News Article | February 23, 2017
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (left) invites his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu for a bilateral meeting at Admiralty House in Sydney, on February 22, 2017 (AFP Photo/JASON REED) Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attacked the United Nations for "one-sided resolutions" against Israel's push to build settlements on occupied land as he welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday on his first official visit to the country. Ahead of the four-day visit, Turnbull wrote a newspaper editorial slamming the United Nations Security Council for a resolution adopted in December that called for an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory. "My government will not support one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel of the kind recently adopted by the U.N Security Council and we deplore the boycott campaigns designed to de-legitimise the Jewish state," Turnbull wrote in The Australian newspaper. Netanyahu welcomed the strong show of support, telling reporters he "was delighted" by the article. "Australia has been courageously willing to puncture U.N. hypocrisy more than once," Netanyahu said at a joint-press conference with Turnbull. "The U.N. is capable of many absurdities and I think it's important that you have straightforward and clear-eyed countries like Australia that often bring it back to earth," he said. Turnbull said he supported direct negotiations towards a two-state solution, but warned that Israel's security needs would have to be met for any peace agreement to take hold. "You cannot expect any Israeli government to put itself in a position where security is at risk, where its citizens are not safe. The first duty of every government is the safety of the people," he said. A group of 60 business leaders, academics, members of the clergy and former politicians signed a letter released Monday saying that Australia should not welcome Netanyahu, claiming his policies "provoke, intimidate and oppress" the Palestinians. "Israel continues to defy all United Nations calls for it to comply with international law in respect of its illegal settlement building, and its treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population," the letter reads. A pro-Palestinian demonstration is planned in Sydney on Thursday. The UN resolution was passed during the final weeks of former US president Barack Obama's administration, which declined to exercise its veto in a rare show of frustration with its longtime ally Israel. Obama strongly opposed the expansion of Jewish settlements, arguing they hurt the search for a two-state solution. Members of Netanyahu's right-wing coalition have seen the election of Donald Trump as the beginning of a new era in which they would be able to freely advance settlement construction. Since Trump's January 20 inauguration, the Israeli premier has announced more than 5,000 settlement homes and the construction of the first entirely new settlement in more than 20 years.
News Article | March 1, 2017
The United Nations Foundation today announced the appointment of Geeta Rao Gupta as Senior Fellow for Gender Equality and Ameerah Haq as Senior Adviser for UN Impact. Kathy Calvin, President & CEO of the UN Foundation, said, “Geeta and Ameerah have been leaders and trailblazers in addressing some of the deepest challenges facing a turbulent world. They model the kind of leadership and integrity that exemplifies the UN at its best. Their experience and depth of knowledge will help guide the work of the UN Foundation in our mission to support the UN.” Geeta Rao Gupta will advise the UN Foundation on issues of gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment. Gupta is an experienced researcher, passionate advocate and program expert on gender and development issues, with more than twenty years of experience leading and managing global organizations at different scales. Gupta was previously Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, where she served as a member of the senior executive team and oversaw UNICEF’s programs, emergency operations and supplies. Prior to that, Gupta was a senior fellow for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, following more than a decade as president of the International Center for Research on Women. At ICRW, Gupta conducted and guided research on diverse topics, ranging from the social and economic factors that affect women’s use of maternal nutrition and health care services to girls’ and women’s vulnerability to HIV – efforts that influenced global programmatic and policy change for girls and women. Ameerah Haq will advise the UN Foundation on issues related to UN strengthening. Haq is a seasoned and skilled negotiator and consensus-builder who served the UN with distinction for four decades, taking on progressively senior management responsibilities in support of complex mission deployments and country transition activities. Haq most recently served as Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, a role she took on after serving as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste and Head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). Haq has previously held the positions of Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General; United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan; and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan. Following her retirement from UN service Haq served as vice chair of then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s High-Level Independent Panel on UN Peace Operations. Gupta and Haq join an eminent group of senior fellows and advisers to the UN Foundation that includes: The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government, and individual donors. Learn more at: http://www.unfoundation.org.
News Article | February 24, 2017
The relentless growth of urban populations is driving city and national governments to increase access to healthcare while tackling the root causes of poor health. According to Oxford Economics [pdf], the world’s largest 750 cities will be home to 2.8 billion people by 2030 – more than a third of the global population. They will account for almost a third of the world’s jobs and more than half its consumer spending. More than a dozen cities will have populations greater than 20 million. Rapid, uncontrolled urbanisation strains many aspects of city life that determine health. Traffic, factories, generators and construction poison the air, meanwhile water supplies can become contaminated, poor housing harms the health of children, and food supply and quality can be compromised. Unplanned urban growth drives poverty. About 900 million people worldwide live in urban slums, where overcrowding encourages the spread of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, dengue fever and cholera. The United Nations estimates that by 2030, roughly 60% of city inhabitants will be under the age of 18, which puts huge numbers of children at risk from illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the leading causes of global childhood death. Health services, particularly in developing countries, are concentrated in cities. As Mark Britnell notes in his study of global healthcare, many developing countries such as China, Indonesia and India suffer from a chronic shortage of health workers. This creates big disparities in care between cities and the countryside; doctors are reluctant to work in rural areas because pay is poor, career choices are limited, hospital facilities are often inadequate and primary care tends to be underdeveloped. Meanwhile, in the cities, hospitals become overcrowded because patients know that is where the best doctors, research and technology are found. The dominance of hospital care in cities often means primary care is neglected, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) [pdf] can lead to unregulated, unsafe and ineffective private services. In some African cities, public primary healthcare has almost disappeared. Britnell highlights some of the efforts being made to bridge the shortfalls. Brazil has announced new medical schools to train thousands of additional doctors, and training is being extended to include two years working in public service posts. This could add up to 36,000 working students to the system by 2021. Compulsory training in public hospitals was inspired by the NHS. In addition, Brazil has recruited at least 10,000 doctors from Cuba to work in the poverty-plagued favelas on the peripheries of cities, as well as in remote areas. The chronic shortage of clinicians is encouraging countries to make better use of volunteers and community workers. India is trying to boost its services in slums through the National Urban Health Mission, which emphasises reproductive health and works with women’s health committees. Toronto [pdf] has been trying to bring together its primary and hospital services to provide joined-up care for patients with several health conditions. This includes individual care plans, one point of contact, and multidisciplinary teams supporting high-risk patients after they have been discharged from hospital. The city’s Ageing at Home programme aims to make it easier for older people to continue to live at home after illness. Toronto also provides impressive support for people living on the streets with mental illness. Its Streets to Homes programme includes incentives for private landlords to offer accommodation. Several thousand people have moved into their own home since 2005, and about 80% of them remain there for at least a year. Yet for many people, access to healthcare depends on the ability to pay, which excludes swathes of the population. Increasingly, countries such as China, Thailand and Indonesia are addressing this problem by pursuing universal healthcare. At present around two in five countries have some form of universal healthcare. Britnell argues that its expansion is being driven by two opposing forces: capitalism and globalisation have grown a middle-class demanding more from governments, while about 1 billion people lack access to basic healthcare and 100 million are impoverished every year through catastrophic healthcare costs. Providing more equal access to health services strengthens social cohesion and promotes economic growth. But while developing countries are increasing the proportion of their wealth spent on healthcare, urban populations are expanding so quickly that it is all but impossible to provide the health infrastructure and staff to keep pace. Faster progress can be made, however, in improving the environment, such as providing cleaner air and water. For this reason, the WHO believes local government – and particularly executive mayors – are central to improving city health. Beijing and Shanghai, for example, have introduced tough anti-smoking laws. In 2013 Mexico City became the first in the world to levy a tax on sugary drinks, which had been a factor in Mexico having among the world’s highest obesity and diabetes rates. Kuwait City has reduced salt content in bread to tackle high blood pressure. London and Paris were among the first cities to attempt to cut traffic pollution and increase exercise by offering free bicycle use. Poor road safety takes many urban lives. Fatal traffic accidents [pdf] cost about 21 lives per 100,000 population annually in Brasilia and 18 in Nairobi, compared with 1.3 in Tokyo. Cutting road deaths depends on many factors – higher population density actually reduces deaths compared with sprawling areas. São Paulo (Brazil), Bogotá (Colombia) and Accra (Ghana) are among cities pursuing safer road design. The health of city populations is becoming a central concern of local and national governments and international institutions. Affordable access to health services is just part of the story. Local government in particular recognises that improving the health of city populations depends on everything from ensuring water quality to designing safe roads and controlling air pollution. But there is a chasm between cities where growth is controlled and those where the relentless quest to find work is creating polluted, overcrowded slums. Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces on issues like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views.
Sawyer C.C.,United Nations
PLoS Medicine | Year: 2012
Introduction: Producing estimates of infant (under age 1 y), child (age 1-4 y), and under-five (under age 5 y) mortality rates disaggregated by sex is complicated by problems with data quality and availability. Interpretation of sex differences requires nuanced analysis: girls have a biological advantage against many causes of death that may be eroded if they are disadvantaged in access to resources. Earlier studies found that girls in some regions were not experiencing the survival advantage expected at given levels of mortality. In this paper I generate new estimates of sex differences for the 1970s to the 2000s. Methods and Findings: Simple fitting methods were applied to male-to-female ratios of infant and under-five mortality rates from vital registration, surveys, and censuses. The sex ratio estimates were used to disaggregate published series of both-sexes mortality rates that were based on a larger number of sources. In many developing countries, I found that sex ratios of mortality have changed in the same direction as historically occurred in developed countries, but typically had a lower degree of female advantage for a given level of mortality. Regional average sex ratios weighted by numbers of births were found to be highly influenced by China and India, the only countries where both infant mortality and overall under-five mortality were estimated to be higher for girls than for boys in the 2000s. For the less developed regions (comprising Africa, Asia excluding Japan, Latin America/Caribbean, and Oceania excluding Australia and New Zealand), on average, boys' under-five mortality in the 2000s was about 2% higher than girls'. A number of countries were found to still experience higher mortality for girls than boys in the 1-4-y age group, with concentrations in southern Asia, northern Africa/western Asia, and western Africa. In the more developed regions (comprising Europe, northern America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), I found that the sex ratio of infant mortality peaked in the 1970s or 1980s and declined thereafter. Conclusions: The methods developed here pinpoint regions and countries where sex differences in mortality merit closer examination to ensure that both sexes are sharing equally in access to health resources. Further study of the distribution of causes of death in different settings will aid the interpretation of differences in survival for boys and girls. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary. © 2012 Cheryl Chriss Sawyer.
News Article | February 25, 2017
"This matter shall be reported to the UN Security Council," presiding judge Theodor Meron added in his ruling, which is seen here in February 2017 (AFP Photo/KENA BETANCUR) United Nations (United States) (AFP) - North Korea is flouting tougher new UN sanctions with more ingenuous tactics, circumventing trade bans by relying on middlemen and front companies, notably in Malaysia and China, a report by UN sanctions experts says. The 100-page report, obtained by AFP, confirmed that North Korea's two nuclear tests and 26 missile launches last year had allowed Pyongyang to reach "technological milestones in weapons of mass destruction capability and all indications are that this pace will continue." The Security Council has adopted two resolutions imposing a raft of new sanctions on North Korea, banning minerals exports and restricting banking, but the panel said implementation by UN member-states "remains insufficient and highly inconsistent." North Korea "is flouting sanctions through trade in prohibited goods, with evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication," said the report sent to the Security Council last week. The sweeping new sanctions were aimed at depriving Kim Jong-Un's regime of hard currency revenue needed to finance weapons programs, which the Security Council has said pose a threat to world security. But the experts concluded that North Korea's "circumvention techniques and inadequate compliancy by member-states are combining to significantly negate the impact of the resolutions." Only 76 out of 192 countries have reported to the United Nations on steps they are taking to uphold the sanctions, which are mandatory. China, Pyongyang's main trading partner and ally, last week suspended all imports of coal from North Korea for the remainder of the year to shore up its compliance with the sanctions resolution. In July last year, an air shipment of North Korean military communications material sent from China was intercepted in an unnamed country, en route to Eritrea, the report said. The items were sold by Glocom, a Malaysia-based front company for North Korea's Pan Systems firm, which the panel said is operated by Pyongyang's intelligence agency. The company has suppliers in China and an office in Singapore. "This case demonstrates the increasingly sophisticated nature of evasion of sanctions by the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea and illustrates important and previously unknown trends," said the report. North Korea "was able to establish a company in a third country, building up significant international recognition, including through participation in prominent regional arms fairs and by selling high-end arms and related material in multiple countries," it said. The panel also investigated Egypt's seizure in August last year of a North Korean vessel, the Jie Shun, carrying 2.3 tonnes of iron ore and 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades. The report did not specify the final destination of the shipment. A bill of lading showed the North Korean-made arms were falsely described as assembly parts for underwater pumps and that it originated from China. North Korean companies and banks on the UN sanctions blacklist are continuing to operate "by using agents who are highly experienced and well-trained in moving money, people and goods, including arms and material, across borders," the report said. North Korean banks have partnered with foreign companies and seek to conceal financial activity by using foreign nationals and entities, it said. Diplomats, missions and trade representatives have been enlisted in the effort to step up sanctions-busting. The panel has notified Uganda that the North Korean military attache in Kampala was trying to clinch military deals in third countries, such as South Sudan. Four North Korean officials under UN sanctions reside in Syria, two others in Iran and two others in Egypt, the panel said, recalling that under UN resolutions they should be expelled.
News Article | February 25, 2017
An explosion hits near a vehicle belonging to Iraq's elite Rapid Response Division on February 25, 2017, during the assault to retake the western half of Mosul, which is still occupied by Islamic State group jihadists (AFP Photo/ARIS MESSINIS) Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi forces battled jihadists in west Mosul on Sunday, aiming to build a floating bridge across the Tigris to establish an important supply route linked to the recaptured east bank. A week into a major push on the western side of the city, where an estimated 2,000 holdout jihadists and 750,000 civilians are trapped, government forces made steady progress. But after relatively easy gains on the city's outskirts, they encountered increasingly stiff resistance from the Islamic State group (IS) defending its emblematic stronghold. "We had an important operation this morning to move towards the bridge," Colonel Falah al-Wabdan of the interior ministry's Rapid Response units that have spearheaded the breach into west Mosul told AFP in the Jawsaq neighbourhood. "We have moved past a large berm constructed by Daesh (IS) with tunnels underneath," he said, adding that the area was heavily mined and his forces had killed 44 jihadists on Sunday alone. Wabdan was referring to what is known as "the fourth bridge", the southernmost of five bridges -- all of which are damaged and unusable -- across the Tigris River that divides the northern Iraqi city. Government forces retook the east bank from IS a month ago, completing a key phase in an offensive on Mosul that began on October 17 and has involved tens of thousands of fighters. Wabdan said that securing the bank area near the fourth bridge would allow engineering units to extend a ribbon bridge to the other side and further pile pressure on the jihadists. "It is very important because if we take it, engineering units… will be able to throw a bridge across from the left bank so we can move supplies and ammunition from the battle field," he said. Bridging operations under fire are complex and perilous, but Iraqi forces have been trained by the US military and successfully used that strategy before in the fight against IS. A ribbon bridge assembled with US assistance over the Euphrates River was considered a turning point in the battle that eventually saw Iraqi forces retake the western stronghold of Ramadi from the jihadists a year ago. Rapid Response was confident it could reach the bridge on Sunday but IS was fighting back with suicide car bombs, roadside bombs, snipers and weaponised drones. The elite Counter-Terrorism Service that has done most of the fighting against IS in Mosul so far entered the western neighbourhood of Al-Maamun on Friday. Troops from the US-led coalition assisting Iraq in its efforts to claw back the swathes of territory it lost to IS in 2014 have stepped up their involvement on the ground in recent weeks. They are officially deployed in Iraq as trainers and advisers, but have increasingly been drawn into combat and been more visible than ever on the front lines since the push on west Mosul was launched on February 19. The western side of the city is a little smaller than the east but more densely populated and home to some areas considered traditional jihadist strongholds. It includes the Old City, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance and proclaimed a "caliphate" in July 2014, and several of Mosul's key landmarks. Around three quarters of a million people are virtually besieged there, in some cases used as human shields by the IS fighters preparing to defend their last major bastion in the country. "With the battle to retake western Mosul now in its second week, we are extremely concerned about the 800,000 or so still trapped in some of the most dire conditions," Karl Schembri, spokesman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told AFP. Food supplies have dwindled as fast as costs have soared, leaving many on barely a meal a day. "We're hearing reports of people eating bird feed inside western Mosul as they cannot afford the skyrocketing prices," Schembri said. Residents and medical workers say that the combined effect of malnutrition and the shortage of drugs is starting to kill the weakest. The United Nations has planned for an exodus of at least 250,000 people from west Mosul, but in the absence of humanitarian corridors only a few hundred have been able to flee so far. Around 160,000 are currently displaced as a result of the first phase of the Mosul operation. Iraq has a population of more than three million people who have been displaced by the IS conflict.
News Article | February 25, 2017
An Iraqi Special Forces soldier stands on top of a vehicle in a desert south of Mosul, Iraq February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S.-backed Iraqi forces pushed into western Mosul on Friday after retaking the city's airport from Islamic State, as aid agencies warned the most dangerous phase of the offensive was about to begin for hundreds of thousands of civilians. Troops disarmed booby traps planted by retreating militant fighters in the airport, which the army plans to use as a base from which to drive Islamic State from Mosul's western districts and deal a decisive blow to the group. As they did, Iraqi fighter jets dropped bombs on Islamic State positions inside Syria on Friday. It was the first time the Iraqi government publicly acknowledged striking militant targets inside Syria. The new offensive comes after government forces and their allies finished clearing Islamic State from eastern Mosul last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris river. Commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be more difficult, in part because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts there. The International Rescue Committee said the most dangerous phase of the battle was about to begin for the 750,000 civilians believed to be trapped inside Mosul. "There is a real danger that the battle will be raging around them for weeks and possibly months to come," said acting country director Jason Kajer. The United Nations has warned up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the new offensive amid food and fuel shortages. Iraqi forces launched attacks on several fronts. Counter-terrorism forces clashed with Islamic State inside the southwestern district of al-Mamoun and took full control of the Ghozlani military base on Friday, Major General Sami al-Aridi, a senior commander, told Reuters. Separately, federal police and an elite Interior Ministry unit known as Rapid Response advanced into the Hawi al-Josaq and al-Danadan districts after breaching a berm and a trench set up by Islamic State north of the airport, a spokesman said. Early raids in the city's west have so far been restricted to thinly-populated areas. The government encouraged civilians to stay in their homes, but some were caught in the crossfire. Jamal Abdelnasser, 14, was shot in the leg by Islamic State when the militants stormed his home to take up sniper positions. After crossing the frontline, soldiers unwrapped the blood-soaked bandages around his leg and poured iodine on the bullet wound. In another incident, a Reuters correspondent saw a dozen civilians fleeing toward Iraqi security forces from the outskirts of Mamoun. Defeat in Mosul would likely deal a hammer blow to Islamic State's self-styled caliphate in areas it seized in 2014. But the group still controls swathes of territory in neighboring Syria and patches in northern and western Iraq from where it could fight a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plot attacks on the West. Iraqi air strikes on Friday targeted Islamic State sites in Syria on Friday, including a factory for making car bombs, said a colonel in Iraq's military intelligence. "We gave orders to the air force command to strike Islamic State positions in Hosaiba and Albu Kamal inside Syrian territory as they were responsible for recent bombings in Baghdad," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement. A source close to Syria's foreign ministry said the raid had been carried out in "complete coordination" with the Damascus government. On the ground in Mosul, Western advisors are increasingly present close to the frontline, helping coordinate air strikes and advising Iraqi forces as the battle unfolds. Islamic State fought back on Friday with suicide car bombs and drones carrying explosives. Aridi, the CTS commander, said the drones were "particularly annoying today". The campaign involves a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Shi'ite militias and Sunni tribal fighters. It is backed by an international coalition that provides vital air support as well as on-the-ground guidance and training.
News Article | February 23, 2017
UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura informs the media one day before the resumption of the negotiation between the Syrian government and the opposition, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP) GENEVA (AP) — The latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local): The United Nations' humanitarian chief says more aid convoys have been getting to besieged and hard-to-reach parts of Syria in February than in recent months, but safe, unimpeded access remains a problem. Undersecretary-General Stephen O'Brien said Wednesday that two convoys have made it this month, together carrying aid for 191,000 people. Only one convoy was deployed in each of December and January, with aid for 46,000 people combined. Still, O'Brien says, the U.N. had to call off two convoys in the last four days because of shelling and gunfire. The aid was destined for the opposition-held enclave of al-Waer in Homs, Syria's third-largest city. Humanitarian officials have previously said they have had difficulties getting approvals for convoys from Syrian authorities. O'Brien said Wednesday he hopes upcoming procedural changes will help. Besides convoys, humanitarian agencies use airdrops in Syria. A Syrian opposition official says the negotiating delegation in Geneva would like "direct" talks with representatives of the Damascus government. Speaking to reporters after his arrival on Wednesday, Salem Al Meslet, said, "We request and want direct talks, direct negotiations." Al Meslet, who is the spokesman of the opposition's High Negotiations Committee, said he hoped for a "serious partner" in the talks. But he doubted that the government delegation was willing to engage seriously on the topic of a political transition. Al Meslet called on friendly nations to support Syria to make the transition from dictatorship to democracy. U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffen de Mistura, he added, would be meeting the opposition delegation Thursday morning. "We want to see serious negotiations," he said. "We want to see an end to terrorism and occupation in Syria." The U.N. envoy for Syria says he's not expecting a breakthrough in the first peace talks under U.N. supervision in 10 months. Staffan de Mistura spoke Wednesday, on the eve of planned talks between Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and the opposition. De Mistura said he was "determined" to maintain "a very proactive momentum" in the talks, which will focus on new elections, a new constitution and governance in the country, riven by nearly six years of war. He said he sees the meetings as "the beginning of a series of rounds" that will allow negotiators to "go much more in depth on the substantive issues that are required for a political solution." De Mistura called off the last round of U.N.-sponsored talks in April amid an upsurge in fighting. Russia's defense minister has hailed the military's performance in Syria, saying new Russian weapons have proven their worth in the conflict. Sergei Shoigu told the Russian parliament Wednesday that the military has tested 162 types of weapons in Syria, and only 10 of them have failed to meet expectations. Shoigu said Russian pilots have flown 1,760 combat missions in Syria since the launch of the air campaign in September 2015, killing more than 3,100 militants, including 26 warlords. He said Russia helped prevent the collapse of the Syrian state. Shoigu said that nearly 90 percent of all Russian military pilots have gained combat experience in the skies over Syria. The minister said that the military's special forces also have performed well in the conflict, targeting the militant leaders and helping direct airstrikes.
News Article | February 23, 2017
"UNITED NATIONS -- More than $4 billion is needed by the end of March to help nearly 20 million people who risk starvation in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday. Citing armed conflicts and climate change as part of the reasons for the food emergency, Guterres led a call for $5.6 billion in funding for humanitarian operations in the four countries this year, of which $4.4 billion are needed by the end of next month "to avert a catastrophe." "Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far," said Guterres, about two cents for every dollar needed."
News Article | February 22, 2017
PARIS (Reuters) - Amnesty International said on Wednesday U.S. President Donald Trump's "poisonous" rhetoric on his way to winning the White House led a global trend towards increasingly divisive politics in 2016 that had made the world a "darker" place. In its annual report covering 159 countries, the human rights group said principles of human dignity and equality had come under assault from politicians seeking election and it zeroed in on Trump, who took office on Jan. 20. "Donald Trump's poisonous campaign rhetoric exemplifies a global trend towards angrier and more divisive politics," Amnesty said in a statement issued in Paris. The world, it said, had become a "darker ... unstable place", with a rise in hate speech targeting refugees across Europe and the United States. "The early indications from (...) Trump suggest a foreign policy that will significantly undermine multilateral cooperation and usher in a new era of greater instability and mutual suspicion," Amnesty added. Trump, a Republican former reality TV star and property magnate, has said he is "the least racist person" and "least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen" and that one of his top priorities is to protect the United States from terrorism. His administration has been marked by controversies in the early going, fierce attacks on the news media and legal battles over his executive order to ban people temporarily from seven Muslim-majority countries as alleged security risks. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Europe this week Pence and pledged "steadfast and enduring commitment" to ties between the United States and the European Union, a message at variance with Trump's far-right chief strategist. U.S. allies in Europe have been seeking clarity on the Trump administration's foreign policy strategy and its stance toward Russia. "The gap between imperative and action, and between rhetoric and reality, was stark and at times staggering," Amnesty said. "Nowhere was this better illustrated than in the failure of states attending September's 2016 United Nations summit for refugees and migrants to agree any adequate response to the global refugee crisis." According to Amnesty calculations, some 75,000 refugees found themselves trapped between Jordan and Syria as the civil war in Syria entered its seventh year. Amnesty said populist movements and messages had also become more common in Europe, notably in Poland and Hungary. "The result was a pervasive weakening of the rule of law and an erosion in the protection of human rights, particularly for refugees and terrorism suspects, but ultimately for everyone."