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Pakistan: $160 million UN emergency plan launched, as ‘monsoon on steroids’ continues

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Photo Credit: © UNICEF/A. Sami Malik

A $160 million emergency plan to help Pakistan deal with devastating flooding has been launched by the United Nations, aiming to reach “5.2 million of the most vulnerable people in the country”.

An estimated 33 million people have been affected by the “worst flooding in decades “and more than 1,000 people, mostly children”, have died since mid-June when heavy rains began pounding the country, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said on Tuesday.

“Pakistan is awash in suffering,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message to launch the six-month appeal in Islamabad and Geneva.

‘Unprecedented climate catastrophe’

In a note to correspondents issued on Tuesday afternoon in New York, the Spokesperson’s Office said that given the “tragic situation facing millions” across the country, the UN chief would travel to Pakistan on a solidarity visit, arriving on Friday in Islamabad.

“He will then travel to the areas most impacted by this unprecedented climate catastrophe.”

In his video message earlier, Mr. Guterres said “the Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids – the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding.”

According to Mr. Laerke, 500,000 people displaced by the floods “are sheltering in relief camps … nearly one million homes have been damaged and over 700,000 livestock have been lost”.

The humanitarian situation has also been compounded by severe impacts to infrastructure. Damage to nearly 3,500 km of roads and 150 bridges has impeded the ability of people to flee to safer areas, he said, and compromised the delivery of aid to the millions in need.  

Three key objectives

According to the OCHA spokesperson the plan focuses on three key objectives: “first, delivering lifesaving and livelihood assistance, such as health services, food, clean water and shelter.

“Secondly, to prevent large outbreaks of communicable diseases such as cholera and assist small children and their mothers with nutrition.”

The third aim is to ensure that “people can access assistance and protection in a way that is both safe and dignified, including family tracing”.

Matthew Saltmarsh, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva that to date, the agency’s response has focused on “emergency provision going into the affected regions and providing emergency relief items. These include primarily shelter items, but also, “cooking stoves, blankets, solar lamps.”

“So far, we’ve delivered $1.5 million worth of aid, but much, much more will be needed in the coming weeks and also over the medium term, including development assistance,” Mr. Saltmarsh said.

Devastating impact

Pakistan has endured severe monsoon weather since June, which saw rainfall levels 67 per cent above normal in that month alone, OCHA said in a statement. As of 27 August, rainfall in the country has been equivalent to 2.9 times the national 30-year average.

To date, 72 districts across Pakistan have been declared “calamity-hit” by the government. Amid ongoing rains, the number of calamity-declared districts is expected to increase.

“When we hear flooding, we very often just think about people drowning, but it’s so much more to it,” said Christian Lindmeier, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson. “You have crush injuries from the debris floating in the water. You have electrical shocks from wires… you have the lack of drinking water,” which is “not only a problem for the immediate situation, but for the medium situation as well”.

The WHO spokesperson also warned that “at least 888 health facilities have been severely affected…180 of which are completely damaged at this point”.

The ‘pendulum has swung’

According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 and Climate Watch, Pakistan is among the 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events, despite its very low carbon footprint.

According to Clare Nullis, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson, the deadly flooding is “the footprint of climate change where it is becoming more extreme”. In March and April, Pakistan “was in the grips of this devastating heat wave and drought” and now “the pendulum has swung”, she warned.

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Fight against human trafficking must be strengthened in Ethiopia

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A group of internally displaced people due to the Tigray conflict gather in a site in Ethiopia's Afar region, Ethiopia. © UNHCR/Alessandro Pasta

Throughout Ethiopia’s Tigray, Afar and Amhar regions, women and girls are becoming increasingly vulnerable to abduction and sex trafficking as they flee ongoing armed conflict, a group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned on Monday.

The protracted conflict in the three northern regions have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said in a statement.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said.

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“We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.” 

Women and children in crosshairs

Amidst abductions and displacement, the UN experts raised serious concerns over Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of sex trafficking.

“Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” they said.  

Meanwhile, the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families, especially in the Tigray region, are particularly vulnerable, warned the independent experts.

“The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts continued, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure their protection.

Identifying victims

They added that sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, or support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma being suffered.

“The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” underscored the six UN experts.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare services and psychological support.

The experts said they had made their concerns known to both the Governments of Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

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35 years of Cultural Routes: Safeguarding European Values, Heritage, and Dialogue

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A Europe rich in history, heritage, dialogue and values: the Council of Europe Cultural Routes’ programme celebrates its 35th anniversary, on the occasion of the 11th Advisory Forum in Minoa Palace Hotel, Chania, Crete (Greece) on 5-7 October, with a special event to highlight the relevance of Cultural Routes for the promotion of cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and sustainable tourism.

The Forum is organised by the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes, in co-operation with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Hellenic Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the Region of Crete, the Municipality of Chania, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Chania, and the Historic Cafes Route. The 2022 edition will be the opportunity to underline the growing relevance of the Cultural Routes methodology and practices in promoting Europe’s shared cultural heritage while fostering viable local development.

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge will participate in the high-level dialogue, together with Minister of Culture and Sports of Greece Lina Mendoni, Minister of Tourism of Greece Vassilis Kikilias, Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Vice-President and Chairperson of the Greek Delegation Dora Bakoyannis and Chair of the Statutory Committee of Cultural Routes Ambassador Patrick Engelberg (Luxembourg). 

Over three days of workshops and interactive debates, three main general sessions will be explored:

  1. Promoting European Values and Intercultural Dialogue;
  2. Safeguarding Heritage in Times of Crisis;
  3. Fostering Creative Industries, Cultural Tourism, Innovative Technologies for Sustainable Communities.

The Forum will discuss trends and challenges in relation to Cultural Routes, providing a platform for sharing experiences, reviewing progress, analysing professional practices, launching new initiatives and developing partnerships across Europe and beyond. Participants range from managers among the 48 cultural routes to representatives of national ministries, International Organisations, academics, experts and tourism professionals.

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Little progress combating systemic racism against people of African descent

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More than two years since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the United States sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, there’s been only “piecemeal progress” in addressing systemic racism, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday, in a new report.While more people have been made aware of systemic racism and concrete steps have been taken in some countries, the Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights called on States to demonstrate greater political will to accelerate action.

“There have been some initiatives in different countries to address racism, but for the most part they are piecemeal. They fall short of the comprehensive evidence-based approaches needed to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries, and continues to inflict deep harm today,” said Nada Al-Nashif, who will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.

Triggering change

The report describes international, national and local initiatives that have been taken, towards ending the scourge of racism.

These include an Executive Order from the White House on advancing effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices in federal law enforcement agencies; an Anti-Racism Data Act in British Columbia, Canada; measures to evaluate ethnic profiling by police in Sweden; and census data collection to self-identify people of African descent in Argentina.

The European Commission has issued guidance on collecting and using data based on racial or ethnic origin; formal apologies issued, memorialization, revisiting public spaces, and research, to assess links to enslavement and colonialism in several countries.

‘Barometer for success’

The report notes that poor outcomes continue for people of African descent in many countries, notably in accessing health and adequate food, education, social protection, and justice – while poverty, enforced disappearance and violence continues.

It highlights “continuing…allegations of discriminatory treatment, unlawful deportations, excessive use of force, and deaths of African migrants and migrants of African descent by law enforcement officials”

The barometer for success must be positive change in the lived experiences of people of African descent,” continued Ms. Al-Nashif.

“States need to listen to people of African descent, meaningfully involve them and take genuine steps to act upon their concerns.”

Higher death rates

Where available, recent data still points to disproportionately high death rates faced by people of African descent, at the hands of law enforcement, in different countries.

“Families of African descent continued to report the immense challenges, barriers and protracted processes they faced in their pursuit of truth and justice for the deaths of their relatives”, the report says.

It details seven cases of police-related deaths of people of African descent, namely George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (US); Adama Traoré (France); Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto (Brazil); Kevin Clarke (UK) and Janner [Hanner] García Palomino (Colombia).

While noting some progress towards accountability in a few of these emblematic cases, “unfortunately, not a single case has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition, and the prosecution and sanction of all those responsible,” the report says.

Ms. Al-Nashif called on States to “redouble efforts to ensure accountability and redress wherever deaths of Africans and people of African descent have occurred in the context of law enforcement, and take measures to confront legacies that perpetuate and sustain systemic racism”.

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