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Newsfile: March 2011

Newsfile aggregates news that might otherwise drop off the horizon about situations affecting humanitarian work and the international situation. It doesn't chase after the most immediate stories which other newsfeeds can offer. Latest items from each region are presented first. To comply with fair-use rules we give only a headline, or enough of the story to explain the headline. All the stories cited are fully detailed. Dollars are U.S. unless stated otherwise.



U.N. Rights Council ends session to plaudits

The U.N. Human Rights Council ended its 16th session on 25 March 2011 with a number of decisions considered ground-breaking for the much-criticised body.

swissinfo said: Human Rights Council witnesses "turning point", pointing to the decision to investigate crimes in Ivory Coast. U.S. representative Eileen Donahoe is quoted as telling reporters: "This session marks a significant turning point and shows the council’s ability to cope with crises in real time.”

Adrien-Claude Zoller, director of the non-governmental organisation Geneva for Human Rights, commented on the impact of the democratic movement in North African and Arab states; “Tunisia, where there’s been a very strong movement in favour of human rights and which has already adopted a series of international conventions in this area, has invited the High Commissioner for Human Rights to open an office in Tunis to strengthen the implementation of these rights,” he told
Egypt, though represented by the same diplomats as under Hosni Mubarak, it has changed its tone. “The change is palpable,” Zoller is quoted as saying. “Its diplomatic service, which is coordinating a movement of non-aligned people, is using a language significantly less radical or conservative.” 25 March 2011

TrustLaw, "a global hub for free legal assistance and news and information on good governance and women's rights", reported: 'UN Human Rights Council: A stunning development against violence'.

This referred to the call to States to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The statement was delivered on behalf of a broad grouping of 85 States from all regions of the world. "Today's statement enjoyed the support of the largest group of countries to-date, on the topic of sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights," TrustLaw said.

TrustLaw 23 March 2011

Criticism came from Iran. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Americas Behrouz Kamalvandi said the 24 March resolution calling for more study into Iran's human rights record is politically motivated. PressTV headlined the story: 'UN resolution seeks to pressure Iran' and reported "less than half of the UN Human Rights Council members voted in favor of the US-led resolution."

PressTV 26 March 2011

Google News 26 March 2011

Eco-farming can double food output by poor

Small-scale farmers can double food production within 10 years in critical regions for the poor by using methods that avoid chemical fertilizers, according to Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in his annual report published in Geneva on 8 March 2011.

The study for the U.N. Human Rights Council calls for a fundamental shift towards ecological agriculture to boost food production and improve the situation of the poorest. "To date, agro ecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 per cent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 per cent for all African projects," Mr. De Schutter said. "Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3-10 years."

"Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today," Mr. De Schutter argues.

The report points out that projects in Indonesia, Viet Nam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 per cent reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers.

An estimated 16% of populations in developing countries populations were undernourished in 2010, 50% above the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goal to bring the share of the hungry down to 10% between 1990 and 2015 (from 20%).

See also Planet Ark/Reuters,, New York Times Opinionator blog, Trading Charts/UPI, swissinfo.

U.N. Human Rights Council, 8 March 2011

U.N.C.H.R. focuses spotlight on statelessness

The Office of the United Nations Commissoner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R) marks its 60th anniversary on 1 March 2011 with a new campaign to get more action to help stateless people. This year is the 50th and 57th anniversary of the two major conventions on the issue, estimated to affect 12 million people.

U.N. press briefing 11 February 2011.



U.N. General Assembly suspends Libya from U.N.H.R.C.

The 192-member U.N. General Assembly voted by consensus (with the exception of Libya) to suspend the country from the U.N. Human Rights Council on 1 March 2011. It was elected to the 47-member Council the previous May (2010) for a three-year term, gaining 155 votes in the Assembly.

The motion was introduced by Lebanon, apparently citing "gross and systematic" human rights violations. The 50 co-sponsors included the League of Arab States and the African group.

Most reports do not make it clear whether the Assembly or the Council made the allegations, but they seem to have come from the Council on 25 February. After the Assembly resolution, the Council named its three-member panel of investigation on 11 March.

The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) suggested the unanimous Assembly support for the resolution, "including from States that traditionally condemn country-specific responses to human rights situations, appeared to signal a major shift in General Assembly dynamics. However, some of these States, in their interventions before and after the text's adoption, indicated that their support came with caveats, including that the decision should not be interpreted to undermine the principles of territorial integrity and state sovereignty, or be used to justify military intervention."

On 25 February the Rights Council on 25 February decided by acclamation to set up an independent commission of enquiry to investigate serious human rights violations in Libya, and recommended that the General Assembly consider suspending its membership in the Council. This was the first time it used this procedural mechanism, set out in the resolution which established the Council. See also: Scoop New Zealand.

Note: a Yahoo search gives the two sources below at the top of its list. As of 15 March the U.N. link is not active.

The question is, how did these two sources get to be top? Fox you can understand from the number of hits, maybe (though the U.N. is not Fox's favorite organization). But Christian Post? I'd never heard of it before this search. Perhaps Yahoo should be indicating the number of hits in its list. After all, A.P.and Reuter are also on the list.

Fox News, Christian Post 1 March 2011



Texted donations total 8% of cash for Japan -- some major donors not asking for funds

Text-message contributions to the American Red Cross for Japan accounted for $1.1 million of the $7.75 million raised by Sunday afternoon, 13 March 2011. The running total is at least $13 million.

Several major bodies, such as CARE USA and Oxfam America, are not actively raising money, though Oxfam will accept donations. Doctors Without Borders has sent assessment teams to the region but is paying for this from unrestricted funds.

Philanthropy Today 14 March 2011