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UN rights chief on Myanmar refugees and a future of ‘kindness, empathy and unity’

Expressing deep sadness that more than 200 Rohingya – who fled military persecution in Myanmar in 2017 – have died trying to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh this year, Mr. Türk said that the boats used to make the crossings are not only “overcrowded and unsafe” but also “left to drift for days on end without any help”.

Heartfelt appeal

This year alone, more than 2,400 Rohingya have attempted the sea journey.

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And with no sign in sight of the crisis ending, the UN rights chief urged more countries to assist in their safekeeping.

Specifically, Mr. Türk urged States to coordinate proactive search and rescue operations, disembark Rohingya refugees on their territories, and ensure their protection.

He also called on regional and countries globally to help Bangladesh support the over one million Rohingya refugees who have sought protection there since 2017.

“An urgent solution must be found to enable the voluntary return of all Rohingya, with full respect of their dignity and human rights as full and equal citizens of Myanmar”, underscored the High Commissioner.

Turning the page to a new year

At the close of 2022, the senior UN official reflected on “the story we’d like to write for our future”.

“My hope for next year is that we lead our lives, individually and collectively, with kindness, empathy, and unity. In how we relate to each other. In our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, [and] online”, he said in his look ahead message for 2023.

‘Story of hope and unity’

Mr. Türk reminded recalled that if human rights are not protected “in the little places”, they lack meaning anywhere.

He argued for the protection of women’s rights at home and in public, saying that women and girls must have “full equality and freedom from discrimination”.

Children’s eyes must also be opened to the mistakes of the past, so they can “write a story of hope and unity” to create a better world in which “we celebrate diversity, convinced that we are stronger together than we are apart”, added the UN right chief.

Guided by humanity

He hoped for a future of online expression, protected from hatred and disinformation with consideration for other viewpoints; respectful disagreements; and embraced diversity.

“Think of the person on the other side of the screen”, urged the High Commissioner, reminding that “there is no place for dehumanizing the other by using reductionist labels or identity politics”.

“I hope our shared humanity will be our guide”.

2022-12-29 HC Volker Türk – Look Ahead 2023

Unified forces

Mr. Türk regarded human rights as “the force that come in and unify us”, bringing everyone “back to the fundamentals of who we are, of human dignity and to what connects us all with each other”.

He argued that one person’s pain ultimately hurts everyone and underscored the importance of safeguarding the rights of current and future generations.

“Let’s treat our planet with the kindness and the humility it deserves. And let’s make sure that actions to safeguard our environment are grounded in the human rights of all”.

According to the senior UN official, this requires bravery and the courage to listen and speak up when others are being wronged, to live in a space in which everyone can safely exercise their rights in justice and dignity.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights next year, let us strive to make the world more dignified”, concluded the High Commissioner. “A world where everyone’s rights are respected”.


UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk calls for a coordinated regional approach to protect the thousands of desperate Rohingya who risk their lives by undertaking perilous sea voyages. https://t.co/uNni1BEG7W https://t.co/tX0BV2mnx3

Ethiopia: Nationwide measles vaccination campaign integrates other live-saving interventions

Announcing the news, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it has already begun contacting communities to ensure a smooth operation. 

Measles, which is preventable, remains a major health problem in Ethiopia, with several outbreaks reported in different parts of the country, the UN health agency said. 

Vaccinations are planned across the nation for a total of 15.5 million youngsters aged nine to 59 months, including in hard-to-reach places affected by drought and conflict. 

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Integrating other interventions

In addition, and together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance,  WHO is integrating in the campaign, a range of other lifesaving services.

These include COVID-19 jabs and catch-up immunizations for under-vaccinated children, screening for acute malnutrition, vitamin A drops and deworming against intestinal parasites. 

On behalf of immunization partners in the country, Paul Mainuka, Acting Head of WHO Ethiopia Immunization, Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Cluster, congratulated the Ministry of Health for the initiative to reduce the risk of measles outbreaks and bring ongoing eruptions to an end, “thus protecting children from preventable sickness and death caused by measles”.

“It is also commendable that the campaign is integrated with other live-saving interventions”, he added.

Measles reduction strategy

In Ethiopia, measles remains a major health problem with several outbreaks occurring in different parts of the country.

To address this, Ethiopia adopted and began implementing key strategies to reduce the burden and head towards elimination.

Measures include strengthening routine and supplementary immunizations, surveillance, and case management.

WHO has supported the campaign financially and technically, and has deployed more than 100 experts for pre-, intra- and post-campaign activities, including monitoring the quality of services.

Poor nutrition equals poor health

Nutrition-related health problems are among the top causes of morbidity and mortality in children in developing countries, including Ethiopia.

And many women there suffer from obstetric fistula – a devastating condition that impacts the health, social and economic well-being of those affected and their families.

During the vaccination campaign, medical workers also plan to help these women following childbirth and identify clubfoot in children. 

These interventions will provide opportunities to receive much-needed treatment for obstetric fistula and avoid the life-long disability for children, as club foot is correctable when detected and treated early. 

Two-year-old Nunu gets vaccinated for #measles in Haik town, Amhara region, #Ethiopia. UNICEF supports a nationwide vaccination campaign to protect 15.5 million #children from life-threatening diseases.
#VaccinesWork https://t.co/tiBXgvkuIc

Arab region registers world’s highest unemployment rate, UN survey finds

However, the Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region, published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) projects post-COVID-19 economic recovery efforts to prompt a very slight decrease next year – to 11.7 per cent.

Mounting poverty

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Meanwhile, poverty measured against national lines also surged, affecting 130 million people in Arab countries, revealed the Survey.

Excluding Libya and Gulf Cooperation Council countries, more than one-third of the region’s population is affected.

Moreover, poverty levels are expected to rise over the next two years, reaching 36 per cent of the population in 2024.

Good news in growth

Notwithstanding disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, the Survey showed an expected 3.4 per cent growth next year throughout the Arab region.

While inflation rates jumped this year to 14 per cent, they are predicted to drop to eight and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in the next two years.

Noteworthy discrepancies

Yet, despite the region’s positive growth outlook, Ahmed Moummi, lead author of the Survey, pointed to significant discrepancies among countries – which were exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

Noting that repercussions were not the same for all Arab States, he maintained that Gulf Cooperation Council countries and other oil-exporting ones will continue to benefit from higher energy prices.

At the same time, oil-importing nations will suffer from several socioeconomic challenges, including rising energy costs, food supply shortages, and drops in both tourism and international aid inflows.

“The current situation presents an opportunity for oil-exporting Arab countries to diversify their economies away from the energy sector by accumulating reserves and investing in projects that generate inclusive growth and sustainable development”, Mr. Moummi underscored.

Through its annual Survey, ESCWA provides an analysis of the latest social and economic trends in the region to help member States in developing and implementing evidence-based policies, and improving economic planning processes for sustainable and inclusive development.

⚠️ #ESCWA in its annual Survey of the #Arab region: one third of the population living below lines despite positive growth.

Learn more in the latest version of the “Survey of Economic & Social Developments in the Arab Region”, released today 👉 https://t.co/C8YaZ2GTXl. https://t.co/mLnDn9qZte

2022 Year In Review: Celebrating women fighting for their rights

It often takes considerable bravery to stand up for the rights of women. The UN, which is committed to empowering women and girls, works relentlessly with activists and organizations across the world, to protect women from abuse, support health initiatives, and improve lives.

Afghan students stand to perform graduation pledges during their degree-award ceremony at a university in Herat, Afghanistan.
UNAMA/Fraidoon Poya

Graduating university students in Afghanistan. Women are now banned form attending university and high school (file)

Women living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan

August marked one year since the Taliban seized control once more, of Afghanistan, sparking widespread fears for women’s rights there, which were severely eroded during the regime’s previous time in power during the late 1990s.

Twelve months on, UN Women announced that the agency was committed to continue the struggle for women’s rights in Afghanistan, the only country in the world where girls are banned from going to high school, and effectively barred from political participation.

We marked the anniversary of Taliban rule by telling the stories of some of the women who have decided to stay in the country, even though their lives have been turned upside down.

They include Zarina*, formerly one of Afghanistan’s youngest entrepreneurs, who was forced to close her formerly thriving bakery, amid growing restrictions on women-owned businesses; Nasima*, a peacebuilder and women’s rights activists, who was forced to shut down most of her projects, but later managed to restart some initiatives; and Mahbouba Seraj, a veteran rights defender, who vowed to stay on and bear witness to what is unfolding in her country.

Ms. Seraj had a sobering message for those who think that Afghanistan is an exceptional case: “what is happening to the women of Afghanistan can happen anywhere, she said. “Roe v. Wade [the case that led to the national right to abortion in the US, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2022] destroyed years of progress, taking away the rights of women over their own bodies. Women’s rights being taken away from them is happening everywhere and if we are not careful, it will happen to all the women of the world”.

*Names changed to protect identities

Protesters gather in Stockholm, Sweden, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran's morality police.
Unsplash/Artin Bakhan

Protesters gather in Stockholm, Sweden, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini (file)

Mahsa Amini: the inspiration for widespread Iranian protests

In November, The UN human rights office, OHCHR, condemned the response of the Iranian regime to protestors demonstrating against the government, in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died in police custody in September, after being detained for wearing her hijab incorrectly, according to the so-called morality police.

Her death led to demonstrations in many Iranian cities, including protest by high-school age girls. The Iranian government responded by arresting thousands of protestors, including women, children, youth, and journalists.

On 22 November, OHCHR stated that, in just one week, more than 40 people had been killed in protests, including two teenagers, and two days later, the Human Rights Council created a fact-finding mission in relation to the demonstrations.

“It pains me to see what is happening in the country,” UN Human Rights Commissioner Volker Türk told those attending the session which voted in favour of the mission. “The images of children killed. Of women beaten in the streets. Of people sentenced to death”.

The growing international condemnation of the Iranian crackdown was reflected in the decision by members of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to remove Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on 14 December.

The CSW, which meets annually in March at UN Headquarters in New York, is described as the biggest gathering of gender equality advocates in the world.

The United States introduced the resolution, which received 29 votes in favour and eight against, with 16 countries abstaining.

Women who are part of a female farming cooperative tend to their crops in Chipata, Zambia.
© UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucker

Members of a female farming cooperative in Chipata, Zambia.

Women tackling the climate crisis

The climate crisis has been shown to disproportionately affect women and girls. In the weeks leading up to International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on 6 March, we highlighted the ways in which women activists improve their local environment, and help their community to adapt to an increasingly hostile climate.

They include Mexican violinist Martha Corzo, who led and inspired a group of some 17,000 local environmental activists, devoted to protecting the remote and beautiful Sierra Gorda; a group of women in Niger who have integrated refugees and migrants in their bid to stave off desertification by creating a thriving market garden; and a mechanical engineer in Kenya who had to fight gender discrimination to develop practical and affordable energy solutions.

In May, Cameroonian activist Cécile Ndjebet’s efforts to improve the lives of those who depend on forests were recognized, when she was awarded the 2022 Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award, which is chaired by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In Cameroon, roughly 70 per cent of women live in rural areas and are dependent at least in part on harvesting wild forest products for their livelihoods. However, in some communities, women cannot own forest land, inherit it if their husband dies, or even plant trees on degraded land.

“Men generally recognize the great role women play in improving families’ living standards,” she said at the ceremony, “but it is important for them also to agree that, for women to continue to play that role, and even improve in that role, they need secure access to land and forests”. 

Women in blue

UN women peacekeepers and police, continued to serve with distinction in some of the most dangerous postings in the world, facing challenges such as threats from terrorist attacks, and violence fuelled by a COVID-era surge in misinformation and disinformation, amid increasing political tensions, and deteriorating security situations.

On the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, in May, Major Winnet Zharare of Zimbabwe was presented with the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award, in recognition of her work with the UN Mission in South Sudan, where she was a strong champion for gender equality and women as decision-makers and leaders.

“Her diligence and diplomatic skills quickly gained the trust of local military commanders who sought her advice on women’s rights and protection”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the ceremony. “Her approach helped UNMISS strengthen bonds with local communities and deliver on its mandate.”

In July, at a historic ceremony in South Sudan, members of the first-ever deployment of UN Peacekeepers from Liberia, including several women, were honoured with the prestigious UN Medal.

Their achievement symbolized the huge turnaround in the fortunes of Liberia, which suffered a brutal civil war in the 1990s and early 2000s, before reaching a ceasefire, monitored by the UN Mission in the country, UNMIL, which also supported humanitarian and human rights activities; and assisted in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.

“Our experience of a 14-year civil war and the impact that UN peacekeepers had, is real and tangible for the people we are on the ground to serve,” said UN Police (UNPOL) officer Elfreda Dennice Stewart. “We benefited so much from peacekeepers, and it is our honour to now serve in this young nation under the iconic blue flag.”

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amplifyHER: celebrating exceptional women artists

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Many women produce art in the face of, and sometimes inspired by, the challenges they face in society, whether related to insecurity, human rights, climate change, inequality, or simply because of their gender.

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UN and top aid officials slam Afghan rulers’ NGO ban for women

“Banning women from humanitarian work has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans,” they insisted.

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Some aid programmes have already had to stop temporarily, owing to a lack of female staff, at a time when more than 28 million people in Afghanistan need “assistance to survive” the brutal winter, economic collapse and the risk of famine, the agency principals noted.

In a joint statement that followed Saturday’s reported decree by the Taliban that Afghan women must stop working for NGOs, the top UN officials insisted female staff were “key to every aspect of the humanitarian response in Afghanistan”.

Privileged access

In particular, this was because “they have access to populations that their male colleagues cannot reach”, they explained, while also insisting that Afghan women humanitarians “save lives”.

Their work must continue, the UN and NGO principals said, as “teachers, nutrition experts, team leaders, community health workers, vaccinators, nurses, doctors, and heads of organizations”.

Backsliding on progress

Echoing the message of the UN Secretary-General that the NGO ban will undermine the work of all organizations in Afghanistan in helping its most vulnerable communities, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Achim Steiner, said that the latest restriction would “accelerate Afghanistan’s backslide” into poverty.

The damage could take decades to reverse, the UNDP Administrator said, as he added that women’s work in Afghanistan amounted to over $1 billion in household income.

“Removing women from the public sphere of education and livelihoods could result in an immediate and significant loss to millions of Afghans in poor households that are already facing severe hardships,” he maintained.

A million women and girls face aid cuts

UN refugee agency head Filippo Grandi also condemned the Taliban decree.

“This ban must be lifted”, Mr. Grandi insisted, noting that more than 500 women staff work with his agency’s 19 NGO partners in Afghanistan, where they serve nearly one million women and girls.

“The most recent restrictions will force the UNHCR to temporarily stop critical activities in support of Afghan people, especially women and children,” he added.

The latest directive also risks pushing more families to flee across the borders as refugees, he continued, as he explained that women NGO workers across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have been “at the forefront of efforts to find solutions for Afghans affected by four decades of conflict and persecution, including millions of refugees and internally displaced people”.

A nurse stands in the neonatal ward at a hospital in Gardez, Afghanistan.
© UNICEF/Mihalis Gripiotis

A nurse stands in the neonatal ward at a hospital in Gardez, Afghanistan.

Female staff had helped UNHCR reach over six million Afghans since August 2021, said Mr. Grandi. “With so many other restrictions on women, this new decree will have a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s population.”

According to UNHCR, some 3.4 million people are displaced inside Afghanistan, along with another 2.9 million refugees living outside the country.

Rights abuses called out

In a strongly worded statement, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also warned that the Taliban’s latest decree jeopardised many basic rights in Afghanistan.

Since March, Afghanistan’s de facto authorities have barred an estimated one million girls from attending high school over the past year, and on 20 December, female students learned that they could no longer go to university.

This latest order forbidding women from working in NGOs “will not only deprive them and their families of income but will also completely erase their only social life and deny them an opportunity to contribute to the country’s development,” the CEDAW experts said.

A female Afghan volunteer engaged in a UNHCR-supported education project in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
© UNHCR/Oxygen Film Studio (AFG

A female Afghan volunteer engaged in a UNHCR-supported education project in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

Nation jeopardised ‘for a generation’

“Their exclusion also means millions of women and girls could be left out of the humanitarian response, which is critically important to the country where about six million people are at risk of famine.”

Warning that the move would “jeopardise the entire country for generation”, the experts also called for the immediate release of women reportedly arrested during protests that were triggered by the university ban.

“With the latest ban on universities, the country is now excluding half of its population from normal schooling, creating one of the world’s biggest gender gaps,” they said.

Solutions must be found: Resident Coordinator

The UN Resident Coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday afternoon that the UN relief chief – along with other senior officials – would be heading to the country in the coming days in search of a solution to the crisis over women’s participation in relief work and access to education.

He said “certain activities” had already been paused, reiterating that the UN system was fully “committed to the people” of Afghanistan and to full gender equality.

Taliban leaders are being engaged already at the “highest possible level” by UN leadership on the ground there, and Mr. Alakbarov stated that an agreement had already been struck with Taliban leadership in the health sector, so that there will be “no barrier” to women continuing with their lifesaving work there.

He emphasized that delivery of health services and other vital aid, would not be possible without women staff members, and it was “practically impossible” to launch any new programmes without female participation.

With more than 28 million Afghans in need, “we need to dissolve bottlenecks to address needs as systematically as we can”, he added.

It is essential to explain the consequences of the Taliban’s restrictions on women and girls to their leadership, “and work on the solution”. He highlighted that it would be impossible, for example, to offer protection services to women, without women on staff, or reach millions of women in need, using only male workers. 

Women’s human rights must be respected & protected in #Afghanistan.

This includes the right to work in national & int’l NGOs serving the Afghan people.

With no women staff, we will be unable to reach half the population. Our #IASC Principals statement:


UNESCO ‘deeply saddened’ over death of football legend, Pelé

The UN education and culture organisation which champions the power of sport across the world, UNESCO, tweeted that it was “deeply saddened” at his passing, and extended condolences to the Brazilian people, and the wider “football family”.

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As a 17-year-old, Pelé won his first football or soccer World Cup, in 1958, going on to lift the top trophy in the game a further two times, in 1962 and 1970. He scored a world record 1,281 goals, playing in 1,363 games during his professional career, which began when he was just 15.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, in 1940, the football giant, nicknamed, “the Black Pearl”, and “the King”, retired from the game in 1977.

In 1999, the Santos player and Brazil’s most venerated star, was voted player of the century in a poll of previous Ballon d’Or winners – the players who win the annual global football award for being the outstanding performers that year.

Scoring for the United Nations

He devoted considerable time in retirement to supporting the UN and its work, both as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, and as a UNESCO Champion for Sport, from 1994.

He was also appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the crucial UN Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992, one of the first major global development and environment summits devoted to a more sustainable future for all.

You can hear Pelé conducting a press conference ahead of the Earth Summit, from the UN audiovisual archives, here.

At the time, the Secretary-General of the Summit, Maurice Strong, described him as not only the greatest footballer in the world, but “a universal man”, rooted in Brazil.

“His commitment to people, to the planet, really distinguish him a true citizen of our earth”, he told reporters.

UNESCO said in its tweet, that he had “worked relentlessly to promote sport as a tool for peace. He will be greatly missed.”

In a tweet, the head of UN refugee agency, UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, wrote that “we are all with the people of Brazil” tonight, “celebrating a man who made millions of kids dream across continents, and generations.”

UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Goodwill Ambassador Pele (holding children) of Brazil, is greeted by children as he makes his way to Plenary Hall in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (June 1992)
UN Photo/Joe B. Sills

UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Goodwill Ambassador Pele (holding children) of Brazil, is greeted by children as he makes his way to Plenary Hall in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (June 1992)


We are deeply saddened by the passing of Pelé. We extend our condoleances to the Brazilian people and the football family.

@Pele was @UNESCO Champion for Sport since 1994 and worked relentlessly to promote sport as a tool for peace. He will be greatly missed.

Até sempre, o Rei. https://t.co/SkQeIYe6jg

Peace needed now, ‘more than ever’: Guterres

“Every New Year is a moment of rebirth”, said António Guterres. We sweep out the ashes of the old year and prepare for a brighter day. In 2022, millions of people around the world literally swept out ashes.”

The impact on civilians, meant that over 100 million people found themselves fleeing violence, wildfires, droughts, poverty and hunger, the UN chief said.

Let’s make 2023 a year when peace is restored to our lives, our homes, and our world

“In 2023, we need peace, now more than ever. Peace with one another, through dialogue to end conflict. Peace with nature and our climate, to build a more sustainable world.”

Living with dignity

Peace was also needed inside families and homes, “so women and girls can live in dignity and safety”, added Mr. Guterres, as well as peace on streets that too often have seen violent reprisals from security forces in response to peaceful protest.

Demonstrators and whole communities, need “the full protection of human rights”, he said, and for those with religious belief, there needs to be peace in places of worship, together with greater tolerance of other faiths.

Living free from hate

There also needs to be peace online, he added, so instead of disinformation, and conspiracy theories, all societies can enjoy the Internet “free from hate speech and abuse.”

In 2023, let’s put peace at the heart of our words and actions”, said the Secretary-General.

“Together, let’s make 2023 a year when peace is restored to our lives, our homes, and our world.”

Secretary-General António Guterres visits a refugee centre in Chișinău, in the Republic of Moldova.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary-General António Guterres visits a refugee centre in Chișinău, in the Republic of Moldova.

South Sudan: UN and partners make plea for urgent intervention to end ‘escalating violence’

UNMISS, the African Union mission, regional bloc IGAD, the so-called Troika (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway), the European Union, and the body overseeing the peace agreement signed by the warring parties in South Sudan (R-JMEC), issued a statement on Wednesday, saying they were “gravely concerned about the escalating ongoing violence, loss of life and reports of alleged use of heavy weaponry”.

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News reports quoting a local official said youths from the Nuer community had attacked members of the Murle ethnic group in Greater Pibor.

The fighting began when armed youths attacked the village of Lanam, according to Greater Pibor’s information minister. He told news outlets that members of both groups suffered fatalities, with 17 Murle community members among those injured.

The information minister for Jonglei state also reportedly condemned the fighting and called on young fighters from the state, to immediately end the violence, and return home. Both senior local officials called for central Government intervention to end the violence, according to news reports.

The world’s youngest country has been mired in violence which escalated not long after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, between Government forces led by President Salva Kiir, and fighters loyal to his rival Riek Machar.


The statement from the UN and partners urged combatants and supporters “to immediately cease hostilities, exercise restraint and respect human rights.” 

They called on South Sudanese leaders “to urgently intervene to stop the fighting and ensure the safety and security of civilians as well as unimpeded humanitarian access to people affected by the fighting.”

They emphasized the need to investigate and hold all perpetrators of violence to account, “including those who are instigating and inciting violence and those responsible for the abduction of women and children.”

Dialogue, not fighting

The statement also strongly encouraged national politicians and traditional leaders to persuade young fighters to stop the violence and pursue “a dialogue-based approach that focuses on restoring calm and peacefully resolving the root causes of the conflict.”

While the primary responsibility for protecting civilians lies with the national Government, UNMISS and international partners reiterated that they are ready to provide all necessary support to protect civilians in affected areas.

Peacekeepers serving with UNMISS, the UN mission in South Sudan, patrol Central Equatoria.
UN Photo/Isaac Billy

Peacekeepers serving with UNMISS, the UN mission in South Sudan, patrol Central Equatoria.

Stepping up patrols

“UNMISS is intensifying patrols in conflict hotspots and closely monitoring the situation, noting that such fighting has in the past led to significant loss of life and large-scale civilian displacement.”

The statement also noted that the “uncalled for violence” posed a serious risk to the peace and stability of all South Sudanese, and called on the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, to investigate, urging the parties to the conflict, to facilitate access. 

#UNMISS & international partners express grave concern over escalating violence, loss of life in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area; call on South Sudanese leaders to urgently intervene.

Full Press Release: https://t.co/2xb7I0gSfm


@RJMECsouthsudan @EUinSouthSudan

2022 Year in Review: Amid global turmoil, UN doggedly pursues international climate agreements

At the end of 2021, when the UN climate conference (COP26) wrapped up in Glasgow, none of those present could have suspected that a war in Ukraine would throw the global economy into turmoil, convincing many nations to suspend their commitments to a low carbon economy, as they scrambled to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas supplies, and secure fossil fuel supplies elsewhere.

Meanwhile, a host of studies pointed to the continued warming of the Earth, and the failure of humanity to lower carbon emissions, and get to grips with the existential threat of the climate emergency.

Nevertheless, the UN continued to lead on the slow, painstaking, but essential task of achieving international climate agreements, whilst putting sustained pressure on major economies to make greater efforts to cut their fossil fuel use, and support developing countries, whose citizens are bearing the brunt of the droughts, floods and extreme weather resulting from man-made climate change.

Wildfires raging across parts of the western USA turned the sky over San Francisco orange.
© Unsplash/Patrick Perkins

Wildfires raging across parts of the western USA turned the sky over San Francisco orange.

Record heatwaves, drought, and floods

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a litany of stark reports throughout the year. A January study, announcing that 2021 had joined the top seven warmest years on record, set the tone for the year.

In Summer, when record heatwaves were recorded in several European countries, the agency warned that we should get used to more to come over the next few years, whilst Africa can expect a worsening food crisis, centred on the Horn of Africa, displacing millions of people: four out of five countries on the continent are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030.

Whilst some regions suffered from a lack of water, others were hit by catastrophic floods. In Pakistan, a national emergency was declared in August, following heavy flooding and landslides caused by monsoon rains which, at the height of the crisis, saw around a third of the country underwater. Tens of millions were displaced.

Unprecedented floods in Chad affected more than 340,000 people in August and, in October, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) declared that some 3.4 million people in west and central Africa needed aid, amid the worst floods in a decade.

Fossil fuel power plants are one of the largest emitters of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
© Unsplash/Ella Ivanescu

Fossil fuel power plants are one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases

A ‘delusional’ addiction to fossil fuels

In its October Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, WMO detailed record levels of the three main gases – carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, which saw the biggest year-on-year jump in concentrations in 40 years, identifying human activity as a principal factor in the changing climate.

Yet, despite all the evidence that a shift to a low-carbon economy is urgently needed, the world’s major economies responded to the energy crisis precipitated by the war in Ukraine by reopening old power plants and searching for new oil and gas suppliers.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres decried their reaction, calling it delusional, at an Austrian climate summit in June, and arguing that if they had invested in renewable energy in the past, these countries would have avoided the price instability of the fossil fuel markets.

At an energy event held in Washington DC the same month, Mr. Guterres compared the behaviour of the fossil fuel industry to the activities of major tobacco companies in the mid-twentieth century: “like tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial accomplices must not escape responsibility”, he said “The argument of putting climate action aside to deal with domestic problems also rings hollow”.

Incorporating the perspectives of young people, including young women from highlands of Bhutan, into the Transboundary Partnership has been a key priority for the UN country teams across the region.
UN Bhutan

Young women from highlands of Bhutan

Clean, healthy environment a universal human right

The July decision by the UN General Assembly to declare that access to a clean and healthy environment is a universal human right was hailed as an important milestone, building on a similar text adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2021.

Mr. Guterres said in statement that the landmark development would help to reduce environmental injustices, close protection gaps and empower people, especially those that are in vulnerable situations, including environmental human rights defenders, children, youth, women and indigenous peoples.

The importance of this move was underscored in October by Ian Fry, the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights in the context of Climate Change. Mr. Fry told UN News that the resolution is already starting to have an effect, with the European Union discussing how to incorporate it within national legislation and constitutions.

Coral reefs are complex ecosystems that provide valuable habitat for fish and other animals.
© Ocean Image Bank/Matt Curnock

Coral reefs provide a valuable habitat for fish and other animals.

Breakthrough agreements reached at UN climate conferences

The year was punctuated by three important climate-related UN summits – the Ocean Conference in June, the COP27 Climate Conference in November, and the much-delayed COP15 Biodiversity Conference in December – which demonstrated that the organization achieves far more than simply stating the dire climate situation, and calling for change.

At each event progress was made on advancing international commitments to protect the environment, and reducing the harm and destruction caused by human activity.

The Ocean Conference saw critical issues discussed, and new ideas generated. World leaders admitted to deep alarm at the global emergency facing the Ocean, and renewed their commitment to take urgent action, cooperate at all levels, and fully achieve targets as soon as possible.

More than 6,000 participants, including 24 Heads of State and Government, and over 2,000 representatives of civil society attended the Conference, advocating for urgent and concrete actions to tackle the ocean crisis.

They stressed that science-based and innovative actions, along with international cooperation, are essential to provide the necessary solutions.


‘Loss and damage’ funding agreed, in win for developing countries

COP27, the UN Climate Conference, which was held in Egypt in November, seemed destined to end without any agreement, as talks dragged on way beyond the official end of the summit.

Nevertheless, negotiators somehow managed to not only agree on the wording of an outcome document, but also establish a funding mechanism to compensate vulnerable nations for the loss and damage caused by climate-induced disasters.

These nations have spent decades arguing for such a provision, so the inclusion was hailed as a major advance. Details on how the mechanism will work, and who will benefit, will now be worked out in the coming months.

However, little headway was made on other key issues, particularly on the phasing out of fossil fuels, and tightened language on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Enhanced biodiversity protection promised in Montreal

After two years of delays and postponements resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifteenth UN biodiversity conference, COP15, finally took place in Montreal this December, concluding with an agreement to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s lands, coastal areas, and inland waters by the end of the decade. Inger Andersen, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), described the outcome as a “first step in resetting our relationship with the natural world”.

The world’s biodiversity is in a perilous state, with around one million species facing extinction. UN experts agree that the crisis will grow, with catastrophic results for humanity, unless we interact with nature in a more sustainable way.

The deal, officially the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, includes impressive commitments, but these now need to be turned into action. This has been a major sticking point at previous biodiversity conferences, but it is hoped that a platform, launched at COP15, to help countries ramp up implementation, will help to turn the blueprint into reality.

UN migration agency to support 700,000 Ukrainians through ‘most challenging’ winter

Humanitarian funding from the European Union (EU), is enabling the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support over 700,000 Ukrainians with multi-sectoral assistance this winter, which is set to be “the most challenging season yet for the country”.

“Displaced and war-affected people will face new and growing challenges as the war drags on and winter grips Ukraine”, said Anh Nguyen, IOM’s mission chief in the country.

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Ramping up assistance

IOM’s winterization support includes refurbishing collective centres hosting displaced people; improving water supply, wastewater and heating systems; repairing damaged homes; and distributing high-thermal blankets, bedding kits, mattresses, and hygiene items.

Moreover, solid fuel and cash assistance are also being provided to help people sustain themselves with flexible means throughout the bitter cold season.

IOM will also use EU funding to stock critical items, ensuring that war-affected people in Ukraine continue to be reached, and support its partners responding to the urgent needs on the ground.

Our key priority is to support warm, safe, and dignified conditions to help people get through the next few months”, explained Mr. Nguyen.

‘Pressing needs’

Moving forward, mobile teams will conduct repairs in 375 collective sites and social institutions by improving insulation, fixing leaking roofs, replacing broken windows, and installing additional showers.  

IOM will refurbish 5,800 private homes and distribute emergency shelter kits for people to make necessary improvements themselves.

The UN agency will also support municipalities in areas recently retaken by the Government of Ukraine with construction materials and generators.

“As attacks continue leaving millions without reliable access to electricity, heating, and water, our humanitarian partners like IOM continue working to meet the most pressing needs,” said Claudia Amaral, Head of EU Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine.

18 million in need

Around 18 million Ukrainians, or 40 per cent of the country’s population, require humanitarian assistance, according to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates.

And continuous attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure have served to increase the war’s devastating impact for the most affected people.

IOM’s latest survey shows that despite multiple incursions on the country’s power supply and heating infrastructure, Ukrainians plan to spend the winter at their current locations.

Only seven per cent of nationwide respondents surveyed said they are actively considering leaving.

Meanwhile, private resources for survival are becoming scarce, as 43 per cent of all families in Ukraine have completely exhausted their savings.

@IOMUkraine is stepping up efforts to help displaced and war-affected people in 🇺🇦to cope with winter weather & power cuts. Together with @eu_echo, IOM will support over 700K people with multi-sectoral assistance⬇️
https://t.co/YQ94miVdZD https://t.co/CcFapfik29

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