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People with disabilities wrongly denied the power to make decisions
by Catalina Devandas
Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities
Mar. 2018
People with disabilities are losing control over their everyday lives, and are even risking abuse and neglect, because of laws and practices that strip them of legal capacity, said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities.
People’s opportunities to participate in society are drastically reduced when they are deprived of the fundamental right to make decisions, Catalina Devandas told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“Many people with disabilities are denied the possibility of exercising their rights and making their own decisions on the wrong assumption that it is for their own good and that of society,” the expert said.
“But this practice has proved to be wrong, as it only increases the risk of violence, abuse and neglect, leaving people with disabilities defenceless.
“People with disabilities should have the opportunity to access support to make decisions. Positive examples of supported decision-making are emerging around the world, showing the way this fundamental right can be fulfilled,” said Ms. Devandas, presenting her full report on the issue.
“Unlike a few years ago, when there were not many experiences or good practices to draw on, today we have a range of models and practices that States can use to transform their own systems to fully ensure the right to legal capacity of all people with disabilities,” she told the Human Rights Council. “This is a real opportunity for progress.”
The expert acknowledged that, since the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities came into force in 2008, many States have introduced law reforms; but warned that these efforts were not yet fully complete and could become ineffective without systemic, comprehensive and sustainable policy reform.
“We are witnessing significant policy innovations,” Ms. Devandas added. “The process of transformation may not be as fast as we wish, but the recognition that everyone - with or without disabilities - is equal before the law is a historical imperative that must be universally accepted.”

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Aid has not reached 3.4 million people in Syria’s besieged areas
by Jan Egeland
United Nations News, agencies
6 February 2018
Senior United Nations officials in Syria warned on Tuesday of the dire humanitarian crisis in several parts of the country, calling on warring parties to immediately stop fighting so aid and basic services can reach those in need, and the sick and critically wounded can evacuate.
“The United Nations humanitarian team in Syria warns of the dire consequences of the compounded humanitarian crisis in several parts of the country,” said a statement issued Tuesday by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and the UN Representatives in Syria.
“In this extreme situation,” the officials called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities lasting for at least one month throughout Syria to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and services, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded, and alleviation of people’s suffering, to the extent possible, wherever they are.”
The UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria expressed deep concern over the further escalation of violence in Idlib governorate and in eastern Ghouta.
Over the last 48 hours, the scale and ferocity of attacks has increased dramatically resulting in multiple reports of civilian casualties and airstrikes that have reportedly hit at least three hospitals, including in Ma’aret al Nu’man, Kafr Nabl and Mardikh.
Since the beginning of the year, the increase in violence in Idlib has resulted in another upsurge of internal displacement with over a quarter of a million civilians reportedly fleeing the fighting, according to reports received by the Commission.
“These reports are extremely troubling, and make a mockery of the so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ intended to protect civilians from such bombardment,” said Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro.
“The parties to this conflict are failing in their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their absolute obligation to refrain from attacks against medical facilities and personnel,” Mr. Pinheiro added.
Most alarmingly, the Commission has received multiple reports – which it is now investigating – that bombs allegedly containing weaponised chlorine have been used in the town of Saraqeb in Idlib and in Douma in eastern Ghouta.
Mounting attacks in Idlib come at a time when the escalation of violence in eastern Ghouta has also magnified the longstanding humanitarian crisis in that besieged pocket on the north-eastern outskirts of Damascus.
Airstrikes and shelling of areas held by anti-government armed groups has compounded a three-year siege in which nearly 400,000 civilians – including children – have had little access to basic assistance, including food, medicines and life-saving health assistance.
“What is happening in eastern Ghouta is not simply a humanitarian crisis because aid is denied, these sieges involve the international crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population,” stated Mr. Pinheiro.
21 December 2017
Aid has not reached 3.4 million people in Syria’s besieged areas in December, writes Jan Egeland.
The list of people requiring life-saving medical help in Syria is getting shorter not because they were evacuated, but because they died, a senior United Nations advisor has warned.
“In many months we reached only 10 or maximum 20 per cent of people in besieged areas. In December, we haven’t reached a single soul,” Jan Egeland, Special Advisor to the UN Special Envoy, told journalists in Geneva after meeting with countries that have influence on the warring parties inside Syria, where war has raged for nearly seven years.
Mr. Egeland said that inside “what is left of Syria,” nearly 14 million people need humanitarian assistance and well over half of them get help every month. Things are much more complicated for the 3.4 million people surviving in besieged areas and so-called “hard-to-reach” places, including Eastern Ghouta, Foah, Kafraya and Yarmuk.
The international humanitarian task force has helped “dozens and dozens” of aid convoys reach previously inaccessible areas, but many other places still remain out of bounds, he said, calling for improved aid access to the country’s most vulnerable communities in 2018.
Mr. Egeland said although the number of people living in these front-line areas has fallen by nearly a half since 2016, humanitarian access has not improved.
He expressed hope that upcoming ceasefire talks in Astana with Russia, Turkey and Iran, would improve access for aid workers, before calling for a political solution to the “quagmire” that Syria has become.
Just outside Damascus, conditions remain dire in Eastern Ghouta, an opposition-held area where 400,000 people are still under siege, amid ongoing mortar attacks by rebels into the Syrian capital.
Food is now only available “to the most affluent,” Mr. Egeland said, warning that the list of people requiring life-saving medical help is getting shorter all the time – “not because we are evacuating them, but because they are dying.”
21 Dec. 2017
Conflict and protracted crises in the Near East and North Africa undermining efforts to eradicate hunger.
“When countries in the region are suffering from an escalation of conflicts, the aim to tackle the region’s deepest concerns of malnutrition, water scarcity and climate change becomes more urgent,” says Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The 2017 edition of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) highlights in particular how an ongoing intensification of violence is opening a wide “hunger gap” between countries being affected by conflicts and those that are not.
In the region’s countries directly impacted by conflict, 27.2 per cent of all people were chronically hungry, or undernourished, during the 2014-16 period. That’s six times higher than the share of the population that was undernourished in countries not affected by strife.
Meanwhile, “severe food insecurity,” another metric used by FAO to measure hunger, in conflict-affected countries is now double that in non-conflict countries.
In Syria, violence has provoked a 67 per cent reduction in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and severely undermined food security. About 70 to 80 per cent of Syrians now need humanitarian assistance, while 50 per cent require food assistance.
In Iraq, where violence has led to for 58 per cent decline in GDP, 30 per cent of the population needs humanitarian assistance while nine per cent requires food assistance.
Yemen is also being wracked by conflict, leading to a situation in which 70 to 80 per cent of the population are in need humanitarian assistance and 50 per cent require food assistance. Libya is another hot spot where conflict is undermining food security:
* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War:
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:
* Jan Egeland is Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council and current chair of the UN/ISSG Task Force on Humanitarian Access in Syria, access his twitter feed via the link below.

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