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Libyan Newswire

2014: A look back at some of the year’s major developments

24 December 2014 – Conflict, disease, human rights abuses and food insecurity combined to make 2014 a year marked by untold human misery. From the rise of violent extremism to the spread of Ebola, from war in Gaza to unrest in Ukraine, UN peacekeeping, diplomacy and humanitarian capabilities were pushed to the limit.

Millions in need

Millions of people were displaced from their homes, with over 100 million in need of relief assistance – the highest levels since the Second World War, the UN reported. “Never before has the United Nations been asked to reach so many people with emergency food assistance and other life-saving supplies,” said Secretary-General Ban at the opening of the General Assembly’s annual debate in September. Shown, displaced Iraqi girls queue for food at a community kitchen in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dohuk governorate. UNHCR

Read more: Opening General Assembly debate, Ban urges leadership to move from ‘turbulence’ to peace

Ebola: Disaster for West Africa

A single case of the deadly Ebola virus in Guinea, late in 2013, led to a record-breaking epidemic in 2014, with the disease spreading to other countries in the West African region. By year’s end, the virus, for which there is no vaccine and no known cure, had sickened more than 18,000 people and killed 7,000, leaving in its wake a trail of broken lives and crippled economies. Pictured, an Ebola patient in Sierra Leone. UNDP

Read more: Global Ebola Crisis Response – United Nations

Ebola: First-ever UN emergency health mission

With health systems of affected countries unprepared for the Ebola onslaught, the UN worked closely with partners and health ministries to bolster the ability of affected countries to cope with the outbreak. The epidemic’s unprecedented scale prompted the UN to mobilize its first-ever system-wide emergency health mission – UNMEER. Shown, in Sierra Leone, an ambulance is dispatched to attend to a suspected Ebola case. UNMEER/Martine Perret

Read more: Ebola response must include efforts to bolster health systems – UN Economic, Social Council chief

Gaza: 50 days of war

The abduction and killing of three Israeli teens, and the subsequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian teenager, sparked a war between Israelis and Palestinians for the third time in six years. By the time an Egypt-brokered ceasefire took hold at the end of August, nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis had died during the 50-day conflict. Here, smoke and flames rise from Gaza’s only electricity distribution plant after it was hit by Israeli missile strikes. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

Read more: With Gaza on knife’s edge, Ban calls for restraint, urges parties to avert ‘full-blown war’

Gaza: Emergency appeal

The conflict devastated Gaza’s economy, which had already been weakened by years of blockade, and exacerbated a scarcity of food, jobs, education and health care. In Geneva, the UN launched an emergency appeal for “lifeline” services to Palestinians affected by the conflict. Here, displaced Palestinians shelter at a UN school in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip after fleeing heavy Israeli bombardment in August. UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

Read more: UN agency requests $400 million ‘lifeline’ for Palestinian refugees

Middle East peace: Future uncertain

The UN continues to support a negotiated political settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, despite a desire for Middle East peace by many outside the region, the quest for a lasting solution was “more uncertain than ever” and the situation on the ground remained “explosive,” UN envoy Robert Serry warned the Security Council in December. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Read more: Future of Israeli-Palestinian peace ‘more uncertain than ever,’ warns senior UN official

Ukraine: Fighting in the east

In Ukraine, what was initially seen as an internal political crisis later escalated into full-blown conflict in the eastern part of the country. As of mid-December, hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced, with more than 4,700 killed and 10,322 wounded. Despite a ceasefire agreement, ongoing fighting continued to drive people from their homes, said the UN, which launched an aid effort for those in need. Above, fleeing fighting in the east, a Ukrainian family arrives in Kyiv by train in June 2014. UNHCR/I. Zimova

Read more: During Ukraine visit, senior UN official pledges broad support for Government

Ukraine: Breakdown of law and order

UN human rights monitors warned of a “breakdown in law and order” in Ukraine’s eastern regions, fuelled by an inflow of heavy weaponry and foreign fighters, which was having a “direct impact on all fundamental human rights, including the security, liberty and well-being, of individuals living there,” the UN reported. Pictured, a man drives past an apartment building near Slavyansk, heavily damaged in fighting in July. UNHCR/ Iva Zimova

Read more: Amid ongoing hostilities, UN warns of ‘life-threatening’ conditions for Ukraine’s civilians

South Sudan: A nation in jeopardy

In South Sudan, political in-fighting in late 2013 between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, led to full-fledged conflict in 2014 that risked the future of the nation, the UN said. Inter-communal violence uprooted 1.9 million people and placed more than 7 million at risk of hunger and disease. It also taxed UN resources as 100,000 civilians sought shelter at UN compounds around the country. Shown, in March, flooding at the Tomping protection-of-civilians site made life miserable and unhealthy for the displaced. UN Photo/Isaac Billy

Read more: One year later, ongoing South Sudan conflict ‘jeopardizes future of entire nation’ – UN chief

South Sudan: Living in a “tinderbox”

With a high level of mistrust between communities in South Sudan based on perceived support for either the Government or the opposition, people were on edge and violence was easily triggered. “The people of South Sudan are living in a tinderbox, with emotions high, an abundant flow of weapons and with both sides recruiting fighters, often forcefully and including children,” said UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. There were also reports of conflict-related sexual violence. Pictured, at its Malakal Compound in December 2014, the UN Mission destroys weapons confiscated over the year from displaced people entering the site or during subsequent searches. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Read more: People of South Sudan living in ‘tinderbox’ after year of conflict, warns UN rights chief

Afghanistan: Civilians bear the brunt of conflict

In Afghanistan, civilians continued to bear the brunt of conflict as the Taliban and other insurgent groups attempted to gain control over territory. The UN reported that civilian casualties were up by nearly 20 per cent in 2014, compared with the previous year, with the number of civilians injured or killed expected to top 10,000 by the end of the year, for the first time since the UN mission in the country – UNAMA – began keeping records in 2008. Shown, fleeing violence, displaced Afghans approach the Pakistan-Afghan border. IRIN/Abdul Majeed Goraya

Read more: ‘Suffering an enormous human cost’, civilian casualties up nearly 20 per cent in 2014 – UN

Afghanistan: Electoral process saved from the brink

Following presidential elections in April – and a subsequent run-off that sparked charges of fraud and a political impasse – Afghanistan pulled itself back from the brink as the two presidential candidates agreed to a deal that lead to the formation of a government of national unity. It was the first-ever transfer of power from one elected leader to another, and a milestone in Afghanistan’s historic democratic transition, the UN said. Above, in the presence of international and domestic observers, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission audits the results of the country’s presidential election run-off. UNAMA/Fardin Waezi

Read more: UN congratulates Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on inauguration

Central African Republic: Fractured by violence

In the Central African Republic, people fled their homes in growing numbers amid continued inter-communal fighting. By December, the UN estimated that 440,000 people had been displaced inside the country while 190,000 others had sought asylum across borders. UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous warned of a potentially explosive situation as clashes continued between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and the anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian. Shown, in October, after two Muslims were killed, allegedly by Christians, the Muslim community demonstrates outside the headquarters of the UN Mission, MINUSCA, in the capital city of Bangui. UN Photo/Nektarios Markogiannis

Read more: Central African Republic: Security Council appeals to rebels to lay down arms

Central African Republic: Humanitarian workers at risk

Central African Republic continued to face a humanitarian crisis of major proportions as living conditions in overcrowded sites for the internally displaced deteriorated. Providing humanitarian assistance across the country remained an enormous, and dangerous, task, in the face of an increasing trend of attacks against aid workers. Nevertheless, as of the end of the year, more than 100 UN agencies and NGOs were operating in the country – twice as many as had been in the country in 2013. Pictured, internally displaced women and children in the country. Photo: OCHA

Read more: Central African Republic: As violence flares, UN warns of worsening humanitarian conditions

Syria: Disregard for rules of war

As the war in Syria dragged on, civilians continued to be subjected to violence of nightmarish proportions. “We have run out of words to fully explain the brutality, violence and callous disregard for human life which is a hallmark of this crisis,” UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council in December. A resolution adopted by the Council in February, calling on the warring parties to allow humanitarian access across conflict lines, and to protect civilians caught in the fighting, continued to be violated on all counts, she added. Above, Syrian Kurdish refugees cross into Turkey from Syria near the town of Kobani. UNHCR/I. Prickett

Read more: ‘Even in war there are rules’ – UN official urges Security Council to enforce protections of Syrian civilians

Syria: Push for critical aid

The dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, by a joint mission of the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was of little consolation to the millions of people affected by the war, Secretary-General Ban said at his year-end press conference. To bring life-saving aid to 12 million people inside Syria and to support countries in the region hosting millions of Syrian refugees, the UN and its partners appealed in December for $8.4 billion. Shown, a Syrian refugee mother waits in line with her child to collect aid. The photograph was taken in Arsal before the latest displacement in the Lebanese town. UNHCR/ M. Hofer

Read more: UN launches appeal for life-saving aid to millions of Syrians, support to host communities

Spread of terrorism: Security Council calls for action

As foreign terrorist fighters continued to flood conflict zones, shocking the world with unthinkable brutality, the UN Security Council called on Member States to work together and build the capacity to address such threats and to collaborate in suppressing the transit of violent extremists between countries. According to a UN assessment, the number of foreign terrorist fighters in the Syria and Iraq conflicts alone had grown to over 15,000 from more than 80 countries, while other fighters were reportedly seeking to join militant groups in Somalia, Yemen, and several countries in the Maghreb and Sahel regions. Pictured, in Mogadishu, suspected al-Shabaab militants wait to be taken for interrogation during a joint night operation by the Somali security services and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in May 2014. UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Read more: At high-level debate, UN, Security Council renew pledge to counter foreign terrorist fighters

Climate change: Countries prepare to negotiate

At a UN climate summit in Lima, Peru, Governments put in place the building blocks for climate action that will serve as the basis for negotiations when countries meet in Paris next year to hammer out a new universal climate treaty. Governments, businesses and civil society now agree they must curb the growth of emissions, said Secretary-General Ban as he spoke to journalists at the end of the year. Earlier, in March, the UN chief visited Greenland – where the melting of ice sheets is accelerating – to view first-hand the impacts of climate change. Above, he is shown touring the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Read more: COP20: Ban Ki-moon hails delegates for paving way to ‘meaningful’ climate agreement

Sustainable development: Charting an inclusive, ‘people-centred’ agenda

From better healthcare to clean water and sanitation, from ending discrimination to protecting the planet, Secretary-General Ban called on Member States to be “innovative, inclusive, agile, determined and coordinated” in negotiating a new agenda in 2015 that is to succeed the landmark Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the UN-backed effort to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, promote education, especially for girls, fight disease and protect the environment, which ends next year. Pictured, at a school in Laos, in Southeast Asia, children are taught the importance of proper hand-washing, drinking safe water, and using clean utensils. World Bank/Bart Verweij

Read more: Road to Dignity by 2030: UN chief launches blueprint towards sustainable development

Video: United Nations – Year in Review 2014 (short versionlong version)                             Photos: More photos from 2014