Syria; Somalia; World Youth Report; Myanmar; and more

Syria: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the escalating violence in Syria today, calling on President Bashar al-Assad’s Government to immediately cease all hostilities against the country’s civilian population.

He also voiced deep regret after Security Council members were unable to agree on Saturday on a resolution backing an Arab League plan to resolve the crisis in Syria, where thousands of people have been killed over the past year since authorities’ crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising. Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of a draft text submitted by Morocco, but China and Russia exercised their vetoes. Mr. Ban said that in the wake of today’s vote, it has “become even more urgent” for the international community to redouble its efforts to seek a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, plural political system.”

: The International Contact Group on Somalia (ICG) that brings together the United Nations and its diplomatic partners in support of efforts to restore peace and stability in Somalia insisted today that the country’s current transitional governing arrangements must end on 20 August this year, as stipulated in recent agreements, and called for a new draft constitution by mid-April. The ICG also underlined the need to broaden consultations with civil society and other interested parties in Somalia to ensure that future political decisions have the widest possible support.

World Youth Report:
A lack of job opportunities, inadequate education, vulnerable working conditions and insufficient government investment are some of the main concerns of young people around the world, according to a United Nations report on youth published today. The latest World Youth Report, released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), for the first time included inputs from young people – with many participating in an online discussion on youth employment. The report also reveals that even after finding work young people face unstable conditions, as they are often the last to be hired and the first to be dismissed. It also noted that young women face greater challenges than their male counterparts when accessing jobs, with many having to work part time or in lower-paid occupations.

Recent reforms in Myanmar have already had a positive impact, the UN expert on the human rights situation in the country said today, but warned that serious challenges remain and must be addressed to strengthen the transition to democracy. “There is a risk of backtracking on the progress achieved thus far,” said Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, at the end of his fifth mission to the country. “At this crucial moment in the country’s history, further and sustained action should be taken to bring about further change.”

The UN has welcomed the recent decision by Myanmar’s President Thein Sein to grant amnesty and set free a significant number of prisoners of conscience, and acknowledged other reform measures by authorities in the South-East Asian nation, including dialogue between the Government and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM/C:
A new UN report shows that almost 2,000 communities across Africa abandoned female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) last year, prompting calls for a renewed global push to end this harmful practice once and for all. According to the report, issued by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the total number of communities renouncing FGM/C has now reached 8,000 over the last few years. The new report is prepared by the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme for the Acceleration of the Abandonment of FGM/C, which was set up in 2008 and tries to spur change through a culturally sensitive, human rights-based approach that promotes collective abandonment of the practice.