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4 November 2011 –
The United Nations envoy for Myanmar today called on the authorities to keep up the momentum of recent initiatives to strengthen national unity and advance dialogue and reconciliation, stressing the ‘historic opportunity’ they have to set the country on a new path.

This was the third visit since last year’s election for Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar and the second since the establishment of a new Government seven months ago. It also comes amid the ongoing dialogue between the Government and pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the release last month of a significant number of detainees.

“At this juncture, it is of crucial importance, for Myanmar’s regional and global standing, to maintain the positive momentum that these initiatives have generated,” Mr. Nambiar, who is also Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Chief of Staff, said in a statement issued in Yangon at the end of his five-day visit.
He said the UN strongly encourages the continuation of such efforts as well as the reform agenda led by President Thein Sein as the best way to strengthen domestic and international confidence in Myanmar’s commitment to a reform process that is incremental, systematic and sustainable.

“In particular, we encourage all concerned to build on the steps taken thus far through an inclusive and broad-based political process to strengthen national unity,” said the envoy.

“The release of the remaining political prisoners as part of the recent amnesty process and the enactment of the proposed amendments to the political party registration law are steps that can and should be taken as a matter of priority. Continuous dialogue is also needed to bring about peace and development in border areas.

“If sustained, these and other efforts offer a historic opportunity to set the country on a course that can fulfil the promises made to the people of Myanmar,” he stressed.

During his visit, Mr. Nambiar met with a number of Government officials in Naypyitaw, including Vice-President U Tin Aung Myint Oo, as well as with the Union Peacemaking Group and with the Union Election Commission.

In Mandalay and in Pathein, he was received by the Chief Ministers of Mandalay region and Irrawaddy region, respectively, and in Yangon, he met with Ms. Suu Kyi at her residence. He also met with representatives of several political parties and with civil society groups, as well as with the National Human Rights Commission.

Mr. Nambiar also participated earlier this week in the first Green Economy Green Growth conference, which he said showed that it is now possible for a wide range of actors to come together to openly discuss common concerns.

“It is an indicator of the direction in which Myanmar must continue to move if its democratic transition process is to succeed and if the country is to contribute to the global agenda by effectively addressing such concerns at home,” he stated.

He told the gathering of business leaders, academics, government officials, civil society groups and private citizens that in Myanmar, as elsewhere, green growth is an integral part of efforts to protect the environment while creating decent jobs, reducing poverty and inequality, and achieving globally agreed development targets.

“As Myanmar opens up to a changing world, the green growth agenda can help drive the advancement of sustainable development: it is good business – good politics – and good for society,” he stated.

The Special Adviser also addressed a ceremony yesterday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the swearing-in of U Thant, a “great son of Myanmar” who served as the third Secretary-General of the UN.

“It is for the Government and people of Myanmar to maximize opportunities and to lead the changes they want to see for their country,” said Mr. Nambiar. “We in the United Nations wish and want Myanmar to succeed. But it has to be a success that is inclusive and includes all elements in the country to the extent that we can help facilitate the efforts which are essentially nationally owned.”
 
 
4 November 2011 – It is vital for authorities in Moldova to ensure an independent judiciary, tackle discrimination and protect the rights of minorities as it works to strengthen democracy, the United Nations human rights chief said today. “I welcomed the positive spirit of my meetings, as well as the engagement of the Government to seriously contemplate human rights reform,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said at a press conference in Chisinau, the capital, at the end of her four-day visit.

“I was nevertheless troubled by the message of some that certain groups must wait for human rights,” she added. “I have been clear in emphasizing that, where human rights are concerned, the time is now.”

Ms. Pillay noted that her visit, the first to the country by a UN human rights chief, has been a timely one. “The country is clearly on the road to strengthening its democracy, and aims at a number of ambitious reforms.”

At the same time, she said the economic circumstances of the country are troubling. “I saw with my own eyes the poverty and material deprivation in which many Moldovans live. Issues such as very low pay and a weak public infrastructure have serious implications for the effective realisation of economic and social rights.”

She outlined a number of concerns, including strengthening the independence of the judiciary, the need to tackle the scourge of trafficking, especially of women and girls, and protecting the rights of certain groups in the country.

One group she particularly focused on were people who were confined to psychiatric institutions. She visited the Chisinau Psychiatric Hospital, where she spoke with numerous patients and with hospital staff, and was struck by the “very limited extent” to which forcibly interned patients have access to processes that could lead to their release.

“It is clear that comprehensive reforms are needed to ensure equality and dignity for people suffering from mental and intellectual disabilities,” she said. In general, people with disabilities need as far as possible to be integrated, not segregated, and strenuous efforts need to be made to help people lead an active life in the community rather than be locked away in institutions.”

During talks with senior Moldovan officials, Ms. Pillay highlighted a range of problems related to discrimination against various religious minorities, especially Muslims, Jews, Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Roma, who are “systematically excluded” and “almost completely unrepresented” in government; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

In order to combat such discrimination, she stressed the need to enact as soon as possible a truly comprehensive law banning discrimination on all grounds.

“My message to the Government – and to the public – is that diversity is among our highest values. A democracy is only as strong as its ability to protect its most vulnerable,” she stated.

She also voiced concern at a punitive fine issued against the weekly journal Ziarul de Garda, adding that such measures are “incompatible with democratic societies based on the rule of law.”

The education system, said the High Commissioner, can and should play a key role in combating discrimination and promoting diversity. At the same time, well-constructed and properly implemented laws are also essential.

“It is deeply troubling that, despite all the problems facing the wide range of groups I have mentioned, the legal system in practice remains inert in redressing discrimination and violent acts motivated by intolerance,” she said.

Ms. Pillay’s mission included a visit to the Transnistrian region, where she held meetings with the de facto authorities on issues concerning violations of minimum international standards relating to conditions in places of detention, as well as persistent allegations of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in custody.

She noted that the work of her office (OHCHR) with de facto authorities on human rights issues does not amount to their legitimisation.

 
 
4 November 2011 – United Nations humanitarian agencies announced today that they are stepping up their support for Somalia as the country faces the combined impact of heavy rains, widespread famine and continuing insecurity in the streets. Thousands of displaced Somalis have been affected by downpours during the current rainy season in parts of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the United Nations refugee agency reported, adding that it is speeding up efforts to provide emergency assistance in refugee camps.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the rains have flooded some 2,800 people in the Sigale camp in Mogadishu, disrupted the transport system and slowed the pace of internal displacement in the impoverished country.

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency has distributed 4,500 assistance kits so far, which include plastic sheets, plastic buckets and soap. He also said that despite the rains slowing down the movement of people, many continue to move away from areas of conflict.

“We are still seeing some movement. In the last week, more than 2,200 people have moved from Afgooye and Daynile, north of Mogadishu, to areas south of the capital in Banadir district. Some say they fled due to general insecurity, while others were trying to return to their home areas in anticipation of deteriorating security,” he said.

Drought and insecurity in Somalia has forced more than 330,000 people to flee the country this year, with the vast majority going to neighbouring Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti.

In the Dadaab refugee complex in Kenya where some 5,000 people have lost their homes due to the flood waters, UNHCR and its partners have moved them to dryer parts of the camps, and provided blankets and sleeping mats while working to improve drainage in the flooded areas.

Mr. Mahecic also expressed concern for the increasing number of cases of flood-related illnesses in refugees.

“We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of watery diarrhoea cases and a general deterioration of the health situation among refugees, with some 600 people approaching the health centres daily. As part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak, we have started awareness campaigns to encourage refugees to wash their hands, boil water and drink only safe water,” he said.

In addition to providing emergency relief for floods, other UN agencies continue to increase their efforts to help Somalis who suffer from famine and insecurity.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today that it is opening its first transit hub in the port of Dubai to accelerate the delivery of nutrition supplies to Somalia.

According to a news release issued by UNICEF, an estimated 5,000 tons of corn soya blend flour will be moved through the warehouse each month to the worst-affected regions of the country.

There are currently 1.5 million children in southern Somalia who are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, including some 190,000 who are severely malnourished and at high risk of death within weeks if they do not receive the necessary support.

“The humanitarian transit hub will make a major impact in widening our pipeline and also improving the predictability of supply delivery,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of UNICEF’s supply division. “It will help us ensure a regular flow of nutrition supplies for the worst-affected children and their families.”

Over 100 days have passed since famine in southern Somalia was formally declared. Since then a significant scale-up of relief activities have reached 2.2 million people, giving them access to food and water. Insecurity in the country however, has continued, increasing the number of weapons-related injuries and casualties.

During the press briefing, Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that according to health partners on the ground there were 70 injuries and 12 weapons-related deaths just last week due to fighting in the Lower Juba region, in addition to the 441 casualties that were treated in one hospital last month in Mogadishu. He added that WHO is responding by dispatching trauma kits for surgeries.

 

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