UN warns of harmful impact on poor farmers of narrow focus on

1 March 2010An over-dependence on genetically modified organisms to boost agricultural production eclipses other biotechnologies and their potential to benefit poor farmers in developing countries, warned the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today. An over-dependence on genetically modified organisms to boost agricultural production eclipses other biotechnologies and their potential to benefit poor farmers in developing countries, warned the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today. “Modern and conventional biotechnologies provide potent tools for the agriculture sector, including fisheries and forestry,” said FAO Assistant Director-General Modibo Traore.“But biotechnologies are not yet making a significant impact in the lives of people in most developing countries,” Mr. Traore told the FAO-sponsored conference on Agricultural Biotechnologies in Developing Countries in Guadalajara, Mexico.He told participants at the four-day gathering, co-hosted by the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), that most poor nations currently lack appropriate and useful technologies, policies, technical capacities, and the necessary infrastructure for the development, evaluation and deployment of biotechnologies.Biotechnological innovations – such as rice hybrids for Africa that have doubled yields and the use of artificial insemination to raise dairy cattle milk production in Bangladesh – can contribute significantly in doubling food production by 2050 and in addressing the uncertainties of climate change, according to FAO. However, the agency noted that there is often an emphasis on genetically modified organisms only, underscoring the need for a new approach to agricultural research and development which supports a wider use of biodiversity to promote development and improve food security.“New technologies should make their contributions also through efficiency gains from better management of inputs and biodiversity,” said Mr. Traore. “This will require greater involvement of farmers, institutions and communities.“It will require other enabling factors such as policies, institutional support, and investment in human and physical capital and in-country capacity building,” he added, urging the international community to play a key role in supporting developing countries.In addition to taking stock of how agricultural biotechnologies can contribute to help developing countries, this week’s conference will explore opportunities and partnerships to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to choose and use appropriate biotechnologies. read more

South Sudan Outraged UN experts say ongoing widespread human rights violations may

Portrait of a woman resident of Wau Shilluk, South Sudan. The town has been reduced to dust, as ongoing conflict has seen the complete destruction of homes, the school and hospital., by © UNICEF/UN0236862/RichThe Commission also investigated sexual exploitation and abuse allegations committed by UN peacekeepers.Cases in 2018, which involved 18 alleged perpetrators of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), were registered in the UN Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Database, and peacekeepers from one of the Protection of Civilians sites were repatriated. The Commission also noted a link between the conflict and the country’s political economy – pointing to the misappropriation of natural resources, and “a total lack of transparency and independent oversight,” that has allegedly diverted revenues to Government elites.Victims and vulnerable communities – especially women, the internally displaced and refugees – must be included in designing and implementing mechanisms for the transitional justice agenda, which the Commission deemed “essential for building sustainable peace.”As it continues to document violations, build dossiers on perpetrators, and collect and preserve evidence for future accountability processes, the Commission has detailed three case studies documenting war crimes, which will be handed over to the Right Commission in Geneva.  “This evidence may be used beyond South Sudanese bodies – it may be available on request to regional and state parties for future prosecutions,” said Commissioner Barney Afako.“With sustained political will and effective leadership,” concluded Ms. Sooka, “the transitional justice framework and mechanisms can help to bring accountability, reconciliation and healing as South Sudanese deal with the past and secure their future stability and prosperity.” “There is a confirmed pattern of how combatants attack villages, plunder homes, take women as sexual slaves and then set homes alight – often with people in them,” Yasmin Sooka, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said in Nairobi at the launch of the launch of the three-member expert-body’s third report. “Rapes, gang rapes, sexual mutilation, abductions and sexual slavery, as well as killings, have become commonplace in South Sudan,” she continued. “There is no doubt that these crimes are persistent because impunity is so entrenched that every kind of norm is broken.”While a lack of accountability during the country’s struggle for independence has helped to fuel the current conflict, the report stresses that sustainable peace requires tangible and credible accountability and justice.There is no doubt that these crimes are persistent because impunity is so entrenched that every kind of norm is broken – Yasmin Sooka“We do acknowledge the efforts of the Government to hold some perpetrators accountable for gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law,” Commissioner Andrew Clapham said in Geneva.“However, we also have to note that pervasive impunity remains the norm.”The Commission, set up in 2016 by the UN Human Rights Council, urged the Government, the region and the international community to “take urgent steps” to respect the cessation of hostilities, implement the Revitalized Agreement signed five months ago and “push to silence the guns completely.”South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, has been mired in instability and conflict for nearly all seven years of its existence.Earlier in 2018, President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President and long-time political rival, Riek Machar, signed a new peace accord, and hopes have been high that the deal would finally end the crisis and deliver better and safer conditions for millions that have been left homeless and hungry.A downward spiralSince its December 2017 update, the Commission said the magnitude of rape and sexual violence has worsened markedly, with a surge in rapes between November and December.According to UNICEF, 25 per cent of those targeted by sexual violence are children, including girls as young as seven. Elderly and pregnant women have also been raped, and sexual violence against men and boys remains underreported as the stigma attached to it is higher than that of raping and killing the young and the elderly. read more