By: Insider on July 11, 2012 Syria Mission: In a report to the Security Council on the work of the United Nations Supervisory Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), the SG outlined options for its future orientation. The authorized mission ends on 20 July, with the Council expected to meet before then to decide on its future. In his report, Mr. Ban notes that the Mission’s withdrawal may need to be considered should political and security conditions render its mandated tasks and fruitful action with all parties untenable. While noting that such a move would eliminate risks to UN staff, the Secretary-General also highlights the potential negative effects. UN Global Pulse: The era of ‘Big Data’ presents the United Nations with an historic opportunity to better support and protect populations through analysis of digital information, according to a new report launched by UN Global Pulse. The report – Big Data for Development: Opportunities and Challenges – explores how data from social media and other sources can yield information about population well-being, including responses to job losses, changing food prices and other economic indicators. “Global Pulse’s mission is to help us seize this historic opportunity to improve how we combat hunger, poverty and disease – getting there, however, requires first building awareness of the opportunity in both the big data community and the development community, forming strategic partnerships, developing innovative approaches, and demonstrating their potential to change outcomes,” the ASG for Policy and Planning, Robert C. Orr, said at the report’s launch yesterday. Big Data is now “front page news,” with its potential reaching even the least accessed corners of the globe. He cited the example of UN officials visiting the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya recently, where they found widespread use of cell-phones, particularly to access social media sites like Facebook. Family planning summit: The WHO today committed to a series of actions aimed at improving family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. One of the pledges the health agency made at the Family Planning Summit, held in London, was to fast-track its assessment of new and existing contraceptives so that more women in low and middle-income countries can access a broader range of safe and effective contraceptive products. Hosted by the UK Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and other partners, the Summit aims to mobilize global policy, financing, commodity, and service delivery commitments to support the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptive information, services and supplies, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020. DRC and Rwanda: In calls with the leaders of Rwanda and the DRC, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed grave concern over reports that an armed group of former soldiers in the eastern DRC is receiving external support, according to Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. The group, known as M23 and composed of renegade soldiers who mutinied in April, is led by Bosco Ntaganda, an army general wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes for recruiting and using children. In late June, the Security Council extended MONUSCO for another year, focusing on its priority mandate of protecting civilians MONUSCO supports the DRC authorities in their stabilization and peace consolidation efforts, including assisting with the holding of elections, the monitoring of human rights violations and support for Government action against armed groups operating in the country’s east. Food security: Higher demand for food due to population growth, urban migration and other factors will require countries to increase their productivity, according to a new report co-authored by the United Nations, which warns that without more supplies, prices will rise significantly. The report estimates that agricultural output growth will slow to an average of 1.7 per cent annually over the next 10 years, increasing resource constraints and environmental pressures, as well as driving up food prices. The report calls for governments to implement policies to address productivity and sustainability, while also recognizing that the private sector will be crucial for agriculture in the future.