TIME Ukraine

U.N. Says Nearly 1,000 Killed in Ukraine Since September Truce

A man of the Don battalion Lugansk People's Republic militia on the firing line on the Seversky Donets River on Nov. 18, 2014.
A man of the Don battalion Lugansk People's Republic militia on the firing line on the Seversky Donets River on Nov. 18, 2014. Krasilnikov Stanislav—Corbis

An average of 13 people every day since Sept. 5

Almost 1,000 people have been killed in Ukraine since a truce was signed in September between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists controlling parts of the restive eastern region, according to a United Nations report.

An average of 13 people have been killed every day since the Sept. 5 cease-fire was brokered between Ukraine and the rebels, equating to at least 957 deaths up to Tuesday, the U.N. human rights group found in the report. At least 4,317 people have been killed in the conflict since April, including the 298 who died when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down in July, and thousands of others have been injured. Some 466,000 people have been registered as displaced.

MORE: Cease-Fire in Ukraine Fails and Preparations for War Begin

“Respect for the cease-fire has been sporadic at best,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U.N.’s top human rights official, in a statement. “All parties need to make a far more whole-hearted effort to resolve this protracted crisis peacefully and in line with international human rights laws and standards.”

[AFP]

TIME United Nations

U.N. Push Against North Korea on Rights Moves Ahead

(UNITED NATIONS) — The world’s boldest effort yet to hold North Korea and leader Kim Jong Un accountable for alleged crimes against humanity moved forward Tuesday at the United Nations, where a Pyongyang envoy threatened further nuclear tests.

The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved a resolution that urges the Security Council to refer the country’s harsh human rights situation to the International Criminal Court. The non-binding resolution now goes to the General Assembly for a vote in the coming weeks. China and Russia, which hold veto power on the council, voted against it.

The resolution was inspired by a groundbreaking U.N. commission of inquiry report early this year that declared North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror.”

The U.N committee has adopted similar resolutions on the North’s abysmal human rights conditions in the past. But the fact that this year’s resolution includes the new idea that their absolute leader could be targeted by prosecutors has pushed the communist country to make a more furious response as that would pose a setback to its recent efforts to improve ties with the outside world to lure foreign investment and aid and revive the country’s troubled economy. North Korean officials would also view the resolution as a potential embarrassment to their young leader who took power after the death of his dictator father Kim Jong Il in late 2011.

North Korea sent a sharp warning in comments before the vote. Trying to punish it over human rights “is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests,” said Choe Myong Nam, a foreign ministry adviser for U.N. and human rights issues. His colleagues gave no details on that threat.

Choe also accused the European Union and Japan, the resolution’s co-sponsors, of “subservience and sycophancy” to the United States, and he promised “unpredictable and serious consequences” if the resolution went forward.

The European Union quickly issued a statement welcoming the support of 111 countries in the vote. Nineteen countries voted against, and 55 abstained.

“It is admirable that the member states of the United Nations are acting to protect the people of North Korea when their own government fails to do so,” the head of the commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, said in an email, adding that he is confident the Security Council will “act responsibly.”

Human rights groups turned their attention to China and Russia, which could block any Security Council move. “No Security Council country, including China, can deny the horror endured by so many NorthKoreans,” Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement just after the vote. “The time has come for justice.”

North Korea and its allies have argued that a resolution that targets a single country would set a dangerous precedent and that other developing countries could be singled out, too.

The resolution says the commission of inquiry report found grounds to believe that crimes againsthumanity have been committed under policies “established at the highest level of the State for decades.” It calls for targeted sanctions against the people who appear to be most responsible. The commission of inquiry earlier warned Kim Jong Un that could include him.

Cuba proposed an amendment that would have stripped out the tough language on the ICC, but the committee’s member countries voted that down earlier Tuesday.

The mere possibility that its leader could be targeted by prosecutors has put North Korean officials, once dismissive of human rights issues, on edge. In recent weeks, it dangled the possibility of a visit by the U.N. human rights chief, among other attempts at outreach.

“The North Koreans are strongly responding to the U.N. resolution because they think it’s shaking the young leader who’s been trying to consolidate his power since inheriting power only a few years ago,” said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University. “They would think their international image has been seriously hit.”

But the North is unlikely to make good on its threat to conduct a nuclear test because the country knows such an action would invite further international condemnation. Also, there is little chance that Russia and China will let the Security Council refer the North’s human rights situation to the ICC in The Hague, analysts said.

“North Korea’s reaction will mostly be verbal. They may threaten nuclear and missile tests, but they probably won’t carry them out,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

In the chamber Tuesday, a North Korean foreign ministry adviser, Kim Ju Song, was witnessed trying to get a U.N. official to eject Shin Dong-Hyuk, a young man who fled North Korea and has since spoken out against the Pyongyang regime.

The commission of inquiry report was based on interviews with dozens of people like Shin who had fled and detailed abuses including starvation and a system of harsh prison camps containing up to 120,000 people.

North Korea has accused people who cooperated with the commission of inquiry of lying, and it produced a video showing Shin’s father in North Korea condemning him.

But Shin, who bowed to Japan’s ambassador in thanks after the vote, said North Korea’s attempt to intimidate him and others backfired. “This was an overwhelming defeat,” he said.

TIME global health

Global Youth Population Swells to Record 1.8 Billion

INDIA-EDUCATION-STUDY
Indian students prepare for competitive exams in an open space of the City Central Library in Hyderabad on February 7, 2014. NOAH SEELAM—AFP/Getty Images

The challenges are most acute for less developed countries, where 89% of the world's young people reside.

A swell in the global population of young people has the potential to transform economies for better or worse, depending on the decisions of today’s policy makers, according to a new United Nations report.

In a report released Tuesday, the UN Population Fund estimates that the global population of young people between the ages of 10 and 24 has hit 1.8 billion, a historic high.

“Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress,” the report states. But the authors warn that this demographic surge could also have the potential to destabilize nations unless young people can secure access to health services, education and jobs.

The challenges are most acute for less developed countries, where nearly 9 out of 10 of the world’s young people reside. India alone has a youth population of 356 million. The report’s authors called on governments and donors to invest in this population’s education, employment and health, particularly sexual and reproductive health.

“International support can unlock the potential of the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, change agents and leaders,” write the report’s authors.

TIME faith

Pope Francis Could Visit the U.S. in 2015

Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican November 12, 2014. Tony Gentile—Reuters

The Vatican’s U.N. envoy is dropping hints

Pope Francis could be planning a visit to New York in time for the United Nations’ 70th anniversary in 2015, the Vatican’s U.N. envoy has hinted.

The Holy See has already said he would like to attend a family rally in Philadelphia next year and his permanent observer to the U.N., Archbishop Bernardito Auza, told the Associated Press, “if he comes to Philadelphia, he will come to New York.”

A papal visit in 2015 would also coincide with an upcoming exhibition at the U.N. headquarters in New York City that will feature century-old manuscripts relating to the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.

Auza said people had been hoping the exhibition would serve as a kind of announcement that the Pope intended to visit the States.

[AP]

TIME China

U.N. Panel Claims China Tried to Silence Women’s Rights Activists

Some claimed to have been censored by "state agents"

A United Nations committee on women’s rights accused China on Friday of aiming to silence activists who were scheduled to testify about the government’s human rights record at a conference in Geneva.

Some activists claimed to have been censored by “state agents,” according to Reuters, and at least one wasn’t able to travel to Switzerland based on “travel restrictions.”

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women asked that China “take steps to ensure that in the future no travel restrictions are placed on individuals/human rights defenders,” and also to fight other practices like forced abortions and “infanticide of girls.”

Read more at Reuters

TIME ebola

U.N. Ebola Chief Optimistic of Future Drop in Cases

David Nabarro
David Nabarro, senior U.S. system coordinator for Ebola disease, speaks at the U.N. Foundation in Washington on Sept. 3, 2014 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Dr. David Nabarro said in the past four weeks, the rate of Ebola infections seems to be slowing in some parts of West Africa

(UNITED NATIONS) — The U.N.’s Ebola chief said an extraordinary global response over the past month has made him hopeful the outbreak could end in 2015, though he cautioned that the fight to contain the disease is not even a quarter done.

“Until the last case of Ebola is under treatment, we have to stay on full alert,” Dr. David Nabarro said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s still bad.”

Nabarro said a month ago that the number of Ebola cases was probably doubling every three-to-four weeks. He warned then that without a mass global mobilization, “the world will have to live with the Ebola virus forever” and that the response needed to be 20 times greater.

But in the past four weeks, the rate of Ebola infections seems to be slowing in some parts of West Africa, Nabarro said in the interview. In other hotspots, he said, it appears to be expanding the way it was a month ago.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday reported a total of 13,042 cases of Ebola in West Africa and 4,818 deaths. It said the rate of new infections appears to be declining in Liberia, stable in Guinea and still rising in Sierra Leone.

Nabarro said there are five times the number of beds for treatment in the three hardest-hit countries than there were two months ago, which is helping to reduce the number of cases, along with improving efforts to find people with infections and trace their contacts.

Nabarro pointed to two other positive signs: The extraordinary global response in the last month and the mobilization of local communities in the three countries as a result of massive media campaigns and house-to-house “sensitization efforts” involving traditional leaders.

He said these factors have “made me incredibly optimistic that in the coming months we could certainly see a diminution, and hopefully in the next year the outbreak will come to an end.”

But Nabarro said it is too early to say the worst is over, noting that in Ebola and other diseases sometimes a reduction in cases can suddenly be followed by an upsurge, “like a fire reigniting.”

“So I must stress to you that we are really not saying to the world that the job is even half done or a quarter done,” he said.

“We’re simply saying we had a strategy and the strategy predicted that as things got implemented, numbers of cases wouldn’t increase at the rate they were increasing in August and September,” Nabarro said. “Well, that’s what’s happening. We’ve in some places got a slowed rate of increase, but I’m afraid I cannot say to you that it looks as if we’re over the worst.”

Nabarro, who has been a public health doctor for 35 years, said more treatment facilities, community care centers and money are needed.

The United Nations appealed for about $1 billion on Sept. 16. Nabarro said nearly $800 million has been pledged, plus additional money to help the affected governments cope with economic challenges and to pay military forces providing assistance in region.

But Nabarro said the U.N. now estimates it will need $1.5 billion, so there is a $700 million gap. He predicted that will be met because “the citizens of the world” have responded and want to help.

The U.N. goal is to have 70 percent of cases isolated and 70 percent of burials safe by Dec. 1.

Nabarro said there has been “extraordinary progress” on burials in Liberia and the figure of safe burials is near 70 percent now. Touching and washing bodies are tradition at Liberian funerals, but authorities have launched campaigns warning such practices increase the risk of transmitting Ebola.

The other countries have farther to go but there are “promising signs,” he said.

Nabarro said access to treatment which isolates patients is improving but is not up to 70 percent because of a lack of personnel, especially skilled international staff.

WHO said 22 percent of the planned 4,707 beds needed in the treatment centers are currently in operation, citing the lack of foreign medical teams as the key problem.

The organization said Guinea currently has two foreign medical teams operating treatment centers and needs at least five more, Liberia has three foreign medical teams and needs 13 more, and Sierra Leone has five teams with 10 more being deployed.

Nabarro said efforts are also under way to increase the number of community care centers where people can be treated from 10 now to about 300 in December.

TIME Environment

U.N.: Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100 Or Face ‘Irreversible’ Climate Impact

Aerial view of a power station
Jason Hawkes—Getty Images

"Science has spoken," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said

Greenhouse gas emissions may have to cease by the end of the century to keep global temperatures from reaching levels many scientists consider dangerous, the United Nations’ latest climate assessment suggests.

“Science has spoken,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Copenhagen at Sunday’s launch of the fourth and final report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CBS News reports. “There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

The IPCC assessment, which incorporated the findings of three other reports over the past 13 months, reaffirms with 95% certainty that global climate change is both real and a mostly man-made problem — a conclusion it shared in an earlier report. The entire project, which reviewed approximately 30,000 studies about climate, also suggests that if greenhouse gas emissions continue without intervention, there could be “irreversible” impacts, such as rising sea levels, more frequent heat waves and even a change in the human population’s male-female ratio.

To halt climate change, countries around the world will have to wean themselves off fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases when burned, in favor of more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy sources, the IPCC report concluded. Last month, leaders of 28 European nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent of 1990 levels by the year 2030.

“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC. “All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

Meteorologists already reported last month that 2014 could be the hottest year on record. If climate change continues, billions of dollars in seaside property could be destroyed, while some states could see crop yields drop by as much as 70%. Climate change could also likely cause a rise in various infectious diseases, world hunger, respiratory problems and heat-related illnesses, such as cardiac arrest and heat stroke.

The report’s findings contrast with the American public perception of climate change. Only 54 percent of people in the U.S. this summer reported that they believe current climate change is caused by human activity. In September, however, thousands of people took to the streets of New York City to put pressure on world leaders during the People’s Climate March, one of the largest environmental events ever.

In a statement about the latest report, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Those who choose to ignore or dispute the science so clearly laid out in this report do so at a great risk for all of us and for our kids and grandkids.”

[CBS]

TIME Middle East

More Foreign Fighters Are Going to Iraq and Syria Than Ever Before, UN Says

Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014.
Militant Islamist fighters take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in Syria, June 30, 2014. Reuters

More than 15,000 have come from more than 80 countries

More than 15,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and similar extremist groups, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, warns that jihadists are traveling to fight on an “unprecedented scale” from more than 80 countries, including some that have not had previous links with al-Qaeda activity. Although the report to the UN Security Council did not give a full list of these countries, it said: “There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together.”

The report also states the core of al-Qaeda remains weak but suggests that the decline of al-Qaeda has led to a boost in jihadist support for its successor groups like ISIS. The U.N. writes that ISIS is a “splinter group” of al-Qaeda but that the two groups “pursue similar strategic goals, albeit with tactical differences.”

Read more at the Guardian

Read next: ISIS Revenge Killings Reportedly Target Sunni Tribe in Iraq

TIME ebola

WHO Chief Says Ebola Response ‘Did Not Match’ Scale of the Outbreak

TIME sits down with WHO Director-General Margaret Chan

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has morphed into one of our biggest health crises in years, with at least 4,900 known deaths among more than 13,000 cases and experts warning the worst could be yet to come.

Despite a growing international effort to combat the virus, outside health experts say the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO)—the only worldwide health institution—has been slow to react. They stress that there’s plenty of blame to go around, including with the U.S. and other regional governments, who were tragically sluggish in responding to Ebola. Still, critics complain that WHO has failed to lead the global fight—exactly the kind of crisis it has aimed to efficiently handle or prevent since its founding in 1948. In general, many say it’s “too politicized, too bureaucratic… too overstretched and too slow to adapt to change,” according to a report by the London think tank Chatham House, citing health experts and some former WHO staffers.

Armchair critics have it too easy, says WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, or “DG,” as she’s known in the graceful Geneva headquarters. WHO, she says, is only as good as the world’s 194 governments—their members, whose contributions pay their salaries and set direction—allow them to be. Governments haven’t raised their WHO dues in decades. The global financial crisis has pummeled the organization, stripping it of $1 billion in funds and about 1,000 bright minds. If the world wants a strong WHO, its staffers say, it needs to plow more money in and help it transform—and hopefully stop the next outbreak from whipping half way across the globe in just seven months.

On Oct. 28, WHO invited TIME to spend the day inside its Geneva headquarters, watching officials grapple with the Ebola epidemic and sitting in on a two-hour, top-level crisis meeting. In a wide-ranging interview with TIME’s Vivienne Walt, in her Geneva office, Chan, a 67-year-old Hong Konger, explains how she and her staff have struggled with the outbreak:

TIME: When was the moment when you thought to yourself, “Holy cow, this Ebola outbreak is big?”

Margaret Chan: I heard about it moving up at the end of June, when the analysis [inside WHO headquarters] was presented. I was very concerned. I asked my scientists to give me an assessment. After that we scaled up unprecedentedly. We have managed many outbreaks in the past but this has got to be the biggest. If you are going to war with Ebola, you need soldiers, weapons, and you need a war chest. WHO is well geared and has the capacity to do outbreaks on a smaller scale. We have been doing this for many, many years, protecting the world from pandemics. But this, the complexity and the scale of things, outstripped the capacity of WHO.

TIME: You say it was the end of June when you thought, oh my God. But people I’ve interviewed in the U.S. and elsewhere tell me that for months they were raising the alarm, from back in March, and that somehow the sense of urgency was not felt here at WHO in Geneva. Is that a fair criticism?

Chan: Well, with the benefit of hindsight, in retrospect…. We are doing a retrospective study on a regular basis, with all this information of colleagues around the world. And they realize, actually, cases of Ebola were spreading in a hidden manner. And now, looking back, all of us would say, yes, the scale of the response did not match the scale of the outbreak. And that is fair. And of course all of us underestimated the complexity.

When you look at this outbreak, thousands of people in Africa died and it didn’t get the attention it deserved until recently. People were saying, quite rightly, it takes a few cases outside of Africa to get attention. This was a perfect storm in the making. In the past, Ebola outbreaks happened in the bush in small villages. Twenty, 30, 40 years ago, there were less people in these countries, and less movement of people. It happened in three countries which came out of long-term conflict. Health systems were destroyed. And in terms of doctors and nurses, they have one or two per 100,000.

TIME: Yes, that’s certainly true. But others say you in Geneva did not get the information from the field when the outbreak occurred, that the details did not reach you. One person we’ve interviewed describe some WHO regional offices are “awful.”

Chan: I’ve promised to do a review and get all the documentation… and will identify what mistakes were made, and correct them. That’s my commitment. But now the most important thing for me is to bring the whole team together, to bring the total assets of the organization together to fight Ebola. There will be plenty of time for history, and we really need to do it in a transparent and accountable manner. But it is important that we move on and get the job done first and foremost.

TIME: You’re dealing with this unprecedented outbreak. Do you think it is going to change the way WHO works?

Chan: This has to be the turning point. It’s not only Ebola. You have to look at what other crises we are dealing with. We have crises in Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan. My staff are truly, truly at [a] breaking point. Members [governments] need to look at what kind of WHO is appropriate for the 21st century. With climate change, which is the defining issue for the 21st century, and a highly interconnected world, we should expect to see more crises of different sizes, magnitude and geographic location.

When a crisis gets to a certain level the D.G. [Director General] has [to have] the ability to deploy the entire assets of the organization. At this point, I need to consult, ask, urge. We don’t have the money. When I talk to member states, I tell them, the system does not provide the flexibility and the agility for the Director General to manage the organization. I said to them, if you want a credible, strong WHO, we need a WHO reform.

TIME: Do you think pre-recession WHO might have been able to handle the Ebola crisis better? Or with all the money in the world, are you up against something too complex, too difficult?

Chan: This is too big and it’s happening in countries with a lot of factors that amplify it. There are lessons the world’s countries need to learn, like the reliance on old experience to deal with Ebola in a new context. What worked 20, 30, 40 years ago will not work. Another lesson: I was not able and also MSF [Doctors Without Borders] we were not able to mobilize people. For the typhoon in the Philippines [in 2013] 150 medical teams came to help. For the Haiti earthquake, more than 125,000 aid workers came. With Ebola, the fear factor, the lack of formal medevac, lack of quality health care…. Outbreaks are human-resource intensive. To manage an Ebola treatment center of 80 beds you need 200 health workers. And I need foreign medical teams to manage them. The U.S. and U.K. governments are building state-of-the-art treatment centers to take care of health care workers in Liberia and Sierra Leone. So there are some good signs and things that are coming.

TIME: Any regrets about decisions made early on or not made early on?

Chan: If people think WHO alone can prevent this crisis I think people are trivializing the reality on the ground. In the initial phase, we sent experts right away. We sent commodities, we sent equipment, we supported governments.… But, as I said, the transmission of the disease was spreading hidden through the movement of people.

I’ve been asking myself: how much time can I spend on Ebola given that it is going to be a sustained, severe outbreak? I [spend] about 70% of my time on Ebola. Would my member states accept I’m a one-issue D.G. There are more people dying of non-communicable diseases: Cancers, heart diseases, lung diseases, diabetes. There are millions suffering from mental health conditions. There are many people dying too early in road crashes. Can I drop everything? I don’t think so. I work at least 18 hours a day, even on weekends. And I’ve also learned great humility is important—to make sure we are not taken by surprise by an unforgiving virus.

TIME: It seems to me that WHO and certainly you have been talking about reforming WHO for years, and you have been running up against walls. So, is Ebola a crisis of such magnitude that this will shake the world into rethinking all this, allowing reform to happen?

Chan: This Ebola outbreak should really make them [governments] look very hard, really hard, at if outbreak control is so important, why didn’t they [WHO] have resources to do the job? The problem is that with prevention when you do a good job people say, okay that’s alright, now we need to move the money some place else.

Ebola for 40 years was an African disease. The world this time has learned a lesson: The world is ill-prepared for severe, sustained public health emergencies. That’s why I hope this is a turning point, a watershed event for people to understand that. If you want global health security, you need to invest.

In the next 2.5 years [Chan retires in 2017], I’m going correct all the mistakes before I leave this organization. I have the responsibility to the governments, but governments also have to look at how they can support WHO to do what they want it to do.

With the reforms [streamlined staff, reworked programs] I would never have been able to pull it off without the financial crisis. I’m very good at this. You know why? There are two sides to the Chinese character for crisis: One side crisis, one side opportunity. Deeper reforms will come from the Ebola crisis. I’m not going to waste this crisis.

For more, read TIME‘s feature on how the World Health Organization has come under fire for its failure to stop Ebola

TIME ebola

German Hospital: U.N. Worker Dies of Ebola

He was the third Ebola patient flown to Germany for treatment

(BERLIN) — A United Nations medical worker who was infected with Ebola in Liberia has died despite “intensive medical procedures,” a German hospital said Tuesday.

The St. Georg hospital in Leipzig said the 56-year-old man, whose name has not been released, died overnight of the infection. It released no further details and did not answer telephone calls.

The man tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 6, prompting Liberia’s UN peacekeeping mission to place 41 staff members who had possibly been in contact with him under “close medical observation.”

He arrived in Leipzig for treatment on Oct. 9 where he was put into a special isolation unit.

The man was the third Ebola patient to be flown to Germany for treatment.

The first patient, a Senegalese man infected with Ebola while working for the World Health Organization in Sierra Leone was brought to a Hamburg hospital in late August for treatment. The man was released Oct. 3 after recovering and returned to his home country, the hospital said.

Another patient, a Ugandan man who worked for an Italian aid group in West Africa, is undergoing treatment in a Frankfurt hospital.

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