South Sudan: Dangerous rise in ethnic hate speech must be reined in – Zeid

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GENEVA (25 October 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday warned that rising ethnic rhetoric, hate speech and incitement to violence against certain ethnic groups in South Sudan is highly dangerous and could result in mass atrocities if not reined in by community and political leaders at the highest levels.

Over the past two weeks, letters with graphic warnings of violence against people from the Equatoria region were left outside the gates of humanitarian organisations in Aweil West, in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in the north-western part of the country.

The letters, purportedly written by individuals from the Dinka community, warned Equatorians to leave or be “eliminated”, with threats of violence, mutilation and murder. Certain State officials in the region have also reportedly joined in the hate speech.

An Equatorian staff member of a humanitarian organisation was attacked on 16 October in Aweil Town and 92 staff members of humanitarian organisations have been evacuated from Aweil and 12 from Bor.

The threats emerged in reaction to the killing of an unconfirmed number of Dinka civilians travelling to Juba by bus on 8 October, and an attack against another three buses on 10 October. Rumours circulated on social media about the number of civilians killed, calling for revenge attacks against Equatorians.

“Hateful ethnic rhetoric in South Sudan – particularly if it is exploited for political purposes – can have devastating consequences for entire communities, quickly spiralling into a cycle of revenge attacks,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “I urge President Salva Kiir and all political and community leaders with influence to urgently and unambiguously condemn the incitement to violence and to take urgent measures to defuse the tensions.”

“One important step would be to promptly and transparently investigate the violence of 8 and 10 October, and to hold perpetrators individually criminally responsible,” Zeid added. “Those who are behind these terrible threats against Equatorians must also be held to account.”

Zeid welcomed the press statement issued by the Acting Governor of Aweil State, in which he called on all citizens to “join the Government in condemnation of these alleged threats directed towards our Equatorian brothers and sisters.”

But the High Commissioner expressed concern at a statement by President Kiir on 19 October, in which the President said he would personally lead military operations against the armed groups responsible for the killings in the region. The statement has widely been interpreted as ethnically driven.

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UN Human Rights Chief welcomes Pfizer decision to bar use of its drugs for executions

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GENEVA (19 May 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday warmly welcomed the initiatives announced by pharmaceutical company Pfizer to ensure that the drugs it produces will not be used by States to carry out executions by lethal injection.

“Businesses, across many industries, can help prevent human rights violations from occurring,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “It is heartening to see companies playing an active role in furthering the trend towards ending use of the death penalty.”

The company announced that it would restrict the sale of seven products that have been part of lethal injection protocols in some States. Resale will be restricted and Government entities will be required to certify that the products they purchase will not be used for any penal purposes. Pfizer has said it will monitor the distribution consistently.

High Commissioner Zeid called on all businesses to act in accordance with their human rights responsibilities as set out in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur” as well as to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services”.*

He noted that other companies, beyond the pharmaceutical industry, may be involved in activities relating to the administration of the death penalty, and called on such businesses to carry out human rights due diligence across their operations to ensure that they are not in any way contributing to the use of capital punishment.

Zeid also urged States not to resort to questionable sources for the drugs required to administer lethal injections. He stressed that the UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.

On World Malaria Day, a push to eliminate malaria

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News release
25 April 2016 | Geneva – A year after the World Health Assembly resolved to eliminate malaria from at least 35 countries by 2030, WHO is releasing a World Malaria Day report that shows this goal, although ambitious, is achievable.

In 2015, all countries in the WHO European Region reported, for the first time, zero indigenous cases of malaria, down from 90 000 cases in 1995. Outside this region, 8 countries reported zero cases of the disease in 2014: Argentina, Costa Rica, Iraq, Morocco, Oman, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and United Arab Emirates.

Another 8 countries each tallied fewer than 100 indigenous malaria cases in 2014. And a further 12 countries reported between 100 and 1000 indigenous malaria cases in 2014.

The “Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030”, approved by the World Health Assembly in 2015, calls for the elimination of local transmission of malaria in at least 10 countries by 2020. WHO estimates that 21 countries are in a position to achieve this goal, including 6 countries in the African Region, where the burden of the disease is heaviest.

Shining a spotlight on countries moving toward elimination of malaria

“Our report shines a spotlight on countries that are well on their way to eliminating malaria,” said Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “WHO commends these countries while also highlighting the urgent need for greater investment in settings with high rates of malaria transmission, particularly in Africa. Saving lives must be our first priority.”

Since the year 2000, malaria mortality rates have declined by 60% globally. In the WHO African Region, malaria mortality rates fell by 66% among all age groups and by 71% among children under 5 years.

The advances came through the use of core malaria control tools that have been widely deployed over the last decade: insecticide-treated bed-nets, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing and artemisinin-based combination therapies.

But reaching the next level—elimination—will not be easy. Nearly half of the world’s population, 3.2 billion people, remain at risk of malaria. Last year alone, 214 million new cases of the disease were reported in 95 countries and more than 400 000 people died of malaria.

The efficacy of the tools that secured the gains against malaria in the early years of this century is now threatened. Mosquito resistance to insecticides used in nets and indoor residual spraying is growing. So too is parasite resistance to a component of one of the most powerful antimalarial medicines. Further progress against malaria will likely require new tools that do not exist today, and the further refining of new technologies.

Last year, for the first time, the European Medicines Agency issued a positive scientific opinion on a malaria vaccine. In January 2016, WHO recommended large-scale pilot projects of the vaccine in several African countries, which could pave the way for wider deployment in the years ahead.

Strong political commitment and funding are vital

“New technologies must go hand in hand with strong political and financial commitment,” Dr Alonso added.

Vigorous leadership by the governments of affected countries is key. Governments must strengthen surveillance of cases to identify gaps in coverage and be prepared to take action based on the information received. As countries approach elimination, the ability to detect every infection becomes increasingly important.

Reaching the goals of the “Global Technical Strategy” will require a steep increase in global and domestic funding—from $2.5 billion today to an estimated $8.7 billion annually by 2030.

Through robust financing and political will, affected countries can speed progress towards malaria elimination and contribute to the broader development agenda as laid out in the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”

South Sudan: Failure of Government of South Sudan and Opposition to Form TGNU

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Press Statement
John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
April 24, 2016

The United States is disappointed by the continued failure of the Government of South Sudan and by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -SPLM/A-IO (IO) to form the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU) and implement the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

Yesterday, the government denied landing permission to flights for the return of opposition leader Riek Machar. This interference resulted in the failure to meet the deadline in the compromise proposal put forward by the regional and international partners of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission that was agreed to by both sides. We have previously condemned obstruction by the IO, including the arbitrary demand by Riek Machar that more forces and heavy weapons than was previously agreed precede his arrival to Juba.

Despite the best efforts by South Sudan’s neighbors, the Troika, United Nations Mission in South Sudan, China, the African Union, the European Union and, most importantly, by South Sudanese advocating for peace, leaders on both sides have blocked progress.

The United States will continue to work with those who are sincerely committed to implementing the Agreement, particularly its provisions for reform of the security sector and public finances and for reconciliation and accountability.

The scope of future U.S. engagement in helping South Sudan confront the country’s security, economic and development challenges, however, will depend on the parties demonstrating commitment to work together to implement the Agreement. We have been working intensively with our partners, especially Ethiopia, to facilitate Riek Machar’s return. Given the actions by both sides to prevent or delay his return, it is now time for the parties to assume primary responsibility for facilitating the return of Riek Machar to Juba to form the TGNU and to demonstrate that they are genuinely committed to peace.

PRESS STATEMENT OF LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES OF INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL PARTNERS OF THE JOINT MONITORING AND EVALUATION COMMISSION

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The regional and international partners of JMEC met on 22 April 2016 to discuss the extraordinary meeting of JMEC, held on 21 April in Juba.The partners expressed their deep appreciation to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan for its decision to accept the compromise proposal, for the sake of peace.

They also welcomed the decision by the SPLM/A (IO) to accept the compromise proposal, and underscored the necessity of First Vice-President designate Dr. Riek Machar Teny to uphold his commitment to return to Juba no later than 23 April.

The partners reiterated their strong objection to the introduction of new conditions. Partners recognized the positive role played by the Chairperson of JMEC HE Festus G. Mogae and the AU High Representative HE Alpha Oumar Konaré and commended their efforts dedicated to the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity.

Partners reaffirmed their resolve to continue to jointly accompany the peace process and urge all parties involved to work tirelessly and collectively towards sustainable peace in South Sudan

JMEC WELCOMES GOVERNMENT’S ACCEPTANCE OF COMPROMISE ARRANGEMENTS FOR RETURN OF THE FIRST VICE PRESIDENT DESIGNATE

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22 April 2016 JUBA: The JMEC Chairperson, Mr. Festus G. Mogae, Former President of the Republic of Botswana, welcomed today the decision by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to accept the 21 April compromise proposal on arrangements for return of the First Vice President-designate made by the regional and international members of JMEC.

The Chairperson said: ‘I am in receipt of a letter from the Government’s Chief Negotiator, in which the Government accepts that the SPLM/A (IO) transport from Gambella twenty PKM machine guns and twenty RPG rocket launchers, in addition to the individual weapons of the 195 accompanying personnel. I welcome this concession by the Government, following yesterday’s acceptance by the SPLM/A (IO) of the compromise proposal. It is now vital that the First Vice President-designate returns to Juba tomorrow and the Transitional Government of National Unity
is formed immediately upon his arrival. No further delay is tolerable.’

United States Calls on Burundi to Carry Out Stated Commitments

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Press Statement

John Kirby
Assistant Secretary and Department Spokesperson, Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

March 2, 2016

The United States welcomes signs of intensified regional and international commitment to resolving the Burundi crisis. This includes the appointment of former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as the full-time facilitator for the regionally mediated dialogue and recent commitments by the Government of Burundi to the UN and African Union (AU) to release political prisoners and allow independent monitors.

In particular, the United States recognizes the AU High Level Delegation’s success in securing the Government of Burundi’s acceptance of 200 AU human rights and security observers, and we urge the government to allow these officials complete and free access to perform their duties by signing the memorandum of understanding associated with their deployment without delay.

We urge prompt action by the Government of Burundi to implement President Nkurunziza’s promise to release at least 2,000 detainees. We also call upon the Government of Burundi to lift all restrictions on media, create conditions for citizens to safely express dissenting views, and drop charges against and release political opponents. We welcome the decision by the Government of Burundi to accept the first visit by three United Nations independent experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council, to investigate violations and abuses, and to meet with all stakeholders.

The United States looks forward to the East African Community immediately announcing a date for the resumption of dialogue with all stakeholders, both those inside and outside the country. The United States continues to urge all sides to lay the groundwork for a successful dialogue by refraining from the daily grenade attacks, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and other acts of violence that continue to destabilize Burundi. We also urge all the stakeholders to publicly commit to participating in the regionally-mediated dialogue without preconditions or red lines.

U.S. Government Announces New Community Reconciliation Project in S.Sudan

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The Government of the United States Thursday  announced a new initiative to support community- level reconciliation. It also launched the National Peace Center in Juba for all South Sudanese who wish to take an active role in promoting peace and reconciliation.

The new “Reconciliation for Peace in South Sudan” initiative – funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Catholic Relief Services – will address the deep and painful rifts within and between South Sudan’s diverse communities. Over the next 30 months, this $6 million program will support the South Sudan Council of Churches as it engages communities in grassroots reconciliation processes. This work will reach approximately 1.25 million South Sudanese, responding to a nationwide need for healing and reconciliation

It will have a special focus on women, youth and others that have been marginalized by years of conflict.

U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Molly Phee announced the new reconciliation program at the launch of the National Peace Center, a USAID-funded community center that responds to calls by civil society, political parties and other South Sudanese for a place to coordinate efforts to promote peace and receive credible information about the peace process.

The National Peace Center provides publications on global peace processes and implementation strategies to prepare South Sudanese to take a more active role in public debate.

It also offers materials – including copies of the peace agreement, legislation, and official policies – which visitors can take away and share with local networks.

Other services include hosting programs and offering meeting space, computer access, and Internet. Through these activities, the Center aims to help facilitate the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.

“By funding both the Reconciliation for Peace in South Sudan initiative and the National Peace Center, we hope to ensure that the peace process is inclusive, and sustained by the active participation of all South Sudanese,” said Ambassador Phee. “We hope to empower every South Sudanese to take a more active part in their country’s future.”

 

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Tunisia

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In response to a request from the Tunisian authorities, an IMF mission led by Mr. Amine Mati visited Tunis from February 18 to March 3, 2016, to hold discussions on a four-year arrangement under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF), expected to amount to about $2.8 billion, to support the country’s economic reform program. At the end of the visit, Mr. Mati issued the following statement:

“The team held productive discussions with senior government and Central Bank officials. It also met with members of parliament, representatives of the banking and private sectors, political parties, trade unions, donors, and civil society. Discussions focused on the government’s economic reform agenda, policy priorities to boost economic growth, and the role that the IMF can play to support Tunisia’s economic recovery.

“Moving ahead with economic reform is crucial as the Tunisian economy confronts several significant challenges. Economic growth is held back by investors’ wait-and-see attitude and regional uncertainties, unemployment is high, and the current account deficit remains significant. Promoting private-sector development and modernizing the public sector are important tasks. Additional financing will be needed to rebuild buffers, while at the same time correcting structural inefficiencies that lower Tunisia’s ability to create jobs and future growth potential.

“The team supports the government’s comprehensive economic reform program, spelled out in its economic vision, which is expected to be detailed in its forthcoming 5-Year Development Plan. The government program appropriately focuses on boosting economic growth, creating more jobs, and raising the living standards of all Tunisians. Overall, the program will help make growth more inclusive and reduce regional disparities. To achieve these objectives, the government has committed to continue pursuing prudent macroeconomic policies and accelerate the implementation of its ambitious structural reform agenda. The mission discussed its observations on the economic reform program with the Tunisian authorities.

“Negotiations for a new IMF arrangement to support the government’s economic reform program are at an advanced stage. As next steps, the team will continue its discussions with the authorities as they finalize their reform priorities and fine tune plans for this year’s budget execution and financing needs. In the coming weeks, the team plans to finalize the details of the EFF in support of Tunisia’s economic program.

“The mission would like to thank the authorities and all those with whom they met for their warm welcome and the frank and productive discussions.”

Flint: Fundamentally about human rights – UN experts underline

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GENEVA (3 March 2016) – Today, a group of United Nations human rights experts called on the United States to increase its efforts to address environmental threats to human rights.

Recent outrage over lead-contaminated water in the town of Flint, Michigan, has drawn international scrutiny to the toxic threats faced by children, particularly in poor, African-American, minority, and Native American communities, in the US.

The group of UN experts on hazardous wastes, health, water and sanitation, indigenous peoples, minorities, and racism described the issue as one of human rights, and urged the US to protect the rights of children and others who are most at-risk from pollution and toxic chemicals.

Their appeal comes as US presidential candidates are debating issues confronting Flint and other communities at risk this week in Michigan.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the children of Flint and to the countless other victims of lead poisoning in the United States and around the world”, the UN experts said. “Lead poisoning is preventable. No parent should have to endure the mental torment that will haunt parents in Flint, and no child should be denied the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution, the experts underlined, affect the right to safe water, the right to adequate housing, the right to safe food, as well as the right to health, among others, including the rights of the child and indigenous peoples. Also, disproportionate levels of exposure invoke questions of discrimination and inequality.

“Those who need the most support and protection often face the greatest risk from pollution and toxic substances,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak. “For many communities in the US and around the world, the risks are growing. Far more is needed to protect human rights from toxic threats.”

The experts noted that across the United States nearly twice as many African-American children (5.6 percent) have high levels of lead in their bloodstream as compared with white children (2.4 percent).  The majority of people in Flint, Michigan are African-American (57 percent).  Forty-two percent of residents are below the poverty line. Across the State of Michigan as a whole, 14 percent is African-American and 16 percent live in poverty.

Lead is only one of many toxic chemicals to which minorities and the poor are often disproportionately exposed. A recent report has found that minorities in the US comprise nearly half the population (11.4 million people) living near potential sources of toxic emissions, and they are almost twice as likely as whites to live on the “fenceline.”  More than one-quarter of children (1.6 million) living in these hazardous areas are children under the age of five,  whose developing bodies are especially vulnerable to the adverse health impacts of toxic chemical exposure.

“Unfortunately, Flint is just one of countless communities around the world who are victims of pollution and toxic chemicals”, the experts noted. “Exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals is a human rights issue. But, it is a human rights issue for which solutions are possible”.

“We commend President Obama for declaring a federal state of emergency to accelerate the distribution of bottled water and filters to the people of Flint”, said Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. “However, much more must be done to protect those who live in vulnerable situations and to restore a safe permanent water supply”.

Specifically, the UN experts urged the United States Government to:

• Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, without reservation.

• Show leadership in reducing the risks related to toxic chemicals at home and abroad and addressing the issues raised by toxic chemicals and pollution as a human rights issue.

• Strengthen protections for the most marginalized and those in vulnerable situations from hazardous substances, especially children, the poor, and minorities by addressing the underlying determinants of health, including access to safe food, to clean water, healthy occupational and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information.

• Take legislative and regulatory actions to protect the rights of those to most at risk by requiring the use of safer chemicals and technologies whenever possible.

• Enhance access to and quality of health care facilities, services, and goods in affected areas, paying particular attention to the socio-epidemiological profile of the situation.