Syria; Sudan; Mali; DPKO’s new sexual abuse policy; and more

Syria: The UN’s human rights chief today urged the international community to protect civilians in Syria, stating that the Security Council’s failure to agree on collective action seems to have fuelled the Government’s readiness to massacre its own people. According to local sources, as well as independent media reports from inside the city of Homs, the Syrian army has sharply increased the use of tanks, helicopters, mortars, rockets and artillery fire to attack civilian areas, stated a news release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). She also stressed the “extreme urgency for the international community to cut through the politics and take effective action to protect the Syrian population.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today the inauguration of the Darfur Regional Authority, a body intended to stimulate development and facilitate peace in the war-torn western region of Sudan. Mr. Ban said he looked to the Government and the LJM to carry the peace process forward, and reiterated the UN’s commitment to support the authority’s work. The Secretary-General also appealed to the Government and armed movements which have not signed the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) to enter into negotiations towards a final agreement immediately and without preconditions.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced deep concern over the outbreak of fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebel groups in northern Mali, stressing that he was particularly troubled by the large-scale humanitarian consequences of the conflict. Casualties include civilians, with thousands of people internally displaced and others seeking refuge in neighboring countries, aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation throughout the drought-prone Sahel region of West Africa, according to a statement issued by the spokesperson of the Secretary-General.

DPKO sexual abuse policy:
The head of the United Nations’ Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) told reporters today that his committee is upping the ante when it comes to prosecuting UN peacekeeping forces who are found guilty of sexual abuse and exploitation. Herve Ladsous voluntarily introduced the topic of rising reports of UN peacekeeping forces’ initiating sexual abuse, claiming that the DPKO plans to add a “100% attention” clause onto their long-established zero tolerance policy. He explained that the new policy goes “much further than the one applied so far, with the goal of really trying to do away with the actions of some individuals that spoil completely the image of UN peacekeeping, and are completely wrong.” Ladsous added that, once in effect, the punitive measures applying to UN-employed sexual offenders would apply to both uniformed and civilian personnel equally.

South Sudan:
Two United Nations agencies warned today that millions of people in South Sudan are facing worsening hunger and called for urgent action to improve food security through adequate food aid and projects to boost agricultural production.  According to a report prepared by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food shortages have worsened, with the number of South Sudanese without enough to eat rising from 3.3 million last year to 4.7 million currently. Poor harvests, increased demand, rapidly rising prices, conflict, displacement and a large number of returnees have contributed to the food shortages, with a shortfall in cereal production weighing heavily on already distressed communities.

Caribbean Human Development report
: An increasing crime rate is threatening economies and livelihoods in Caribbean countries, states a new UN report that calls for the right mix of policies and program to tackle the problem. The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012, prepared by UNDP, says that with the exception of Barbados and Suriname, homicide rates – including gang-related killings – have increased substantially in the last 12 years across the Caribbean, while they have been falling or stabilizing in other parts of the world. Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 8.5 per cent of the world population, yet the region accounts for some 27 per cent of the world’s homicides, according to the report, which was launched today in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.