UNMISS SRSG visits Bentiu and Leer

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The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer, returned to Juba on Thursday from a two-day field visit to Bentiu and Leer, two towns which have been amongst the most affected by the country’s conflict UNMISS spokes Person Daniel Dickinson said a statement

He said in Bentiu, the head of the UN mission met state government officials, as well as internally displaced people who are living in the largest protection of civilians site in the country.

‘’In Leer, he visited the mission’s temporary operating base to assess UNMISS’ success in mounting robust patrols which push the mission’s presence deep into the field.He held discussions with local officials and also took the opportunity to travel to an opposition-controlled area to meet with pro-Machar representatives so he could hear all shades of opinion on how to facilitate humanitarian assistance and advance the peace process’’ Dickinson said

He added that the local opposition told the UN head that they support the current localized cessation of hostilities and remain in a defensive position which they hope will encourage the return of humanitarian agencies to Leer.

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UNHCR: South Sudan Africa largest Refugee crisis, refugees pass 1.5 million mark

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The United Nation High Commission for Refugees said today in Geneva that South Sudan has become Africa’s largest refugee crisis ’With no solution in sight and refugee numbers from South Sudan cross 1.5 million mark.

UNHCR is extremely alarmed at the ongoing pace of displacement in South Sudan, where more than 1.5 million people have been forced to leave the country and seek safety since conflict erupted in December 2013. An additional 2.1 million people are displaced inside South Sudan said William Spindler, UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva.

We are appealing on all parties involved in the conflict for an urgent peaceful resolution of the crisis, without which, thousands continue to arrive in South Sudan’s neighbouring countries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Central African Republic every day with the conflict now in its fourth year Spindler said

He said‘’With this large scale displacement, South Sudan is now Africa’s largest refugee crisis and the world’s third after Syria and Afghanistan – with less attention and chronic levels of underfunding’’

Intense fighting broke out in South Sudan in July last year following the collapse of a peace deal between the government and opposition forces. More than 760,000 refugees fled the country in 2016, as the conflict intensified in the second half of the year – on an average of 63,000 people were forced to leave the country per month UNHCR said.

‘’Some half a million had to flee in the last four months since September 2016. More than 60% of the refugees are children, many arriving with alarming levels of malnutrition – enduring devastating impact of the brutalities of the ongoing conflict’’ Spindler added
Recent new arrivals report suffering inside South Sudan with intense fighting, kidnappings, rape, fears of armed groups and threats to life, as well as acute food shortage he said

As the global displacement trends reflect, those fleeing South Sudan are being hosted by the poorest communities in the neighbouring countries, under immense pressure with scarce resources.

The majority of the refugees are being hosted by Uganda, where some 698,000 have arrived. Ethiopia is hosting some 342,000, while more than 305,000 are in Sudan and some 89,000 in Kenya, 68,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 4900 in the Central African Republic UNHCR said

UNHCR is encouraged by the welcome South Sudan refugees have received in the neighbouring countries, but remains extremely worried by the lack of resources to handle one of the world’s largest refugee crisis.

‘’We are working with authorities in South Sudan’s neighbouring countries to provide life-saving support and look after the basic needs of those arriving in desperate conditions. However, our relief efforts are being hampered by severe underfunding’’ He said

The UN refugee body renewed their call on donor countries to step up support to the humanitarian efforts for the South Sudan crisis situation.

Spindler said Response capacities are over stretched in host countries and chronic underfunding is affecting life-saving efforts like the provision of clean drinking water, food, health facilities and sanitation.

He added that The 2016 UNHCR funding appeal of USD 649 million was funded a merely 33%.
Spindler said in 2017, UNHCR is seeking USD 782 million for regional operations inside South Sudan and the neighbouring host countries.

UNHCR Alarmed at Impact of U.S. Refugee Program Suspension

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GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is deeply worried by the uncertainty facing thousands of refugees around the world who are in the process of being resettled to the United States.

This week alone, over 800 refugees were set to make America their new home, but instead find themselves barred from travelling to the U.S. UNHCR estimates that 20,000 refugees in precarious circumstances might have been resettled to the United States during the 120 days covered by the suspension announced Friday, based on average monthly figures for the last 15 years. Refugees are anxious, confused and heartbroken at this suspension in what is already a lengthy process.

Refugees share the very same concerns about security and safety that Americans have. They themselves are fleeing war, persecution, oppression and terrorism. The individuals and families UNHCR refers to governments for resettlement are the most vulnerable – such as people needing urgent medical assistance, survivors of torture, and women and girls at risk. The new homes provided by resettlement countries are life-saving for people who have no other options.

The vast majority of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries, and less than 1 per cent will ever be resettled globally. Those accepted for resettlement by the United States, after a rigorous US security screening process, are coming to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. UNHCR hopes that they will be able to do so as soon as possible.

Resettlement has been a sign of tangible solidarity with the world’s most vulnerable refugees. It is also an important way governments and communities can help share responsibility with major refugee-hosting countries, which have been shouldering the brunt of the displacement crisis in recent years.

For decades, the United States has been a global leader in refugee protection, a tradition rooted in the tolerance and generosity of the American people. UNHCR hopes the U.S. will continue its strong leadership role and its long history of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.

The High Commissioner underlines once again UNHCR’s position that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.

South Sudan Mission commander removed over failure to act

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The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has removed South Sudan’s peacekeeping commander on Tuesday after a damning internal report was released that details how Mission forces failed to protect civilians during clashes between government and opposition forces in July.
The Secretary-General has received Major General (retired) Patrick Cammaert’s report on the Independent Special Investigation into the violence in Juba in July 2016 and the actions of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), including its response to acts of sexual violence in and around the Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites at UN House and the attack on the Terrain camp said Ban Ki Moon Spokes Person Stéphane Dujarric

Dujarric said the Special Investigation found that UNMISS did not respond effectively to the violence due to an overall lack of leadership, preparedness and integration among the various components of the mission. The Special Investigation also found that command and control arrangements were inadequate, while peacekeepers maintained a risk-averse posture.
‘’These factors contributed to the failure of UNMISS to respond to the attack by Government soldiers on the Terrain camp on 11 July and protect civilians under threat. The Special Investigation was unable to verify allegations that peacekeepers failed to respond to acts of sexual violence committed directly in front of them on 17 and 18 July’’ the spokes person added

The Special Investigation found that UNMISS faced an extremely challenging set of circumstances and was caught in the crossfire of an active and particularly violent conflict. During the three days of fighting, according to some conservative estimates, at least 73 people were killed, including more than 20 internally displaced persons in the PoC sites. Two peacekeepers were killed and several more were injured. One hundred and eighty-two buildings in the UN House compound were struck by bullets, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.

The Secretary-General is deeply distressed by these findings. He reiterates his outrage over the acts of violence committed in Juba in July and the continuing betrayal of the people of South Sudan by too many of its leaders.
‘’ The Secretary-General recognises that UNMISS has saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the past three years, including in its PoC sites, and commends the Mission’s personnel for their dedication’’ Dujarric said ‘’He is, nonetheless, alarmed by the serious shortcomings identified by the Special Investigation, which were evident in the mission’s failure to fully implement its mandate to protect civilians and UN staff during the fighting’’

Dujarric added that the Secretary-General has studied the recommendations made by the Special Investigation and intends to implement them. The Secretary-General will ensure that the necessary steps are taken to enable UNMISS to protect civilians more effectively, including through greater accountability of the mission’s civilian and uniformed leadership.

The Secretary-General has transmitted the Executive Summary of General Cammaert’s report to members of the Security Council, which was also released publicly today.

The Arusha Conference Calls for Further Integration and Reforms in EAC on the Road to a Monetary Union

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The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, the European Union (EU), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) jointly organized a high-level conference entitled “Regional Integration in the EAC: Making the Most of the Common Market on the Road to a Monetary Union” in Arusha, Tanzania on October 31–November 1, 2016. Discussions focused on progress in establishing Customs Union and Common Market so far, steps for strengthening them, and the prerequisites for an effective transition to East African Monetary Union (EAMU).

The conference brought together Finance Ministers and Ministers in charge of regional cooperation, Central Bank Governors, other senior policymakers, regional capital markets regulators, academics, civil society, and private sector leaders from across EAC member countries, as well as senior representatives from international financial institutions and other monetary unions. Policymakers of the EAC region reaffirmed their commitment to build a strong economic and monetary union.

Participants assessed the current state and pace of economic integration since the inception of the Customs Union in 2005 and the Common Market in 2010.

Participants noted considerable progress towards a single entry visa, processing times at ports, and removal of internal tariffs. As indicated in the second EAC Common Market Scorecard 2016 which evaluates Partner States’ compliance to the free movement of capital, services, and goods, private sector representatives in particular underlined the need for further progress in the areas of non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, tax administration and harmonization, automation of trade process, and labor mobility to facilitate trade of goods and services further. Given experiences in other regions, sequential harmonization could be pursued in implementing the single customs territory and tax harmonization. Accountability and ownership are critical to a successful integration process.

Considerable progress has been made in financial sector integration, including integration of the payment systems and financial markets. In this regard, participants noted still high compliance cost in light of different regulations in member countries. On the Fintech front, however, the EAC region is ahead of many other countries in the world. The importance of proper sequencing and pace of financial integration was stressed in light of risks involved.

Under the theme “The Road toward a Monetary Union,” the status of macroeconomic convergence in the EAC was discussed. Participants acknowledged that fiscal deficits need to be brought down to meet the convergence criterion and to ensure the stability of the future monetary union. Convergence goes beyond headline fiscal deficits and public debt, and fiscal risks need to be monitored closely. Moreover, further progress is needed in data harmonization and monetary policy frameworks and operations, and there is a need to establish the new institutions that will play a key role for the implementation and resilience of the union.

The program, speeches and presentations to the conference are available at:
http://www.imf.org/en/News/Events/Regional-Integration-in-the-EAC.

Following the conference, a forum on “Improvements in East African Statistics Through Capacity Development,” highlighted recent improvements in economic and financial statistics in EAC countries through capacity development initiatives supported by the EAC Secretariat and the IMF.

UN human rights expert urges states to strengthen journalist security

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GENEVA (1 November 2016) –United Nations Human right experts has urged states around the globe to strengthen journalist security.

David Kaye United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression,
urges states to bring their understanding of what security of journalists involves into line with international human rights standards and to take active steps to ensure this security.

Speaking ahead of the third International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists Kaye said “Attacks against journalists and threats to their security take various forms: attacks against their physical integrity; interference with the confidentiality of their sources; and harassment through surveillance, just to mention a few.

He said Protection against these kinds of attacks is fundamental not only for journalists to be able to perform their work, but also for society’s access to information and for government accountability.

‘’States have a positive obligation to ensure the security of journalists. All too often, however, governments express support for journalist security while taking measures that chip away at protection and thus at the information brought to light by secure reporting’’ the rapporteur said

Especially worrisome are increased threats against the digital security of journalists through measures such as mass or targeted surveillance, blocking of online media sites, and practices or laws limiting or prohibiting encryption he said

‘’The international legal framework protects the digital and physical security of journalists. The UN Human Rights Council adopted earlier this year a resolution on the safety of journalists, addressing both their physical and digital security. I have also addressed the issues of source protection and encryption in two of my previous reports’’ he said

‘’Journalists who lack digital security find themselves and their sources subject to great physical threat, and yet physical attacks continue to be met with impunity. We see national leaders using rhetoric that encourages a lack of respect for the life and work of journalists’’ Kaye added

According to the latest figures by the independent Committee to Protect Journalists, 52 journalists and media workers have been killed so far this year. In most of these cases, states do not take even the basic steps to begin to bring perpetrators to justice.

He urges all States to take steps to reverse this situation and make accountability – in law, policy and practice – a fundamental aspect of their support for journalism and the public’s access to information

UNHCR to double funds for cash-based assistance to refugees by 2020

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The UN refugee agency announced today in Geneva its intention to double funds for cash-based assistance to refugees across the world by 2020 as a way to better assist and protect them.

“The use of cash-based assistance has been a real game changer in the way we help refugees and we have now decided to make it a worldwide policy and expand it to all our operations, where feasible*,” said the High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi.

“UNHCR was one of the first UN agencies to employ cash-based assistance in the mid-80s and has developed an in-depth expertise in this field. Over the years, we have seen its remarkable effect on the life of refugees and forcibly displaced people,” he added.

“Refugees know best what they need. The broader use of cash-based assistance means that many more will be able to decide how to manage their family’s budget. This will help them lead more dignified and normal lives,” he added.

The High Commissioner noted that cash-based programmes are also very effective and often prove to be an efficient way to help those fleeing conflict and persecution, in a context of growing urbanization and search for alternatives to camps.

He also stressed that cash assistance benefits local businesses and economies and is an important asset to foster relationships between host and refugee communities.

“Expanding our cash-based assistance to refugees and forcibly displaced people in the coming years will go hand-in-hand with enhancing our partnerships. I am convinced that by developing joined cash delivery arrangements with our partners on the ground, we will not only ensure a more predictable and coordinated assistance to refugees but also maximize efficiency and synergies,” said the High Commissioner.

UNHCR is already providing cash-based interventions in 60 countries. They have been particularly successful in Jordan and Lebanon, where they have allowed UNHCR to help the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in the most cost-efficient manner.

In 2017, firmly committed to reach the 2020 target, UNHCR will introduce and expand cash-based assistance to vulnerable refugees and people in need of help in 15 additional countries, including Niger, DRC, Kenya, Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Afghanistan and Iran.

South Sudan Imotong State residents fleeing to Kenya.

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Thousands of people mainly women and children in Imatong State are fleeing to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, an official has confirmed.

South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission official in Torit says the number of people fleeing the area had increased in the last few weeks, Radio Emmanuel reports.

Residents are afraid of deteriorating security situation and of what may happen during the dry season, the official says.

Lina Akot and her five children boarded a van heading to South Sudan- Kenya border.

Akot says she is leaving Torit for Kenya because of insecurity making the environment unfavourable for her children’s education.

Sara Deng, a mother says she has already taken her children out of the country.

She says she is convinced that Kakuma Refugee Camp is more secure to live in and bring up children than her insecure home country.

John Odongi Simon, the Acting Director of South Sudan Relief & Rehabilitation Commission in Eastern Equatoria confirms that majority of those fleeing the country are women and children.

Odongi says the flight is worsened by fears of insecurity and tough economic conditions in the country.

UN human right body welcome President Uhuru move

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The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has Yesterday welcomed the move Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta took to commute all death sentences to life imprisonment, removing 2,747 convicts from death row.

‘’We welcome the decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta this week to commute all death sentences to life imprisonment, removing 2,747 convicts from death row, including 2,655 men and 92 women’’ Ravina Shamdasani the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in statement in Geneva

Shamdasani said Article 6 (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Kenya ratified in 1972, states that anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence.

‘’We hope that Kenya will build on the momentum created by Monday’s mass commutation and work towards establishing an official moratorium on the death penalty, aiming at its full abolition for all crimes’’ the spokes Person said ‘’ Kenya has not implemented death penalty sentences since 1987 and it accepted recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2015 to establish a moratorium and work towards abolition of capital punishment’’

Adding ‘’We hope Kenya’s initiatives will inspire other States to push forward with efforts to abolish the death penalty, joining the 106 other countries that have rid themselves of this inhumane practice’’

The UN rights body said they stand ready to continue to support all efforts in this direction.