UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he temporarily removed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from a UN blacklist for violating child rights because its supporters threatened to stop funding many UN programs.
Ban yesterday said he had to consider “the very real prospect” that millions of other children in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many other places “would suffer grievously” if UN programs were defunded.
“This was one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make,” he said.
UN secretary-generals are always subject to pressure from the 193 member nations.
But in a rare rebuke, Ban said in this case some unnamed countries had gone too far, declaring “it is unacceptable for member states to exert undue pressure.”
The secretary-general was responding to what he called the “fierce reaction” to his decision, which was denounced by human rights groups.
They accused the UN chief of caving in to Saudi Arabia and said the US-backed coalition belongs on the list for its attacks on children, schools and hospitals.
Ban said he stands by his annual report on children and armed conflict, which “describes horrors no child should have to face.”
The report said the UN verified a total of 1,953 youngsters killed and injured in Yemen in 2015 a six-fold increase compared with 2014 and it attributed about 60 per cent of those casualties to the coalition.
The UN said it also verified 101 attacks on schools and hospitals last year, double the number in 2014, of which 48 per cent were attributed to the coalition.
Ban said he decided “to temporarily remove” the Saudi-led coalition countries from the blacklist of governments and armed groups violating children’s rights pending a joint review of cases with the Saudis.
“We will assess the complaints that have been made, but the content will not change,” he said.
Ban did not say explicitly that the coalition could go back on the list after the review.
But the secretary-general did say that in response to concerns from Saudi Arabia and other governments the UN is considering if there is a better way to distinguish countries from “terrorist and extremist groups” who are now listed together on the blacklist.
Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi told reporters shortly afterward that “It is our firm belief that this de-listing is final, irreversible and unconditional, and when all the facts are in that will be further reconfirmed.”