Syria; North Korea; Sudan/South Sudan; World Bank; and more

Syria: The first group of six UN unarmed monitors tasked by the Security Council to report on the implementation of a full cessation of armed violence in Syria has arrived in the capital, Damascus, and began their work, according to a spokesperson.

The rest of the 30-member advance team will arrive in the coming days, noted Mr. del Buey, who acknowledged the “critical” support of the Italian Government, which is airlifting UN vehicles from the Organization’s logistics base in Brindisi and other locations so that the monitors are able to be mobile quickly and travel to all locations in Syria.

Meanwhile, this morning, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria welcomed the arrival in Damascus last night of the advance team of observers. The Commission expressed their hope that the ceasefire will contribute to putting an end to the gross human rights violations that it has been reporting on over the past six months and recalled the need to ensure accountability for those violations.

North Korea
: The U.N. Security Council on Monday strongly condemned North Korea’s rocket launch, urged tightening of existing U.N. sanctions and warned Pyongyang of further consequences if it carries out another missile launch or nuclear test.

The council declaration also demands that North Korea “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner … and not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests or any further provocation.”

Sudan/S. Sudan:
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) reported three separate incidents of air strikes this weekend in Unity state. Two were in Bentiu and another in Mayom, where UNMISS premises withstood material damage after being hit by two bombs. All UN staff members have been reported safe.

Meanwhile, Sudanese MPs have voted unanimously to brand South Sudan “an enemy”. The full ramifications of the vote are not clear, but it is evident that both countries are close to a full war. The speaker of parliament, Ahmed Ibrahim at-Tahir, reportedly called for Sudan to overthrow the South Sudanese government.

World Bank:
The World Bank named Korean-born doctor Jim Yong Kim as its new president today amid criticism that the role had once more gone to a US-nominated candidate. The 52-year-old president of Ivy League Dartmouth College beat Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the post, the first time in the World Bank’s history that the US candidate has faced a serious challenge.

Kim had been widely expected to clinch the job, as he had the backing of the US, Europe, Japan and Canada, which between them command a majority of votes among the World Bank’s executive directors. But sources close to the process claimed there had been ‘frantic arm-twisting’ in a bid to achieve unanimity. Before the announcement today, Okonjo-Iweala said: “You know this thing is not really being decided on merit.”

Energizing for development Initiative:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today, welcomed a new European Union (EU) initiative designed to assist developing countries in providing access to sustainable energy to their populations.

Under its Energizing for Development Initiative, the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – aims to support the provision of sustainable energy services to 500 million people in poorer countries by 2030. The initiative will also focus on refining, expanding and improving energy-related innovative financial instruments and risk guarantee schemes in developing countries to unlock greater private investment.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations mission in Afghanistan today strongly condemned the coordinated attacks carried out on Sunday against the country’s institutions and international organizations, including foreign diplomatic missions, in the capital, Kabul, and elsewhere.

Press reports quoted Afghan authorities as saying that some 36 assailants, 11 members of the security forces and four civilians were killed in the attacks in Kabul and the provinces of Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia in the east. One of the assailants was captured, according to the reports.

Sexual violence in conflict:
Margot Wallström, who has been spearheading United Nations efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict, will step down from her post at the end of May due to family considerations, it was announced today. Ms. Wallström, a Swedish national who has been a long-time advocate of the rights and needs of women, has served as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict since February 2010.

“The Secretary-General has accepted Ms. Wallström’s decision with regret,” his spokesperson said in a statement.