- Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
- AP Photo/Ben Curtis
“The genocide we remember today – and the world’s failure to respond more quickly – reminds us that we always have a choice,” said US President Obama in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, today.
“The horrific events of those 100 days – when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor – compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame lit a flame at the ceremony that will burn for the next 100 days, in what was reportedly an emotional commemoration. It represents the period of time when an estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed by Hutu soldiers.
Notably absent from the day’s events was France. France canceled its participation in today’s genocide commemorations in Rwanda after the nation’s leader accused the country of being directly involved in the genocide.
The Kagame-led government has remained critical of France for its role in the genocide. Accusations include helping the Hutu soldiers who carried out the atrocities in 1994 escape. There have been further allusions made regarding the fact that France helped to train the Rwandan military prior to the genocide.
“The Western powers would like the Rwanda is an ordinary country, as if nothing had happened, which have the advantage to forget their own responsibilities, but it is impossible. Take the case of France. Twenty years after, the only eligible reproach in his eyes is that of not having done enough to save lives during the genocide,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame in an interview with Jeune Afrique, conducted in French.
- A Syrian teacher, left, teaches on the first day of classes at a private school built for Syrian refugees in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon.
- AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari
International donors and charities pledged a total of $2.4 billion in aid for the Syrian crisis. It is only a fraction of the $6.5 billion needed to respond to the largest UN appeal ever.
A two-day conference in Kuwait brought together charities, donors and other global actors to rally support for the humanitarian crisis in and around Syria. The first day saw charities and NGOs pledge $400 million in aid. Kuwait led the way on Wednesday by pledging $500 million.
Roughly 70% of the $1.5 billion pledged in a similar conference last year has materialized to date. There is little reason to be confident that all of the money promised this week will be disbursed.
The three year old crisis has displaced an estimated 9 million people. An international response to the humanitarian problems caused by the fighting in Syria has struggled to meet increasing needs. Neighboring countries who are hosting the more than 4 million refugees are struggling to support all the incoming people.
“No country, no people should face hardship or calamity for helping Syrians in need. It is vital for this region and our world that the burden is shared. Let us reward the compassion of Syria’s neighbors with generosity and solidarity,” said UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
The situation is getting harder.
- Ugandans transport a Swiss-made ‘diversion’ toilet – one of the Gates Foundation’s winners in its re-inventing the toilet competition
It’s World Toilet Day so the world is awash with potty humor, bizarre videos and otherwise earnest organizations giddily celebrating the use of obscenity or fart jokes in support of saving lives.
This is the first official World Toilet Day, at least insofar as the United Nations is concerned. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said today, the goal is to draw attention to the fact that 2.5 billion people are endangered by lack of safe sanitation – an inequity that contributes to many water-borne illnesses and deaths around the world. Diarrhea, often caused by poor sanitation, kills some 800,000 annually, for example.
And it’s an economic burden as well: The World Bank estimates poor sanitation costs countries some $260 billion a year in lost productivity.
So, yes, shit is a serious global problem. Continue reading
- UN SG Ban shares remarks on the chemical weapons report.
The much anticipated report from United Nations chemical weapons inspectors in Syria was finally released on Monday. The group’s findings pointed towards the use of chemical weapons by Syrian armed forces. The US and UN made strong statements about Syria’s use of the weapons. Russia is again the dissenter.
However, the Syrian government is not directly assigned blame. Rather the information provided in the report strongly indicates that the attacks were carried out by Syrian government troops.
“The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide a clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used,” conclude the inspectors.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke passionately about the abhorrent act of Syrian forces deploying chemical weapons to kill hundreds of people last week.
“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” said Kerry.
“Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.”
Analysts suggest that Kerry’s remarks represent the US taking yet another step closer to intervention in Syria’s civil war. Lawmakers like Senator John McCain are pushing hard for the Obama Administration to take a more active role. The president’s invocation of a red line on the issue of chemical weapons has been a source of debate and anger for those supporting US action in Syria.
- Secretary-General Meets Actor and Humanitarian Sean Penn at Haiti IDP Camp
Actor Sean Penn transformed into heroic aid worker Sean Penn in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. His brash style and celebrity persona conspired to give him quick access to big players and media. In some cases it worked well. The Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization (J/P HRO) set up shop quickly in the aftermath, Penn declared he was not leaving, he won the respect of many in the aid community and he assumed leadership of a displacement camp.
The same things that worked for Penn worked against him, says Jonathan Katz in Gawker. He is an AP reporter who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake and stuck around after to track the response.
A doctor at a J/P HRO-run clinic above the Pétionville Club golf course diagnosed a young boy with diphtheria. The fifteen year old, Oriel, arrived at a time when Penn was visiting. The actor sprung into action to save the boy’s life and respond to a potential outbreak. He set out to get a dose of diphtheria antitoxin (DAT) from a warehouse run by the WHO and the Haitian ministry of health. He was able to get the DAT, despite the warehouse having been already closed.
- Francina Devariste, 3 years old, lies in a hospital bed in Dessalines, Haiti.
The United Nations again refused to take responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti caused by a peacekeeping unit from Nepal.
Legal claims against the UN were again rejected as the body reaffirmed its stance that it is a ‘political and policy matter.’
The cholera outbreak that started in October 2010 has killed nearly 8,200 Haitians and infected an estimated 665,00 people. More evidence, including a study published this month, shows that the cholera was imported from Nepal by a peacekeeping unit and was spread due to improper waste disposal into a nearby river.
A letter from the UN addressed to Brian Concannon, Director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), refused to consider mediation and said that “there is no basis for such engagement in connection with claims that are not receivable.” Patricia O’Brien, Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs for the UN’s Legal Counsel, also refuted claims by IJDH that the UN has not lived up to its obligation to the victims of he cholera outbreak. She includes excerpts from recent remarks by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“Since the outbreak of the disease, the United Nations, in cooperation with other partners, has taken several steps to contain and combat the epidemic and prevent future outbreaks,” said Ban. “These efforts have helped to decrease the rate of new infection by 90 per cent since the outbreak began. The mortality rate has been brought down to around 1 per cent. Still, further progress must be made.” Continue reading
- Pak News
The Taliban made a big mistake in Pakistan when they attacked children traveling to school last October.
A young girls education activist named Malala Yousafzai was critically wounded. Malala, as the world has come to know her, survived the attack and is now a global symbol for girl’s education. She recovered in London and spent her 16th birthday, today, at the UN to deliver a speech on the importance of education.
“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens,” said Malala. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.”
The Taliban wanted to keep girls from going to schools by assassinating a vocal young girl. Instead they are responsible for propelling a powerful activist on education to the world’s biggest stage. Hence forth, July 12 will be known as Malala Day, in honor of the heroism and determination of one young girl.
She has a supporter in former UK prime minister Gordon Brown. The new UN special envoy for global education said it is possible to get all children, boys and girls, into school by 2015.
“It is only impossible if people say it’s impossible. Malala says it is possible – and young people all over the world think it is possible,” said Brown. Continue reading