Syria; the Sahel; SG in India; ICJ election; International Jazz Day; and more

Syria: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a Norwegian general and adviser to international envoy Kofi Annan to head the new U.N. monitoring mission in Syria. U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey announced the appointment today of Maj. Gen. Robert Mood, who will also serve as chief U.N. military observer in Syria.

Meanwhile, fifteen more ceasefire monitors of a total advance team of 30 are expected to be in Syria by Monday and every effort is being made to deploy the full mission of up to 300 observers, the spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan said on Friday.

The Sahel:
The UN food agency today appealed to oil- and mineral-rich nations to set up a fund to combat the food crisis gripping the Sahel desert region and other parts of Africa. Speaking at a conference in the Congolese capital Brazzaville, UN FAO head Jose Graziano Da Silva said the group needed $110 million to combat the crisis in the short term. The Sahel, which comprises Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, has been hit with drought and conflict, and the United Nations estimates that several million people face food insecurity.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today praised India’s economic development and called on the country to build on it by implementing policies that reduce inequalities among society and take into account environmental and social factors.

Mr. Ban noted that as one of the largest economies in the world, India has a key role to play at the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in Brazil in June, where issues such as food security and access universal access water will be at the top of the agenda.  In particular, Mr. Ban underlined that Rio+20 will provide an opportunity to advance on the goal of achieving sustainable energy for all, a crucial concern in a country where 55 per cent of the rural population lacks electricity.

Mr. Ban also emphasized that innovative partnerships among India’s various sectors and with other countries will be an essential component to achieve inclusive development and address some of its most pressing needs, such as improving women and children’s health.

Papua New Guinea:
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today voiced concern about recent steps taken by the Government in Papua New Guinea that undermine the rule of law, breach international human rights standards, impinge on the independence of the judiciary, and could lead to serious instability. The enactment of a new Judicial Conduct Act last month is of particular concern, Ms. Pillay said, as it establishes a new parallel system to deal with misconduct of judges, contrary to constitutional provisions on the issue.

United Nations members on Friday voted Indian Supreme Court judge Dalveer Bhandari to sit on the International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest court. Mr. Bhandari overwhelmingly won simultaneous votes held in the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council, securing 122 votes in the 193 member UN General Assembly against 58 for Feliciano. He secured an absolute majority in the 15 member Security Council.

International Jazz Day
: The UN today kicked off celebrations for the first annual International Jazz Day with a concert in Paris, which will be followed by another in New Orleans on Saturday, and another at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday. The International Jazz Day, which falls on 30 April, seeks to spotlight the historic influence the jazz music genre has had in connecting people and igniting social change.

“Jazz makes the most of the world’s diversity, effortlessly crossing borders and bringing people together,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova. “From its roots in slavery, this music has raised a passionate voice against all forms of oppression. It speaks a language of freedom that is meaningful to all cultures.”