Sudan concerned at rising violence in Darfur Annan calls on parties to

“The Secretary-General is seriously concerned by the major escalation of violence in the Jebel Marra region of Darfur, particularly the heavy fighting in the Golo and Shearia areas that has forced humanitarian agencies to evacuate,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement issued in New York.Condemning the attack by Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) forces on Golo, he called on all parties “to immediately stop all hostility.”The statement also reiterated Mr. Annan’s strong call on all parties to the conflict to respect their agreements and the provisions of international humanitarian law. “A lasting solution to this conflict can only be found through a negotiated settlement,” he stressed.In a related development, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today issued a detailed report portraying dismal human rights conditions in Darfur and other parts of Sudan and calling on the country’s Government to take measures to end a prevailing culture of impunity.While noting some progress since peace accords were signed last year, such as the lifting emergency law in certain areas, the report says other initiatives have been inadequate, especially in Darfur, where any positive political measures were “overshadowed by an ineffective judiciary, an ongoing conflict, and widespread human rights abuses.”From September to November 2005 government forces, working with militia who were often described by witnesses as Janjaweed, carried out at least eight organized armed attacks on over a dozen camps or villages occupied by internally displaced persons (IDPs). The attackers killed and wounded civilians and destroyed their homes.The report rejects Sudan’s rationale that it was responding to rebel activities, stating that in most cases civilians were “deliberately targeted.” It notes that State-sponsored offensives fan the flames of violence by irregular groups. “The increase in large attacks on civilians by Government forces likely encouraged the militia to execute other abuses with impunity.” Examples of sexual violence are also described in the report, such as the case of an IDP who was collecting hay one morning when she was approached by three armed military men, “slapped in the face, kicked in the stomach, and accused of being a rebel. She was then raped by two of the men.”The Geneva-based OHCHR reported allegations of torture at the hands of the national security, military intelligence and police officials in Khartoum, and voices serious concern about the absence of fair trial guarantees as well as inhuman detention conditions.The 42-page report, which bases its findings mostly on direct investigations and information collected from victims, witnesses, and government authorities, calls on the Government to cease its attacks on civilians in Darfur, disarm militias there, and install an effective law enforcement system.Khartoum is also urged to end culture of impunity, strengthen the judiciary and revoke immunity laws protecting state agents. “The National Security Service should be stripped of it abusive and unchecked powers of arrest and detention,” the OHCHR states in the report, which was prepared in cooperation with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).Noting that the conflict in Sudan was initially sparked in response to marginalization and discrimination, the report recommends that resource allocation be fair, transparent, non-discriminatory, and involve the affected communities. The Government should also facilitate the humanitarian and development aid and allow civil society to function freely.In January, 2005, the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), ending a 21-year civil war which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people and the displacement of some 4 million others. read more

Water misuse climate change threaten increased malnutrition and disease – UN

Decreasing river flows, rising saltiness of estuaries, loss of fish and aquatic plant species and reductions in coastal sediments are likely to intensify farmland losses, food insecurity and damage to fisheries, increasing malnutrition and disease around the world by 2020, according to a new United Nations report released today. Climate change is viewed as the overarching issue in the report – Challenges to International Waters: Regional Assessments in a Global Perspective – with specific concerns for fisheries and marine organisms. It considers climate variability the key controlling factor in fishing yields for about half of the world’s large marine ecosystems. “There are many important messages emerging from this pioneering study,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said. “One that rings loud and clear is the economic one – that our collective failure to value the goods and services provided by international waters, and to narrowly price the benefits in terms of the few rather than the many, is impoverishing us all.”Key findings of UNEP’s Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA) project, funded by the independent Global Environment Facility (GEF) and national governments, especially Nordic ones, include: Agriculture ranks highest as the key concern on the freshwater front with increased global demand for agricultural products and a trend towards more water-intensive food such as meat rather than vegetables and fruits rather than cereals. Irrigated agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of withdrawals with only 30 per cent returned to the environment – compared with industry and households which return up to 90 per cent.Knowledge gaps, especially with regard to aquifers, are an increasingly significant hindrance for effective water management, with many developing countries operating in the dark on the size of water resource and precise patterns of supply and demand.Market failures are important contributors to damage in both freshwaters and coastal zones, with most production inputs “under-priced compared with their full social and environmental costs,” including under-pricing of water, subsidies for pesticides and fishing and incentives for infrastructure, like dams and water transfer schemes.International waters are damaged by over-fishing and destructive fishing methods, such as excessive catches fuelled by $20 billion a year fishing subsidies, lax enforcement of fishing laws and practices like blast fishing on coral reefs. A $1-dollar investment in blast fishing can generate an immediate 200-fold return for local fishermen but leaves a devastated reef that takes 50 years to recover.Ecosystem service payments are one way of better valuing goods and services from natural features like coral reefs and wetlands. For example, wetlands in Mexico would be less vulnerable if landowners were paid for waste water treatment provided by these natural pollution filters.Climate change may have important impacts on fishing yields for about half of the world’s large marine ecosystems, including the East and West Greenland shelves, the Benguela Current off Southwest Africa, the Canary Current off Northwest Africa and the Humboldt Current off the west coast of South America.Dams, river diversions, water transfers, and other structures designed to supply water and energy have important knock-on effects, obstructing migration routes and reducing spawning habitats. The dams on the Volga River have reduced the spawning habitat of Caspian sturgeon, more than 90 per cent of water in Namibia’s Eastern National Water Carrier canal is lost through evaporation, and ecosystems in the Aral and Dead seas and the Volta River Basin and Lake Chad in Africa have been destroyed. read more