In early April, two trucks belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP) were hijacked en route to Aleppo. It was but the latest in a string of incidents primarily involving rebel forces that have challenged the ability of UN organizations to provide aid and health care to those Syrians who need it most.
The United Nations is commemorating the 19th anniversary of the genocide that claimed the lives of over 800,000 Rwandese. In a press release announcing the commemoration ceremony, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon declared, “The United Nations works every day to learn the lessons of Rwanda and to prevent any recurrence of such horror.” Remembering the past brings an awareness of the abhorrent devastation a country can experience, but this remembering must come with a sense of urgency to produce policy plans to prevent such atrocities.
In Geneva, Switzerland, the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) is drawing to a close, and once again the role of U.S. leadership on the body is in the spotlight. The session has included dramatic deliberations on country-specific situations from Mali to Myanmar, as well as on critical thematic issues like protecting human rights defenders on the ground. Fresh off its reelection to the HRC, the U.S. delegation has been working overtime to advance a resolution on Sri Lanka, among other priorities. Representing the U.S. on the HRC is Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.
"There is very little food, we share everything we have," says 16-year-old Zeinab al-Musta, wise beyond her years. Having fled Homs with her family over three months ago, she spends her days "working in the house"-- as she now calls the feeble tent pitched in a parking lot in Lebanon's northern Wadi Khaled area.
“There is no comparison to this life and our life in Syria,” says Bilal, 42, shivering. “We live with seven people in one room where we don’t see the sun, the rain drips through the roof, and we feel the humidity.” Bilal and his family fled the outskirts of Yarmouk camp last November with one suitcase each, after being stuck in the middle of rebel and regime forces.
When the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in December calling for a worldwide ban on the practice of female genital mutilation, many activists saw it as a watershed moment. Following decades of work at the local, national and international levels, a global consensus on this issue and the need to address it broadly is emerging.
The ongoing conflict in Mali, grounded in a rebel takeover of the country’s north nearly a year ago, has already affected hundreds of thousands of people. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that more than 150,000 people have fled to neighboring countries and an additional 230,000 have been displaced internally. The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, even as international and regional actors, along with the UN Security Council, work to prevent the area from becoming a stronghold for terrorist groups.
Many of the children who populate Atma refugee camp—a tent village on low slopes just inside the northern Syrian border near Turkey—slosh through mud barefooted, running between shared bathroom facilities and the cramped, freezing tents their families now call home.
With Human Rights Day drawing near, the United Nations has been forceful in condemning human rights violations and shortcomings within the Islamic Republic of Iran. Much of this criticism has direct overlap with the 2012 Human Rights Day theme of “inclusion and participation in public life.”