Syria; Iraq briefing; Mali; Scaling up Nutrition; and more

Syria: The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, today urged the Syrian Government and opposition forces to stop the violence, stressing that all hostilities must end by Thursday morning. Last week, the Syrian Government told Mr. Annan that it would complete the withdrawal of troops by 10 April. The Envoy has stated that, once that happens, all parties should move immediately to cease all forms of violence, so that a complete cessation is in place by 06:00 Damascus time on 12 April.

A UN team is in the country to start technical preparations for the potential deployment of observers to monitor a cessation of armed violence and the full implementation of Mr. Annan’s six-point peace plan.

Mr. Annan reiterated his conviction that his plan, which was submitted last month during his visit to Damascus, can still be implemented. Mr. Annan said he would submit a report to the Security Council today sharing the information he has received from the Syrian Government on troop withdrawals, and stated that there have been indications of the Government withdrawing in various cities.

Iraq Briefing:
Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), today underscored the need for the country’s leaders to work together to resolve outstanding issues, including the holding of a national dialogue, disputed internal boundaries and the human rights situation.

The envoy also welcomed several developments, including the recent steps taken by Iraq and Kuwait to normalize their relations and to resolve all remaining issues, and the endorsement by the Council of Representatives of the commissioners to serve on Iraq’s first independent High Commission for Human Rights.

In his latest report to the Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the need to tackle outstanding issues to achieve national reconciliation, warning that if they are not addressed in a meaningful way, through an inclusive dialogue, they could lead to renewed political tensions and adversely impact the security situation.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, today strongly condemned the reported acts of sexual violence committed against Malian women and girls amid the renewed fighting in the north, and called on all parties to respect their obligations under human rights law.

Ms. Wallström stressed that any party to the conflict credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence can be publicly named and shamed by the Secretary-General as a basis for Security Council action.

Meanwhile, the Security Council has urged the military rebels who seized control of the government to immediately implement the agreement they signed last week with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which provides a series of steps to restore constitutional order in the country.

Scaling Up Nutrition
: High-level officials tasked by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with promoting good nutrition have today agreed to focus on ensuring that support to countries produces tangible results, and that resources for country-led actions are coordinated, aligned, transparent and accountable.

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement focuses on the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, when proper nutrition can mean the difference between health and sickness, life and death. Poor nutrition during this period can lead to stunted growth and impaired cognitive development, among other consequences.

The Sahel:
 United Nations aid agencies say speedy action can save the lives of more than one million children in West Africa’s Sahel region who are at risk of dying from acute severe malnutrition.

The Sahel is facing its third food crisis in less than a decade.  The UN estimates 15 million people are affected by food shortages and warns this number could go up to 23 million if the region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to Chad and Cameroon, continues to be neglected.
SG travels: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will leave New York tomorrow for a trip to Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg, where he will meet with United Nations, European Union and national government officials, his spokesperson announced today. He will also attend the EU Summit on Sustainable Energy for All in Brussels on April 16th. He will return to New York on April 18th.