Preventing sexual violence means ending impunity

(United Nations) April 27, 2010 –Fresh from her visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which she described as the “rape capital of the world,” a senior United Nations official today urged the Security Council to make the prevention of sexual violence a top priority, and stressed the need to end impunity for the scourge.

“Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished,” Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told the 15-member body.

Ending impunity for sexual violence is a critical part of the Council’s broader mandate to shepherd situations “from might to right, from rule of war to rule of law, from bullets to ballots,” she noted.

“If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced.” Read the rest of this entry »

Shelter critical need for post-quake Haiti

Returning from seeing first-hand the destruction wrought by the earthquake that struck Chile last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the urgent need for shelter, which is also a priority for millions of quake survivors in Haiti.

“Shelter is very important and an urgent one for both Haiti and Chile,” Mr. Ban said at UN Headquarters, following his visit to Chile over the weekend to get a fuller picture of the extent of the damage from the 27 February quake and to better assess how the UN can best help.

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UN: lack of progress on key issues in Sri Lanka

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday expressed concerns about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lanka since the United Nations signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of its civil war with separatist Tamil rebels.

Mr. Ban said that he had “a frank and honest exchange of views” last Thursday about these subjects during a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, where the runner-up candidate in January’s presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka, was subsequently arrested for alleged “military offences” and the parliament was dissolved. Read the rest of this entry »

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First World Humanitarian Day remembers 260 aid workers killed in past year

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Jesuit Refugee Service/USA joins the United Nations and other organizations around the world in recognizing the first World Humanitarian Day.

Established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 2008, August 19, 2009 is the first World Humanitarian Day. The designation of the Day is a way to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities worldwide. The Day also aims to honor humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or been injured in the course of their work.

Why August 19?
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Humanitarian chief condemns violence against aid workers

The top United Nations humanitarian official yesterday deplored the growing number of attacks against aid workers, while highlighting that the effects of natural and man-made disasters on people’s lives would become more devastating.

John Holmes, Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that he was increasingly horrified by the attacks on humanitarian workers, who he noted gave their energies and lives to helping others and were often treated with hostility, suspicion and violence in return.
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UN: Haitian children suffering a 'modern form of slavery'

A U.N. human rights expert says Haiti is suffering a “modern form of slavery” in the widespread use of children as house laborers.

The Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, its causes and consequences, Gulnara Shahinian, expressed deep concern yesterday over the highly exploitative nature of the ‘restavek’ system in Haiti, which she considers to be a modern form of slavery.

Children in Gonaives. (UN Photo/Logan Abassi)

Children in Gonaives. (UN Photo/Logan Abassi)


At the end of her visit to Haiti, Ms. Shahinian emphasized her deep concern at the restavek system, which deprives children of their family environment and violates their most basic rights such as the rights to education, health, and food as well as subjecting them to multiple forms of abuse including economic exploitation, sexual violence and corporal punishment, violating their fundamental right to protection from all forms of violence. Many have been reported as trafficked within the country and outside the country.
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