Sustainable Future Symposium; ICT for Development; IAEA/Iran; Global Financial Transaction Tax; and more

Shaping a Sustainable Future: Partnerships and development cooperation among countries will play a key role in accelerating sustainable development, the Secretary-General of the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20), Sha Zukang said today, stressing that assistance will need to focus on helping developing countries find longer-term solutions to eradicate poverty and transition into a green economy.

The two-day Australia High-Level Symposium, “Shaping a Sustainable Future – Partners in Development Cooperation,” which began today, seeks to facilitate an informal dialogue on development cooperation among high-level policymakers, multilateral and civil society organizations, philanthropic foundations and the private sector. During the conference, participants will discuss the role of innovative finance and effective partnerships, with a particular focus on leveraging the private sector and the future for South-South cooperation.

ICT for Development:
Over 1,000 representatives of government, civil society and the private sector kicked off a United Nations forum in Geneva today designed to help countries more effectively harness the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to accelerate progress towards globally agreed development targets.

Co-organized by four UN agencies, the week-long forum is the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community. It builds on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), a UN process initiated in two phases, in 2003 and 2005. The WSIS Forum aims to define strategies and tactics to help countries and organizations more effectively use ICTs to advance progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, all by 2015.

Damascus wants to manage the delivery of all humanitarian aid to a million people in need of assistance as a result of the 14-month-old conflict in Syria, but the UN insists on having some control, envoys say. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Damascus have been negotiating for weeks on a plan for the distribution of aid throughout Syria, but U.N. envoys familiar with the talks said the government and OCHA are deadlocked on the issue.

Syria is insisting that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) be in charge of aid distribution, but diplomats say that having the SARC in charge would jeopardize U.N. neutrality.
They also said the SARC was not up to the task of coordinating aid distribution to more than a million people.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog signaled on Monday it would press Iran for access to a military installation where it suspects Iran has built a chamber for high-explosive tests that could serve to develop atomic bombs. Iran, which rejects Western accusations it seeks nuclear arms, has so far resisted requests by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit the extensive Parchin complex southeast of Tehran. The issue was expected to be raised during a high-level May 14-15 meeting in Vienna between Iran and the IAEA.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has asked the 193-member world body to extend the term of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for a further two years, his press office said on Monday. Pillay’s four-year term was due to end later this year. Ban gave no details on why he had asked Pillay – a former South African high court judge – to stay on.

DR Congo:
Seven United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo sustained bullet wounds today during an incident at their base in the eastern part of the vast nation. A number of other peacekeepers were also injured after being hit with stones when a group of some 1,000 people surrounded their base in the Bunyiakiri area of South Kivu province, according to the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).  The Mission is monitoring the situation and has sent reinforcements to the area, which is now reportedly calm but tense.

The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict today urged the Ugandan Government bring to justice senior commander, Caesar Acellam Otto of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was captured over the weekend, saying he is responsible for some of the most egregious abuses against children. Uganda’s existing Amnesty Act provides blanket amnesty for LRA members, including for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights.

Global financial transaction tax:
A group of United Nations independent experts today called on the European Union (EU) to take the lead in promoting the adoption of a global financial transaction tax that would offset the costs of the current economic crisis and protect basic human rights.

“Where the world financial crisis has brought about the loss of millions of jobs, socialized private debt burdens and now risks causing significant human rights regressions through wide-ranging austerity packages, a financial transaction tax (FTT) is a pragmatic tool for providing the means for governments to protect and fulfill the human rights of their people,” said the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda.

According to a news release by the UN office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), estimates suggest that at its lowest rate the FTT would yield about $48 billion across the Group of Twenty (G-20) major economies, with higher rates offering up to $250 billion dollars per year to offset the costs of the enduring economic, financial, fuel, climate and food crises.

The call from UN experts comes a day ahead of the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit of industrialized countries, which will take place in Camp David in the United States.