SG briefs Council on travel, EU’s Ashton discusses UN-EU cooperation, DPKO releases 1325 impact study and more from UN Direct

SG: Today, the SG briefed the Security Council and the press on his recent travels, which included the World Economic Forum in Davos, the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, as well as the Munich Security Conference and the Quartet meeting in Munich.

Egypt: Responding to a question raised on whether Egypt is ready for democracy, the Spokesperson explained that UNDP’s Human Development Reports (since 2002) provide clear detail on some of the challenges that the regions faces, including potential solutions to these issues. He reiterated that the direction that any change takes is for the people in that country to decide. The UN and other regional organizations have a crucial role to play if they are asked to do so

EU: Today, Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, briefed the press on her meeting at the Security Council, which focused on cooperation between the UN and the EU, including the unfolding situations in the Middle East and across North Africa. This past weekend, Ashton chaired the both the Quartet meeting and recent discussions on Iran.  The EU is also focused on developments in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as on the futures of Sudan and Somalia. Barbara Plett from the BBC said Omar Suleiman claimed Egyptians aren’t ready for democracy and asked Ashton if the EU believes that he can lead the movement. In regards to democracy, Ashton asserted that the Egyptian people must work towards democracy – a process that the citizens must build meaningfully; it’s not a moment in time. In regards to Iran on nuclear negotiation, the EU put forward a series of proposals agreed by the P5+1, including various measures that would help improve transparency and confidence. She reiterated that proposals are now on the table if Iran decides it wants to continue negotiations.

Sudan: Yesterday the Panel on the Referenda in Sudan urged all parties to build on the momentum garnered by the successful vote and settle post-referendum issues, including border security, citizenship, wealth-sharing, frontier demarcation, and the most contentious of all – Abyei. On a recent security incident, DPKO has confirmed that all movement restrictions in Malakal airport have been lifted in Sudan’s Upper Nile state, after a series of clashes took place between soldiers that resulted in 50 casualties and 85 injured. While UN property wasn’t targeted, a UNHCH staff member was killed in crossfire. The situation in Malakal is now calm as peacekeepers continue to patrol the area. The UN urges all parties to remain calm and exercise caution.

Côte d’Ivoire: UNHCR reported that it is delivering more assistance to the country through a simultaneous airlift (with 2,450 tents) and road convoy (with thousands of blankets, mosquito nets, and kitchen sets). So far, there are 31,000 registered IDPs in western Côte d’Ivoire.

Senior Staff Travel: After attending and addressing the Regional Coordination Mechanism Meeting of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile today, DSG Asha-Rose Migiro said that the UN family must redouble its efforts to raise living standards and achieve the MDGs. In addition, she explained that sustainable development solutions must be central to the UN’s work as it’s “especially relevant for this region, where the toll of death and economic loss from natural disasters is on the rise.”

Women in Peacekeeping: Today, DPKO relased a ten-year impact study on the implementation of 1325, including recommendations to make a more concentrated effort on increasing participation of women in peace negotiations and national security institutions.  USG for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy said that these findings were a call to action.

Interfaith Discussion: Yesterday, as part of the 1st Annual UN World Interfaith Harmony Week, US Representative to the HRC Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe and Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN Ambassador Shehab Madi co-hosted an event on how to bridge interreligious divides and promote religious tolerance, which attracted diplomatic missions, NGOs, and civil society representatives at the US Mission in Geneva. Ambassador Donahoe stated that the U.S. believes that governments should speak out against religious intolerance and employ tools to address it. “These tools include a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach, inter-religious efforts, education, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression.” Having recently joined the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Rashad Hussain, U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, explained that the US government is working to identify ways that government’s partnerships with faith-based organizations can work to alleviate pain and address global problems.

Palestine: In response to protests that were inspired by developments in Egypt and Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority, a huge recipient of American and European aid, have set long-overdue local council elections for July 9 in both the Gaza and West Bank. The PA hasn’t held elections since 2006, meaning that President Mahmoud Abbas and parliament have remained in office after their elected terms expired. Hamas, which rules Gaza, immediately rejected this date for elections.