Weekly News Recap (11-17 October 2021)

International Justice Section



PCA: Hearing Concerning the Detention of Ukrainian Naval Vessels and Servicemen in a Dispute between Ukraine and Russia

On 11 October 2021, a hybrid-format hearing concerning the Russian Federation’s Preliminary Objections in the arbitration instituted by Ukraine against the Russian Federation in respect of a “Dispute Concerning the Detention of Ukrainian Naval Vessels and Servicemen” was held at the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Peace Palace, The Hague. On 11 October 2021, the Russian Federation delivered its first round of oral arguments. On 12 October 2021, Ukraine delivered its first round of oral arguments. On 14 and 15 October, the parties to the dispute presented their second round of oral arguments. The arbitral proceedings were instituted on 1 April 2019 when Ukraine served on the Russian Federation a Notification and Statement of Claim under Annex VII to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).


UN CRC: Countries Bear Cross-Border Responsibility for Harmful Impact of Climate Change

On 11 October 2021, in a historic ruling on the harmful effects of climate change on children’s rights, the UN Child Rights Committee (CRC) has found that a State Party can be held responsible for the negative impact of its carbon emissions on the rights of children both within and outside its territory. The ruling was published after the examination of a petition filed, in 2019, by 16 children from 12 countries against Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Turkey. The children claimed that these five countries, which were historic emitters and had recognised the competence of the Committee to receive petitions, had failed to take necessary preventive measures to protect and fulfil children’s rights to life, health, and culture. The children also argued that the climate crisis is not an abstract future threat and that the 1.1°C increase in global average temperature since pre-industrial times has already caused devastating heat waves, fostering the spread of infectious diseases, forest fires, extreme weather patterns, floods, and sea-level rise. As children, they claimed, they were among the most affected by these life-threatening impacts, both mentally and physically. “Emitting States are responsible for the negative impact of the emissions originating in their territory on the rights of children – even those children who may be located abroad. The collective nature of the causes of climate change must not absolve a State from its individual responsibility,” said Committee member Ann Skelton. “It is a matter of sufficiently proving that there is a causal link between the harm and the States’ acts or omissions,” Skelton added. The CRC ruled that Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey had effective control over the activities that are the sources of emissions that contribute to the reasonably foreseeable harm to children outside their territories. It concluded that a sufficient causal link had been established between the harm alleged by the 16 children and the acts or omissions of the five States for the purposes of establishing jurisdiction and that the children had sufficiently justified that the harm that they had personally suffered was significant.



Burkina Faso: 34 Years after the Assassination Of Anti-Colonialist President Sankara, Trial Opens

On 11 October 2021, nearly thirty-four years since the killing of Burkina Faso’s then President, Thomas Sankara’s trial opened. Fourteen men are accused of complicity in the murder of the charismatic Pan-Africanist. Sankara was shot dead aged 37 by soldiers during a coup on 15 October 1987, which saw his close friend, Blaise Compaoré, come to power. Mr Compaoré, who has repeatedly denied involvement in Sankara’s death, is among the 14 accused but he is currently in exile in Ivory Coast, where he fled after being forced to resign during mass protests in 2014. Sankara remains something of an icon across Africa and radical opposition leader Julius Malema cites him as one of his inspirations. Sankara himself led an austere lifestyle, he reduced his own salary, and that of all public servants. He also banned the use of government chauffeurs and first-class airline tickets. While he was in power, the literacy rate increased from 13% in 1983 to 73% in 1987, and he also oversaw a massive national vaccination campaign. Sankara managed to redistribute land from local chiefs and gave it directly to poor farmers, which led to a huge increase in cotton production. Sankara called for a united Africa to stand against what he called the “neo-colonialism” of institutions, adopting an anti-imperialist foreign policy which challenged the dominance of France. His widow Mariam has accused France of masterminding his assassination. There were fears that the trial could further destabilise Burkina Faso, which is already struggling with frequent attacks by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS. On the contrary, President Roch Marc Kaboré hopes the trial will ease tensions and boost national reconciliation.


ICC: Opening of the Confirmation of Charges of CAR Seleka Rebel

On 12 October 2021, the opening of the confirmation of charges of the Central African Republic Seleka commander Mr Mahamat Said Abdel Kani took place at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The warrant of arrest against Mr Mahamat Said Abdel Kani was issued under seal on 7 January 2019 for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Bangui (CAR) in 2013. Mr Said was surrendered to the ICC on 24 January 2021.  Mr. Said, an alleged leader of the Seleka, a rebel coalition drawn largely from the CAR’s Muslim minority, is accused of running two detention centres during the country’s brutal 2013 civil war. “It is a detention case, and we say the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Mr Said was in the room where it happened. The hole below is the location where many of those unfortunate souls were placed in terrible conditions without toilet, food, or any type of care,” Karim Khan, ICC chief prosecutor said. The ICC is deciding whether 14 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Said, including torture and outrages of personal dignity, should move ahead to trial. Prosecutors stated that Said oversaw a “catalogue of misery” and personally mistreated opponents accused of supporting former leader Francois Bozize. Prisoners were kept with just a bucket for a toilet, tied in stress positions, handcuffed together for weeks, subjected to fake drownings, and had their heads covered with pepper-filled hoods, the court heard.



ECtHR: Dismissal of Civil Action against the Holy See for Alleged Sexual Abuse in Belgium Did Not Violate Convention

On 12 October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in a case J.C. and Others v. Belgium that there had been no violation of the right of access to a court. The case raised the question of the immunity of the Holy See from the jurisdiction of domestic courts. It concerned in particular an action for compensation brought by 24 applicants against the Holy See and against a number of leaders of the Catholic Church of Belgium and Catholic associations, claiming that damage had been caused by the structurally deficient manner in which the State had dealt with the problem of sexual abuse in the Church. As the Belgian courts had found that they did not have jurisdiction in respect of the Holy See, the applicants argued that they had been deprived of access to a court and relied on Article 6 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court found that the dismissal of the proceedings by the Belgian courts in declining jurisdiction to hear the tort case brought by the applicants against the Holy See had not departed from the generally recognised principles of international law in matters of State immunity, and the restriction on the right of access to a court could not therefore be regarded as disproportionate to the legitimate aims pursued.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favor of Ligia Del Carmen Ramos in Honduras

On 12 October 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights adopted Resolution 84/2021, by which it granted precautionary measures to Ligia del Carmen Ramos Zúñiga, in Honduras, after considering that she is in a serious and urgent situation presenting a risk of irreparable harm to her rights. According to the request, the beneficiary, a doctor by profession, a human rights defender and currently a candidate for elective office, is highly recognized in Honduras for denouncing alleged acts of corruption related to the health sector and, more recently, to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. In view of the above, since 2015 she has reportedly been the object of threats and harassment and recently, in 2021, she learned of an alleged plan to assassinate her. Thus, given the lack of protection for her, she allegedly left the country after learning about the plan and, in August 2021, she returned to Honduras, where she has identified various threatening situations. Consequently, the IACHR considered that Ligia del Carmen Ramos Zúñiga is in a serious and urgent situation, since her rights to life and personal integrity are at risk.


ICC: Hearing on the Review of Sentence of Al Mahdi

On 12 October 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Trial Chamber VII heard the parties on the review of sentence in the case Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi. Mr Al Mahdi, an alleged member of Ansar Eddine, a movement associated with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and associated with the work of the Islamic Court of Timbuktu was found guilty as co-perpetrator of the war crime consisting of intentionally directing attacks against religious and historic buildings in Timbuktu, Mali, in June and July 2012. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment. The hearing concerning the potential reduction of sentence of Mr Al Mahdi consisted on an introductory statement by the Presiding Judge and submissions by the Defence, the Prosecutor, the Legal Representative of Victims, the Republic of Mali, the Registrar and Mr Al Mahdi.


KSC: Continuation of Trial on the Case against a BIA Guerrilla Commander

On 13 October 2021, Trial Panel I of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) continued to hear evidence on the case of the Specialist Prosecutor v. Salih Mustafa. Mr Mustafa was commander of a BIA guerrilla unit, which operated within the Llap Operational Zone of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The indictment charges Mustafa on the basis of individual criminal responsibility and superior criminal responsibility with crimes committed by certain KLA members against persons detained at the Zllash detention compound, including arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder. The trial commenced on 15 September 2021 with the opening statements of the Specialist Prosecutor and the Victims’ Counsel and is currently ongoing.


ICJ: Ruling on Maritime Border Dispute between Somalia and Kenya

On 13 October 2021, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled largely in favour of Somalia in its long-running dispute with Kenya over their maritime border. Kenya rejected the ruling before accusing the International Court of Justice of bias. The case concerned a 100,000 sq. km triangle in the Indian Ocean that is thought to be rich in oil and gas. The dispute has been at the heart of a diplomatic row between the two neighbouring countries. For the past four decades, Kenya has said its maritime border runs in a line due east from where the two countries meet at the coast. Somalia, however, argued in court that the sea frontier in the Indian Ocean should follow on in the same direction as their land border. Somalia had also argued that Kenya had violated its sovereignty by operating in its territorial waters and demanded reparations. The judges, however, rejected this argument. The panel of 14 judges sitting in The Hague said that Kenya had not proved that Somalia had previously agreed to its claimed border. Kenya has refused to recognise the ICJ’s jurisdiction. And since the court has no means to enforce its rulings, it is unclear what will happen next. In 2009, both nations agreed in a memorandum of understanding, backed by the UN, to settle the boundary dispute through negotiation. But five years later, Somalia said the talks had failed and it went to the ICJ instead.  Now that Kenya has rejected the ruling, the issue could be escalated to the UN Security Council.




UN HRC: Landmark Decision for Indigenous Rights

On 13 October 2021, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) in its landmark ruling held that Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic commercialisation of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home.” The decision on Paraguay has marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life. Hélène Tigroudja, Committee member stated that for indigenous people their lands are a representation of their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on the family life, tradition, identity of indigenous people and also lead to the disappearance of the community, which dramatically harms the existence of the group as a whole. The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua´e indigenous community, located in the Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay.  The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process that involves the use of banned pesticides. Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. The Committee stated in its decision that after more than 12 years the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period. The investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay of The Committee’s recommendation that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and to make full reparation to the victims. 



ECtHR: Chamber Judgment Concerning Human Rights NGO in Azerbaijan

On 14 October 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found several violations of the Convention in the case of Democracy and Human Rights Resource Centre and Mustafayev v. Azerbaijan, relating to the protection of property, freedom of movement and limitation on the use of restrictions on rights. The case concerned judicial orders against the applicants, a human rights non-governmental organisation and its chairman, pending the investigation into a criminal case brought against several NGOs in 2014 for alleged financial irregularities. The Court found that the restrictions on the applicants’ rights, including freezing of bank accounts and travel bans, had been designed to punish them for their work in the area of human rights and to prevent them from continuing their activities.


IACHR: Costa Rica Referred to the IACtHR

On 15 October 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported about its 6 June referral of a case concerning the arrest of Thomas Scot Cochran in Costa Rica to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case refers to the international responsibility of Costa Rica for the violation of the right to information on consular assistance of Mr. Cochran in the framework of the criminal proceedings against him. Mr. Cochran was arrested at his home in the city of San José on 20 January 2003, and that same day the Extraordinary Criminal Court of San José ordered his preventive detention for six months, a measure that was extended four times. On 17 August 2004, Mr. Cochran was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the crimes of supplying narcotics to minors, manufacture or production of pornography, dissemination of pornography and paid sexual relations with minors. The defense filed a cassation appeal, which was dismissed by the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice on February 28, 2005. Subsequently, the defense filed three appeals for review, which were declared without merit. When referring the case to the IACtHR, the Commission concluded that the State of Costa Rica is responsible for the violation of the right to information on consular assistance enshrined in Articles 7(4) and 8(2) of the American Convention in relation to Article 1(1). At the time of his arrest Mr. Cochran was a citizen of the United States of America and hence had the right to request the consular services of his State of origin.



UNHCR: The Afghanistan Crisis is Worsening with the Coming of Winter

On 12 October 2021, a month since the UN-led $606 million appeal for solidarity for the people of Afghanistan, the UN refugee agency said that only 38 per cent of the funds it needed to fund operations for the next two months had been received. The UN refugee agency warned that funding for emergency aid is urgently needed to help 20 million people there. As of September 2021, the UNHCR operation in Afghanistan is providing food assistance for over 3.8 million people, water for 186,000 drought-affected people, reached 450,000 people with primary and secondary healthcare and provided hygiene promotion and hygiene kits to 150,000 persons. Speaking from Kabul, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said that the agency was trying to establish a logistics hub just outside Afghanistan’s border to distribute aid to the country’s many hundreds of thousands of internally displaced. Mr Baloch explained that Afghanistan’s economy was at “a breaking point” and that this collapse had to be avoided at all costs, particularly as temperatures were now plunging at night with the approach of winter. “Resources are really needed to reach more and more Afghans, I mean, when you talk about half of the population relying on humanitarian assistance; 20 million, that number is rising day by day,” he said. The Agency plan to conduct three airlifts to scale up supplies in the countries. “Consignments will be airlifted to Termez, Uzbekistan, and subsequently trucked through the Hairatan border point into Mazar-i-Sharif. The airlifts will deliver urgently needed humanitarian relief items. The first flight is expected to arrive mid-October.” UN aid officials insist that “the window to assist is narrow” as only five per cent of households have enough to eat every day, and more than half of all children under-five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year. In a joint call for collective and urgent action, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Food Program (WFP), and the UN Secretary-General (UNSG), joined the UNHCR warning that there is no money to pay wages or buy food, medicine, or clean water. Consequently, the WFP said that one million children’s lives are in the balance as deaths from malnutrition loom.


UNSG: Diversity is a “Source of Strength” for Peace-Building Efforts

On 12 October 2021, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG), Antonio Guterres, addressed an open debate on diversity, state-building, and the search for peace, organized by Kenya, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month. During his speech, Mr Guterres emphasised the importance of diversity in building people’s resilience, saying that: “[f]or countries emerging from the horrors of conflict and looking to a better future – indeed for all countries – diversity must not be seen as a threat.  It is a source of strength.” Mr Guterres stressed that “peace is not found in a piece of paper.” The UNSG argued that inclusion is fundamental to rebuild societies in the wake of war and to achieve durable peace. By opening the door to inclusion and participation, “we take a giant step forward in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding,” he said. He further added that “[a]s countries look to build sustainable peace, they need to include and involve all segments of the population in the process of rebuilding communities and sustaining peace.” He then addressed several levers to achieve this goal, including inclusion and participation, notably of women and youth, the promotion of human rights, moving people forward, fighting hate speech, and considering emotions and negotiations rather than engaging in purely technical peace-building processes. Echoing the UNSG discourse on emotions and negotiations, President Kagame of Rwanda underscored how peacebuilding is an ongoing process.  While it will be impossible to prevent all conflicts, their intensity and impact can be minimized by remaining attentive to local needs and expectations. Adding to this constructive debate, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya offered several recommendations for the international community, which included reviewing whether global institutions currently are “fit for purpose” in building a more inclusive world. He also called for governments, the UN, and social media companies to collaborate on combating hate speech and incitement. Finally, the Afghan former leading parliamentarian, Fawzia Koofi, recalled the necessity for the international community to address the situation of Afghan women. As gender equality is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said political processes, structures and working methods must be more responsive to women’s needs.


OHCHR: Governments Need to Stop Denying Torture and Hold Those Accountable

On 12 October 2021, in presenting a report on accountability, Mr Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and inhuman treatment, told the UN General Assembly that “[t]here is a worldwide accountability gap for torture and ill-treatment” with too many countries blaming torture on rogue officials, and denying systemic patterns of torture. He further added that: “torture and ill-treatment are almost always a systemic problem, but scapegoating individuals allows States to deny the existence of structural or systemic patterns and evade their duty to take effective preventative and corrective measures.” The absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment obliges States to prevent, investigate, prosecute and redress any such abuse occurring within their jurisdiction, but governments continue to obstruct true accountability through outright denial and legal and structural barriers. “As a result, the vast majority of those responsible for perpetrating, instigating, consenting or acquiescing to torture or ill-treatment are never held to account,” Melzer said. “This generalized attitude of denial and trivialization not only betrays millions of individual victims and their families but, more generally, profoundly damages the credibility of states’ commitment to the entire international system of human rights protection.” He urged States to take immediate steps – backed by adequate resources — towards ensuring comprehensive implementation and enforcement of the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, in line with their obligation to prevent, investigate, prosecute, punish, and redress such crimes.


Saudi Arabia: Agreement Signed with Russia to Develop Judicial Cooperation

On 12 October 2021, Saudia Arabia and Russia signed in Moscow a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreement to enhance and develop a cooperation between their ministries of justice. The Saudi Minister of Justice thanked the Russian side for the hospitality his delegation received, and for the interest and keenness they experienced in cooperating and investing in bilateral relations and strengthening international justice partnerships with friendly countries. The agreement included exchanging information and expertise between the two parties in the judicial fields, bilateral visits, conducting comprehensive studies on the activities of the judicial authorities in both countries.


UN: Sixth Committee Delegates Argue Whether to Codify Crimes against Humanity Draft Articles into Convention

On 13 October 2021, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Delegates of the legal Committee, which is made up by all the United Nations General Assembly Member States, began its consideration on codifying crimes against humanity into a convention. Delegations generally noted that crimes against humanity constitute a threat to international peace and security and many emphasized that there is a need to prevent such crimes and to ensure that their perpetrators are held accountable. Delegates were divided on the timing and propriety of establishing an international convention based on the related International Law Commission’s draft articles, with some championing fighting impunity with international instruments, while others stressed States’ right to exercise national jurisdiction in such cases, avoiding interference in States’ domestic affairs. The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, pointed out that genocide and war crimes are governed by international conventions.  However, crimes against humanity are not and may be more widespread than genocide and war crimes as they can occur in situations not involving armed conflict. Voicing support for a new convention, she called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to enable an open and frank preparatory debate on the matter.


UNSG: Following Deadly Beirut Clashes, a Call to End Violence in Lebanon

On 14 October 2021, UN General Secretary (UNSG) called for an immediate end to violence in Lebanon following deadly sectarian violence in the capital Beirut, surrounding the ongoing investigation into the August 2020 blasts in the port area. According to media reports, clashes erupted after gunmen fired on hundreds of people heading to a protest against the lead judge in the probe, organized by the militant group Hezbollah, which plays a major role as a political force in Lebanese politics, and its supporters. At least 6 people were killed and more than 30 were injured. There have been nine suspects, who have been reportedly arrested. Stephane Dujarric stated that the UN calls on all concerned to immediately cease acts of violence and to refrain from any provocative actions or inflammatory rhetoric and the Secretary-General reiterates the need for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the explosion at the port of Beirut that took place last year. Joanna Wronecka, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon also issued a statement condemning the violence that occurred on 14 October in Lebanon, further stressing the need for restraint, for maintaining calm and stability, and ensuring the protection of civilians. Noting the “dangerous increase in polarization” around the investigation, Ms Wronecka underscored the utmost responsibility of Lebanon’s leaders to place the interests of the country first at this critical juncture. She also stated that in order to lift the country out of its current crisis and move forward on reforms, the efficient functioning of the state’s executive and judicial institutions is important and now is the time for all sides to support judicial independence in the interest of the people


UN: For De-escalation of Conflict in Yemen, Dialogue and Compromise is The Only Way Forward

On 14 October 2021, Hans Grundberg, UN Special envoy stated that a comprehensive negotiated political settlement is needed in Yemen to end the violence and Yemenis, without exception have stressed the necessity to end the war and have also raised concerns over the systematic erosion of fundamental rights and State institutions as well as a generation of children traumatized by war who lack basic education. He further highlighted that there is an urgent need to stabilize the economy, improve basic services and facilitate free movement both inside the country and across its borders. The UN official upheld that Yemenis also acknowledged that their country cannot be effectively ruled by one group alone and that “a durable peace will require pluralism”, further maintaining that an inclusive political settlement will be “a laborious and complicated task that will take time, but it must take place”. He also lauded the “tireless efforts” of the UN mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement to reactivate the work of the Redeployment Coordination Committee, describing it as “the only viable framework to ensure sustained de-escalation, mitigate the impact of violence on civilians and alleviate the humanitarian situation”. Ramesh Rajasingham, UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator also stated that Yemen is growing more violent and he also painted a grim picture of instability, economic collapse and the dire need for aid. Further noting fighting is wreaking havoc on civilians as humanitarians are running out of funds and will soon have to cut programmes for millions. He also added that agencies are committed to doing their part to help donors maintain their support and that in the coming months, the UN humanitarian office OCHA, would publish an impartial, nationwide needs assessment and evidence-based response plan, covering next year.


UNSC: Colombians Tenaciously Cling to Peace Gains

On 14 October 2021, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, Special Representative and head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, stated that five years after a historic Peace Agreement was reached in Colombia, the process continues to show the benefits of ending the conflict through negotiation and keeping victims at the heart of the discussion, moving forward. Mr Massieu points to the removal of landmines from a conflict zone, and the extension of the Truth Commission, as examples of this success. He further reiterated what the UN Secretary said that this is an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, as well as, on what we are missing, and the renewed commitments to persevere, day by day, to consolidate peace. While briefing the UNSC on Secretary-General’s Quarterly Report he stated that to accomplish these goals, it will depend upon the capacity of all parties to fulfil the commitments they made five years ago and highlighted the leadership capabilities of ex-combatant women and female social leaders. Their “full participation and the application of a gender approach, is a necessary condition for the consolidation of peace.” In the report, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General has underscored some “daunting challenges and risk factors” the country still faces, namely continuing violence in several regions. In the period covered by the report, 26 June to 24 September 2021, the UN has registered the killings of 14 FARC-EP former combatants (all men), bringing the total to 292 (nine women) since the signing of the Agreement. In addition to this, the Office of Hugh Commissioner for Human Rights received information on the killings of 43 human rights defenders, for a total of 158 killed in 2021, while 11 massacres were documented which accounted for some 38 fatalities.


UNSG: Lifesaving Transformation of Food Systems Needed

On 15 October 2021, while commemorating World Food Day, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General (UNSG) pointed out the fact that currently, almost 40 per cent of humanity, some three billion people, can’t afford to eat healthily, and as hunger, undernourishment, and obesity are on the rise, the economic impacts of COVID-19 “have made a bad situation even worse.” He further noted that the pandemic has left an additional 140 million people “unable to access the food they need.” The UN chief also recalled that during the UN Food Systems Summit last month “countries made bold commitments” to make healthy diets more affordable and accessible and to make food systems “more efficient, resilient and sustainable at every step” further stating that the way food is produced, consumed and the waste, is taking a toll on the planet and is also is putting historic pressure on our natural resources, climate and natural environment. Echoing his call Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) stated that in order to build more fair and equitable food systems, the voices of small-scale producers and rural communities needs to be listened to. He further urged that there is a need for broad-based partnerships that ensure small-scale farmers are fairly rewarded for their labour with major priorities being pricing systems that reflect the full and true cost of production and deploying more finance to neglected and vulnerable rural communities. The theme of this year’s World Food Day, “Our actions are our future,” calls on everyone to be a food hero contributing to the transformation of agri-food systems for Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life, leaving no one behind. 




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