Japan’s Nuclear Power; South Sudan; Right to Food; Women in Somalia; and more

Japan: The United Nations nuclear watchdog today welcomed Japan’s announcement that it had successfully stabilized the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged earlier this year and that the release of radioactive materials is under control. Japan said today that the reactors have achieved a “cold shutdown condition,” according to a statement issued by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano. It is an important milestone and concludes the second phase of a plan to completely decommission the plant, which can take up to 30 years, according to media reports.

South Sudan:
The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan has welcomed an appeal by the country’s Vice-President Riek Machar to communities in the troubled Jonglei state to refrain from violence and to immediately engage in talks on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. “The mass killings must stop and the people in the area need to join together in putting an end to this merciless and lethal cycle of violence once and for all,” said Hilde Johnson, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Meanwhile, UNMISS today welcome South Sudan’s commitment to joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, saying the move was an important step towards improving governance. The Government also announced a presidential decree obligating public officials to declare their assets and prohibiting them from engaging in private business while in office. The two initiatives build on the five anti-corruption commitments made by President Salva Kiir following the formation of the country’s first Government in September, according to UNMISS.

Right to Food/International Trade:
The current international trade regime backed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) is harming small-scale farmers in the least developing countries, significantly increasing their risk of food insecurity and reliance on large-scale producers, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food warned today. Mr. De Schutter stressed that the international trade regime must acknowledge the dangers for poor countries in relying excessively on trade, as this exposes them to volatile grain prices, which can quickly change their landscape into one of poverty and hunger, felt by urban and rural consumer alike. He called on the WTO to take these factors into account and ensure compatibility with the food security agenda to prevent vulnerable populations from experiencing endemic poverty and hunger.

An independent UN human rights expert today called for greater efforts to improve the plight of women in Somalia, thousands of whom remain extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence. “While I support the Government’s tentative efforts to address the issues of violence against women, I note that there still are many challenges for the full and effective participation of women in the political process,” said Rashida Manjoo, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, during her 8-day visit to the country. Ms. Manjoo also noted the lack of substantive reporting of violence against women and girls, and the absence of proper statistics and data, by the authorities, international agencies and civil society. She stressed that Somalia currently has an opportunity to promote human rights for all, and to place the issue of violence against women on the national agenda.

Concerning recent allegations against peacekeepers in Fort Dimanche, Haiti, the Spokesperson noted the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) says that it was made aware of these allegations through the press, following a press conference by the Réseau National de Défense des droits humains. The Mission is doing everything it can to establish the facts as soon as possible. It reiterates its zero tolerance policy regarding misconduct by its personnel and it will examine all allegations with the utmost seriousness.

International Migrants Day:
Migrants are a strong force of progress in their host countries and policies should protect, not infringe their human rights, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says, calling for States to ensure their inalienable rights are not violated. “Migrants make vast contributions to host countries. As workers, they bring skills. As entrepreneurs, they create jobs. As investors, they bring capital,” Mr. Ban said in his message marking International Migrants Day, which is observed on 18 December each year. Mr. Ban emphasized that while States have the right to manage their borders, they also have the duty to abide by international human rights law, which establishes that “all persons, without discrimination and regardless of nationality or legal status, are entitled to enjoy fundamental rights.