Syria: The United Nations-backed Action Group on Syria today forged an agreement outlining the steps for a peaceful transition in Syria, whilestrongly condemning the continued and escalating violence that has taken place there over the past 16 months. In a statement, the Group called for all parties to immediately re-commit to a sustained cessation of armed violence, to fully cooperate with UN monitors, and to implement the six-point plan put forward by Mr. Annan without waiting for the actions of others.

The United Nations human rights chief today renewed her call on the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC), stressing the need to ensure accountability for the serious abuses committed by both sides in the ongoing conflict.

ECOSOC: The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today opened its high-level meeting in New York with a focus on the global jobs crisis and the search for ways to stimulate the creation of decent and sustainable employment. Addressing the opening of the high-level segment, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that getting the global economy back on track will require decisive action, and underlined the need to pursue a “new model of growth within the framework of sustainable development and enhanced international cooperation.”

Millennium Development Goals: With three important targets on poverty, slums and water having been met, a new United Nations report stresses the need for a true global partnership to achieve the remaining Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline. The 2012 MDG Report offers “the most comprehensive picture yet” on global progress towards the Goals, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he launched the report at the high-level segment of the annual session of ECOSOC.

The report states that meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible – but only if governments do not waiver from their commitments made over a decade ago. Further success depends on fulfilling MDG 8 – the global partnership for development, Mr. Ban notes in his foreword to the report.

Libya: Libyan authorities today released the four International Criminal Court (ICC) staff members who were detained in the country for nearly a month following their visit to Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi, who has been indicted by the court in
relation to attacks against protesters and rebels during last year’s pro-democracy uprising.

Arms trade: At a historic gathering on the issue of conventional arms, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged Member States to work towards a treaty to regulate the trade in such weapons, stressing that a set of rules on this matter is long overdue. “We have made some progress on weapons of mass destruction issues over the years, but the
international community has not kept pace on conventional arms,” Mr. Ban told Member States at the opening of the first UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Taking place at UN Headquarters in New York over the next four weeks, the Conference has brought together the UN’s 193 Member States to negotiate what is seen as the most important initiative ever regarding conventional arms regulation within the United Nations, according to the Conference organizers.

Israel/OPT: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk presented a report to the Human Rights Council in which he strongly criticized Israel’s frequent use of administrative detention; targeted killings by Israel in the Gaza Strip; and Israeli settlements and related violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The U.S. delegation delivered a statement criticizing the HRC’s “biased and disproportionate focus on Israel” and urged the HRC to “take a balanced, objective and constructive approach to the human rights situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay briefed the Security Council today on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian territories in a closed session. Pillay’s briefing likely covered concerns relating to Israeli settlements, Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the HRC, and the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Jeffrey Feltman of the United States has been appointed Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Before joining the United Nations, Mr. Feltman served as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs with the rank of Career Minister.

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