Syria; Mali; refugee resettlement; South Sudan; DR Congo;

Syria: Noting gross violations of human rights and the ongoing violence there, the United Nations Human Rights Council today condemned the situation in Syria, and urged authorities to immediately implement a peace plan and grant unimpeded access to assistance organizations. In a resolution, the Council “strongly condemned the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights, acts of violence, ongoing atrocities and indiscriminate targeting of civilians by the Syrian authorities,” while also condemning the crimes by members of the Government-controlled militia known as the Shabiha. It also reiterated an earlier call for an end to all violence by all parties.

The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 16 months ago.

Mali: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced “grave concern” over the situation in northern Mali, warning of increasing evidence showing children being killed, injured or recruited into armed groups.

In a news release, the agency reported that since the end of March at least 175 boys have been recruited into armed groups, at least eight girls have been sexually abused, two boys have been killed by explosive devices in separate incidents and 18 more have been injured. UNICEF is working with local partners in the conflict-affected regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, as well as the border region of Mopti, to strengthen communities’ ability to identify and support separated children, raise public awareness about risks for children, including recruitment into armed groups, and promoting education.

Refugee resettlement: The United Nations refugee agency and its partners will meet next week in Geneva to discuss how to help the more than 800,000 refugees who are seeking resettlement. Known as the 18th Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement, the meeting – which will be attended by representatives of resettlement countries, non-governmental organizations and members of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) – will look at ways to improve how resettlement works in various countries.

During the three-day meeting, which will start on Monday, UNHCR and its partners will also discuss how to strengthen cultural orientation programmes, enhance support for post arrival services, and reinforce pre-departure preparations.

South Sudan: Ahead of the one-year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for the rights of children to be made a priority, stressing that they are vital for the young nation’s growth and stability. South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July last year, six years after the signing of a peace agreement that ended decades of warfare between the north and south. Half of its population is currently under the age of 18, yet the country has very poor social indicators, including high maternal and infant mortality, high rates of illiteracy and malnutrition, and very limited infrastructure, making it one of the riskiest places in the world for a child to be born.

According to UNICEF, 70 per cent of children between six and seventeen years of age have never been to school, and the completion rate in primary schools is barely ten per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Girls, in particular, remain disadvantaged when it comes to education and are vulnerable to social practices such as early marriage and early child bearing.

DR Congo: Expressing concern over the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deeply regrets the death of a United Nations peacekeeper killed in a recent armed clash there, his spokesperson said today.

Serving with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), the Indian ‘blue helmet’ had been in Bunagana, in the province of North Kivu, this week, when he was caught in a cross-fire in clashes between the DRC’s armed forces and a rebel group known as the M23.

The DRC’s eastern provinces of North and South Kivu have witnessed increased fighting between Government troops and the M23, which is composed of renegade soldiers who mutinied in April and are led by Bosco Ntaganda. The fighting has displaced more than 100,000 people, including many who have fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.