Syria; Sudan/South Sudan; the Sahel; Haiti; and more

Syria: The UN human rights chief today appealed to Member States to act now to protect the Syrian people as the Government’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests continues unabated and the number of dead and injured continues to rise. “The longer the international community fails to take action, the more the civilian population will suffer from countless atrocities committed against them,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the General Assembly. “We are certain that the number of dead and injured continues to rise every day,” stated Ms. Pillay, who noted that while a lack of access has prevented her office from providing an exact figure, the number of people killed since last March is believed to be “well above” 5,400.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by his spokesperson last night, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his grave concern about the escalating violence, mounting loss of life and deteriorating humanitarian situation, particularly in the city of Homs, which has been under siege and heavy shelling for more than a week.

Sudan/S. Sudan:
 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the signing of a non-aggression and cooperation pact between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and urged both countries to maintain the positive spirit that led to the agreement and abide by its provisions.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Non-Aggression and Cooperation signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Friday calls for the respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs and rejects the use of force in relations between the two countries.

The Sahel
: The leaders of United Nations aid agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments will meet on Wednesday in Rome to discuss how to urgently scale up assistance in Africa’s Sahel region, where drought and food shortages are threatening millions of lives.

“The needs of the millions affected by drought in the Sahel are enormous, and the time to act is now,” said Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the WFP, which will host the meeting at its headquarters. Participants at the meeting, which will hosted at WFP’s headquarters, are expected to include the heads of FAO; the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UNDP, as well as the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos and top officials from the European Union and the United States.

The Security Council is starting its mission to Haiti today.  Council members, led by the U.S. delegation, will remain until Thursday to assess the implementation of relevant resolutions concerning the UN Mission there (MINUSTAH) and to discuss the situation in the country with Government officials, including the President and Prime Minister of Haiti.

Middle East peace process:
An independent United Nations human rights expert today called on Israel to revise its housing policies, saying they have failed to respond to the needs of minorities and the socially disadvantaged. “Throughout my visit, I was able to witness a land development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities in Israel which is being replicated in the occupied territory, affecting Palestinian communities,” stated Raquel Rolnik, the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing.

Global Governance:
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called for the wider inclusion of emerging economies in global governance mechanisms, noting that powerful decision-making bodies do not sufficiently reflect the growing impact of developing and new markets on the world economy. The gap between old structures and new realities is causing divisions among groups of countries at different stages of development, she pointed out, stressing the need to strengthen ties among governments, civil society groups, the private sector and other international institutions.

UNEP Year Book 2012
: The depletion of soil and the growing number of end-of-life nuclear power reactors are some of the most pressing environmental issues, according to a United Nations yearbook launched today that compiles the most important events and developments of the year.

The UN Environmental Program (UNEP) Year Book 2012 depicts the status of key environmental indicators and highlights the benefits of soil carbon and decommissioning nuclear power plants.  As UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner remarked, “Superficially they may seem separate and unconnected issues, but both go to the heart of several fundamental questions: how will the world feed and fuel itself while combating climate change and handling hazardous wastes?