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Marking grim anniversary for Darfur SecretaryGeneral urges sharper focus

“Continued suffering is both unforgivable and preventable, and the potential for peace and progress is great,” Mr. Ban said in a statement that coincided with the release of his latest monthly report to the Council on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).“Let us not dwell on what has been lost in Darfur, but call upon all parties and stakeholders to immediately focus on what can be achieved by ending the hostilities, protecting civilians and coming to the negotiating table in good faith to secure the peace the Darfurians desperately need now,” he added.Some 4.27 million civilians, including 2.45 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), continue to suffer as a result of ongoing attacks by armed forces and other groups, the Secretary-General said, with more than 100,000 civilians forced to flee this year alone while women and humanitarian workers continue to be targeted. The conflict also jeopardizes regional stability and threatens the historic peace agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest wars, between the Government and rebels in southern Sudan, he stressed.He noted that the international community has spent close to $1 billion per year during the past three years on humanitarian assistance and recovery operations in Darfur in the hope that peace and development would follow. But, he cautioned, humanitarian aid would not resolve the conflict, and neither would the peacekeeping mission, since there was as yet no peace to keep. A solution required all parties and stakeholders to lay down their arms and commit to a peaceful settlement. “Pressure must be maintained on all parties to commit to a cessation of hostilities and ultimately a ceasefire and political settlement,” he said, affirming continued support for joint African Union (AU)-UN mediation efforts and the deployment of UNAMID. In his report on that deployment, covering the month of February, Mr. Ban says that troop deployment is accelerating, but that critical aviation and transportation equipment was still missing, with no additional pledges for these during the reporting period.As of the end of the month, the total strength of UNAMD was 9,212 uniformed personnel, including 7,467 troops, 1,605 police officers and one formed police unit, in addition to 1,312 civilians, according to the report.Deployment of Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions is immanent, after which UNAMID leadership will prioritize the arrival of the Thai and Nepalese units, which are ready to come with critical capabilities.However, the force still lacks one heavy and one medium ground transport unit, three military utility aviation units – comprising 18 helicopters in total – as well as additional attack helicopters.“It is incumbent upon Member States to pledge these critical capabilities or prevail upon other States that may be in a position to do so,” Mr. Ban stressed, noting that all levels of the UN Secretariat continue to pursue options in that regard. “The deployment of UNAMID without these critical assets will make it a force that lacks the capability to respond to the challenges and complex environment in which it is deployed,” he said. 4 April 2008Avowing that the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region remains as grim, or worse, than it was four years ago when the Security Council first took up the issue, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for an immediate focus on the fundamentals of peace and the protection of civilians in the strife-torn region. read more

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UNHRC 40th session opens with Sri Lanka on the agenda

Bachelet drew on the lessons she learned during her two terms as President of Chile, prior to taking up the post of UN Human Rights Chief.“In my service as a Head of State and Head of Government I learned many things, but there are two lessons that I would like to share with you this morning,” said Bachelet. In her statement on the opening day today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for “courage and vision” from State leaders to advance both the interests of humanity and the national interest of their own countries, stressing that human rights-based policies deliver better outcomes across the social and economic spectrum – and beyond borders. “One was very simple: there was rarely a serious gap between the interest of humanity, and the national interest of my country. If a policy seems in the short term to advance a narrow interest, but hurts the future of humanity, that policy is surely counter-productive. Today, we sometimes hear human rights being dismissed as supposedly “globalist” – as opposed to the patriotic interest of a sovereign government. But how can any State’s interests be advanced by policies that damage the well-being of all humans?”“The second lesson…in my capacity as a Head of State; as a government Minister, a member of non-governmental organisations; and a refugee myself, I saw many human rights measures being debated, enacted, updated and upheld. And I watched these measures work. It can be done. I have seen it done.”Bachelet stressed that human rights-based policies prevent grievances, conflicts, inequalities, and suffering and discrimination of all kinds. The 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council opened in Geneva today with Sri Lanka on the agenda.UN Secretary General António Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made statements on the opening day of the session. The session, which began today concludes on 22 March and a report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is set to be discussed on March 20. “Policies that build social justice also help to develop stronger economies. They drive more inclusive political systems, better frameworks for education, health-care, and other basic services. They build confidence and social harmony. They deepen trust. They build hope,” she said. The High Commissioner emphasised that there “cannot be optimal, sustainable or inclusive development when the voices of civil society are absent”, calling on authorities to engage in respectful dialogue with civil society.Bachelet acknowledged that in the current political landscape, the will is not always there, and that in some countries, important human rights advances are being dismantled, while in other countries, States drag their feet on crucial issues like climate change. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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