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Security Council has critical role in addressing fragility and conflict

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres has underlined the critical role of the Security Council in addressing links between fragility and conflict, two of the greatest obstacles to achieving sustainable development across the world. 

Mr. Guterres was speaking on Wednesday during a high-level virtual debate of the Council to examine the challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile or conflict-affected countries. 

“By acting early and preventively, by engaging strategically to address the root causes of conflict, and speaking with one voice, the Council can mobilize the international community’s political and financial support, shed a spotlight on critical areas of need, and foster the commitment of conflict actors where needed”, he said in French, speaking through an interpreter. 

The UN chief stressed that breaking the cycle of poverty and conflict calls for recognizing peace and sustainable development are interdependent, while also promoting inclusion. 

“Guaranteeing equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and participation in decision-making are not simply moral and legal obligations. They are a necessary condition if countries are to truly break out of the conflict trap”, he said. 

Appeal from the Sahel 

The linkages between conflict and fragility have been particularly visible in Africa, including in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, the Secretary-General continued.  Climate change, terrorism, transnational organized crime and the proliferation of armed groups have only worsened the situation. 

Last Saturday, gunmen killed more than 100 villagers in western Niger, which the UN strongly condemned.  The country’s President, Mahamadou Issoufou, was among leaders participating in the virtual meeting. 

“The international community must mobilize to help the countries in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin to move on from this fragile context, the primary victims of which are women and children,” President Issoufou said in French.  He expressed hope that these regions will figure prominently in the Security Council’s agenda.  

Support African Union initiatives 

The UN has been working with the African Union (AU) and regional bodies to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to boost countries’ resilience.  

However, the Secretary-General said AU peace support operations continue to require predictable and sustained financing, and he urged the Council to address the issue. 

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chair of the AU Commission, pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic and its “devastating” health and socio-economic impacts represent a further threat to fragile nations. 

“States’ fragility remains a major obstacle to development in Africa, and overcoming these challenges is an absolute priority for the African Union, and it remains one of the pillars of our international agenda,” he said, also in French. 

Global ceasefire 

The UN chief told ambassadors that just a month ago, he had co-chaired the fourth UN-AU Annual Conference, which provided an opportunity to once again express support for the AU’s Silencing the Guns initiative, aimed at addressing the root causes of conflict across the continent. 

“My call for a global ceasefire, goes hand-in-hand with this flagship initiative”, said Mr. Guterres, highlighting his months-long plea to all engaged in violence, to direct their fire instead at the common enemy – COVID-19. 

‘New and bold steps’ needed 

Looking to the promise of the New Year, Liberia’s former President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said the Council debate must lead to “new and bold steps” towards ending conflict, displacement and despair. 

The Nobel Peace Prize winner recalled that the UN commemorated its 75th anniversary last year, a period which saw the Secretary-General advocating for climate action and the ceasefire during the pandemic. 

Although the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, will celebrate the same milestone this year, “its continued existence is a mark on our collective conscious”, she stated.  “It means that we have not pursued peace, not addressed fragility.”  

Ms. Johnson Sirleaf said the UN and its many organs, especially the Security Council, were established to spearhead global development and global equity. 

“The United Nations must continue to represent more than hope”, she said.  “It must be an active mechanism for peace and scale-up support for the fragile nations that for too long have been left behind.”

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Environment

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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