• Violence against children report “a very strong prevention tool”

    There needs to be a greater emphasis on preventing violence against children to decrease “shocking levels of killing and maiming” of young people around the world. That’s one key conclusion of the Annual Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict for 2016, published on Friday. Virginia Gamba, who serves as the UN […]

  • Angry anglophones, cholera contrast, and a Vanuatu volcano: The Cheat Sheet

    Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe: A tale of two choleras As if their plight was not desperate enough, the more than 507,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the past six weeks […]

  • The Iran Nuclear Deal Explained

    UNITED NATIONS �On October 12, U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce whether his administration still finds Iran in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Here’s a look at what could happen if he chooses not to certify Tehran’s compliance.

    What is the Iran nuclear deal?

    In July 2015, the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany) agreed with Iran on a landmark deal to prevent Tehran from building a nuclear bomb. In exchange, certain international sanctions that have been in place against Iran for years would be lifted.

    The sanctions relief led to Iran receiving billions of dollars in unfrozen funds and opened its markets back up to many foreign investors.

    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as it’s known by its formal name or JCPOA � took years to negotiate and was endorsed by a United Nations Security Council resolution, solidifying it as international law. It went into effect in January 2016.

    Inspectors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, are in charge of monitoring Iran’s compliance.

    The parties also established a Joint Commission to monitor implementation and handle disputes. Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign policy chief, chairs it.

    The deal’s architects have hailed it as a success story for multilateral diplomacy. President Trump has dismissed it as an “embarrassment” and one of the worst deals into which Washington has ever entered. During his campaign, Trump said he’d like to tear it up.

    Can he do that?

    Not exactly.

    The Iran nuclear agreement was reached during U.S. President Barack Obama’s tenure and after it was approved, congressional Republicans tried to derail it.

    But under U.S. legislation adopted in the lead up to the finalization of the agreement, Congress gave itself review and oversight privileges for any nuclear deal reached with Tehran.

    Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA), the U.S. president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Tehran is abiding by the provisions of the deal.

    Four criteria must be met:

    1. Iran is transparently and verifiably fully implementing all parts of the deal

    2. Iran has not committed a material breach of the agreement

    3. Iran has not taken any action, including covert activities, that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program

    4. Suspension of Iran-related sanctions are appropriate and proportionate to measures taken by Iran to terminate its nuclear program and are vital to U.S. national security interests

    If the president does not certify Iran’s compliance this month, it would trigger a 60-day period in which Congress can introduce legislation to re-impose some or all of the old U.S.-imposed sanctions (but not the U.N. ones).

    If that happens, it could cause problems with countries that have resumed trade and banking relationships with Iran, by forcing Washington to impose secondary sanctions on them for cooperating with Tehran.

    Iran could also try to accuse the United States of having been the first to violate the deal and lead to its collapse.

    Congress could also decide not to re-impose sanctions and nothing would change.

    So far, President Trump has certified the deal twice since taking office. The next deadline is October 15. Trump has repeatedly indicated that he is not inclined to find Iran in compliance, most recently on Thursday.

    “The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East,” the president said at a meeting with his senior military leaders. “That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement and we will be discussing that tonight.”

    But “spirit” is different from obligations, and the IAEA has repeatedly verified that Iran is adhering to its obligations, most recently on August 31, 2017.

    In September, on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly, the parties to the agreement met, and the European Union’s Mogherini said they all agreed Iran is in compliance.

    “The agreement is concerning the nuclear program, as such it is delivering, we all agreed that all parties are fulfilling their commitments, the agreement is being implemented,” she told reporters.

    Does decertifying mean a US withdrawal from the deal?

    “If the president chooses not to certify Iranian compliance, that does not mean the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told a Washington research group last month.

    Some view that as a political strategy on the part of the president to show his supporters that he followed through on his promise to be tough on the Obama-era agreement, but without violating it.

    But that has risks. Decertifying and sending the deal to Congress puts its future in jeopardy.

    “This agreement is not something someone can touch,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned last month in New York. “This is a building, that from the frame of which if you take off a single brick, the entire building will collapse.”

    If the deal falls apart, Iran could decide to resume producing and enriching uranium.

    Other parties to the deal say they will continue to uphold it.

    “The UK, whatever the United States does, will continue to abide by this deal, as it is an important part of providing stability in that region,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.

    The EU’s Mogherini was also quite blunt, saying after her September meeting with the other parties that, “I can tell you as Europeans, we will make sure the agreement stays.”

    Worries about North Korea

    U.S. allies are also nervous decertification or withdrawal could derail diplomatic efforts to get the North Koreans to come to the negotiating table to give up their nuclear program.

    ”We would be very concerned that if … a major partner is not attached to the Iran agreement anymore � in this particular time � this would send a very problematic signal to North Korea and all those who we want to get into a political discussion with a political solution on North Korean issues,” said a senior European diplomat.

    The United States is the only party to the deal that has expressed an interest in renegotiating the agreement. France’s president has suggested opening separate discussions on non-nuclear related issues, such as Iran’s support for militias in Syria and Yemen, its ballistic missile activity, and the period after the nuclear agreement ends in 2025.

    Bottom line

    If President Trump decides to toss the Iran ball to Congress, he could inject a high degree of uncertainty into the process. While it remains unclear what Congress’ intention is now, any action that could be perceived as a U.S. violation of the deal could have the unpleasant consequence of isolating Washington internationally.

    Source: Voice of America

  • UN: More Than 8,000 Children Killed, Hurt in Conflicts

    UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday it’s unacceptable and appalling that more than 8,000 children were killed and injured in conflicts last year from Syria and Yemen to Congo and Afghanistan and urged combatants to do more to protect boys and girls.

    The U.N. chief said in his annual report on Children and Armed Conflict, obtained by The Associated Press, that the United Nations verified 3,512 child casualties in Afghanistan, more than 40 percent of the total and the highest number ever recorded in the country.

    Guterres said the recruitment and use of children in conflict more than doubled in Somalia and Syria compared with 2015. And the U.N. verified 169 incidents affecting at least 1,022 youngsters in South Sudan, more than 60 percent of them recruited and used by government security forces, he said.

    Extremists groups

    The secretary-general said the number of violations against children committed by extremist groups � al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Islamic State and the Taliban � totaled more than 6,800.

    U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement that Guterres is appalled not only by the more than 8,000 youngsters killed and injured and the recruitment of children but by sexual violence against girls and boys and attacks on schools and hospitals.

    A child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going to school due to a conflict is already one too many, said Virginia Gamba, the U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict.

    The report contains a blacklist of government forces and rebel groups that recruit, use, kill, maim, rape, sexually abuse or abduct children in armed conflict or attack schools and hospitals.

    For the first time this year, Guterres divided the list in two parts, one naming parties that have not taken any action to improve the protection of children, and one listing parties that have put in place measures.

    Saudi-led coalition

    This year’s list, which AP obtained and reported on Wednesday, was eagerly awaited because last year the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen was put on the blacklist but removed by then-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon under intense pressure from the Saudis.

    Guterres put the coalition on this year’s list of parties that are taking action to protect children, a decision welcomed Thursday by Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.

    The secretary-general said in the report that the coalition’s actions objectively led to the listing for the killing and maiming of children, with 683 child casualties attributed to this party, and as a result of being responsible for 38 verified incidents, for attacks on schools and hospitals during 2016.

    The secretary-general said there were 1,340 verified child casualties in Yemen, more than 50 percent of the deaths and injuries caused by the U.S.-backed coalition.

    In talks with Saudi Arabia, Guterres said, its government told the U.N. the coalition took measures to reduce the impact of the conflict on children by changing rules of engagement and establishing a team to review all incidents involving civilian casualties and identify corrective actions.

    These initiatives are steps in the right direction, Guterres said. Nevertheless, I urge the coalition to improve its approach since, despite these measures, grave violations against children continued at unacceptably high levels in 2016.

    Dujarric said the secretary-general spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The country’s U.N. ambassador has scheduled a press conference Friday.

    Human rights groups

    Human rights groups echoed Guterres’ concerns.

    Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said: The coalition needs to stop making empty promises to exercise caution, take concrete action to stop these deadly unlawful attacks in Yemen, and allow desperately needed fuel and aid to reach those in need.

    Save the Children Director Debra Jones said all parties fighting in Yemen must sit up and take notice and take action, as must those countries that are supporting or arming them.

    The world must make sure the violations end, she said.

    Eva Smets, Watchlist’s executive director, said the Saudi-led coalition is now one of 64 parties listed for violating children’s rights and the U.N. must work with all these parties to ensure these horrific violations of vulnerable children are never repeated.

    Source: Voice of America

  • UN Report Verifies Shocking Toll Children Suffered in 2016 Conflicts

    UNITED NATIONS The United Nations says thousands of children in 20 conflict situations around the globe were killed, maimed, recruited, abducted or sexually violated in 2016.

    The annual blacklist on children in armed conflict names and shames abusers.

    Issued Friday, the report verifies more than 4,000 serious violations by government forces from nine nations and 11,500 violations by 55 nonstate armed groups, including the Islamic State group, the Taliban, Boko Haram and al-Shabab. In those violations, more than 8,000 children were killed or maimed.

    “We have to assume that this is just the tip of an iceberg,” Virginia Gamba, U.N. special representative on children and armed conflict, told reporters Friday at the study’s launch.

    Gamba said verification is often difficult, so it is reasonable to assume “there are things that fall through the cracks,” and that the real figures are much higher.

    Among the violations for which the U.N. monitors, there was an increase across the board in 2016, a worrying trend, she noted.

    Child soldiers

    The report found the recruitment and use of children as child soldiers in Somalia and Syria more than doubled compared with figures from 2015.

    While in Afghanistan, the U.N. verified more than 3,500 child casualties � the highest number ever recorded. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the number of children killed and injured was the highest in that country since 2012.

    The denial of humanitarian access was also singled out for concern. The report found that children were trapped in besieged areas or deprived of access to food, water and medical assistance, including vaccines.

    The United Nations works with cooperative parties listed in the report to implement measures to reduce violations against children and to lead to the release of those who are child soldiers or detainees.

    Saudi Arabia on blacklist

    The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen was also listed for the killing and maiming of 683 children and for airstrikes that hit 33 schools and 19 hospitals in the war-torn country.

    Last year, there was a diplomatic row between the Saudis and the U.N. when the kingdom was briefly blacklisted. Riyadh threatened to pull funding from critical humanitarian programs, leading then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to remove it from the list.

    The U.N. said this year that the Saudis have taken steps to try to cut casualties, including agreeing to install a child protection unit at coalition headquarters.

    “For me, this is a critical year,” Gamba said. “The past is unchangeable, but we can do something to change the present and the future.”

    Gamba, who took up her post in mid-May, has changed the format of the report to separate parties who do not take measures to protect children and those who do. Saudi Arabia was on the latter list.

    “We reject the inaccurate and misleading information and figures contained in the report,” Saudi Arabia’s U.N. Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallaimi told a news conference Friday. The Saudi ambassador had at least seven other coalition ambassadors with him in a show of support.

    Houthi rebels blamed

    He put the blame for the child casualties on the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who led a coup to oust the Yemeni government in September 2014 that resulted in the fighting.

    The U.N. report also held the Houthis accountable for 414 child casualties and the recruitment of 359 children as fighters, porters or checkpoint guards. There were also over 220 reports of denial of humanitarian access, most of which were attributed to the rebels.

    “Naming perpetrators responsible for attacks on children is a critical first step in correcting these wrongs,” said Eva Smets, executive director of Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a global network that advocates for children’s rights. “The U.N. must now work with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and other parties to ensure these horrific violations of vulnerable children are never repeated.”

    Source: Voice of America

  • UN report reveals shocking levels of grave violations against children affected by conflicts

    More than 15,500 children became victims of widespread violations � including shocking levels of killing and maiming, recruitment and use, and denial of humanitarian access � a new United Nations report has revealed.

    According to the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict, presented today to the Security Council, children from countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suffered an unacceptable level of violations by parties to conflict � both government forces as well as non-State armed groups.

    The tragic fate of child victims of conflict cannot and must not leave us unmoved; a child killed, recruited as a soldier, injured in an attack or prevented from going school due to a conflict is already one too many, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said in a news release today.

    Of the 20 country situations included in the report, at least 4,000 verified violations committed by Government forces and over 11,500 by non-State armed groups. Afghanistan recorded the highest number of verified child casualties since the UN started documenting civilian casualties in 2009, with 3,512 children killed or maimed last year � an increase of 24 per cent compared to the previous year.

    The report also documents 851 verified cases (more than double the number in 2015) of children recruited and used in Syria, and 1,915 in Somalia in 2016. It also notes that in Yemen, at least 1,340 children were killed or maimed. In Syria that number stood at 1,299.

    UN chief ‘appalled’ at scale of violations

    Expressing shock over the scale of violations documented in the report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call on parties to conflict to abide by their responsibility to protect children, in accordance with their obligation under international humanitarian and human rights law.

    The goal of the report is not only to raise awareness of the violations of the rights of children but also to promote measures that can diminish the tragic plight of children in conflict, read a statement attributable to the spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

    The Secretary-General is encouraged that several governments and non-state actors are now working with the United Nations towards that objective. He hopes that more will follow, it added.

    The statement further noted that the new Developments and Concerns section included in the report reflects this enhanced UN engagement, which should lead to reducing the suffering of children victims of armed conflict and increase their protection.

    The violations covered in the report include recruitment or use of children; killing or maiming children; committing rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; engaging in attacks on schools and/or hospitals; and abducting children in situations of armed conflict.

    The parties which committed these violations are listed in annexes to the report. The annexes also include parties that have put in place measures to improve protection of children during the reporting period and those who have not implemented adequate measures.

    Source: UN News Centre

  • WHO, Others Pledge to End Cholera

    WASHINGTON The World Health Organization is sending 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine to Bangladesh to help prevent a major outbreak of cholera in the crowded Rohingya refugee camp that sits on the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar.At least a half-milli…

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