World News Digest: April 22, 2013

Conference Calls on Governments to Protect Rights of LGBT Individuals

New York, N.Y.  Participants of a two-day international conference held in Oslo called on governments last week to protect the human rights of LGBT individuals in their country.  More than 200 participants from 84 countries met on April 15 and 16 to hear testimony at the Oslo Conference on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Testimony at the conference confirmed that people globally face violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Some countries systematically deny them their fundamental human rights. The participants expressed grave concern at this continued denial of rights and the tolerance of violence in all regions of the world.

“Governments have a legal duty to protect everyone,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. Ban added that some governments invoke culture, tradition or religion to defend discriminatory practices.

“Such arguments have been used to try to justify slavery, child marriage, rape in marriage and female genital mutilation. I respect culture, tradition and religion – but they can never justify the denial of basic rights,” he continued.

Norway and South Africa co-chaired the conference and issued a 10-point summary conclusion of discussions. In a joint statement, the co-chairs expressed hope that the discussions would “contribute to a more systematic follow-up within the United Nations system, as well as on regional and national levels.”

“We can no longer ignore the grave human rights violations that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons suffer from on a daily basis,” the statement said.

Almir Narayamoga Surui receives UN Forest Hero Award from juror Daniel Shaw of the
International Union for Conservation of Nature in Istanbul. UN Photo/Metehan Kurt

Conservation Group Honors Indigenous Activist for Saving His Tribe and Rainforest

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) awarded Almir Narayamoga Surui its Forest Hero Award at the United Nations Forum on Forests on April 16 in Istanbul, Turkey. Surui was one of five recipients honored by the IUCN, one of the largest global environmental organizations. The award recognizes unsung heroes who work to sustain, protect and manage forests.

He has brought his tribe back from the brink of extinction through ingenious and courageous environmental and political activism,” said Daniel Shaw, a juror and member of the IUCN.

Surui is a Paiter-Surui, an indigenous people living in the Amazon. He is the first member of the Surui to attend college, and for more than 20 years has been fighting to save both his people and the Amazon rainforest.

 Malian children take shelter from a dust storm in Burkina Faso’s Goudebou refugee camp.
The needs for displaced Malians remain great. Photo: UNHCR/B. Sokol

U.N. Officials Highlight Urgent Needs in Mali

United Nation’s officials on April 19 reiterated grave concerns for the situation in Mali, following French-led military action to drive out Islamist forces from the Northern region.

“We should redouble our efforts to ensure that the political process, which is key to Mali’s stability in both the short and long term, is not overshadowed by the equally essential military operations underway,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said.

The United Nations refugee agency renewed its $144 million to cover basic protection and assistance needs for Malian refugees and internally displaced people. “So far we have received only 32 percent of this amount,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards stated.

He said these funds would pay for multiple needs: the expansion and construction of transit centers, provision of supplementary and therapeutic food, shelters and other relief items, as well as delivery of basic services, such as health care, water, sanitation and education.

In addition to the 282,000 people displaced in Mali, there are more than 175,000 Malian refugees in surrounding countries.

At the same time, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that it has a funding gap of 76%, or just over $20 million, to meet emergency needs of Malians in 2013.

These calls for support come as Mali prepares for presidential and legislative elections scheduled for July. Feltman added that Mali will need financial and logistic support for those elections.

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Nigel Roberts
Nigel Roberts is the Communications Committee Chair of the J. Luce Foundation. He's also a communications consultant and freelance writer. His clients have included (now retired) U.S. Congressman Ed Towns.

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