Wednesday’s Daily Brief: Syrian detainees, Zimbabwe hunger crisis, Kabul attack, Mexico disappearances, new tech to feed the world

© UNICEF/Antoine Raab At Kres primary school, in Cambodia, the multilingual education curriculum allows children to study in their indigenous language of Kreung, while they learn the national language of Khmer (November 2018).

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


Wednesday’s top stories: Syrian detainees “failed by Security Council”; Zimbabwe experiencing “worst-ever hunger crisis”; Guterres welcomes new Mozambique peace accord; deadly Kabul attack; Mexico “responsible for enforced disappearances”; indigenous languages at risk; and how innovation should be used to feed the world.

UN Security Council ‘utterly failed’ Syrian detainees: a victim’s plea to ‘end impunity and stop this horror’

The Security Council has “utterly failed Syrian detainees and their families”, Amina Khoulani, co-founder of Families for Freedom, told the Security Council on Wednesday, during a meeting focused on those who have been jailed or gone missing across Syria, during years of brutal conflict.

In a rare opportunity for the Council to hear directly from family members of people forcibly disappeared, Ms. Khoulani spelled out: “It is your responsibility to protect Syrians from a system that kills, tortures and illegally detains its own citizens”.

Speaking on behalf of the women-led movement, launched in 2017 by families whose loved ones had been detained and disappeared, she painted a picture of sick, injured or dying people, many enduring daily barbaric torture, with some scheduled for execution, saying, “hardly any of them will have had a fair trial”.

Read our full coverage here.

UN boosts humanitarian appeal to help tackle Zimbabwe’s ‘worst-ever’ hunger crisis

With Zimbabwe now experiencing its “worst-ever hunger crisis”, the UN food relief agency has revised its humanitarian appeal to step up food assistance to people most affected by drought, flooding, and economic stagnation.

“Yesterday the humanitarian community launched an urgent appeal for funds to respond to the country’s very difficult humanitarian situation”, World Food Programme (WFP) Spokesperson Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday. “WFP is set to increase aid, especially for drought-affected residents, but also to build community capacity to respond to climate shocks”.

Find our complete story here.

UN chief welcomes signing of historic peace and reconciliation accord in Mozambique

The Secretary-General has welcomed the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Accord between the Government of Mozambique and the former rebel movement, RENAMO, on Tuesday.

In a statement issued by his Spokesperson, António Guterres applauded both President Filipe Nyusi and RENAMO President Ossufo Momade “for their pursuit of direct talks and for their commitment to finalizing the peace process.”

A civil war which erupted following Mozambique’s independence from Portugal, killed more than a million people between 1977 and 1992, but the ceasefire signed then did not prevent periodic violence, as RENAMO moved into the realm of civilian politics, becoming the main opposition party this year. The movement can now compete for regional governorships in elections scheduled for October.  “The Secretary-General calls on all national stakeholders to contribute to durable peace, reconciliation and stability in the country”, said the statement, released on Wednesday. “He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to supporting the implementation of the peace agreements and bringing about a process of genuine and lasting reconciliation and sustainable development in Mozambique.”
Afghan Mission ‘outraged’ by deadly Taliban attack in Kabul, as hardline group threatens election violence

The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed outrage at a Taliban attack in Kabul, that killed “scores” of civilians on Wednesday. In a Tweet, the Mission said that such “indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks in heavily populated civilian areas must stop”.

According to media reports, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly car bomb attack on a police station. At least 14 people are believed to have been killed in the explosion, and nearly 150 injured.

Earlier, on the same day, UNAMA released a statement expressing “deep concern” at threats made by the Taliban to target civilians participating in Afghanistan’s presidential elections, which are due to take place on 28 September. The elections were originally scheduled to take place in April, and postponed in July, only to be rescheduled for next month.

Read our full coverage here.

‘Enforced disappearances’, responsibility of Mexican state: UN independent experts

Mexico must begin “processing and punishing those responsible for enforced disappearances”, an independent UN expert declared on Wednesday, in response to a complaint made by a witness to an alleged incident in 2010.

The expert, Hélène Tigroudja, is a member of the Human Rights Committee, a group which monitors how countries, including Mexico, are sticking to international commitments on civil and political rights.

The complaint concerns a man who was taken from his car at gunpoint by police, in the city of Poza Rica in October 2010, and has not been seen since.

Four in 10 indigenous languages at risk of disappearing, warn UN human rights experts

Of 7,000 indigenous languages spoken today, four in 10 are in danger of disappearing, rights experts said on Wednesday, in a call for a decade of action to reverse the “historic destruction” of age-old dialects.

In an appeal to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on Friday (9 August), UN-appointed experts said that “nation-building” had been largely responsible for “ongoing discrimination” against native speakers.

“Over time, such policies can undermine and effectively destroy a culture and even a people”, the experts cautioned, before insisting that indigenous languages allowed freedom of expression and conscience that are critical to people’s dignity, culture and political representation.

Read our story here.

Listen to or download our interview with Alexey Tsykarev, from the Centre for Support of Indigenous Peoples in Karelia:

Embrace new technology and innovation to feed the world, agency urges

The pioneering spirit of the so-called “Green Revolution”, that transformed agricultural production in the Asia-Pacific region, needs to be “retooled”, to embrace new technology and meet the increasingly complex nutritional needs of today’s world, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, declared on Wednesday.

The agency’s statement came during a special meeting held to commemorate 30 years of development progress made by the research foundation created by Mankombu Swaminathan, who is recognized as one of the pioneers of sustainable development.

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