Pacific 

Government internet ban leaves parts of Myanmar ‘in a blackout’, UN expert calls for immediate lifting

The Government shutdown mobile data networks in nine conflict areas townships of Rakhine and Chin States, risking serious implications for human rights and humanitarian monitoring, warned UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré, by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre “The entire region is in a blackout,” she said. “I fear for all civilians there, cut off and without the necessary means to communicate with people inside and outside the area.” According to recent reports, over the last six months, both…

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Pacific 

UN chief accepts independent report on Myanmar, highlighting ‘systemic’ failure surrounding Rohingya crisis

The report by former Guatemalan Foreign Affairs Minister, Gert Rosenthal, a former UN Ambassador and top executive at the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that the UN System overall had been “relatively impotent to effectively work with the authorities of Myanmar, to reverse the negative trends in the areas of human rights, and consolidate the positive trends in other areas.” The review, published on Monday, covers the period 2010-2018, encompassing the UN’s response to the systematic and brutal abuse of hundreds-of-thousands of mainly-Muslim Rohingya…

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Pacific 

Civilians ‘must never be a target,’ says UN in Afghanistan, amid troubling number of casualties during Ramadan

In a statement issued on Sunday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it remains troubled that civilians are being killed in high numbers and that it has found that during the holy month of Ramadan, anti-Government elements “deliberately and knowingly targeted civilians.” “I condemn these deliberate attacks on civilians that signal a disturbing intent to spread fear; they delegitimize the perpetrators, depriving them of any claim to represent the people of Afghanistan”, said UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto. The Mission found that, throughout Ramadan, the targeted attacks included: an 8…

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Pacific 

Take action on air pollution to save lives, and the planet, urges UN chief

As well as claiming seven million lives every year, and damaging children’s development, the UN chief noted that many air pollutants cause global warming, which he has described as “an existential threat.” In his video address, the UN Secretary-General recalled his recent experience in the South Pacific island states, which he visited last month to show solidarity with those suffering from the worst effects of climate change. Mr. Guterres said that he had seen first-hand the severe and worsening impacts of the global climate emergency. With the environment facing “unprecedented…

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Pacific 

‘Bicycle Kingdom’ makes a comeback, as China seeks solutions to tackle air pollution crisis

China was once considered to be the “Kingdom of the Bicycle,” with bikes dominating city streets across the country, but over the past four decades, China’s dramatic economic prosperity and urbanization has seen many people move to motor vehicles as their primary means of transport, contributing to a marked deterioration in air quality.  In Hangzhou, a city in eastern China that was once described by the Italian explorer Marco Polo as “the finest and most splendid city in the world,” air pollution has had a devastating effect. According to data backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Hangzhou’s air pollution is well over WHO’s safe…

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Pacific 

Asylum seekers in Sri Lanka fear for their safety, in wake of Easter Sunday terror attacks

More than a month on from the bombings, some 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly Muslims from Pakistan and Afghanistan, are sheltering in police stations and mosques near the capital Colombo, in the towns of Pasyala and Negombo; the site of one of the church attacks. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is working closely with the Sri Lankan authorities to find more suitable places for the families to live, in dignity and safety but, in the current climate of fear, this has not been easy. “Our top priority is to…

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Pacific 

Asia-Pacific ‘regional parliament’ underway to advance equality, empowerment, for more than four billion citizens

According to a study by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), forming the basis for intergovernmental discussions, while the benefits of economic growth and social progress have reached rural areas, persons with disabilities and women in many countries, the divide between the haves and the have-nots, is widening. “In recent decades, quality of life has improved for most people in the region, yet, growing inequalities present a threat to further advances”, said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a video message for Monday’s opening session…

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Pacific 

In Afghanistan, attacks against schools have tripled in one year

If you are a pupil in Afghanistan, then you were three times more likely to be affected by an attack in 2018 than you were the previous year. Attacks on schools in the country surged from 68 in 2017 to 192 in 2018, according to UNICEF. This is the first time that the number of school attacks has increased, since 2015. “Education is under fire in Afghanistan,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement. “The senseless attacks on schools; the killing, injury and abduction of teachers; and the…

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Pacific 

North Koreans trapped in ‘vicious cycle of deprivation, corruption, repression’ and endemic bribery: UN human rights office

Based on more than 200 first-hand accounts of escapees from the country, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the report asserts that the State-run public distribution system collapsed in the mid-1990s, forcing people to work in informal markets, where they have no choice but to bribe officials to avoid arrest. It also highlights “appalling” levels of hunger that affects around 10.9 million people – more than 43 per cent of the population – with north-eastern and rural provinces worst-affected. The report also details how huge resources…

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Pacific 

UN Mission in Afghanistan gravely concerned about ill-treatment of prisoners by Taliban, following first-hand testimony

The mission based its preliminary findings on face-to-face interviews with 13 detainees who were freed from a Taliban detention facility by Special Forces troops from the Afghan Army, on 25 April.  The 53 prisoners released include 45 members of the Afghan defence forces and eight civilians, including three Government officials. Most had been held since last year.    UNAMA said the freed prisoners had provided “consistent accounts” of being held underground in five overcrowded rooms and being forced to work for at least seven hours a day, “including making improvised explosive devices”.  “Detainees said…

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