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Equality and Human Rights

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.'

– Article One, The UN Declaration of Human Rights

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UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

The war on Gaza has depleted much of the physical and human capital in the enclave and severely affected the rest of the occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to a newly published UN report. It warns that in addition to the thousands of lives already lost, and the many people injured or maimed for life, the risk of “future lost generations is real.” The report by the UN Development Program, titled “War in Gaza: Expected Socioeconomic Impacts on the State of Palestine,” highlights the widespread damage caused by the conflict, including: the destruction of about 80,000 homes, resulting in significant, and possibly long-lasting, displacement and homelessness among the population; the depletion and pollution of natural resources; and the destruction of infrastructure such as water and sanitation systems, educational institutions and health care facilities. It said human development in Gaza has been set back to the extent it could take 20 years to return to prewar levels, and recovery seems unlikely in the absence of a functioning economy, adequate institutional capacities, and the ability to trade. “With 37 million tons of debris, compared to 2.4 million tons of debris in the 2014 war, and 72 percent of all housing in Gaza destroyed, and 90 percent of commercial and all other buildings destroyed, this is unprecedented.” The report analyzes the devastating effects the ongoing war in Gaza has had on the Palestinian people, their economy and human development in the territory, and predicts the possible consequences based on scenarios that assume a further one to three months of conflict. Based on official figures, by April 12 this year, at least 33,207 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza, an estimated 7,000 were missing, and 80,683 had been injured. About 70 percent of the dead were women and children. Many of the injured are likely to suffer long-term consequences, including disabilities. These figures reveal that at least 5 percent of the population of Gaza has been killed, maimed or injured. In addition, about 500 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the war. “No other armed conflict in the 21st century has caused such a devastating impact on a population in such a short time frame,” the report notes. It states the number of people in Gaza living in poverty has risen to 1.67 million in the six months since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October last year.

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Editor's choice
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UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

UNDP report highlights devastating effects of the Gaza conflict saying it has set human development in the territory back by about 20 years

The war on Gaza has depleted much of the physical and human capital in the enclave and severely affected the rest of the occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to a newly published UN report. It warns that in addition to the thousands of lives already lost, and the many people injured or maimed for life, the risk of “future lost generations is real.” The report by the UN Development Program, titled “War in Gaza: Expected Socioeconomic Impacts on the State of Palestine,” highlights the widespread damage caused by the conflict, including: the destruction of about 80,000 homes, resulting in significant, and possibly long-lasting, displacement and homelessness among the population; the depletion and pollution of natural resources; and the destruction of infrastructure such as water and sanitation systems, educational institutions and health care facilities. It said human development in Gaza has been set back to the extent it could take 20 years to return to prewar levels, and recovery seems unlikely in the absence of a functioning economy, adequate institutional capacities, and the ability to trade. “With 37 million tons of debris, compared to 2.4 million tons of debris in the 2014 war, and 72 percent of all housing in Gaza destroyed, and 90 percent of commercial and all other buildings destroyed, this is unprecedented.” The report analyzes the devastating effects the ongoing war in Gaza has had on the Palestinian people, their economy and human development in the territory, and predicts the possible consequences based on scenarios that assume a further one to three months of conflict. Based on official figures, by April 12 this year, at least 33,207 Palestinians had been killed in Gaza, an estimated 7,000 were missing, and 80,683 had been injured. About 70 percent of the dead were women and children. Many of the injured are likely to suffer long-term consequences, including disabilities. These figures reveal that at least 5 percent of the population of Gaza has been killed, maimed or injured. In addition, about 500 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the war. “No other armed conflict in the 21st century has caused such a devastating impact on a population in such a short time frame,” the report notes. It states the number of people in Gaza living in poverty has risen to 1.67 million in the six months since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began in October last year.
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Opposition leader amongst those injured after police break up anti government protests in Georgia

Opposition leader amongst those injured after police break up anti government protests in Georgia

Riot police in Georgia have fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds protesting against a bill seen by the opposition as targeting media freedoms and narrowing the space for the work of civil society. Demonstrators threw eggs and bottles at the police outside the parliament in the capital, Tbilisi. The crowds retreated, but clashes continued on the main Rustaveli Avenue late on Tuesday. A number of people were reportedly injured and detained. Georgia's IPN news agency says that Levan Khabeishvili, chairman of the main opposition party United National Movement, was severely beaten and taken to hospital. He was later shown in a hospital bed where he is said to have a broken nose. Reuters news agency says that eyewitnesses saw some police officers physically attack protesters. On 17 April, MPs gave their initial backing to the "foreign agent" bill. The bill is now going through its last stages in parliament. Under the bill proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and independent media that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign donors would have to register as organisations "bearing the interests of a foreign power". They would also be monitored by Georgia's justice ministry and could be forced to share sensitive information - or face hefty fines of up to 25,000 Georgian lari ($9,400). The passing of the bill in its first reading triggered a series of street protests. Opponents of the bill demand that the government scrap it, arguing that it is inspired by authoritarian legislation that neighbouring Russia uses to crush dissent.
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Dunya Mijatovic: "Entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians"

Dunya Mijatovic: "Entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians"

On March 27, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, issued a statement calling on the Georgian government to “fully respect” its human rights obligations as a Council of Europe member state, “including with regard to the protection of the human rights of LGBTI people,” in response to the ruling party’s initiation of two draft constitutional laws on “family values and the protection of minors.” “I am concerned about the present political discourse in Georgia, as illustrated by the announcement made by the Georgian Dream Party of their initiative to amend the Constitution and to adopt a new constitutional law on ‘Protection of Family Values and Underaged Persons’. It is reflective of entrenched harmful stereotypes and prejudice against LGBTI people which still prevail in segments of Georgian society, including some politicians, and is capable of having a strong, negative impact on the human rights, safety and well-being of LGBTI people and defenders of their rights. It also represents the political manipulation of LGBTI-phobia in the run-up to elections, which I have previously condemned, and which should have no place in a democratic society, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights of everyone.
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Commentary
The work of UNRWA must be sustained

The work of UNRWA must be sustained

Israeli accusations that staff of the UN Humanitarian agency UNRWA which works in Gaza, were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel need to be taken seriously, and the UN leadership must flash out any bad apples amongst the many, and restore the reputation of the organisation for professionalism. But the knee-jerk reaction of several Western governments in suspending funding to UNRWA is unacceptable, especially given the dire situation of millions of Palestinians, made much worse by the recent war in Gaza. Stopping the work of UNRWA will make an already significant humanitarian disaster much worse. In this regard, countries like Norway and Spain are to be commended. They kept a cool head and reiterated their commitment and support to UNRWA, whilst others were more hasty in halting or suspending support for the agency. There are two problems here: financial and political. The financial aspect is solvable. Gulf states need to step in and compensate for any shortfall in UNRWA’s budget. Other countries need also to step up. But the bigger problem is political. The support of Western countries for UNRWA gives it the necessary prestige that allows its leadership to negotiate the stormy waters of the Middle East. This should not be lost. Countries like UK, Netherlands, Germany and Italy, need to quickly reconsider their position and restore the funding to UNRWA. UNRWA was established in 1948 as a temporary measure to provide relief to the Palestinian people. That seventy-five years later it is still needed more than ever is a testimony of the failure of the international community to do justice to the Palestinians. From the tragedy and suffering of the last five months a new reality must emerge that must necessarily include the creation of a viable Palestinian state. It is time for the EU and European countries in particular, but also the US, to think strategically and act firmly.
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Opinion
Opinion: The ICJ ruling on the “South Africa v. Israel” case is a step in the right direction, but not decisive enough

Opinion: The ICJ ruling on the “South Africa v. Israel” case is a step in the right direction, but not decisive enough

On Friday (26 January) the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ruled on whether emergency measures are required until a final decision is taken on the South Africa’s genocide case against Israel. The judges ruled that Israel must act to stop genocide in Gaza and allow the flow of humanitarian aid and basic services. Although this verdict is legally binding on the parties involved and a step in the right direction, the ICJ lacks enforcement power. The Court needs the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) to enforce its decision through mechanisms such as sanctions or even military intervention, however, the UNSC is unlikely to do so given the United States’ traditional shielding of Israel through the veto power. Moreover, the Court did not demand a ceasefire that would require Israel to stop its operation in the Gaza Strip. This disappointed many who consider an immediate ceasefire by all parties as being essential in order to end the suffering on civilians.
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Young voices
The Cambodian spirit remains high despite the danger of landmines

The Cambodian spirit remains high despite the danger of landmines

Walking through the temples of Angkor Wat, the sound of musical instruments was making its way through the jungle, complementing the birds. Once I got closer to the musical instruments, I realised that that the singers were victims of landmines, trying to bring awareness to this danger through music. They were not looking for pity or money, simply to share flyers on the history of landmines in Cambodia and its terrible effects that continue to affect civilians. This encounter sparked my interest as Cambodia is rarely mentioned in news or research papers.
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News
European Commission launches a Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling

European Commission launches a Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling

Criminal networks take advantage of people's desperation, and this abuse often leads to loss of life. Migrant smugglers squeezing hundreds of people onto unseaworthy boats, resulted in a staggering humanitarian toll of over 28 000 people having drowned or missing in the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. The main beneficiaries are the criminals, the smuggling networks in countries of origin, transit and destination. The current legislative framework is the Facilitators Package from 2002. Under the Facilitators Package, any person who intentionally assists the unauthorised entry, transit, or residence of a non-EU national into the EU, or, for financial gain, to reside there is to be sanctioned unless they are doing so for humanitarian reasons. On Tuesday (28 November), the European Commission proposed new legislation to prevent and fight migrant smuggling. The Commission has also launched a Call to Action for a Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling, at an International Conference hosted this week in Brussels. The Commission will ensure that the Global Alliance to Counter Migrant Smuggling will work at bilateral and multilateral level as well as through the work of the UNODC. Regular stocktaking at political level will be ensured, with the first event taking place in Copenhagen in the spring 2024. The Conference will be the first such opportunity to take stock of the achievements of the Global Alliance. Migrant smuggling is a criminal activity that disrespects human life and the dignity of people in the pursuit of financial or other material benefits. Smuggling networks make substantial profits from their criminal activities, ranging between EUR 4.7 – 6 billion worldwide annually.  The modi operandi of smuggling networks change rapidly, adapting to circumstances and responses by national authorities. This is why the Commission is increasing its efforts to tackle this crime at a global scale.