Syria; Sudan/South Sudan; North Korea; Mali; and more

Syria: The Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Kofi Annan, said that he is encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively quiet today and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding. He said calm must now be sustained and that all parties have obligations to fully implement his six-point plan to bring the violence to an end.

Meanwhile, he told the Security Council today that Syria has not fully complied with the terms of his peace plan and urged the Council to demand the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from towns. Annan also told council members that Syria’s fragile truce needs support and called for the swift deployment of a first wave of unarmed observers to monitor implementation of his six-point peace plan, to be followed by a second wave of observers later, diplomats told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The Council is working towards adopting a resolution authorising the deployment of an advance team of unarmed military observers to Syria to supervise the cessation of violence by all parties. (If the resolution is adopted tomorrow, such an advance monitoring team could be on the ground as early as next week and is likely to be drawn from existing personnel in the region including the UN Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO), the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), according to Security Council Report.)

Sudan/S. Sudan:
The U.N. Security Council met in public Thursday to read out a statement demanding “a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting” between Sudan and South Sudan. The council statement, read out by presiding U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, insisted that both countries redeploy their forces 10 kilometers (16 miles) away from a border that they both recognized last year.

North Korea:
A long-range rocket launch by North Korea would heighten tensions in the region and lead world powers to put Pyongyang back in the dock at the U.N. Security Council, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Thursday.

Ban told a news conference in Geneva that the threatened launch of a so-called “application satellite” atop a ballistic missile would worsen relations with North Korea’s neighbors. Ban said he hoped North Korea would become a “responsible member of the international community”.

The top United Nations human rights official today called for urgent national and international action to end the political instability that has been fuelling recent violence in Mali, while voicing alarm at continuing reports of serious rights violations, especially in rebel-held northern areas.

“Reports from the north of the country suggest that civilians have been killed, robbed, raped and forced to flee,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a news release. Ms. Pillay said she was concerned that the longer the instability continued, the more the human rights situation appeared to be deteriorating, with thousands of people already fleeing the northern region to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

Ibrahim Gambari, the head of the joint United Nations-African Union mission in the western Sudanese region of Darfur (UNAMID) today reported a decrease in clashes and ethnic conflict, as well as a decline in criminal activities against civilians, including banditry, and fewer attacks on humanitarian convoys in the area. However, despite these gains, challenges remain, including movement restrictions for UNAMID personnel, Mr. Gambari said.

He added that the mission has also been focusing on implementing the so-called Quick Impact Projects to provide water and sanitation services, education, health, rule of law, and livelihood support.

Disaster risk reduction:
  In his message to the General Assembly, as it held a thematic debate on disaster risk reduction, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that disasters had the tendency to exacerbate poverty and undermine development planning, particularly poverty reduction strategies. He stressed that progress required engagement by governments, civil society and the private sector to ensure that disaster risk reduction is an integral part of all projects from planning to implementation.