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End War Now Before It’s Too Late for Ethiopians, UN Rights Chief Urges Fighters



Wednesday, November 03, 2021UN News

The UN rights chief’s appeal followed the declaration of a broad state of emergency in Ethiopia, amid reports that Tigrayan forces had made further advances into the neighbouring Amhara region, and other news reports of shelling of the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, by Ethiopian Government forces.

“The risks are grave that, far from stabilising the situation, these extremely broad measures – which include sweeping powers of arrest and detention – will deepen divisions, endanger civil society and human rights defenders, provoke greater conflict and only add to the human suffering already at unacceptable levels,” Ms. Bachelet said.  

#Tigray conflict has been marked by extreme brutality,” @mbachelet. Report details series of violations, incl. killings & extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual & gender-based violence, violations against refugees, forced displacement and hate speech:

— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights)

November 3, 2021

In an appeal for calm that coincided with the release of a hard-hitting joint UN-Ethiopia report which suggested that all sides were responsible for terrible abuses during the first eight months of fighting, the UN rights chief urged them to prioritise the protection of civilians.

Justice call

And with the eyes of the international community fixed firmly on the alarming situation, Ms. Bachelet called for justice and truth for victims’ families to be pursued, in a transparent manner. 

“Civilians in Tigray have been subjected to brutal violence and suffering,” she told journalists in Geneva, at the launch of a report by her Office and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into the Tigray conflict. “The Joint Investigation Team uncovered numerous violations and abuses, including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees, and forced displacement of civilians.”

Based on nearly 270 confidential interviews with victims and witnesses and more than 60 meetings with federal and regional officials, the report covers the period from 3 November 2020, when the conflict began between the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF), the Amhara Special Forces (ASF) and other militias on one side, and the Tigrayan Special Forces (TSF), Tigrayan militia and other allied groups on the other.

The reporting period runs through until 28 June 2021, when the Ethiopian Government declared a unilateral ceasefire.

War crimes likely

Ms. Bachelet insisted that there were reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the fighting had committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, on the basis that the victims were not involved in the fighting.

“The family of four killed in Ayder, Mekelle as their house was shelled, reportedly by the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, without any apparent military justification,” she said, highlighting some of the harrowing accounts given to investigators.

“The 26-year-old woman in Adiet who was gangraped by Eritrean Defence Force soldiers in front of her three-year-old daughter. The man in Maikadra attacked with machetes by the ‘Samri’ Tigrayan youth group, shot in the back and thrown into a fire.”

In a statement acknowledging that the reporting team had faced “security, operational, and administrative challenges” in accessing all parts of Tigray, the High Commissioner’s noted that it had visited several locations, including Mekelle, Eastern Tigray (Wukro), southeastern Tigray (Samre and nearby areas), Southern Tigray ( Alamata, Bora and Maichew), Western Tigray (Dansha, Humera and Mai Kadra), and Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara region, as well as Addis Ababa. 

Extreme brutality

“The Tigray conflict has been marked by extreme brutality,” Ms. Bachelet said, in reference to the attacks against civilians by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan forces and the horrific testimonies of sexual violence shared by 30 women survivors, nearly half of whom had been gang raped.

Equally worrying was the fact that some 400,000 people were still living in famine-like conditions, amid an ongoing lack of aid deliveries to Tigray. “The gravity and seriousness of the violations and abuses we have documented underscore the need to hold perpetrators accountable on all sides,” the High Commissioner said.

According to the report, on 28 November 2020, shelling fired from a mountain area under the Ethiopian National Defence Forces’ control, “hit more than 15 civilian facilities in Mekelle, killing at least 29 civilians and injuring at least 34”.

Earlier the same month, there was also heavy fighting in Humera, where artillery shells were reportedly fired by the Eritrean Defence Force and Tigrayan forces, “hitting several populated areas” and resulting in the deaths of 15 people. These reports were backed up by the reporting team’s visit to Humera, where they saw “shell marks on walls and craters in the streets”.

Refugees persecuted

Among their other findings, the investigative team found that from November 2020 to January 2021, fighting between the Tigrayan Special Forces and the Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) near Shimelba refugee camp, forced thousands of Eritrean refugees to flee and resulted in the disappearance of hundreds more, in addition to the destruction of the refugee camp.

“The EDF violated the fundamental principle of non-refoulement by forcefully returning at-risk Eritrean refugees to Eritrea,” the report stated, while “Tigrayan forces looted private properties of refugees and of humanitarian organizations”. 

Forcible displacement

The report also documented how thousands of civilians had been forced to flee after “killings, rapes, destruction and looting of properties, fear of reprisal attacks, and as a result of ethnic and identity-based attacks”, particularly in Western Tigray. 

It noted too how the forced displacement of ethnic Amharas from their homes by the Tigrayan Samri youth group in Mai Kadra, followed by the widespread retaliatory displacement against ethnic Tigrayans by the Amhara Special Forces, and others, “were not carried out to protect the security of the victims nor justified by military imperatives as required by international law”.

“I am deeply concerned that, at an already critical point, a broad state of emergency has now been declared in Ethiopia. This risks compounding an already very serious human rights situation in the country. Further restrictions on access could also push an already extremely difficult humanitarian situation over the edge,” Ms. Bachelet said.

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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Africa Should Bargain Hard for COVID Vaccine Equity: Lessons From Indonesia During Avian Flu



Opinion by Victoria Fan, Steve Kuo (manoa, hawaii / taipei, taiwan)Monday, December 06, 2021Inter Press Service

These travel bans are more injury upon the injury of low vaccination in Africa. Even well-intentioned rallying phrases such as “vaccine apartheid” or “vaccine equity” still lack the moral weight, indignation, and urgency that we should all feel, no matter which country we live. Words fail us.

How can it be that—even now—vast swaths of a continent go without access to these lifesaving vaccines? How is this situation even possible, let alone acceptable? For sure, there’s not been enough vaccines arriving to African countries.

Flowery donor pledges gone unfilled are no better than empty promises. Some say it’s the monopolized production from a vaccine company based outside of Africa or intellectual property issues.

Others cite supply chain and cold chain problems, the need for refrigeration, and lack of electricity. Still others note vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. Throw in “corruption” and “poor governance.” Yadda yadda yadda.

Let us please transfer all the energy spent on the manufacturing of excuses to create ideas for how we’ll get vaccines to Africa.

One thing we should have learned during COVID-19 is that so-called “leaders” are amazing at coming up with excuses for things not getting done. Let’s remind ourselves of the HIV pandemic when world “leaders” were hesitating to distribute antiretroviral treatment to so-called “developing countries.”

There was even an administrator of USAID, supposedly a leading aid agency, who conveniently came up with a racist excuse that the reason why Africans couldn’t get treatment against HIV was because they couldn’t tell time.

Excuses easily come out of the human mouth. Let us please transfer all the energy spent on the manufacturing of excuses to create ideas for how we’ll get vaccines to Africa.

If Africa can’t get the vaccines it needs, perhaps Africa should take a play from the Indonesian playbook during the 2007 avian flu.

The Indonesian Government argued that its decision in January 2007 to stop sending avian flu samples (H5N1 virus) to the WHO’s reference labs was justifiable because the samples provided freely from lower-income countries were used by companies in higher-income countries to develop vaccines that the lower-income countries couldn’t afford and couldn’t benefit from.

Indonesia wanted a guarantee that it would benefit from the samples it provided. After months of withholding the samples, WHO and the Indonesian government eventually came to an agreement and changed the terms of reference for sample sharing.

As Sedyaningsih et al noted in 2008, “This event demonstrates the unresolved imbalance between the affluent high-tech countries and the poor agriculture-based countries.” Their words still hold true more than a decade later.

When dealing with those who are habituated to a “me first” mentality, you must negotiate and bargain hard. African countries trying to gain support through an idealistic notion of global solidarity will fail unless applying “shrewd business practices.” Not just African countries, but the whole world will fail.

So, negotiate hard. Know what your opponent wants the most, and don’t give them what they want so easily till you get what you need. Empty promises and excuses won’t stop COVID-19, but hard bargaining might.

Victoria Y. Fan, ScD, is an associate professor and interim director of the Center on Aging at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development. Steve Kuo, MD, PhD, served as director of Taiwan Centers for Disease Control including during SARS, and most recently he was the president of National Yang Ming University, now National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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First Person: ‘Trafficking Is a Crime Can Happen in Front of Our Eyes’



Saturday, December 04, 2021UN News

This feature has been edited for clarity and length. Mr. Chatzis was talking to Melissa Fleming, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications. You can hear the full interview on the UN podcast, Awake at Night.

“Human trafficking and migrant smuggling have evolved a lot since I first took over this job. They have become more severe, in the sense of what the criminals involved inflict on people. There is more violence, victims are younger and there are more child victims.

It is a crime that can sometimes happen in front of our eyes, as we go to work, do our shopping, drive our children to school or meet friends for dinner. There are industries that we come into contact with in our everyday lives, like hospitality, agriculture, construction, and others where trafficking victims are exploited.

Traffickers in Europe take groups of children from country to country and force them to beg. Then they take all the money and often let them starve. For criminals, it is all about the money, and people are just a way to make a profit.

We have to accept that the criminals are real people themselves. They have friends, families, and children. They may even work within the organizations that are supposed to be tackling these crimes, like the police or immigration service and abuse their profession.

© UNICEF/Jim Holmes

A mother whose daughter was trafficked at the age of sixteen covers her face to protect her identity.

‘Every trafficking story can shake you to your core’

Every trafficking story can shake you to your core. It affects children, even babies can be victims. There are girls and women of all ages being sexually exploited, and men that desperately seek employment, and find themselves in the hands of criminal gangs who then use them for forced labour and other purposes.

We now have the online aspect of the crime. Videos and images of sexual exploitation are being distributed around the world through different channels. You can remove them from one platform, but they appear on another one.

I always feel that we could all do more against this crime. In the long term, we need to really look into our model of development and how our economies are structured. The private sector has an important role to play in these efforts and a responsibility to act.  


Ilias Chatzis and Yatta Dakowah, the UNODC Representative in Brussels, during a special session of the EU Parliament on migration – Brussels, Belgium – 2017.

‘Focus on how to stop the criminals’

With migrant smuggling, we need to focus on how to stop the criminals and not the migrants. Smuggling gangs make a lot of profit from people who are seeking a better life. While trying to stop the criminals, we should not forget the migrants themselves and the need to respect their dignity, human rights and offer protection to those that need it.

Human trafficking is not a crime that is happening only in the developing world. It occurs in every region. According to our latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 148 countries out of the UN 193 Member States reported human trafficking cases in the last two years.

The team I lead is working all over the world to support countries to fight human trafficking and migrant smuggling. Through the services we provide, frontline responders, police authorities, prosecutors and judges are better equipped to protect victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and secure convictions of the perpetrators.

I have seen a lot of human suffering in my career. I saw it first-hand when I was based in the former Yugoslavia. I experienced the uprooting of people by war, the exploitation of people by others, the links between organized crime and war, the breaking up of families and the desire to go back to where you belong, but the inability to do it, because things have changed so much that you would not recognise the place. 

We still have so much to learn from ourselves and from history. We are not learning fast enough. I took this job to hopefully make a difference. I am really trying to make sure that what I do has some real positive impact.”

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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From the Field: ‘climate-smart’ Development in an Uncertain World



UNDPSolar powered water pump in NepalFriday, December 03, 2021UN News

Solar water facility in Ethiopia, by UNDP

Every solution is different, and is adapted to the needs of each community. From micro-hydropower in Nepal, to decentralizing access to water systems in Colombia, climate-proofing rural settlements in Rwanda, and building more integrated national adaptation plans in Bhutan.

As countries work to reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to climate change, reduce risks, and build more resilient societies, important progress is being made towards a more sustainable future. Find out more here.

© UN News (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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