beijing and Geneva, as well as online.

The working group, explained Ms. Bachelet, will discuss specific thematic areas, including development, poverty alleviation and human rights, minority rights, business and human rights, counterterrorism and human rights, digital space and human rights, judicial and legal protection, and human rights.

The High Commissioner pointed out that, as her Office does not have a presence in China, the working group will allow for structured engagement on these and other issues, and provide a space for her team to bring specific matters of concern to the attention of the Chinese Government.

Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong on the agenda

During her mission, Ms. Bachelet spoke with a range of government officials, several civil society organisations, academics, and community and religious leaders. In addition, she met several organizations online ahead of the visit, on issues relating to Xinjiang province, Tibet, Hong Kong, and other parts of China. 

In Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, Ms. Bachelet raised questions and concerns about the application of counterterrorism and de-radicalisation measures and their broad application, and encouraged the Government to undertake a review of all counterterrorism and deradicalization policies, to ensure they fully comply with international human rights standards, and are not applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory way.

On the Tibet Autonomous Region, Ms. Bachelet reiterated the importance of protecting the linguistic, religious, and cultural identity of Tibetans, and allowing Tibetans to participate fully and freely in decisions about their religious life, and for dialogue to take place. 

Regarding Hong Kong, Ms. Bachelet urged the Government to nurture – and not stifle – the tremendous potential for civil society and academics in Hong Kong to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. She described the arrests of lawyers, activists, journalists and others under the National Security Law as “deeply worrying”, and noted that Hong Kong is due to be reviewed by the UN Human Rights Committee in July.

“To those who have sent me appeals, asking me to raise issues or cases with the authorities – I have heard you”, she declared. “I will continue to follow up on such issues and instances of concern on a sustained basis”.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks at the Institute for Human Rights of Guangzhou

UN Photo
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet speaks at the Institute for Human Rights of Guangzhou

‘China has a very important role to play’

The rights chief praised China’s “tremendous achievements” in alleviating poverty, and eradicating extreme poverty, 10 years ahead of its target date. 

The country, she added, has gone a long way towards ensuring protection of the right to health and broader social and economic rights, thanks to the introduction of universal health care and almost universal unemployment insurance scheme. 

A number of other developments in the country were welcomed by Ms. Bachelet, including legislation that improves protection for women’s rights, and work being done by NGOs to advance the rights of LGBTI people, people with disabilities, and older people.

The UN rights chief underscored the important role that China has to play, at a regional and multilateral level, and noted that everyone she met on her visit, from Government officials, civil society, academics, diplomats and others, demonstrated a sincere willingness to make progress on the promotion and protection of human rights for all. 

Sahel should be seen as region of ‘opportunity’ despite ‘multiple crises’

The Sahel is a vast under-populated region stretching across Africa from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, an area which is being destabilized by terrorism-related conflict, the effects of climate change and a lack of development.

UN News spoke to Mr. Annadif about the solutions to the problems the region faces.  

What is the historical context of the Sahel region?

The people who live in the Sahel are far from the centres of decision-making of the countries that make up the region and so they live on the margins. But they are resilient and self-sufficient, living from commerce and nomadic farming.

Following political turmoil in Libya and before that, in Afghanistan, this region has become a sanctuary for terrorist groups who use religion to incite hatred. This is not Islam, it’s a corrupted form of Islam that these groups want to spread to serve their plans, taking advantage of the fact that most of the people in the Sahel are very sensitive to religious issues.

Because of lack of basic services, and infrastructure, some people can be tempted to adhere to the discourse of these groups, who, in some situations play the role of the State by offering services like education, health and justice.

Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel.

UN News/Daniel Dickinson
Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel.

Can you describe the situation today?

Today, the Sahel has been infested with terrorists. With the fall of Libya’s Gaddafi, the region has become an open arsenal, where arms circulate like bread; anyone can get hold of a weapon, and this provokes violence.

The region is also suffering from the impact of climate change. Before, nomadic herders and farmers coexisted well alongside each other, but with climate change there is less land to cultivate and less grazing land for herders, and this has led to more inter-communal strife.

In the past, local leaders would help to alleviate these conflicts, but they have been driven out by the terrorists, who in some cases, manipulate and aggravate disagreements between farmers and herders in order to extend their sphere of influence. 

What type of crisis is the region faced with?

The region is facing multiple crises, for which the people of the Sahel are not responsible. These are global issues with global affects: we are seeing more illegal migration, more terrorist influence and the destabilization of states.

With a little support, Sahelian countries could make headway against these overlapping crises and provide a bulwark against terrorism. But it’s important that the international community remains engaged to support the efforts of the countries of the region.

A refugee Malian family who fled violence and conflict sit under their shelter in a settlement near Dore, in northern Burkina Faso.

UNOCHA/Giles Clarke
A refugee Malian family who fled violence and conflict sit under their shelter in a settlement near Dore, in northern Burkina Faso.

What are the solutions to these deep-rooted problems?

Investing more in education is vital to articulate durable solutions. In a region which is 60 to 70 per cent made up of young people, it’s crucial to redouble our efforts to ensure that young people have access to education.

It’s important that the State, and public institutions play their role by ensuring the delivery of basic services and putting in place development infrastructures.  There is no way out without development. And that requires a minimum of financial support.

It’s also important to see the Sahel as a region of opportunity rather than merely as a problem, and the people must be considered as part of the solution rather than as part of the problem.

Where are these opportunities?

Most of the people of the Sahel want peace; they are hard-working, resilient and can live with very little. They don’t ask for a lot. The opportunity is there to exploit the resources which lie below the surface of the land, for example subterranean sources of water, minerals and gold.

The terrorists sell gold mined in the Sahel to finance their operations.

If these resources were properly exploited, if the people who live in the Sahel would benefit, that would be a way to stop the illicit flows of drugs, arms and people across the region.

Even if these people are poor and neglected, they are proud and attached to their region and will never want to leave.

A soldier from Burkina Faso stands guard along the border with Mali and Niger during a military operation against terrorist suspects.

© Michele Cattani
A soldier from Burkina Faso stands guard along the border with Mali and Niger during a military operation against terrorist suspects.

How is the United Nations supporting these solutions?

The United Nations is a key partner in the Sahel, working in coordination of various partners to support the tireless efforts of the governments of the region.

As part of the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), the UN is contributing to peace consolidation, and humanitarian aid and development through the work of dedicated UN agencies, fund and programmes, that are serving the people of the Sahel on a daily basis, to shape a better future.

Under the leadership of Mar Dieye, the Office of the Coordinator for the Development of the Sahel (OCDS), is actively engaged in mobilizing regional and international partners to hasten the implementation of development programs and projects as part of the UNISS framework.

The governments of the countries of the Sahel are doing what they can, and we should continue to support them. Their efforts are necessary but are not sufficient to put an end to the various challenges.

Given the evolving global situation caused by the Ukrainian crisis, I call on the international community not to neglect the Sahel region, and to maintain its financial support and political engagement in the region. We must all remain mobilized at this is critical moment that the countries of the Sahel are experiencing. 

5 ways UN Peacekeeping partnerships drive peace and development

From protecting civilians in war-torn areas and building social cohesion, to ensuring the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, rebuilding infrastructure, and providing livelihood skills to impoverished communities – peacekeepers work with local and international partners to help create conditions for political solutions and sustainable development.

Ahead of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers (29 May) whose theme this year is People Peace Progress: The Power of Partnerships, here are five ways that peacekeeping partnerships drive change.

The Unity region of South Sudan experienced its worst flooding in 60 years in December 2021,

The Unity region of South Sudan experienced its worst flooding in 60 years in December 2021,

1. Advancing Climate Action

Climate change exacerbates the risk of conflict and makes recovery more difficult. Increasing drought, desertification, flooding, food insecurity, and water and energy scarcity in many parts of the world, is making it harder for conflict-affected communities to rebuild their lives. UN Peacekeeping serves on the front line of these compounding crises.

In December 2021, 70 per cent of the Unity region of South Sudan was submerged by water, following the worst flooding in 60 years.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in partnership with humanitarians and local authorities, took immediate action, with engineering peacekeepers from Pakistan building 70 kilometers of dykes to protect the town, camps for displaced families, the airport and roads that provide vital access for humanitarian aid as well as trade.

On 4 January 2022, UNMISS and its partners marked 100 straight days of battling the rising waters. In a truly communal effort, displaced families monitored the perimeter, checking for cracks in the mud dykes. 

Reflecting on the remarkable effort of all partners involved, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Bentiu, Hiroko Hirahara explains, “What I can proudly tell you is that everybody came together. I mean, this is the beauty of the people in Bentiu that we may be arguing here, there, everywhere, but once the situation hits, everybody comes together. We are working in solidarity. I think we are making progress.”

Radio Okapi host, Jody Nkashama.

Radio Okapi host, Jody Nkashama.

2. On the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, peacekeepers have continued to protect civilians from violence and maintain peace, while also supporting national responses to the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, radio has been an essential channel to disseminate timely and accurate information about COVID-19 transmission, prevention, treatment, and best practices, especially in local communities. At a time when most people were teleworking because of rising COVID-19 cases, MONUSCO’s Radio Okapi host, Jody Nkashama, was in the studio, trying to stop the spread by keeping listeners informed.

“We braved fear to serve more than 24 million listeners with reliable information on the pandemic, which had sparked various rumours and loss of lives, with a negative impact on the national economy,” explains Nkashama.

Beyond providing life-saving information and combating dangerous misinformation about the virus, Radio Okapi, which is run by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), played an important educational role for young students. As millions of children were unable to attend school due to stay-at-home orders, Radio Okapi stepped in to fill the gap.

In South Sudan, livestock is a lifeline for many families, helping them put food on the table, meet nutritional needs and educate their children.

In South Sudan, livestock is a lifeline for many families, helping them put food on the table, meet nutritional needs and educate their children.

3. Supporting local livelihoods

For peace to last, conflict-affected communities must be supported to rebuild livelihoods. Peacekeepers deliver and fund vocational and skills training workshops and services to help local communities generate income to support their families.

In South Sudan, healthy livestock is not only a symbol of social status, but also a lifeline for many families, helping them put food on the table, meet nutritional needs and educate their children. 

A weekly veterinary clinic is a longstanding tradition in Malakal, South Sudan, thanks to Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). From 2006–2015, and then in 2018, after a hiatus during heightened conflict in the region, Indian peacekeepers offered free veterinary services and training for local farmers to ensure the health of their livestock.

With no other veterinarians treating animals in Malakal, UNMISS’ veterinary services saved lives and livelihoods.

“Helping people sustain their livelihoods goes a long way in contributing to peacebuilding efforts across this young nation,” says Lt-Col. Phillip Varghese.  

4. Building national capacity to maintain peace and security

Peacekeeping missions work with host governments to build and improve national capacities to maintain security, law and order, and effective policing and justice mechanisms.

In March 2022, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), launched operation “Zia siriri ni Akomandé”, (“let peace reign”) in the northwest of the country.

The operation aims to reduce the influence of illegal armed groups and the impact of explosive devices through increased patrols and aerial reconnaissance missions.

Working closely with local communities and the national army, peacekeepers conduct patrols to assess the security situation and also learn about the concerns of the local communities. During recent patrols, the lack of medical supplies and access to schools were highlighted by the communities.

In response, peacekeepers have provided daily clean drinking water, school supplies and sport equipment, as well as free medical assistance, including for women and children. Roads have also been rehabilitated to improve living conditions and access to service.
“The number of incidents and attacks in the area has drastically decreased over the past few weeks, proof that there is a real impact from the actions of our units,” according to Lt-Col. Abdoul Aziz Ouédraogo.

5. Supporting women and youth in building sustainable peace

The leadership of women and youth is crucial in shaping the solutions that impact lives and which lead to peace and development. UN Peacekeeping operations support the meaningful engagement of women and youth to ensure that their priorities are central to security and political decisions.

Decades of conflict has divided the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In 2021, a project facilitated by the UN Mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP), and sponsored by the Netherlands Embassy, helped bring women from both communities together, through a centuries-old tradition: weaving.

The Klotho Women’s Initiative created projects on the loom that allowed Greek and Turkish Cypriot women of different ages to exchange their weaving knowledge.

“At the beginning, we felt like strangers, but through this bi-communal collaboration we got to know that we are the same,” explains Hande Toycan, a Turkish Cypriot. “By meeting each other, getting to know the life and habits of each other, we will slowly pave the way for peace.”

“Until this, I had no contact with Turkish Cypriots at all,” says Greek Cypriot Flora Hadjigeorgiou. “The first time I came into contact with a Turkish Cypriot was through the Klotho project. At the age of 65.” 

States urged to do more to help Haitians fleeing insecurity by sea

Speaking to journalists at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), told journalists that many of the dangerous crossings in the Caribbean Sea take place in overloaded and unseaworthy boats

Ms. Mantoo cited a recent example of a vessel carrying over 800 Haitians, bound for the United States, that instead arrived in Cuba after being abandoned by its captain and set adrift at sea.

Many of those who resort to dangerous sea crossings are fleeing the political instability and socio-economic insecurity of the region, which has put severe strains on communities throughout the Caribbean.

Haiti is being rocked by violent gang-related activity, internal displacement, natural disasters, and a lack of employment opportunities. Under such dire humanitarian and security conditions, the outlook for those pushed back or forced to return to the country is poor.

Refugees in the Caribbean region are not solely Haitian, but there are clear signs that more migrants and asylum seekers are fleeing the troubled island nation.

As of May, the US Coast Guard reported almost 3,900 interceptions of Haitian nationals, more than double the number reported a year ago. In addition, at least 175 Haitians have been reported to the Coast Guard as missing or deceased.

Countries must ‘fulfil international obligations’

Ms. Mantoo said that UNHCR is urging Governments in the region to fulfil their maritime rescue obligations, and ensure that all those in need of international protection are identified, and offered unobstructed and prompt access to fair asylum procedures.

Search and rescue at sea is a legal and humanitarian imperative, and those rescued include refugees and others in need of protection”, explained Ms. Mantoo. “Coordination, solidarity, and responsibility-sharing are crucial in responding effectively and ensuring that people in need of international protection are not returned to their country of origin, and the dangers they have fled”.

The spokesperson went on to note that countries receiving refugees and migrants have the first line of responsibility in protecting those who may have well-founded fears of persecution in their country of origin. 

“It is vital to ensure that arrangements for disembarkation of those rescued do not result in summary return, and that they have access to procedures to have their claims assessed before being expelled or deported”, Ms. Mantoo told journalists.

In response to the growing numbers risking their lives in perilous sea crossings, UNHCR is working with Governments in the region to support the response and reception of arrivals at their borders, strengthen asylum systems, ensure the protection of refugees in a fair and efficient manner, and support international human rights and refugee law, while respecting national security concerns and state sovereignty.

Chile: Apology for sterilizing HIV-positive women in moment of ‘reproductive justice’

This settlement is a significant moment for women around the world who have been fighting for reproductive justice for decades,” said UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima.

President Gabriel Boric Font issued the apology as part of a settlement resulting from a case brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by a Chilean woman who was sterilized without her consent shortly after giving birth in 2002.

“We welcome the recognition of international accountability in this emblematic case of human rights violations that women living with HIV and their reproductive autonomy have long suffered,” said Luisa Cabal, Director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Shocking surgery

When Francisca – a young woman from a rural town in Chile – turned 20, she and her partner received the happy news that they would be welcoming their first child. 

During a routine prenatal test, she was diagnosed with HIV.

Taking all the appropriate measures to minimize the risk of HIV transmission, she gave birth to an HIV-negative boy that November. 

However, during the caesarean section the surgeon decided without consent, to sterilize her. 

“Coercive sterilization of women living with HIV is a violation of women’s most fundamental human rights,” underscored Ms. Byanyima.

Making a case

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Chilean organization Vivo Positivo took Francisca’s case to IACHR in 2009 along with those of other HIV-positive women who documented that they were pressured to undergo surgical sterilization.

In another case, after giving birth, Daniela was told that she would transmit HIV to her newborn with a hug or kiss. She said in interviews that this was how she understood what discrimination was. 

Long road to justice

After more than a decade of international litigation and IACHR’s studying the case, the State signed a settlement agreement accepting responsibility and committing to redress the violations and take measures to ensure these acts would not happen again.

UNAIDS intervened in this case with a brief that informed the IACHR on the health guidelines and human rights standards that each country must follow to respect, protect and guarantee the human rights of people living with HIV. 

“It vindicates a journey of more than 10 years, both for Francisca and the organizations that accompanied her, in her quest for justice,” said Ms. Cabal. 

Public contrition

During an official ceremony, broadcast live on social media, President Boric apologized to Francisca “for the serious violation,” the denial of justice, and for the long time she had to wait.

“It hurts to think that the State…is responsible for these cases. I pledge to you…that while we govern, we will give the best of each one of us as authorities so that something like this will never happen again and certainly so that in cases where these atrocities have already been committed, they will be properly redressed,” he said.

The Associate Director of Legal Strategies for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Carmen Martinez, read Francisca’s statement saying that she could not have led the struggle in her own name as it would have “closed endless doors,” for her.

“To this day, people who carry HIV are still looked down upon with contempt as if it was our decision to become infected. However, I want to believe with conviction that this will change.” 

Stigma and discrimination prevail

HIV-related stigma and discrimination not only impact the health, lives and well-being of those living with or at risk of HIV but also hinder the response by limiting access to broader sexual and reproductive health and other health services.

UNAIDS continues its work to ensure that governments invest in preventing and responding to violations linked to the intersectional discrimination against people living with HIV.

“Unfortunately, this practice is still happening in many countries and efforts to stop it and bring justice to more women must be stepped up,” said the UNAIDS chief.

Ukrainian refugees arrive in Poland ‘in a state of distress and anxiety’

Poland remains the main country of arrival for refugees from Ukraine,” UNHCR spokesperson Olga Sarrado told journalists at a regular press briefing in Geneva.

And while the pace has slowed in comparison to early March – when over 100,000 people were arriving per day – May has continued to witness around 20,000 daily arrivals.

Vulnerable refugees

Although more people are going back and forth across the Ukraine border – for reasons including visiting family or returning to jobs – Ms. Sarrado said that given the ongoing hostilities, “Poland expects to continue receiving and hosting a considerable number of refugees.”

Newly arrived refugees often come from areas heavily affected by the fighting, some having spent weeks hiding in bomb shelters and basements,” she updated the press.

“They often arrive in a state of distress and anxiety, having left family members behind, without a clear plan for where to go, and with less economic resources and connections than those who fled earlier.”

In need of services

Along with queries on transportation, financial support, accommodation and access to social services, the refugees’ main concerns revolve around health services and medical needs.

“Poland has put in place systems to ensure legal stay, access to employment, education, health care and other social welfare schemes for Ukrainian refugees,” said the UNHCR spokesperson.

The Polish authorities have registered over 1.1 million people, 94 per cent of whom are women and children, providing them with a state ID number that enables access to services.

Multisectoral response

Supporting government-led efforts, UNHCR is helping with protection services, cash assistance, emergency supplies and reception capacity.

“UNHCR rolled out its cash assistance programme in March,” said Ms. Sarrado, adding that to date, the agency has established eight cash enrolment centres in main refugee hosting areas, including Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw, Ostroda, Gdynia and Gdansk.

Over 100,000 refugees from Ukraine have already received financial support from UNHCR to cover their basic needs, such as paying rent or buying food and medicine.”

Cash is provided for a three-month period to those most in need – serving as a transitional emergency safety net – until they can better support themselves or be included in government social protection systems.

“Almost 20 per cent of refugees enrolled for cash assistance have specific needs,” she explained.

Providing safety

In conjunction with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNHCR has set up 12 Blue Dot Safe Spaces in Poland, where refugees can receive immediate psychosocial support and access information on rights and services.

Critical protection assistance is also provided to people with specific needs, including referrals to specialized services and legal counselling.

Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to deliver humanitarian supplies into Ukraine from Poland, and has, so far, dispatched 139 aid trucks to help displaced and conflict-affected people inside the country.

“People and authorities of Poland have shown extraordinary generosity in welcoming refugees from Ukraine,” said Ms. Sarrado. “Strong commitment and support from the international community will be crucial to sustain this solidarity”.

Response plan

UNHCR stands ready to continue assisting the Polish authorities in ensuring that refugee needs are protected, met with dignity, and can transition to sustainable solutions.

In support of the Government-led response, UNHCR has coordinated the development of an Inter-Agency Regional Refugee Response Plan which brings together 87 partners in Poland.

Calling for $740.6 million to cover Poland’s prioritized needs, the UNHCR spokesperson informed the journalists that the plan is only 25 per cent funded.

‘Think resilience’ to protect against climate and other catastrophes

Delegates from some 184 countries gathered in Bali for the 2022 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction where they reviewed efforts to protect communities against a rising number of climate hazards and other catastrophes globally.

The summit concluded with an outcome document entitled the Bali Agenda for Resilience, which aims to prevent the world from facing 1.5 disasters a day by 2030, as cited last month in the Global Assessment Report.

Early warning systems should be inclusive of communities most at risk with adequate institutional, financial and human capacity to act on early warnings,” said the co-chairs’ summary.

State of affairs

During the meeting, only 95 countries had reported having multi-hazard early warning systems that give governments, agencies and the general public notice of an impending disaster. Coverage in Africa, Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing Countries was particularly low.

Early warning systems are a critical defence against disasters such as floods, droughts and volcanic eruptions.

In March, Secretary-General António Guterres had called for the warning systems to cover every person on the planet within five years.

Early warnings

A core recommendation of the Bali Agenda is to “apply a ‘Think Resilience’ approach to all investments and decision making, integrating disaster risk reduction with the whole of government and whole of society,” the co-chairs spelled out in their summary.

The outcome document also highlighted the need to reassess how risk is governed and policy is designed, as well as institutional arrangements that need to be put in place at global, regional, and national levels.

COVID influence

The meeting was the first international UN disaster forum to be convened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against that backdrop, the co-chairs observed that current approaches to recovery and reconstruction are “not sufficiently effective in protecting development gains nor in building back better, greener and more equitably.”

Transformative lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic must be applied before the window of opportunity closes.”

Sendai input

In parallel, the Midterm Review – which measures progress towards global targets of the UN’s Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – got underway.

Sharing advancements since the last Global Platform in 2019, delegates revealed a 33 per cent increase in the number of countries developing disaster risk reduction strategies and reporting through the Sendai Framework Monitor.

However, the Bali Agenda showed that “less than half of the countries reporting against Sendai Framework targets indicate having fit-for purpose, accessible and actionable disaster risk information.”

And while there has been some progress – such as developing new financing mechanisms and better linkages with climate action – “the data still points to insufficient investment and progress in disaster risk reduction in most countries, especially in investing in prevention.”

The seventh session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Bali, Indonesia.

UNDRR/Antoine Tardy
The seventh session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Bali, Indonesia.

Moving ahead

The Bali Agenda will be carried through to the next UN climate conference, known as COP 27, as well as the next meeting of the G20 leading industrialized nations and Midterm Review of the Sendai Framework.

This year the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, commemorated annually on 13 October, will be dedicated to early warning systems.

5 things you should know about the UN Ocean Conference, a chance to save the planet’s largest ecosystem

With delegates from Member States, non-governmental organizations, and universities attending, as well as entrepreneurs looking for ways to sustainably develop the “Blue Economy”, there are hopes that this event, taking place in the Portuguese city of Lisbon between 27 June and 1 July, will mark a new era for the Ocean.

1. It’s time to focus on solutions

The first Conference, in 2017, was seen as a game changer in alerting the world to the Ocean’s problems. According to Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Lisbon “is going to be about providing solutions to those problems”.

The event is designed to provide a space for the international community to push for the adoption of innovative, science-based solutions for the sustainable management of the oceans, including combating water acidification, pollution, illegal fishing and loss of habitats and biodiversity.

This year’s conference will also determine the level of ambition for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Decade will be a major theme in the conference, and will be the subject of several important events, laying out the vision of a healthier, more sustainable Ocean.

The UN has set 10 ocean-related targets to be achieved over this decade, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Organisation’s blueprint for a fairer future for people and the planet. They include action to prevent and reducing pollution and acidification, protecting ecosystems, regulating fisheries, and increasing scientific knowledge. At the conference, interactive dialogues will focus on how to address many of these issues.

Fish swim in Red Sea coral reef.

© Ocean Image Bank/Brook Peters
Fish swim in Red Sea coral reef.

The role of youth will be at the fore in Lisbon, with young entrepreneurs, working on innovative, science-based solutions to critical problems, an important part of the dialogue.

From 24 through 26 June, they will participate in the Youth and Innovation Forum, a platform aimed at helping young entrepreneurs and innovators to scale up their initiatives, projects and ideas, by providing professional training, and matchmaking with mentors, investors, the private sector, and government officials.

The forum will also include an “Innovathon,” where teams of five participants will work together to create and propose new ocean solutions.

2. The stakes are high

The Ocean provides us all with oxygen, food, and livelihoods. It nurtures unimaginable biodiversity, and directly supports human well-being, through food and energy resources.

Besides being a life source, the ocean stabilizes the climate and stores carbon, acting as a giant sink for greenhouse gases.

According to UN data, around 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones, rising to around one billion by 2050.

Plus, latest analysis estimates that 40 million people will be employed by ocean-based industries by the end of this decade.

3. Spotlight on Kenya and Portugal

Although the Conference is taking place in Portugal, it is being co-hosted by Kenya, where 65 per cent of the coastal population lives in rural areas, engaging primarily in fisheries, agriculture, and mining for their livelihoods. 

A local fisherman in Kenya who depends on fish for food and livelihood.

© UNDP/Amunga Eshuchi
A local fisherman in Kenya who depends on fish for food and livelihood.

For Bernadette Loloju, a resident of Samburu County, Kenya, the ocean is important for her country’s people because it allows them to get many of the goods they need. “The ocean contains many living organisms including fish. It also gives us food. When we go to Mombasa city, we enjoy the beach and swim, adding to our happiness”.

Nzambi Matee, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Champion of the Earth winner, shares the same vision. Nzambi lives in Nairobi, Kenya, and is the founder of Gjenge Makers, which produces sustainable low-cost construction materials made of recycled plastic waste.

Ms. Matee takes plastic waste from the ocean, fished by fishermen, and converts it into paving bricks – “my work of recycling plastic waste from the ocean has enabled me to employ over 113 youth and women, whom together have produced 300,000 bricks. I get my livelihood from the ocean, and therefore the ocean is life to me”, she said.

The passion for the ocean is shared with Portugal, the largest coastal European Union Member State with some four million kilometers of continuous coastline, and as such, a country that plays a central role in the Atlantic basin.

Nazaré beach in Portugal.

© Unsplash/Tamas Tuzes-Katai
Nazaré beach in Portugal.

“Our expectations for the UN Oceans Conference are that it will be a conference about action and not just about commitment”, says Catarina Grilo, Director of Conservation and Policy at Associação Natureza Portugal (ANP), a non-governmental organization working in line with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). ANP runs several projects in the areas of marine protection, sustainable fisheries, and ocean conservancy.

“The previous conference in New York was a really good moment to raise awareness about the role of the oceans for humanity’s well-being. At the time we had a lot of voluntary commitments from Member States and non-state organizations, but now it’s time to move from words to actions”.

4. The ocean and the global climate are intrinsically linked

The ocean and global climate heavily influence one another in many ways. As the climate crisis continues to pose an existential threat, there are some key metrics scientists are watching closely.

According to the latest climate change report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) global mean sea levels increased at an average of 4.5 mm per year between 2013 and 2021, due to ice sheets melting at an increasing rate.

The ocean absorbs around 23 per cent of CO2 generated by human activity, and when it does, chemical reactions take place, acidifying the seawater. That puts marine environments at risk and, the more acidic the water becomes, the less CO2 it is able to absorb.

Samuel Collins, a project manager at the Oceano Azul Foundation, in Lisbon, believes that the conference will serve as a bridge to COP27, due to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this November.

“The ocean is fundamentally integral to climate. It houses 94 per cent of the living space on the planet. I could reel off statistics that shock us all.”, says the 27-year-old Scot.

“The reason why the products that we buy in the shop are so cheap is because shipping transports 90 per cent of the goods in our homes, so there are many reasons why we are connected to the ocean, whether you’re a landlocked country or not. There’s no living organism on earth that is unaffected by the Ocean”.

Different fish species swim in a marine protected area outside the coast of Malta.

© FAO/Kurt Arrigo
Different fish species swim in a marine protected area outside the coast of Malta.

5. What can you do to help?

We asked some experts – including Catarina Grilo and biologist Nuno Barros at ANP, as well as Sam Collins at Oceano Azul Foundation – what citizens can do to promote a sustainable blue economy, while waiting for decision-makers and world leaders to move into action. Here are some ideas that you can incorporate to your daily lives:

  1. If you eat fish, diversify your diet in terms of seafood consumption, do not always eat the same species. Also avoid consuming top predators and make sure what you eat is coming from responsible sources.
  1. Prevent plastic pollution: with 80 per cent of marine pollution being originated on land, do your part to stop pollution reaching the sea. You can help by using reusable products, avoid consuming disposable products, and also making sure that you are placing your waste in the appropriate bins.
Beach clean-up at Praia da Poça, a popular little beach at the start of the Estoril - Cascais coast, in Portugal.

UN News/Teresa Salema
Beach clean-up at Praia da Poça, a popular little beach at the start of the Estoril – Cascais coast, in Portugal.

  1. Pick up trash from the beach, and do not litter. But also think that any step you can take to reduce your environmental footprint will help the ocean in an indirect way.
  1. Continue to advocate for solutions, whether that’s on the streets, writing letters to decision-makers, signing petitions, or supporting campaigns that aim to influence decision makers, at the national level or at a global level.

UN News will be in Lisbon to cover the Ocean Conference, so you can expect news stories, interviews, and features with experts, youth, and UN voices.

Look out for the latest updates on our page, and also on Twitter.

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