The Seminar lasted two days. Below are the UN Press releases on the event.
Coverage of the Seminar
Sunday, February 1, 2015
The Seminar lasted two days. Below are the UN Press releases on the event.
Coverage of the Seminar
Seldom have I been as shocked and saddened than by what I saw recently in the eastern Congo. There, I met a young woman – a girl, really, just 18 years old. She told me this story.
One day, toward the end of last year while working with other women in a field near her village of Nyamilima, in North Kivu, armed men appeared. They were soldiers, in uniform, who began shooting. The girl tried to flee but was caught by four men. Thus she became a victim of that most brutal of crimes. A group of women found her, near-dead, and took her to a local clinic.
I met her in a hospital in Goma, the provincial capital of the eastern Congo. As a result of the violence against her, she had developed fistula – a rupture of the walls of the vagina, bladder and rectum that renders victims incontinent and prone to infection and disease. It is a traumatic injury of a sort rarely seen in the developed world, except in association with the most difficult childbirths. But in Congo, where rape has become a weapon of war, it is almost commonplace.
Her doctors at the hospital, HEAL Africa, see such cases every day. On the Saturday that I visited, 10 surgeries for fistula were scheduled. Last year, the clinic provided medical treatment to roughly 4,800 victims of sexual violence, nearly half of them children. The numbers are even higher at the PANZI Hospital in South Kivu, according its director, Denis Mukwege, whom I met recently in New York.
The young woman I met was among the luckier ones, if that word can be used to describe such grim circumstances. Surgeons can repair her wounds. But can they heal her soul? She suffers not only from physical injury. She also bears the curse of stigma. She has been ostracized from her village and family, all in the name of a false sense of shame. She faces a very difficult future entirely alone.
Words failed me, hearing of these terrible tragedies. But if it was hard to express the full dimension of my feelings, and I had no such trouble giving voice to my anger. I raised the issue, very strongly, with President Joseph Kabila when we met earlier that morning. I told him that the chief weapon in combating sexual violence is the political will of a leader.
After my visit to HEAL Africa, I also spoke forcefully to the commander of the Congolese forces in the eastern Congo, telling him all that I had heard. I said the same to the governor, the deputy governor, the chief of police and the head of the provincial parliament, as well as other local authorities. I spoke about it again the next day, in Kigali, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose army has just completed a joint military operation with Congo against rebel militias operating in the region.
In short, I spoke about it to everyone I met – and I will keep doing so. Sexual violence against women is a crime against humanity. It violates everything the United Nations stands for. Its consequences go beyond the visible and immediate. Death, injury, medical costs and lost employment are but the tip of an iceberg. The impact on women and girls, their families, their communities and their societies in terms of shattered lives and livelihoods is beyond calculation.
It is sometimes said that women are weavers and men, too often, are warriors. Women bear and care for our children. In much of the world they plant the crops that feed us. They weave the fabric of our societies. Violence against women is thus an attack on all of us, on the very foundation of civilization.
Far too often these crimes go unpunished. Perpetrators walk free. UN peacekeepers in the country performed heroically in protecting civilians during the recent fighting, to the maximum of our capabilities. Of course, they themselves must be above reproach. We, too, have had cases of sexual abuse within our ranks, in Congo and elsewhere. In each instance we held those responsible to account.
I left Goma encouraged. The situation on the ground is improving. Earlier this year, one large rebel group agreed to disband and has begun to integrate into the national army. The government’s joint military operation with Rwanda, completed during my visit, has succeeded in driving another major rebel group away from civilian centers. Our task is to help consolidate these gains. If the fighting in eastern Congo stops, or significantly diminishes, the country’s roughly 1.3 million refugees can return home in security and, with UN assistance, begin to rebuild their lives. Acts of violence such as those committed against so many women will become less frequent. Perhaps one day they will end altogether.
This must be our goal. It is fitting that this Sunday, March 8, marks International Women’s Day. It is an occasion to speak out, loudly.
Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any circumstance, by any political leader or any government. The time to change is now. Let our voices be heard.
By Ban Ki Moon
Source: International Herald Tribune
MOSCOW – In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday likened Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.
In an interview with The Associated Press some 20 years after the Soviet empire started its rapid collapse on his tumultuous watch, Gorbachev also said the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played such a critical role in sweeping away.
The last Soviet leader was interviewed in the offices of his Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank founded in 1992 to promote “democratic values and moral, humanistic principles” – as well as, some say, Gorbachev himself. A little aged and more heavyset perhaps, Gorbachev, 78, seemed feisty, friendly and often reminiscent of the man who once ruled one of two superpowers on Earth.
Gorbachev is a paradoxical figure even after all these years – widely credited around the world with a historic convulsion he admits he did not intend. He sought to fix communism, not destroy it, and in the interview said that while he was willing to let Eastern Europe go its own way he very much hoped the republics that formed the Soviet Union would stay united.
“I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union,” said Gorbachev, who was forced to step down on Dec. 25, 1991, as the country he led ceased to exist.
He still holds out hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus will join with Russia in forming a new union.
He seemed to view the global meltdown as partly the result of years of Western hubris and excess.
“The American media trumpeted … about the victory in the Cold War, that socialism is down. This disease of extreme self-confidence led to it – the (belief) that things would always go on this way. And it did last long … I think that now everyone is learning a hard lesson.”
“It is necessary to overcome these mistakes of super-consumerism, of super-profits.” he said. “We have to think about finding – through the G20 or other institutions – new models of development (and) cooperation.”
The world should look for a composite system, he said, which incorporates “the past experience of all that the capitalist system brings, like competitiveness, and what socialism gives – especially a social safety net.”
Gorbachev also said the moment was right for improved U.S.-Russia relations, expressed skepticism about the wisdom of Ukraine joining NATO, and called on the world community to head off the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon not with confrontation but rather “a maximal dialogue.”
“Let (Iran) integrate itself into the global community, build normal relations,” he said.
Gorbachev had harsh words for the current Russian leadership, singling out United Russia, the party Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has built into a political juggernaut at the center of a tremendously centralized – albeit popular – power structure.
“I criticize United Russia a lot, and I do it directly,” the last Soviet leader said. “It is a party of bureaucrats and the worst version of the CPSU” – the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. “Regarding our parliament, I cannot say that it is independent (and) also our judiciary does not fully comply with the provisions of the constitution.”
Is the world waiting for such advice? If there are takers, most will be outside Russia, where he has become a rather marginal political figure: For every Russian who appreciates his role in ending communism there are certainly many more inclined to blame him for the privations of the process he unleashed: the impoverishment many suffered in the 1990s, the vastly unequal distribution of wealth that bedevils society even today, the failings of Russian democracy – and the humiliating loss of the once-vast empire ruled from the Kremlin.
Asked about the fateful Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Gorbachev said that he never contemplated force to stop the process that within months saw most of the Warsaw Pact break free. He said it was inevitable that the states of that region would be free to do as they wished.
Yet even in Eastern Europe, as the region gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, Gorbachev gets only the rarest of mentions and he is forced to share credit for the revolution with a slew of others – Poland’s Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Ronald Reagan and the late Pope John Paul II.
“We live more freely now than in the communist era because of what he did and achieved,” said Peter Nagy, a 37-year-old public employee in Budapest. “However, he was still the leader of a dictatorial system, not a democrat. I would not accept him today as a leader.”
Havel, the former Czech president, in his memoirs “To the Castle and Back” described Gorbachev as both a special and tragic case and said the collapse of communism would have been much more violent without him.
In Warsaw, former anti-communist dissident Adam Michnik said he feels “great gratitude” toward Gorbachev. “I don’t have the slightest doubt that it was Gorbachev and his policy of glasnost and perestroika that opened the gates for the great changes that first took place in our country and then in this part of the continent,” Michnik said.
In the interview, Gorbachev was philosophical about his declining political fortunes.
“Personally, as a politician, I lost. But the idea that I conveyed and the project that I carried out, it played a huge role in the world and the country. But now the situation is such that more and more people are starting to understand what Gorbachev did …
“But anyway, we have gone far, and there’s no return.”
Gorbachev laughed when asked whether his recent appearance in Louis Vuitton ads might not cheapen such a momentous legacy, saying his foundation needed the money. He noted that he had also once appeared in Pizza Hut ads, and asked if any other offers might be forthcoming.
By DAN PERRY, Associated Press Writer Dan Perry, Associated Press Writer Thu Mar 5, 2009
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland; Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic; and Bernadette Tomsits in Budapest, Hungary, contributed to this report.
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