News in Brief 18 October 2017 (PM)

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Secretary General António Guterres speaks to the media about his upcoming trip to Central African Republic. UN Photo/Mark Garten

UN chief heads for CAR "to strengthen international support for peace"

Against a backdrop of growing violence and communal tension, the UN chief announced on Wednesday that he's heading to the Central African Republic "to strengthen international support for peace".

António Guterres told reporters at UN Headquarters that he will fly early next week and spend United Nations Day with peacekeepers to pay tribute to their work across the world.

Since the beginning of the year, 67 blue helmets across the world have died in the line of duty; 12 alone in CAR.

The number of internally displaced has doubled, and there are more than 500,000 refugees, with one in four forced to leave their homes.

The Secretary-General said it was important to remember that five years ago, CAR was experiencing "mass atrocities".

"United Nations peacekeepers helped avert the worst. Today, the situation remains very troubling. My visit also aims to draw attention to a fragile situation that is often far from the media spotlight. Across the country, communal tensions are growing.  Violence is spreading.  And the humanitarian situation is deteriorating."

Mr Guterres added that his visit would also "give impetus" to the new UN approach concerning sexual exploitation and abuse by some UN personnel, in CAR and elsewhere, placing victims at the centre of a "zero-tolerance" policy.

"There is no military solution to this crisis" in CAR, he said.

IMF lending policies "undermine" human rights priorities: UN expert

Some lending policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are "actively undermining" some of the UN's human rights and development priorities, a UN expert said on Wednesday.

Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, told the UN General Assembly that the IMF was also "promoting the failed policies of privatization and austerity".

He said it was time for so-called "smart" lending policies which encourage Member States to honour their human rights and development commitments.

Mr de Zayas accused the IMF of imposing conditions which discouraged social spending.

"Often these conditions increase unemployment, lower standards of governing behaviour…and reduce access to free quality education" he said.

He said the World Bank and the IMF needed to "work in tandem" with the UN system on fulfilling human rights obligations.

Seychelles cases test negative for plague: WHO

Although an outbreak of so-called pneumonic plague has raised alarm and led to fatalities on the island of Madagascar in the past few days, samples taken from suspected cases in the Seychelles have tested negative, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

Samples from 10 patients were shipped by authorities on the Seychelles and WHO to a leading French laboratory for analysis, after a Seychelles national fell ill, following a visit to neighbouring Madagascar.

The 34-year-old man returned with plague-like symptoms.

At least 70 people have died in Madagascar during the "unprecedented" outbreak, with a total of 849 cases reported, said WHO.

The agency said it was working with the health authorities on both island nations to reduce the risk of deadly plague spreading.

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’49″

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