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UN underlines support for Africa’s fight against terrorism

Leaders from across the continent joined ambassadors in examining how to counter terrorism and better prevent violent extremism through stronger cooperation between the UN and regional organizations. 

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The debate was chaired by President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique. The country, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, has been battling a deadly insurgency in the north for more than five years. 

‘Fertile ground’ for expansion 

The Secretary-General expressed deep concern over the gains which terrorist groups are making in the Sahel and other parts of Africa. 

“Despair, poverty, hunger, lack of basic services, unemployment, and unconstitutional changes in government continue to lay fertile ground for the creeping expansion of terrorist groups to infect new parts of the continent,” he said. 

Furthermore, fighters, funds and weapons are increasingly flowing between regions and across the continent, he said, while terrorist groups are forging new alliances with organized crime networks and piracy groups. Their “violent ideologies” are also being spread online. 

United against terrorism 

“Just as terrorism drives people apart, countering it can bring countries together,” said Mr. Guterres, pointing to several initiatives across Africa, including in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and Mozambique. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

“The United Nations stands with Africa to end this scourge,” he added. “Above all, it includes our ongoing close collaboration with the African Union (AU) and regional and sub-regional African organizations.” 

Mr. Guterres said the UN is delivering tailored assistance to African countries in areas that include prevention, legal assistance, investigations, prosecutions, reintegration and rehabilitation.  

Uphold human rights 

Alongside Nigeria, the UN is also co-organizing the upcoming African Counter Terrorism Summit and is strengthening work together on important peace initiatives. The Organization also advocates for new AU-led “robust” peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorism operations, with Security Council mandates. He urged countries to support this vital work. 

The Secretary-General also looked to June, when the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted in 2006, undergoes its eighth review. This will mark a “critical opportunity” for countries to find new ways to more effectively tackle the conditions that create the fertile ground for terrorism to spread. 

The meeting will also serve as a reminder that human rights must be at the centre of counter-terrorism efforts, he added. 

“Evidence shows that counter-terrorism efforts that are solely security-focused rather than human-rights based, can inadvertently increase marginalization and exclusion, and make the situation even worse,” he said. 

Terrorist ‘contagion’ continues 

The new AU Chairperson, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, noted that although terrorism has been around for ages “since the Libyan crisis in 2011 it has really exploded, and particularly in Africa.” 

As a result, thousands of foreign fighters and combatants flooded into the Sahel, which helped with importing terrorist groups onto the continent, along with “an uncontrollable circulation of weapons”. 

“In this way, progressively, terrorism took on greater and greater scope in Africa – from north to south, from east to west. And the terrorist contagion continues, broadening in almost all regions of Africa,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. 

He vowed to “spare no effort” to ensure an AU flagship initiative to “silence the guns” by 2030, becomes a reality. 

Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, chairs the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.
UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique, chairs the Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.

Different contexts, global threat 

Like climate change, terrorism is among the most serious threats to the international community, said President Nyusi of Mozambique, delivering his first-ever remarks to the UN Security Council. 

“The expansion of terrorism is quite threatening, and it is driven by factors that vary from context to context. On one hand, radicalization based on identity variables fuelled by intolerance and, on the other hand, the manipulation of socio-economic factors have accelerated recruitment to terrorist groups, particularly of the youth,” he said, speaking through an interpreter. 

Citing the 2022 Global Terrorism Index, he reported that some 48 per cent of terrorism-related deaths occurred in Africa, while the Sahel is the “new epicentre” of terrorist attacks. 

African expertise and solutions 

President Nyusi said African countries, the AU and regional organizations on the continent – such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the West African bloc ECOWAS, and its East African counterpart, IGAD – have accumulated years of experience in conflict resolution. 

A SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) has been fighting terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado for nearly two years – an example of “African solutions to African problems” and an approach that could be replicated elsewhere.   

“For Mozambique, this experience is vested with an added value, as, presently we are fighting terrorism combining SADC regional multilateral efforts with bilateral efforts between Mozambique and Rwanda, and together we are successfully fighting terrorism,” he said. 

Fund youth job schemes 

President Nyusi also offered proposals for the upcoming review of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, urging countries to establish a fund that would strengthen local community resilience, including through job creation projects for young people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. 

His other recommendations included prioritizing support for regional solutions to combat terrorism, and promoting a holistic approach that combines, security, judicial and socioeconomic interventions.  

He also highlighted the need to support developing countries which are unable to respond effectively to the impacts of “climate change and other man-made crises” because they are saddled with debt. 

Transform international finance 

He warned that the situation makes these countries increasingly vulnerable to extremism, terrorism and violent conflict.  

“For these countries to emerge from the current crisis, we call on the international community to restructure the debt and facilitate access to affordable funding for these high-risk countries,” he said. 

“To this end, the international financial system needs to be transformed by reforming multilateral financial institutions.”

No age, no culture, no religion, no nationality & no region is immune to terrorism.

But the situation in Africa is especially concerning.

Community by community, terrorist groups are trying to extend their reach.

The @UN stands with Africa to end this scourge, once & for all.

Mexico: Guterres calls for ‘thorough investigation’ into deadly migrant centre fire

The blaze at the migrant centre which was reportedly run by Mexico’s National Migration Institute in Ciudad Juarez, began during a protest against imminent deportations on Monday night, according to local officials.

There were 68 adult men in total staying at the facility, the Institute reported.

News reports said that most of the victims are believed to be Venezuelans, Guatemalans and other Central American nationals.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said in a televised news conference, that according to local sources, migrants had set their own mattresses alight, anticipating that they were to be expelled – unaware of the tragic consequences of their protest.

The city located right on the border across from El Paso, Texas, has seen an influx in migrants hoping to reach the US ahead of the anticipated end of the so-called Title 42 COVID-era restrictions, which authorizes the expulsion of migrants on emergency health grounds.

A sign on the border wall with the USA in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
© Unsplash/Alejandro Cartagena

A sign on the border wall with the USA in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

UN chief ‘deeply saddened’

Briefing correspondents at the regular noon briefing in New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, said the UN chief António Guterres was “deeply saddened” by the deaths, and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.

The Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General was calling for “a thorough investigation into this tragic event, and of course we all reiterate our commitment to work with the authorities of countries where mixed movements of people occur, to establish safer, more regulated, and more organised migration routes.”

Exploitation by criminal gangs

Asked to comment further on how the UN could intervene to make conditions on the Mexico-US border safer for desperate migrants, Mr. Dujarric said that Member States needed to live up to the commitments they have made, as signatories to the UN-led Global Compact for Migration.

“What we have now, broadly, are criminal gangs, basically managing global migration, with the horrific results that we see every day.”

UN chief calls for new tool to find 100,000 ‘disappeared’ Syrians

Entering its 13th year of brutal civil war and scrambling to recover from devastating earthquakes in February, Syria and its people “deserve peace” and to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.

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100,000 Syrians missing

“The whereabouts and fate of an estimated 100,000 Syrians remains unknown,” he said. “People in every part of the country and across all divides have loved ones who are missing, including family members who were forcibly disappeared, abducted, tortured, and arbitrarily detained.”

Commending the courageous work of Syrian family, victim, and survivor associations and other civil society groups to chart a path forward, he called on the General Assembly to establish a new international institution.

“We must work to resolve this deeply painful situation with determination and urgency,” he said, urging all Member States to act and calling on the Government of Syria and on all parties to the conflict to cooperate.

“It is essential to help Syrians heal and remove an obstacle to securing sustainable peace,” he said. “The international community has a moral obligation to help ease their plight.”

New proposed mechanism

Echoing that call and elaborating on the parameters of such a new mechanism, Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, shared findings of consultations with major stakeholders, from the International Committee of the Red Cross to Syrian associations.

Those consulted, along with a number of Member States, had agreed that a new, dedicated entity should be tasked with streamlining existing efforts.

The mechanism would be centred on victims and survivors, emphasize gender sensitivity, ensure inclusivity, operate without discrimination, and would be guided, in all search activities, by the working presumption that the missing person is alive and in urgent need of help, he said, drawing on stakeholder consultations.

“The crisis of missing persons in Syria is crushing in its enormity,” he said. “The continuing absence of many tens of thousands of people, from small children to elderly men and women, cries out for strong action. This shared pain in neighbourhoods and villages across the country must be addressed. Reconciliation will remain distant without such work.”

Mending divided communities

Proposing several additional parameters, he said the mechanism must be located where survivors and families feel safe, be fully grounded in human rights, and ensure transparency and adaptability.

“There will be no enduring peace in Syria without progress on these issues that are fundamental to families, communities, and society as a whole,” he said. “Steps in this direction can begin to restore trust between divided communities. We owe the people of Syria no less.”

UN Human Rights Chief @volker_turk highlights devastating crisis of missing persons in #Syria as conflict enters its 13yr. Calls on UN General Assembly to establish new, independent institution to bring answers & support to families & survivors.
👉https://t.co/L2HC6iJiJw https://t.co/GqEefPkvq1

Cosmic crops poised for harvest on Earth

“This is science that could have a real impact on people’s lives in the not-too-distant future, by helping us grow stronger crops and feed more people,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said.

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With the world’s population estimated to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, there is a clear need for innovative solutions through science and technology aimed at producing more food, as well as crops that are more resilient and farming methods that are more sustainable, the agencies said.

Reaching for the stars

While similar experiments have been carried out since 1946, this is the first time that the IAEA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are conducting genomic and biological analyses on seeds sent to space in around 60 years of experience in inducing plant mutations that could be of benefit to people and planet.

The experiment aims at developing new crops that can adapt to climate change and help boost global food security.

Two kinds of seeds are now in space: arabidopsis, a type of cress that has been studied extensively by plant botanists and geneticists, and sorghum, which belongs to the family of millets and is a drought and heat-tolerant grain grown in many developing countries for food.

The seeds were sent in an uncrewed cargo shuttle from NASA on 7 November 2022. While in space, they were exposed to a complex mixture of cosmic radiation, microgravity, and extreme temperatures, inside and outside the International Space Station (ISS).

Upon their return in early April, scientists at the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture plan to grow the seeds and screen them for useful traits to better understand space-induced mutations and identify new varieties.

Transforming agrifood systems

Once grown, a series of analyses will help understand whether cosmic radiation and harsh space conditions can lead to crops becoming more resilient in the face of increasingly difficult growing conditions on Earth, the agencies said.

“I am very proud of our partnership with IAEA, bearing fruits both on Earth for years, and now with seeds that travelled through space,” FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said.

“I am in awe of the resilience of nature, and excited by the endless benefits that space exploration can bring to transform our agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable across the globe.”

IAEA and FAO send seeds to space

Why are astronauts growing food in space?

@FAO Goodwill Ambassador @Thom_Astro explains why in this podcast 👉🏻https://t.co/fR4v9KwR47

#FoodHeroes #SeedsInSpace https://t.co/l9rzPJ4aBc

Libya: Crimes against humanity committed since 2016 – rights probe

In the case of State security forces, human rights violations were committed to quash dissent and exploit vulnerable migrants, with no justice in sight, according to the latest report, from the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya.

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It documents the “widespread practice” of arbitrary detention, murder, torture, rape, enslavement and enforced disappearance in the country. In addition, the Mission states for the first time that sexual slavery was committed against migrants.

“There is an urgent need for accountability to end this pervasive impunity,” said Mohamed Auajjar, the Mission’s chair. “We call on Libyan authorities to develop a human rights plan of action and a comprehensive, victim-centred roadmap on transitional justice without delay, and hold all those responsible for human rights violations accountable.”

Libya has been in turmoil since the ouster of former long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, with the country divided between rival administrations and warring militias, with a UN-recognized Government of National Accord based in the capital Tripoli and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army holding sway in the east and southern areas of the oil-rich nation.

No accountability

The Mission which has reported since 2016, noted that accountability for the violations was severely lacking, as most survivors were too afraid and mistrustful of the justice system to officially report the abuse. As a result, the violations continue “unabated”, the Mission said.

As its mandate comes to an end next week, the Mission called for the creation of new rights monitoring and investigation mechanisms, to “support Libyan reconciliation efforts” and help the authorities achieve “transitional justice and accountability.”

Widescale exploitation of migrants

The report notes that more than 670,000 migrants from over 41 countries were present in Libya in the period since July 2022, when the Mission’s mandate was last extended, until March of this year.

The Mission interviewed more than 100 migrants over the course of its investigations and its report points to “overwhelming” evidence of systematic torture and sexual slavery, among other violations.

Detention centres in which migrants were enslaved were “under the actual or nominal control” of the authorities, including the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration and the Libyan Coast Guard.

The “widescale” exploitation of migrants is a lucrative business, the Mission said, noting that “trafficking, enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling generated significant revenue for individuals, groups and State institutions.”

Abuses in detention

Detention-related violations were also found to affect Libyans on a large scale, and the Mission points to the responsibility of State authorities and their leadership.

The report notes that victims “came from every segment of Libyan society and included children, adult men and women, human rights defenders, political participants, civil society representatives, members of military or security forces, legal professionals and persons of perceived or actual diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Most of those interviewed by the Mission were held without charge in horrific conditions, “subjected regularly to torture, solitary confinement, held incommunicado” and denied access to water, food and other essentials.

Children walk past damaged buildings in Benghazi in Libya.
© UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

Children walk past damaged buildings in Benghazi in Libya.

Women’s rights going in reverse

According to the Mission, the situation of women in Libya has only worsened over the past three years, in a context of a “weakening of State institutions” amid the rising power of armed groups.

The report documents “systematic” discrimination against women, a rise in domestic violence, which is not punished by any comprehensive law, and a lack of accountability for crimes against prominent women leaders, such as the enforced disappearance of member of parliament Sihem Sergiwa nearly four years ago, and the killing of Hannan Barassi in 2020.

The Mission reiterated its call on the authorities in Benghazi, where the two high-profile crimes took place, to “adequately investigate” them and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Investigation mechanism still needed

Established by the Human Rights Council in 2020 to investigate human rights violations by all parties since the beginning of 2016, the Mission’s mandate ends on 4 April, at a time when “the human rights situation in Libya is deteriorating, parallel State authorities are emerging and the legislative, executive and security sector reforms needed to uphold the rule of law and unify the country are far from being realized,” says the report.

In this context, the Mission calls on the Human Rights Council to establish a “sufficiently resourced, independent international investigation mechanism,” and on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to create another mechanism “with an ongoing mandate to monitor and report on gross human rights violations in Libya.”

Violators should be ostracized

Among other recommendations, the report calls on the international community to “cease all direct and indirect support to Libyan actors involved in crimes against humanity and gross human rights violations against migrants, such as the Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, the Stability Support Apparatus and the Libyan Coast Guard.”

The Mission also says it will share its findings with the International Criminal Court, including a list of “possible perpetrators” of international crimes.

UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts such as the members of the Mission work on a voluntary and unpaid basis, are not UN staff, and work independently from any government or organization.

Political deadlock

Following a UN-brokered ceasefire in October 2020, elections were due to take place in December 2021, but were postponed.

Last month, Abdoulaye Bathily, Special Representative for Libya and head of the UN’s political mission in the country (UNSMIL) announced to the Security Council a new initiative aiming to facilitate the holding of presidential and legislative elections before the end of the year.

Speaking about the need for reconciliation in Libya, Mr. Bathily said at the time, “Reconciliation is a long-term process that should be inclusive, victim-centred, rights-based and grounded on transitional justice principles.”

🇱🇾 The #HumanRights situation in #Libya is deteriorating and State authorities & security apparatuses are strengthening their grip over civic space through crackdowns on civil society organizations and women activists, the Libya Fact-Finding Mission said👉 https://t.co/EceEzhd7Un https://t.co/UljOyJDcWh

Holistic approach urgent for health of people, animals and environment

The heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN-backed World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) have come together in the face of multiple global emergencies – from COVID-19 to Ebola – continued threats of disease spillover between animals and humans, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

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In a statement, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, FAO chief QU Dongyu, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, and WOHA’s head, Monique Eloit, stressed the need to prioritize “One Health” approaches, to invest in building workforces with cross-sectoral skills, and to prevent health threats at the source, with close attention paid to zoonotic diseases.

A guide on how to best implement these approaches will be published later this year.

Call to action

Stressing the need for enhanced collaboration and commitment to translate the One Health approach into policy action in all countries, the Quadripartite leaders urge all countries and key stakeholders to embrace seven priorities for action:

1.     Prioritize One Health in terms of the international political agenda, making it a guiding principle in global mechanisms; including the new global pandemic accord being negotiated now.

2.     Strengthen national One Health policies, strategies and plans, costed and prioritized in line with the Quadripartite One Health Joint Plan of Action (OH JPA).

3.     Accelerate the implementation of One Health plans, including supporting national One Health development agendas.

4.     Build intersectoral One Health workforces that have the skills, capacities and capabilities to prevent, detect, control, and respond to health threats in a timely and effective way.

5.     Strengthen and sustain prevention of pandemics and health threats at source, targeting activities and places that increase the risk of zoonotic spillover between animals to humans.

6.     Encourage and strengthen One Health scientific knowledge and evidence creation and exchange, research and development, technology transfer and sharing new tools and data.

7.     Increase investment and financing of One Health strategies and plans ensuring scaled up implementation at all levels, including funding for prevention of health threats at source.

“To build one healthier planet we need urgent action to galvanize vital political commitments, greater investment and multisectoral collaboration at every level”, the agency chiefs said.

The Quadripartite has been playing a central role in promoting and coordinating a global One Health approach, in line with the OHJPA which was launched in October last year.

When it comes to ensuring the health of people, plants, animals & our planet, we must work together to find ways to reduce the need for antimicrobials.

A #OneHealth approach is crucial to preventing, detecting & controlling diseases & #AntimicrobialResistance.

#AMR https://t.co/f9ITwAB5SA

Dismantling racism today starts by understanding slavery’s ‘horrific’ past

“It is incumbent on us to fight slavery’s legacy of racism,” the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. “The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is education, the theme of this year’s commemoration.”

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Observed on 25 March, the international day commemorates the victims of one of history’s most horrific crimes against humanity that was legalized for more than 400 years, well into the 19th century, resulting in the forced deportation of over 15 million men, women, and children.

Long shadow of slavery

“The scars of slavery are still visible in persistent disparities in wealth, income, health, education, and opportunity,” he said, also pointing to the current resurgence of white supremacist hate.

Just as the slave trade underwrote the wealth and prosperity of the colonizers, it devastated the African continent, thwarting its development for centuries, he said.

“The long shadow of slavery still looms over the lives of people of African descent who carry with them the transgenerational trauma and who continue to confront marginalization, exclusion, and bigotry,” he said.

Teach histories of ‘righteous defiance’

Governments everywhere should introduce lessons into school curricula on the causes, manifestations, and far-reaching consequences of the transatlantic slave trade, he said.

“We must learn and teach the horrific history of slavery, and we must learn and teach the history of Africa and the African diaspora, whose people have enriched societies wherever they went, and excelled in every field of human endeavour,” the Secretary-General said.

He pointed to examples of righteous resistance, resilience, and defiance as Queen Nanny of the Maroons, in Jamaica, Queen Ana Nzinga of Ndongo in Angola, freedom fighter Sojourner Truth, who was born into slavery, and Toussaint Louverture of Saint-Domingue, who transformed a rebellion into a revolutionary movement and is known today as the “Father of Haiti”.

“By teaching the history of slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vicious impulses, and by honouring the victims of slavery, we restore some measure of dignity to those who were so mercilessly stripped of it,” he said.

Dismantle the foundations

General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said that while the transatlantic slave trade is over, the foundations on which it stood have not been fully dismantled, he said, adding that racism, including anti-black racism and discrimination, are still present in societies.

“Many Africans and people of African descent continue to feel that they are fighting an uphill battle for the recognition of an assault on their rights that was neither repaired nor rectified,” he said.

This is why this Day of Remembrance is so important, because it creates a space to reflect on a dark and shameful chapter of the world’s shared history, he said.

“History, the facts of which should not be distorted, must serve as a lesson for all of us,” he said. “Through education, we can confute any revisionism with undisputable facts, raise awareness of the dangers caused by misconceptions of supremacy past or present, and ensure that no one will ever experience the hell lived by the 15 million we commemorate today.”

“Through education, the painful stories of racism can be transformed into a future of peace,” he said.

‘A more hopeful future’

During the event, Brazilian philosopher and journalist, Djamila Ribeiro, delivered the keynote address, explaining how she has been using the power of education to fight discrimination against Afro-Brazilians. Her work is reflected in her bestselling book ‘Little Anti-Racist Manual’ and her influential Instagram account, which has more than one million followers.

“It’s important to remember that Brazil was the last in the Americas to abolish slavery,” she said. “History needs to be remembered so that, in the present, we can overcome and transform its consequences and build a more hopeful future.”

Also addressing the world body was American university student Taylor Cassidy, recognized as one of TikTok’s 2020 Top 10 Voices of Change, empowering her 2.2 million followers with uplifting videos related to Black history.

“It is crucial to invest in quality education,” she said. “At a time when racism still affects our laws, systems and descendants of its victims, education is the key to countering injustice and moving forward.”

The Secret History of The Underground Railroad | Global Lens


How the UN helps to remember the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade:

  • The UN Department of Global Communications Outreach Programme on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery will host a panel discussion at UN Headquarters on Thursday to highlight efforts by museums to include the voices of people of African descent and deal with the colonial past.The featured speaker will be Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative – a non-profit working to end mass incarceration in the United States.
  • A free interactive exhibition Slavery: Ten True Stories of Dutch Colonial Slavery, brought to the UN by the Rijksmuseum of the Netherlands, opened in February at the UN Headquarters’ Visitors’ Lobby, on display until 30 March.
  • The UN Remember Slavery Programme has, since its inception in 2007, established a global network of partners, including from educational institutions and civil society, and developed resources and initiatives to educate the public about this dark chapter of history and promote action against racism.
  • The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Slave Route Project focuses on breaking the silence surrounding the history of slavery, promoting the contributions of people of African descent to the general progress of humanity, and questioning the social, cultural and economic inequalities inherited from this tragedy.
  • The Ark of Return, by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon, is a permanent memorial located at UN Headquarters, and open to all visitors.

“It is crucial to invest in quality education. In a time where racism still affects our laws, systems & the descendants of its victims, education is the key to countering injustice and moving forward” @taylorcassidyj @UN #UNGA commemorative meeting on #RememberSlavery Day. https://t.co/x1mW0rGBH2

Ukraine: End war so children can ‘regain their childhoods’

Some 13 months of often brutal fighting and attacks on civilians since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine began, have left millions displaced, with key civilian infrastructure in need of urgent protection.

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Ensuring nuclear safety

Touring the area around Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the nearby city of the same name, to discuss ongoing threats.

Assessing the serious nuclear safety and security situation, Mr. Grossi underlined the urgent need to protect the power plant during the ongoing military conflict in the country.

IAEA teams are rotating in and out of the plant, which remains under the control of Russian forces.

“Despite our presence at the site for seven months now, the situation at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant is still precarious,” he said.

The nuclear safety and security dangers are all too obvious, he cautioned.

It is necessary “to act now to prevent an accident with potential radiological consequences to the health and the environment for people in Ukraine and beyond”, he stressed.

Mr. Grossi said his travel to Ukraine was also aimed at ensuring the regular rotation of IAEA experts to and from the site is maintained and improved, following the very challenging circumstances faced by the experts during the previous rotation in February, which had been delayed by almost a month.

During the current visit, he was accompanied by a new group of IAEA experts, the seventh such team present at the site since the IAEA Support and Assistance Mission to Zaporizhzhya was established.

Mr. Grossi and Mr. Zelenskyy also visited the Dnieper hydroelectric station, which is an essential component for nuclear safety at the Zaporizhzhya plant.

“I remain determined to continue doing everything in my power to help reduce the risk of a nuclear accident during the tragic war in Ukraine,” Mr. Grossi said.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi meets Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on 27 March 2023.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi meets Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on 27 March 2023.

Bomb-shelter classrooms

Since February 2022, thousands of schools have reportedly been severely damaged or destroyed by bombing and shelling, leaving almost 2.7 million Ukrainian children accessing learning online or through hybrid modalities, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.

Concluding a three-day visit to Kyiv, Irpin, and Demydiv, Hollywood star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mr. Bloom said education can and must be an anchor to children in a time of war, where an estimated 1.5 million children in Ukraine are at risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, with long-term implications.

“Amid the chaos and uncertainty of war, supporting children’s education is an essential tool in protecting their long-term mental health and wellbeing,” he said. “Above all, children need an end to this war and sustained peace to regain their childhoods, return to normalcy and begin to heal and recover.”

In Irpin, a town heavily impacted by the early days of the fighting, he visited a bomb-shelter classroom, converted with UNICEF support, to provide a safe space for children to continue learning when air-raid sirens may sound.

Safe spaces

“Some of the children I have met, such as 10-year-old Hanna from Volnovakha, Donetsk region, have had limited access to face-to-face education for more than a year,” Mr. Bloom said.

At UNICEF’s Spilno Child Spots in Irpin and Kyiv, Mr. Bloom saw children play and learn. They can also benefit from psychosocial support, medical checks, and referrals to specialized services. He also met with President Zelenskyy to discuss educational challenges amidst the conflict.

“While UNICEF is helping ensure that children are able to learn online, they are still missing out on the crucial experience of interacting with their classmates and teachers,” Mr. Bloom said. “Especially for younger children, these interactions are key for their emotional and cognitive development and cannot be replaced by a computer screen.”

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom meets children affected by the war in Ukraine.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom meets children affected by the war in Ukraine.

Growing needs

In 2022, over 500,000 children and their caregivers visited 180 Spilno Spots across Ukraine. Over the past year, UNICEF has provided education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and protection assistance to children and families affected by the war, including efforts in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine.

UNICEF continues delivering for children inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries and requires $1.05 billion to meet the growing needs of 9.4 million people, including 4 million children, who remain deeply impacted by the war.

Security Council rejects fresh action on pipeline explosions

On Monday, the UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution that would have authorized an international independent investigation commission into the explosions in September last year, of the Russian-operated Nord Stream gas pipelines.

Brazil, China, and Russia voted for the draft, with none voting against it, and 12 Council members cast abstentions.

The two Nord Stream pipelines built to carry natural gas from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, sustained millions of dollars in damages from the blasts. National investigations have yet to yield any conclusive evidence into how the explosions occurred.

Nord Stream I carried gas to Germany from Russia until Moscow cut off supplies last August, while the second pipeline never became operational, after Germany suspended it’s involvement in the service just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Council had debated the issue in February, noting that investigations are ongoing by governments in the region.

Director General of the IAEA @rafaelmgrossi and @ZelenskyyUa visited 🇺🇦Ukraine’s #Dnieper hydroelectric station – an essential component for nuclear safety at the #Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. https://t.co/0ADlfuie4D

Fight slavery’s 'legacy of racism' through education: Guterres

He said the history of slavery is one of suffering and barbarity that shows humanity at its worst. 

“But it is also a history of awe-inspiring courage that shows human beings at their best – starting with enslaved people who rose up against impossible odds and extending to the abolitionists who spoke out against this atrocious crime,” he added.

An ‘evil enterprise’ 

For more than 400 years, over 13 million Africans were trafficked across the Atlantic Ocean in what the Secretary-General called the “evil enterprise of enslavement”. 

Men, women and children were “ripped from their families and homelands – their communities torn apart, their bodies commodified, their humanity denied.” 

Slavery memorial in Stone Town, Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. Photo: Israa Hamad
UN/Israa Hamad

Slavery memorial in Stone Town, Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania. Photo: Israa Hamad

A haunting legacy 

“The legacy of the transatlantic slave trade haunts us to this day.  We can draw a straight line from the centuries of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities of today,” he said. 

“And we can recognize the racist tropes popularized to rationalize the inhumanity of the slave trade in the white supremacist hate that is resurgent”, he added. 

Mr. Guterres stressed that it was incumbent on everyone to fight slavery’s legacy of racism, using the “powerful weapon” of education – the theme of this year’s commemoration.  

Unite against racism 

Teaching the history of slavery can “help to guard against humanity’s most vicious impulses,” he said. 

“By studying the assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish for centuries, we unmask the racism of our own time,” he added. “And by honouring the victims of slavery, we restore some measure of dignity to those who were so mercilessly stripped of it.” 

The Secretary-General called for people everywhere to “stand united against racism and together build a world in which everyone, everywhere can live lives of liberty, dignity, and human rights.” 

UN commemorative events

The UN has organized a series of events to commemorate the International Day. 

On Monday, the UN General Assembly will hold a meeting where Brazilian philosopher and journalist, Professor Djamila Ribeiro, will deliver the keynote address.  

Ms. Ribeiro has been using the power of education to fight discrimination against Afro-Brazilians, including through her bestselling book titled ‘Little Anti-Racist Manual’ and her Instagram account, which has attracted more than a million followers. 

American university student Taylor Cassidy, recognized as one of TikTok’s 2020 Top 10 Voices of Change, will deliver the youth address.  Ms. Taylor empowers her two million followers with uplifting videos on Black history. 

On Thursday, Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative – a non-profit working to end mass incarceration in the United States – will be the featured speaker and a participant in a panel discussion highlighting efforts by museums to include the voices of people of African descent and deal with the colonial past. 

Other panelists will include the General Director of the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands, Taco Dibbits, and the Head of its History Department, Valika Smeulders.

The 2023 commemoration kicked off in late February with the opening of an interactive exhibition titled Slavery: Ten True Stories of Dutch Colonial Slavery, brought to the UN by the museum, which is located in Amsterdam. 

First Person: The Indonesian power ranger

Known by her nickname, Ega was one of 15 women selected to participate in the UN Development Programme-supported Perempuan Inspiratif Mitra Polhut (Inspiring Women to Partner with Forest Rangers) initiative, which aims to protect the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park and provide opportunities to nearby communities.

Fadlun Arrayan Bonde (Ega)
© Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park Authority/CIWT Project Indonesia

Fadlun Arrayan Bonde (Ega)

“I have always been passionate about nature and conservation. I grew up in a village surrounded by forests. Both of my grandfathers inspired me by sharing their local and traditional wisdom and encouraged me to know the forest and plant trees. They told me about nature’s power and explained that the language of nature is the oldest language on Earth, and so we have to listen to it.

It’s kind of a little bit mystical. For example, according to stories, if you see a lot of ants coming up out of the ground, it means it’s going to rain very soon.

The message from my grandfathers is that the energy and the language of the nature should be appreciated and respected.

‘My life changed’

Since high school, I’ve been active in the environmental movement, and I studied international relations at university to keep my mind open to what is happening in the world. I always wanted to return to my home village after graduating.

My life changed in November 2020 when I joined the initiative, the first of its kind in Indonesia.

We were given basic police training and education on communication, negotiation, and entrepreneurship skills.

We were also taught how to empower local villagers to eke out alternative sustainable livelihoods and to work more closely alongside the national park authority.

I learned what rangers do and became more passionate about the work. Now I am really proud to be serving the community.

The community rangers help to protect endangered species. There are mammals, reptiles, and more than 100 bird species that make their home in the park.

Working with national park forest rangers, we also play a role in stamping out crime and combating the illicit fauna and flora market and illegal wildlife trade.

I work at least 10 days a month, but in reality, because of the nature of the work, it takes a longer time to invest in terms of getting a commitment or “buy in” from the community. Part of it is building connections.

The Perempuan Inspiratif Mitra Polhut community ranger team at Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park.
© Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park Authority/CIWT Project Indonesia

The Perempuan Inspiratif Mitra Polhut community ranger team at Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park.

‘Conservation lady’

It feels very satisfying to know that our effort can change someone’s life for the better. Like when we can facilitate community groups to get certifications, enabling them to access sustainable markets for their products. I think there is so much more I can do for nature, but also for improving myself and my community for better opportunities.

I feel encouraged to talk about conservation and engage more with my community. I am motivated to talk to people. It’s funny, but people in my village now think of me not only as Ega but as “the conservation lady”, or the person you need to contact when you spot suspicious illegal wildlife trade activities.

I feel proud about that.

Cross generation inspiration

Sharing knowledge about wildlife to the younger generation makes me feel useful. The most important and meaningful thing about my job is to share awareness about conservation and the importance of wildlife.

If we talk about tree, we’re not talking about just the leaf, but also the roots.

If they are well prepared from an early age, they will carry knowledge about the conservation and wildlife into the future.

Women rangers are helping to stamp out wildlife crime in Indonesia by working with local communities.
© National Geographic Indonesia/Edy Susanto

Women rangers are helping to stamp out wildlife crime in Indonesia by working with local communities.

‘Staying silent won’t change anything’

Our Earth is aging and overpopulated. Screaming loudly might not help, but staying silent also will not change anything. Women can raise our voices more and make Earth a better place.

I have one big message for young woman: be brave. Don’t be scared to start working for conservation. You need to encourage yourself to take the first steps because the first step is very important. It’s not as scary as you think.”


Empowering rangers

  • Although women play a vital role in managing natural resources and are disproportionally affected by biodiversity loss, they are often excluded from decision-making and leadership opportunities, so the UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched a series of innovative projects in the Asia-Pacific region to change that.
  • Women rangers are also working to protect land and empower their communities in China, India, Viet Nam, and other countries.
  • In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, these conservation projects are helping to combat climate change, empower women, and help them to transform their communities.

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