Security Council on Syria; Human Rights Council on Syria; UN Women; UN Reform; and more

Security Council on Syria: In its first statement on Syria in seven months, the Security Council today deplored the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation there and called on the government to grant U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos “immediate and unhindered access.”

It called on Syrian authorities “to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in accordance with international law and guiding principles of humanitarian assistance.” The council also expressed “deep disappointment” that Amos “was not granted authorization to visit Syria by the Syrian government in a timely manner, despite repeated requests and intense diplomatic contacts aimed at securing Syrian approval.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister strongly urged Syria to allow UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos into the country to assess the situation in flashpoint cities such as Homs. The Syrian foreign ministry said Thursday it was willing to discuss a date for such a visit after initially calling its timing “not suitable.”

Human Rights Council on Syria
: The main UN human rights body condemned the government of President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday for violations in Syria that it said may amount to crimes against humanity, and called for a halt to attacks on civilians.

The 47-member Geneva forum adopted a resolution brought by Gulf and Western countries with 37 states in favor and China, Cuba and Russia against. The U.S. human rights ambassador said these three countries “are on the wrong side of history”.

The Council said Syrian violations included shelling of civilian areas that has killed “thousands of innocent civilians”, executions, the killing and persecution of protesters, the deaths of Syrian and foreign journalists, arbitrary detention and interference with access to medical care.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to report to the General Assembly tomorrow on whether Syria has implemented the resolution it adopted two weeks ago, the UN spokesperson told reporters today.

UN Women
: The United Nations agency mandated to promote gender equality today announced it will give out $10.5 million in grants to organizations working to advance economic and political empowerment of women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia. According to a news release issued by UN Women, grants will start at $200,000 for initiatives that “make tangible improvements in the lives of women and girls, from enabling women candidates to run for office, to managing resources to support themselves and their families.” Approved proposals will be announced in October.

Since its creation in 2009, the Fund has invested a total of $43 million in 40 countries around the world toward projects working for gender equality.

South Sudan
: South Sudanese army officers received training on human rights, democracy and the rule of law, among other subjects, during a session led by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMISS).

The three-day training session aimed to boost the knowledge of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on human rights in the military, and covered topics such as civil disorder, humanitarian law and implementation of human rights in armed conflicts, as well as sexual and gender-based violence and children’s rights.  UNMISS Human Rights Officer Mary Bindi said the training, which finished yesterday, sought to emphasize human rights with respect to the security code of conduct.

UN Reform:
The UN remains an essential forum to address universal economic, political and technological changes, the General Assembly President said today, while stressing that the world body must implement urgent reforms to be able to effectively deal with new challenges.

In a lecture at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said that urgent reforms in the Security Council were particularly important: “The legitimacy of the United Nations’ mission will be undermined in the absence of an efficient, inclusive and representative Security Council,” he stated. “Timely reform is urgent if the United Nations is to respond to 21st century realities.”

The International Criminal Court today issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein on 41 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

This is the ICC’s fourth case in Darfur, which the Security Council referred to it in 2005 after a UN inquiry found serious violations of international human rights law.