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World News in Brief: UNCTAD development finance call, Nepal quake update, religious freedom in Nicaragua

That’s the message from the UN’s trade and development body UNCTAD, which called on Tuesday for urgent reform of the international financial system to support the world’s 46 Least Developed Countries.

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In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, these most vulnerable economies urgently require foreign investment to add value to their economic output, avoid debt distress and finance a low-carbon transition.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan stressed that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is “inextricably linked to the progress of these nations”. 

The UN agency says that achieving better social protection and decent jobs will require a cash injection equivalent to 45 per cent of each Least Developed Country’s total economic output. 

But multiple global crises have hampered growth and left the world’s most vulnerable countries with a debt burden which soared to $27 billion in 2021.

To help, UNCTAD economists called for urgent debt relief and a “substantial” increase in accessible development and climate finance for LDCs, including grants and low-cost loans.

Children account for half the dead and injured in Nepal quake

Almost half of those reported killed and injured in the deadly earthquake that struck western Nepal at the weekend are children, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

According to latest Government figures, the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck shortly before midnight on 3 November claimed 153 lives and injured more than 338 people. In addition, a 5.8 magnitude aftershock hit the affected areas, exacerbating fear among the survivors, in particular children.

 “Tragically, and yet again, so many lives have been lost in this devastating earthquake. Children are disproportionately affected and are forced to spend the nights out in the cold,” said Alice Akunga, UNICEF Representative to Nepal.

“These children and their families are in desperate need of medical support, shelter, safe drinking water, food, blankets, and warm clothes as the winter sets in,” she added.

UN teams are on the ground supporting relief efforts, in coordination with Government agencies. However, with winter setting in across the Himalayas, scaled assistance is urgently needed.

“UNICEF is doing everything possible, but we urgently need more help to respond to the needs of children and women in health, nutrition, education, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene,” Ms. Akunga said.

Humanitarians supporting those affected also have to contend with remote locations, difficult terrain and high-altitudes.

UN agencies and aid partners must rely on helicopters to ferry personnel and relief supplies as there are no roads, Rafeeque Ahmad Siddiqui, Head of Karnali Field Office at UNDP-Nepal, told UN News in an interview.

Listen to the interview here:

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Nicaragua: UN rights experts call for release of Catholic bishop

UN-appointed independent human rights experts on Tuesday demanded an end to the arbitrary detention by Nicaraguan authorities of the Bishop of Matagalpa, Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez, following the release of 12 Catholic priests last month.

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“We are deeply concerned about the systematic patterns of harassment against members of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations by Nicaraguan authorities,” the two Special Rapporteurs said.

“The Government must immediately and unconditionally release Monsignor Álvarez and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief in the country,” added Nazila Ghanea, and Irene Khan.

The experts expressed their grave concern in an official communication sent to the Government of Nicaragua on 2 August.

It is estimated that since 2022, Nicaraguan authorities have cancelled the legal status of at least 1,000 non-profit organisations, of which more than 320 are said to be of a religious character.

Earlier this year, the Government cancelled the legal status of the historic Central American University (UCA) run by the Catholic order of the Society of Jesus and confiscated its facilities, together with two evangelical Christian universities and another associated with the Catholic Church.

The experts stressed these acts are contrary to international law and appear to be part of a broader pattern of repression against different elements of Nicaraguan civil society, especially those who voice criticism of the Government.

Special Rapporteurs and other Human Rights Council-appointed independent experts are not UN staff, nor do they receive payment for their work. 

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