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Situation in Eritrea desperately bleak UN expert warns urging aid for fleeing

“The current human rights picture is desperately bleak. People feel trapped in a long hopeless situation as they see no end to it to the point that they take the irreversible decision to flee, forcing them on the road to exile,” the UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, told journalists in New York.Earlier today, she had briefed the UN General Assembly’s main social, humanitarian and cultural body (Third Committee), which hears directly from special rapporteurs and other human rights mechanisms. In her briefing to the Committee, the first since she took up the post on 1 November 2012, Ms. Keetharuth described an alarming situation on the ground pieced from interviews with Eritreans residing outside the country who have been victims of abuse, as well as with representatives in Djibouti and Ethiopia where Ms. Keetharuth was able to have official visits. She detailed cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, indefinite national service, and lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement.A full version of the report was submitted this past summer to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which appointed Ms. Keetharuth to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes.In particular, the Special Rapporteur highlighted the excessive militarization affecting the very fabric of Eritrean society and the family, with men and women conscripted for unlimited periods of time instead of the prior 18 months of service with the National Service. She told journalists about one teacher with whom she spoke who told her he wanted to put down the gun forced onto him, “I want to hold a pen in one hand and a book in the other.” Ms. Keetharuth also raised the issue of incommunicado detentions which “appears to be the norm and not the exception.” These and other human rights violations are “triggering a constant stream of refugees to neighbouring countries,” the independent expert said.According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), 305,723 people last year fled Eritrea, with between 2,000 and 3,000 leaving the country every month, among them a large number of children unaccompanied by parents or guardians.“All Eritreans should be able to claim and enjoy their human rights, be it civil and political or economic, social and cultural,” she said. “This will require innovative ideas to address those issues perceived by Eritrea as hostile and constructive engagement with Eritrea and neighbouring countries to improve the situation of human rights in the country.” The desperation of the people in Eritrea, despite a shoot-to-kill policy targeting those attempting to flee, is further apparent in the two successive boat tragedies off the coasts of Italy and Malta earlier in October, during which more than 350 refugees lost their lives, including many Eritreans, she said. She called on the international community to focus on the human rights situation in Eritrea and increase efforts to protect refugees.The Special Rapporteur also reiterated her call on the Eritrean Government to cooperate with her mandate which offers a “frank and open dialogue” on the theme of human rights. read more

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Top UN economic social body convenes Berlin symposium on development cooperation

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has gathered high-level development experts in Berlin, Germany, to weigh measures that could make international development cooperation more effective in improving people’s lives worldwide. “We meet at a time of fundamental re-orientation of global development efforts,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for UN Economic and Social Affairs, opening the two-day Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) High-Level Symposium, on the topic “Accountable and effective development cooperation in a post-2015 era.” “The intrinsic linkage between poverty reduction and sustainable development must guide the design of a post-2015 development agenda that is both unified and universal,” he stressed, adding that putting such a transformative agenda into place requires “robust monitoring and accountability.”The United Nations at all levels is engaged in establishing a global agenda that will transition from the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, aiming to slash extreme hunger and poverty, cut maternal and infant mortality, combat disease and provide access to universal education and health care, all by the end of 2015.Despite significant progress in some areas, these targets will not be reached in many countries, and this “unfinished business” will be incorporated in an even more ambitious post-2015 agenda.Building on the key findings from the first two high-level events in Ethiopia and Switzerland, and a policy dialogue in Vienna, ECOSOSC’s 2014 expert Symposium – along with UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of Germany – has invited more than 170 experts from Governments, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders to discuss in Berlin accountability, best practices, and major obstacles to global sustainable development partnerships beyond 2015.“The aim is not a one-size-fits all architecture for development cooperation and its monitoring. It is to allow the diverse group of actors and approaches to flourish side by side and to lead to partnerships in line with agreed global commitments,” explained Mr. Wu. In his opening address, Mr. Wu highlighted four key conditions that would help achieve accountability in the global architecture of development cooperation: knowledge and progress sharing among all actors, integration in the broader post-2015 development agenda to ensure policy coherence, incentives for Member States to report on the progress made, and implementation of systems and technology so as not to overburden already stretched development cooperation teams on the ground.For his part, ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik “>focused his remarks on expectations for the 2014 Forum and beyond. The 2014 DCF, he noted, would tackle how to ensure development cooperation is fit for purpose in the post-2015 era.“The DCF can help ensure that all views are being heard”, he said, and the Symposium would demonstrate how the DCF serves as a vibrant forum for exchange among all development partners on an equal footing.”The conclusions drawn from the deliberations of the Symposium will also inform the discussions at the first ministerial meeting of the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which is to take place in Mexico in April this year. The DCF Germany Symposium will serve as the third and last key preparatory event for the 2014 Development Cooperation Forum of ECOSOC held at UN Headquarters this coming July. read more