2018 Single-Deadliest Year For Afghan Civilians, UN Reports

Civilian deaths increased by 11 percent, as a string of bombings and suicide attacks annihilated a country already in the midst of war.

In a report released Sunday by the U.N., more civilians were killed in the Afghan war in 2018 than during any other year on record after nearly two decades of fighting.

RELATED: UN Report: 2,798 Afghan Civilians Killed in 2018, Up 39%

U.N. officials said that, despite peace talks progressing, the war in Afghanistan killed almost 4,000 civilians in 2018, including a record number of children, making it the single deadliest year for Afghan civilians since the United Nations began documenting casualties a decade ago.

The report suggested that Islamic militant groups were responsible for almost two-thirds of civilian casualties — 63 percent, to insurgent groups, primarily the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Afghan and American forces were responsible for 24 percent; 14 percent by Afghan national security forces, six percent by American forces and four percent by government-backed armed groups. 

AFP reports that civilian deaths jumped by 11 percent from 2017 with 3,804 people killed and another 7,189 wounded, according to the UN figures, as suicide attacks and bombings decimated the already war-torn country.

The report was released as the next round of peace talks between U.S. and Taliban negotiators, are scheduled for Monday in Doha, Qatar, 

In a statement, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, called the figures “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, called the record number of children killed “particularly shocking.”

Tadamichi said it best when he issued a resolution to the horrendous situation, "It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,"  ​​​

  • Published in World

UN Agrees to Support Venezuela's Montevideo Meeting

The UN spokesman said they "support the efforts of the international community that will help find a political solution" to the situation in Venezuela.

The Secretary General of the U.N., Antonio Guterres, Tuesday gave his support to Venezuela, by endorsing a meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay -scheduled for Thursday, which aims to try to promote a peaceful solution to the situation in the South American nation.

RELATED: Cuban Music Icon Silvio Rodriguez Gives Support to Venezuela

The U.N. had earlier this week offered to mediate the meeting - which will involve eight E.U. member states, and also Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay, should the Venezuelan government request it.

The spokesman for Guterres, Stéphane Dujarric, said that Guterres "supports the efforts of the international community that will help find a political solution" to the situation in Venezuela.

According to South American publication, El Periodico, Gutteres announced its support for the dialogue, while maintaining its neutral stance regarding the situation in the Latin American nation, which was brought about when the United States recognized Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s 'self-appointed' interim president.  

Guaido is an opposition lawmaker who declared himself as the 'interim president' of Venezuela on Jan. 23 in violation of the country’s constitution.

Asked about the upcoming meetings in Montevideo, said the Secretary-General supports efforts by the international community that will assist in finding a political solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

Speaking to the Voice of America, Guterres said, "Venezeula must decide the solution, elections are always a possibility." 

He continued, "Our position in the present moment has been to tell the two parties; we are here, we are available to offer our good offices, at your request, so we do not impose ourselves (...) to find a political solution through the negotations that are necssary for that solution to be possible."

When the publication asked Guterres about the possibility of a military intervention, his stance was clear; "I hope that does not happen," he said. "The time for an era of foreign intervention passed long ago."

Guterres was encouraged by last Saturday's peaceful protest, saying "Our strong call is to avoid all forms of violence, that, of course, have no purpose and do not benefit anyone."

  • Published in World

USA Asks to Discuss Venezuela Issue at UN, Despite Opposition

The United States delegation asked the United Nations Security Council to summon a meeting next Saturday on Venezuela, issue that is not considered object of discussion in that organism by members like Russia.

The situation in Venezuela is a domestic problem of that country and does not have to be debated in the Security Council as it is not part of its agenda, told reporters Moscow's permanent representative to the U.N, Vassily Nebenzia.

China also defends the thesis of the non-interference in domestic affairs of United Nations member states. The ambassador of South Africa to the U.N., Jerry Matjila, said it is difficult to find a unified position on that issue in the Security Council.

Any member of the Council can ask for a vote of procedure to block the meeting asked by the United States, for which a minimum of nine votes is needed to summon the meeting.

Besides China, Russia, United States, United Kingdom and France cannot call their vetoes.

Diplomatic sources point to the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, hopes to participate in the meeting asked to be scheduled for Saturday. Washington does not have an ambassador to the U.N. since the departure of Nikki Haley on December 31 last.

This Thursday, the U.N. General Secretary, Antonio Guterres, stressed the urgent need that all relevant actors commit to a political dialogue, inclusive and credible in Venezuela and called to reduce tensions and prevent violence.

The eve, Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro denounced that the United States leads an operation for a coup d'Etat that aims to impose a parallel government in that nation which subordinates to their interests.

Those declarations of the Venezuelan head of State refer to the recognition by the U.S. government of the self-proclaimed head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as 'president in charge', found in contempt by the Supreme Court.

In that way, they pretend to treat as illegitimate the new constitutional period of Maduro, elected by the majority.

Washington accepted a president by non-constitutional ways, rejected Maduro, while announcing the cessation of diplomatic and political bilateral relations.

  • Published in World

UN Stresses Concern over Assassinations of Social Leaders in Colombia

The representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, Alberto Brunori, has urged the Government of Ivan Duque to urgently take measures to halt the increasing number of assassinations of social leaders.

Brunori expressed concern over the rise of crimes against human rights defenders and land claimers in regions of Cauca department, southwestern Colombia.

In the first few days of 2019 there are many dead, most in Cauca, stressed the UN representative alluding to the killing of seven social leaders in the first week of the year.

The Italian political scientist hailed the Government's meeting last Friday in which the Plan of Timely Action was discussed. It envisions a strategy to counter social violence in Colombia. However, he stressed that urgent measures should be taken quickly to put up a system aimed at guaranteeing protection for social leaders.

According to the nation's Ombudsman Office, since the signing of the Peace Agreements two years ago, some 358 Colombian have been murdered for their political beliefs or for being linked to social demands.

Human rights organizations believe the figure is higher, tagging it at over 400, including nearly 100 former fighters of the former guerrilla Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces- People's Army.

On Saturday, Colombia's Attorney General, Nestor Martinez, admitted for the first time there is a pattern of systematic killings of social leaders.

  • Published in World

Palestine to Apply For Full Membership at UN, Says Minister

Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister will apply for Palestine's status as a full member of the United Nations. 

Palestinian Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Riyad Malki announced Wednesday that the occupied country would initiate an application to gain full membership at the United Nations.

RELATED: UN: Palestinians Must Have Control Over Natural Resources

Malki said that he would initiate an application seeking to upgrade Palestine’s status from an observer state to a full member state.

He will submit the application to the U.N. Security Council during an upcoming visit to New York in January.

Malki is scheduled to make his visit to take on the role of Palestine’s position as chair of the Group of 77 developing countries and China for 2019.

To obtain a full member position, Palestine needs the votes of 15 member countries of the U.N. Security Council. But if one of the permanent members of the Security Council, namely, the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and China use their veto power, then the application will be rejected. The veto power can be used by the strongly pro-Israel U.S. administration which moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this year.

Malki will also highlight the increase in illegal expansion of Israel in the occupied West Bank where violent episodes have led to the deaths of four Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers.

Malki will demand that the U.N. Security Council implement Resolution 2334 and ask the International Criminal Court to start an investigation into Israel’s illegal settlement expansion.

The resolution says that the U.N. Secretary-General has to present a progress report on Israeli settlement activities every three months to the Security Council.

  • Published in World

Syria Requests from the UN to Condemn Toxic Gas

Syria has requested from the United Nations Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to condemn the toxic gas attacks launched by terrorist groups against residential areas of Aleppo city on Saturday that left 107 people hurt.

Damascus' condemnation underlines that terrorists launched mortars containing chlorine gas against Khaldieh, Nile and Yameyet Al-Zahraa neighborhoods, mainly affecting women, elderly and children.

Some countries have helped terrorist to get access to chemical substances to be used against the Syrian people, to then accuse the Government of false flag attacks, arranged for media propaganda by intelligence services supporting terrorism, Damascus upholds.

In its message, the Syrian Government demands from the UN Security Council to immediately condemn such terrorist crimes and calls on it to assume its duties of keeping international peace and security.

It also urges the international body to take dissuasive and punitive measures against countries and regimes that support and sponsor terrorism.'

  • Published in World

Climate-heating greenhouse gases at record levels, says UN

The main greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change have all reached record levels, the UN’s meteorology experts have reported.

Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now far above pre-industrial levels, with no sign of a reversal of the upward trend, a World Meteorological Organization report says.

“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5m years ago, when the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said the WMO secretary general, Petteri Taalas.

“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed.”

Levels of CO2 rose to a global average of 405.5 parts per million in the atmosphere in 2017 – almost 50% higher than before the industrial revolution.

Levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about 17% of global warming are now 2.5 times higher than pre-industrial times owing to emissions from cattle, rice paddies and leaks from oil and gas wells.

Nitrous oxide, which also warms the planet and destroys the Earth’s protective ozone layer, is now over 20% higher than pre-industrial levels. About 40% of N2O comes from human activities including soil degradation, fertiliser use and industry.

The WMO also highlighted the discovery of illicit production of CFC-11, a banned chemical that also both warms the planet and destroys ozone. Investigations indicate that at least some of the production is in China.

In October the world’s scientists said global warming of even 1.5C would have severe consequences for humanity. International climate agreements had for two decades set 2C as a limit.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming matters, and so does every part per million of greenhouse gases,” said the WMO deputy secretary general, Elena Manaenkova. “CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and in the oceans for even longer. There is currently no magic wand to remove all the excess CO2 from the atmosphere.”

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia, said she was not surprised by the new record levels of greenhouse gases. “But I am very concerned that all three gases most responsible for climate change are rising upwards unabated. It seems the urgency and extent of the actions needed to address climate change have not sunk in.

“Low-carbon technologies like wind, solar, and electric transport need to become mainstream, with old-fashioned polluting fossils pushed out rapidly.”

Efforts to cut emissions are increasing and on Wednesday the UN’s climate change body published a report on the commitments made in 2018. It found 9,000 cities in 128 countries were taking action, along with 240 states and regions in 40 countries and more than 6,000 businesses in 120 countries.

Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN framework convention on climate change, said: “On one hand, greenhouse gas emissions have yet to peak and countries struggle to maintain the concentrated attention and effort needed for a successful response to climate change. On the other hand, climate action is occurring, it is increasing and there is a will to do more. I highlight this because falling into despair and hopelessness is a danger equal to complacency, none of which we can afford.”

New Statue at UN Recalls Legacy of Nelson Mandela

A statue in tribute to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) recalls today at the Unitesd Nations the legacy of the anti-apartheid fighter, to whom this year the multilateral entity dedicated several events.

The sculpture is now part of the numerous works of art shown in the halls and public spaces of the U.N. general quarters in New York.

Recently unveiled during the high-level segment of the General Assembly, the real-size figure is a present from South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

In its inauguration on September 24, the South African head of State thanked the enthusiasm showed by the international community on occasion of the hundredth anniversary of Mandela.

He also recalled the first negro South African president is revered in his country as founding father of democracy and that his life of sacrifices continues inspiring different generations.

Over 150 speakers from all over the world were gathered on September 24 at the UN for the Peace Summit Nelson Mandela, and due to numerous applications to speak at the event, previous Tuesday there was a second session of this event.

A resolution to declare the period 2019-2028 as the Decade for Peace Nelson Mandela was also approved.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed