Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General Who Redefined UN, Dies At 80

Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Laureate, has died. He was 80. A statement posted on his Twitter account said, Kofi Annan died after a short illness. "It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness," the foundation said in a statement.

News agency Reuters says Kofi Annan died at a hospital in Bern, Switzerland, in the early hours of Saturday.

Kofi Annan was the first black African to take up the role of the world's top diplomat - United Nations Secretary General - serving two terms from 1997 to 2006. He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

He, along with the United Nations, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 "for their work for a better organized and more peaceful world".

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said Kofi Annan was the "guiding force for good".

"In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organisation into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination," he added.

"Today we mourn the loss of a great man, a leader, and a visionary: former @UN Secretary General @KofiAnnan. A life well lived. A life worth celebrating," a United Nations migration body tweeted.

Kofi Annan was married and had three children.

Following is the full text of the statement announcing Kofi Annan's death by his foundation:

It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness. His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days. 

Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law. 

After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to young and old alike. 

Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). 

Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever. 

The family kindly requests privacy at this time of mourning. Arrangements to celebrate his remarkable life will be announced later.

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UN: Authorities Should Allow Lula to Participate in Brazilian Elections, Respect 'Political Rights'

The decision includes Lula's right to participate in media events and debates.

The United Nations' Human Rights Committee has determined that the Brazilian state must “take all necessary measures” to allow Brazilian presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to exercise his full political rights as a candidate in the October presidential elections.

RELATED: US, Brazil Negotiating Use of Alcântara Launch Center

The decision, which includes Lula's right to participate in media events and debates, as well as convene with members of his Workers' Party, comes despite the fact that the former head of state remains imprisoned at Curitiba's federal police station. The U.N. committee also said Lula should not prevented from participating in the elections until all of his legal appeals have been exhausted, per Brazil's Constitution.

Lula has continued to stay in touch with supporters and citizens via regular media releases and letters. On Thursday, he sent a Twitter message warning about threats to the country's sovereignty. 

“Brazil must open its eyes and impede” the senate-president Michel Temer from “handing over the Alcantara missile and rocket launching base to the United States of America," he said.

“An American military base in our territory harms our sovereignty and is a threat to our position of peace and dialogue in the world.” The former head of state and co-founder of the Workers' Party concluded that “We can't go back and become a colony to no one.”

James Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, began his first South American tour last Sunday when he arrived in Brazil. He met with senior officials and defense leaders to discuss, among a host of issues, U.S. participation in the Alcantara military space station. He also spoke at the Escola Superior de Guerra, the country's college for politics, defense and strategy. 

“We want to be your partner, especially if trouble looms,” Mattis told students and others in attendance.

“Our native languages may be different, but four decades of military service have persuaded me that the profession of arms has a language of its own and a way of turning strangers into the family... I want any adversary to know that they are better off to deal with our secretary of state and our diplomats. They do not want to deal with my soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and me."

Shortly after visiting Lula at Curitiba's Federal Police Station, Brazil's former Foreign Minister, Celso Amorim, said Lula is outraged by Temer's submission to the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

"The times when a U.S. representative came to (Brazil) to give orders had passed, but now they are returning. The former president is outraged be the handing over of our sovereignty, which threatens Petrobras and public banks," Amorim said.

Mattis' agenda included visits to defense authorities in Argentina, Chile, and Colombia according to details provided by the Department of Defence.

Ties between the United States and the governments of Brazil and Argentina have improved considerably since the impeachment process against elected president Dilma Rousseff, and the victory of businessman Mauricio Macri in Argentina. 

Since then, Brazil's unelected president Michel Temer has invited the U.S. to use the Alcantara missile and rocket launching base and to conduct joint military exercises in the Amazon, while Argentina's Macri reached an agreement with the U.S. in 2016, allowing the U.S. to build three bases.

Despite his conviction and imprisonment for corruption, events that many legal experts and observers attribute to lawfare and a salacious mainstream media campaign, Lula has topped every 2018 electoral poll conducted by Vox Populi, Ibope, Datafolha, Data Poder 360, Instituto Parana, the National Confederation of Transportation/MDA and Ipsos.

Lula's two terms in office were marked by a slew of social programs, lifting millions of Brazilians out of poverty and removing the country from the United Nations World Hunger Map. He left office with a record approval rating of 83 percent in 2011, according to Datafolha.

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FAO: Almost a Third of the Earth's Soils are Degraded

FAO has noted today that nearly a third of the world's soils are degraded in a world where more than 815 million people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Improving soil health is essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including Zero Hunger and the fight against climate change and its consequences, said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.

Land degradation affects food production, causes hunger and malnutrition, increases food price volatility and forces land abandonment and involuntary migration, he said in a video message to the 21st World Soil Science Congress, which runs until August 17 in Brazil.

Graziano da Silva stressed the importance of sustainable soil management and remarked that it is a resource which acts as a filter for contaminants, preventing them from entering the food chain and reaching water bodies such as rivers, lakes, seas and oceans.

'Let us transform soils into a vehicle of prosperity and peace, and demonstrate their contribution to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,' he underlined.

The FAO report The State of the World's Soil Resources identified ten major threats to soil functions, including erosion, nutrient imbalance, carbon and biodiversity loss, acidification, pollution, salinisation and compaction.

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UN Regrets Argentine Senate's Rejection to Legalize Abortion

UN human rights experts lamented today that the Argentine Senate rejected a bill to decriminalize abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.

A group of special rapporteurs based in Geneva described the decision as a 'missed opportunity' to promote the rights of women in Argentina.

'The Senate vote has not only failed women in Argentina, but also an entire region that generally has very restrictive laws regarding the termination of pregnancy,' they said in a statement.

In this way, they have protected the continuation of an archaic legacy based on a religious doctrine that incorporates harmful stereotypes about the roles of women in the family and in society, which are intrinsically discriminatory and oppressive.

The Argentine Senate did not take advantage of this moment to demonstrate the country's commitment to eliminate discrimination against women in its legislation and promote their sexual and reproductive rights.

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Cuba Insists on Nuke Disarmament

The tragedy caused by the atomic bombs dropped in August 1945 against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should motivate the international community to find an effective path towards nuclear disarmament, the Cuban Movement for Peace stressed on Tuesday.

In an interview with Prensa Latina, the president of the Movement, Silvio Platero, recalled that the United States then carried out bombings without any tactical or strategic reason, because the Second World War had practically ended, with a balance of more than 200 000 dead and a deadly impact on future generations.

The launching of those bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki also gave rise to an unbridled race for obtaining the nuclear weapon by the powers that emerged victorious from the war, he warned.

According to Platero, after 73 years of the crime, the scenario can not be more worrisome, given the existence of 14,000 nuclear weapons, of which 3,200 are ready to be fired.

Just a tiny part of that arsenal in the hands of a few countries would be enough to destroy humanity, hence the urgency to wipe them out, he said.

The activist highlighted the recent visit to Cuba of Cruise for Peace, aboard of which traveled the so-called hibakushas (survivors of the bombing carried out by the United States against Japanese cities).

They were very small when the tragedy occurred, but their testimonies are chilling and ratify the world the importance of eliminating those lethal artifacts, he stated.

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Nikki Haley calls Human Rights Council UN's 'greatest failure' in bid to justify US exit

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has launched another attack on the UN human rights body, calling it a failure for listing such countries as China and Cuba among its members. She had no qualms about Saudi Arabia, though.

Haley was speaking at the Heritage Foundation think tank, explaining the reasons for the US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, which had drawn almost unanimous condemnation, on Wednesday. She singled out Cuba, China and Venezuela as the countries whose presence supposedly tarnishes the council's credibility.

FILE PHOTO Los Angeles, California

 

Pointing at the Council's membership criteria as one of its two major problems, along with its supposed bias against US ally Israel, Haley said that since she took office and up until now "its members included some of the worst human rights violators – the dictatorships of Cuba, China and Venezuela all have seats on the Council."

She took particular aim at Venezuela, slamming the council for inviting the Latin American country's President Nicolas Maduro, who she labelled a "dictator," to address the body in 2015. Haley said it was no wonder Maduro received a standing ovation, as "62 percent of Council members were not democracies."

Accusing the Council of being fixated on Israel, Haley argued that it turns a blind eye to the situation in Venezuela, Cuba and China. She also included Zimbabwe, which is not a member of the HRC.

"[The Human Rights Council] has focused its attention unfairly, and relentlessly on Israel meanwhile it ignored the misery, inflicted by regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe and China."

She ultimately summed up her opinion of the UNHRC by branding it the UN's "greatest failure."

"Judging by how it has fallen short of its promise, the Human Rights Council is the UN's greatest failure. It has taken the idea of human dignity… and it has reduced it to just another instrument of international politics," she said.

Choosing the "undemocratic" UNHRC members to pick on, Haley preferred to step around Saudi Arabia, another major US ally, and its highly problematic record. The ultra-conservative kingdom has been embroiled in the bloodshed in Yemen, leading the three-year bombing campaign that resulted in numerous civilian casualties and prompted human rights activists to call for Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman's arrests for alleged war crimes.

 
© Fayez Nureldine 

In its recent report, Human Rights Watch said that at least 87 "apparently unlawful" raids were conducted by the Saudi-led coalition since the onset of the campaign that claimed about 1,000 civilian lives, destroying homes and civilian infrastructure. Internally, despite loosening some of its decades-old restrictions and allowing women to drive and go to stadiums, Riyadh continues its crackdown on dissent and is not in a hurry to abolish barriers that impede girls and women from making some basic decisions without the prior consent of a male relative.

The US formally announced its decision to quit the UNHRC in June, dismissing the international body as the "protector of human rights abuses and cesspool of political bias" for its criticism of Israel's clampdown on Palestinians. Its seat was taken by Iceland in a landslide vote in July.

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Debate at UN on Objectives of Sustainable Development

The advances and challenges to reach the Sustainable Development Objectives (SDO) center today the political high-level forum summoned by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (Ecosoc).

Thousands of persons will arrive to the UN headquarters in New York to discuss on how to accelerate action to carry out the SDOs, the plan to 'build peaceful and prosperous societies in a healthy planet', announced the UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutierrez.

From July 9 thru 18, will be held this political forum

Under the slogan 'Transformation to sustainable and resilient societies', that will gather participants from all over the world.

As the president of the UN General Assembly in its 72nd session period, Miroslav Lajčák, there is insufficient financing to achieve the SDOs.

In 2015, in this same building of the UN, member States made a group of promises to humanity and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development was made, consisting of 17 objectives, he recalled.

The SDOs requires each year from five to seven billion dollars in global investment and although this figure seems very big, it really represents only seven to 10 percent of the world's Gross Domestic Product of the world and 25 to 40 percent of global annual investment, he said.

That is why, Lajcak summoned to try new ways and mechanisms, from combined financing to the mobilization of domestic resources, besides establishing bigger and improved associations with the private sector.

Also, he reminded that most of the responsibility at the hour of carrying out of SDOs falls upon the UN member states.

The UN high-level forum starting today looks to evaluate the progress of the SDOs and discuss challenges and successes, the ways to invest in sustainable development, share know-how and technologies, and promote collaboration in that sense, according to its organizers.

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Cuba Repeats Support for Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights

Geneva, Jul 3 (Prensa Latina) Cuba today repeated its support for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council, to which it was submitted recently as a show of its commitment to that mechanism, Cuban representative Pablo Berti noted.

When speaking at the 38th Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council, the Cuban diplomat called on all countries to continue to work for the consolidation of the achievements and results of the UPR, which has proved to be effective and useful.

'No one could question its success, although the selectivity and politicization in the treatment of human rights have increasingly become entrenched in the Council's works,' he stressed.

In that regard, the Cuban representative expressed concern about the efforts to undermine the foundational bases of the UPR, and noted that 'achieving more efficiency of the Council cannot be used, under any concept, to eliminate the intergovernmental nature of the review.'

Berti favored taking into consideration the concerns of the States and strictly complying with what was established in the institutional construction package.

'The universality of this mechanism is essential. So is the fair treatment of all members of the United Nations, bringing about an objective and periodic review, in a climate of respect and mutual cooperation,' he stated.

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