News in Brief 4 December 2017 – Geneva (AM)

Yemen: desperate families trapped by armed clashes, airstrikes

Families trapped by fighting in Yemen's capital Sana'a are making "desperate" calls to humanitarian workers amid a surge in armed clashes and airstrikes, the UN said on Monday.

In a statement from Sana'a, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator there, said that aid workers are unable to work because of the fighting.

He described how the capital's streets "have become battlegrounds", and how people are trapped in their homes, unable to access food, fuel and safe water.

Mr McGoldrick called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds after days of continuous violence which have claimed dozens of lives, including civilians.

Meanwhile, an international group of human rights experts has been appointed to investigate abuses by Yemen's warring parties, the UN said on Monday.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced the probe as "an important step towards accountability and ending impunity" for abuses in the three-year conflict.

Carrying out the investigation into rights violations in Yemen will be Tunisian national Kamel Jendoubi, Charles Garraway from the United Kingdom and Melissa Parke from Australia.

Known as "eminent international and regional experts", the trio are mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate "all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights" committed by all parties to the conflict since September 2014.

To date, the conflict between forces loyal to President Mansur Hadi and Houthi-backed fighters has claimed more than 5,000 civilian lives and created a humanitarian disaster, amid an ongoing blockade by the Saudi-backed coalition.

Climate change linked to growing food insecurity in Europe and Central Asia: FAO

Small-scale farmers in parts of Europe and Central Asia have been the "hardest hit" by climate change, adding to food security concerns in the region, the UN said on Monday.

In 17 countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia zone (ECA), the Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) noted that more than 14 million people are not getting the food they need.

Malnutrition problems are also on the rise, the agency said in a report, which estimates population growth in the ECA region of around 10 million people by 2050.

To meet growing needs, FAO has recommended new sustainable farming methods which will ensure better harvests, helped by measures that will increase resilience to natural hazards.

These sustainable measures will be key, particularly in the northern ECA region, where temperatures have increased as much as 1.6 degrees Centigrade since the 1990s.

Extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, have already caused considerable damage and production losses in the crop, livestock, fishery and forestry sectors, FAO has warned.

FAO's Vladimir Rakhmanin cited poverty as the "most important obstacle" to food security and to countries' progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2, one of 17 Global Goals agreed by the international community.

The aims of SDG2 include ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition levels and promoting sustainable agriculture.

Biological Weapons Convention meeting of States Parties opens in Geneva

Renewed efforts to contain the threat posed by biological weapons began at the UN on Monday, where Member States have gathered to discuss the issue.

The 2017 Meeting of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) follows previous attempts to set up an international monitoring mechanism � similar to those which exist for chemical and nuclear weapons.

The backdrop to the Geneva meeting is concerns over advances in gene editing and biotechnology which are believed to have increased the threat of bacteriological and toxin-based arms.

After opening for signature in 1972, the Biological Weapons Convention entered into force three years later. It has 179 States Parties and six States which have signed but not yet ratified it.

Source: United Nations Radio