Pillay vocal on rights abuses in Egypt, SG travels to London, UNDP/UNFPA outline 2011 priorities and more from UN Direct

Egypt: High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has expressed her deep concern by the sharp increase of causalities, which is reported to be 300. In a statement issued today by OHCHR, Pillay has called for a change in Egypt’s system that has bred human rights abuses for three decades, affirming, “I believe the Egyptian Government, by maintaining an emergency law for thirty years, has clearly shown that human rights have not been one of its prime concerns…[This] has enabled key checks and balances regarding human rights to be circumvented and abused by security forces and other state institutions.” Furthermore, while Pillay was pleased by the generally peaceful protests by the Egyptian people over the course of the week, she noted the “security vacuum” that developed over the weekend after the police were withdrawn from the streets. Thus, she has urged for a full investigation in the disappearance of the national police, which allowed prisoners and looters to roam free. Pillay also welcomed the Egyptian military’s announcement that they would not use force against protestors. She expressed, “Tuesday’s march seems likely to be a pivotal moment in Egypt’s transition to a freer, fairer and more democratic society.” It is also worth highlighting that she urged all governments “to reflect on the fact that, in the long term, genuine and lasting stability does not depend on a ruthless security apparatus, or a ring of military steel, but on the development of human rights and democracy.”  In a response to a question raised at the briefing, the spokesperson said there’s a sizeable UN presence in Egypt, with a Country Team comprised of over 20 entities.

SG: Today the SG met with Jean Ping, Chair of the Commission of the AU, in Addis Ababa on the cooperation between the AU and UN and the current situations in Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, and Sudan. Up ahead, the SG is set to travel to London and meet with the PM and Foreign Secretary. Afterwards, he will be in Germany for the Quartet meeting in Munich and is planning to meet with other high-level officials as well. He will be back in NY on Sunday.

Côte d’Ivoire: Today, OCHA said that if the current trends in refugee influx continue, by mid-February there could be as many as 50,000 refugees in Liberia and 100,000 by the end of April. Rainy season is in a few months and it is important to continue to provide assistance before and during the season. UN agencies have called for more funding to support these efforts.

Sudan & Haiti Election Updates: over the weekend the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission released the initial results of the Referendum, in which 99.57% of voters from the South voted for secession.  Final results are expected to be announced February 7 if there are no appeals.  If there are, results are expected by February 14.  If confirmed, the new country would declare its independence July 9.  Haiti’s election commission is expected to release the definitive results from the first round of the presidential elections tomorrow, and will hold a second round on March 20.

DSG: today UNESCO’s Bokova led a delegation of 150 eminent personalities and representatives of 40 countries to Auschwitz-Birkenau to combat Holocaust denial.  The DSG was also present, in addition to Senegalese President Wade, who the current Chairman of the OIC.  In her remarks, Bokova announced the strengthening of UNESCO’s education program on Holocaust remembrance and human rights, which develops school criteria and training for teachers.

Measles: A measles campaign by WHO and UNICEF, targeting all children in eastern Liberia’s Nimba County, will kick off tomorrow.

Haiti: Today Navi Pillay said that she has offered technical assistance to Haitian authorities for prosecuting crimes committed under Duvalier’s leadership, adding that that Haiti has the right to investigate human rights violations under his rule, as there’s no statute of limitations on issues such as torture and extrajudicial killings.

UNDP/UNFPA Exec Board: yesterday the first regular session of the 2011 UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board opened, which will run through February 3.  Addressing the Board, Helen Clark gave a wide-ranging and comprehensive overview of UNDP activity and previewed several initiatives underway to enhance its effectiveness.  Highlighting progress propelled by UNDP in 2010, such as the establishment of a new Human Rights Commission in Bangladesh and the drafting of legislation to enhance women’s parliamentary representation in Papua New Guinea, Clark then outlined the “change process” underway within UNDP, guided by a vision for UNDP as a “solution-oriented, knowledge-based organization”.  Importantly, this process will be let by three elements: 1) UNDP’s Action Plan, launched last year; 2) Efforts to contain and control costs; and 3) a review of the UNDP business model.  As part of this, UNDP is revamping website for better communications, enhancing oversight, ensuring better evaluation and managing for results and implementing a new procurement review policy – which has already yielded savings.  Clark has also commissioned a review of UNDP’s business model, which will help achieve strategic coherence across operations and enhance accountability, and UNDP is beginning to prepare for the Mid-Term Review of the Strategic Plan (the next Strategic Plan will commence in 2014). Finally, Clark touched on the Delivering as One pilots, pointing to the fourth intergovernmental conference that will be held in October in Uruguay, and UNDG’s review of the implementation of the Management and Accountability System, which is expected in April.  In his statement, Ambassador Barton welcomed Clark’s “change agenda”, stressing the need for UNDP to address the challenges of governance and private sector development, while enhancing the skill development of Resident Coordinators.  Touching on management reform, he cited progress over the past three years, including the adoption and implementation of the accountability policy, establishment of an ethics office and improvement of audit and evaluation functions, adding that further actions, such as greater access to audit information, would “vault UNDP to the forefront of multilateral transparency and accountability”.  Today, UNFPA ED Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin elaborated on the challenges of a world population of 7 billion, with the largest youth population ever, explaining that UNFPA will specifically invest in youth, as “their reproductive health and gender equality can help put countries on a path to accelerated economic growth and equitable development.” UNFPA will also continue to prioritize advocating for sexual and reproductive health rights, services, and education. Dr. Osotimehin also reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to the principles of the ICPD Programme of Action.  In response, Ambassador Rick Barton welcomed Dr. Osotimehin as the new ED of UNFPA and underlined U.S. support for UNFPA’s efforts to increase access to family planning and reproductive health, prevent HIV, and reduce maternal mortality. He also urged UNFPA to incorporate cross-cutting issues such as climate change and aging into its programming and ensure that it shares its work and efforts with UN Women in order to maximize its potential to promote women’s empowerment. In regards to strengthening the organization, Barton supported UNFPA’s aim to address management and accountability issues, which have proven to be weak.

World Interfaith Harmony: Today, the UN launched the first World Interfaith Harmony Week.  The Alliance of Civilizations, a key UN initiative, was launched in 2005 by Spain and Turkey to promote better cross-cultural reactions worldwide.