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Ban Ki-moon condemns attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan

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Ban Ki-moon

United Nations: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif, but declined to comment on the terror attack at an Indian Air Force base in Punjab’s Pathankot town.

Asked at his daily briefing about the Pathankot attack, Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “I don’t have anything in particular to say on that. I don’t have enough details to speak to it.”

“The operation is still ongoing.”

“On the attack on Mazar-i-Sharif, obviously, it is an attack we condemn. Especially in light of what we’ve said, an attack on a diplomatic outpost… that needs to be protected,” he said.

Commenting earlier on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Dujarrin said: “We have seen in the past years, recently in various places, attacks on diplomatic missions, which the Secretary General has spoken out against and which he did again this time.” (IANS) (Photo: teimun.org)

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologizes to people of Haiti, 6 Years after UN Peacekeepers were blamed for Causing Cholera Epidemic on Island Nation

The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends the Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland, Nov. 7, 2016. The United Nations leader apologized three times to the people of Haiti, Dec. 1, 2016, in Creole, French and English for the cholera outbreak after the 2010 earthquake. VOA
United Nations, December 2, 2016: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apologised to the people of Haiti on Thursday, more than six years after U.N. peacekeepers were blamed for causing a deadly cholera epidemic on the island nation.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: We apologise to the Haitian people,” Ban told an informal meeting of U.N. member states.

“We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” he added.

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The secretary-general addressed the Haitian people directly, making his apology in both Creole and French, as well as English.

Ban’s apology, his most direct to date, fell short of admitting that U.N. peacekeepers brought the potentially fatal illness to Haiti.

“This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti,” he said. “It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organisation worldwide.”

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Ban, who will leave office at the end of this month, said the U.N. has a moral responsibility to act and deliver for the sake of the Haitian people, but also for the sake of the United Nations itself.

“We now recognize that we had a role in this, but to go to the extent of taking full responsibility for all, is a step that would not be possible for us to take,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told reporters.

More than 9,000 died

It is widely accepted that Nepalese peacekeepers who were sent to assist Haiti in its recovery after the devastating 2010 earthquake, contaminated a branch of the Artibonite River with cholera.

The river is the country’s main water source for tens of thousands of Haitians. Subsequently more than 9,000 people died of the disease, which can cause severe diarrhoea and vomiting, and some 800,000 were sickened.

Haiti’s U.N. Ambassador Denis Regis said the U.N.’s apology represents “a radical change of attitude.”

“The U.N. has shown it can admit making mistakes as well as draw the lessons for the future and address the harm and damage done, even when done involuntarily,” the envoy said.

Litigation

Some of the victims sought compensation, suing the United Nations in U.S. District court, but the court ruled that the international organization is protected by diplomatic immunity.

Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has represented some of the victims. He welcomed the secretary-general’s apology.

“It appears to be a pretty strong and really historic step forward,” Concannon told VOA. But he is keeping the legal option open.

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“We did not file a lawsuit because we wanted to win a lawsuit,” he said. “We filed a lawsuit because we wanted the U.N. to apologize, and to install the water and sanitation necessary to stop cholera, and to compensate the victims. If the U.N. is going to do that without a lawsuit, it’s better for all concerned.”

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA
A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016. VOA

A girl receives an oral cholera vaccine at the Immaculate Conception Hospital in Les Cayes, Haiti, Nov. 8, 2016.

Eradicating cholera

The United Nations released a 16-page report Thursday which details a two-track “new approach” to cholera in Haiti. It calls for $400 million in initial funding.

The first track involves intensifying the U.N.’s support to reducing and ultimately ending the transmission of the water-borne illness through improved access to health care and treatment. It also seeks to address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation and health systems in Haiti.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and did not have an adequate sanitation infrastructure at the time of the 2010 earthquake, which contributed to the rapid spread of the disease and difficulty in containing it. The government has said it wants to eradicate cholera by 2022.

The second track appears to still be under development, but would focus financial assistance packages to community-based projects to help those most affected by cholera.

Haiti has struggled with thousands of new suspected cholera cases in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked havoc on the nation on October 4. (VOA)

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Myanmar’s Rohingya ‘Deserve Hope’ ahead of Peace Talks, says UN Chief Ban Ki-moon

Some 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in squalid "internally displaced persons" (IDP) camps since fighting erupted in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012

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Children belonging to Rohingya Community. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Myanmar to improve living conditions for its Rohingya Muslim minority on Tuesday, ahead of peace talks between leader Aung San Suu Kyi and many of the country’s ethnic armed rebel groups.

1.1 million Rohingya of Mayanmar will not be represented at the conference starting on Wednesday, but the fact Ban raised their plight – and used the term for the group that is divisive in Myanmar – may add to international pressure on Suu Kyi to address the issue.

“The government has assured me about its commitment to address the roots of the problem,” Ban told a news conference in the capital Naypyitaw.

“Like all people everywhere, they need and deserve a future, hope, and dignity. This is not just a question of the Rohingya community’s right to self-identity.”

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Ban and Suu Kyi met reporters as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate launched a push to end decades of fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic rebels.

Suu Kyi has made the peace process a priority for her administration, which faces sky-high expectations at home and abroad after sweeping to power in an election last November to end more than half a century of military-backed rule.

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Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in western Myanmar, however, are not being tackled as part of that process.

Many in the Buddhist-majority country regard the largely stateless Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and they are not among the 135 ethnic groups recognized by law. Suu Kyi has asked foreign diplomats and leaders not to use the term “Rohingya” because in her view it is inflammatory.

Some 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in squalid “internally displaced persons” (IDP) camps since fighting erupted in Rakhine state between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.

Thousands have fled persecution and poverty.

“I conveyed the concern of the international community about tens of thousands of people who have been living in very poor conditions in IDP camps for over four years,” said Ban.

He added that if they had lived in the country for generations, all people in Myanmar should enjoy the same legal status and citizenship as everyone else. Many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for that long.

Last week Suu Kyi picked former U.N. chief Kofi Annan to lead a commission to stop human rights abuses in Rakhine.

Peace conference

Few concrete proposals are to emerge from this week’s talks, with delegates expecting to meet every six months to discuss issues ranging from security, political representation and culture to sharing the fruits of Myanmar’s mineral riches.

The gathering has been compared to the Panglong Conference, a meeting between Suu Kyi’s father, Myanmar’s national hero General Aung San, and ethnic minorities in 1947 that led to the formation of the Union of Burma after independence from Britain.

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“The 21st Century Panglong conference is a promising first step,” said Ban. “I congratulate all participants for their patience, determination, and spirit of compromise.”

The fact that Suu Kyi has been able to bring the vast majority of the rebels to the negotiating table only five months after taking power is a sign of progress, experts say.

Powerful armed groups from regions bordering China, who refused to sign a ceasefire last October under the previous military-backed government, are now set to take part, partly owing to China’s tacit support for the talks.

As Myanmar’s economy opens up, China is vying for influence with the United States. President Xi Jinping pledged his country would play a “constructive role” in the peace process when Suu Kyi visited China this month.

Suu Kyi is travelling to Washington in September where she is likely to face questions on the treatment of the Rohingya.

Myanmar has been torn by fighting between the military, which seized power in the 1962 coup, and ethnic armed groups almost without a break since the end of the Second World War.

Casting a shadow over the talks is a recent flare-up in fighting in northernmost Kachin State and clashes in northeastern Shan State, which is home to several large groups operating close to borders with China and Thailand.

The still-powerful military has also strongly opposed talks with three groups that fought it in the remote Kokang area last year unless they disarm. The groups have said they cannot, citing continued pressure from the army. It was unclear whether they would be allowed to attend the summit.

Ethnic delegates have complained about what they saw as an arbitrary schedule set by the government.

Suu Kyi, who said little at Tuesday’s joint appearance with Ban, has not consulted the groups about the date of the conference or the specific agenda, diplomats familiar with the situation said.

“I will do my best to let all ethnic leaders attend tomorrow’s conference,” said Suu Kyi. “It’s their own decision whether they attend or not.” (VOA)

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Political Stability is just an Illusion: For protection against Violence, Children in Yemen collect money for UN

The UN reports said, close to 2000 children were killed in Yemen in 2015 and 750 young boys were recruited as soldiers in the war

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Saudi-led air strike on Sana'a, 12 June 2015: Saudi Arabia is operating without a UN mandate. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons
  • End of war announced in Yemen is just an illusion, say experts
  • United Nations was forced to remove Saudi-led coalition from list of countries inflicting violence upon children due to financial pressure
  • Many human rights groups as well as mayor of Sanaa have publicly criticized the UN for this move

The ceasefire that was declared in Yemen two months ago is just an illusion of peace, as was construed by the public statements that experts have issued. Therefore, the politically aware Yemeni population is infuriated by the fact that United Nations removed the Saudi-led coalition from the list of countries that inflict violence upon children. Military planes, missiles and bombs continue to plague the country incessantly. By doing so, Political analyst and journalist Nasser Arrabyee said that the UN is officially supporting ‘war crimes’ in Saudi Arabia.

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, through his Twitter account, announced that war in Yemen was “practically” over, though Emirati troops, that support the Saudi-led coalition, may continue to stay in the war-torn country for counter-terrorism purposes. UAE has also helped the coalition drive out Al-Qaida from the southern coastal city of Mukalla.

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Sana’a. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Yemen has been facing a civil war for over two years now. The main participants are Houthi militants, which are supported by former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Iran, and the coalition that has been relentlessly fighting to restore the internationally recognized Yemeni government. With powerful allies in the form of Iran, the Shiite Houthi group controls Sana’a, the capital of Yemen and much of the northern part as well. Civilians caught in between are living their worst years in Yemen not to mention child deaths.

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The United Nations reports that close to 2000 children were killed in Yemen in 2015 and 750 young boys were recruited as soldiers in the war. Almost 60% of the damage was inflicted by the coalition, based on which the political body was initially kept on the UN list.

The United Nations received wide scale criticism from many human rights groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in the form of open letters to Ban ki-Moon urging it to put up the coalition on the list based on impartial evidence and not politics.

Yemen
Ban ki-Moon. Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

Ban ki-Moon made a public statement stating that United Nations was under “undue pressure” from certain members threatening to cut off financial supplies to various humanitarian programs that the UN offered.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would de-fund many U.N. programs,” Ban said.  “Children already at risk in Palestine, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many other places would fall further into despair.”

A group of children have started collecting money outside the UN office in a campaign spearheaded by the mayor of Sanaa, which is apparently a response to Ban’s announcement last week. It also intends to shame the United Nations for caving under financial pressure from the coalition and its ally members.

This development questions the credibility of the United Nations. Even temporarily removing Saudi Arabia from the list due to sudden financial threats sets a poor example, according to experts.

-prepared by Saurabh Bodas(with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @saurabhbodas96

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