Ban notes challenges faced by UN states

BanUNITED NATIONS, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday shared a rare piece of good news with the UN General Assembly as he briefed them on his plans for “a very demanding” 2016.

Liberia joined Sierra Leone and Guinea as the third and final Ebola-affected country to become free of transmission Thursday, said Ban.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared earlier in the day the end of the most recent flare-up of Ebola virus disease in Liberia, saying all known chains of transmission have been stopped in West Africa.

Ban, however, had little time for complacency. He quickly moved on to the many challenges facing the world body’s 193 member states, from the refugee crisis, violent extremism, climate change to nuclear non-proliferation.

On the refugee crisis, he urged the gathering of UN member states, not to forget the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced people, the majority of whom are hosted in developing countries.

“Arrivals in Europe were less than two percent of the world’s 60 million refugees and displaced people,” he said. “Four out of five refugees are hosted in developing countries.”

Refugees were not only Syrians, he added, but also Afghans, Somalis, Congolese, the Rohingya of Myanmar, and Eritreans among others who are seeking safety.

On crisis in Syria, Ban strongly condemned the denial of food to Syrian towns under siege as a war crime.

He said that the problem goes beyond the town of Madaya — where some men, women and children are in danger of dying from starvation — with a total of 400,000 Syrians in similar conditions of isolation.

Ban later told journalists that cluster munitions attacks in Yemen in recent weeks may also constitute a war crime. He also expressed his deep concern about the highly unstable and unpredictable situation in Burundi.

On the issue of violent extremism, Ban warned against counter-productive approaches which may provide fuel for the extremists’ recruitment.

“Our challenge is to defeat Da-esh (Islamic State, or IS), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda and other such groups — without defeating ourselves through counter-productive approaches that fuel the extremism we are trying to extinguish,” he said.

Ban also highlighted the UN’s plans to address the growing global humanitarian crisis and raise much needed funds in 2016, including the next Syria pledging conference which will take place in London in February, and the UN’s World Humanitarian Summit which will take place in Istanbul of Turkey in May.

One of Ban’s biggest priorities for 2016 will be getting off to a fast start implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. These were the UN’s two towering achievements of 2015, Ban told reporters after his General Assembly speech.

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