SG speaks out on Egypt, Davos addresses children’s health, sustainable development, Global Compact, polio commitments, SG heads to AU Summit and more from UN Direct

SG Travel: over the weekend the SG will travel to Addis Ababa to attend the AU Summit (as will PGA Deiss), which will run through Monday.  He will co-chair a meeting on Côte d’Ivoire Saturday and address  the Summit on Sunday.  Key meetings are also expected to be held on Sudan, Somalia, sexual violence against women and malaria.  From Addis the SG will head to London, where he will meet with PM Cameron and Foreign Minister Hague, in addition to addressing Oxford (Feb 2) and the International Maritime Organization (Feb 3).  Following London, he will travel to Berlin (Feb 4), followed by Munich, where he will address the Munich Security Conference and a Quartet meeting (Feb 5).  He is expected back in NY February 6.

Côte d’Ivoire: the SG will co-chair a high-level meeting on Côte d’Ivoire with AU and ECOWAS at the AU Summit tomorrow. Developments will be interesting to follow, especially now that South Africa is considering supporting a power-sharing agreement and Uganda is calling for a vote recount, causing the united AU position to falter.  Speaking to the press at Davos, the SG expressed his concern with the differences of opinions, adding that it is not desirable “at this time in keeping and preserving the integrity and fundamental principle of democracy”.  UNHCR is reporting that the number of Ivorian refugees who have fled to Liberia has topped 31,000 and it is planning on sending a second airlift of relief supplies to Monrovia this weekend.

Egypt: speaking at a press conference in Davos today, the SG answered questions on the unfolding situation in Egypt, stating that his first concern is that the situation does not lead to further violence and that the leaders (in Egypt, as well as Tunisia, Yemen) view the situation as an “opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns and wishes of their peoples”.  Furthermore, he said “freedom of expression and association should be fully respected”, an in regard to the Internet being shut down, he added “one of the ground principles of democracy is to protect and ensure the freedom of speech of the people”.  High Commissioner Navi Pillay issued a statement on Egypt today, urging the government to “exercise restraint and protect the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression, information and assembly”.  On the reported use of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, and arrest of 1,000 people, she said, “While maintaining rule and order are important, the responsibility of the Government to protect the rights of life, liberty and security is paramount”.  She also called on the government to restore use of mobile phones and social networks and investigate reports of the excessive use of force, calling for emergency law to be lifted.

Davos/Children’s Health: this afternoon Josette Sheeran moderated a Davos plenary session on “Raising Healthy Children” – the first time Davos has held a session dedicated to children’s health.  Speakers included Dr. Chan, Bono, Melinda Gates, the CEO of Coca-Cola, and the CEO of Novo Nordisk A/S.  Statistics provided underlined the urgency of the issue, and the need to scale-up access to medicines and vaccinations.  Dr. Chan spoke specifically on the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, and offered three initiatives which should be scaled-up: 1) vaccines; 2) bednets; and 3) food and nutrition interventions – including on famine and obesity.  Gates spoke to the need to invest in: 1) women; 2) frontline health workers; and 3) vaccines.  Both Chan and Gates underlined the importance of breastfeeding within the first months of life.  For his part Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola, emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships and Bono illustrated the need to communicate successes and urge governments to maintain investments in vaccines.

Davos/Global Compact: today the SG spoke at the launch of the Global Compact LEAD initiative, a group of 54 global companies “at the leading edge” who have committed to address environmental, social and governance issues and translate Global Compact principles on sustainable development into business operations through implementing the Blueprint for Corporate Sustainability (which outlines 50 specific actions businesses can take).  Furthermore, under the Initiative, companies have pledged to utilize Global Compact’s Local Networks to spread knowledge on the ground.  The Initiative also encourages businesses to work with UN agencies, funds and programs and enhance collaboration on sustainability solutions.

Davos/Sustainable Development: Today the SG discussed how sustainable development can become a driver of inclusive growth at a session called “Redefining Sustainable Development”.  Other panelists were President Tarja Halonen of Finland (one of the co-chairs of the SG’s HL Panel on Global Sustainability); Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion Limited; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; Mike Duke, President and CEO of Wal-Mart; President Felipe Calderon of Mexico; and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with Tom Friedman moderating. In his remarks, the SG dismissed the old growth model as “extremely dangerous” and said the world needs a “free market revolution for global development” that connects the dots between climate change and water, energy and food.  The SG’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, chaired by President Halonen of Finland and former President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, is expected to deliver a list of recommendations on how to “connect the dots” by December 2011, ahead of Rio+20. The SG also discussed the priority of generating a green economy and green energy revolution, and urged participants at the Conference to join the UN Global Compact in order to incorporate sustainability principles in business policies. In response to Friedman’s comments that the U.S. has failed to foster and nurture innovation on energy and lead on climate change, the SG stated that the climate change campaign should be led by countries such as the U.S., India, China, and Brazil.  He also said that since the U.S. is a superpower with the largest economy, it should be vocal and politically responsible, and congressional support is crucial.  President Calderon of Mexico discussed how sustainable development policies are an opportunity to work with businesses and give them incentives to improve energy efficiency, pointing out that they key is to combine economic growth, equality, and the restoration of natural resources.

Davos/Polio: this afternoon in Davos, Bill Gates and UK PM Cameron made significant announcements on polio, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committing another $102 million and the UK doubling its commitment to $60 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.  The UK commitment, which is conditioned on leveraging $5 from other donors for every $1 spent by the UK, will help to fully vaccinate an additional 45 million children.  In his remarks, Cameron made a strong case for investment in vaccines, adding that you cannot have development when people are dying of disease, that we must “finish the job” or else polio will rise again, and that vaccines are easy to sell to the public, as you can track costs, lives saved and vaccines administered.  In his remarks, Gates spoke about 2010 as a “great year in India and Nigeria”, where cases dropped by over 80%, but adding that the campaign must be intensified this year.  While he was in Abu Dhabi earlier this week, the UAE made a $50 million commitment, of which 1/3 will go to polio eradication efforts and 2/3 to the overall vaccination campaign.

Polio/Global Strategy/USAID: yesterday in Geneva, the U.S. and Russia signed a Protocol of Intent on Cooperation for the Global Eradication of Polio, building on the “reset” of relations between the U.S. and Russia and strengthening efforts to overcome polio in Central Asia and Russia.  Potential areas for collaboration under the Protocol include disease surveillance, support for immunization campaigns, technical assistance and advocacy.  The partnership, facilitated by Raj Shah and the Russian Deputy Minister of Health, will facilitate a partnership among USAID, HHS, CDC and MOHSD (Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development), in coordination with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).  While in Geneva, Shah also attended the first meeting of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, and held a bilateral with President Kikwete of Tanzania, one of the Commission’s Co-Chairs.

DRC: in response to the “steady increase in rapes in North and South Kivu”, MONUSCO has increased its protection activities, including dispatching joint protection teams and increased patrolling, and is considering strengthening its military presence in affected areas.  Since the rapes which took place in Fizi in early January, the Mission is reporting that an additional 53 rapes have occured, which it suspects FDLR are involved with.  Yesterday, peacekeepers successfully rescued seven women taken hostage by Mai Mai fighters in North Kivu.

Afghanistan: over the weekend the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict will travel to Afghanistan to sign an agreement with the Afghan Government to stop the use and recruitment of child soldiers in the Afghan National Security Forces.

UPR: at yesterday’s UPR Working Group session on Myanmar, Ambassador Donahoe expressed the U.S.’ concern about the state of human rights in the country, condemning ongoing systematic abuses, expressing concern for the detention of 2,100 political prisoners and disappointment with the conduct of the November elections.  Based on these concerns, the U.S. proposed the four recommendations: 1) immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners; 2) end violations of IHRL; 3) end violence and discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minorities, including sexual violence; and 4) recognize the NLD’s pre-election registration status and begin a dialogue of national reconciliation.