Syria Envoy; Sustainable Energy for All; The Sahel; Kenya; and more

Syria Envoy: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he was working urgently to find a special envoy for Syria who would initially have a humanitarian role but would also seek a political solution for the violence-torn country.

Ban, who was asked by the U.N. General Assembly last week to appoint the envoy, told Reuters in an interview that he hoped to select an Arab who would represent both the United Nations and the Arab League. The U.N. chief was speaking after Russia, which voted against the assembly resolution and has vetoed Security Council action on Syria, signaled it would support the dispatch of a U.N. envoy to Syria for humanitarian purposes.

Sustainable Energy for All:
Government policies that facilitate private sector investment in energy markets are crucial to help tap Africa’s massive renewable energy potential, which can fuel the continent’s poverty reduction efforts and put it on a path to sustainable development, according to a United Nations report released today. Experts estimate that unless stronger commitments are made to reverse current trends, half the population in sub-Saharan Africa will still be without electricity by 2030.

The report produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi to mark the Africa launch of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, outlines how current obstacles to the scaling-up of sustainable energy solutions in Africa, such as the cost of electricity generation or difficult grid access, can be tackled. UNEP’s Director, Achim Steiner, stressed that access to sustainable energy should be uppermost in the minds of delegates who will attend the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June.

The Sahel:
 A rise in transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy are threatening peace and stability across West Africa and the Sahel, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, calling for an increase in regional efforts to tackle this issue. Mr. Ban said he was particularly concerned about reports stating that terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, have formed alliances with drug traffickers and warned that inaction could be catastrophic for oil-producing countries that are frequently targeted for their petroleum assets, and for countries that rely extensively on their ports for national revenue.

Mr. Ban emphasized that the UN is working closely with authorities in countries that are main transit points for drug traffickers between South America and Europe such as Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone to address this issue by creating transnational crime units that have been trained by UN Police (UNPOL).

Kenya: The world’s largest refugee camp – the Dadaab settlement in eastern Kenya – set up to host tens of thousands of people who fled Somalia following the 1991 collapse of the government and the ensuing civil war-related humanitarian crisis is marking its 20th anniversary with the population having grown exponentially, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

On the 20th anniversary, UNHCR is renewing its appeal to the international community to ensure continued support to the approximately one million Somali refugees in the region, and to Kenya and the other countries hosting them.

Independent United Nations human rights experts today called on Morocco to consolidate and advance the country’s achievements on women’s rights by tackling gaps in its legal framework which put women at a disadvantage, adding that domestic and migrant workers are at higher risk of having their rights violated.

The experts also called for the participation of women when carrying out reforms and for integration of an equal gender perspective into every aspect of the Government. The group will present its final conclusions and recommendations from their visit in a report to the Human Rights Council in June.