Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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13-Nov-2017 00:27:09
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is in the Philippines today, where he addressed the 9th ASEAN-UN Summit. He called on ASEAN’s leaders to strengthen resilience and reduce the risk posed by climate change and other natural disasters, and he commended the 4,500 military personnel, police and civilians from eight ASEAN countries who are serving in UN missions around the world.

The Secretary-General emphasized the importance of regional cooperation against terrorism and violent extremism, as shown by the recent conflict in Marawi. He said the United Nations stands ready to provide technical support and assistance to ASEAN countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and to combat transnational crime, drugs and people trafficking, with policies able to protect their citizens with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights.

He also said the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region. Beyond the end of violence, he reiterated his call for unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities; and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled to their places of origin.

The Secretary-General also noted that sustainable and inclusive development is the best way to prevent both conflict and violent extremism. As this region powers its way to becoming the world’s fourth largest economy by 2050, we look forward to including millions more in the shared benefits of prosperity, he said.

Today in Manila, he also held a series of bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, and the Prime Minister of Viet Nam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as well as with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, and the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. He will continue his meetings tomorrow, before flying overnight to Bonn for the UN Climate Change Conference.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the impact of the blockade is leading to severe shortages of commercial and aid materials reaching Yemen.

The entire population of Yemen is dependent on food, fuel and medicine imports, primarily through seaports. More than 17 million Yemenis – or more than two-thirds of the population – are already food insecure.

The World Food Programme says that there are 111 days until current stocks of rice run out and 97 days until current stocks of wheat run out.

Without the import of critical commodities through a lifting of the blockade on all ports, including Hudaydah and Saleef, the situation will further deteriorate.

More than two-thirds of people in need and more than 80 per cent of all cholera cases are located in the areas closest to Hudaydah and Saleef ports.

Only al Wadea land crossing in Hadramaut governorate and Aden sea port are open for to commercial imports. However, the port at Aden does not have the capacity for commercial and humanitarian cargo, and unless the Red Sea ports in Hudaydah and Saleef are opened immediately, the UN will not be able to feed 7 million people every month.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations today announced the appointment of Brigadier-General (retired) Fernand Marcel Amoussou (Benin) to lead an independent special investigation into a number of recent incidents in the south-east of the Central African Republic that occurred from 1 May to 31 August 2017.

The investigation will look into attacks against civilians by armed groups that occurred in close proximity to a UN Mission (MINUSCA) presence in Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou, and Haut-Mbomou prefectures as well as the Mission’s response to these incidents.

The Peacekeeping Department is launching this special investigation in light of the recent deterioration of the security situation in the south-east of the country and with a view to improving the Mission’s ability to prevent violence and protect civilians under imminent threat within its capabilities and areas of deployment. The investigation will make recommendations to address any shortcomings, if applicable, and on the Mission’s overall performance with regard to the protection of civilians, in the context of the Mission’s mandate renewal.

The investigation team will deploy to the Central African Republic from 14 to 28 November. A final report will then be presented to the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, the findings of which will be made public.

General (retired) Fernand Marcel Amoussou was the Force Commander of the UN Mission in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) from 2006-2010. He was the Chief of General Defence Staff of the Benin armed forces from 2000-2005 and was instrumental in operationalizing the first all-female military school of Benin. He has worked with the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies in the United States and is currently Director of the Institute for Security in Africa.

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare will be participating in the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference that begins in Vancouver tomorrow. Mr. Lacroix will be representing the Secretary-General. Defence ministers and senior officials from more than 80 countries and organizations will attend this two day-event to discuss the challenges we face in the field, our current and emerging capability needs and how we can work together with Member States to find solutions.

Among the highlights of this conference is a side-event on Mali on Tuesday on the critical capability gaps that the UN Mission in the country (MINUSMA) is facing and the generation of those key resources. The main day of the conference, Wednesday, kicks off with a session to encourage Member States to mobilize the women, peace, and security agenda within their own military. A female UN peacekeeper will also be honored with the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. Member States will have an opportunity to announce their pledges for UN peacekeeping on Wednesday.

In a statement yesterday evening, the Secretary-General expressed his sadness at the loss of life and damage following the earthquake that struck the border region of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq on Sunday evening. He conveys his condolences to the bereaved families and to the Governments and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq. He wishes those injured a speedy recovery.

The Secretary-General commends the local response efforts underway. The United Nations stands ready to assist if required.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, has joined the Secretary-General in extending condolences to all of the people impacted by this tragedy. She stated that humanitarians’ priority right now is to help local authorities respond as quickly as possible.

This morning, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent an immediate response team and two ambulances to Sulaymaniyah Hospital, the primary hospital in the area, along with trauma and surgical kits, and an assessment team has arrived in Darbandikhan, one of the worst-hit areas.

Upon request by the Iraqi Government, a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team is also being dispatched from Geneva. This is a highly-specialized team that will help to assess conditions and coordinate the response.

Yesterday, a UN/International Committee of the Red Cross/Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency convoy delivered life-saving multi-sectoral assistance, including food, nutrition and health items for 21,500 of the estimated 90,000 people in need in Duma city in besieged East Ghouta of rural Damascus. The area was last reached with inter-agency humanitarian assistance on 17 August 2017.

Meanwhile, we are concerned about the protection and well-being of civilians in Atareb, rural Aleppo, following reports of infighting between different non-state armed groups over the past five days.

Shelling on populated cities and towns in the area is affecting civilian movement, including commercial activities, and it has interrupted humanitarian activities in the area due to the clashes and road blocks. Furthermore, schools have reportedly suspended classes.

Over the weekend at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, countries, businesses and civil society organizations showcased examples of climate action on various themes including oceans and forests. Today, they will be focusing on financing for climate action.

Some of the commitments that have been made include an Ecuadorean initiative to reduce 15 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the forest sector; a commitment to deforestation-free commodities by Walmart, a new policy by the company Mars Incorporated to reduce their carbon footprint 27 per cent by 2025 and 67 per cent by 2050 through addressing deforestation throughout their corporate value chain; and Gabon's National Park Service efforts to combat illegal logging.

In addition, the Fiji Presidency announced an agreement on a Gender Action Plan, highlighting the role of women in climate action, which is subject to adoption at the end of the Conference.

In the first ever visit by a High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will visit El Salvador from 15 to 16 November.

He will hold talks with the President, Foreign Minister, Minister of Justice and Public Security, and other legislators.

The High Commissioner will also meet civil society representatives and human right defenders, visit a women’s detention centre, and attend a ceremony to mark the 28th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by government soldiers.

He will then travel to Guatemala for a two-day visit. The High Commissioner will meet the President, the presidents of the Supreme Court of Justice and Constitutional Court, the Foreign Minister, and others.

He will also hold meetings with human rights defenders, victims and journalists.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the International Labour Organization will host the fourth Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour starting tomorrow.

The Conference will address the consolidation of the global commitment to eradicate this practice and government, employer and worker’s representatives will be discussing proposals to develop policies to ensure education for all children and a seamless transition to the labour market.

Antibiotic Awareness Week kicks off today with the theme ‘Learn how to handle antibiotics with care.’ The campaign is supported by the World Health Organization.
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