Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 07-Dec-2017 00:21:26
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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The Security Council met on South Sudan this morning. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, warned that, as the dry season sets in, we face the possibility that the military conflict will escalate, as well as intercommunal fighting. Civilians will suffer the consequences of any escalation of violence, he said, adding that we cannot continue to stand by and watch. Mr. Lacroix therefore urged the Council to remain vigilant and exert more effort to condemn and stop the violence, protect civilians, and urgently facilitate a political settlement of the conflict. Fighting cannot continue in tandem with efforts to craft a durable peace, he said, the two are simply incompatible.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, added that while over 2 million people have fled South Sudan as refugees over the past four years, 7 million people inside the country – nearly two-thirds of the remaining population – still need humanitarian assistance. Some 1.25 million people are in an emergency phase of food insecurity – that is almost twice as many people one step away from famine as the same time last year. In early 2018, half of the population will rely on emergency food aid. Mr. Lowcock called on Council members to use their influence to ensure that the parties comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and protect civilians, including humanitarian workers, and to ensure that the parties allow and facilitate humanitarian relief operations and people’s access to assistance and protection.

The Victims’ Rights Advocate, Jane Connors, is wrapping up a four-day visit to South Sudan.

This morning she briefed the press in Juba on her role as the UN's first Victims’ Rights Advocate and on the Mission's efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse, in close partnership with the UN system in the country. She also strongly reiterated the Secretary-General’s message of zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse.

During her trip, she met with UN representatives and civil society. She also visited the Protection of Civilians site in Malakal and met with community and traditional leaders, as well as the humanitarian community.

This is her second visit to a peacekeeping mission since taking up her assignment in September, after visiting the Central African Republic with the Secretary-General in October.

Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, spoke to reporters in Geneva today and confirmed that the Syrian Government has informed him that its delegation will return to Geneva on 10 December. After that, he said, discussions with the parties will continue, with no preconditions, until 15 December.

Based on how this round of talks goes, the Special Envoy said, he will assess whether the parties are negotiating seriously and to draw conclusions accordingly.

Mr. de Mistura’s Special Adviser, Jan Egeland, also briefed the press on the situation of some 400,000 people trapped in eastern Ghouta, adding that for the past six months, we have been trying to get acceptance from the Syrian Government of a very detailed evacuation plan for what is now 494 people who need to leave eastern Ghouta on medical grounds. He again pleaded for the Government to allow those evacuations, including those of children with serious long-term medical conditions.

The Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Paris, to co-chair the Ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon on 8 December.

On Sunday, 10 December, she will proceed to Quito, Ecuador, to address the High-level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South, to be held the following day.

The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Tuesday, 12 December.

The World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that an acute hunger emergency in the Greater Kasai of the Democratic Republic of the Congo could turn into a long-term disaster. While the agency has been working against the clock to help ever more people, cash is quickly running out.

Claude Jibidar, WFP’s Representative in the DRC, said that a tightly planned surge made a big difference, but WFP has largely funded this from its own resources. He added that without immediate donor support, many will die, particularly women and children.

With 3.2 million people desperately short of food, WFP has stepped in with emergency assistance. A lull in fighting has allowed more staff to be deployed. As a result, the number of people assisted has grown rapidly, from 42,000 in September to 225,000 in November.

Donor reluctance to commit to Kasai is jeopardizing this effort.

In Geneva, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Neal Walker, today urged Member States to support the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, which calls for $187 million to help 2.3 million people in the country’s east.

As Ukraine enters its fourth year of conflict, many people in conflict areas have exhausted their savings and ability to cope. They are now forced to make impossible choices between food, medicine, shelter, heating or their children’s education.

Mr. Walker said that the people of eastern Ukraine continue to pay the highest price for the conflict, adding that, while Ukraine may no longer be front page news, millions of men, women and children urgently require our help.

He stressed that lasting peace is the only humanitarian solution for millions of people affected.

The World Food Programme (WFP) will stop providing food aid to conflict-affected people in the east at the end of February 2018. Food insecurity levels have doubled in both Government-controlled and non-Government controlled areas, with up to 1.2 people in need of food. WFP will continue to assist the most vulnerable through cash transfer programmes throughout the most difficult winter months and maintain a limited presence in the east at least until mid-2018.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that, even though global food production is booming, localized drought, flooding and conflicts have intensified and perpetuated food insecurity.

According to FAO’s latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, some 37 countries, 29 of which are in Africa, require external assistance for food. Ongoing conflicts continue to be a key driver of food insecurity, having triggered near-famine conditions in northern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, as well as widespread hunger in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo - and Syria. And adverse weather conditions are also taking their toll on farm food outputs in some regions, notably due to drought in East Africa and floods in parts of Asia.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today said that the number of people affected by dementia is set to triple in the next 30 years going from 50 million people with dementia to 152 million by 2050.

According to the agency, the annual global cost of dementia is $818 billion dollars, equivalent to more than 1 per cent of global gross domestic product. By 2030, the cost is expected to have more than doubled, to $2 trillion, a cost that could undermine social and economic development and overwhelm health and social services, including long-term care systems.

WHO has just launched a Global Dementia Observatory, an online platform to track progress on the provision of services for people with dementia and for those who care for them, both within countries and globally.

Ahead of Human Rights Day, which falls on 10 December, when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the General Assembly back in 1948, the High Commissioner underscored the need for the values enshrined in this landmark document to be defended.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cautioned that the universality of rights is being contested across much of the world, pointing to what he called mounting cruelties and crimes being perpetrated in conflicts across the world, as well rising levels of nationalism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination.

The High Commissioner will celebrate Human Rights Day on Sunday, 10 December, and the launch of a campaign marking the Universal Declaration’s 70th anniversary next year with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in the French capital at the Palais de Chaillot, the site of the Declaration’s adoption.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights still holds the world record for the largest number of translations, with the current total at more than 500 languages.

Today is the International Civil Aviation Day. This year’s theme is “Working together to ensure no country is left behind” and it highlights efforts by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to assist States in implementing standards and recommended practices so they can have access to safe and reliable air transport and can address safety, security and emissions-related issues.
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