South Africa’s Yvonne Chaka Chaka, one of the United Nations Equality Champions promoting the Free & Equal campaign

Yvonne Chaka Chaka for United Nations Free&Equal. Credit: unfe.org

A number of celebrities – leaders in their respective fields with a commitment to the cause of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality – have pledged their support to the Free & Equal campaign by becoming United Nations equality champions. Over the coming months, they will help spread campaign messages and materials through social media. Some may also participate in campaign-related initiatives, including recording public service announcements (PSAs) for television, radio and the web.

Yvonne Chaka Chaka is a renowned South African vocalist, performer, and human rights advocate. Dubbed the “Princess of Africa,” she has been at the forefront of South African popular music for more than two decades. Yvonne was born in Dobsonville, Soweto, and became the first black child to appear on South African television. She started singing at 19 and joined Dephon Records, where she released her debut album, “I’m in Love with a DJ”. Continue reading

Gaza: UN issues emergency appeal, begins airlift to meet urgent humanitarian needs

Palestinian families take shelter at an UNRWA school in Gaza City (13 July 2014). Photo: Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA

Palestinian families take shelter at an UNRWA school in Gaza City (13 July 2014). Photo: Shareef Sarhan/UNRWA

Gaza, 21 July 2014 – The United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees has issued an emergency appeal for $60 million to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, including tens of thousands who have fled their homes in the wake of the current Israeli military offensive.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also noted today the number of displaced people seeking safety in its facilities exceeds 84,000 and may soon reach 100,000.

In response to the growing needs of civilians affected by the latest conflict, aid agencies have mobilized relief supplies from the International Humanitarian City (IHC), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Continue reading

Security Council condemns downing of Malaysian airliner, calls for international probe

The UN Security Council holds a moment of silence in honour of the victims of crashed flight MH17. 18 July 2014. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The UN Security Council holds a moment of silence in honour of the victims of crashed flight MH17. 18 July 2014. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

New York, 21 July 2014 – The Security Council today called for an international investigation into last week’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight in eastern Ukraine, and demanded that armed groups allow unfettered access to the crash site and ensure that its integrity is maintained.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body condemned “in the strongest terms” the downing of flight MH17 on 17 July in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic loss of 298 lives.

It supported efforts to establish “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.

Council members also insisted on the “dignified, respectful and professional” treatment and recovery of the bodies of the victims. Continue reading

Ban urges all parties to rally around efforts to end bloodshed, obtain Israel-Gaza ceasefire

Secretary-General press conference with the Foreign Minister of Egypt, 21 July 2014. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-General press conference with the Foreign Minister of Egypt, 21 July 2014. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

New York, 21 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged all parties to rally around collective international efforts to obtain an end to two weeks of bloodshed in Gaza and Israel and reach a ceasefire, as he continued his visit to the region with a stop in Cairo.

“Palestinians and Israelis deserve freedom – freedom from siege, rockets, missiles, artillery and airstrikes. They deserve a future of hope, peace and justice,” Mr. Ban said during a press encounter with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim.

Mr. Ban is on the third leg of a regional visit aimed at expressing solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians and to help them end the violence. The trip, which began on Sunday, has already taken the United Nations chief to Qatar and Kuwait and will also include stops in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman as part of efforts to encourage a durable ceasefire. Continue reading

Impunity leads perpetrators to continue child rights violations in DR Congo – UN report

Child soldiers guard a road near Bunia, Ituri region, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo: UNICEF/HQ03-0555/LeMoyne

Child soldiers guard a road near Bunia, Ituri region, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Photo: UNICEF/HQ03-0555/LeMoyne

DRC, 21 July 2014 – The recruitment and use of children by armed groups remained endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 2010 and 2013, according to a new United Nations report, which cited impunity as a major factor in the ongoing abuses.

“Impunity has encouraged perpetrators to continue their violations against children,” Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told the Security Council Working Group on children and armed conflict today.

Briefing on the 5th Report on Children and Armed Conflict in DRC, she said there were close to 4,200 cases of recruitment and use of boys and girls by armed groups and the Government armed forces. One third of the cases involved children below the age of 15. Continue reading

UN agency warns of fruit bat risk in West African Ebola epidemic

After being triaged at the emergency room, people presenting Ebola-like symptoms are directed to the Department of Infectious Disease. Conakry, Guinea. Photo: WHO/T. Jasarevic

After being triaged at the emergency room, people presenting Ebola-like symptoms are directed to the Department of Infectious Disease. Conakry, Guinea. Photo: WHO/T. Jasarevic

Rome, 21 July 2014 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is urging increased efforts to improve awareness among rural communities in West Africa about the risks of contracting the Ebola virus from eating certain wildlife species, including fruit bats.

“We are not suggesting that people stop hunting altogether, which isn’t realistic,” said FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth in a statement released by the Rome-based agency today.

“But communities need clear advice on the need not to touch dead animals or to sell or eat the meat of any animal that they find already dead. They should also avoid hunting animals that are sick or behaving strangely, as this is another red flag.” Continue reading

Indigenous peoples cannot be ‘deleted’ from the new global development goals, UN experts state

GENEVA / NEW YORK (21 July 2014) – The new United Nations sustainable development goals must not be a step backwards for indigenous peoples, a group of UN experts* on indigenous peoples has warned today. Their call comes after a meeting held by the open-ended Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals last week in New York to draft a set of goals which will be presented to the UN General Assembly in September. Continue reading

Secretary-General’s remarks at General Assembly on Nelson Mandela

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

New York, 18 July - I am delighted to warmly welcome all of you to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day here at the United Nations.

Our dedication to build on his legacy has brought us together.

As we remember Nelson Mandela, we also mourn the recent passing of one of his allies in the struggle against apartheid: Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. She was a friend of the United Nations who served as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador. Her writing gave life to our common values – and it will continue to inspire people for generations. Continue reading

Secretary-General’s statement on the outbreak of hostilities in Nassir, South Sudan

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

New York, 20 July 2014 - The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by today’s attack by SPLA In Opposition forces under the command of Riek Machar on Nassir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan. This is the first major attack since the Government and Mr. Machar recommitted to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement on 10 June 2014. It undermines ongoing intense regional and international political engagement toward a resumption of political negotiations and a peaceful resolution of the South Sudan conflict.

The Secretary-General calls on Mr. Machar to cease immediately all offensive operations on Nassir and other points, and on the Government of South Sudan to desist from launching a counter-offensive. He reminds them of their obligations under international humanitarian law. Continue reading

Security Council holds emergency meeting on Gaza; Ban meets with Abbas in Qatar

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Qatar, 20 July 2014 – The Security Council today called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, the first leg of a Middle East tour which aims to end the conflict.

Following a late-night closed-door meeting, Ambassador Eugene Richard Gasana of Rwanda, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency for July, told reporters that the Council had a “sober” meeting given the seriousness of the situation.

In elements to the press, Mr. Gasana said the members of the Council called for an immediate ceasefire and respect of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians. Continue reading