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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;

°

°  °

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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Taliban attack targets polio vaccine workers, killing 15

Pakistan is one of two Polio endemic countries in the world. The other is Afghanistan. “A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a polio vaccination centre in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people, officials said, in a Taliban-claimed attack. The victims, mainly policemen, had been gathering outside the centre to accompany polio workers on the third day of a vaccination campaign which has been frequently targeted by Taliban and other Islamist militant groups in Pakistan.” (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ZkVub8)

Worthwhile American Initiative…The Obama administration is planning to expand a program to let would-be migrants from Central America apply for refugee status before they attempt to come to the U.S., Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PY13tH)

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative…Canada welcomed its 10,000th Syrian refugee, the government announced Wednesday, although almost two weeks behind schedule and far fewer than it had originally planned to resettle by now. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mWg1GA)

Worthless Danish Initiative.. Denmark’s Parliament started to debate a raft of proposals on changing immigration laws, including a measure that would allow the authorities to confiscate all valuables belonging to refugees worth over 10,000 Danish crowns ($1,450), and then use them to pay for the refugee’s stay.  (Reuters http://reut.rs/1REQ63T)

Depressing news organization closure of the day: The head of Al Jazeera America announced today the closure of its cable news channel, in a memo yesterday. Fortunately, its digital news presence will expand in the U.S. (NY Times http://nyti.ms/1nj4BgS)

Africa

A suicide bomber killed 12 worshippers Wednesday at a mosque in northern Cameroon, an area regularly targeted by Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists, officials said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TVAt5n)

An Ethiopian official says plans to integrate the capital with surrounding towns have been cancelled following deadly protests by locals who opposed the move. (AP http://yhoo.it/1mWg45i)

LRA rebels killed a villager and abducted dozens of others during two weekend raids in a remote diamond-producing area of Central African Republic, local residents and officials said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1ZkVEzh)

Twelve soldiers and a civilian have been arrested so far in connection with last month’s failed coup in Niger, Defence Minister Mahamadou Karidjo said on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ZuGcGk)

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court began its year Wednesday with a request from 15 death row prisoners for their sentences to be commuted. Rights lawyers are hoping the death penalty will be outlawed in Zimbabwe this year. (VOA http://bit.ly/1ZuG7Ck)

Burkina Faso’s newly-elected President Roch Marc Kabore broke with the past on Wednesday by naming a cabinet packed with ministers who had not served under the previous toppled administration. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1TVAupS)

MSF announced the launch of a vaccination campaign in the Central African Republic that will cover about one-quarter of all children. (MSF  http://bit.ly/1TVAyWW)

A judge at the International Criminal Court has postponed a crucial pretrial hearing for an alleged Islamic radical charged with involvement in the 2012 destruction of historic mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu. (AP http://yhoo.it/1REf8QG)

Uganda says it will get the best deal from its oil and invest the profits in infrastructure and agriculture, but there are formidable obstacles on the path to prosperity. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ZuINjp)

China’s imports from Africa fell nearly 40 percent last year, officials said Wednesday, as low commodity prices and slowing growth in the Asian giant hit trade. (AFP http://yhoo.it/22ZVgLo)

As the wheels come off a decade-long commodities supercycle, Africa’s oil-producing and metal-rich giants find themselves facing a dangerous mix of lower export revenues, depreciating currencies, declining financial flows from China, falling domestic demand and higher debt costs following last month’s US interest rate rise. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ZuIm8R)

MENA

Aid groups hope to deliver more food and medicine today to three besieged Syrian towns, including Madaya, where residents have reportedly starved to death, a UN official said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mWg2dV)

The activist sister of prominent jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was released on Wednesday after being detained in the kingdom, Human Rights Watch said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mWg9WD)

Asia

Organizers of the World Economic Forum in Davos say they have revoked an invitation to a delegation from North Korea, in what appears to be an international rebuke over the secretive Communist country’s nuclear test this month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1PY2s3x)

Feminists in China are embracing Taiwan’s presidential front-runner Tsai Ing-wen as a role model – in a country where the last woman leader was the empress dowager more than a century ago. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1PY2Ajr)

A Norwegian company said it has canceled plans to build a $1.5 billion hydropower plant in Nepal to generate electricity in an energy-starved country where people get only a few hours of power every day. (AP http://yhoo.it/22ZVfqz)

Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on the Pakistani consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, stoking fears over the spread of the ultra-radical movement in Afghanistan. (Reuters http://reut.rs/1REQjnM)

The Americas

A group of 180 Cuban migrants took a step closer to their dream of a new life in the United States Wednesday after flying out of Costa Rica in a trial run designed to blaze a path for thousands of stranded compatriots to follow. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mZwZVn)

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Buenos Aires against the new Argentine government’s reforms, including measures they say curb press freedom. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1TVHUcK)

The United States criticized the government of the Caribbean island nation St Lucia on Tuesday for failing to prosecute police accused of keeping death-lists and killing suspected criminals during a misguided campaign to attract tourists. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ZkVtUG)

…and the rest

A report from a group of international health experts convened in the wake of the Ebola crisis warned that infectious diseases represent a threat matched only by wars and natural disasters when it comes to endangering life and disrupting societies. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PY15BU)

Global warming is likely to disrupt a natural cycle of ice ages and contribute to delaying the onset of the next big freeze until about 100,000 years from now, scientists said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1mWg5pQ)

Denmark’s parliament began debating Wednesday a controversial plan to seize refugees’ valuables, with the bill widely expected to pass a January 26 vote after being backed by a majority of lawmakers. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ZuGhcT)

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Wednesday more foreign criminals would be expelled once new restrictions are rolled out in the wake of sexual attacks on women blamed on migrants in Cologne. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1TVAvtW)

Opinion/Blogs

Can Gordon Brown Save a Generation of Syrian Children? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1nj56r6)

Haiti six years after the quake – What’s changed? (TRF http://yhoo.it/1TVw3vp)

Occupy Charity: Big Money in Few Hands (Tiny Spark http://bit.ly/1nj56HC)

With Ebola in check, are we ready for next outbreak? (AFP http://yhoo.it/1mWiDV9)

Obama’s final State of the Union big on foreign policy themes (The Interpreter http://bit.ly/1REmCTA)

Will India open its temples and mosques to menstruating women? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1mZoo4T)

Ebola: timeline of an epidemic (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ZkTgbZ)

Jamaica’s Drought Tool Could Turn the Table on Climate Change (IPS http://bit.ly/1REcvOF)

Graveyard to the Doha Development Round? (Addis Fortune http://bit.ly/1PXZiN5)

Teaching abroad: ‘Volunteers had little educational benefit to the kids’ (Guardian http://bit.ly/1mZrLZD)

Change of Direction for African Union? (ISS http://bit.ly/1ZkUbco)

New Funds for Syrian Refugees, But More Needed (IPS http://bit.ly/22ZTf1C)

Discussion

comments...

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FAO GIEWS Country Brief on Zimbabwe (08-January-2016)

Reference Date: 08-January-2016

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Delayed and erratic rains adversely impact early development of 2016 cereal crops and hinder cropping activities

  2. Large volumes of maize imported from Zambia, on account of lower domestic production in 2015

  3. Food insecurity remains acute in southern provinces

Cereal production outlook in 2016 has weakened due to El Niño‑associated dry conditions

Planting of the 2015 maize crop is still ongoing in some locations due to the late start of seasonal rains, with the bulk of harvesting activities expected to commence from May.

Rains since the start of the cropping season in October/November have been erratic and, despite heavier downpours in mid-December, cumulative precipitation levels remain below-average. Higher temperatures have also exacerbated the impact of rainfall deficits. As a result, vegetation conditions are generally below-normal across most of the country, implying retarded crop development, with some areas in the south reportedly already experiencing crop failure. The poor start to the cropping season has caused a reduced rate in maize plantings, with plantings about one-third lower as of December 2015 compared to the same period of the previous year, which could result in a contraction in the total planted area. Overall, current production prospects for the 2016 cereal crops are unfavourable.

Dry spell caused a sharp decrease in 2015 cereal output

Total cereal production in 2015 is estimated at 870 000 tonnes, about 50 percent below the 2014 output and approximately 40 percent lower than the five-year average. The steep decline is mostly the result of an extended dry period in the first quarter of 2015 that resulted in crop losses and a reduction in yields, The less productive southern and western provinces of Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, were the worst-hit areas, with maize harvests decreasing between 66 and 84 percent compared with the 2014 outputs. Maize, sorghum and millet production registered declines of 50 percent and more.

Cash crop production in 2015 was also estimated at lower levels compared to the previous year. Production of tobacco and cotton, the two main cash crops, decreased by 26 and 41 percent, respectively, mostly reflecting the erratic weather conditions.

Significant imported volumes of maize in 2015/16

As a result of the reduced 2015 maize harvest, the import requirement for the 2015/16 marketing year (April/March) is estimated between 650 000 and 700 000 tonnes (assuming an unchanged per caput consumption rate), well above the reduced level of last year. As of October, approximately 400 000 tonnes were imported from Zambia, at the rate of 57 000 tonnes per month. If this rate would continue until March 2016, the country would be expected to fully satisfy its consumption needs.

Maize meal prices remain stable

Prices of maize meal were generally below their year-earlier levels as of October 2015 and had remained stable since January, with limited disparities between regions. The overall stable trend has been helped by large import volumes and generally stable prices in Zambia. However, upward pressure is expected in the coming months as national stocks decrease and recently increasing prices in Zambia filter through to the country.

Lower 2015 harvest worsens food insecurity

An estimated 1.49 million people (16 percent of the rural population) are food insecure in the January-March 2016 period, up from 0.56 million in the previous year, according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s 2015 evaluation. The sharp increase is largely on account of the reduced cereal production and consequently lower households stocks, with the highest rates of food insecurity in the Midlands, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, corresponding to the provinces that registered the largest maize production decreases. Government and the UN have been distributing food to the most vulnerable families.

A consecutive poor cereal harvest in 2016, resulting from the El Niño‑associated dry weather, could further worsen the poor food security situation.

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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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As hunger grips Malawi, UNICEF embarks on mass screening for malnutrition across country

16 December 2015 – Following reports of increasing food shortage and hunger problem in Malawi coming from its communities and villages, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is carrying out a mass screening for malnutrition in children under five across 25 districts in Malawi, which accounts for 90 per cent of the country.

&#8220We want to make sure that every child suffering from malnutrition gets access to life-saving treatment,&#8221 said UNICEF Country Representative, Mahimbo Mdoe in a news release adding that although official figures say that malnutrition cases are not increasing, past experience indicate that this may not be the whole story.

Mr. Mdoe said that hungry and desperate families may not have the means or resources to take sick children to be assessed and through the mass screening, UNICEF plans to bring services to them, to ensure &#8220no child is left out&#8221.

According to UNICEF, Malawi has been struggling to cope with drought and the first maize deficit in a decade and the mass screening comes after a recent Vulnerability Assessment, which revealed 2.8 million people in Malawi are in need of urgent food aid, raising concerns as the country already faces a combination of challenges including food shortages, El Nino weather patterns, recovery from floods, a stagnant economy and a prolonged drought.

&#8220Even if the rains are sufficient this growing season, families will still have to wait until March or April before the first crops are harvested. That is a further four months of food insecurity, when young children are at increased risk from disease or even death. As UNICEF we have to ensure that those children are seen, screened and if necessary treated for severe or moderate malnutrition,&#8221 said Mr. Mdoe.

According to UNICEF, Malawi adopted the community management of acute malnutrition (CMAM) approach in 2002 as the most effective way of treating malnutrition in young children which focuses on prevention at community level through raising awareness on malnutrition, screening all children and treating identified malnutrition cases using therapeutic milk and foods.

UNICEF estimation indicates that, nearly four per cent of the under-five malnutrition population in Malawi suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), a fatal condition for young children, also noting that that there are discrepancies across the country, with the flood affected districts in the south currently showing much higher rates.

UNICEF said that even though its malnutrition screening and treatment programme in Malawi is available in over 90 per cent of districts, however only 50 per cent of the expected number of children are being seen and treated.

The UN agency also added that malnutrition figures coming from the districts show a stable trend, despite the food shortage, with the exception of flood hit districts of Chikwawa, Phalombe and Nsanje who recorded an increase of cases in the past 3 months.

However, UNICEF warned that as the 'lean season' reaches its peak between February and March, these figures are likely to substantially increase.

UNICEF noted that across parts of eastern and southern Africa, two back-to-back seasons of poor or non-existent rainfall, exacerbated by a strengthening El Niño weather phenomenon, are putting children at risk of hunger, lack of water and disease.

For example, in Ethiopia, over 10 million people are currently estimated to be food insecure, with projections indicating that this could rise to 15 million in 2016 and that 350,000 children could need treatment for severe acute malnutrition next year, according to UNICEF estimates.

The UN agency also added that in Somalia, around 855,000 people are in Crisis and Emergency phases of food insecurity with almost 70 per cent of those affected displaced by conflict within the country's borders, and in Zimbabwe, numbers of food insecure people are expected to triple by the time of the lean season in January to March 2016, peaking at 1.5 million.

UNICEF also added that children suffering in Malawi and across parts of eastern and southern Africa due to climate-related droughts and floods must be put at the forefront of discussions in the final hours of the talks in Paris at the UN climate change conference (COP21).

Lastly, UNICEF said that the mass screening for malnourished children is supported by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID), and is one of several emergency response activities in the country, including food ration distribution supported by the World Food Programme.

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UNDP and World Resources Institute Launch Report on Engaging the Private Sector to Build Resilience to Climate Change

Dec 8, 2015

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and World Resources Institute (WRI) launched a joint report today during the Paris climate change conference (COP21), highlighting why enhancing resilience in the private sector, led by small business, is vital to building resilient communities.

Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs) in developing countries provide around 60 percent of all employment, supporting the livelihoods of billions globally. This segment of the economy is therefore critical to adapting to future climate impacts.

The report, Adapting from the Ground Up: Enabling Small Businesses in Developing Countries to Adapt to Climate Change, is a call to action for policymakers, climate finance providers, and large corporations to engage small businesses in adaptation efforts.

Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP, noted in her keynote speech: “Micro and small enterprises can benefit from increasing their own resilience, and they are well-positioned to develop and sell products and services that strengthen the resilience of their communities. In this way, these businesses become an enabling resource for enhancing the resilience of vulnerable communities worldwide.”

As developing countries seek to mobilize additional resources to limit emissions and adapt to climate change, engaging the private sector is critical to a holistic, cross-sector approach.

The report offers specific policy interventions to help enable this, and outlines six steps decision-makers can use to select the policy options that will work for their business community.

“Even with a strong global agreement, vulnerable communities will need more resources to respond to our already changing world. That’s where small businesses come in,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, WRI. “Small and micro businesses can help fill the gaps by enhancing resilience of communities. They can help communities through infrastructure better withstand the impacts of climate change, and they themselves can benefit by providing goods and services necessary to make communities stronger.”

Adapting from the Ground Up draws upon a growing body of research and projects on private sector adaptation. It shares examples from case studies of interventions in Cambodia, Nicaragua, Tajikistan, and Zimbabwe, which successfully catalyzed MSE investment in climate adaptation measures in the agriculture sector. The report also presents a number of shorter case studies from projects and initiatives in Benin, Cook Islands, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Namibia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

The report was officially launched at a high-level event during UNDP’s “Day on Implementation” at COP21.

The report offers a menu of interventions that policy makers can choose from to help small businesses build resilience. The menu includes the following actions:

  • Programs to provide businesses with relevant climate risk information;
  • Technical assistance and training on managing climate risk;
  • Regulatory and fiscal incentives to stimulate risk reduction;
  • Subsidies and tax relief;
  • Research and development or pilots on climate-related products and services;
  • Public spending on infrastructure;
  • Incentives or support for partnerships and cooperatives; and
  • Public risk transfer or risk compensation instruments

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Carl Mercer: carl.mercer@undp.org / +1 (347) 652 5933

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COP21: Southern Africa's food crisis – from bad to worse

1.5 million Zimbabweans are food insecure (File photo)

NAIROBI, 4 December 2015 (IRIN) - Close to 29 million people in southern Africa are already facing food shortages as a result of this season’s poor harvest, but worse could be on the way.

“Serious concerns are mounting that Southern Africa will this coming season face another poor harvest, possibly a disastrous one,” the UN’s aid coordinating agency, OCHA, warned in a recent report

A drought-inducing El Niño – perhaps the strongest ever recorded – is already underway. Floods are expected to hit the region early next year, and there is a 65 percent chance of a cyclone slamming into the island of Madagascar.

This year, Southern Africa’s cereal harvest fell by almost a quarter, down to 34 million tonnes. Major food shortages are affecting Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Madagascar. In Lesotho and Namibia, whose populations are tiny, 30 percent of  rural people are classified as “food insecure,” which essentially means they lack access to food that’s sufficient to lead healthy, active lives.

After the previous year’s good harvest, “The crisis has been to an extent mitigated by the region’s grain reserves, but they are now largely exhausted,” OCHA humanitarian officer Yolanda Cowan told IRIN.

Their own stockpiles exhausted, many poor households are already having to buy their staple foods, so the current abnormally high maize prices – up between 15 and 40 percent – is causing real hardship. 

Less cash in rural areas means markets start to close. “Once traders realize the crop is lost they will pack up and go,” taking with them the lines of credit they extend to poor farmers, said Daniel Sinnathamby, regional humanitarian coordinator for Oxfam.

Governments will have to respond this coming year by importing commercial food from outside the region, but are facing tightening budgets. Many have economies dependent on commodity exports, and have felt the pinch of the global downturn in prices.

Most countries in the region boast well integrated middle-income economies, and so in theory should not need humanitarian assistance year after year. Yet “Southern Africa suffers from chronic vulnerability. Very small events can send large numbers of people into humanitarian crisis,” said Sinnathamby.

Wealth inequality is reflected in appalling rates of malnutrition-related child stunting. In Malawi and Zambia, stunting is above 47 percent – among the highest in the world. Even in economic powerhouse South Africa more than one in five children show stunting.

Despite the key role agriculture plays in people’s livelihoods, government investment has been limited. 

Farm plots are typically small, barely generating subsistence incomes. Farmers are dependent on rain-fed crops rather than irrigation; extension and development services are generally weak; and even in years of good rainfall, millions of people continue to require emergency aid.

Resilience

Southern Africa is expected to be hit hard by global warming, with extreme rainfall variability forecast. But the innovation and adaptation needed to contend with a changing climate is only slowly emerging.

“I suspect governments across the region have not made the necessary infrastructural investments,” said World Food Programme spokesman David Orr. “There needs to be greater investment in all sorts of agricultural schemes, from water harvesting to conservation farming.”

Building resilience – the ability of communities to cope with adversity - is increasingly seen as a key strategy. “What we have learnt is just responding to the immediate crisis is not effective,” said Maxwell Sibhensana, World Vision technical director.

“Every time there is a crisis we are just alleviating the impacts. There is not enough investment in recovery, and bringing people back into robust livelihoods,” said Sinnathamby.

There is a “regional resilience framework” prepared by humanitarian and development agencies, which emphasizes the need for climate-smart initiatives such as drought-resistant seeds and new farming techniques, alongside social protection programmes for the vulnerable.

Cowan believes that there is a growing realization by governments in the region that the cyclical boom-and-bust agricultural model is no longer sustainable as a path to growth and development.

World Vision has worked closely with communities on conservation farming and adaptation methods. “A lot is happening, but a lot more needs to happen in terms of climate-smart initiatives,” said Sibhensana.

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