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This issue of New World is dedicated to peace and security. Even from the safety of the UNA-UK office, it feels as though the world has become more unstable since the last issue was published in April. As I write, the UK Parliament - recalled from recess for an emergency session - is debating the looting and violence, largely by children and young people, that broke out in several cities in England in August.

The criminal behaviour on the streets of London was a stark contrast to what I saw at the UN High Level Meeting on Youth a few weeks earlier. Young people from poor communities in Haiti, Brazil and elsewhere spoke eloquently about the challenges they face and what they were doing to address them. But some issues seemed to resonate in both situations: inequality, a lack of social mobility, and exclusion, actual or perceived, from a global economic system that aggregates wealth in the hands of a few.

Shocking as the riots were, the references to 'war zones' in the UK media were misplaced. They undermine the plight of those for whom armed conflict is a daily reality. Our cover feature puts the spotlight on some of the most vulnerable among them - children, with Marie Staunton, Chief Executive of Plan UK, focussing on 'girls in the shadow of war'. Elsewhere Alain Le Roy, outgoing head of UN peacekeeping, speaks about the successes and challenges of those who risk their lives for peace in other countries. One comparative success story is the birth of South Sudan, which celebrated its independence on 9 July. But violence continues to blight the world's newest state, and the UN Security Council has created two new peacekeeping missions for the country.

On the border of this fragile state: a crisis termed the worst humanitarian disaster in a generation. With media attention elsewhere, aid has been slow in reaching the 12.4 million people aff ected by drought in the Horn of Africa. More than a third of the Somali population is facing hunger - with some 1,500 fleeing to Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp every day. Kenya itself has 3.7 million people in need. The situation in Somalia has been further complicated due to ongoing strife with insurgents, notably Al-Shabaab. The militant group has been impeding the delivery of aid and has reportedly prevented civilians from leaving the areas under their control.

This was the fate suffered by over 300,000 civilians caught up in the final months of Sri Lanka's civil war. Edward Mortimer of the Sri Lanka Campaign argues that an international investigation into what happened is essential. And in a piece submitted to New World on the condition of anonymity, our Blantyre-based contributor asks whether recent violence in Malawi signals a return to autocracy.

Natalie Samarasinghe

Head of Policy & Communications