UN chief Guterres cites gains in Africa

By Addis Getachew and Seleshi Tessema

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AA) – Africa is making gains in building peace thanks to the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday.

He made the remarks in his speech at the opening of the 32nd African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

“The African Union’s efforts to 'silence the guns' by 2020 are gaining ground,” Guterres said. “The UN surge in diplomacy for peace is producing results.”

He said, “The fruits of our strategic partnerships [UN and AU] are making a difference.”

He cited what he described as a “historic peace accord” signed by Ethiopia and Eritrea, and commended Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the olive branch he extended to his Eritrean counterpart last May.

“In the Central African Republic, the signing of a peace agreement this week — led by the AU with UN support — can prove to be an important step on the long path to ending bloodshed,” he said.

In South Sudan, the agreement — facilitated by IGAD — between the parties to the conflict has revitalized chances for peace, he said.

He added that a UN-brokered ceasefire in Tripoli and its environs is holding.

Climate change, however, poses a major risk to Africa, he warned.

Women in science can solve world's biggest problems: UN

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Allowing more women to pursue careers in science will solve the world’s biggest problems, the UN reported in a press release late on Thursday.

With science education changing the world, the international body reported data from UNESCO showing that 90 percent of future jobs requiring "some form" of information and communication technology skills including areas such as data analysis, software development and data visualization.

However, women and girls continue to be "extremely under-represented in the sciences," with data showing less than a third of all female students choosing subjects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in higher education, the UN said.

It added that less than 3 percent of women choosing information and communication technology (ICT) subjects.

The UN also referred to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report which showed only 22 percent of artificial intelligence professionals being female worldwide.

"There are several reasons for the gender gap in the sciences, from the prioritization of boys’ education, to gender biases and stereotypes, and the global digital divide, which disproportionately affects women and girls," reported the UN.

It said that the world was "missing out on potential female scientific talent".

Underlining the "extraordinary" contributions women have made to advancing science, the UN cited renowned female minds including Marie Curie, computer pioneer Ada Lovelace and NASA scientist Katherine Johnson.

It stressed that while many obstacles remain for women in achieving their full potential in science, these barriers are "sociological and psychological, and are disappearing."

UN marks female genital mutilation zero-tolerance day

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Hundreds of millions of women have been subjected to female genital mutilation, the UN said Wednesday as the world body marks the practice's zero-tolerance day. </p>  <p>While it has declined globally, at least 200 million girls and women between 15 and 19 years old in 30 countries have been subjected to the medically-unnecessary procedure, according to UNICEF. The exact number who have been forced to undergo the procedure is not known.</p>  <p>More than half of the women who have been subjected to it live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia, according to the UN body which said it is nearly universal in Djibouti, Guinea and Somalia.</p>  <p>The UN warned that unless action to end the practice is immediately accelerated another 68 million girls will be &quot;cut&quot; by 2030.</p>  <p>&quot;On this Day of Zero Tolerance, I call for increased, concerted and global action to end female genital mutilation and fully uphold the human rights of all women and girls,&quot; Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a brief statement.</p>  <p>The U.S. also marked the day by saying the practice &quot;undermines the human rights of women and girls by damaging their health, limiting women’s economic opportunities and girls’ access to education, and increasing the likelihood of early and forced marriage.&quot;</p>  <p>State Department spokesman Robert Palladino issued a statement that read: &quot;Gender-based violence against women and girls impedes equality and undermines peace, prosperity, and security for millions of women and girls around the world.”  

UN report says Daesh evolving into covert network

            By Betul Yuruk</p>  <p>NEW YORK (AA) - Daesh continues to be a threat to the international community even as it transforms its operations following military defeats in Iraq and Syria, according to an advance copy of a UN report obtained by Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>&quot;ISIL has substantially evolved into a covert network in Iraq, where it prioritizes local operations. It is in a phase of transition, adaptation and consolidation. It is organizing cells at the provincial level, replicating the key leadership functions,&quot; Secretary General Antonio Guterres' report said, using another name for Daesh. </p>  <p>Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi remains in control of the terror group, the report said, despite multiple reports of his death. </p>  <p>Some of Daesh's fighters are leaving Syria for Iraq, but the report said some countries expect its Syrian branch to morph into a covert network, reflecting the one operating in Iraq.</p>  <p>&quot;One document obtained by a Member State describes ISIL’s objectives for the post-caliphate period: to undermine stabilization and reconstruction activities, target infrastructure rebuilding efforts and in general thwart economic progress,&quot; it said. &quot;Its center of gravity is expected to remain in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.&quot;</p>  <p>The report estimates that the Daesh terror group continues to control between 14,000 to 18,000 militants in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq alone, it said there are 3,000 active Daesh fighters, and the terror group is estimated to still have control of between $50 million and $300 million. </p>  <p>It also warned that women who have been radicalized as well as &quot;traumatized minors&quot; who lived under Daesh's rule &quot;pose a serious threat&quot;. 

UN chief urges all actors in Venezuela to lower tension

             By Bayram Altug</p>    <p>DAVOS, Switzerland (AA) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Thursday called on all actors in Venezuela to “lower tensions and prevent violence” in wake of protests and unrest in Venezuela.</p>    <p>In a written statement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, said: “The Secretary-General is concerned over reports of casualties in the context of demonstrations and unrest in Venezuela and calls for a transparent and independent investigation of these incidents.”</p>    <p>Dujarric released the statement in Davos, where he attended the 49th World Economic Forum. </p>    <p>“At this critical time, he [Guterres] urges all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent violence and avoid any escalation,” the statement said. </p>    <p>The UN chief highlighted the urgent need for all actors “to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights,&quot; it added.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

On Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of the country, marking the most significant escalation in the ongoing feud between Washington and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro has slammed the decision of Trump and said his country was cutting off diplomatic relations with the U.S., giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

Brazil and the Organization of American States had recognized Guaido as Venezuela's leader prior to his formal announcement. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay have followed suit while Bolivia and Mexico continue to recognize Maduro.

Maduro has repeatedly lashed out at the U.S., saying Washington is waging an economic war against him and his government amid a sweeping sanctions campaign.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced solidarity with Maduro early Thursday after Washington recognized Guaido as interim president.

UN chief: Instruments at hand to probe Khashoggi murder

             By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday the Human Rights Council has the capacity to probe the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.</p>  <p>&quot;The Human Rights Council has the possibility to take decisions in relation to launching different forms of interaction,&quot; Guterres said at a press conference at the UN headquarters in New York. &quot;There are many instruments Human Rights Council can use, requested by member states, and I am not in a position to encourage member states. I'm saying these instruments are available.&quot;</p>  <p>UN Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet said last month that the killing of Khashoggi deserves an international investigation, however, the UN does not have the jurisdiction to launch one.</p>  <p>Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.</p>  <p>After producing various contradictory explanations, Riyadh acknowledged he was killed inside the consulate building, blaming the act on a botched rendition operation.</p>  <p>While an investigation and trial was held in Saudi Arabia, the UN said it found the probe insufficient.</p>  <p>In response to a question by Anadolu Agency, the UN chief said he himself also did not have power to launch an investigation into the journalist's murder.</p>  <p>&quot;I don't have the right to launch any investigation, there is a huge confusion about what the Secretary General can and can't do,&quot; Guterres said.</p>  <p>&quot;I do not have the right to launch a criminal investigation myself and no formal criminal investigation was requested to me by any member state,&quot; he added.</p>  <p> *Betul Yuruk contributed to the story from New York 

UN chief backs Turkey's legitimate security concerns

             By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Turkey has justifiable security interests in northeastern Syria, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday amid calls for a buffer zone the area.

Guterres said any solution must take into account Syria's territorial integrity, the "legitimate security concerns" of Turkey, and recognition of Syria's diversity.

"These are the three criteria that we have in analyzing any proposal that might eventually exist," Guterres said.

In a Twitter post on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump proposed the establishment of a 20-mile (32-kilometer) wide safe zone in Syria's eastern Euphrates region. Later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone talk with his U.S. counterpart and evaluated the details of the safe zone.

The proposal will be discussed during an upcoming Russian-Turkish presidential-level meeting, according to Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin.

A 3rd of UN workers sexually harassed in 2 years

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – One-third of UN staffers and contractors said they have been sexually harassed in the past two years, the international body said in a report released late Tuesday evening.

Consulting firm Deloitte carried out the online survey in November, which included responses from over 30,000 people, but that is just 17 percent of those who were sent the electronic questionnaire.

In a letter to UN workers upon the release of the "Safe Space: Survey on Sexual Harassment in our Workplace," Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the response rate "moderately low."

"This tells me two things: first – that we still have a long way to go before we are able to fully and openly discuss sexual harassment; and second – that there may also be an ongoing sense of mistrust, perceptions of inaction and lack of accountability," wrote Guterres.

Roughly 22 percent of those who said they experienced sexual harassment said they were subjected to sexual stories or jokes they found offensive, 14 percent had experienced offensive remarks about their appearance, body or sexual activities, and 13 percent said they were the target of unwanted attempts to draw them into talking about sexual matters.

About 10 percent of people said they were touched in a matter they were uncomfortable with while another 10 percent said they were exposed to sexual gestures or suggestive body language.

Only a third said they took action as a result of experience sexual assault.

The results of the "Safe Space Survey Report," Guterres wrote, "confirm that this issue has a debilitating effect on staff morale and work performance, and that there are continued barriers to reporting, including a fear of retaliation and a perception that perpetrators, for the most part, enjoy impunity."

In all, 10,032 out of the total 30,364 respondents reported an experience of sexual assault.

The UN is expected to brief reporters Wednesday on the report.

Palestine assumes G-77 chair at UN

             By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The state of Palestine officially assumed the chairmanship of the G-77 group of developing nations Tuesday. </p>  <p>Palestine formally succeeded Egypt in chairing the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries, and China, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres saying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' chairmanship is &quot;a clear demonstration of the strong commitment of the State of Palestine to an effective Presidency.</p>  <p>&quot;Palestine and its citizens have first-hand experience of some of the most challenging and dramatic global issues we face. You are well-placed to take up the chairmanship of this important group of countries,&quot; Guterres said at an event marking the presidency's handover. </p>  <p>Abbas vowed Palestine's G-77 presidency will be dedicated to protecting the group's interests while additionally lashing out at Israel. </p>  <p>&quot;Israel's continued colonization and occupation of Palestine undermines our development, and capacity for cooperation and coordination, and obstructs cohesive future development for all peoples of the region,&quot; he said at the UN's New York headquarters.   </p>  <p>&quot;The establishment of peace and security in the Middle East will significantly enhance the opportunities for sustainable development for all countries of the region,&quot; added Abbas. </p>  <p>As head of the G-77, Palestine -- which is a non-member observer state -- will be able to act as a member state and exercise its right to reply as a member of the bloc.</p>  <p>Palestine has been a non-member observer state since 2012, and has the right to vote on some General Assembly resolutions and participate in UN organizations.</p>  <p>*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations

UN chief congratulates Palestine's Abbas on G-77 chair

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday following Ramallah's assumption of the chair of the G-77 group of nations. </p>  <p>Abbas met with Guterres earlier in the day at UN Headquarters in New York as Palestine took on the lead role in the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries and China. </p>  <p>Guterres &quot;expressed his wishes for a successful year for the Group&quot; during the closed-door meeting, the UN said in a statement. </p>  <p>Abbas also met with UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa.</p>  <p>In October, the UN General Assembly endorsed Palestine's G-77 presidency with 146 members voting in favor and the U.S., Israel and Australia opposed. </p>  <p>As head of the group, Palestine -- which is a non-member observer state -- will be able to act as a member state and exercise its right to reply as a member of the bloc. </p>  <p>As a non-member observer state, Palestine has the right to vote on some General Assembly resolutions and participate in UN organizations.