The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health ::
Holistic Development :: Sustainable Resilience
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Week ending 28 March 2015

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortiums and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor &
Founding Managing Director
GE2P2 – Center for Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice
david.r.curry@ge2p2center.net

pdf verion: The Sentinel_ week ending 28 March 2015

blog edition: comprised of the 35+ entries to be posted below on 29 March 2015

UN Security Council, 7418th meeting – The situation in the Middle East

Editor’s Note:
It was an extraordinary week for UN Security Council debate and action. We include content just below from separate sessions on Syria and Children in Armed Conflict. Other actions are covered in Agency Watch below.

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Middle East – Security Council, 7418th meeting – Video
26 Mar 2015 – The situation in the Middle East
Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014) (S/2015/206).
This video segment includes the statements of Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator on the humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, and a response from H.E. Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations.
S/2015/206
UNTV Video: http://webtv.un.org/search/middle-east-security-council-7418th-meeting/4136705861001?term=Security%20Council

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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos: Security Council Briefing on Syria – New York, 26 March 2015
Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
[Full text]

Mr. President,
We are in the fifth year of a war in Syria characterized by breathtaking levels of savagery and it is just over one year since this Council adopted resolution 2139. The resolution demanded action by the parties to the conflict, to cease attacks against civilians and facilitate humanitarian access to those in need. We had all hoped that the resolution would compel the parties to reduce the violence and lead to a significant improvement in the situation of people in Syria.

By any measure, however, the situation in Syria has dramatically worsened.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of this conflict. The Secretary-General has submitted report after report highlighting the failure of the parties to meet their basic minimum legal obligations. Indiscriminate aerial bombings, including the use of barrel bombs, car bombs, mortar attacks, unguided rockets and the use of other explosive devices in populated areas, are the hallmarks of this conflict.

Fighting continues to escalate across the country. Increased violence in Idlib city in the past few days is particularly worrying and has the potential to displace hundreds of thousands more people. I am concerned that civilians could become trapped in the city if the fighting escalates. People must be given safe passage and be allowed to leave if this becomes necessary.

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Mr. President,
I have previously reported on the worsening socio-economic situation in the country which has eroded the development gains made over a generation. Today, a Syrian’s life expectancy is estimated to be 20 years less than when the conflict started. Unemployment is around 58 per cent, up from around 10 per cent in 2010; and nearly two thirds of all Syrians are now estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

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Mr. President,
The inability of this Council and countries with influence over the different parties at war in Syria, to agree on the elements for a political solution in the country, means that the humanitarian consequences will continue to be dire for millions of Syrians.

Children are particularly badly affected with 5.6 million children now in need of assistance. Well over two million children are out of school. A quarter of Syria’s schools have been damaged, destroyed or taken over for shelter. It will take billions of dollars to repair damaged schools and restore the education system.

Nutritional surveys indicate a worrying decline in the nutritional status of children. Three governorates – Hama, Aleppo and Deir-ez-Zor – have Global Acute Malnutrition rates above 10 percent among the children sampled: a level considered as “serious” according to WHO standards. The overall country-wide Global Acute Malnutrition Rate was 7.2 per cent. This is considered to be “poor”.

The health system in Syria has been destroyed. Only half of the network of primary health centers which existed before the conflict are still working. Physicians for Human Rights has documented 233 attacks on 183 medical facilities, with 610 medical staff killed over the last four years.

Basic services continue to be deliberately attacked and cut. For example, some 450,000 people in Dar’a had their water cut for two weeks in February. And even when basic services are restored, people only have sporadic access due to the systemic degradation of basic infrastructure. NGOs reviewing satellite imagery report that 83 per cent of the lights have gone out in Syria over the past four years. This is an average. The cuts are even higher in areas like Aleppo.

As needs grow humanitarian organizations need to reach more people, but we are facing increasing difficulties in reaching the 4.8 million people who live in areas which are hard to reach. And as the violence escalates and conflict lines continue to shift, I fear that these numbers will rise. Access continues to be constrained by insecurity and active fighting but the parties to the conflict are increasingly, deliberately obstructing the delivery of life-saving aid.

In parts of the country under ISIL control, a number of humanitarian offices have been closed. As a result WFP was forced to halt distribution to 700,000 people in ISIL-controlled areas of Aleppo, Hasakeh, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa governorates and FAO distributions in the northern governorates – the agricultural belt of the country – have also been reduced in the past few months.

The Syrian Government continues to put in place restrictive administrative hurdles, hampering the effective delivery of aid and have insisted that the United Nations share beneficiary lists. In February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs instructed the United Nations that all communications with government ministries and public service providers be routed through the MFA.

At a time when needs are growing, and the humanitarian community should be scaling up its response, the Government continues to put in place measures that are not practical and slow down our response.

So far this year the United Nations has requested access to 33 locations for the delivery of aid through inter-agency convoys. Only three have been agreed. To Al Wa’er, Talbiseh and Ar Rastan in Homs. Despite the approval and support of the Governor, Syrian state security forces removed surgical and other medical and reproductive health supplies from the convoys to Al Wa’er and Talbiseh. Urgently needed medical supplies, including surgical items, are scheduled to be delivered to Ar Rastan on 30th March. I ask this Council to make it clear to the Government of Syria that these convoys must be allowed to proceed and their security forces should allow the free passage of all supplies to people in need.

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Mr. President,
There has been some confusion about the number of people in besieged and hard to reach locations. In besieged areas people cannot leave and assistance cannot get in on a regular basis.

In February, the United Nations could not deliver any food or medicines to besieged locations. UNRWA has restarted delivery of some assistance to Yarmouk on 4th March. However, food distribution takes place only three times a week, with around 200 families receiving parcels on each distribution day. UNRWA estimates that the 18,000 people trapped in Yarmouk require 400 food parcels daily to meet their basic needs.

An additional 228,000 people are now living under siege in Government-controlled neighborhoods of Deir ez-Zor, by ISIL. They are unable to leave the city and only minimal supplies have been air lifted in by the Government. This increases the total number of people besieged in Syria from 212,000 to an estimated 440,000.

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Mr. President,
This situation cannot continue. 185,500 people are in areas besieged by the Government, despite their assertions that they have a responsibility to look after their own people. The rest are in areas besieged by armed groups. The authority of this Council is being undermined. People trapped in besieged locations are becoming more and more desperate. We must be allowed to deliver essential humanitarian items, such as food, nutritional supplies for children, medicines and medical items. Time is running out. More people will die.

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners continue to do everything we can to try to save lives and we are still getting aid to millions of people each month, including through cross border operations. The pledging conference in Kuwait on 31st March is an opportunity to raise some of the resources required to maintain our life saving work. I encourage governments to give generously.

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We also need the Council’s continued strong support in the following areas:
To remain strong advocates for compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. Making it clear that parties to the conflict, including the Government, which bears a special responsibility as a Member of the United Nations, cannot act with impunity.

On the issue of denial of access, where parties arbitrarily withhold consent to relief operations there must be consequences and accountability. Council members may wish to consider the concrete steps they would like to take, given the violations of the Council’s demands on access contained in resolution 2139.

And on the repeated targeting of health facilities and personnel, the Syrian armed forces, non-state armed groups and terrorist groups must be held accountable for their actions.

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Mr. President,
Day after day, month after month, year after year, the death, destruction and violence in Syria grows. As Council members have said many times, there is no humanitarian solution to the crisis. The international community must demonstrate greater determination to reach a long overdue political solution.

Thank you.

UN Security Council – Open debate: Children and armed conflict – SC/11832 – 25 March 2015

25 March 2015
UN Security Council – Open debate: Children and armed conflict
SC/11832

Former Child Soldier Describes Forced Recruitment during Security Council Debate, Urges International Community to Aid Other Children Released by Armed Groups
7414th Meeting (AM)
UN Security Council
Citing ‘New and Grave’ Threats, Speakers Spotlight Strategies to Tackle Abuse, Chart Progress of Protection Campaigns

Security Council Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict: Statement Delivered by Leila Zerrougui
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict 25 Mar 2015
Statement delivered in French

At Security Council Debate on Children, Armed Conflict, Secretary General Says ‘Children of the World Should Be Students, Not Soldiers’
25 March 2015
SG/SM/16617-SC/11833
[Excerpts]
I thank the Permanent Representative of France for organizing this important and timely debate. The world’s children are increasingly under threat in theatres of war. Last year was considered one of the worst ever for children in areas affected by conflict.

An estimated 230 million children live in countries and areas where armed groups are fighting. Up to 15 million children were directly affected by the violence. The perpetrators of violations against children in armed conflict are increasingly diverse and brutal…

…Globally, in conflict situations, the main perpetrators of grave violations against children are armed groups. These groups constitute the vast majority of parties listed in the annexes of my annual report on children and armed conflict.

Since I last addressed the Council on this issue one year ago, hundreds of thousands more children have been confronted with the emergence or intensification of conflict, and have endured new and grave threats posed by armed groups. Sadly, this includes some of the worst human rights violations a child can experience — including death, injury, imprisonment and torture, sexual abuse, forced recruitment and abduction. There is rarely anyone to hear their protests or advocate for their rights.

The rise of violent extremism in conflict areas is particularly disturbing. The tactics of groups such as Da’esh and Boko Haram make little distinction between civilians and combatants. These groups not only constitute a threat to international peace and security, but often target girls and boys. No cause can justify such acts.

Children have the right to be protected in their schools, in their homes, in their communities. Increasingly, children are snatched from a normal life of school and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror. From north-eastern Nigeria to Iraq, from South Sudan to Syria, we have witnessed a wave of such abductions used to terrorize and humiliate entire communities…

…We agree that we cannot tolerate a world in which children are killed and maimed, where they are abducted, subject to sexual violence, forced to become soldiers, and where schools and hospitals are attacked. That is why we engage not just with Governments, but also armed groups to stop grave violations against children. My Special Representative has worked with many such groups, and will work with more, to ensure we are doing our utmost to protect children in these most difficult environments.

The resolutions adopted by the Council over the past 16 years have built a solid framework and given us tools to better engage with Governments and non-State actors not only to end, but also to prevent, these violations.

We have seen concrete outcomes of our efforts that have translated into thousands of children now going to school instead of battle, and playing in fields instead of fighting on them. By protecting children, we contribute to building durable peace and to helping countries reach their full potential.

But, we must act collectively and expeditiously. I call on the international community to continue supporting this work and this mandate, and to always ensure that the children’s best interests are at the heart of any response we undertake.

Allow me to end on a positive note. I would like to take this opportunity to commend my Special Representative and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] for their campaign “Children Not Soldiers”, which they launched a year ago to end the recruitment and use of children by Government forces by 2016….

The progress they have accomplished to date is encouraging. With the support of the United Nations, Chad completed all the requirements to make its army child-free. Six of the seven countries involved in the campaign are now engaged with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment of children in their security forces, and some of them are making commendable progress.

…The children of the world should be students, not soldiers. They deserve to grow up in communities that offer them safety and the chance to reach their full potential. These are fundament rights of all children — not aspirations. Member States have the obligation to take all necessary measures to fulfil them.

Wars in Syria and Iraq drive highest asylum numbers in 22 years – UNHCR

Wars in Syria and Iraq drive highest asylum numbers in 22 years
UNHCR Press Release

26 March 2015, GENEVA – The wars in Syria and Iraq, as well as armed conflicts, human rights violations and deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions in other countries, pushed the number of asylum applications in industrialized countries to a 22-year high last year, according to a UNHCR report released today.

The UNHCR’s Asylum Trends 2014 report puts the estimated number of new asylum applications lodged in industrialized countries throughout the year at 866,000, a 45 per cent increase from 2013, when 596,600 claims were registered. The 2014 figure is the highest since 1992, at the beginning of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres put the new figures in their historical context. “In the 1990s, the Balkan wars created hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers,” Guterres said. “Many of them found refuge in industrialized countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Today, the surge in armed conflicts around the world presents us with similar challenges, in particular the dramatic situation in Syria. Our response has to be just as generous now as it was then – providing access to asylum, resettlement opportunities and other forms of protection for the people fleeing these terrible conflicts.”

Syrians were by far the largest group among those seeking asylum in 2014, with almost 150,000 applications, one in every five asylum claims in the industrialized world. Iraqis accounted for 68,700 applications, almost double the number in 2013. Afghans were the third largest group, with almost 60,000 applications, followed by citizens of Serbia (and Kosovo) and Eritreans….

It is worth noting that the Russian Federation, which is not included in this report for methodological reasons, received some 265,400 applications for temporary asylum and 5,800 applications for refugee status from Ukrainians during 2014. At the same time, the number of Ukrainians seeking asylum in the 44 countries included in the report went up from 1,400 in 2013 to 15,700 in 2014…

UNHCR’s Asylum Trends 2014 report is based on data received from 44 governments in Europe, North America and parts of the Asia-Pacific. The number of people applying for refugee status in industrialized countries is just one element in the global picture of forced displacement from conflict and persecution. Worldwide, by the end of 2013, 51.2 million individuals were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations. Of these, some 16.7 million people were refugees and 33.3 million were internally displaced in their own country. Close to 1.2 million were asylum-seekers. UNHCR’s forthcoming Global Trends 2014 report, due in June 2015, will provide a complete picture of global displacement in 2014.

The Asylum Trends 2014 report and annex tables are available here:
:: Report
:: Annexes [Excel tables -zip file]

UNODC launches new global initiative to boost criminal justice responses to foreign terrorist fighters

UNODC launches new global initiative to boost criminal justice responses to foreign terrorist fighters
Press Release – UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Valletta/Vienna, 25 March 2015 – The growing involvement of individuals as Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) in various conflicts and terrorist activities has resulted in an increasingly dangerous threat to international peace and security. In response, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a new initiative aimed at bolstering countries’ criminal justice responses to this phenomenon. The initiative, which runs to 2019, will assist Member States in criminalizing the FTF phenomenon, in areas such as terrorist recruitment, incitement to terrorism, terrorism financing, and terrorist training, among others.

While not a new occurrence, the extent of the involvement of FTFs in conflicts and acts of terrorism today is unparalleled. With terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida, the Al-Nusra Front, and Islamic State all recruiting foreign nationals, the threat posed by terrorism now encapsulates not just end-target countries, but also countries of origin and transit. In this, the threat of individuals travelling to conflict zones, becoming further radicalized, receiving combat training, and then returning to their home countries with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts is more serious than ever.

In light of this issue, a three-day conference held in collaboration with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM) and the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law in Malta (IIJ), ended today in Valletta. Representatives from the Mediterranean basin – including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen – and the Balkan countries – among them Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – were present to discuss and evaluate the threat that FTFs pose to their countries and regions. Additionally, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States were represented, together with five United Nations agencies and six international and regional organizations…

…UNODC’s global initiative covers both foreign cooperation and domestic assistance: the former is critical given the transnational dimension of FTFs which makes a purely national approach insufficient; the latter meanwhile is central to efforts needed to strengthen national legislation against this emerging trend in terrorist operations and to enhance domestic capacities of criminal justice and law enforcement officials…

UNICEF: Easier access to the most reliable and up-to-date stats on children through revamped data websites

Easier access to the most reliable and up-to-date stats on children through UNICEF’s revamped data websites
NEW YORK, 23 March 2015 – UNICEF has made all its data on health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, child protection, and HIV/AIDS publicly available, in an easily searchable format which includes redesigned country profiles and a new data visualisation tool for the creation of charts, maps and graphs: UNICEF DATA AND ANALYTICS. All of which make UNICEF the most reliable and up-to-date source of statistics on women and children.

Problems that go unmeasured often go unsolved. Consistent, credible data about children, their families and their communities are critical to the improvement of children’s lives and indispensable to the realisation of their rights.

UNICEF’s data provide a fuller picture than ever before of the situation of children across the globe. The data tells intricate and detailed stories about where and how children are born and cared for, how they grow, learn, work and connect with others, and how they make their way in the world.

WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014

WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014
World Meteorological Organization, WMO-No. 1152 : March 2015 :: 24 pages
Report pdf: https://www.wmo.int/media/sites/default/files/1152_en.pdf

Foreword
The warming trend observed over the past few decades continued in 2014, which WMO has ranked as nominally the warmest year since modern instrumental measurements began in the mid-1800s. Although 2014 broke the record by only a few hundredths of a degree – less than the margin of uncertainty – this result means that 14 of the 15 hottest years on record occurred during the twenty-first century. The evidence for human-induced global warming is therefore increasingly robust.

Although discussions of climate change focus primarily on atmospheric warming near the Earth’s surface – which is, of course, where we live our lives – the warming of the ocean is also critically important. This is because the ocean absorbs over 93 per cent of the excess heat trapped by rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. The WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014 reports that global-average sea-surface temperatures for 2014 were warmer than for any previous year on record. We need to maintain and even strengthen our ocean observing systems in order to better understand sea-temperature trends and their implications for long-term climate change.

This Statement also highlights extremes that occurred in 2014 at the national and regional levels. Europe, for example, was unusually warm, with 19 countries reporting record temperatures for the year. Severe flooding and flash floods occurred in many countries, particularly in the Balkans, South Asia, and parts of Africa and South and Central America.

Natural climate variability creates such extremes every year, but the high incidence of flooding around the world is consistent with an accelerated hydrological cycle driven by the additional energy captured in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. As a result of improved scientific understanding and modelling techniques, good progress has been made on attributing certain observed climate extremes and weather events to human-induced climate change. WMO is working with its Members and leading scientific organizations to further advance attribution research with a view to incorporating it into operational climate services in the near future.

Despite expectations that an El Niño could develop, the event did not materialize, making 2014 a neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) year. El Niño is typically associated with elevated global temperatures. Not only does this mean that 2014 was exceptionally warm despite not being an El Niño year, but the failure of ENSO to mature poses important scientific questions demanding further research. Another interesting phenomenon in 2014 was the behaviour of the seas around Antarctica. While parts of Antarctica’s land-based glaciers are melting, the sea ice expanded to a record extent for the third year in a row. Again, this is an exciting and important area for continued observation and research.

This Statement draws on data provided by leading global and regional climate centres and research institutes as well as National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. It is published in the six official WMO languages in order to reach a broader audience.

Press Release
Global Climate in 2014 marked by extreme heat and flooding
23 March 2015
Report Released for World Meteorological Day: Climate Knowledge for Climate Action
Record ocean heat, high land-surface temperatures and devastating flooding were some of the defining characteristics of the global climate in 2014, which was nominally the warmest year on record, although by a very small margin, according to a detailed analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2014 confirmed the continuation of the warming trend over the past few decades, with 14 of the 15 hottest years on record occurring this century.