Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 10-Jan-2018 00:18:22
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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The Secretary-General will travel on Saturday, 13 January 2018, to Bogotá, Colombia, for an official visit to the country to support peace efforts.

On Saturday, his agenda includes meetings with President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón and officials of the Government and Armed Forces, as well as with the leadership of the FARC and the Catholic Church.

While in Bogotá, the Secretary-General will also meet with civil society representatives and with the United Nations Verification Mission and Country Team working in Colombia.

On Sunday, 14 January, the Secretary-General will travel to the Department of Meta, where his agenda will include, among other activities, a visit to a territorial area for training and reintegration of former FARC combatants.

He will give a press conference at the conclusion of his visit on Sunday evening, and will be back at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday morning.

Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, briefed the Security Council this morning.

He said that while the building blocks of stabilization are being put in place, we cannot lose sight of the challenges of the socioeconomic reintegration of the 14,000 former combatants.

We must not forget that we are dealing with a large group of former fighters whose level of accumulated frustration with the reintegration process - illustrated by the number of members still in prison - is not easy to overcome, he added.

Government, UN agencies, international community, and civil society will have to be diligent and thorough in our support to their reintegration and the development of the communities in which they are inserted, he said.

Regarding the process between the Government and the ELN (National Liberation Army), Mr. Arnault stressed that the clamor for the continued suspension of military action has been unanimous, and reiterated the need to preserve the reduction of violence that prevailed during the past three months, while also advocating for a clearer, more reliable ceasefire.

In Tripoli, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, met with Faiez Serraj, President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya. He also met with the Head of the High Council of State, Abdulrahman Sewehli, and the diplomatic corps.

As noted in the note to correspondents issued yesterday afternoon, Mr. Feltman will be in Libya and Tunisia until Friday.

From the Central African Republic, an estimated 58,000 people have been displaced to Paoua town in the northwestern Ouham-Pendé Prefecture according to the UN Refugee Agency - up from 25,000 people on 5 January - following fighting between the Revolution Justice and the Mouvement national de la libération de la Centrafrique armed groups.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the security situation remains precarious with fighting reported in villages and five locations surrounding Paoua town, which have been looted and burnt. The town itself appears to be calm. Food and the provision of protection, in and around Paoua town, are top priorities. Some 60 tons of cereals provided by the World Food Programme are only sufficient for 10,000 people.

The municipality of Paoua has provided land to humanitarian workers for the establishment of a settlement site but the capacity of the site is far lower than the expected influx of people. Meanwhile, insecurity on the roads surrounding Paoua is impeding access to people in need of assistance.

A mission led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will deploy to Paoua town tomorrow to further assess the situation and reinforce local humanitarian coordination.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, today condemned the upsurge in civilian casualties in Eastern Ghouta in Syria amid the recent escalation in airstrikes and ground-based attacks by Government forces and their allies. He said that all parties are obliged under international law to distinguish between lawful military targets and civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, we welcome the exceptional delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to an estimated 50,000 Syrian men, women and children stranded at Rukban, near Jordan’s north-eastern border with Syria, this week. The delivery of humanitarian assistance from Jordan began on Monday 8 January and so far has provided assistance to over 18,000 people. The operation will continue until all 50,000 people have been reached. The humanitarian aid includes food, specialized winterization kits and other life-saving assistance.

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that heavy rains and flooding may exacerbate the country’s ongoing cholera epidemic, the most severe in over 20 years.

The current outbreak, which began in last July, is one of the most severe in years. Health experts fear that the situation in Kinshasa might still considerably worsen, due to a combination of overcrowding and the ongoing rainy season.

WHO reports people in 24 out of 26 provinces have been infected with the disease. Latest reports find 55,000 cases, including nearly 1,200 deaths, for 2017 alone – double the number of cases from the previous year.
Cholera response is ongoing in the Kasai region and other provinces, but has been affected by severe cuts in humanitarian funding, diminished response capacities, and a breakdown of pipelines for medical supplies at local level.

Today in Nairobi, the UN Environment Programme and the World Health Organization announced a collaboration to curb environmental health risks that cause an estimated 12.6 million deaths a year.

The two agencies agreed to collaborate on initiatives to combat air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance, as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General welcomed the progress made during the high-level inter-Korean talks on 9 January, particularly the agreement to work to ease military tensions, hold military-to-military talks, and reopen the inter-Korean military hotline. He also welcomed the decision of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to send a delegation to the Olympic Winter Games.

The Secretary-General seized this opportunity to acknowledge other efforts that have contributed to reducing tensions. He hopes such engagement and efforts will contribute to the resumption of sincere dialogue leading to sustainable peace and denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula.

In response to a question on the killing of an Israeli rabbi yesterday, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General’s position on violence, incitement and terrorism is well known. There is no justification for terror, nor for those who condone, praise or glorify it.

Such heinous acts only perpetuate the cycle of violence, hindering efforts to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The perpetrators of yesterday’s attack must be brought to justice.
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