Cholera panel travels to Haiti, UNMIS prepares assistance to Southern Sudan, HRC Review continues in Geneva and more from UN Direct

Egypt: after learning about President Mubarak’s decision to step down, the SG addressed the press, stating that he respects “what must have been a difficult decision, taken in the wider interests of the Egyptian people”. He went on to say that he reiterates his call made last night for a transparent, orderly, and peaceful transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people with free and fair elections ahead. Most notably, the SG said in praise, “The voice of the Egyptian people, particularly the youth, has been heard, and it is for them to determine the future of their country.” He commended the peaceful process and urged all parties to continue in the same manner, adding that the UN stands ready to assist. Soon afterwards, President Obama stated that there are “very few moments in our lives where we’re able to witness history taking place” and that the people have spoken and Mubarak responded to their hunger for change, adding this is not the end of Egypt’s transition – it is the beginning. Obama noted that Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day and that “nonviolence [was the] moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice”.  Lastly, the United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt and stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to democracy.

Rio+20/green economy: Today an informal interactive workshop on “Green Economy in Practice” was chaired Ambassador Park, one of three workshops planned in the run-up to the spring GA debate on the green economy, and part of the Rio+20 preparatory process.  The second workshop will be held March 23 on green economy opportunities and challenges, and the third on April 19 on political incentives to transition to a green economy.  A retreat is also planned for May.

Security Council: Today, the Security Council held a debate on peace, security and development, which was chaired by Brazil’s Foreign Minister. The SG noted that these issues are “interdependent” and that sustainable development can help address roots of conflict. For example, he explained that “we must focus more on the climate change – security – development nexus. Lack of energy and the effects of climate change are having increasingly serious impacts on development and security. We cannot achieve security without securing energy and managing climate risks.”

Haiti: The Independent Panel on Cholera will travel to Haiti on February 13 and then to NY. The panel is set to present a report to the SG and the Government of Haiti in March.

High Commissioner for Human Rights: Navi Pillay just returned from her first visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel today, expressing her concern that a focus on peace and security is downgrading the importance of respect for human rights. She stressed that the combined effects of the illegal settlements and the Wall have been devastating on the social, economic and cultural rights of many thousands of Palestinians.

Mideast Peace Process: Yesterday, during discussions with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the SG emphasized the importance of breaking the current stalemate in negotiations and resolving longstanding issues through the Government of Israel’s full cooperation with the Quartet. Noting the Government of Israel’s announcement to transfer security to help alleviate suffering in Gaza and the West Bank, the SG urged Barak to fully implement such measures. He also noted Barak’s confirmation that IDF is preparing to withdraw from northern Ghajar (in Lebanon), which was mandated by SCR. 1701 (2006).

Sudan: At today’s Security Council media stakeout, SRSG for Sudan Haile Menkerios highlighted the success of the South Sudan referendum process with clear optimism. The referendum went well, on time and peacefully. The final results were announced on February 7th as free, fair, and credible. Most enthusiastically, Menkerios said that a great point occurred one week before voting, when President Bashir made the unprecedented trip to Juba and stated that the Government of Sudan will accept the outcome of the referendum and that he would celebrate. Bashir has followed through on those remarks so far and has accepted the results of an independent South Sudan. Between now and July 9th, which is the day that marks independence of South Sudan, UNMIS has been trying to assist capacity-building through the CPA implementation, noting that there’s a lot that needs to be done in terms of institutions as well as the capacity to provide social services. It is important to note that the people of Southern Sudan have asked for a huge UN engagement in peace consolidation. Menkerios explained that a UN team will be leaving next week to work with the South Sudanese and other partners on the ground to prepare for that planning. Meanwhile, UNHCR has submitted an appeal for $53.4 million to support Southerners moving to the South from Northern Sudan, as it anticipates a total of 800,000 will leave the North this year alone. So far, 200,000 have already moved to South Sudan from the North over the past there months. UNHCR will continue to monitor their needs and help them reintegrate and provide water, sanitation and health services along the way.

DRC: In a country where rape is used as a rampant weapon of war, UNICEF and other partners have launched a joint project called The City of Joy this week, which is a center that will provide 180 women ages 14-35 with psychotherapy and training in literacy, economics, and sex education. Margot Wallström, the SRSG on Sexual Violence in Conflict said, “Congolese women are vital to the future of this country. Women carry the children, they carry the water, they carry the produce, they carry everything. Now on top of all of this, they have to carry the misplaced shame of sexual violence. That is not right.”

Human Rights Council Review: this week the second session of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on the Review of the Human Rights Council opened in Geneva, which will meet periodically throughout the month (Feb. 7, 17-18, and 23-24).  ISHR is reporting that the OIC, NAM and African Group have aligned in their refusal to meaningfully engage on proposals which would move the Council beyond the status quo.  The Brazilian Ambassador is working to identify an alternative mechanism to break the impasse, but it appears as though NAM has rejected this.  Countries worry that a failure to enhance the Council’s ability to address abuses would delegitimize the entire review process.  The U.S. addressed the OEWG on Monday, expressing its disappointment with “repeated attempts to constrict and limit the options available to us in the review in a way that has hampered dialogue”, adding that without open dialogue, States risk achieving a consensus on the review.  The U.S. supports a draft outcome document that can be negotiated, calling on the HRC President to have a broader starting point so that delegations can discuss proposals, stating consensus should be the “result of negotiation, not the starting point”.  The U.S. delegate then outlined minimum elements that should be agreed upon: 1) Improving the ability of the Council to respond to crisis situations; 2) Better cooperation with Special Procedures; 3) Clarified rules on holding briefings and urgent debates; and 4) Better consideration of the human rights records of HRC candidates.  The U.S. also clarified its position on a number of technical issues, such as rectifying the UPR speakers list and enhancing the availability of information on the implementation of UPR recommendations.  The U.S. also made it clear that the elimination of Agenda Item 7 (on Israel) must remain part of the Review discussion, adding that the issue could be better addressed – and more fairly and less politicized – under Item 4 (situations that require the Council’s consideration).  In closing, the U.S. said all views and proposals must be reflected in the document that it transmitted to New York – not just those which achieved consensus.

Commission on Social Development: the Commission on Social Development, a functional commission of ECOSOC, is currently meeting through February 18 on the theme of poverty eradication.