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Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Iraq protests, ‘historic’ Syria talks, Chile pulls out of COP25, Guinea-Bissau, South Sudan, new nuclear watchdog chief

‘Historic’ new Syria talks should focus on relief for war-weary civilians, says UN negotiator

Work on drafting a new foundational text for war-torn Syria officially began at the UN in Geneva on Wednesday with representatives from the Syrian Government and opposition sitting face to face and preparing to discuss the country’s future for the first time in the nearly nine-year conflict.

Addressing the delegations – as well as a third group representing Syrian civil society – UN Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, urged them to seize the “historic” opportunity of working together, for the sake of the Syrian people.

Get the full story here.

Iraq protests: UN calls for national talks to break ‘vicious cycle’ of violence

The UN’s most senior official in Iraq, visited protesters in central Baghdad on Wednesday, calling for “a national dialogue to identify prompt, meaningful responses to break the vicious cycle of violence”, which has roiled the country during the past five days.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said she had gone to Tahrir Square to engage with the people, and listen to their concerns, as part of the UN’s continuous efforts to promote dialogue with the Government, as news reports suggest that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, is facing growing calls to resign.

Here’s our full story.

Chile pulls out of hosting major COP25 climate conference in December

Citing the impact of on-going anti-Government protests, Chile announced on Wednesday that it was withdrawing as host of the upcoming COP25 annual climate summit, which is due to begin in early December.

In a brief statement, the UN Climate change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, said that she had been informed of Chile’s decision “not to host COP25 in view of the difficult situation that the country is undergoing”, adding that the secretariat she runs, the UNFCCC, would begin exploring “alternative hosting options”, for the world’s biggest annual conference addressing climate change issues.

The President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, also phoned the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, with the news.

The Government also announced it would no longer host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, APEC, which was due to take place in the capital Santiago from 15-17 November, due to security concerns.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Chile nearly two weeks ago, demanding an end to social inequality, rising prices, and better public services. Eighteen people have reportedly died, and 7,000 have been arrested during the rioting, amid allegations of human rights abuses by security forces.

Reparations for sexual violence in conflict – ‘what survivors want most, yet receive least’

Ten years ago, the UN Security Council established a mandate to prevent and address the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence. At a commemorative event on Wednesday, the UN deputy chief described that commitment as essential to “highlight, prevent and seek justice for this crime”.

The 2009 mandate had “sent a clear message that sexual violence during times of upheaval and conflict is not the inevitable collateral of war but a horrific violation of human rights and international law”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spelled out.

Full coverage, here.

UN chief voices ‘serious concern’ over Guinea-Bissau political crisis

The Secretary-General has responded with “serious concern” to developments in Guinea-Bissau, following the firing of the country’s Prime Minister on Monday by President José Mário Vaz, who announced a replacement on Tuesday.

With less than one month to go before the country’s presidential elections, António Guterres called on all political stakeholders to abide by decisions taken by the West African States regional body, ECOWAS, which has sought to find lasting solutions to chronic political instability in Guinea-Bissau since its independence from Portugal in 1974.

IOM suspends South Sudan Ebola screening, after death of volunteers

The UN migration agency (IOM) on Wednesday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the killing of three of its aid workers in South Sudan’s Morobo County, who were working as volunteers at Ebola screening points along the country’s border, sparked by the more than year-long outbreak in the Democratic in the Congo, or DRC.

Two male, and one female humanitarian worker, were caught in crossfire during clashes that broke out in the morning hours of 27 October.

IOM has since suspended Ebola Virus screening points at five points of entry to the country, namely Isebi, Bazi, Kirikwa, Lasu and Okaba – bordering points between South Sudan and Uganda, and the DRC.

UN nuclear agency appoints new Director-General

Ambassador Rafael Grossi is set to take office as Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in early December, following his appointment to the post by the Agency’s Board of Governors on Wednesday.

A career diplomat with over 35 years of professional experience in non-proliferation and disarmament, Mr. Grossi is currently Argentina’s Ambassador to Austria and the country’s Permanent Representative to the Vienna-based International Organizations, including the IAEA.

Mr. Grossi will be the IAEA’s sixth head since it was founded in 1957 and was appointed by acclamation to serve for four years.

He follows Yukiya Amano of Japan, who passed away last July.

Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 30 October on SoundCloud:  

Listen to or download our audio interview with Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery:

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