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UN: 14 March 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the details of three new appointments to senior positions in the world body in positions ranging from peacekeeping to the new mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) to the ombudsman’s office.

Susana Malcorra
of Argentina becomes the head of the Department of Field Support, an Under-Secretary-General level position in which she will direct all support for the various UN peace missions around the world. More than 100,000 military, civilian and police personnel currently work in 32 UN field operations.

Ms. Malcorra, who will take over from Jane Holl Lute, who has been leading the Department since its inception last July, presently serves as the Deputy Executive Director and the Chief Operating Officer of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Johnston Barkat
of the United States becomes the new UN Ombudsman at the level of Assistant Secretary-General, with responsibility for the UN Secretariat as well as its many funds and programmes. In that post, he functions independently of any UN organ or official and has direct access to the Secretary-General as needed.

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UN: 12 March 2008 – The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders have agreed to hold direct talks under United Nations auspices in Nicosia on 21 March, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) announced today.

Senior aides to Dimitris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to the talks at a meeting today hosted by Michael Møller, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, according to the UNFICYP news release, which added that the 21 March meeting will take place in the UN Protected Area in Nicosia.

Mr. Møller described today’s encounter between George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, aides to Mr. Christofias and Mr. Talat respectively, as taking place “in a very cordial and constructive atmosphere.”

The aides “reached a great degree of convergence on the issues discussed, including on the possible future opening of the Ledra Street crossing” in Nicosia, UNFICYP noted.

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UN: 10 March 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged scaled-up action – including raising agricultural productivity across Africa – so that the continent can meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.

This year could be “the year of opportunity for the ‘Bottom Billion,’” Mr. Ban told reporters after chairing the second meeting of the so-called MDG Africa Steering Group in New York. “Tremendous gains are possible if the international community translates commitment to deliverables.”

He pointed to examples of achievements made, such as Malawi’s lowering of child mortality rates, Senegal’s accomplishments in enhancing its water and sanitation facilities and Tanzania’s improvements in primary education. “The challenge is now to replicate these successes in more countries,” he observed.

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UN: 11 March 2008 – A veteran of numerous international court proceedings has been appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the Registrar of the tribunal being set up to try those responsible for political killings in Lebanon, particularly the 2005 attack that killed former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

Robin Vincent of the United Kingdom will start his duties on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at a date yet to be determined, but “the appointment of the Registrar reflects the steady progress being accomplished in establishing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Vincent served as Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). Since then, he has served as the temporary Deputy Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and has advised on the establishment of other international tribunals, including the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

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JERUSALEM (Agencies-10/3/2008) – Israel announced plans Sunday (9/3/2008) to build hundreds of homes in the West Bank and disputed east Jerusalem. 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the new plans further undermine talks between Israel and the West Bank administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. 

"Why do they insist on doing this and humiliating Abu Mazen in front of the Palestinian public," he said, using Abbas’ nickname.

Israeli Housing Minister Zeev Boim said the construction would include 350 apartments in Givat Zeev, a West Bank settlement just outside of Jerusalem, and 750 homes in Pisgat Zeev, a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

captured and annexed east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war but Palestinians claim it as their capital and the annexation is not recognized internationally.

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Agencies (8/3/2008) – Calls to end forced marriage, domestic abuse and job discrimination marked International Women’s Day on Saturday as demonstrators took to the streets worldwide.

The issues highlighted crossed a wide spectrum, including abortion rights in
Italy, violence against women in Iraq and women hostages in Colombia.

Nearly 100 years old, the day marks the worldwide struggle for equal rights for half the globe’s population.

Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai spoke out against forced marriages and said threats from a Taliban-led insurgency were keeping girls out of school.

"I call on religious leaders, tribal elders and particularly men: stop forcing your under-aged girls to marry, stop marrying them to old men," he said

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UN:7 March 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “great regret” at the decision of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to step down at the end of her first four-year term, which she confirmed today in Geneva.

“I have been most impressed by her extraordinary courage, energy and integrity in speaking out forcefully on human rights, which is among the UN’s most important mandates,” Mr. Ban said, following the announcement Ms. Arbour made at the Human Rights Council – the UN body inaugurated under her tenure, which ends in June.

Mr. Ban said that she never hesitated to incur the criticism of States or other parties by highlighting the victims of abuses or pointing out the inadequacies of national legal systems, and she consistently represented the highest ideals of the Organization.

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UN: 7 March 2008 – Following yesterday’s shooting in Jerusalem, which killed eight students, and the recent Israeli incursion in Gaza, which left 28 children dead and educational facilities damaged, United Nations officials today appealed for protection of schools and their young wards.

“Schools must be kept out of the conflict space and all parties should respect and preserve them as zones of peace,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict said in New York.

In Geneva, the spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed hope that Israeli authorities would remove the obstacles to bringing into Gaza teaching kits and construction materials, which are needed to repair schools damaged in recent attacks.

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GENEVA (AFP-5/3/2008)-The United Nations Human Rights Council will convene a special debate on the situation in Gaza on Thursday, the council’s president said.

Muslim, African, Arab and nonaligned countries all requested the debate in a letter to the council’s president and Romanian ambassador, Doru Romulus Costea.

They asked that, in view of recent events, "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories to be discussed as soon as possible".

In order to slot in the debate, the presentation of the annual report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has been pushed to Friday.

The 47-member U.N. council was formed in late 2006 to replace its discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission.

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Geneva: (Agencies-3/3/2008) – The Human Rights Council must create an environment of trust if it is to fulfill its true promise of tacking human rights abuses, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday. He was speaking as the 47-strong member council, which was established by the UN in March 2006 to replace its Commission on Human Rights, convened its seventh regular session in Geneva. 

"Let us be clear: implementing international obligations entails difficult, focused, sustained and often thankless work. But it is not hopeless. We now have wide and increasing acceptance of human rights standards," Ban said.  

The situation in the Palestinian territories, the crisis Sudan’s western Darfur region, and Myanmar are all due to come under the spotlight during the four-week session. 

The council will also begin scrutinizing the human rights records of all 192 UN member states through the innovative Universal Periodic Review process.

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