Syria; Libya; UN development cooperation forum to address poverty reduction and sustainability; development financing needs; Somalia; IRMCT; drop in food price index; Human Rights Council updates.

Syria: The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) will restructure itself in order to better meet its operational mandate, its Chief Military Observer, Major-General Robert Mood, said today. UNSMIS will consolidate its eight local team site locations, spread out in different parts of Syria, into the regional locations, with monitors and assets moved from locations in Hama, Idlib, and Tartus to boost the Mission’s presence in other locations. Major-General Mood added that the consolidation will not affect the Mission’s current mandate or the number of deployed personnel.

Currently, the monitoring activities of the UN observers remain suspended. The UNSMIS chief had suspended them in mid-June due to an escalation of violence.

Libya: Ahead of Libya’s first free elections in decades this weekend, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today saluted its people, and reaffirmed the support of the United Nations as the North African country progresses along the “road to democracy.” Some 2.7 million people in the North African nation have registered to vote for members of the new National Congress, which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Libya. More than 3,000 candidates are competing for office, including more than 600 women.

The polls, which were originally slated to be held in late June, will be the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year led to civil war and the deposing of his regime.

UN development cooperation forum to address poverty reduction and sustainability: A United Nations development cooperation forum kicked off today with a focus on making advances in poverty reduction and sustainable development through partnerships among countries, civil society organizations and the private sector.  “Only through collaboration, coherence and partnership will we achieve our development goals,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks to the forum in New York this morning.

The two-day 2012 Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), organized by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), brings together policymakers, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, local authorities and foundations to review development cooperation trends, and debate ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of such cooperation and to increase its impact on development goals.

Development financing needs: In a major report, the United Nations today proposed a series of financial mechanisms to raise $400 billion annually for development needs, as many donor countries have cut back their assistance funding due to the global economic crisis. Produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), this year’s issue of the annual report on global development found that development aid declined in real terms in 2011, highlighting the need for additional and more predictable financing from new sources.

The report notes that while existing initiatives to fund programmes in the developing world have been successful, the scope for scaling them up or replicating them is too limited to meet the needs for developments financing in the next coming decades, and new funding sources need to be tapped.

Somalia: While noting progress, the international group that brings together the United Nations and its diplomatic partners in support of efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia expressed concern over the missing of deadlines which form part of the process of ending the country’s current transitional governing arrangements on 20 August this year.

After decades of warfare, Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process, with its Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing the so-called Roadmap for the End of Transition in Somalia, devised in September last year, which spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end in August.

International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals: The Security Council today welcomed the start of work at the Arusha branch of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), emphasizing its importance in ensuring no impunity for those responsible for serious crimes committed in Rwanda, as well as the Balkans, in the 1990s. The Council set up the IRMCT in December 2010 and mandated it to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) when they are closed after their mandates expire. The Council has urged the two tribunals to conclude their work by the end of 2014. The ICTR branch of the Residual Mechanism began its functions on 1 July, while the branch for ICTY will start on 1 July 2013.

Food price index: The United Nations today reported a drop in global food prices for the third consecutive month due to continued economic uncertainty and generally adequate prospects for food supplies.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index fell four points in June, bringing it to its lowest level since September 2010, with the largest fall registered in the prices for oils and fats, FAO said in a news release.

Human Rights Council updates: A resolution has been passed that backs peoples’ right to freedom of expression on the Internet in the wake of the massive role that social media networks played in the Arab Spring.

In a landmark resolution, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 47 member states agreed on today that this right should be protected by all states and access to the Internet should also be guaranteed.

The UNHRC today voted in favor of appointing a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Belarus. The UNHRC expressed concern with systematic rights violations occurring in Belarus since December 19, 2010, including restrictions on freedom of association, assembly and expression, and mandated the appointment of a special rapporteur to monitor and investigate the human rights situation in Belarus.

The UNHRC Rights today took a significant step to address the plight of stateless children by adopting its first ever resolution on the right to a nationality.  This resolution reaffirms essential protections for the five million children around the world who have no citizenship anywhere.