SG welcomes U.S. progress on new START, GA condemns rights violations in Iran, DPRK, Council briefed on Afghanistan and more from UN Direct

New START: today the SG issued a statement welcoming the U.S. Senate’s support for the new START treaty, which “sends a firm and clear message in support of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation”.

Youth Event: yesterday, the Security Council welcomed youth from all over the world to share their perspectives on key international peace and security issues, such as addressing ineffective governance, terrorism, global warming, poverty, cyber-terrorism, as well as, creating a durable peace in the DRC, and promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Ambassador Rice elaborated on the nature of the Council’s current agenda, to prevent conflict through diplomacy, respond to conflict by protecting the people involved, and build up societies post-conflict. In particular, the upcoming referendum in Sudan, the situation in Haiti, and other peace-building missions in places like Liberia and East Timor, are central focuses of the Council. The SG highlighted sustainable development as a peace and security challenge and made the point that the world spends $1.4 trillion annually on weapons, which could pay for the UN’s budget for 732 years.

Third Committee: yesterday the GA considered over 50 draft resolutions from the Third Committee, among them texts on the human rights situations in Iran, DPRK and Myanmar, as well as a resolution on combating defamation of religions, which passed by the narrowest margin in its history – a mere 12 votes.  The U.S. achieved a significant victory in its reassertion of the reference to protecting people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation in a resolution on executions, after the African Group and OIC removed it in an earlier draft.  Secretary Clinton issued a statement welcoming the text, adding “no one should be killed for who they are”.

Afghanistan: today SRSG for Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura briefed the Council on recent developments and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan, congratulating the Afghan people for holding successful parliamentary elections in September.  In her remarks, Ambassador DiCarlo spoke about the recent NATO Summit in Lisbon and progress achieved in the process of transitioning to Afghan-led security by the end of 2014.  In this regard, the U.S. will look to UNAMA to play a critical role in supporting local governance, monitoring human rights, and supporting Afghan efforts to reintegrate former combatants into society.  Speaking to UNAMA’s budget, which is currently being negotiated in the Fifth Committee, Ambassador DiCarlo underlined the need for robust support.  The meeting ended with a Press Statement read by Amb. Rice.

Côte d’Ivoire: Yesterday, the SG briefed the GA on Côte d’Ivoire, and said there’s a real risk in another civil war, calling the internationally community to act decisively. He stated that Laurent Gbagbo and his supporters intend to blockade UNOCI and suffocate President-elect Ouattara and called on States to prepare to assist UNOCI in implementing its mandate through the provision of supplies, if needed.

Israel: Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Mideast Peace Process, condemned the mortar and rocket attacks by militant groups in Gaza on Israel. Serry said that Israel has the right to self-defense but stressed the need to exercise maximum restraint.

New Appointment: The SG appointed Robert Watkins of Canada as Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, where he will serve as the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative as well.

Iraq: The SG welcomed the announcement of a new government in Baghdad and congratulated Nuri al-Maliki as Prime Minister, stating that this is a “major step forward” in the democratic process.

MINURCAT: Today, MINURCAT announced the official handover of the Mission’s programs to the government of Chad and the UN Country Team, marking one of the final steps in the termination of the mission’s mandate, set for December 31, 2010.