Syria; UNICEF report; Cookstoves in Afghanistan; Sustainability “Hack-a-thon”; and more

Syria: The United Nations human rights chief said today that she is “appalled” at the recent escalation of violence in Syria and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to end the fighting and assist civilians.  She called upon the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with international mechanisms, including Mr. Kofi Annan who was recently appointed as Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

The Syrian delegation to the HRC denounced the holding of the meeting, saying that it was part of a plan to attack his country under the pretext of addressing humanitarian needs. Before walking out of the meeting, he said the real aim of the “sterile discussion” was to fuel terrorism and fuel the crisis in his country.

Meanwhile in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that the Syrian Government has manifestly failed to carry out its responsibility to protect its people, killing its own people in ways “reminiscent of the Hama massacre perpetrated by the Syrian Government in 1982.”

: Hundreds of millions of children in cities across the world are growing up in poverty and enduring deprivation, according to a report unveiled today by the United Nations, spotlighting social exclusion and calling for measures to give the youngsters access to basic services and opportunities for a better future.

‘The State of the World’s Children 2012’ report released by UNICEF, highlights the hardship that many children living in urban areas go through, which are in many cases concealed by statistical averages in which the poverty of some is obscured by the relative wealth of others. The report also emphasizes that they children are at high risk of exploitation and trafficking, as well as becoming victims of violence.

The UN and its partners have teamed up with local villagers in Afghanistan to develop clean cooking stoves that could potentially save lives by improving indoor air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on wood for fuel.

Afghanistan is among the 10 countries worst affected by indoor pollution, given that over 95 per cent of its estimated 30 million people burn wood and other solid fuels in their homes, according to the WHO.

The project is part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is calling for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020 to cut the estimated 1.6 million to 1.8 million premature deaths each year linked to indoor emissions from inefficient cook stoves.

Sustainability “Hackathon”:
A UN-backed competition with the goal of uncovering sustainable approaches to information and communication technology (ICT) kicked off today, bringing developers from around the world together in a ‘frenetic’ race of programming.

Organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the two-day Green ICT Hackathon opened today in Barcelona as part of the Organization’s wider efforts to harness the power of ICT in promoting and supporting the ‘International Year for Sustainable Energy for All.’ The contest – also known as a ‘hackathon’ – pits developers against each other in a marathon of programming during which they will have to develop an innovative ICT application with sustainable energy as its core message.

The UN advocate and renowned singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo today urged all UN Member States to outlaw female genital mutilation (FGM), describing it as a tradition that diminishes women and seeks to destroy their identity. Ms. Kidjo, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, and a passionate advocate for girls’ education, said social traditions that condone FGM need to be “tackled at the core” through making entire communities aware of the harmful consequences of the practice.