UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should seek broad input and ensure transparency in the selection of Louise Arbour’s successor as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint letter released March 18. The appointment process should be transparent and include wide consultation with relevant stakeholders, and the job specifications should be made public, the letter said. She or he “must be a strong leader with a clear vision for the protection of all human rights, and bring dynamism, courage and commitment to the position,” they said.

In an effort to buttress an estimated 12 million people in the Horn of Africa against the effects of recurring drought, the European Commission (EC) has made available EUR 30 million to fund disaster preparedness projects in seven countries in the region. At the same time, Kenya, one of the intended beneficiaries, reported a gradual deterioration of food security in the northern, eastern and coastal areas of the country because of below-normal short rains during the last three months of 2007, IRIN reported. “The human tragedy in the Horn of Africa continues to get our full attention,” Louis Michel, EC for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said when he announced the decision to allocate the humanitarian funding for Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

While the violence that swept across Kenya several months ago was triggered by disputed presidential polls, the crisis was fuelled by underlying causes including poverty and discrimination, UN human rights officials said March 19, urging greater accountability and an end to impunity to address those issues and prevent further outbreaks. A report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) states that more than 1,200 Kenyans were reported killed during the violence that engulfed the East African nation since the December 2007 elections.

More than 100 million Europeans still lack access to safe drinking water, resulting in the deaths from diarrhea of nearly 40 children every day, the UN reported, noting that many people across the region do not enjoy the basic human right to healthy water. More than 170,000 cases of water-related diseases ? including over 120,000 cases of viral hepatitis A ? were reported in 2006. In Eastern Europe, some 16 percent of the population does not have access to drinking water in their homes, while in rural areas, more than half of all people do not have a reliable supply of safe water and adequate sanitation.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will strengthen its Pacific Operations Centre as part of its campaign to provide greater support for the region?s island nations, which are facing critical development challenges given their size, relative isolation and vulnerability to climate change. Under-Secretary-General Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of ESCAP, committed the regional body to the strengthening of the center during a two-day meeting that ended last week in Noumea, New Caledonia.

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