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UN Daily News
Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Issue DH/7106

In the headlines:
Syria: UN mediated peace talks to resume on 9

Iraq: UN reports more than 400 civilians killed in

War weary families in Central African Republic face

Senior UN relief official calls for end to

March

dire food situation UN

Lacking basic necessities, Fiji's children 'at risk'


after Cyclone Winston UNICEF

UN warns of imminent humanitarian crisis in


Greece amid disarry in Europe over asylum

Ban says Europe's border restrictions not in line


with international law 'or human decency'

February; cites 'viciousness' of attacks

discrimination against displaced Muslims in


Myanmar

Stand out and stand together, says UN on Zero


Discrimination Day

UN hails launch of 'Day of School Feeding' as vital


to Africa's development efforts

Human rights treaties are 'bedrock of sound

governance,' says top UN official marking 50th


anniversary

Syria: UN mediated peace talks to resume on 9 March


1 March - The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, today
announced that intra-Syrian peace talks he has been mediating in Geneva will resume next
Wednesday, 9 March.
According to a press statement from Mr. de Mistura's Office, while 7 March had initially
been set as the target date, the Special Envoy will now resume the talks two days later,
allowing adequate time to address logistical and practical matters.
Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de
Mistura updates the press on the IntraSyrian Geneva Talks. UN Photo/JeanMarc Ferr (file)

Mr. de Mistura had been mediating the Geneva-based talks, which officially kicked off last
month, but on 3 February called for a pause following differences between Government and
opposition delegations on the priority of humanitarian issues.

The announcement of the resumption of the intra-Syrian talks comes just days after the UN Security Council unanimously
endorsed the joint statement announced last week by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a
nationwide cessation of hostilities, which has been in effect since Saturday, 27 February.
Adopting a new resolution, the Council also demanded that all parties involved in the cessation of hostilities fulfil their
commitments, and urged all Member States, especially ISSG members the Arab League, the European Union, the United
Nations, and 17 countries, including the United States and Russia, who have been seeking a path forward for several months
to use their influence with the parties to ensure fulfilment of those commitments and support efforts to create conditions
for a durable and lasting ceasefire.
The Council also demanded the full and immediate implementation of its resolution 2254 (2015) to facilitate a Syrian-led

For information media not an official record

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and Syrian-owned political transition in order to end the conflict, stressing once again that the nation's people will decide
the future of Syria. That text, unanimously adopted in December, gave the UN an enhanced role in shepherding the
opposing sides to talks for a political transition, endorsing a timetable for a ceasefire, a new constitution and elections.
Today, the statement from Mr. de Mistura's office said that he is looking forward to Syrian participants' engagement in
serious discussions with a view to implementing resolution 2254 (2015).
Earlier today, as part of his official visit to Geneva, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon inaugurated the newly renovated
Russian Salon, at the Palais des Nations, at an event attended by Foreign Minister Lavrov. After the event, Mr. Ban held a
meeting and the two agreed on the importance of urgently moving forward simultaneously on implementing the cessation of
hostilities agreement, providing vital humanitarian assistance to civilians, and returning to political negotiations.

War weary families in Central African Republic face dire food


situation UN
1 March - Three years of conflict and ongoing displacements in the Central African
Republic (CAR) continue to disrupt agriculture and severely constrain people's access to
food, as they struggle with the effects of multiple poor harvests, disrupted markets and
soaring prices for many staple foods, two United Nations agencies warned today.
The country's overall crop production in 2015 remained 54 per cent below the pre-crisis
average, despite a 10 per cent increase from 2014 mostly due to a rise in cassava
In Gordil, Central African Republic, after production, according to the latest Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM),
three years of conflict, for children under- conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food
five, their bodies weakened from
malnutrition, the biggest killers were not Programme (WFP).
bullets but instead malaria, respiratory
infections and diarrhoea. Photo:
OCHA/Gemma Cortes

Cereal harvests continued to decline last year, with production 70 per cent lower than the
pre-crisis average. Overall crop production in 2015 amounted to 838,671 tonnes, around
one million tonnes less than the average before the crisis.

The latest numbers are cause for concern not only because people skip meals and cut portions, but also because they opt for
less nutritious foods that provide far less of the proteins and vitamins they need, said FAO Country Representative JeanAlexandre Scaglia in a press release.
Some 75 per cent of people in CAR depend on agriculture, and with the planting season starting in less than two months,
boosting agriculture now is crucial to revitalizing the economy and to stability in the country, he added.
The situation is dire. Half of the population faces hunger," said Bienvenu Djossa, WFP Country Director in CAR. "It is
crucial that we continue helping the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive. WFP and FAO are
also working together to provide seeds to plant and food to eat during the planting period. This is the time when people need
the maximum help possible as it is also the lean season, when people struggle to have enough food to eat before the next
harvest.

The heavy toll of insecurity


The report's findings further show how three years of insecurity which has led to nearly one million people being uprooted
from their homes is still exerting a heavy toll on the people of the Central African Republic.
As an example, killings and looting brought the number of cattle down to almost half compared to pre-crisis levels, and the
number of goats and sheep shrank by as much as 57 per cent. Damage to infrastructure and insecurity has also limited
fishing activities, resulting in 40 per cent less fish caught in 2015 compared to 2012.
Meanwhile, disrupted markets and the latest escalation of violence in September 2015 saw food prices soar. Prices of
protein-rich groundnut and wheat flour were 74 and 28 per cent higher than their pre-crisis levels, respectively. Prices of
beef in October were almost double; fish was, on average, 70 per cent more expensive than before the crisis.
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This has resulted in people seeing their purchasing power shrink by about one third in 2015, compared with 2012. Sixtyseven per cent of the people surveyed reported that they have less food compared to the previous year.

Response to the Crisis


FAO, WFP and their partners have been working together since the beginning of the unrest to mitigate its negative impacts
on agricultural production and food security.
In 2015, FAO assisted some 170,900 households with seeds and tools, which have yielded about 40,000 tonnes of
agricultural products and directly benefited about 854,500 people. This helped reduce families' dependence on humanitarian
assistance and stabilize their incomes. WFP supported the operation by providing food rations to more than 65,000 farming
families to prevent them from using their remaining seeds for food rather than planting and thus protect their capacity to
produce in future seasons.
In addition to its work with FAO, WFP provided food through various activities including school meals and emergency food
assistance to some 900,000 people.
Other FAO interventions in 2015 included large-scale livestock vaccination campaigns and support to the government's
efforts to rebuild the country's seed supply capacity.
In addition, the Government of CAR has begun a strategic effort to revive the agricultural sector and facilitate the
reintegration of vulnerable people by helping youth and family farms improve their capacity to produce.
In 2016, FAO and WFP, with the help of partners, will support these efforts through longer-term programmes that aim to
save and strengthen livelihoods and build resilience. As part of the joint seeds protection programme, FAO aims to provide
seeds and tools to 95,000 farming families while WFP plans to provide them with food rations.
FAO is appealing for $86 million to support 1.55 million people with inputs to produce crops and keep their livestock
healthy, and strengthen the government's efforts to boost food security. WFP requires $89 million to respond to urgent needs
of 1.4 million people until the end of July in CAR, and in neighbouring countries hosting CAR refugees. To date, about half
of the required funding has been secured.

Lacking basic necessities, Fiji's children 'at risk' after Cyclone


Winston UNICEF
1 March - More than a week after a devastating tropical storm ripped through Fiji, some 40
per cent of the islands' children are at risk, with many living without safe drinking water,
power or a roof over their heads, the United Nations children's agency says.

Filise, 10 (left) and Eremodo 12 (right),


are in the classroom they share at
Somolevu Catholic School, Vuaki Island,
one of many schools in Fiji damaged
during Cyclone Winston.Photo:
UNICEF/UN011419/Sokhin

An estimated 347,000 people, 40 per cent of the country's total population, including
120,000 children, are directly impacted by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the second-strongest
storm to ever make landfall, second only to Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines,
according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).
This is a truly nationwide disaster for Fiji, said UNICEF Pacific Representative Karen
Allen. It is now clear that a staggering 40 per cent of Fiji's children are very much at risk.
The immediate and long-term implications for their health, safety, education and
development are colossal.

Far too many children have lost literally everything their possessions, their home, the family's crops and possibly income,
their school and their community health clinic, she said, stressing that many of these children don't have safe drinking
water, power or a roof over their heads.
Fiji's Ministry of Education has reported that at least 240 schools have also been damaged or destroyed. Many are also being

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used as temporary evacuation centres, sheltering families who have lost their homes.
On Monday, 1,177 schools were able to reopen but hundreds will face further delays due to damage in the last week alone
UNICEF has already supplied 60 temporary classrooms to most-affected schools and many more are on the way.
In addition to supporting affected children to return to school, UNICEF is working closely with the Government and
development partners to ensure that affected children and their families have access to clean, safe drinking water, sanitation,
health and protection.
A 13-year-old Adi from Yaqeta village in the outer Yasawa Islands saw her house collapse. I grabbed my brother and we
run. I was so scared. We run from house to house three times. Now I am heartbroken to see the house where I was born and
raised in, in pieces.
Sadly, Adi's story is a common one, says Ms. Allen. What makes matters worse is that, in times of emergency, a school
is often a child's refuge but so many schools have also been knocked out of commission.

UN warns of imminent humanitarian crisis in Greece amid


disarry in Europe over asylum
1 March - Europe faces an imminent humanitarian crisis, largely of its own making,
following a rapid build-up of people in already over-stretched Greece, the United Nations
refugee agency warned today.
"With governments not working together despite having already reached agreements in a
number of areas, and country after country imposing new border restrictions, inconsistent
practices are causing unnecessary suffering and risk being at variance with EU and
international law standards," Adrian Edwards, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva.
Mr. Edwards added that as of last night, the number of refugees and migrants in Greece in
need of accommodation has soared to 24,000. Around 8,500 people are at Eidomeni, near
the border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

A boy clutches and looks through a chainlink fence, on a rainy day near the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
town of Gevgelija, on the border with
Greece. September 2015 Photo:
UNICEF/UNI196199/Georgiev

"At least 1,500 had spent the previous night in the open. The crowded conditions are leading to shortages of food, shelter,
water and sanitation. Tensions have been building, fuelling violence and playing into the hands of people smugglers," Mr.
Edwards stressed.
The Greek authorities have responded with the military setting up two camps near Eidomeni with a projected capacity of
12,500 and a nearby third site already under construction. UNHCR is supplementing the Greek response effort.
"We have provided rub halls, tents and refugee housing units, other core relief, plus additional staff and specialists,
including protection and technical staff," the spokesperson added.
According to the agency, overall Mediterranean arrivals have slowed over the winter but remain relatively high. Data as of
this morning shows that 131,724 people made the journey during January and February, with 122,637 individuals landing in
Greece. This is approaching the total for the first half of 2015 (147,209). So far, 410 lives have reportedly been lost.
Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR's Regional Refugee Coordinator for the Refugee Crisis in Europe, called for Europe to
implement burden-sharing agreements reached last year, warning there is "no plan B."
"Greece needs a safety valve. It is time for Europe to wake up, either we have a massive orderly relocation from Greece or a
repeat of what we saw last year, more chaos and confusion," he told the briefing in answer to questions on the current
situation on the ground.

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He added that some 55 per cent of refugees from Syria currently arriving in Greece are women and children and many are
from the north where fighting has recently taken place.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has reiterated its overall position that solving Europe's refugees and migrants' situation and preventing
a new crisis in Greece requires a number of clear actions.
Among the most urgent of these when it comes to Greece is the need for better contingency planning, with increased
accommodation capacity and other support.
"The authorities are trying to respond now to prevent a further deterioration of conditions throughout Greece. But, more
resources and better coordination are critical for averting wider suffering and chaos," Mr. Edwards stressed.
UNHCR is continuing to support the response operation and has set up field offices in eight locations and deployed
additional staff including mobile emergency teams who quickly move to wherever the changing situation demands.
However, with increasing border restrictions across the Balkans, the agency says it is concerned that the situation could
escalate into a humanitarian crisis similar to that on the Greek islands last autumn.
UNHCR is urging the Greek authorities with the support of the European Asylum Support Office and EU Member States to
strongly reinforce its capacity to register and process asylum seekers through the national asylum procedure, as well as
through the European relocation scheme.
"Greece cannot manage this situation alone. It remains absolutely vital therefore that the relocation efforts that Europe
agreed to in 2015 are prioritized and implemented. It should concern everyone that despite commitments to relocate 66,400
refugees from Greece, states have so far only pledged 1,539 spaces, and only 325 actual relocations have occurred," Mr.
Edwards detailed.
Increased regular pathways for admission of refugees from countries neighbouring Syria will also help in the overall
management of this situation, UNHCR underlined. More resettlement and humanitarian admission, family reunification,
private sponsorship, and humanitarian and refugee student and work visas all serve to reduce demand for people smuggling,
onward movements, and dangerous boat journeys, the agency added.
UNHCR is convening a conference on this topic in Geneva on 30 March.

Ban says Europe's border restrictions not in line with


international law 'or human decency'
1 March - In Spain this evening, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised
the country's efforts to address some of the most urgent issues on the international
agenda, including the plight of asylum seekers fleeing across the Mediterranean, and the
devastating war in Syria.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left)


addresses a joint press conference with
Jos Manuel Garca Margallo, Minister
for Foreign Affairs of Spain, in Madrid.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider

At a press conference in Madrid alongside Foreign Minister Jos Manuel Garca-Margallo,


the Secretary-General said that so far, the cessation of hostilities endorsed late last week by
the UN Security Council is by and large holding, despite some incidents.

I call on all parties to continue to keep their promises and demonstrate their good faith,
particularly to allow the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to besieged areas, said the UN
chief, noting that some people in those areas have not received aid for months or even
years. Many people may have starved to death, or died from a lack of routine healthcare, he explained.
Expressing his appreciation of the work of the Task Force on the Cessation of Hostilities and the leadership demonstrated by
the members of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) and particularly as co-Chairs, the United States and the
Russian Federation, Mr. Ban called on everyone involved to build on the cessation of hostilities and prepare the groundwork
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for the resumption of talks on 9 March.


Earlier in the day, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, announced that intra-Syrian peace talks he has been
mediating in Geneva will resume next Wednesday.
The announcement of the resumption of the discussions comes just days after the UN Security Council unanimously
endorsed the joint statement announced last week by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign
Minister Sergey Lavrov, as co-chairs of the ISSG Ceasefire Taskforce, on the terms of a nationwide cessation of hostilities,
which has been in effect since Saturday, 27 February. The ISSG is comprised of the Arab League, the European Union, the
United Nations, and 17 countries, including the United States and Russia, who have been seeking a path forward for several
months.
At the press conference in the Spanish capital, Mr. Ban noted that the country is currently serving on the Security Council
and he urge it to continue its constructive role, calling Spain a steadfast contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, and a
strong supporter of conflict prevention and mediation.
As a member of the Friends of Western Sahara, Spain is an integral part of United Nations efforts to resolve that complex
situation. I will be visiting the region in the next few days and I thank the Spanish government for its support of this
mission, stated the Secretary-General.
Turning to the plight of refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing across the Mediterranean, Mr. Ban said that in his talks with the
Foreign Minister, he had expressed concern over the border restrictions that are being imposed along land routes.
These restrictions are not in line with international law or with common human decency. Every asylum seeker has the right
to have his or her application considered individually, underscored the Secretary-General adding that he is grateful for
Spain's support for the principle of responsibility-sharing, and calling on other European countries to act in the same spirit.
This would be a key theme at the Summit on large movements of refugees and migrants, to be held on 19 September in New
York this year. He also noted that The World Humanitarian Summit,to be held in Istanbul on 23-24 May, would be an
opportunity to agree on ways to better protect people, prepare for crises and ensure the funding we need to help all those
caught up in natural and man- made disasters.

Iraq: UN reports more than 400 civilians killed in February;


cites 'viciousness' of attacks
1 March - Acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq claimed the lives of 670
people, including 410 civilians, in February 2016, the United Nations political mission in
that country has reported.
According to figures verified by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI),
260 members of the Iraqi Security Forces and 410 civilians were killed, while 240 security
forces personnel and 1,050 civilians were injured.
Although the overall casualty figures were down from the 849 killed and 1,450 injured in
January, February was marked by the viciousness of some attacks, including suicide
bombers hitting places of worship, a market and a funeral.

Two small children who fled the


escalating violence in Iraq (file photo).
UN Photo/Bikem Ekberzade

This conflict continues to exact a heavy toll on the population, said Jn Kubi, head of UNAMI and Special
Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq.
With civilians accounting for about two-thirds of the overall death toll and most of the injuries in February, he stressed that
civilians should not pay the price in this conflict.
The figures showed that Baghdad Governorate was the worst affected, with 277 killed and 838 injured; Diyala 40 killed and
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43 injured; Ninewa 42 killed and five injured; Kirkuk 29 killed and 28 injured; Salahadin 11 killed and six injured; and
Babil five killed and four injured.

Senior UN relief official calls for end to discrimination against


displaced Muslims in Myanmar
1 March - Many of the Muslims displaced by inter-communal violence in Myanmar are
still prevented from moving freely and often denied access to local hospitals, a senior
United Nations humanitarian official said today, calling for an end to such discriminatory
practices.
More than 100,000 people remain displaced by the ongoing conflict in Kachin and northern
Shan States, while some 120,000 Muslims, mainly Rohingya, and 5,000 ethnic Buddhists
remain displaced following the inter-communal violence of 2012 in Rakhine state, said
OCHA Director of Operations John Ging
John Ging, Director of Operations for the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian visiting Taung Paw IDP camp, in Myebon
Township, Rakhine state, Myanmar.
Affairs (OCHA), as he briefed the media in New York about his recent visit to the southeast Photo: OCHA/P.Peron
Asian country.
Despite an impressive democratic transformation, which is unlocking significant economic growth and development, not
everyone in Myanmar is benefiting in this transition, he said.
In Kachin and northern Shan states, over 100,000 people are living in temporary camps, despite the ceasefire signed last
October, Mr. Ging said. He visited Woi Chyai and Je Yang camps in the non-Government controlled areas, witnessing the
senseless loss of life and human suffering caused by the conflict.
Concerns were raised about the proliferation of landmines. Noting that Myanmar has one of the highest numbers of
landmine casualties in the world, he stressed that much more must be done on the landmine issue.
In Rakhine State, Mr. Ging visited internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Myebon and met people from both Muslim
and Buddhist communities, seeing first-hand the humanitarian conditions in the camps. While acknowledging that the State
Government has made progress in improving the living conditions for some, Mr. Ging expressed shock at seeing so many
temporary shelters in a state of collapse and the appalling sanitation conditions.
It was heart-breaking to see so many children in these dreadful conditions, said Mr. Ging, adding that one mother told him
that her baby, less than a month old, died from lack of oxygen in December after she, as a Rohingya Muslim, was denied
access to treatment at the nearby township hospital.
These do not reflect the values of the people of Myanmar or the historical diversity of the country, he said, warning that
segregation and disenfranchisement are flawed and inhumane policies and history teaches us that they fail every time.
However, people of both communities have not lost hope of returning to their homes and they still want peaceful
coexistence between communities, he said. To make that happen, however, the Government and the international
community must work much harder to create the conditions conducive to return, Mr. Ging concluded.

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Stand out and stand together, says UN on Zero Discrimination


Day
1 March - The United Nations agency leading the worlds HIV/AIDS response today
called on the international community to celebrate individuality, as it observed Zero
Discrimination Day, stressing that embracing diversity brings valuable benefits to all
societies around the world.

Zero Discrimination Day is an


opportunity to join together against
discrimination and celebrate everyones
right to live a full and productive life with
dignity. Source: UNAIDS

The theme of this years Day is Stand Out, and encourages everyone to stand for fair and
just societies. People are being urged to value and embrace diversity and recognize the
diverse set of talents and skills that each person brings talents that enrich society and
strengthen communities.

On Zero Discrimination Day, stand out and stand together for the right to live free from
stigma and discrimination, said Michel Sidib, Executive Director of the Joint UN
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). By celebrating diversity, we can transform the future, he added.
However, discrimination remains widespread gender, nationality, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or religion can all
unfortunately be the basis for some form of discrimination, the agency says. In only four out of 10 countries worldwide do
equal numbers of girls and boys attend secondary school and 75 countries have laws that criminalize same-sex sexual
relations.
When the most marginalized and vulnerable face discrimination and abuse, all of us are diminished, said UN SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-moon in a message for the Day. The United Nations is strongly committed to upholding human rights and
dignity for all, he said.
Discrimination in health-care settings also continues to be widely reported. Imagine a young woman newly diagnosed with
HIV being told by her doctor that she must be sterilized, a sex worker facing violence or abuse from a nurse, a disabled
person denied access to proper advice about their sexual health, a gay man frightened of disclosing his sexuality to medical
staff, a person who injects drugs dying after being refused treatment or a transgender person attempting suicide after being
turned away from a clinic.
Health-care settings should be considered as safe and caring environments, however, such cases are happening too
frequently throughout the world. Any obstacles that inhibit access to health-care facilities, including to testing, treatment and
care services, must be removed. Access to health must be open to everyone. UNAIDS is partnering with the World Health
Organizations Global Health Workforce Alliance to develop a plan for action to end discrimination in health-care settings.

UN hails launch of 'Day of School Feeding' as vital to Africa's


development efforts
1 March - The United Nations joined the African Union today in hailing African countries
on the inaugural "Africa Day of School Feeding," as part of a key strategy to address the
continent's development challenges through home-grown school meal programmes.
Celebrating the launch of the Day, the African Union (AU) and UN World Food
Programme (WFP) highlighted the vital role of school meals in education as the world's
most widely used safety net.
WFP provides daily meals to 219,000
pupils, cooks and teachers in primary
schools under the School Meals
programme in Madagascar. Photo:
WFP/Volana Rarivoson

School meals provide critical social support, encouraging more regular attendance at school
and contributing to children's protection in emergencies. They are also a key long-term
investment in millions of people's futures, in local economies, and in reducing hunger

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across the globe.


Further, when it comes to encouraging girls' access to school, adding just one year of school meals is proven to increase
absolute enrolment by nearly 30 percent, said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
During the 26th AU Summit in January 2016, the Heads of States decided to adopt homegrown school feeding programmes
as a continental strategy to enhance retention and performance of children in schools and to boost income generation and
entrepreneurship in local communities. The decision saw the establishment of 1 March as the 'Africa Day for School
Feeding.'
School feeding programmes are not new to Africa, in fact, some among us became who we are today because of school
meals, said Nkosazana Dlamini, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, adding however that the link with local
food production is a new approach.
The Day focuses on home-grown school meals, where local farmers produce food that is then purchased for use in school
meals, maximizing the benefits for students, farmers and local communities. According to an analysis conducted by WFP,
every dollar spent on a school meals programme can result in a return worth as much as $3 to $9.
More than half the world's children assisted by WFP with school meals live in Africa. In 2014, over 10 million children in
41 African countries benefited from WFP school meals programmes.

Human rights treaties are 'bedrock of sound governance,' says


top UN official marking 50th anniversary
1 March - Marking 50 years since the unanimous adoption of two United Nations human
rights treaties respectively promoting respect for civil and political, and economic, social
and cultural rights a top UN official today said the landmark covenants have helped
extend rights to people crushed by tyranny and discrimination for generations.
The 50th anniversary of the Covenants must be an occasion to reaffirm our commitment to
the 'International Bill of Rights' the great tripod of principle and commitment that is
formed by the two Covenants and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN High UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein addresses
Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told delegates attending the
opening of session of the Human Rights
commemoration at UN headquarters in Geneva.
Council. UN Photo/Pierre Albouy
The UN Human Rights Council convened the special gathering as part of its 31st session, which opened yesterday,
providing an opportunity for high-level delegations to mark the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

'What connects us is much stronger than what divides us'


Half a century ago, the General Assembly unanimously adopted the two great covenants which brought force of law to the
principles laid out in the Universal Declaration, he explained.
Humanity's collective experience of genocide, of devastating warfare, of colonial oppression and financial devastation had
driven home the fact that respect for the human rights of all individuals ensures that nations and peoples can live in peace,
with development that is sustainable and long-lasting, added the High Commissioner.
The Mr. Zeid stressed that perhaps never in the Human Rights Council's decade of history has it been so vital to recall the
transformative power of those fundamental lessons.
Human rights build peace within and among States, he continued. Human rights ensure opportunities and the right to
development for all. What connects us is much stronger than what divides us. People everywhere, have the same hopes and
the same rights. The two great Covenants that we celebrate today commit States to ensure respect for the rights of all their

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people.

Rights the Covenants defend 'are insuperable'


Mr. Zeid said all rights these treaties defend are inseparable, and underlined that the covenants are reflected in many
national constitutions and laws, generating profoundly beneficial change in the lives of millions of people.
They have taught us to respect the growing diversity of our societies, and they have sustained the force of grassroots
activism, by ensuring that individuals and groups around the world can hold their governments to account for respecting and
upholding civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, he said.
Both treaties have high levels of ratification, but 27 Member States have ratified neither and eight States have ratified only
one. I can grasp no valid justification for refraining from ratifying these fundamental treaties, and I hope that all remaining
Member States will proceed to full ratification in the course of this anniversary year, Mr. Zeid insisted.
It is also crucial that the covenants be more widely and effectively implemented. Economic inequalities are deepening, he
warned. When 62 people enjoy the same wealth as 3.8 billion individuals and the wealth of the poorest part of the world's
population is diminishing steadily, we are far from the covenants' vision of freedom from want. Domestic violence is still
not outlawed in one-third of States. Freedom of the press, of belief, of opinion and the right to peaceful assembly are under
acute threat in many countries, and the democratic space is shrinking. Torture and slavery continue to inflict intolerable pain
on far too many people. No valid grounds can justify such practices, including State security, he explained.
These great texts are the bedrock of sound governance. In them lives the world's hope for peace, he declared, concluding
his remarks.

The UN Daily News is prepared at UN Headquarters in New York by the News Services Section
of the News and Media Division, Department of Public Information (DPI)