Thursday’s Daily Brief: Press Freedom Day, Tuna Day, cultural dialogue, #GlobalGoals awards, updates on Syria, Somalia, Mali

SDG Action Campaign Festival SDG in Action, in Bonn, Germany.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


This Thursday, top stories includes: the celebrations of World Press Freedom Day and World Tuna Day, events for inter-cultural dialogue in Azerbaijan and for Global Goals awards in Germany, and updates from Syria, Somalia and Mali.

A free press is ‘cornerstone’ for accountability and ‘speaking truth to power’: Guterres

At a time when disinformation and mistrust of the news media is growing, a free press is “essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights”, said the UN Secretary-General, in his message for World Press Freedom Day, marked on Friday.

No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information, said António Guterres, describing unfettered journalism as “the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power.”

Read our full story here.

Not faith, ‘but those who manipulate the faithful’ driving wedge between religions, UN-backed forum in Baku told

Following a string of hate-fuelled attacks on places of worship around the world, the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNOAC), said on Thursday that it was with a “heavy heart” that he was opening the annual UN-backed forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the role of cultural dialogue in building human solidarity and countering violence.

Miguel Angel Moratinos said the theme of the 5th World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, Building Dialogue into action against discrimination, inequality & violent extremism, was very timely as those gathered at the Forum, which wraps up tomorrow, would no doubt reflect on the “horrific terrorist attacks” that had taken place over recent days and months.

Find our full coverage of the high-level opening event here.

Harsh drought conditions in Somalia could trigger major humanitarian crisis, UN warns

A senior UN official has warned that harsh drought conditions currently afflicting South West state in Somalia, are likely to trigger a major humanitarian crisis, if urgent action is not taken. George Conway, acting UN Deputy Special Representative for Somalia, issued the warning while he was assessing the effects of the prolonged drought on vulnerable populations, in Baidoa.

Highlighting the underfunding of this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan – currently only 19 per cent met – Mr. Conway said on Thursday it would require “strong advocacy with donor and financing partners” to avoid a crisis, and stop it increasing “potentially over the edge into more disastrous conditions”.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), drought conditions during the 2018-2019 rainy season have led to an increase in the number of people designated as “food insecure”, since October of last year.

Grave concern over escalating humanitarian crisis, casualties, displacement across northwest Syria

The UN has said it is “gravely concerned” over reports of a worsening humanitarian situation facing civilians across northwest Syria, with rising casualties, and “waves of displacement” due to intensifying conflict.

Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, said that over the past 48 hours, “at least seven people have reportedly been killed in south rural Idlib, while two were reportedly killed in Hama governorate yesterday.”

Read our full story here.

Mali: crimes against humanity may have taken place in last month’s Ogossagou attack

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, released on Thursday the preliminary findings of a special fact-finding mission on serious human rights violations in the Ogossagou region, Mopti, in Mali, this past 23 March.

During the attack that day, at least 157 members of the Fulani (or “Peule”) community were killed, 65 people were wounded, and 220 homes were reduced to ashes, including some in which people had taken refuge.

“Around 5 am, a group of at least a hundred men, identified as ‘traditional hunters’ (dozos) along with a dozen men in military clothing and others in civilian clothing, led an attack… killing indiscriminately men, women and children, and burning down houses with torches,” explained a MINUSMA press release.

The fact-finding mission found three mass graves, containing at least 150 bodies altogether.

“I am profoundly shocked by the cruelty of these abominable acts against the civilian population, especially women and children,” said UN Special Representative for Mali Mahamat Saleh Annadif, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

These events took place against a backdrop of ongoing inter-communal violence. They could be qualified as crimes against humanity if it is proven that they took place in a context of systematic attacks against civilians, following the Rome Statute.

World Tuna Day highlights importance of sustainably managed fish stocks for the health of the ocean

Thursday is World Tuna Day, which serves to highlight the importance of this valuable food source to the marine ecosystem and the global economy, says the UN.

Established just two years ago, the day raises awareness about the importance of tuna – a staple of the seas – and serves to promote more sustainable fishing practices.

Highlighting that tuna and tuna-like species are very important economically to all countries – and a significant source of food – the UN warns that tuna is threatened by an overwhelming demand, especially for traditional canned tuna, and as sashimi and sushi.

Confirming that approximately 7 million tonnes of tuna are landed yearly, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emphasizes the whole aquaculture sector’s role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular, Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve the ocean and its resources.

Festival in Bonn to drive action towards meeting SDGs

And sticking with the SDGs, a global festival of action, kicked off in Bonn, Germany, on Thursday aiming to inspire SDGs campaigners to scale up and broaden the global movement, and make the 17 goals a reality.

Organized by the UN SDG Action Campaign, the ground-breaking event runs until Saturday, providing an interactive space to showcase the latest innovations, tools and approaches to SDG advocacy.

Bringing together more than 1,500 political decision-makers, activists, experts, business leaders and creatives from over 130 countries, the festival is expected to motivate not only organizations but also individuals, in the push towards 2030.

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