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Updated On: Tuesday, 25 September 2018

2017 Year in Review

Content by: South-South News

29 December 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — 2017 saw a new Secretary-General, António Guterres, arrive at the United Nations, dedicated to reform, gender parity and conflict prevention. Around the world, the list of challenges keeps growing. “We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace,” Guterres noted.

The world’s fastest growing refugee crisis evolved in Myanmar – driven by violence and human rights abuses. More than 600.000 stateless Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, where the fragile infrastructure was overwhelmed. The UN scaled up emergency aid – and called on Myanmar to end military operations against the Rohingya.

No-one is winning today’s wars. In Yemen, conflict led 8.5 million people to the brink of the world’s largest famine in modern times. Water and sanitation systems are all but destroyed by the targeted attacks, sparking a deadly cholera outbreak. The UN sent in emergency supplies and urged all parties not to block civilians from humanitarian aid.

Four Famines - in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria - are the result of unresolved conflicts exacerbated by droughts and missed harvests.

In the deadliest attack on a UN Peacekeeping Mission in decades, 14 Tanzanian peacekeepers lost their lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Guterres said, “It is another indication of the enormous sacrifices made by troop contributing countries in the service of global peace.” The Mission, MONUSCO, is the largest in the world, with a mandate to challenge armed groups who have kept their grip on the vast, mineral-rich region for years.

Another protracted war: Syria. Six years of conflict have left 250.000 people dead and 5 million displaced – Some people returned to liberated Aleppo, while in besieged eastern Ghouta thousands of people received food and medicine from a UN aid convoy. Fighting continued in other places, including chemical weapons attacks. Temporary ceasefires were brokered and the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria worked tirelessly to bring the parties to the negotiating table - and an end to the war.

Almost 100.000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2017 – more than 3,000 have drowned. Most are fleeing poverty and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. More than a million people are waiting for a passage in Libya, caught in an endless cycle of abuse, exploitation and even slavery.

The new Secretary-General’s reform proposals put people ahead of bureaucracy – and mediation and prevention at the center of the UN’s peace and security agenda. The UN’s newly established Office of Counter-Terrorism coordinates a global effort to prevent violent extremism and other root causes of terror. And the UN also launched strategies to end sexual exploitation and committed to achieve gender parity.

Around the world, 130 million girls are still not going to school – unacceptable for UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai, who said, “If we want to go forward, we have to give education to girls and once you educate girls you change the whole community; you change the whole society.”

By 2020, the UN aims to double the number of women peacekeepers – to protect civilians and support local women to participate in peace building.

Success in Colombia – where the UN Mission verified the disarmament process of the last former FARC fighters, pointing the way to lasting peace in the country.

Closure in The Hague: After more than 24 years, the UN’s Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia completed its work. The Tribunal was the first war crimes court established by the UN – and has brought more than 160 perpetrators to justice. In the last major case, the former Bosnian Serb Commander Ratko Mladic was sentenced to life in prison for multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

New nuclear and missile tests in North Korea, led to increasing tensions around the Korean Peninsula – and worries around the world. “We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” Guterres warned.

The UN Security Council tightened existing sanctions on North Korea. In December, the government in Pyongyang invited a UN envoy to start discussing issues of mutual concern.

Meanwhile 122 countries voted for the first-ever treaty to completely prohibit nuclear weapons – a historic moment for disarmament.

At the Ocean Conference, member states committed to voluntary measures to protect the world’s seas.

Shortly after, a series of mega hurricanes cut a trail of destruction through the Caribbean. On some islands like Dominica, hardly a tree or a house was left standing. Scientists saw strong evidence that climate change magnified the strength of the storms and other natural disasters. The UN called on countries to speed up the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.

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