Russia Boming, UN Women, Flotilla Update and More from UN Direct

Russia bombing: Today both the SG and the Security Council issued statements condemning the bombing at Moscow’s Airport and sending sympathies to the victims and their families, as well as expressing their solidarity with the Government of Russia.

UN Women: the first UN Women Executive Board session opened today, which will run through the 26th.  Speaking at the meeting, ED Bachelet presented UN Women’s 100 Day Action Plan, which will guide the entity’s work through the first few months.  UN Women’s primary objective is to build national capacity and ownership, which it will do guided by the following five principles: 1) providing demand-driven support to national actors; 2) supporting intergovernmental processes to strengthen the normative framework 3) advocating for gender equality/women’s empowerment, particularly the rights of girls; 4) leading coherence in the UN’s work on gender equality; and 5) acting as a “global broker” of knowledge and experience and linking the field with normative work.  Based on these principles, UN Women will focus on five thematic priorities: 1) expanding women’s voices in different sectors; 2) ending violence against women; 3) strengthening implementation of the women, peace and security agenda (incl. 1325), through women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peace processes; 4) enhancing women’s economic empowerment to ensure their economic security and rights; and 5) making gender equality priorities central to national, local and sectoral planning and budgeting.  UN Women will also provide critical support to UN partners who lead on issues such as HIV/AIDS, climate and maternal and child health.  On resources, Bachelet said she will look to expand partnerships with the private sector, foundations and individuals.  Throughout the spring, she intends to visit all regions where UN Women works (UN Women currently has programming in 78 countries) and will  appoint an NGO Advisory Group to facilitate NGO input and collaboration.  UN Women will be formally launched on February 24th during CSW and the Strategic Plan – based on a detailed Field Capacity Assessment – will be formally presented in June.  In her remarks, Ambassador Susan Rice expressed the United States’ full support for UN Women’s objectives of mainstreaming gender concerns throughout the UN system, improving accountability, and strengthening reporting on women’s issues at the global, national and regional levels.  On accountability, she welcomed the focus on developing an internal-review process to ensure money is being spent wisely and with full transparency.  Rice also urged the adoption of the entity’s transitional “Support Budget” so that it can appoint the two ASGs and augment its field capacity without delay.

Human Rights: today HRW issued its World Report 2011, which cites the SG as “noticeably reluctant to put pressure on abusive governments”, listing his “disinclination to speak out” about abuses in places such as China, and his quiet, behind-the-scenes approach in Sudan and Myanmar.  UK’s Cameron and Germany’s Merkel, as well as the U.S., are also highlighted as doing the same, but the UN press corps picked up on the criticism of Ban at the briefing.  In response to questions on the Report, Haq said “The view of the Secretary-General is that diplomacy and public pressure are not mutually exclusive.  In each particular case, the Secretary-General makes a strategic decision on the most effective way to secure respect for human rights and accountability.  The Secretary-General has applied public pressure where he has considered it the most likely means to achieve results.  The record shows that the Secretary-General has achieved results both through quiet diplomacy as well as public pressure”.

Holocaust Remembrance: On Saturday the SG spoke at Park East Synagogue at an event on the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust, in which he said, “it is a day to speak out, to speak out against those who would deny the Holocaust, who would diminish it or “explain” it away”.  On Friday, the SG met with Auschwitz Survivors and Committee Leaders and today, the UN opened an exhibition sponsored by the U.S. Mission at Headquarters called “The Memories Live On”, featuring drawings of Auschwitz made by an unknown prisoner, as well as “A Stolen Life”, a compilation of excerpts from a journal of a young Jewish woman.  Both will be on display until February 28.

Flotilla: over the weekend the SG’s Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident received the report from the Israeli Government, which it is currently reviewing.  In the report, Israel declares that it’s actions were legal, which led Turkey to condemn the report.

Iraq: Today, Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, finished a three-day trip in Iraq, where he met with leaders including, President Jalal Talabani and PM Nouri Al-Maliki, and underlined the need for Government-led action to allow the voluntary return of thousands of Iraqis to their home. He stressed that forcible returns are unsafe and unacceptable.

Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: In regards to the documents disclosed by Al Jazeera concerning the work of Palestinian negotiators in peace talks, the Spokesperson said that Robert Serry, UN Special Coordinator for the Mideast Peace Process, explained that some of the commentary paints an inaccurate portrayal.

UPR: today the 10th session of the UPR Working Group opened in Geneva, which will run through February 4.  Rwanda and Myanmar are two of the 16 States scheduled to be reviewed.

Upcoming Briefings: Michelle Bachelet will be the guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing to present UN Women’s 100 Day Action Plan.