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INTERVIEW: ‘Extremely difficult conversations’: Seeking justice for sexual abuse victims

She shared with UN News her on-the-ground accounts of “extremely difficult conversations” with victims and their children, and how the UN is addressing issues from child support to DNA testing.

Jane Connors of Australia is the first Victims’ Rights Advocate for the United Nations.
UN News

Jane Connors of Australia is the first Victims’ Rights Advocate for the United Nations.

UN News: How would you assess progress made to date?

Jane Connors: There has been good progress in getting people to understand from policy point of view that the victim and their rights and dignity are extremely important. The challenge is to get that translated into reality on the ground.

We’ve had very good progress where we have victims’ rights advocates on the ground, in Central African Republic, DR Congo, Haiti, and South Sudan.

Sexual exploitation or abuse often results in a pregnancy, and the men almost always abandon the women because they have another family elsewhere. More reports have come forward, and more has been done in supporting victims and, in particular, pursuing paternity child support claims.

One of the big challenges is underrating the impact of sexual exploitation and the notion that there is consent. Just because you are able to use your power to exploit somebody and get them to apparently consent doesn’t mean they consent. Realizing accountability to victims should be our priority. Accountability from a victim’s perspective will be very different to what others might think.

Weaving a Way to Independence

UN News: Are States doing enough to make real progress?

Jane Connors: The paternity cases we know about pertain to personnel working in United Nations peace or special political missions, predominantly uniformed military or police. In terms of identifying the victims, the missions are a long way ahead.

I went to several countries to gain trust and urge them to use their good offices to get the men who fathered children and have been positively identified through DNA matching to do what they’re supposed to do.

It’s a joint responsibility of the Member States and the UN to make sure that the rights of children are realized. They have the right to know their father and be supported by him. It’s also the parental responsibility of the father.

Superintendent Gnima Diedhiou from Senegal discussed interview techniques with fellow student Lieutenant Colonel Ade San Arief from Indonesia during the UN National Investigation Officer Training of Trainers Course at RAAF Williams Laverton, Melbourne.
© Australian Defence Force/CPL

Superintendent Gnima Diedhiou from Senegal discussed interview techniques with fellow student Lieutenant Colonel Ade San Arief from Indonesia during the UN National Investigation Officer Training of Trainers Course at RAAF Williams Laverton, Melbourne.

UN News: Can projects supported by the UN Victims’ Assistance Fund make a real difference in the lives of victims?

Jane Connors: I think it does make a difference. Currently, we have projects in DR Congo and Liberia, we’ve had one in Haiti, and soon be in Central African Republic. We need to do much more with prevention, as prevention and response are inextricably linked; you can’t have one without the other.

You need to have the victim element to make people think about the consequences of their conduct. They victimize not only the individual, but also their community and their own family. When we’re talking about abuse, by and large, we are talking about very serious sexual misconduct with children under age 18.

I’d like to see much more focus on behaviour change. It takes a lot of work, sustained resources, and huge leadership to make something unacceptable. Remember when driving when drunk was fine, and now it is regarded as deeply unacceptable. It’s a long, long game.

UN News: Are investigations being carried out fast enough?

Jane Connors: More work needs to be done with investigators coming out of a law enforcement background. They need their minds to shift. They need to know that delay is very bad, that they need to be polite and compassionate, and they need to keep the victim informed. Giving victims information and follow up is not very good, and really has to improve.

UN Assistant Secretary-General Jane Connors concluded her five-day visit to South Sudan with a press conference in Juba, the capital, on 7 December 2017.
UN Photo/Isaac Billy

UN Assistant Secretary-General Jane Connors concluded her five-day visit to South Sudan with a press conference in Juba, the capital, on 7 December 2017.

UN News: Are there common messages that you’re hearing from the victims?

Jane Connors: These are extremely difficult conversations. I will meet with anybody who wants to talk about this issue. I remember one country I visited some years ago where there are a lot of women with children born of sexual exploitation and or abuse, and they were very dissatisfied, had received no support, no assistance; the children were not going to school because they didn’t have money to pay for fees, and they didn’t know what was happening with the paternity claims.

One of them said, ‘People like you, we see you all the time. You come you talk to us, you go, we never hear anything’. I said to them, ‘Look, I’m not a very powerful person, but I will do what I can’.

I had some very good colleagues in the country concerned who raised about $40,000, so those children could go to school. That made an enormous difference. At the end of that year, they met with the women, who said ‘At least she did what she said she would do’.

UN News: You’ve met with victims in several countries. What is your message to them?

Jane Connors: I am amazed at their tolerance for the UN, their patience, their resilience, and I’m also extremely impressed by those who are able to move forward. In terms of ongoing projects, there have been women who have been able to move on to have businesses. This is something we do together.

“I have the right” | Victims of Sexual Exploitation & Abuse | United Nations


How the UN helps victims and addresses sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its personnel

  • Office of the Victims’ Rights Advocate: Working with all UN entities so victims get the assistance and support they need, the Office also collaborates with Member States and civil society to build support networks. Actions include conducting country visits and outreach, mapping services available to victims, and producing annual reports.

  • Victims’ Assistance Fund: Established in 2016, it relies on Member State contributions and funds withheld from troop or police contributing countries in substantiated cases of sexual exploitation or abuse. The project-based fund provides livelihood support to women, and, in cases of children born of sexual exploitation and abuse, psychological, educational and nutritional support.

  • Resources for victims: Information and guidance is available on how to report an allegation along with a range of services.

  • System-wide training module: Launched in January, the 2.5-hour module for all UN staff and related personnel provides a clear understanding of victims’ rights, what a victim-centred approach means, and their responsibilities in responding as soon as they become aware of an allegation.

  • Chief Executives Board task force on addressing sexual harassment: Established in 2017, the task force offers tools and guidance, including on how to investigate claims.

  • DNA-collection: Through a partnership between South Africa and the UN, DNA is collected from every soldier before deployment to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

  • System-wide monitoring: Data on allegations are tracked and updated monthly. Conduct in UN field missions has been tracked since 2006.

First Person: ‘Humanity must get out of the cradle’

“There is no doubting the importance of the current foundations for the sustainability, from environmental protection to the fight against climate change, and green lifestyles. In the foreseeable future, upholding all these principles will be fundamental if humanity is to thrive.

To continue to grow, one must get out of the cradle, and it’s the same with the humanity. To achieve a genuinely sustainable future, we must go beyond the Earth, our cradle. Otherwise, what Arthur C. Clarke wrote in 2001: A Space Odyssey may come true: ‘In the midst of plenty, they were slowly starving to death’.

Chinese Sci-fi author Liu Cixin talks to UN headquarters remotely to initiate the celebrations for Chinese Language Day.
UN News

Chinese Sci-fi author Liu Cixin talks to UN headquarters remotely to initiate the celebrations for Chinese Language Day.

The modernization of all societies will need far more resources than our planet can provide, and this makes development a threat. But we could find whatever we need to survive and develop on the eight planets and asteroid belt of our Solar System, including water, metal, organics, and fuels for nuclear fusion; If the Earth is able to feed 100 billion people in total, then the resources in the Solar System could support the population of 100,000 Earths.

However, whether we hold on to Earth or dive into the universe, sustainable development needs the non-stop progress of science and technology, but the signs are not that promising.

Science fiction authors thought that 2023 would see magnificent space cities are moving on the geosynchronous orbits, with the Moon a suburb of Earth; cities on Mars, with millions of people living there; massive mining operations in the asteroid belt and even over the ice-covered seas of Jupiter and beyond the orbit of Neptune; and human beings exploring new worlds.

Information technology has 'leapt forward' over the past 30 years.
Unsplash/Markus Spiske

Information technology has ‘leapt forward’ over the past 30 years.

The only area where the reality of 2023 matches the imagination of science fiction is in the development of information technology. In the past 30 years, information technology has leapt forward far faster than other technologies and has penetrated all aspects of human society to revolutionize people’s life.

Nevertheless, this conceals the slow progress of other scientific and technological fields, creating an illusion of rapid technological progress in an all-round way. If the technological progress brought by scientific development is regarded as a big tree, then the most accessible fruits on the tree have been picked up today.

To get to a truly sustainable future, we need a greater spirit of pioneering and entrepreneurship. The international community needs a longer-term development plan, as well as full attention to, and investment in, basic research and technological innovation. Many undertakings in this area may only be accomplished with large-scale international cooperations, and the United Nations can undoubtedly play an important role in it.

Yet, the international community still suffers from division and confrontations, even when all mankind is facing common challenges. A conventional disaster occurs locally, and other parts of the world can offer help; but a doomsday crisis puts the entire world on the brink of destruction, and no one will come to rescue us.

But once the entire global society faces the doomsday crisis in science fiction, I think human beings will still come together to respond to the crisis). Collectively, we have the ability to self-regulate, in the way that we interact with nature.”

Liu Cixin was speaking at the UN as part of the Chinese Language Day celebrations on 20 April. You can watch the full event here

UN condemns ‘inexcusable’ deadly airstrikes in Ukraine

Dozens of civilians across the country were killed and injured, and homes and other vital infrastructure, destroyed. 

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More than 20 people were killed in the small central city of Uman alone, when their apartment building collapsed after it was hit, according to international media reports. 

‘Inexcusable’ attacks 

“It is just inexcusable that in places like Uman, far from the frontline, civilians were killed while sleeping at their homes. This must stop,” Mr. Hollingworth wrote on Twitter. 

Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also took to the platform to denounce the bloodshed. 

“At least three children were reportedly killed in an attack on Uman, Ukraine today, including two 10-year-old children and a toddler. A three-year old was reportedly killed in Dnipro. War is the worst enemy of children. The violence must stop,” she tweeted. 

Not a target 

In New York, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric noted that deadly attacks were also reported in Donetsk city, capital of the eastern region of the same name, and currently under Russian control. 

Authorities there said several civilians were killed and injured when a bus and hospital in the city centre were struck. 

“It is an important reminder that civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected under international humanitarian law and they must never be targeted, wherever those facilities may be,” Mr. Dujarric said.   

Delivering critical supplies 

As a result of the increased fighting and violence, humanitarian needs are deepening in Ukraine, and the UN and partners are trying to provide as much assistance as possible.  

“Since January, we have organized almost 40 humanitarian convoys to areas as close as a couple of hundred meters from the frontlines,” he said. 

On Friday, humanitarians delivered six truckloads of critical supplies to the 3,000 people remaining in communities around Lyman, in the Donetsk region, which included medical supplies and enough food to last for three months. 

Earlier this week, they reached the city of Orikhiv, located just 10 kilometers from the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region, and delivered water, hygiene and shelter kits for some 1,600 civilians, mostly older people. 

Mr. Dujarric told journalists that these residents have been sheltering in basements to keep safe from shelling, and lack access to markets, electricity, piped water and gas, which is make life more difficult.   

Stop deporting Haitians: Rights experts’ appeal to countries in Americas

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) sounded the alarm after 36,000 people of Haitian origin were deported during the first three months of the year, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Some 90 per cent were deported from the Dominican Republic.

Violations and abuses against Haitians

The experts expressed concern over collective expulsions which did not take into consideration individual circumstances and needs.

They also highlighted alleged human rights violations and abuses against Haitians on the move along migration routes, at borders and in detention centres in the Americas region, “as a result of strict migration control, the militarization of borders, systematic immigration detention policies and the obstacles to international protection” in some countries.

Such obstacles exposed these vulnerable migrants to “killings, disappearances, acts of sexual and gender-based violence, and trafficking by criminal networks”, the Committee warned.

Demanding protection for Haitian refugees

Caribbean countries, such as the Bahamas as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands, have announced measures against undocumented Haitian migrants. The United States in January also made public new border policies to permit fast-tracked expulsions to Mexico of Haitian migrants and others, crossing the southern border of the US without documentation.

Considering the desperate situation in Haiti, which does not currently allow for the safe and dignified return of Haitians to the country, as pointed out by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Committee called for an end to the collective expulsions of Haitians on the move.

It also said assessments of each individual case needed to be carried out, to identify protection needs in accordance with international refugee and human rights law, with particular attention to the most vulnerable groups.

Combatting racism and xenophobia

The independent human rights experts requested States parties in the Americas to investigate all allegations of excessive use of force, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and racial profiling against Haitians.

They also demanded protection of refugees against other allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed by both State and non-state actors; including at borders, migrant detention centres and along migration routes, to punish those responsible and to provide rehabilitation and reparations to victims or their families.

The experts also called for measures to prevent and combat xenophobic and racist violence and incitement to racial hatred against people of Haitian origin, and to publicly condemn racist hate speech, including those uttered by public figures and politicians.

Independent human rights experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva. They are mandated to monitor and report on specific thematic issues or country situations. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.

Transitional justice hinges on ‘equal footing’, say UN peacebuilders

“A society can only succeed on its path towards sustainable peace and development when all its constituencies can participate on an equal footing,” Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said ahead of progress reports delivered by high-level representatives of Colombia, The Gambia, and Timor-Leste.

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The preventive potential of transitional justice can only be fully leveraged if victims are fully engaged and involved, she said at the meeting.

“States should proactively seek the active participation of victims and civil society from the outset,” she said. “In addition, broad, inclusive and meaningful public consultations are a key component – and pre-condition – to successful transitional justice processes.”

‘Equal’ justice for all

Commission Chair Ivan Šimonović, of Croatia, shared his first-hand experience in being heavily involved in post-conflict transitional justice, while serving as a high level politician at home.

Victims need to be recognized and perpetrators need to be brought to justice, respect for human rights, rule of law, trust in institutions and good governance need to be restored, and the root causes that led to crimes, abuses and other violations, need to be addressed,” said the former Justice Minister.

But, that is “easier said than done”, he said, adding that transparency, accountability, building trust, access to justice and respect for human rights, are essential.

Overcoming post-conflict hurdles

Justice needs to be equal for everyone,” he said.

“In today’s world, we are confronted with many threats such as transnational terrorism, health insecurity, massive displacement of populations, overwhelming humanitarian crises, and they all create a complex operating environment,” he said.

“Challenges to transitional justice have also become more complex. Fortunately, some countries have managed to overcome numerous challenges and achieved successes in transitional justice process.”

Ambassador Ivan Šimonović of Croatia, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, opens a meeting on transitional justice in Colombia, The Gambia, and Timor-Leste.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Ambassador Ivan Šimonović of Croatia, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission, opens a meeting on transitional justice in Colombia, The Gambia, and Timor-Leste.

Colombia: Getting to ‘the bottom of everything’

“We need to try to get to the bottom of everything,” said Roberto Carlos Vidal, president of the Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace tribunal, which is part of the transition justice system stemming from the 2016 Peace Agreement that ended over five decades of armed conflict.

Elaborating on efforts to balance justice and reconciliation, he said mechanisms are addressing a range of concerns, including reintegration of former combatants and the issue of missing persons. Truth is key, he said.

“Up until now, 90 per cent of those who are coming before our courts recognize their responsibility,” he said, adding that the tribunal’s unique features help it to fulfil its mandate.

Instead of prison sentences, he said the tribunal hands down “sanctions” to work on relevant, meaningful projects. In addition, rather than taking on individual cases, it can conduct widespread thematic investigations on the most serious crimes committed during the conflict, he said, adding that the tribunal is examining 11 such cases.

The Gambia: Progress made, challenges remain

Dawda Jallow, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of The Gambia, described the small West African nation – with a population of 2.4 million people – as having a complex history of human rights abuses, particularly during the 22-year rule of former President Yahya Jammeh that began in 1994, characterized by widespread human rights violations.

Discussing the implementation of recommendations from its Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission, he said The Gambia has made significant progress in providing justice, but numerous challenges remain, including political, financial, and capacity-related obstacles.

“The Government continues to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to implementing the recommendations, the constitutional review process, and the security sector reform project,” he said.

Timor-Leste: Truth contributes to ‘lasting peace’

“Peace is not possible without an honest reckoning with the past,” said Hugo Maria Fernandes, chief executive officer of Centro Nacional Chega, which the Government of Timor-Leste established to implement the Peacebuilding Commission’s recommendations. “Truth is a contribution to lasting peace.”

Timor-Leste had faced internal conflict and widespread bloodshed leading up to its independence in 2002. Since then, the nation has adopted a range of measures to pursue and mete out justice.

“Peace is not possible without an honest reckoning with the past.”

– Hugo Maria Fernandes, chief executive officer of Centro Nacional Chega, Timor-Leste.

While the refusal to hold a historical dialogue or address calls for correcting perceived sins of the past has led to continued conflict, he said, the current truth-seeking process in Timor-Leste has helped to underpin continued relative stability and domestic peace for two decades.

UN approach

The Organization’s approach to transitional justice stems from the Secretary-General’s guidance note of March 2010, and comprises four interlinked and mutually reinforcing elements: justice, truth, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence.

The path to substantive justice includes processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempts to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, provide satisfaction to victims, prevent reoccurrence of abuses, and achieve reconciliation.

The Peacebuilding Commission is an intergovernmental advisory body that supports peace efforts in conflict-affected countries, and comprises 31 Member States, elected from the General Assembly, Security Council, and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

The UN Peacebuilding Commission meets on transitional justice in Colombia, The Gambia, and Timor-Leste.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The UN Peacebuilding Commission meets on transitional justice in Colombia, The Gambia, and Timor-Leste.

Sudan latest: Tens of thousands on the move; spectre of ethnic clashes, hunger draws closer

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that tens of thousands of refugees from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea living in the country have fled the fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in the Khartoum area.

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The newly displaced have found shelter in existing refugee camps further east and south, creating new humanitarian challenges.

UNHCR is also particularly concerned about the situation in the Darfur region, where fears are deepening of a revival of ethnic tensions.

Darfur alert

The agency’s representative in Sudan, Axel Bisschop, told reporters in Geneva that Darfur might present the “biggest challenge” from a humanitarian point of view. “We’re concerned that the intercommunal violence is going to increase and that we might have some situations which will repeat in relation to what we had a couple of years ago,” in a region which has already experienced severe conflict and displacement, he said.

UNHCR stressed that Darfur presents “a myriad of pressing protection issues”, highlighting that a number of sites hosting internally displaced people have been burned to the ground, while civilian houses and humanitarian premises have been hit by bullets.

Concerns over the region are shared by the UN rights office (OHCHR), which warned on Friday of a “serious risk” of violence escalating in West Darfur as the hostilities between the RSF and SAF have triggered intercommunal violence.

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that in El Geneina, West Darfur, “deadly ethnic clashes” have been reported and an estimated 96 people have been killed since 24 April.


Guterres ‘deeply grateful’ to governments aiding UN evacuation

The UN Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to France and other nations who have helped with the relocation and evacuation of UN staff from Khartoum and elsewhere this week.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, António Guterres highlighted help from France in safely transporting more than 400 UN personnel and dependents out of Sudan.

“The French Navy transported more than 350 of our colleagues and their families from Port Sudan to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday night.”

On Thursday, more than 70 UN and affiliated personnel, as well as others, were flown on a French Air Force plane from El Fasher, Sudan, to the capital of Chad.

“We also thank the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Chad, Kenya and Uganda for facilitating the arrival of our colleagues and their families.

The Secretary-General is also very thankful to the many other Member States, including the United States, Jordan, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada, who have assisted in ensuring the safe transport of UN personnel.”

Rights abuses rise

The overall death toll in the conflict has risen to at least 512, according to the latest figures from the Sudanese Ministry of Health quoted by OHCHR on Friday, with the understanding that this is almost certainly a very conservative estimate.

While the fragile ceasefire has led to a decrease in fighting in some areas, allowing some to flee their homes in search of safety, human rights abuses against people on the move – such as extortion – have been rife, Ms. Shamdasani said.

A UNHCR emergency transit centre in Renk in South Sudan is receiving displaced people from Sudan.
© UNHCR/Charlotte Hallqvist

A UNHCR emergency transit centre in Renk in South Sudan is receiving displaced people from Sudan.

Growing displacement

Mr. Bisschop said that Sudan hosts over a million refugees, notably from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

UNHCR has received reports of around 33,000 refugees having fled from Khartoum to refugee camps in White Nile State, 2,000 to the camps in Gedaref and 5,000 to Kassala since the start of the crisis two weeks ago.

Thousands of people – Sudanese citizens, including many internally displaced people, and refugees living in Sudan – have also fled the country.

UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said that in Chad, UNHCR together with the Government has registered around 5,000 arrivals so far, and that at least 20,000 have crossed. 

Some 10,000 people have crossed to South Sudan, while in Egypt, Central African Republic and Ethiopia, there have been an unknown number of arrivals, given the speed at which the situation is unfolding and the scale of the country.

Dispalced people who arrive at the UNHCR transit centre in Renk, South Sudan, receive relief items.
© UNHCR/Charlotte Hallqvist

Dispalced people who arrive at the UNHCR transit centre in Renk, South Sudan, receive relief items.

Lifesaving assistance on pause

UNHCR said the security situation has forced it to “temporarily pause” most of its aid operations in Khartoum, the Darfurs and North Kordofan, where it has become “too dangerous to operate”.

“The suspension of some humanitarian programmes is likely to exacerbate protection risks faced by those who rely on humanitarian assistance to survive,” UNHCR warned.

Mr. Bisschop said that UNHCR was working closely with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), to see how the food that is already positioned in the country can be provided.

Brenda Kariuki, WFP’s Regional Communications Officer for East Africa, said that amid the crisis, millions more across the region could be plunged into hunger. In Sudan, security threats to humanitarian operations, as well as the looting of WFP supplies from warehouses and the theft of vehicles used to transport aid, were depriving the most vulnerable of desperately needed assistance, the UN agency said.

Around one-third of the country’s population, or some 15.8 million people, were already in need of aid before the fighting started. The UN’s 2023 Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, for a total of $1.7 billion, remains only 13.5 per cent funded.

Fleeing into CAR

Briefing correspondents in New York, Deputy UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, said that humanitarians were reporting some 3,000 people have crossed the Sudanese border into northern Central African Republic, CAR, setting up makeshift settlements.

“Local authorities are exploring the possibility of relocating them in Birao, far from the border region”, and more arrivals are expected.

With Sudan a major supplier of essential goods to CAR, especially during the rainy season, which runs from now through October, prices are ticking up and some items such as sugar and millet have doubled in price in CAR since the fighting began.

Some 120,000 people were already in need of humanitarian assistance in the northern part of the country, highlighting the damaging impact of the fighting spilling across Sudan’s borders.

Healthcare in jeopardy

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Thursday that in Khartoum, more than 60 per cent of health facilities are closed and only 16 per cent are operating as normal.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told media in Geneva on Friday that WHO has verified 25 attacks on healthcare since the start of the fighting, which killed eight people and injured 18.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) previously warned that the ongoing violence has disrupted “critical, life-saving care” for some 50,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Evacuees from Sudan are assisted by Chadian authorities and IOM staff on their arrival in N’Djamena, the country's capital.

Evacuees from Sudan are assisted by Chadian authorities and IOM staff on their arrival in N’Djamena, the country’s capital.

Evacuees arrive in Chadian capital from Sudan

The first group of evacuees from Sudan to be assisted by the UN migration agency IOM, arrived at N’Djamena’s Hassan Djamous International Airport in Chad late on Thursday, in two special flights chartered by the Chadian authorities.

The group included 116 males and 110 females, 39 of whom were children. 

IOM helped the Chadian authorities with the registration of the new arrivals, the identification and referral of vulnerable cases, and post-arrival assistance including cash to support onwards transportation to reunite evacuees with their families

“We are working around the clock to continue supporting the Government of Chad in this delicate and complex situation, despite massive gaps in much needed funding,” says Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chief of Mission in Chad. 

These efforts are closely coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chadians Abroad and International Cooperation which heads a Government Crisis Cell, established to coordinate the evacuation operations from Sudan. 

“Our priority is to ensure that all those who have arrived receive adequate support to help them reunite with their families, but also medical assistance, including mental health and psychosocial support,” she added.


UN expert urges Japan to ‘step up pressure’ on Myanmar junta

“The international community’s response to the crisis in Myanmar is failing, and that failure has contributed to a lethal downward spiral that is devastating the lives of millions of people,” Tom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said at the end of a 10-day official visit to Japan.

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Referring to the worsening situation in the country, he said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who has led the junta since the February 2021 coup, had responded to widespread opposition to their rule with “barbarism and oppression” against the people of Myanmar.

‘Hallmarks of the junta’

Arbitrary detention, torture and systematic attacks on villages have become hallmarks of the junta,” he said. “The military is repeatedly attacking civilian populations throughout the country and has quite literally made war on the Myanmar people.”

Japan’s leadership will be “vital” in recalibrating a failing international response to the crisis, he said, calling on Tokyo to work with regional and global allies to weaken the capacity of Myanmar’s military junta to attack its citizens.

‘This is an emergency’

The Special Rapporteur also raised alarms about an impending humanitarian disaster in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Without immediate additional funding, a decision to cut food rations by an additional 20 per cent will be made in the coming weeks, reducing daily food rations to 27 cents per person. The cuts would also potentially eliminate food rations completely for hundreds of thousands.

This is an emergency,” he warned, adding that he had visited Japan based on his belief Tokyo has an “essential” role to play in resolving the crisis. “Further cuts will leave the Rohingya, already victims of genocidal attacks in Myanmar, at risk of starvation and drive thousands into boats and dangerous land routes in utter desperation.”

Impose sanctions

As such, he called on the Government of Japan and all Member States to immediately increase humanitarian contributions, including by redirecting funds from development programmes in Myanmar. He also urged Japan to impose targeted economic sanctions on the Myanmar military and its key sources of funding, just as it is doing in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

“Economic sanctions that deprive the junta of the resources required to operate its war-making machinery would weaken the capacity of the junta to attack its people,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Renounce ‘fraudulent’ elections

In addition, he urged Japan to terminate a Ministry of Defence training programme for military personnel from Myanmar, referencing credible reports linking previous trainees to military units that have committed atrocities against civilians.

He also called on the Government of Japan to clearly and consistently renounce the junta’s plan to stage fraudulent national elections as a means of legitimizing itself.

“It is not possible to hold a genuine election when opposition leaders are arrested, detained, tortured and executed, when key political parties have been dissolved, when it is illegal to criticize the junta, and when journalists are imprisoned for doing their job,” he said.

The upcoming Group of Seven (G7) Summit of leading economies in Hiroshima presents an opportunity for Japan to shine a light on the situation in Myanmar before the world, he said, urging the Prime Minister to ensure that the crisis is high on the agenda and that a strong, unified message and action emerges.

The Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon, Myanmar.
Unsplash/Harish Shivaraman

The Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon, Myanmar.

Special Rapporteurs

Special Rapporteurs and other rights experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, are mandated to monitor and report on thematic issues or country situations, are not UN staff, and do not receive a salary for their work.

Afghanistan: Security Council condemns Taliban’s ban on women working for UN

The resolution passed unanimously by the 15-member body in New York, calls for the “full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women and girls in Afghanistan”, and urges all countries and organisations with influence on the fundamentalist rulers of the country, “to promote an urgent reversal” of policies which have in effect erased women from public life.

Since the Taliban takeover of July 2021, when its forces toppled the democratically-elected Government, it has rolled back a wide range of human rights of women and girls, including a ban on attending high school and university, restrictions on movement and work, and in December, a decree banning female nationals from working from most NGOs.

Earlier this month the Taliban extended their ban to women working for the United Nations.

Afghan girls arrive in Rwanda to continue their education.
IOM/Robert Kovacs

Afghan girls arrive in Rwanda to continue their education.

The UN underlined its “unequivocal condemnation” of the move in early April, noting that it contravenes international law, including the UN Charter. All UN staff have been told not to report to the office, except for some critical tasks, while an operational review is carried out, concluding on 5 May.

record 28.3 million people in Afghanistan are in need of assistance this year, making Afghanistan the world’s largest aid operation, with the UN asking for $4.6 billion to fully fund relief efforts this year. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator warned this month that Afghanistan was also the world’s least well-funded operation, with less than five per cent funding pledged so far.

‘Deep concern’

The Security Council resolution lays out ambassadors’ “deep concern” over the ban on women working at the UN, saying that – along with the other erosions of basic rights – “will negatively and severely impact” the UN aid operations throughout the country, “including the delivery of life-saving assistance and basic services to the most vulnerable”.

Security Council Meets on Situation in Afghanistan
UN Photo/Manuel Elías

Security Council Meets on Situation in Afghanistan

It stresses that the UN Assistance Mission in the country, UNAMA, will also be unable to implement its humanitarian mandate until the ban ends. The resolution emphasizes that the ban “is unprecedented in the history of the United Nations.”

‘Dire’ economic and humanitarian conditions

The resolution also stresses the urgent need to keep addressing Afghanistan’s “dire economic and humanitarian situation” and help the country restore self-reliance, recognizing the importance of allowing the Central Bank to use assets which are currently frozen outside the country, “for the benefit of the Afghan people.”

The Council backed the continued work of UNAMA reiterating its “full support”, and called on all with a stake in Afghanistan, including Taliban authorities, “to ensure the safety, security and freedom of movement of the United Nations and associated personnel throughout the country.”

UN humanitarians will return to Khartoum ‘as quickly as possible’: UN aid coordinator

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Abdou Dieng, speaking from Port Sudan, told reporters in the briefing room in New York that senior leadership would be returning to the Sudanese capital, as soon as the situation allows.

The needs are urgent, and widespread, he said, as the final few hours of a US-brokered 72-hour ceasefire neared, with fighting continuing. Hundreds have been killed, and thousands wounded as the rival militia of the country’s top two generals continue to battle each other in civilian areas.

Dire needs, before fighting erupted

Before the fighting began nearly two weeks ago, one in three Sudanese was already in need of aid, and it’s proving “extremely difficult” to properly assess the level of need today, Mr. Dieng said.

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The pre-conflict Humanitarian Response Plan called for $1.7 billion, of which only 15 per cent has been pledged, he said.

In reply to questions about an uptick in inter-communal violence in West Darfur and food shortages, he said the UN was extremely worried about food supplies, and the deteriorating situation across all of Darfur.

The UN and partners, are establishing a core team in Port Sudan itself, which will be responsible for overseeing humanitarian operations in the country, and negotiating humanitarian access with de facto authorities.

Emergency funding

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, announced on Thursday the allocation of $3 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to urgently respond to the arrival of Sudanese refugees and others in Chad. 

In Khartoum, meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that more than 60 per cent of health facilities are closed and only 16 per cent are operating as normal.

Briefing reporters in New York, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq, said that according to UN partners who remain in the capital, the treatment of nearly 50,000 acutely malnourished children has been disrupted. 

Mr. Haq said that shortages of food, water, medicines and food continue, especially in the capital and surrounding areas, where the military stand-off has been most intense, “while access to communications and electricity is limited in many parts of the country.”

Needs grow at Chad-Sudan border

As many as 20,000 people – among them Chadians, Sudanese, and foreign nationals – fleeing the violence in Sudan, have arrived so far in neighbouring Chad, said the UN migration agency, IOM, earlier on Thursday.

The vast border between the two countries extends for 1,400 kilometres.

“The majority of those arriving are in dire need of basic humanitarian aid, namely food, water and adequate shelter,” said Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chief of Mission in Chad.

“While registration is ongoing by humanitarian actors including IOM, we believe a considerable number of those arriving are Chadians as well as nationals from other countries, who lived in Sudan and will require immediate assistance to return to their communities of origin and reunite with their families,” she adds.

IOM teams have been deployed in Eastern Chad at the border with Sudan and are working around the clock in support of the national and humanitarian efforts to respond to the arrivals.


New UK law curtails key civil and political rights: UN rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, called the Public Order Bill “deeply troubling legislation”, after it completed its passage through parliament on Wednesday.

“It is especially worrying that the law expands the powers of the police to stop and search individuals, including without suspicion; defines some of the new criminal offences in a vague and overly broad manner; and imposes unnecessary and disproportionate criminal sanctions on people organizing or taking part in peaceful protests,” Mr. Türk said. 

He appealed to the UK Government to reverse the legislation, which has yet to receive Royal Assent, “as soon as feasible”.

The Government insists that the fundamental right to protest is still protected under the legislation, but it brings in new penalties for so-called “guerrilla tactics”.

The bill was introduced to crack down on disruptive protests by activists such as the Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion groups, which have used tactics such as blocking roadways and chaining themselves to railings, including those around the UK Parliament in central London.  

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Environmental protesters targeted

The UN rights chief stressed that the law’s apparent targeting of “those protesting about human rights and environmental issues” was particularly concerning.

“As the world faces the triple planetary crises of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution, governments should be protecting and facilitating peaceful protests on such existential topics, not hindering and blocking them,” Mr. Türk said.

‘Unnecessary’ expansion of police powers

Mr. Türk insisted that the law was “wholly unnecessary”, given the UK police’s existing powers to act against violent demonstrations. He also criticized the criminalization of protests linked to the new legislation.

The Public Order Act introduces “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders” which, according to the UN rights chief’s office, have the potential to significantly limit the freedoms of protesters, by allowing courts to ban individuals from being in certain places at certain times, being with particular people, or even to limit the way they use the internet.

On the basis of the new law, individuals could be electronically monitored to ensure compliance, even if they have never been convicted of any criminal offence.

‘Pre-emptive’ rights limitations

Mr. Türk said that governments needed to facilitate peaceful protests while “protecting the public from serious and sustained disruption”, but that the Public Order Act could “pre-emptively limit someone’s future legitimate exercise of their rights”.

The UN rights chief also warned that the new law “regrettably weakens human rights obligations” which the UK has “long championed” in the international arena.


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