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July 01, 2013

UN Chief Calls For Investigation Into Mali Violations

by Lisa Schlein

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is calling for an investigation into human rights violations in Mali. The U.N.’s top official says he is seriously concerned about the situation in Mali despite agreements between the warring factions to make peace.  

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he welcomes the June 18th agreement between the transitional government of Mali and northern armed groups - an agreement that paved the way for the July 28th presidential election. He says it is vital this election goes ahead and that there be a peaceful outcome accepted by all parties.

A 12,600-member U.N. peacekeeping operation took over in Mali from an African-led mission on Monday. Mr. Ban says this force will provide logistical and other support for the electoral process.  

However, Mr. Ban says he is very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Mali.  He notes the takeover of the north by Islamist rebel groups and subsequent fighting with the government has displaced nearly 475,000 people. He says nearly 1.4 million people need immediate humanitarian assistance.

“We have seen human rights violations in northern Mali by all sides to the conflict, including the use of children by armed groups, rapes, and enforced disappearances.  It is imperative that violations be investigated and perpetrators be held accountable," he said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Ban warned the 2015 deadline for meeting critical anti-poverty goals worldwide would be missed unless nations intensify efforts. The secretary-general reviewed progress toward meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals in an opening speech at the 3-week session of the Economic and Social Council.

He gave the effort a mixed review.  He said significant progress has been made in meeting many of the targets. For example, he said, good results have been made in reducing poverty, noting that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved.

He said more than two billion people now have access to improved sources of drinking water and remarkable gains are being made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis.

Indeed, a new U.N. report assessing the global and regional progress toward meeting the MDGs finds between 2000 and 2010, mortality rates from malaria fell by more than 25 percent globally and more than one million deaths were averted.  The report says deaths from tuberculosis could be halved in some regions of the world.

Notwithstanding these successes, Mr. Ban said nations are falling short in a number of areas.

“Environmental sustainability is under threat, with continuing loss of forests, species and fish stocks, and rapid growth of greenhouse gas emissions.  Nineteen thousand children under age five die each day, most from preventable diseases," said Ban. "Women continue to be denied an equal opportunity in decision-making at all levels.”  

Mr. Ban said nations must accelerate efforts to bring down maternal mortality rates, which remain unacceptably high. He said universal primary education has not been achieved and a staggering 2.5 billion people around the world still lack improved sanitation.

He said the world can generate the momentum needed to achieve these important development issues by the 2015 target date if nations step up and act now.