In his report, UN Special Rapporteur Enrique Bernales Ballesteros said his mandate should be broadened to allow him to not only study mercenary activities as a means of impeding the right of peoples to self-determination, but to also take into account other situations in which mercenaries are involved – including illicit arms trafficking, terrorism, organized crime – and the use of mercenaries by private security companies to intervene in countries’ internal affairs.On the issue of illicit arms trafficking, the Rapporteur said mercenaries, through their experience, were able to enhance the frequency and volume of illicit weapons deals. He advocated the development of legal instruments to facilitate prosecution of that crime and the mobilization of the political will of States to suppress the illicit traffic effectively.The report also warned that more and more mercenaries are being hired by private security companies operating in the international market for deployment in armed conflicts, illicit trafficking and human rights violations. The Rapporteur said this situation underlined the need for regulation, prevention, control and oversight of such companies, and that regulatory mechanisms must be set up through national legislation, in coordination with, and with the support of, the UN. On Africa, the Special Rapporteur recommended that the Assembly reaffirm its full support for the self-determination and human rights of the continent’s peoples and condemn the mercenary activities that undermine such rights. The Assembly was also urged to alert diamond exchanges, associations of diamond merchants, States in which diamond-mining companies operate, and all others involved in the illicit trade in diamonds, to the evidence of unscrupulous business practices in the diamond trade and their role in Africa’s armed conflicts. “It is well known that mercenaries are involved in the illicit activities carried out by such firms,” the report states.Mr. Ballesteros also recommended that the General Assembly urge Member States to ratify or accede to the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, which is one ratification or accession short of entering into force. “The entry into force of the Convention would facilitate the banning of such activities and create an international climate more favourable to self-determination and defence of human rights,” the Rapporteur said.
“The scale of the crisis for children is growing all the time, which is why there are now such fears that Syria is losing a whole generation of its youth,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Peter Salama, whose agency is coordinating the ‘No Lost Generation Initiative’. “As a result of all the work being done by partners and donors, education and protection for children are now being prioritized. But what we must see in London is the step-change necessary to bring all children back to learning; to protect those who are at risk of dropping out; expand safe and inclusive learning environments; recruit and train more teachers; improve the quality of education, and support the development of technical, vocational and life skills opportunities for youth.” The London conference is being co-hosted by Britain, Germany, Kuwait and Norway, and leaders from more than 30 countries are expected to attend, with the aim of raising new funding to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of those affected by the crisis. Nearly five years into the Syrian war, some four million Syrian and host community children and youth aged 5-17 years are in need of education assistance, including 2.1 million out-of-school children inside Syria and 700,000 Syrian children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Last year, the combined efforts of Governments and international partners helped more than one million children and youth inside Syria benefit from formal or non-formal learning opportunities. But with no political solution in sight to one of the most brutal conflicts the world has seen in decades, the number of children missing out on an education continues to climb. Governments at the London meeting will also be urged to put more pressure on parties to the Syria conflict and those who support them to end attacks on schools and other places of learning, in accordance with international humanitarian law. According to UNICEF, the killing, abduction and arrest of students and teachers has become commonplace, as have arbitrary attacks on schools. About one in four schools cannot be used because they have been damaged, destroyed or are being used as shelters for the internally displaced or for military purposes. The No Lost Generation Initiative was set up in 2013. By the end of 2015 1.2 million children and youth inside Syria benefitted from improved formal and non-formal learning opportunities and more than 650,788 in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey received school supplies or support through cash grants.