Syria; Women and Youth empowerment; Access to contraception; and more

Syria: The General Assembly today strongly condemned the continued “widespread and systematic” human rights violations by the Syrian authorities and demanded that the Government cease all violence and protect its people. The text, which was adopted by a vote of 137 in favor to 12 against with 17 abstentions, also called on Syria “to immediately put an end to all human rights violations and attacks against civilians.”

The SG today called again on the Syrian Government to comply with international humanitarian law and put an end to the “mounting loss of life” the country has experienced over the past year. “Every day those numbers rise. We see neighbourhoods shelled indiscriminately. Hospitals used as torture centres. Children as young as 10 years old jailed and abused,” Mr. Ban told reporters in Vienna, stressing that the lack of agreement in the Security Council does not give the Syrian Government a licence to continue to attack its own citizens. “The longer we debate, the more people will die.”

Women & youth:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed today the need to empower women and youth, who have been at the centre of recent social protest movements worldwide, and warned countries against ignoring their voices as they are critical to countries’ development.

“Tahrir Square [in Cairo] and the fight for democracy throughout the Arab world, Occupy Wall Street, ‘los indignados’ in Puerta del Sol [Madrid], protests in Greece… What was the common thread? They were overwhelmingly women and young people,” Mr. Ban told attendees at a lecture in Vienna, underlining the role of women and youth in mobilizing change. In particular, Mr. Ban called for greater women’s representation in parliaments, including in the Arab world and stressed that temporary measures such as quotas or other special steps can make a permanent difference in governments.

Access to contraception
: The United Nations reiterated today the need to provide women with access to both hormonal contraceptives and condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection, after a renewed consultation with health experts on the issue.

“While a range of contraceptives protect against unintended pregnancies, only condoms, male and female, provide dual protection by stopping HIV transmission and preventing unintended pregnancies,” said UNAIDS in a press statement. “Women need safe contraceptive and HIV prevention options that they can own and manage,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “New investments into research for female controlled HIV prevention options and safe contraceptive methods are essential,” she said, adding that not giving women and girls access to these methods increases their vulnerability to HIV infection.

SC in Haiti:
Police reform and the living conditions of Haitians who remain displaced after the January 2010 earthquake were the focus of the final day of the Security Council’s four-day visit to the impoverished Caribbean country.Council ambassadors this morning visited a police academy where instructors from the Haitian National Police (HNP) have been trained by UN Police serving with MINUSTAH. MINUSTAH has been working closely with the HNP in recent years to train its staff and reform its structure.

The ambassadors also met with internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the Carradeux camp in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where they assessed the living conditions and the work done by both peacekeepers and humanitarian staff to help residents. Later, the Council delegation travelled to a cholera treatment center for a briefing on the cholera epidemic which struck the country in late 2010 and has since killed almost 7,000 people.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for concerted efforts to help Afghanistan extricate itself from the scourge of drug production, use and trafficking, noting that the country’s stability remains at stake with an estimated 15 per cent of its income accruing from trade in illicit drugs.

“We have a common duty to the people of Afghanistan and those everywhere whose lives are darkened with despair due to the menace of the drugs trade,” Mr. Ban told the 3rd Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade, held in Vienna. The country’s law enforcement agencies must work harder on eradicating narcotics crops, eliminate drug laboratories, keep precursors from entering the country, and inhibit drug trafficking, he added.