57 Countries Urge UN Security Council to Refer Syria to ICC

Jan. 14, 2013 – Switzerland, on behalf of 57 countries, on Monday sent a letter to the president of the Security Council urging the 15-nation body to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Among the signers of the letter were permanent Council members Britain and France as well as non-permanent members Australia, Luxembourg and South Korea. 

Libya and Tunisia were the only Arab countries to sign the letter.

China and Russia, not surprisingly, did not sign on to the letter but neither did Sweden, the United States and current non-permanent Council member Argentina. 

The letter was sent the same day the International Rescue Committee released a report detailing “horrific levels” of sexual violence recounted by refugees who’ve fled Syria in the past 22 months. 

-Denis Fitzgerald 

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Record One Billion Tourists in 2012: UN

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A record 1 billion people visited other countries in 2012, a more than 50% increase from the amount of people who traveled abroad in 2000. (The figures in the chart above also show numbers for 1970 (166 million), and 1950, (25 million) source: UNWTO.

Jan. 10, 2013 – There were more than one billion tourists in 2012, according to figures from the UN World Tourism Organization, more than double the amount of tourists in 2000 when 435 million people traveled abroad.

Europe was the destination for more than half the tourists last year and was also where more than half the world’s tourists came from. Asia accounted for about 225 million tourist arrivals, the Americas next at some 160 million, followed by Africa and the Middle East which each received more than 50 million tourists last year, according to projected data.

France had the highest number of tourists in the world in 2012 with about 85 million visitors, followed by the US with some 65 million, China, 60 million, Spain, 58 million, and Italy, about 48 million. Smaller European countries showed strong growth too with Ireland receiving close to 8 million tourists and Finland, 4.5 million.

Outside of the US, Mexico had the highest number of tourists in the Americas with close to 24 million visitors, followed by Argentina, about 6 million, Brazil, 5.5 million and Chile, more than 3 million.

South Africa was the top destination for the African continent, receiving almost 10 million visitors last year followed by Morocco with about 9.5 million.

In the Middle East, Egypt witnessed an estimated 32% increase in tourists from 2011, with some 10 million people visiting last year. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of visitors in the region in 2021, with about 18 million arrivals. Syria, not surprisingly, is projected to record a 40% reduction in tourists in 2012 with about 5 million people estimated to have visited the country last year.

The WTO says tourism accounts for one of 12 jobs globally and for about 9 percent of global GDP.

-Denis Fitzgerald

$11.8bln Donated to UN Aid Appeals in 2012 – EU, US Top Givers

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The UN’s top aid official, Valerie Amos, meets child refugees in Kabul, May 2012 (photo: UN Photo/Fardin Waezi)

Jan. 6, 2013 – Almost $12bln was donated to UN aid appeals last year with the European Union and the United States contributing more than half that amount.

The European Union (European Commission + 27 Member States) was the largest donor providing $4.9bln while the U.S. was the largest individual donor providing $3.1bln to humanitarian aid appeals in 2012.

A breakdown of the EU number shows that the European Commission – the legislative arm of the EU – donated $1.8bln to UN aid appeals last year while member states provided just over $3bln. The biggest member state donors were Britain ($809mln) and Sweden ($684mln).

Non-EU members Norway and Switzerland donated $493mln and $324mln respectively.

Outside of Europe and the US, Japan was the largest provider of aid to the UN, donating $658mln last year, followed by Canada who gave $496mln, and Australia, $296mln.

Among emerging donors, Brazil provided $54mln to UN humanitarian relief in 2012 while the UAE gave $43mln, Russia, $39mln, China $27mln, and Saudi Arabia $27mln. BRICS countries combined contributed $126mln last year with South Africa giving 3.5mln and India $2.7mln..

The Republic of South Sudan ($792mln), Somalia ($676mln), and Sudan ($588mln) were the biggest recipients of UN aid in 2012.

A tally of the top donors is here.

Denis Fitzgerald

UN Warns of HIV Epidemic in Arab World

Nov. 27, 2012 – The U.N. Aids agency is warning of an HIV epidemic in the Arab World, one of only two regions globally where there’s an increase in the number of new infections.

The latest report from UNAIDS shows a 35 percent increase in new infections from 2001 to 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa compared with a 20 percent decline globally over the same period.

The number of people living with HIV in the Arab World is estimated at about 500,000, with an increasing number of children newly infected, again bucking the global trend.

The situation in Arab countries is compounded by social stigma, discriminatory laws, and a lack of funding for HIV treatment and prevention.

Some 56 percent of pregnant women living with HIV globally received antiretroviral treatment in 2011 to prevent mother-to-child transmission but that figure is less than 10 percent for the Middle East and North Africa region.

Similarly, 54 percent of all people living with HIV and eligible for antiretroviral therapy globally received treatment but that figure drops to 15 percent in Arab countries.

The consequences are borne out in the mortality rates for the Arab world – a 17 percent increase in the number of people dying from Aids-related illnesses from 2005 to 2011. The only other region to witness an increase in mortality in the same period is Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which is also the only other region to experience an increase in new infections from 2001-2011.

Among the groups most heavily affected are men who have sex with men and their situation is made worse by laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity imposed by states in the region – in some instances punishable by death. (Jordan and Iraq are the only countries, and the West Bank is the only territory, where same-sex sexual activity is legal.)

“The persistence of stigma, discrimination and punitive laws underscores the need for greatly expanded action to ground AIDS responses in human rights,” the UNAIDS report states. “Countries should take steps to better understand and address the factors that contribute to vulnerability to HIV and impede service access; take steps to measure and reduce stigma and discrimination; initiate legal reform as well as pragmatic steps to enforce protective laws.”

- Denis Fitzgerald