SG discusses NCDs with industry leaders in Davos, UN commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day, SRSG speaks out against sexual violence in Cote d’Ivoire, & more from UN Direct

Holocaust Remembrance: issuing a statement on the International Day in Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (marked on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau), the SG said “Let us pledge to create a world where such atrocities can never be repeated…By educating new generations about this terrible episode of our history, we can help to uphold human dignity for all”.  This year’s commemoration pays tribute to women who suffered in the Holocaust, but “consistently found ways to fight back against their persecutors”.  He said that women and girls continue to endure violence, abuse and discrimination throughout the world, adding that “By empowering women we empower all society”.  The Memorial Ceremony, which was due to take place this morning at HQ, was postponed due to the weather, in addition to other discussions planned by B’nai B’rith and the Russian Mission.  High Commissioner Navi Pillay also issued a statement which said that the Holocaust “should serve as a reminder of the dangers of marginalization of particular groups in society….The threat of genocide still remains.  It is the ultimate and most terrible expression of intolerance, xenophobia and racism.”  She called on States to act more decisively at the first signs of a climate conducive to genocide, underlining the importance of bringing perpetrators to justice, and reiterating her call to States to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC.  The DSG was in Paris today, where she attended commemorative events. In Jerusalem, Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.  Exhibitions are also on display at various UN offices in New York, Vienna and Paris, and a traveling exhibition is set to include stops in Africa.  DPI’s Holocaust and the UN Outreach Programme also produced a study guide on “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion” to help high school students better understand the experiences of female victims in the Holocaust.  Ambassador Rice also issued a statement, reiterating that the “UN’s founding values pledge to stand against tyranny, war, and the unimaginable cruelty that led to the Holocaust”.  

Davos: Today, there was a panel discussion on “Combating Chronic Disease” at the World Economic Forum. Participants on the panel were: the SG, Kendall Powell, CEO of General Mills, Dick Clark, Chair of Merck, Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm Inc., and Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, with Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent from CNN, as the moderator.  In his remarks, the SG talked about the importance of healthy lifestyles.  Six out of ten people die from either cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease or cardiovascular illness, totaling 35 million per year. 85% of these are in the developing world, and heart disease, stroke and diabetes cost low- and middle-income countries 5% of GDP annually.  Health systems are generally weak in these countries, which requires resource mobilization across ministries. The SG explained that NCDs are high on the agenda and the UN will conduct a high-level meeting in September to broker an international commitment on NCDs. He called, not only on the health ministries and pharmaceutical industries, but also on businesses such as food companies, to promote healthy lifestyles and cut back on salt, transfat and sugar.   Merck Chair Clark said that industry must continue focusing on innovation and go beyond the provision medicines and vaccines, calling on improvements against chronic diseases in the same way as we’ve witnessed against HIV/AIDS.  Qualcomm CEO Jacobs emphasized the role of wireless communications to improve treatment and outcomes, suggesting that we’re going to witness a mhealth rollout  more strongly in developing markets.  For his part, Julio Frenk said that NCDs must be on the global agenda.  During the question and answer segment of the discussion, Margaret Chan, the DG of WHO, stated that NCDs trump all deaths of communicable diseases as well as injuries and urged every sector to work together, including the education and trade sectors, as well as the pharmaceutical and food industries.  She also highlighted Alzheimer’s, tobacco and obesity (particularly its link to diabetes) as key problems.  In closing, the SG indicated that the UN would participate in the “First global ministerial conference on health lifestyles and noncommunicable diseases” organized by Russia and the WHO April 28-29 in Moscow.  Tomorrow, the SG will participate in a plenary session on “Redefining Sustainable Development”.

Cote d’Ivoire: SRSG for Sexual Violence in Conflict is calling on authorities in Cote d’Ivoire to investigate allegations of rapes that have occurred during the recent violence and ensure better protection, condemning the use of sexual violence as a means to political ends and indicating that the victims have been identified following “carefully selected political targeting”.

Disarmament: this week the 2011 session of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) opened in Geneva (which will run through April 1), the only multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations, which has been long been plagued by the inability to agree on a program of work.  After a decade of impasse, a program of work was adopted in 2009, but which was ultimately blocked from its implementation.  Speaking at the opening of the 2011 CD, Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance,  said waiting “ad infinitum” for the CD to commence negotiations on a FMCT was “not a viable option”, and that if a way to begin negotiations is not found, “other options” will need to be pursued.  Further, Gottemoeller underscored the need to negotiate a FMCT as one of the “key goals of multilateral arms control” which would “have profound security implications for countries that have unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, including the United States”.  She suggested holding a robust plenary session on FMCT as an alternative way to inform plenary discussions.  Speaking on the CTBT, Gottemoeller said while the Obama Administration is laying the groundwork for Senate consideration, it has augmented its participation in the CTBTO Preparatory Commission to prepare for the Treaty’s entry into force.  She also indicated that the U.S. is working to prepare the groundwork for a successful Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference, which will be held December 5-22, 2011 in Geneva.

UN Women: The first session of the UN Women Executive Board met in New York this week, and began outlining budgetary and capacity requirements needed to scale-up its critical work in the field in 2011.  In front of the Executive Board was a proposed $51.5 million Support Budget, which will go primarily toward enhancing field capacity through regional centers, sub-regional offices and country offices, as well as a handful of key HQ Senior management posts, including an ASG, two D-2s and 5 “urgent posts”.  UN Women hopes to have a draft Strategic Plan in place by June, for the Executive Board’s approval, and wants to provide a minimum package of support to 40 countries by the end of 2011.  These funding requests are in addition to the $430.1 million approved by the GA at the end of 2010.  This week UN Women’s logo was also unveiled.

Human Rights: interesting piece by HRW’s Roth on the new dynamics of the Council with aspiring permanent members Brazil, South Africa and India. Specifically, he points to the apparent hypocrisy of their near refusal to enforce human rights globally, which he attributes to their perception that human rights are “imperialist” and due to support from the Non-Aligned Movement.