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Monday’s Daily Brief: Guterres on Bolivia and multilateralism, Syria and Iraq’s displaced, forest initiative, the healing arts

Multilateralism must weather ‘challenges of today and tomorrow’: Guterres 

In a speech to the Paris Peace Forum in Paris on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that to thrive, multilateralism had to adapt, mindful that “conflicts persist, creating suffering and displacement: our world is unsettled”.  He was speaking as commemorations took place in countries across the world, marking the official end of the First World War, in 1918. 

Drawing parallels with the geopolitical landscape in the early 20th Century, Mr. Guterres described today’s world as neither bipolar, unipolar, nor multipolar, but rather “chaotic and uncertain”. 

The UN chief called for a “sustained strategic vision” to solve the world’s interdependent and long-term challenges, noting that the international community has shown, in the past, that it can come together and rise to the occasion: “So let us fight, fight and not give up”.  

Here’s our full story. 

Amid Bolivia turmoil, UN chief urges respect for diplomatic missions 

Authorities in Bolivia are being urged to uphold the safety of citizens and foreigners in the country amid the political crisis brought on by the resignation of President Evo Morales this past weekend. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made the appeal on Sunday, following reports of attacks against the Venezuelan embassy in the capital, La Paz. 

“In light of continued worrisome developments in Bolivia, the Secretary-General reiterates his appeal to all Bolivians to refrain from violence and to the authorities to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, government officials and foreign nationals,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson. 

“He also calls for respect for state and local institutions, as well as the inviolability of diplomatic missions.” Mr. Morales, who was elected in 2006, was Bolivia’s first indigenous President. 

His resignation followed weeks of protests stemming from the disputed 20 October presidential elections in which the opposition and civil society leaders denounced alleged irregularities. 

UN deputy chief praises farm-to-school initiative at Kenya primary school  

The UN deputy chief was in Kenya on Monday and highlighted the need to banish hunger from classrooms across the world through Food for Education and other innovative programmes.  

“Wawira, Tap2Eat and its partners are an example of putting people first, in this case young people, including the children at this school”, she said, speaking at Ruiru Primary.  

“We know that when children are hungry there is no stomach for learning…As these young students are learning – cooperation is key…Our lives are interlinked, and our solutions must be too”, said the Deputy Secretary-General. “This social enterprise collaboration is exactly in the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”    

She told students: “You are at the right place, at the right time, for the right people, with the right approach”, adding that stunted growth was costing Africa $25 billion a year, “a figure we can ill-afford.”   

From Prince to Picasso, the arts can be just the tonic, new UN health agency study shows

From before birth, to the end of life, taking to the dance floor or sketching a still life, can positively affect our health and even prove more cost-effective than conventional medical treatment, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found in a new study published on Monday.

The Health Evidence Synthesis report, from WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, analysed evidence from over 900 publications supporting ways in which the arts can help improve physical and mental health, in the most comprehensive review of its kind to date.

The report reviewed the health benefits (either through active or passive participation) in five broad categories of arts: performing arts (music, dance, singing, theatre, film); visual arts (crafts, design, painting, photography); literature (writing, reading, attending literary festivals); culture (going to museums, galleries, concerts, the theatre); and online arts (including animation and digital arts).

Different kinds of cultural and artistic engagement can trigger psychological, physiological, social and behavioural responses, linked to health outcomes, report authors explain, and art as medicine can be distinguished into two broad themes; prevention and promotion, and management and treatment.

Here’s our full story.

UN experts call for protection of scores detained in camps in Syria and Iraq 

Four high-level UN advocates are calling for the full protection of thousands of women and children currently being held in overcrowded camps across northern Syria and Iraq. 

They fear recent ongoing hostilities can further worsen the already dire conditions of this highly vulnerable group. 

Following the Turkish incursion into northern Syria last month, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria reported that more than 100,000 people, mostly women and children with presumed links to ISIL fighters, are “lingering in makeshift camps” in the region. 

In a statement issued on Monday, the four UN experts expressed deep concern over the uncertainty of detention and security arrangements, “including possible lack of due process, arbitrary detention, imposition of the death penalty, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual violence…as well as limited access to basic humanitarian services such as food, water, medical care and other essential services.” 

New UN forestry project to help countries combat climate change 

Twenty-six countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America are set to benefit from a UN project to help tackle climate change through better forestry management. 

These nations will soon be able to provide improved data on forest and land use under a $7 million initiative announced on Monday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

The scheme will support an e-learning course on transparency in the forest sector for national forestry staff. 

Read our full coverage here. 

 Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 11 November on SoundCloud:     


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