International Women’s Day; Human Rights Council; WFP-Groupon; Syria

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today joined other senior United Nations officials on the eve of International Women’s Day in highlighting the potential of rural women to improve the well-being of entire societies if given equal access to resources and set free from the discrimination and exploitation that hold them back.He acknowledged that women are increasingly exercising greater influence in business, government, politics, public administration and other professions.

Access to Drinking Water; Clean energy; Sudan/South Sudan; Women in Business; and more

The goal of reducing by half the number of people without access to safe drinking water has been achieved, well ahead of the 2015 deadline for reaching the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals, the UN said today.  Between 1990 and 2010, over two billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources, such as piped supplies and protected wells, according to a joint report by UNICEF and the WHO.

Syria; Iran; Disaster risk reduction; Press Freedom; and more

The United Nations relief chief Valerie Amos announced today that she will visit the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Wednesdayto urge all parties to the conflict to allow unhindered access for aid workers to evacuate the wounded and deliver essential humanitarian supplies. She will arrive in Damascus on Wednesday 7 March and leave on Friday 9 March, after being delayed entry by Syrian authorities last week.

Security Council on Syria; Human Rights Council on Syria; UN Women; UN Reform; and more

In its first statement on Syria in seven months, the Security Council today deplored the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation there and called on the government to grant U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos "immediate and unhindered access."It called on Syrian authorities "to allow immediate, full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance, in accordance with international law and guiding principles of humanitarian assistance."

Syria; Sudan; North Korea; Libya; and more

U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said today that she was "deeply disappointed" that Syria has refused to allow her to the visit the country, where she had hoped to assess the need for emergency relief in besieged towns.Amos said in a statement that the refusal came "despite my repeated requests to meet Syrian officials at the highest level to discuss the humanitarian situation and the need for unhindered access to the people affected by the violence.”

Syria; UNICEF report; Cookstoves in Afghanistan; Sustainability “Hack-a-thon”; and more

The United Nations human rights chief said today that she is “appalled” at the recent escalation of violence in Syria and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to end the fighting and assist civilians.  She called upon the Syrian authorities to cooperate fully with international mechanisms, including Mr. Kofi Annan who was recently appointed as Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

Human Rights Council; Afghanistan; Youth employment; CSW; and more

Addressing the opening of the latest session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the public demand for the enjoyment of human rights has been most striking in the Arab region, where tens of thousands of women, men and young people have taken to the streets to voice their claims.

Although constrained by resources, the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR) has responded to the calls of those claiming the full enjoyment of their human rights through fact-finding missions and needs assessments, human rights advocacy, good offices activities and technical projects.