Weekly News Recap (23-29 August 2021)

International Justice Section



ICJ: Schedule For The Public Hearings In Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights And Maritime Spaces In The Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia)

On 23 August, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that the public hearings in the case of Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia) are to be held from 20 September to 1 October 2021. The hearings will focus on the merits of the case, including the counterclaims submitted by Colombia and will be held in a hybrid format. On 27 November 2013, Nicaragua instituted proceedings against Colombia with regard to a dispute which concerns the violations of Nicaragua’s sovereign rights and maritime zones declared by the ICJ’s Judgment of 19 November 2012 in the case concerning the Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v. Colombia) and the threat of the use of force by Colombia in order to implement these violations.


Bolivia: Former President Jeanine Anez In Stable Condition After Suicide Attempt Following Genocide Charge

On 23 August, it was reported that Bolivia’s former president, Jeanine Anez, tried to harm herself after prosecutors charged her with genocide on 20 August 2021. Former interim leader Jeanine Anez faced charges of committing genocide against supporters of Evo Morales and staging a coup in Bolivia. Bolivian prosecutors announced that former interim president will be put on trial over the deaths of 20 protesters in 2019. The Bolivian Attorney General explained that the charges against her were “provisionally classified as genocide, serious and minor injury, and injury followed by death” during protests in the Bolivian towns of Sacaba and Senkata. These charges follow a report from the Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday that claimed that Bolivian security forces carried out a massacre when Anez took over following the resignation of Evo Morales.

The director of prisons informed the press that “without a doubt […] her health is stable.” Carolina Ribera, Ms. Anez’s daughter, said her mother attempted on her own life on 21 August due to “severe depression” because of her prolonged imprisonment. On the same day, Norma Cueller, Ms. Anez’s defence counsel told reporters that the former president’s actions were a “cry for help” and that “she feels very harassed”. Ms. Anez was detained earlier this year over accusations that she participated in a coup to depose long-time former President Evo Morales in 2019. She has been jailed while awaiting trial. Ms. Anez has denied the allegations and claims she is a victim of political persecution.



USA: Statement Of Ben Ferencz, Last Surviving Nuremberg Prosecutor, To Be Filed In The 9/11 Case At The Guantanamo Military Commissions

On 24 August, it was reported that the statement of Ben Ferencz, the only surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials, would be filed in the tentative 9/11 Case at the Military Commissions. In Mr. Ferencz’s statement, he explains why the Guantanamo military commissions do not remotely measure up to that of the Nuremberg Trials, despite the latter being often subject to criticism of “victor’s justice.” Mr. Ferencz writes, inter alia, that “allegations with respect to detainee abuses, and prolonged lack of access to legal counsel, as well as other deviations from internationally accepted fair trial and due process practices and standards have made the Guantanamo military commissions appear suspect in the eyes of much of the world. For many, the very word “Guantanamo” has become synonymous with prisoner abuse and delayed justice, if not entirely denied.”

However, no date has been set for the 9/11 case to go to trial before the commission. Previously, a judge set the trial date for 11 January 2021, which was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic without a new trial date. Furthermore, Chief Prosecutor Martin’s impending retirement on 30 September and uncertainty regarding the status of his successor leaves prospects of a trial up in the air.



Bosnia And Herzegovina: Ratko Mladic’s Legal Counsel Announced Concerns Regarding His Deteriorating Health While In Custody At The UN Detention Unit

On 24 August, Miodrag Stojanovic, a member of Ratko Mladic’s legal team, expressed to the press that the Bosnian Serb Army commander’s health condition was deteriorating in custody at the UN detention unit near The Hague, where he is waiting to be transferred to prison in another country to serve his life sentence for wartime crimes. Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military chief who was convicted of genocide and other wartime crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in June, awaits transfer to prison to serve his life sentence. Mr. Mladic’s lawyer told the press that “his blood-sugar levels are very high, which has affected his kidneys, so he is in a very bad condition.” Mr. Mladic’s son has accused the Tribunal of keeping the family and Mladic’s lawyers in the dark about his condition and not sending them his medical reports. The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague said it could not comment on Mladic’s health for confidentiality reasons. His lawyers have repeatedly claimed that he has not been getting proper treatment and that his health problems have been underestimated. The Tribunal has repeatedly declined requests for him to be hospitalised. Mr. Mladic was convicted in June this year of the genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica and was sentenced to life imprisonment, but it has not yet been established where he will serve his sentence.


Kosovo: State Court Upholds MP’s Jail Sentence For Ethnic Hatred

On 24 August, the Kosovo Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the verdict from 2019 that convicted Kosovo’s MP and former minister Ivan Todosijevic for ethnic, racial, or religious intolerance regarding his comments about the January 1999 massacre of 45 Kosovo Albanians in the village of Racak, was made public. The Court of Appeal previously rendered the decision on 24 June 2021. Mr. Todosijevic claimed that the massacre had been staged.  The Court of Appeals found that “the defence claim that the facts were wrongly determined is unfounded” and that Todosijevic’s comments “could incite hatred, division, intolerance between ethnic groups in Kosovo” and went too far to be acceptable under laws guaranteeing freedom of expression. Serbia protested after the Court of Appeals confirmed a two-year prison sentence for Mr. Todosijevic.

Mr. Todosijevic made his statemens on the fabrication of the Racak massacre at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.


Bosnia And Herzegovina: Bosnian Serb Ex-Serviceman Tried For Killing Civilian Prisoners

On 25 August, the trial of Goran Viskovic for crimes against humanity in the Vlasenica and Milici areas in 1992 and 1993 opened before the Bosnian state court in Sarajevo. Mr. Viskovic, alias Vjetar (Wind), a wartime member of the Bosnian Serb Army military police, was indicted for having participated in the persecution, murders, and illegal detentions of non-Serb civilians between April 1992 and the end of 1993. The prosecution announced that Mr. Viskovic participated in illegally depriving Bosniak civilians of their liberty, taking them to the Vlasenica Public Security Station, the municipal court and the Susica prison facility, and committing other inhumane acts with the intention of inflicting serious physical or psychological injury. Prosecutor Dzevad Muratbegovic said that Mr. Viskovic participated in the murders of eight Bosniak detainees after they had been taken from a hangar at the Susica detention camp near Vlasenica. According to the charges, he committed torture by making them do forced labour and by making them hit each other. He is also accused of participating in the mistreatment of Bosniak women. Mr. Viskovic is further charged with threatening to kill a man by putting a gun into his mouth and forcing some beaten Bosniak prisoners to clean up their own blood after he tortured them. He is already serving an 18-year sentence for crimes against non-Serbs in the Vlasenica municipality, including two rapes, after being convicted in a previous trial in 2011. The next hearing is scheduled for 3 September 2021.


Brazil: Supreme Court Set To Hand Down Landmark Ruling On Indigenous Land Rights

On 25 August, it was reported that thousands of Brazil Indigenous people have set up a protest camp outside of the Supreme Court in anticipation of an expected landmark ruling on whether they can reclaim lost ancestral lands. The Supreme Court of Brazil, with its seat in Brasilia, is set to rule on whether to recognise Indigenous rights to occupied land prior to 1988 when Brazil’s constitution was ratified, a legal cut-off date sought by Brazilian state governments that are seeking to limit Indigenous claims. Indigenous peoples and rights groups argue that applying the 1988 date erases Indigenous claims across Brazil dating back to the 1950s when they were forced away from their lands by tobacco farms, miners and logging operations. The case arises from a claim by the Xokleng people of Southern Brazil against the state of Santa Catarina. The Xokleng claimed that the state government applied an overly narrow interpretation of Indigenous rights by only recognising tribal lands occupied in 1988. A ruling in favour of the Xokleng could reopen some 800 other claims and lead to the return of lands to Indigenous people.


Germany: Two Syrian Nationals Convicted Of War Crimes In Overseeing And Filming An Execution

On 26 August, Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf convicted a 43-year-old Syrian national of war crimes, terrorism and murder with a life-long sentence as well as a 36-year-old Syrian national of aiding and abetting war crimes with a nine-year long sentence. The 43-year-old defendant was a member of the Al Nursa Front, an Islamic terrorist group, during the Syrian Civil War. He had overseen the shooting of a first lieutenant on the banks of the Euphrates in 2011. The 36-year-old defendant had transported the victim to the place of execution and filmed his execution with the aim of using the footage as propaganda. The 36-year-old defendant claims to have been a neural member of the press. He had previously fled to Germany and was arrested on 13 July 2020 in Essen. The 43-year-old defendant was also arrested on the same day in Saxony-Anhalt, while his brother, also a member of the shooting and execution squad, is jailed in The Netherlands.


ICC: The 36th Witness Called By The Prosecution In The Al Hassan Trial

On 26 August, the Prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC) called on its 36th witness, P-1086, in the trial against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz. The trial was adjourned on 27 August 2021 and will resume on 31 August with the testimony of the 37th witness. The witness P-1086 testified under protective measures about the armed groups in Timbuktu, Mr. Al Hassan’s alleged membership in the armed groups and the Islamic Police as well as the rules allegedly applied by the armed groups in Timbuktu.  Mr. Al Hassan is an alleged member of Ansar Dine and de facto chief of Islamic police alleged to have been involved in the work of the Islamic court in Timbuktu. He is charged for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Timbuktu, Mali, in the context of a widespread and systematic attack by armed groups Ansar Dine/Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb against the civilian population of Timbuktu and its region, between 1 April 2012 and 28 January 2013. He was also charged with war crimes in that same period.


ICC: Appeals Chamber Rejects Abd Al Rahmans Appeal And Confirms Pre-Trial Chamber IIs Decision On The Review of Detention

On 27 August, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected Abd Al Rahman’s appeal and confirmed Pre-Trial Chamber II’s Decision on the Review of Detention. The Appeals Chamber considered that the hearing under rule 118(3) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence is intended to be a hearing on the circumstances justifying continued detention in article 58(1) of the Rome Statute. This interpretation is consistent with the practice in the chambers of this Court. The Appeals Chamber also finds that this interpretation of the text is in accordance with the intention of its drafters in designating an annual hearing to strike a compromise about the scope of the right to a hearing on interim release. While the Appeals Chamber found in the present case that the Pre-Trial Chamber erred, it also found that the error has no material effect on the Impugned Decision. Therefore, the Appeals Chamber found it appropriate to confirm the Impugned Decision rendered on 5 July 2021.



UN: ‘Lifesaving’ Protection For Children In Conflict Must Be Central To Pandemic Recovery

On 23 August, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, presented her annual report to the UN General Assembly for the period of August 2020 to July 2021. She recalls that the protection of children caught up in war must be at the heart of the international agenda, including COVID-19 response. The report identifies worrying trends, with the most prevalent being children recruitment in combat functions, killing, maiming and denial of humanitarian access. In 2020 only, the UN verified some 26,425 violations against more than 19,379 children. Ms. Gamba calls Members States to “adopt and implement legislation criminalising all violations against children as well as enhancing accountability to end cultures of impunity and ultimately, prevent the future occurrence of such crimes”. Overall, 8.521 children were recruited or used by Parties to conflict, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Syria, and Myanmar. Meanwhile, some 8,400 youngsters were killed or maimed, with Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia remaining the deadliest conflicts for children. According to the report, the ongoing killing and maiming of children by landmines, IEDs and others explosive weapons and remnants of war, remains a severe threat. Ms. Gamba further urged “Member States [to] sign and implement existing international legal instruments pertaining to these weapons and promote mine clearance and mine risk education”. Ms. Gamba’s continuous engagement with Parties to the conflict has resulted in at least 35 new commitments signed or adopted by warring Parties last year alone. She concluded by saying that “[t]he 25th anniversary of the children and armed conflict mandate must be seen as an opportunity for Member States to […] translate their promises into action, […]”.



UNSC: No End to Yemen Civil War On The Horizon

As of 23 August, no progress has been made by Parties to the Yemeni conflict, which is now in its seventh year. Yemen is currently involved in a non-international armed conflict with Houthi rebels and al-Qaeda on its territory and, upon request of President Hadi, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been intervening in the conflict since 2015. On 23 August, the Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, Mohamed Khaled Khiari briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC), stressing that “[i]t is imperative to resume an inclusive, Yemeni-led political process to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict”. Mr. Khiari said that the Houthis continue to make the opening of the Hudaydah ports and Sana’a airport, as well as the ending of “aggression and occupation” conditions of their renewed participation in the peace process. He urged on “the Government of Yemen to urgently allow the entry of all essential commercial supplies and pressed all Parties to prioritise the needs of the people and to abstain from “weaponizing the economy”. Negotiations facilitated by Saudi Arabia on the Riyadh agreement have yet to resume, while military activities continue to ebb and flow, with sporadic fights observed in Al Jawf and Taiz. In al Bayda, gains made by Yemeni forces were reversed by the Houthis who moved towards the borders between Ma’rib and Shabwa governates, threatening the main arterial routes. Mr. Khiari called on all Parties to “completely and immediately” cease such attempts to achieve territorial gains by force. On the economic front, the Southern Transitional Council has threatened to enforce an independent local exchange rate in Aden and other areas under their control in southern Yemen, which is further complicating efforts to foster a cohesive economic recovery. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) added that in the country, “one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, including malnutrition and vaccine-preventable disease”. Her concerns have been echoed by Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, warning that five million people are one step away from succumbing to famine and the diseases that go with it, while 10 million more are right behind them.




UNESCO: International Day For The Remembrance Of The Slave Trade And Its Abolition

23 August marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, which is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of everyone. Ignorance or concealment of major historical events constitute an obstacle to mutual understanding, reconciliation, and cooperation among peoples. In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project “The Slave Route”, this Day should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods, and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.  The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, emphasised in a speech given at this occasion that “[o]n 23 August this year, we honour the memory of men and women who […] revolted and paved the way for the end of slavery and dehumanisation […] and that of all the other victims of the slave trade and slavery, for whom they stand. […] Once and for all, it is time to abolish human exploitation and to recognise the equal and unconditional dignity of each and every individual on Earth”. In a tweet, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, noted that the transatlantic slave trade ended more than 200 years ago, but sadly we continue to live in its shadows of racial injustice. He further underscored that we urgently need to fight racism, dismantle racist structures, and reform racist institutions. On 23 August, it was also announced that the newly created Special Committee on Decolonisation will hold the 2021 Caribbean Regional Seminar in the parish of Saint John, Dominica, from 25 to 27 August 2021, within the framework of the start of the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2021-2030).




Israel & Palestine: Israel Bombs Hamas Sites In Gaza Over Fire Balloons While Humanitarian Aid Is Still Delayed Over Terrorist Threat

On 24 August, Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas sites in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the Palestinian enclave that caused brush fires in southern Israel. According to Israeli military, there were no immediate reports of casualties, and the air strikes targeted what was identified as a weapons production facility and a rocket launch site belonging to Hamas. Since an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire halted 11-day of Israel-Hamas fighting in May, Gaza militants have sporadically sent balloons carrying incendiary material into Israel territory aimed at pressing Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza, which is still under Israeli embargo, and to allow humanitarian aid to reach the occupied Palestinian territory. Despite an Israeli announcement last week of a resumption of Qatari aid to Gaza, cross-border violence has spiked in recent days. Confronting Gaza protesters, Israeli troops shot and wounded 41 Palestinians, critically injuring two of them, while Palestinian gunfire seriously wounded an Israeli soldier. More than 250 Palestinians and 13 Israeli were killed during the 11-day war in May. On 20 August, after having blocked the payments over risk of terrorist financing, Israeli Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, said that under the new agreement, funds would be transferred by the UN directly to the bank accounts of Gaza families, and that Israel would maintain oversight over the list of recipients. Payments are expected to begin in the coming week. Three months after Israeli airstrikes stroke residential areas of the occupied Palestinian territories, reconstruction is still to begin. The 11-day war had a devastating impact on the economy of the Palestinian enclave. Roads, hospitals and homes have been destroyed and local authorities are depending on foreign aid to support affected persons.


Poland: Warsaw Closes Off Eastern Border to Asylum Seekers

On 24 August, it was reported that Poland has recoded more than four thousand illegal crossing this year and has become a new European Union (EU) destination for asylum seekers. In response, Poland has started to build a barbed-wire fence, deployed soldiers at the border, temporarily legalised pushbacks, and is planning on changing the legislation. Most of the migrants come from Iraq and Syria as well as Afghanistan and all are stuck at Polish-Belarussian border which is guarded on both sides by the armed forces. As recalled by Marcin Sośniak from the Polish Ombudsman Office, not allowing asylum seekers to claim international protection in Poland is unlawful. He further expressed worries about the announced but not yet introduced legal changes that could criminalise illegal border crossing and make it harder for those who cross illegally to apply for asylum. He further added, that “[s]uch a change will, in the opinion of the Ombudsman, be absolutely contrary to the Geneva Convention on refugees”. On the other side, Bartosz Grodecki, Undersecretary of State for the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration in Poland, emphasized the importance of border protection in a European context, saying that Poland is “planning to improve certain procedures that will speed up the processing of refugee applications […]. As a [EU] Member State, we are obliged to fulfil our community obligations, i.e. to protect the State border of both Poland and the external border of the community.” The illegal practice of pushbacks has spread among EU member States, sometimes backed by bilateral agreements with third States, or simply benefiting from the lack of monitoring mechanism. As a result, the number of migrants stranded at the border with limited access to aid is expected to rise. Still reeling from a 2015 immigration crisis, largely triggered by the wars in Syria and Libya, but mainly aggravated by EU Member States’ incapacity to implement the fundamental EU principle of solidarity, several European leaders have expressed fears of another massive influx of refugees, this time from Afghanistan. On 21 August, at the occasion of the visit of the reception centre for evacuees established by Spain’s government near Madrid, statement of Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission further shed a light on EU Members’ difficulty to speak in one voice, making it clear that it was a moral duty to aid those fleeing the Taliban and that offering “legal and safe routes globally, organised by us, the international community, for those who need protection” must be a priority of the G7 meeting on the Afghanistan crisis.


G7 & OHCHR: International Response To The Ongoing Crisis In Afghanistan

On 24 August, the Group of Seven leaders (G7) met under the United Kingdom’s presidency to discuss the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan and coordinate international action. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, represented the EU at the virtual meeting. The first issue discussed was the safe evacuation of the coalition’s citizens, Afghan staff, and their families. Charles Michel declared that the “EU and its Member States spare no effort to evacuate EU citizens, and those who have partnered trustfully with us”. Regarding humanitarian aid and migration, President Michel assured that the EU will do its part to support the safety and proper living conditions of Afghans who flee their country, and will work with the regional countries (i.e., Iran, Pakistan, and central Asia) to address the different needs. He also stressed the importance of preventing the creation of a new market for smugglers and human traffickers, underlining the EU’s determination to keep the migratory flows under control and its borders protected. At the same occasion, G7 leaders issued a joint statement on the country’s situation expressing their grave concern about the situation in Afghanistan, reaffirming their enduring commitment to provide humanitarian support, as well as their engagement in the fight against terrorism. Echoing the EU’s position, G7 leaders declared that the “legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan”.

Also on 24 August, the Human Rights Council (HRC) opened its morning session on “the serious human rights concerns and situation in Afghanistan”, in which the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Council to establish a dedicated mechanism to closely monitor the evolving human rights situation in Afghanistan. Michelle Bachelet stated that there were credible reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses taking place in many areas under the effective Taliban control (e.g. summary executions of civilians, restrictions on women’s rights, including their right to move freely and girls’ right to attend schools, and recruitment of child soldiers). In the afternoon session, the HRC adopted a resolution upon strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in Afghanistan, further stressed the need for transparent and prompt investigation into reports of all violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict and urged to hold those responsible to account.





Syria: Increased Violence Prompts Largest Civilian Displacements In A Year

On 24 August, it was reported that progress towards resolving Syria’s decade-long conflict has reached an impasse. Drawing attention to significant troop deployments, heavy shelling and ground clashes in Syria’s south-west, Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy for Syria, told the UN Security Council that both a “credible process” and a “more sustained international cooperation” are needed. The UN Special Envoy said that tensions also remain high in the north-west of the country, notably in Idlib, northern Latakia and Aleppo, as well as western Hama. Airstrikes and shelling have intensified in recent months, and the north-eastern areas of Raqqa and Hassakeh have seen violence involving non-State-armed groups. “These developments remind us that the conflict in Syria is far from over”, said Mr. Pederson. On the political front, Mr. Pederson said his Office is working to facilitate the convening of a sixth session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee and that the “UN will do its utmost to facilitate implementation of all aspects of resolution 2585 (2021), which extends authorisation of Bab al-Hawa border crossing and sends a message that key States – notably the Russian Federation and the U.S. – can cooperate beyond the humanitarian track.” Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, further added that all combined, ongoing conflict, economic crisis, water storage and COVID-19 are driving humanitarian needs to their highest levels since the start of the conflict. Extreme vulnerability and aid dependence of the 59,000 residents of the al Hol camp, with one in five under the age of five, result in an increased risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. According to the UN Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), families are increasingly resorting to early marriage as a means to provide for their daughters. Economically, job loss and high prices are impacting food security. In addition, the water crisis leads over five million to rely on the Euphrates rivers for drinking water and electricity, as do hospital and irrigation networks. Adding to the equation, COVID-19 transmission is on the rise.


UNESCAP: COVID, Natural Hazards And Climate Crisis In Asia And The Pacific Expand ‘Riskscape’ In The Region

On 25 August, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) released the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021, which described how countries in the region have been hit by multiple biological and natural disasters, such as cyclones, landslides, heat waves and volcanic eruptions while dealing with the pandemic. How climate change has continued to warm the world is also exacerbating many of these disasters with the report further arguing that the capacity of disaster management and public health systems to respond to this “expanded risk environment” will determine the recovery path for COVID-19 and beyond. The report was released at the seventh session of the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction held on 25 August, where UN representatives serving throughout Asia and the Pacific met and called on to intensify efforts to prepare for and tackle these complex, overlapping crises and increase the resilience of people as well as economies. The triple threat of disease, disaster and climate change is causing not only considerable human hardship but also significant economic losses. Currently, the annual average disaster-related losses are $780 billion. This could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario. Choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective at an annual cost of $270 billion. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, ESCAP chief stated that despite progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection, which have led to far fewer people deaths resulting from natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade, with one triggering another.



UNHCR: Solutions Must Be Found For People Displaced From Sudan And South Sudan

On 25 August, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) following his three day visit to Sudan and South Sudan stated that it is crucial to find solutions based on peace and development to ensure the future of seven million forcibly displaced people in the two countries. After the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan signed the Revitalized Peace Agreement in 2018, close to 300,000 South Sudanese refugees spontaneously returned, with over one million more displaced inside the country also going back to their homes. Nicholas Haysom, Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, warned that the pervasive insecurity, particularly inter-communal violence, has continued to obstruct realisation of durable and sustainable peace. Nearly three years later, many of the requirements of the Revitalized Agreement have not been met. UNHCR urged that continued support is needed for the initiative that aims at finding lasting solution for refugees, IDPs, returnees and host communities through reform, political transformation, security, development, and national reconciliation. He further stated that this initiative is a unique opportunity to place the respective governments and displaced people at the centre of planning for the future and so, it will require concerted efforts to ensure their sustained stability and security.


Haiti: WFP Boosts Up Its Support Amid The Damage And Misery Compounded By The Quake

On 26 August, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it is stepping up its ongoing effort to support Haitians who are now facing destroyed homes, lost livelihoods, and no access to food in the wake of earthquake that occurred on 14 August. The earthquake in Haiti that struck the southwest of the country and was followed by a tropical storm just two days later, killed more than 2200 people and over 12000 were injured in a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. It’s estimated that more than 130,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. On 24 August, the UN and its partners launched an appeal for $187.3 million to provide shelter, water and sanitation, emergency healthcare, food, protection and early recovery assistance to roughly half a million people. WFP has stepped up its assistance in the region and plans to provide support to 215,000 people in urgent need of food assistance in the Sud, Grand’Anse and Nippes departments, the most affected areas. Before the disaster struck, WFP was providing food and cash assistance in the south of Haiti. WFP has reached 48,000 people in the affected areas since 14 August and distributed over 15,000 hot meals, mostly in hospitals, to patients, their families, and medical staff. Bruno Lemarquis, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, added that funding is also needed to assist people displaced by a steep rise in gang violence in the capital since June. Roughly one-third of the population in the greater metropolitan area has been affected. Overall, some 20,000 people are displaced, and 7,000 are living in camps and the UN is working with the Government to try to relocate the displaced people.




UNHCR: Largest Private Sector Contribution For Afghanistan Crisis Received

On 26 August, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomed the announcement of a 30 million DKK (US$4.7 million) contribution from the LEGO Foundation and KIRKBI, the owners of the LEGO Group, to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. This donation which has been the largest single contribution by the private sector towards UNHCR’s Afghanistan 2021 supplementary appeal will be helpful in meeting the growing needs of those who have been internally displaced by the conflict, including vulnerable children. The agency is deeply worried about the present situation and future prospects of Afghan children growing up amid this crisis with an estimated 60 per cent of people displaced since May 2021 under the age of 18. Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Director for Asia & the Pacific stated that the role of the private sector is crucial to supporting refugees and that this support is even more vital when it comes to an emergency response and exemplifies the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugee. This donation from the LEGO Foundation and KIRKBI is part of a larger grant of 100 million DKK (US$15.7 million), which will be distributed to UNHCR and other organizations to support vulnerable children in Afghanistan and Haiti. The LEGO Foundation has been a strong supporter of the refugee cause, especially refugee children. In December 2019, at the Global Refugee Forum, the LEGO Foundation announced a US$100 million grant for play-based learning through PlayMatters, an initiative to strengthen resilience and develop the social, emotional, cognitive, physical and creative skills of young refugees. Earlier this year, the LEGO Foundation and UNHCR also announced a new partnership to ensure that refugee children in Ethiopia are learning through play during COVID-19.



UNSC: Catastrophe ‘Unfolding Before Our Eyes’ In Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

On 26 August, UN Secretary-General, regarding the situation in Tigray, warned that a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding and the unity and stability of Ethiopia are at stake, calling for an immediate ceasefire and the launch of national political dialogue. The military confrontation that started 10 months ago in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is spreading with political, economic, and humanitarian implications for the country and the broader region. The Government’s 28 June declaration of a unilateral ceasefire and withdrawal of the National Defence Forces from Mekelle have not led to a comprehensive ceasefire. Beyond Tigray, the conflict in Afar and Amhara has displaced reportedly 300,000 more people. The UN Secretary-General further stated that the fighting has drained one billion dollars from Ethiopia’s coffers while also noting that debt is mounting. With credit access drying up, inflation is on the rise and the country is suffering from the fifth-highest incidence of COVID-19 cases on the continent. The human price of the war is “mounting by the day”, as more than two million people have been displaced and millions more are in immediate need of food, water, shelter and health care, as the Secretary-General stated.  Because of the ongoing catastrophe, at least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions, with the UNICEF warning that 100,000 face severe acute malnutrition. While the organization and its partners have mobilized to reach five million people with food, the response is “severely” constrained by insecurity, delays and a host of arbitrary restrictions on the work of humanitarian agencies.  Overland access into Tigray now depends on a single route, through Afar, which involves passing through numerous checkpoints and at the same time, although agencies require roughly 100 trucks worth of assistance to reach Mekelle every day, no trucks have arrived for over a week. Against this backdrop, the Secretary-General repeated his call on parties to immediately end hostilities, without preconditions, and to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.


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