News in Brief 20 March 2017 (AM)

"Fundamentally not appropriate" that disabilities committee has lone woman

The fact that only one woman has been elected by Member States to serve on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is "fundamentally not appropriate."

That's the clear message delivered on the opening day of the 17th Session of the committee, in Geneva, by the UN's Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore.

She spoke on behalf of the UN Secretary-General who has made gender parity and the equal representation of women a centrepiece of his term in office.

Ms Gilmore said that while Member States were responsible for the lack of representation on the committee, there was plenty that it could still achieve.

"We do urge you to ensure a strong gender basis is built in to your agenda this year, and we urge you to take special care to ensure that the voice and experience of girls and women resonates within your deliberations."

She urged Member States to "rectify this unacceptable situation" at the next elections to the disabilities' committee, which runs through to 12 April.

She said the recent expansion of the parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to 172 meant the world was "well on the road to universal ratification."

SDGs will help make happiness a reality, UN urges

Key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as ending poverty and reducing inequality will protect the planet and make it a happier place to be.

That's the message from the UN on Monday, marking the fourth official International Day of Happiness.

This year the Smurf cartoon characters have joined in at UN Headquarters in launching the "Small Smurfs Big Goals" campaign to encourage children and young people to learn about the SDGs and how to support them.

Three of the stars from the upcoming animated Smurfs movie, The Lost Village, came along to honour three young students who have been promoting the SDGs in their own communities.

Actor Mandy Patinkin, who plays "Papa Smurf," urged children to reach out to one another, especially the most vulnerable.

"I would encourage children everywhere to go online and seek out refugee children that are all over the world. There are 65 million refugees that are looking for a better life, and connect with these children through social media, teach them about the sustainable goals and what they are doing in other countries, and ask them what they would like to be done."

The UN is inviting "every person of any age, plus every classroom, business and government" to celebrate the International Day using hashtag #SmallSmurfsBigGoals.

Attack on boat off Yemeni coast condemned by UN Refugee Agency

An attack on a boat carrying nearly 150 people off the coast of Yemen, which left 42 people dead, has been condemned by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The circumstances surrounding Thursday's attack remain unclear but according to international law, civilians must not be targeted by warring parties, who are obliged to protect civilian life.

Yemen is mired in conflict between government and rebel forces that has displaced around three million and left tens of thousands on the brink of famine.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi described the attack off Yemen's west coast, near Al Hudaydah, as an "unwarranted attack on helpless civilians fleeing violence and conflict".

The country is also hosting around 280,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers from other areas in crisis, mainly Somalia.

Source: United Nations Radio