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Speakers Tell High-level Political Forum Unique Challenges of Countries in Special Situations Must Remain Central to Sustainable Development Strategies

The unique challenges of countries in special situations needed to stay at the forefront of efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Agenda speakers said today, as the High-level Political Forum continued.

The Forum held three panels exploring the need for statistics in the monitoring and evaluation of the future development agenda, as well as the particular needs of those countries.  The panels’ themes were “National mechanisms for monitoring progress and reporting on implementation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”; “Making the 2030 Agenda deliver for small island developing States, building on the SAMOA Pathway”; and “Countries in special situations”.

A profound strategic shift would be needed to fulfil the goal of “leaving no one behind” said David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director at the Centre on International Cooperation, New York University, United States.  “We must do this work urgently”, he stressed, noting that the 2030 Agenda singled out, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and conflict- and post-conflict countries, as well as middle-income countries.  The new agenda was both a promise of what could be achieved and a warning against failing to act now, he emphasized.

Many countries were facing unfulfilled development expectations, said Youba Sokona, Special Adviser on Sustainable Development of the South Centre Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group.  “The window for action is rapidly closing,” he said, adding that there was room for each country, no matter its condition, to take on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

As the world pursued a more sustainable future, small island developing States had every potential to be left behind, warned Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati.  Climate change put those countries at particular risk, and without concrete action on climate issues, every other development objective would be meaningless.  In that context, he was pleased that climate change and ocean preservation were included as stand-alone elements within the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Recalling that the Millennium Development Goals were a “set it and forget it” exercise, Justina Langidrik, Chief Secretary of the Marshall Islands, said that the Sustainable Development Goals were an opportunity for all to do better and should be seen as a benefit and not a burden at the implementation level.  With a population of 60,000 people spread over an area the size of Mexico, the Marshall Islands grappled with unique data reporting challenges.  Moreover, the islands were almost entirely dependent on bilateral assistance, she said, stressing the need to urgently review those arrangements in the context of the development framework.

David Smith, Coordinator at the University of Consortium for Small Island States and the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies, said there was a need to push forward with an economic transformation to a green economy with more focus on increased markets for goods, services and labour.  The private sector and civil society involvement should be promoted.  Human capital development through education and training should be undertaken, while science and technology should be mainstreamed into policies.

The Forum will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 15 July, to continue its session.

Panel I

The first panel of the day was titled “National mechanisms for monitoring progress and reporting on implementation for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals” and was moderated by Johannes Paul Jütting, Manager of the PARIS21 Secretariat within the Development Co-operation Directorate of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).   The panellists included Lisa Grace Bersales, National Statistician and Head of the Philippine Statistics Authority; Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General of South Africa; and Georges Simon Ulrich, Director General of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

Lead discussants included Milorad Scepanovic, Director-General from the General Directorate of Multilateral Affairs of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, and Peseta Noumea Simi, Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Samoa.

Mr. JÜTTING said the world had learned a lot over the last decade and much progress had been made with regard to the availability of data.  Many challenges remained, however, including the lack of birth registration, particularly for girls in developing countries.  Even in developed countries, there were large gaps in data availability.  Those realties illustrated the need for more and better data produced at the national level.

Ms. BERSALES said clear governance structures were needed to implement and monitor the Sustainable Development Goals, with national statistical offices playing an active role.  The Philippines had organized a series of workshops at the national level to look at data availability and aggregation and to identify what data needed to be prioritized.  In the statistical community, there were many challenges that existed for monitoring the Goals.  The Philippines would seek to utilize multi-stakeholder partnerships, both globally and nationally, as well as official statistics to generate information for the indicators.

Mr. LEHOHLA said statistics were a conduit of trust and formed the basis of many discussions within the context of international relations.  Statisticians were being pressed to fast track their efforts in order to feed into the Sustainable Development Goals.  Legislation was needed to implement the fundamental principles of statistics.  In South Africa there was a national development plan that was informed by statistics.  There was a demand not only to provide numbers, but also to modernize statistical organizations.  He called for more administrative data about the citizens of the country, which in-turn, needed to be embedded within geographical information.

Mr. ULRICH said active collaboration between the High-level Political Forum and the United Nations Statistical Commission was crucial and must be based on mutual trust.  Achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would require greater cooperation between policymakers and statistical offices, particularly for monitoring development goals.  It was important to establish a cultural of dialogue and cooperation, clearly-defined processes and well-documented decisions, as well as to share knowledge and skills.  The early involvement of national statistical offices was of great importance and would help implement and monitor the future development framework in a scientific, systematic and well-documented manner.  National statistics were the basis of all indicators and could support planned coordination activities.

Mr. SCEPANOVIC stressed the need to fully integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into national policies, plans and programmes.  Montenegro had adopted a National Strategy on Sustainable Development through 2030, which was an overarching national development plan that defined principles, strategic goals and measures for achieving long-term sustainable development.  The strategy not only referred to the economy and environment, but also addressed irreplaceable human resources and invaluable social capital.  The successful implementation of the strategy would depend on the ability to secure strong and integrated support from the United Nations system. 

Ms. SIMI said despite the focus on statistics, there were other factors that needed to be taken into consideration, particularly with regard to the perspective of small island developing States.  Many indicators were not relevant to the unique situations of small island developing States, which meant there was a need to contextualize and localize.  There was also a lack of ownership and political will, as well as a lack of awareness and engagement with stakeholders, all of which resulted in serious challenges to achieve the development targets.  The lack of alignment between global and regional efforts and limited resources created additional hurdles.  Many small island developing States continued to focus on mainstreaming the development goals into national plans, which would inform the regional indicators that covered common priority issues.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of Estonia said that in her country, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals was done through a set of indicators that were agreed in an inclusive fashion and renewed on a regular basis.  She noted that every country likely had some challenges with the global indicators, including repetitive reporting requirements.

The representative of China called for steps to help developing countries build their statistical capacities so that monitoring and evaluating could truly contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Monitoring and evaluating should not be a goal in and of themselves.

The representative of the Cook Islands said his country’s national goals resembled the Sustainable Development Goals.  His Government had worked to simplify the goals and engage with all stakeholders to garner their buy-in.  However, the Cook Islands were challenged by the need to disaggregate and reliably collect data, given that the country encompassed a large number of small islands, spread over a vast area.

The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization noted that while Governments had the primary responsibility to collect data at the national level, international agencies responsible for the compilation of the indicators could help ensure that data was comparable between countries, as well as aggregated regionally and globally.

A representative of the major group for children and youth said that the participation of major groups in monitoring and reporting must be considered a best practice.  It was imperative to include diverse perspectives in the sustainable development process, including those of children and youth.

A representative of the European Union said that keeping track of progress in a systematic and transparent way would be essential for delivering on the 2030 Agenda.  In that regard, EuroStat would play an active role across the European Union in monitoring and reporting processes.

A representative of the major group from persons with disabilities noted that the first national voluntary review had taken place but had not used all evidence available.  He asked what steps could be taken to ensure that other national voluntary reviews would be more inclusive.

The representative of Viet Nam said that her country had carried out a review of 230 Sustainable Development Goal indicators through its national statistical indicator system.  The results of that review included evidence that about 141 indicators had no data and 106 were difficult to collect.

Also speaking were the representatives of Malaysia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Chad.

Representatives from the major groups for ageing and non-governmental organizations also participated.

Panel II

The second panel discussion of the day focused on “Making the 2030 Agenda deliver for SIDS, building on the SAMOA Pathway” and was moderated by Elizabeth Thompson, Former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Coordinator for Rio+20 and former Minister for Energy and Environment of Barbados.

The panellists included Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati, and David Smith, Coordinator at the University of Consortium for Small Island States and at the Institute for Sustainable Development of the University of the West Indies.

The lead discussants included Justina Langidrik, Chief Secretary of the Marshall Islands, and Kate Brown, Executive Director of the Global Island Partnership.

Ms. THOMPSON said the discussion would not only revolve around the development needs of small island developing States, but also to what extent the various platforms for development were reconcilable and relevant to small islands.

Mr. TONG warned that small island developing States had every potential to be left behind.  He was pleased to see that climate change and ocean preservation were included as stand-alone elements within the Sustainable Development Goals.  Climate change was the most important and pivotal element of small island developing States’ efforts to achieve development.  Without addressing climate change, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals would be impossible.  Those countries on the front line of climate change were the most vulnerable amongst the international community.  If the world could not address climate change, then every other element of development would be meaningless.  Unless something could be done to render small island developing States climate-resistant, the people living there would be forced to relocate.  Already small island developing States were feeling the impacts of climate change, yet the question remained whether they would be able to get the required resources to adapt and build the necessary resilience.  The piecemeal approach was not working and more resources must be made available, including through the Green Climate Fund.

Mr. SMITH stressed that the negative impacts of climate change were being felt much earlier in the tropics than the rest of the world.  He recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals were very much in-line with the goals of the SAMOA Pathway.  There should be more emphasis placed on sustainable energy, as doing so would address many different elements of sustainable development concurrently, all of which could improve efficiency.  More attention must be paid to Goal 14 on life below water and the so-called “blue economy”, related to the world’s oceans.  There was a need to push forward with an economic transformation to a green economy with more focus on increased markets for goods, services and labour regionally.  The private sector and civil society involvement should be promoted.  Human capital development through education and training should be undertaken, while science and technology should be mainstreamed into policies.

Ms. LANGIDRIK recalled that for the Marshall Islands, the Millennium Development Goals were a “set it and forget it” exercise, namely because they were not mainstreamed.  The Sustainable Development Goals were an opportunity for all to do better.  The international community must collectively ensure the development goals were implemented in a way that had direct impacts and empowered the most vulnerable.  With a population of 60,000 people spread over an area the size of Mexico, the Marshall Islands presented unique data reporting challenges.  She hoped that the Sustainable Development Goals would be viewed as a benefit and not a burden at the implementation level.  The Marshall Islands were almost entirely dependent on bilateral assistance, which meant that there was an urgent need to review those arrangements in the context of the new development framework.

Ms. BROWN said it had become clear that there were not enough resources for small islands to do everything that was hoped.  It would be useful to consider how to build the business case for investment in small islands and also how to enable those countries to meet their development objectives.  Small island developing States provided an opportunity to learn a great deal about both the green and blue economies.  There were many examples to study to learn about what was actually working for small islands.  Partnerships presented an important means to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway.  There were an enormous number of initiatives already under way, but the question that remained was how to gauge the impact of that work in a way that benefitted small island developing States.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the Federated States of Micronesia, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States and associating himself with the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), highlighted the need for a tailored approach to implement the 2030 Agenda for small island developing States by linking to specific commitments identified in the SAMOA Pathway.  Strong national institutions would be critically important to meeting the future development aspirations.

The representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community and associating himself with the statement of AOSIS, noted the 2030 Agenda’s holistic nature and deliberate integration of the SAMOA Pathway; both of which accommodated the unique challenges faced by small island developing States for building economic, social and environmental resilience.  The two frameworks were bonded in a symbiosis of purpose.

The representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of AOSIS, said small island developing States had long-since been acknowledged as a unique case in sustainable development.  What was critical now was for adequate mobilization of the necessary means of implementation.  Without focusing on the SAMOA Pathway, small island developing States could not achieve a sustainable future.

The representative of Belize highlighted the risks faced by small island developing States due to their reliance on foreign trade, including the dangers posed by their high sensitivity to external shocks.

A representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization said food security and nutrition, agriculture and fisheries production, the protection of biodiversity and responses to climate change could and must be brought together to achieve the promises of the 2030 Agenda.

The representative of Samoa said the 2030 Agenda provided an occasion to explore the specific challenges and opportunities of small island developing States, as well as their unique multi-dimensional view of development and partnerships.

Also speaking were the representatives of Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Kazakhstan.

Round Table

This afternoon, the Forum held a round table discussion on “Countries in special situations”, which was chaired by Hector Alejandro Cerna (Honduras), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council.  Moderated by David Steven, Senior Fellow and Associate Director at the Centre on International Cooperation of New York University, United States, it featured five panellists:  Youba Sokona, Special Adviser on Sustainable Development of the South Centre Least Developed Countries Independent Expert Group; Jean-Marc Châtaigner, Deputy Executive Director of the French Research Institute for Development; Marina Djernaes, Director of the EcoPeace Center of Environmental Peacebuilding of EcoPeace Middle East; Claudio Huepe Minoletti, Professor and Coordinator of the Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of the Universidad Diego Portales, Chile; and Stephen Chacha, Founder of the Africa Philanthropic Foundation and member of the Africa Civil Society Organizations Working Group.

Mr. STEVEN said “leaving no one behind” represented a profound strategic shift and demanded that the international community work to address the most vulnerable people and countries.  “We must do this work urgently,” he stressed, noting that the 2030 Agenda singled out, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and conflict- and post-conflict countries, as well as middle-income countries.  The new agenda was both a promise of what could be achieved and a warning against failing to act now, he said.

Mr. SOKONA said many countries were facing unfulfilled development expectations.  “The window for action is rapidly closing,” he said, citing in particular the depletion of the global carbon budget.  Aligning climate change and sustainable development offered huge opportunities, but there was no one-size-fits-all solution.  There was room for each country, no matter its condition, to take on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  “We have to start with development priorities at the local level” and move to the national level, he said, calling for the removal of policy, market and social barriers to sustainable development.  Three main groups — the policy, practice and research communities — must work together.  Underscoring the need for political will and adequate resources, he also highlighted the need to link short-term and long-term imperatives.

Mr. CHÂTAIGNER said all countries could be said to be in special situations as each faced its own challenges.  Describing inequalities in the number of research and development professionals between countries, as well as a striking lack of data in some States, he said the international community must pool together its knowledge to bridge those gaps.  There were also major discrepancies between countries in such areas as homicide rates.  Turning to the particular case of least developed countries, he said the world was far from achieving the goal of the Istanbul Programme of Action, which was to delist half of least developed countries by 2020. 

Ms. DJERNAES said her organization worked in environmental peacebuilding in Israel, Jordan and Palestine, aiming to create transboundary environmental solutions through cross-border commitments — especially on water issues.  In conflicts, people tended to grab as much water as possible, and the environment became a hostage to conflict.  Her work brought parties together to develop “win-win” solutions, using bottom-up grassroots approaches as well as top-down solutions.  Local experts, media, politicians and other stakeholders were involved in the process, she said, underscoring the need to speak directly to city mayors and create small groups of local environmental leaders to drive solutions.  Civil society efforts could achieve a lot even in the midst of a conflict, she stressed, calling on participants to support EcoPeace’s new centre in Washington, D.C., slated to open this fall.

Mr. MINOLETTI spotlighted the situation of middle-income countries, noting that category contained a lot variation both within and among countries.  Middle-income countries were facing a growing complexity in their societies in which different groups with different interests could not find a common ground.  In addition, those countries had seen rapid increases in income levels, but their institutions had not had time to adapt adequately.  Finance and trade were both becoming more complex and there were increasing environmental impacts.  Those States also faced the “middle-income trap”, where they were not able to grow further.  He underscored the need to reverse the current thinking that growth was a means for sustainable development, and to instead consider sustainable development as a means for growth.

Mr. CHACHA focused on a wide array of special challenges facing States, calling in particular for more effective mechanisms for conflict prevention and mediation and for the creation of enabling environments that would help States implement the 2030 Agenda.  Drawing attention to the African Union Agenda 2063, he said there was huge potential in the overlap between the two development agendas.  The United Nations system and the African Union should strengthen synergies in their implementation.  “We need to take the sustainable development agenda down to the grassroots,” he said, stressing that raising public understanding and awareness was critical.  Among other things, he proposed the creation of an annual report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in countries in special situations.  

Mr. STEVEN raised a number of discussion questions, including how context-specific approaches could ensure that countries in special situations were not left behind and how countries in such situations could be better protected against shocks and crises.

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers from a number of countries — including those in a variety of special situations — joined representatives of major groups and other stakeholders to explore those questions.

In that regard, the representative of Bahamas spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noting that the Group consisted of small island developing States, least developed countries and others in special situations.  The present dialogue could not be just a “talk shop”, she said, calling for frank and open discussions on the realities of those countries to continue.  Noting that her region was one of the most debt-affected in the world, she said debt relief could create major opportunities for economic growth, job creation and accelerated sustainable development.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said there would not be uniformity in the way the Sustainable Development Goals would be implemented among countries.  The seriousness of climate change, resource constraints and the need for capacity development affected some countries more than others.  For example, small island developing States faced rapidly rising sea levels and other severe impacts of climate change.  The Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway and other related international agreements needed to be better translated to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.

The representative of Zambia, speaking as Chair of the Landlocked Developing Countries Group, recalled that the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries was an important component of the 2030 Agenda.  That document, along with the Addis Agenda and the 2030 Agenda, had recognized the special needs and challenges of countries in special situations.

The representative of Bangladesh called on the international community to facilitate the sharing of best practices and the mobilization of financing.  However, support should never encroach into domestic policy space.  Noting that the General Assembly was planning a study on the special vulnerabilities of least developed countries, he stressed the need for the international community to focus more on those countries.  Those States were not the polluters, but they were among the main victims of climate change, he said.

The representative of the major group for women, who hailed from Fiji, welcomed the language on special circumstances in the SAMOA Pathway outcome.  There was a need for clearer synchronization between that document and the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, adding that there was not yet enough real support for small island developing States to address the challenges of climate change. 

Responding to those comments, Mr. CLAUDIO said the elements of development were interrelated, which presented a number of opportunities.  For example, low rates of job market participation on the part of women brought up issues of economy, equality and health. 

Mr. CHÂTAIGNER responded to the representative of Bangladesh, agreeing that countries themselves needed to establish projects and carry them out.  However, they required capacity-building and technical training. 

The representative of the major group for children and youth said context-specific plans would be effective when a country’s young people were active in creating them.

Mr. SOKANA said climate change was one element that was resonating throughout the discussion.  Nationally determined contributions addressed that issue at the national level.  The fact that energy systems of least developed countries were not yet in place offered major opportunities to institutionalize sustainability.  In that regard, he recalled that Africa had gone to the Paris Climate Change Conference with a specific and very ambitious proposal — the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative — on the table.

Mr. CHACHA, asked about ways to harness the potential of young people in the implementation of sustainable development, said the goal of the 2030 Agenda was to make a better world for current and future generations.  Youth naturally needed to be involved in such discussions.

The representative of Chile, noting that hers was a middle-income country, emphasized the need to find new measurements of development that went beyond gross domestic product and which took into account social and environmental issues.  She asked the panellists how progress could be made towards developing such new measurements.

Meanwhile, the representative of Rwanda, a country emerging from conflict, said trade barriers and lack of economic diversification were among the main challenges impacting her country.  Like hers, many countries required structural transformation and diversification in order to become more resilient to shocks.

The representative of the European Union spotlighted development cooperation as an important way to share knowledge and catalyse progress.  The bloc would continue to support its partners around the world, especially those most in need, to implement the Sustainable Development Goals.

Asked about the role of the United Nations in supporting countries in special situations, Mr. CHÂTAIGNER called for an “agenda of coherence” through which policies were better aligned to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.  He agreed with the representative of Chile that a new composite indicator was needed at the United Nations level to measure development progress.

Mr. MINOLETTI agreed a new indicator was needed, noting that gross domestic product (GDP) had not been meant to measure development.  The example of the Human Development Index had been interesting but even more “rethinking” was needed.

Asked about ways to involve a wider array of stakeholders in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Mr. CHACHA said civil society’s contribution had been “lost in the cracks” of the Millennium Development Goals process.  This time around, African countries had instituted national civil society platforms in order to document their contribution.

Ms. DJERNAES said the contribution of civil society was particularly important in conflict areas, and that the United Nations should support such engagement.

Mr. SOKONA stressed that, in order to widen the participation of diverse stakeholders, the kind of dialogue taking place today must be brought down to the local level.  That would also serve to focus discussions on local priorities, he said.

Mr. STEVEN agreed with speakers that aid presented a major opportunity in the new sustainable development agenda.  In particular, aid could help to broker relationships and financing could be used as a catalyst in the coming years.

The panellists were then invited to spotlight one important issue in brief closing remarks.

Mr. MINOLETTI said greater efforts were needed to bring the sustainable development agenda to the practical “business level”.

Ms. DJERNAES said her organization hoped to bring its experience to a larger community, because success depended upon wide participation.

Mr. CHACHA, recalling that none of the countries in special situations had achieved all of the Millennium Development Goals, said “we have a lot to learn” from that experience.

Mr. CHÂTAIGNER said the challenges facing the world had never been so many and so serious.  There was only one choice: to innovate, to invest and to find solutions.

Mr. SOKONA, stressing the need for a stronger collective commitment to the sustainable development agenda, said there was a need to innovate new institutions for its implementation.

Also participating were the representatives of Zimbabwe, Chad, Belarus, Iran, Canada, Sweden and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as those speaking on behalf of the major groups for indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and non-governmental organizations.

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Major attack on hotel in Mogadishu

Meanwhile, the Pentagon also confirmed another drone strike against an al Shebab commander. “Witnesses in Somalia’s capital say at least 10 people were killed and more than 15 others wounded when militants attacked a major hotel Wednesday.  Somali lawmaker Mohamed Ismail Shuriye told VOA that two parliamentarians, Abdullahi Jama Kaboweyne and Mohamud Gure, were killed during the attack. He said a third lawmaker, Abdullah Hashi, was injured…The assault on Mogadishu’s Ambassador Hotel came hours after Somali officials said a top commander of militant group al-Shabab was killed in a late-night military operation. Mohamed Mohamud, better known as Dulyadeyn, allegedly masterminded the April 2015 attack on Kenya’s Garissa University College that left 148 people dead, nearly all of them students.” (VOA http://bit.ly/1WxmTtL)

This is getting uglier by the day… “Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s treason trial began Wednesday with the prosecutor saying he could not be brought to court for security reasons. Besigye, who claimed fraud after coming second in February’s presidential election, was arrested last month for holding a mock swearing-in ceremony and charged with treason. He is being held at the maximum security Luzira Prison in the capital Kampala. State prosecutor Lino Angunzu told the judge that Besigye could not be brought to court because of “a specific security threat” and requested that further hearings be held inside the prison.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1UhPAo4)

After four years, aid finally reaches Daraya… “A convoy carrying much-needed aid, including medicine and baby milk, has reached the besieged suburb of Daraya in Syria’s capital. Less than a month ago, a convoy was turned away by government forces. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and the Red Crescent — an aid organization active in the Muslim world — coordinated the effort to get supplies to the Damascus suburb. It’s the first delivery of its kind to the town since 2012.” (NPR http://n.pr/1Wxnr2H)

Dire economic warning of the day…The world economy risks getting caught in a “low-growth trap” if governments don’t spend more on investments, open up to trade, and make reforms, a top economic forum warned Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/22yCl8V)

A dead baby plucked out of the sea whose picture sparked international outrage this week was probably a six-month-old Somali boy whose mother also most likely died in the shipwreck, Italian police said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1UfBPqc)

One Chinese United Nations peacekeeper has been killed, and four injured, after an attack in Mali, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, calling for an investigation into the incident to bring the perpetrators to justice. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/22yCoS6)

The International Criminal Court says it hopes to complete the trial of an Islamic radical accused of involvement in the destruction of historic mausoleums in the Malian desert city of Timbuktu in just a week because the suspect plans to plead guilty. (AP http://yhoo.it/22yBmWl)

Zimbabwe is seeking support from its neighbors to be allowed to engage in international trade in ivory and will not burn its 70 tonnes of ivory stocks as Kenya did last month, the environment minister said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1XhLkvZ)

A project to build dams and irrigation systems to bring water to parched fields in Zimbabwe is set to help – and could protect at least some families against the more frequent droughts climate change is bringing in southern Africa. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1XhKShf)

Ethiopia has grand ambitions for its tiny auto industry, seeking to transform a handful of assemblers that bolt together imported kits into a network of factories that can make the country Africa’s biggest car manufacturer over the next two decades. (Reuters http://bit.ly/20TZocR)

A severe drought in southern Africa has triggered a surge in food prices preventing central banks from loosening monetary policy to spur economic growth. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1t2cB98)

Botswana is battling to repair its troubled 600 megawatt power station before a surge in power demand during the approaching winter season, its power supplier said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1UhQrFa)

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved $175 million in financing to help mitigate the impact of forced displacement on refugee-hosting communities in the Horn of Africa. (World Bank http://bit.ly/1XhOr77)

Fearful of the Mediterranean crossing and confused by reports of a European refugee lockdown, Syrians are seeking the precarious safety of Mali – which is itself on humanitarian life support and faces severe security challenges. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1UhRN2T)

The U.N. children’s fund on Wednesday issued a stark warning to Iraqi troops and Islamic State militants in the battle for Fallujah to spare the children, the most vulnerable among tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the city west of Baghdad. (AP http://yhoo.it/1t1Dhqp)

A besieged suburb of Syria’s capital received humanitarian aid Wednesday for the first time since 2012, as the United Nations said it was looking into “every possible means” to reach besieged Syrians now that a deadline set by world powers has passed. (AP http://yhoo.it/1TQtS0n)

Three local employees of an international aid organization affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network were shot and killed by gunmen in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1UhQUav)

Thailand’s military-led cabinet could formally agree as soon as next week to pursue Trans-Pacific Partnership membership after clear signals from cabinet members in favor of joining history’s most expansive trade agreement. (VOA http://bit.ly/1UhOBEy)

The Philippines will not distance itself from its long-time security ally, the United States, but neither will it be a lackey to any foreign power, incoming Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay told Reuters on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1TQtkb2)

A Pakistani police official says a female teacher has died after being beaten and set on fire for refusing a marriage proposal from a man twice her age. (AP http://yhoo.it/1UhRqFm)

Authorities in Malaysia have uncovered an immigration racket involving the sabotage of a computerised passport-screening system at its main international airport, police said on Wednesday, raising worries about human-trafficking and security. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/22yCCbK)

The United Nations is showing the first signs of compromise over the Haiti cholera epidemic, after more than five years in which it has consistently refused to accept responsibility for a disaster that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1VxqSFv)

Youngsters whose asylum applications are handled by the U.S. government’s regional offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles are far more likely to win approval from asylum officers than those applying in Chicago or Houston, according to data obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request. (AP http://yhoo.it/1TQujbb)

Transgender people in the socially conservative U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have claimed another victory. The island’s electoral commission has ruled that transgender voters are allowed to change their gender on voter ID cards. The ruling comes one week after a registered voter requested to change her listed gender. (AP http://yhoo.it/20TZBNa)

The targeting of hospitals and humanitarian workers in war is quickly becoming a “new normal”, a top official at Médecins Sans Frontières has said, describing permanent members of the UN security council as complicit in the killing of medics. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Vxrif1)

The German government says the European Union’s anti-migrant smuggling operation in the Mediterranean sea has intercepted and destroyed 103 boats in its first year of operation. (AP http://yhoo.it/1UfzmvX)

Germany expects up to 100,000 undocumented migrants to leave the country in 2016, a number Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere Wednesday hailed as high but insufficient after last year’s record influx. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1UhPEnN)

In Mali, peacekeepers have become the target of an insurgency. This is unprecedented. (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1WxmQhH)

How long before North Korea can nuke a U.S. city? (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1UfAwYu)

Islamophobia: Why Are So Many People So Frightened? (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/22yBncR)

The astounding increase in New Zealand aid, and other woes (DevPolicy http://bit.ly/22yD61G)

Why is the US defending the honor of the International Criminal Court? (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/22yDEoa)

Fancy a holiday in a former Taliban stronghold? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1VxuxDd)

How to turn Africa from a “borrowed continent” to a global powerhouse (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1UhSmtt)

Hissène Habré, Chad’s former dictator, just got a life sentence for crimes he committed in the 1980s (Monkey Cage http://wapo.st/1UhSZmR)

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Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions of 2016 – B8-2016-0063

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively; and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and of the Millennium Development Goals (2000); whereas these anniversaries coincide with the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by an ever-increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of climate change, persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence;

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, class, caste, sex, sexual orientation or colour is an obligation on all states, and reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are political, civil, economic, social or cultural – which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others;

C.  whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level, and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

D.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity; whereas the human rights situation in its Member States directly impacts on the credibility of the EU’s human rights policy abroad;

E.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and enshrines the obligation for the EU to respect human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and those of the United Nations Charter and international law in its action on the international scene;

F.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, migration, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

G.  whereas the regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, the Special Procedure addressing either specific country situations or thematic issues, all contribute to the international effort to promote and respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

H.  whereas some of the members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a poor record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected among states which uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges EU Member States to promote human rights performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about widespread and systematic human rights abuses in several member states of the UNHRC, including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia; calls on the EU Member States not to vote in support of the membership of states committing such large-scale human rights violations and to publicise their votes;

2.  Expresses its full support for the independence and integrity of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (‘the Office’) and stresses that it is important to defend this independence, so as to ensure that the Office can continue to exercise its task in an effective and impartial manner; reiterates that the Office needs to be adequately funded and needs to be given full support;

3.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders to enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality; deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states such as Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by the countries concerned, including Israel; calls on all states to fully cooperate with these procedures;

4.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review; calls again for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

5.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and expresses its deep concern that severe limitations and ever growing restrictions and intimidation have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

6.  Calls on the European External Action Service and the Commission to follow up on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

7.  Calls, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the HRC, for an assessment of the Council’s impact, and the extent to which it is fulfilling its mandate and the need for greater attention to be paid to the implementation of its resolutions and other decisions; expresses concern at the practice of states responsible for human rights violations drafting their own resolutions, noting that they often do so not with the intention of actually addressing the situation, but with the aim of shielding their own acts and omissions from international scrutiny; highlights the need to address all country situations on their merits without selectivity; emphasises the importance of integrating civil society participation in all aspects of the Council’s work, and fostering concerted action to prevent and address reprisals;

8.  Welcomes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to protect and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

EU Member States at the Human Rights Council

9.  Deplores the division and lack of unity among the EU Member States in relation to a number of country situations over the past year, including on Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen where several EU Member States refused to co-sign the EU joint statement or even actively undermined initiatives by other EU Member States;

10.  Regrets the passivity of some EU Member States at the HRC; regrets that Belarus is the only new country resolution that the EU has decided to lead as a group since the creation of the HRC; calls on all EU Member States at the HRC to show stronger leadership on country situations and to mobilise action on situations that have not yet been addressed by the Council;

11.  Deplores the voting behaviour of EU Member States on a number of issues of critical importance for the Global South and where EU Member States abstained or for the most part voted down resolutions, which were ultimately adopted, such as on the repatriation of funds of illicit origin, private military and security companies, armed drones, foreign debt, the right to education, human rights and international solidarity, unilateral coercive measures, mercenaries, the right to peace, human rights of peasants, racism, people of African descent, the right to development and the promotion of a democratic and equitable world order; regrets also the continued division of the EU Member States at the UN HRC on a number of landmark thematic resolutions including on armed drones, on the right to peace, on the fight against racism and on the right to development;

12.  Considers that the voting record of EU Member States in the HRC sharply contrasts with the EU’s stated commitment to the indivisibility of rights and notably, to economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, and reflects the EU’s collective failure in successfully contributing to the development of global standards in these areas; calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to report back to Parliament on this situation and to encourage an in-depth review of the EU and Member State approach to ESC rights and so-called ‘new generation rights’ at the HRC; calls for a more principled and non-selective engagement of the EU Member States at the HRC; calls on the EU and its Member States to mainstream human rights in all their activities and positions within the broader UN system;

Civil and political rights

13.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

14.  Reaffirms that the existence of freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites to promote respect for human rights;

15.  Is of the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression online throughout the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

16.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity;

17.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls upon those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing death penalty moratorium not to reintroduce it and for those still retaining the death penalty, to adopt a moratorium as a first step towards abolition;

18.  Calls on all Member States to implement all necessary measures to ensure that they do not directly or indirectly contribute to the imposition or execution of the death sentence in retentionist states through any means, including the provision of law enforcement support or assistance to the prosecuting authorities that could contribute to a death sentence;

Social and Economic Rights

19.  Regrets that more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality and indivisibility as well as the interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated by the EU and its Member States on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as demonstrated by EU voting behaviour in the UNHRC; recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and with the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders related to economic, social and cultural rights; insists that particular efforts should be made, including by the EU Member States, to secure wide ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR establishing complaint and inquiry mechanisms;

20.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardises the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes in this regard the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

21.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and a lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

22.  Emphasises that minority communities in third countries have specific needs and that their full equality should be promoted in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life;

Indigenous Peoples

23.  Calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to actively support the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all HRC sessions; calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to take into consideration that indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and to actively support their participation in the application of the Paris Agreement; urges the EU Member States to request that all Special Procedure mandate holders give special attention to issues affecting indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities, and systematically report such issues to the UNHRC; urges the EEAS and the Member States to actively support the development of the system-wide action plan on indigenous peoples, as requested by the UN General Assembly in its September 2014 resolution, especially as regards the organisation of regular consultation of indigenous peoples as part of that process;

Human rights defenders

24.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

25.  Calls on all governments to allow civil society organisations and human rights defenders, to cooperate with the UNHRC in the UPR mechanism and to ensure that countries responsible for reprisals against human rights activists are held accountable;

26.  Considers that the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by a number of UNHRC members undermines the credibility of the UNHRC; urges the EU and its Member States to promote an initiative at UN level to outline a coherent and comprehensive response to the major challenges that human rights defenders working on women’s rights, the defence of environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights, on corruption and impunity, journalists and other human rights defenders using media, including online and social media, face worldwide and to systematically denounce their assassination;

Business and human rights

27.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU and urges EU Member States to adopt and implement national action plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

28.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries, notably in relation to investments or activities of multinational and European companies; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU to consistently address the issue of land grabbing as well as land rights defenders as a matter of priority;

29.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project in order to contribute to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges to access remedies at national and international levels, with regard to human rights violations linked to business;

30.  Deplores the negative vote and obstructive behaviour by EU Member States in relation to the establishment of the Open-ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; welcomes the work so far of the IGWG and calls on the EU and its Member States to constructively engage in the negotiations;

Migration and Refugees

31.  Calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay utmost attention to the human rights implications of the high numbers of refugees and migrants around the world and to make recommendations in this regard; underscores with dismay that the European external border has become the deadliest border in the world; calls on human rights to be mainstreamed into all border management policies and activities carried out by FRONTEX including the establishment of a complaint mechanism;

32.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, together with the implementation of his recommendations, including the demand to step up work on new ways to provide legal avenues of migration for those in humanitarian situations and to quickly implement reform and to provide and follow up on more resettlement opportunities;

33.  Expresses concern about continued and widespread discrimination against, and violations of the rights of, migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees; calls on all countries to adopt a human rights-based approach to migration, which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

34.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out in full respect of the migrants’ rights, based upon free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants, and to strictly uphold the prohibition of refoulement; reiterates its call on the EU to ensure that all migration cooperation and readmission agreements with non-EU states comply with international law;

Climate change and human rights

35.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all states parties which are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas; insists that all policies and actions on UNFCCC should be human rights based;

36.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels, and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, displacement of populations, and food and water shortages;

37.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

38.  Stresses the importance of not undermining the ‘acquis’ of the Beijing Platform for Action regarding access to education and health as a basic human right, and the protection of sexual and reproductive rights; emphasises the fact that universal respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to the relevant services contribute to reducing infant and maternal mortality; points out that family planning, maternal health, easy access to contraception and safe abortion are important elements in saving women’s lives and helping them rebuild their lives if they have been victims of rape; highlights the need to place these policies at the core of development cooperation and humanitarian action with third countries;

39.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges, including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

40.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women and notably sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and has placed a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment in combating these abominable crimes and to restore women’s dignity so that they receive justice, reparation and adequate support measures;

41.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable during times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

42.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligation; calls on the USA, as the only remaining country in the world not to have ratified this Convention, to accede to the latter as a matter of priority;

43.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

44.  Notes with concern that a number of persons have been sentenced to death for crimes committed while under the age of 18 and have been put to death in countries around the world in 2015 despite the prohibition on the use of the death penalty for juveniles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Rights of LGBTI persons

45.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including the use of the death penalty in some countries; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

46.  Supports the continuing work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to combat these discriminatory laws, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign, as well as the work of other UN bodies; is concerned at restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI human rights defenders, and calls for the EU to step up its support for them; notes that the fundamental rights of LGBTI people are more likely to be respected if they have access to legal institutions, possibly through registered partnerships or marriage; calls for the HRC to create a Special Procedure or another mechanism to ensure systematic attention to these issues;

Counter-terrorism and human rights

47.  Recalls that the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms is the foundation of successful counter-terrorism policies, including the use of digital surveillance technologies and urges that human rights and the rule of law be upheld in all counter-terrorism activities, which is also at the heart of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy;

Sports and human rights

48.  Denounces the increasing practice by authoritarian states of hosting mega sports or cultural events in order to boost their international legitimacy whilst further restricting domestic dissent; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively raise this issue, including at the UNHRC, and to engage with national sports federations, corporate actors and civil society organisations on the practicalities of their participation in such events, including with regard to the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022, and the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022; calls for the development of an EU and UN policy framework on sports and human rights;

Fight against impunity/ICC

49.  Reaffirms its strong commitment to ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community and to providing justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including those related to sexual violence, and reiterates its strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC); remains vigilant regarding any attempts to undermine the Court’s legitimacy or independence; expresses serious concern that several arrest warrants have still not been executed; urges the EU and its Member States to cooperate with the Court and provide it with strong diplomatic, political and financial support, including in the UN; calls for efforts to be increased in promoting the universality of the Rome Statute through its ratification, including of the Kampala amendments, and effective implementation;

Drones and autonomous weapons

50.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU once again to ban the production, development, and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism; deplores the negative vote of France and the UK on the latest HRC resolution on armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law;

Human rights and drug policy

51.  Welcomes the joint statement made on October 7 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions that ‘Executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings’ and that ‘International agencies, as well as States providing bilateral technical assistance to combat drug crime, must ensure that the programmes to which they contribute do not ultimately result in violations of the right to life’;

52.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to make the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences a priority issue in UNGASS negotiations, and reiterates that the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement policy;

53.  Expresses its support for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights and drug policy;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Azerbaijan

54.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to follow closely the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers that have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, to fully investigate allegations of torture in detention, and repeal legislations that unduly restrict freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan; calls on the EU Member States to seek the creation of a Special Rapporteur mandate on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan;

55.  Welcomes the provisional release on humanitarian grounds of Leyla and Arif Yunus, but calls for the immediate lifting of all charges against them; deeply regrets that none of the Azerbaijani prisoners of conscience were freed on the occasion of the latest Presidential pardon;

Belarus

56.  Notes the release of the six remaining prisoners as a welcome step; expresses its profound concern at the continued restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedoms of association and peaceful assembly; condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty;

57.  Calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and commit to engage in long overdue reforms to promote and protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Georgia

58.  Takes note of the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements in the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, as well as the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs);

59.  Notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia where human rights violations remain widespread; calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Russia

60.  Strongly condemns the government’s continued crackdown on dissent by targeting independent NGOs through the so-called ‘foreign agents law’ and the law on ‘undesirable foreign organisations’ that allows authorities to bar international NGOs seen as threatening Russia’s defence capabilities or constitutional foundations and the persistent and multiform repression of activists, political opponents and critics of the regime;

Ukraine

61.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve registration procedures and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislations that may negatively impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups, from government-controlled territory to rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member;

62.  Calls for EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia-backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Uzbekistan

63.  Urges EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan ensuring UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debate about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large number of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and continued use of forced and child labour;

Bahrain

64.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain in addressing concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain;

65.  Calls on the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow-up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

Israel/Palestine

66.  Calls on the EU to reiterate its position on accountability as mentioned in the July 2015 FAC conclusions, by stating that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-state actors, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security in the region;

67.  In light of this commitment in the July 2015 FAC, and the call on third states in the EU-backed July 2015 HRC resolution to promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, urges the EU to call on all parties to conduct credible investigations into alleged violations of international law; to actively monitor and assess compliance of ongoing investigations with international standards on the duty to investigate, including by regularly seeking clarification on the closure of cases; to press for an appropriate follow-up mechanism to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the 2015 UN Commission of Inquiry report and those of previous UN reports; and to call on Israel to cooperate with the ICC’s preliminary examination including by providing access and cooperating with requests for information;

68.  Deplores the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on OPT, which led to his resignation due to the failure of Israel to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

Syria

69.  Expresses its deep concern at the continued deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Syria; strongly condemns the abuses, massacres, torture, killings and sexual violence being perpetrated on the Syrian population by the Assad regime, the so-called Islamic State and other extremist and terrorist groups; reiterates its call for a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led political process leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future; expresses its full support to the ongoing UN-led efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict;

70.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Saudi Arabia

71.  Reiterates that UNHRC members should be elected from among states which uphold human rights, the rule of law and democracy; strongly disagrees with the decision taken by the United Nations, with EU Member State support, to hand over a key human rights role to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, who was elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council;

72.  Remains gravely concerned about the systematic and widespread human rights violations in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, including the 2015 Sakharov Laureate, Raif Badawi;

73.  Expresses serious concern about the mass execution of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia on 2 January 2016, following an alarming increase in the rate of executions in 2015;

74.  Notes with concern reports that among those executed were juveniles, mentally ill persons, and prisoners sentenced to death for non-lethal crimes particularly those relating to the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression;

75.  Calls on the Saudi authorities to co-operate fully with the UNHRC Special Procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; calls on Saudi Arabia to impose a moratorium on the death penalty;

Western Sahara

76.  Calls for the fundamental rights of the people of Western Sahara, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to assembly, to be respected; demands the release of all Sahrawi political prisoners; demands access to the territories of Western Sahara for members of parliament, independent observers, NGOs and the press; urges the United Nations to provide MINURSO with a human rights mandate, in line with all other UN peacekeeping missions around the world; supports a fair and lasting settlement of the Western Sahara conflict, on the basis of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions;

Yemen

77.  Expresses grave concern about the dramatic and violet conflict and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the country; denounces the serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses committed by the warring parties, notably the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous civilian objects; condemns the expulsion of the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the Yemeni authorities; calls on the EU to support the establishment of an international inquiry at the Human Rights Council to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Burundi

78.  Expresses deep concern about the targeted attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and their family members; strongly condemns the political violence, summary executions, human rights violations and abuses and incitement to violence on political, ethnic or other grounds in Burundi, as well as the ongoing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, including police and security forces, youth groups affiliated with political parties, and officials;

79.  Urges the Burundian authorities to end these violations and abuses as a matter of critical and urgent priority, including by immediately halting killings and attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and real or suspected opponents and critics, and by conducting thorough, impartial and independent investigations with a view to bringing those responsible to justice and providing victims with redress;

80.  Welcomes the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi on 17 December 2015 but regret the delays in holding it; calls for the expeditious deployment of the mission by independent experts, and urges the Burundian authorities to fully cooperate with the mission;

Mauritania

81.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in taking legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation is contributing to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

82.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

South Sudan

83.  Welcomes the Peace Agreement signed by the warring parties on 28 August 2015 to end the civil war, which includes transitional power-sharing, security arrangements and the establishment of a hybrid court to try all crimes committed since the conflict started; recalls that the conflict has claimed thousands of lives and caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and refugees;

84.  Calls on all parties to refrain from committing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including those amounting to international crimes, such as extrajudicial killings, ethnically targeted violence, conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, as well as gender-based violence, recruitment and use of children, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detention;   

85.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Venezuela

86.  Welcomes Venezuela’s holding of free and fair elections on 6 December 2015; welcomes the acceptance of the results by the government and opposition forces alike; recalls the importance of upholding the constitution and respecting human rights, and of carrying out the will of the Venezuelan people;

87.  Recalls that the new government will have to tackle a wide range of human rights issues, ranging from impunity and accountability for extrajudicial killings, including by security forces, to arbitrary arrest and detention, political prisoners’ right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly and association and media freedom;

DPRK

88.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly that condemns the ‘long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and encourages the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including by considering the referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including by those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state decades ago;

China

89.  Expresses its deep concern at the ongoing sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and human rights lawyers; points out that more than 200 attorneys and legal staff were summoned or taken away since July 2015 for questioning in the fiercest attempt in decades to silence critics of the regime; is alarmed by the news that the Chinese authorities have formally arrested over the last days on ‘subversion’ charges at least seven human rights lawyers and colleagues held in secret for six months;

Myanmar

90.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, under which 25 % of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

91.  Condemns the severe and widespread discrimination and repression against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status, and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015, aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’, include discriminatory aspects as regards gender; deplores the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has still not been permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability and human rights impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU-Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

92.  Welcomes the entry into force of the Nepal’s new constitution on 20 September 2015 which should lay the foundation for Nepal’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future;

93.  Regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty-related impasse;

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94.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2016 – B8-2016-0064

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions on the issues,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively, and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and the Millennium Development Goals (2000);

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, sex, or colour is an obligation on all states; reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are civic, economic, social or cultural –, which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others; whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

C.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity;

D.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and provides for respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law;

E.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

F.  whereas the regular sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, and the Special Procedures addressing either the situation in specific countries or thematic issues all contribute to the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

G.  whereas, regrettably, some of the current members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a dubious record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Choi Kyong-lim as President of the UNHRC for 2016;

2.  Welcomes the UNHRC annual report to the UN General Assembly covering its 28th, 29th and 30th sessions;

3.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected from among states that uphold respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges UN member states to promote human-rights-performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about human rights abuses in some newly elected members of the UNHRC and stresses that it is important to defend the independence of the UNHRC so as to ensure that it can continue to exercise its mandate in an effective and impartial manner;

4.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders, which enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality, deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states, such as Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by countries concerned, and calls upon all states to cooperate fully with these procedures;

5.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review, which focuses on the implementation of the recommendations accepted during the first cycle; calls again, however, for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

6.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the UPR process, and expresses its concern that severe limitations and ever-growing restrictions have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

7.  Calls for the EU and the Commission to follow up on the UPR recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

8.  Welcomes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to monitor and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

Civil and political rights

9.  Expresses its concern about the constitutional revisions undertaken in some countries, aimed at changing the limit set on presidential terms of office, an issue which has generated election-related violence in some cases; reaffirms that respect for civil and political rights, including individual and collective freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association, are the sole indicators of a democratic, tolerant and pluralistic society;

10.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21(3)) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 25); and reaffirms that freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for an independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites for promoting respect for human rights;

11.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

12.  Takes the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression on- line across the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

13.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity, and reaffirms its attachment to the right to life and human dignity of every individual;

14.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls on those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing moratorium on the death penalty not to reintroduce it;

Social and Economic Rights

15.  Regrets that, more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and give them the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders relating to economic, social and cultural rights;

16.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardizes the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes, in this connection, the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

17.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

Business and human rights

18.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU, including through the development of National Action Plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

19.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including by threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU Action Plan on human rights and democracy to systematically include land rights defenders in their human rights projects;

20.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project with a view to contributing to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges in gaining access to remedies at national and international levels, with regard to business-related human rights violations;

21.  Notes that an open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, established by a Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution of 26 June 2014, held its first session in July 2015; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively engage in the negotiations on the abovementioned legally binding international instrument;

Migration

22.  Is concerned by the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by the increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence, and in search of protection and a better life, and who are risking their lives by taking dangerous journeys; calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay the necessary attention to the human rights implications of this crisis and to make recommendations in this regard;

23.  Calls on all countries to adopt a human-rights-based approach to migration which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

24.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out with full respect for the migrants’ rights, based on free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants;

Climate change and human rights

25.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all States Parties who are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas;

26.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, population displacement, and food and water shortages;

27.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its possible definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

28.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

29.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that, since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women has taken on a new dimension which is more terrifying than ever, as sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and which places a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment to combating these abominable crimes and to restoring the dignity of women so that they obtain justice, reparation and support;

30.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable in times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; and calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

31.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligations;

32.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

Rights of LGBTI people

33.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

34.  Reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign; encourages the High Commissioner to continue fighting discriminatory laws and practices;

Drones and autonomous weapons

35.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU, once again, to ban the production, development and use of fully autonomous weapons, which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism;

EU human rights mainstreaming

36.  Calls upon the EU to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in accordance with Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty and the General Provisions on the Union’s External Action;

37.  Reiterates its call for the EU to adopt a rights-based approach and to integrate respect for human rights into trade, investment policies, public services, development cooperation, and its common security and defence policy; stresses also that the EU’s human rights policy should ensure that its internal and external policies are coherent, in line with the EU Treaty obligation;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Belarus

38.  Expresses its profound concern at the continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly, condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty; calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to commit to engaging in long-overdue reforms to protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Ukraine

39.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve the registration procedure and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislation that may have a negative impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to prevent the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups in both government-controlled territory and rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member; calls on the EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, and into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia‑backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Azerbaijan

40.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to closely monitor the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists and bloggers who have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, full investigation of allegations of torture in detention, and the repeal of laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan;

Uzbekistan

41.  Urge the EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan to ensure UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debates on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large numbers of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and the continued use of child labour;

Syria

42.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Yemen

43.  Expresses great concern about the grave crisis that has been affecting the country since September 2014, when serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses were committed by the Houthis and other Yemeni armed groups, and since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition did the same; in particular, condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes conducted by the latter coalition, which have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous items of civilian property; whereas the High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to report to the Council on the situation in Yemen at its next session, in March 2016; calls on the EU to support the establishment at the Human Rights Council of an international inquiry to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Bahrain

44.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain to address concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain; Calls upon the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release of all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association enact and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

South Sudan

45.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

46.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly condemning the ‘long‑standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the DPRK and encouraging the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including of those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state for decades;

Countries under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Georgia

47.  Welcomes Georgia’s membership of the UNHRC and the recent UPR on Georgia; notes the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements with regard to the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s Office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs); notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement agencies, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and the media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, where human rights violations remain widespread; and calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Lebanon

48.  Commends Lebanon for the open border and reception policy which it has had for years regarding refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria, and calls on the European Union to allocate more resources and to work closely with the Lebanese authorities to help the country uphold the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers; is concerned, in this context, about the reportedly significant number of cases of child and/or forced marriages among Syrian refugees; encourages the Lebanese Government to consider a reform of the law regulating entry into, residence in and exit from Lebanon, which does not distinguish between asylum seekers and refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other; supports the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in calling for measures to raise awareness among women migrant domestic workers of their human rights under the CEDAW Convention, to which Lebanon is a state party; emphasises, in particular, the need to abolish the ‘Kafala system’ and ensure effective access to justice for women migrant domestic workers, including by guaranteeing their safety and residence during legal and administrative procedures relating to their status;

Mauritania

49.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation contributes to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

50.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

Myanmar

51.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, which reserves 25 % of the seats in the Parliament for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

52.  Condemns the discrimination against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015 aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’ have discriminatory aspects as regards gender; repeats its request that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU – Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

53.  Welcomes the entry into force on 20 September 2015 of Nepal’s new constitution, which should lay the foundations for the country’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future; regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty impasse;

Oman

54.  Commends Oman for the setting-up of the governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the invitation which allowed the ground-breaking visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly in September 2014; expresses the hope that these constructive steps will lead to a more intensive engagement by Oman with UN human rights representatives and independent human rights organisations; encourages Oman to take the necessary steps to alleviate what the UN Special Rapporteur described as a pervasive climate of fear and intimidation in the country, stating that individuals were ‘afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet’; remains concerned about, and calls on the government to reconsider, in this context, the ban on all political parties and the new nationality law adopted in August 2014, which stipulates that citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could have their citizenship revoked; calls on the EU Institutions and the Member States to offer technical and legal assistance to help Oman create a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations;

Rwanda

55.  Expresses its concern about the human rights situation in Rwanda, including the restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the shrinking of the democratic space for opposition political parties and independent civil society activities, and the absence of a conducive environment for the independence of the judiciary; calls on the Rwandan Government to open up a democratic space in which all segments of society may operate freely;

56.  Is concerned by the proposed constitutional change aimed at allowing the incumbent President to run for a third term; calls on the Government of Rwanda to uphold the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, Article 5 of which lays down that states parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure constitutional rule, particularly constitutional transfer of power, and Article 23 of which states that any amendment of the constitution which infringes on the principles of democratic change of government is illegal;

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57.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

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New DFID-FAO agreement paves way for stronger, easier collaboration

Photo: ©FAO/Believe Nyakudjara

Villagers from Gwaseche, Zimbabwe, are helping their livestock get water from a borehole in Chiredzi, as part of an emergency livestock drought mitigation programme funded by the UK Department for International Development, in April 2014.

21 December 2015, Rome -- The Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DfID) and FAO are strengthening their partnership with a new agreement that will benefit future collaborations on a multitude of fronts.

"FAO and DFID share a vision for a world where communities are food secure, their productive assets are protected and the world's natural resources are managed sustainably," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, said today.

"Thanks to the UK's ongoing support to many areas of FAO's work, we have been able to build toward that vision together and will now be able to do so more strategically and efficiently moving forward," he added.

The new FAO-DFID framework agreement serves as an overarching legal umbrella for collaboration between both partners that will cover all future projects for at least ten years. By eliminating the need to negotiate individual trust fund agreements for each new project, the new arrangement will save costs and time and make collaboration easier.

Between 2012 and 2015, the UK government has been the third largest overall donor to FAO with contributions exceeding $360 million. It has also been one of the few global resource partners able to increase its overall development assistance funding despite financing constraints.

DFID has supported a diverse set of FAO projects over a number of years, targeting problems ranging from the illegal timber trade to a lack of comprehensive agricultural data in many parts of the world.

Supporting food security in Zimbabwe

FAO has played a key role in supporting the country's most vulnerable people to produce more food, access new markets and expand into new agricultural enterprises

To support these efforts, DfID is contributing $48 million to an FAO project under the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Program (LFSP) that aims to raise smallholder

farm productivity. The project introduces farmers to climate-smart agricultural practices, increases their access to finance and markets, and encourages communities to grow and consume more nutritious foods.

Helping countries implement the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure

DfID is currently supporting the effective implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forestry (VGGT), with a $7.5 million contribution (£4.9 million) for research and participatory activities in China, Nigeria and Uganda.

Secure land and property rights are essential to support sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. But in most developing countries land tenure rights are ill-defined and ill-enforced, land administration systems are corrupt and markets lack transparency.

The three-year project supports activities to increase transparency in the land sector in Nigeria, design a tenure-reform roadmap in Uganda, and raise awareness about the VGGT among Chinese investors seeking to make land purchase abroad, particularly in rural areas in Africa.

Strengthening food security information  and resilience building in crisis

DFID has also shown continued commitment to strengthening information for action in crisis situations, including contributions of close to $10 million (£5.4 million) to improve and expand the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) used for food security assessments.

Between 2012 and 2015, some 1900 national experts were trained as IPC analysts to assess and classify food insecurity based on common international standards. The DFID project has strengthened the way governments in 20 countries apply the IPC and helped develop and apply new protocols for analysing chronic food insecurity and acute malnutrition. This, in turn, has increased demand for the IPC tools among decision-makers working on emergency and development programming.

DFID has also been a steady contributor to FAO's emergency operations that help communities rebuild and strengthen their livelihoods during or directly after conflict and natural disasters with close to $100 million over the last decade. These funds have supported crucial resilience-building efforts in countries such as the Central African Republic, Pakistan, the Philippines, , Somalia and South Sudan.

Strengthening forest governance to counter illegal timber trading

Recognizing the serious risks that the trade of illegal timber poses to forest landscapes, the environment and the economic health of international markets, DfID in 2014 joined other donors in supporting the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Programme (FLEGT) that seeks to bring about sustainable forest management and ensure wood imported into the EU is legally sourced.

The UK's contribution of over $2.1 million (£1.4 million) supports a dozen projects in timber-producing developing countries such as the Congo, Ghana and Indonesia to strengthen local forest governance and build wide buy-in across the industry -- from loggers to timber company executives -- to adhere to national and international rules and standards.

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The Last Known Ebola Patient in Africa Has Recovered

At this rate, ebola will have been fully contained before the start of 2016.  The last known Ebola patient in Guinea, a 21-day-old baby girl, has recovered at a treatment centre in the capital, Conakry, health officials say.A spokesman for Guinea’s Ebola co-ordination unit said two tests on the baby had been negative. Guinea will be declared officially free of Ebola if no new cases are reported in the next six weeks.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1X5Kq0z)

Many Feared  Killed in in Nigeria Blast…”Heavy casualties were feared on Tuesday when a bomb blast ripped through packed crowds in Yola, northeast Nigeria, just days after President Muhammadu Buhari visited declaring that Boko Haram were close to defeat.Tuesday’s blast was the first in Nigeria this month, indicating the army’s strategy to cut off the Islamists’ supply lines and target their camps was paying off.

Buhari has set his military commanders a deadline of the end of next month to crush the rebels, who have increasingly taken to attacking border areas of neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.” (AFP http://bit.ly/1PyLJ92 )

Ban Ki Moon to DPRK? “U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will visit North Korea’s capital Pyongyang this week, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, though there was no confirmation from either the United Nations or the South Korean foreign ministry. The Yonhap report quoted an unnamed U.N. source, who expected Ban would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in what could mark a rare diplomatic opening by the isolated state.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1OPEuJM)

Migrant tragedy at sea…A plastic boat carrying migrants capsized in the eastern Aegean Sea near the Greek island of Kos, killing at least nine people including four children, authorities said, as thousands of people continued to risk the short sea crossing from Turkey in unseaworthy vessels. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PyiWkU)

A Syrian Refugee Family Diverted from Indiana at 11th Hour…A Syrian refugee family, after waiting for three years in Jordan to be approved to come to the United States, was finally set to land in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Instead, after Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said on Monday that he would no longer accept Syrian refugees in his state, the family of three will be starting their new life in New Haven.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/1OPEpWL )

There’s mounting evidence that no Syrian refugees were responsible for the Paris attacks. http://wapo.st/1PyMcYX

Latest on the Paris Attacks: http://bbc.in/1PyLZF4

Africa

Five Tanzanian gold miners have been rescued after spending 41 days trapped deep underground eating cockroaches and frogs to survive, the mining ministry and survivors said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HTE0zW)

A severe fuel crisis has hit Nigeria with long queues of angry motorists waiting for hours outside petrol stations in major cities to fill up. (BBC http://bbc.in/1PyLYAU )

South Sudan’s rebels said that government soldiers had launched attacks against their positions in oil-rich Unity State in what they said was a violation of a peace deal signed in August. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1S1QLc9)

Rwanda’s senate unanimously approved a draft constitution to allow President Paul Kagame to seek a third term in office, the head of the senate said, clearing the path for a referendum that is not expected to face much opposition. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1QKdAmd)

A Kenyan court charged the former head of the state-run Geothermal Development Company and other senior executives with abuse of office arising from the award of a contract for transporting drilling rigs. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1QKdxGN)

African birth registration officials meeting in Cameroon say more than half of births in Africa are not registered, which can make it hard for children to enroll in school or access health care. Experts say legal reforms and education for parents and registration authorities are key. (VOA http://bit.ly/1S1PKAQ)

A Burundian civil society leader has called on the international community to help strengthen Burundian civil society groups so that they can effectively play their role as the voices of the people. (VOA http://bit.ly/1OdL8GM)

Officials of the International Criminal Court warned member states not to compromise judicial independence as Kenya began a renewed diplomatic push against charges faced by its deputy president. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1S1QKVt)

With droughts wreaking havoc in vast areas of Zimbabwe, a majority of people are fast falling in line with climate-smart agriculture as food deficits continue. (IPS http://bit.ly/1SAx8rr)

MENA

A ceasefire between Syria’s government and opposition could be just weeks away from reality, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said as he visited Paris to show solidarity with France after last week’s attacks. (AP http://yhoo.it/20ZRLn0)

France made an unprecedented demand that its European Union allies support its military action against the Islamic State group and launched new airstrikes on the militants’ stronghold in Syria. (AP http://yhoo.it/1OdL8X9)

Israel outlawed an Islamist group accused of inciting violence among Arab citizens amid a two-month wave of unrest, and in a separate development approved the construction of hundreds of homes in a Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PyiSSi)

Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi returned to his country for the second time since advancing Houthi fighters forced him to flee to ally Saudi Arabia in March. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PyiS4T)

Asia

Tens of thousands of Burmese refugees living in Thailand are more optimistic about returning following the November 8 election wins of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. However, many who fled decades of conflict in Myanmar remain cautious. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HTDTV1)

India has deployed the army and air force to rescue flood-hit residents in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where at least 71 people have died in around a week of torrential rains. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1S1Qgi3)

China needs to deepen its fight against separatists, intensify “de-radicalization” efforts, and increase global cooperation to defend against terrorism, the country’s domestic security chief wrote. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1QKdBq1)

An organisation that promotes leadership in Pakistan, a network that helps girls and young women working in the sex industry in Hong Kong and a project that supports Palestinian refugees in the West Bank are among 20 groups from 19 countries awarded grants of up to $50,000 each. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1HTDXEj)

A new nationwide survey of public opinion in Afghanistan reports 58 percent of Afghans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. (VOA http://bit.ly/1HTDZfd)

The Americas

House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a pause in Syrian refugees coming to the U.S. in the wake of the Paris attacks and said the House will vote on the issue this week. (AP http://yhoo.it/1S1PnWX)

A news report is citing a lawmaker who estimates that the burst of two dams at an iron ore mine in central Brazil caused $2.6 billion to $3.7 billion in damages. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HTE2rv)

Colombia’s second largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, has released two soldiers it kidnapped three weeks ago. (BBC http://bbc.in/1S1Ppy2)

The leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, accused the United States of kidnapping two nephews of first lady Cilia Flores. (BBC http://bbc.in/1HTDVfB)

A parliamentary investigative panel is questioning Brazil’s one-time richest man about the estimated $2.5 billion in loans the country’s national development bank made to his oil, mining, logistics and ship-making empire. (AP http://yhoo.it/1HTE1UB)

…and the rest

UN Human Rights expert says Paris attacks ‘may constitute crime against humanity.’ (AP http://yhoo.it/1j5IffV)

France invoked the European Union’s mutual assistance clause for the first time, asking its partners for military help and other aid in missions in the Middle East and Africa after the Paris attacks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1QKdzP3)

The discovery that one of the suicide bombers involved in the attacks in Paris last Friday was carrying a Syrian passport – and apparently had arrived on the shores of Greece last month on a refugee boat — has intensified the already heated debate over the migrant influx into Europe. (VOA http://bit.ly/1j5Io35)

Hungary’s parliament authorized the government in a law passed to turn to the courts to challenge an EU decision on mandatory migrant relocation quotas for EU members. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1HTDSQO)

The United Nations urged states not to “backtrack” on pledges made to host migrants and refugees, including from Syria, in the wake of the attacks in Paris. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1HTDUYV)

Opinion/Blogs

Radicalized French citizens come and go as the door slams on refugees (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/20ZTmJu)

Lesser Known Apocalypses – the crisis of antibacterial resistance (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1NZNrPq)

Why Germany is probably doing more for Syria than the UK (Roving Bandit http://bit.ly/1QKeNK0)

Development From Below (Jacobin http://bit.ly/1OdAYWI)

Terrorism continues to rise – what do the numbers tell us? (Dev Policy http://bit.ly/1S1S62F)

Will Paris Attacks Act as Game-Changer in War Against ‘Islamic State’? (VOA http://bit.ly/1S1G9K4)

Challenges for African Agriculture (Africa can end poverty http://bit.ly/1SAxD50)

Without rule of law, conflict-affected areas will become poverty ghettoes (Guardian http://bit.ly/1QKeFKz)

The good and the bad: Urbanization’s effect on food supply chains (Devex http://bit.ly/1NZNTxa)

Could more women in power promote development? (Development that Works http://bit.ly/1QKeKhr)

What does Argentina’s election mean for South America? (BBC http://bbc.in/1j5xoCJ)

The Power of a Dollar (Jacobin http://bit.ly/1OdAYpr)

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