Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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13-Mar-2018 00:26:38
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General will leave on Wednesday for Rome, where he will attend a conference in support of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on Thursday.

The conference is intended to support a collective response by the international community to protect the rights and dignity of some 5.3 million Palestine Refugees registered with UNRWA and ensure that the Agency’s funding deficit of USD 446 million is urgently resolved.

While in Rome, the Secretary-General will co-chair a ministerial meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. He will emphasise the importance of supporting the people and State institutions of Lebanon.

The Secretary-General will then travel to Lisbon, where he will speak to the Islamic Community of Lisbon as it marks its 50th year as an organization.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, is releasing $30 million today from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to urgently support Palestine refugees through UNRWA.

An exceptional grant of $15 million will enable UNRWA to avoid disruption of life-saving food assistance to vulnerable refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, where over 2.5 million people are currently in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Donors are encouraged to step up urgently and increase their support for humanitarian action in the occupied Palestinian territory and the region and for UNRWA as a major humanitarian aid provider.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, condemned the attack on the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza earlier today and wished those injured a speedy recovery. This grave incident must be promptly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

He said that until the legitimate Palestinian Authority is fully empowered in Gaza, Hamas has the responsibility to ensure that the Government is able to carry out its work in the Strip without fear of intimidation, harassment and violence.

He commended the Prime Minister’s leadership and continuing efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and achieve reconciliation. Mr. Mladenov said that those who inspired and perpetrated today’s attack seek to undermine these efforts and destroy the chances for peace, and they must not be allowed to succeed.

The United Nations is following developments in Afrin closely; however, details are difficult to verify as the United Nations has no presence in the district.

Tens of thousands of people are believed to be displaced within Afrin. Between 20 January and 12 March, nearly 10,000 people were reportedly displaced to Tal Refaat and surrounding villages, 7,000 of whom are sheltered in schools and unfinished buildings. An additional 7,200 people were reportedly displaced to other areas of Aleppo governorate.

The United Nations has also received reports of civilian casualties, and restriction on movement for many civilians. There are reports that some trying to leave Afrin have been prevented from doing so by authorities there.

Since 6 March, people in Afrin city have also reportedly suffered from severe water shortages as the source of water to Afrin city has reportedly been damaged by fighting.

The United Nations reminds all parties to take all necessary measures to safeguard civilian lives, allow freedom of movement, and to protect civilian infrastructure, as required by international humanitarian and human rights law.

The Secretary-General is appointing Elliott Harris of Trinidad and Tobago as Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

He will succeed Lenni Montiel of Venezuela to whom the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs are grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.

Mr. Harris brings over 25 years of international experience in the fields of international economics and development policy analysis, coupled with knowledge of the UN system, multilateral and inter–agency coordination processes. Since 2015, Mr. Harris has served as Assistant Secretary-General and Head of UNEP’s New York Office.

Today at 1:30 p.m. in the ECOSOC Chamber, the Secretary-General will hold a town hall meeting with members of civil society on the margins of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Yesterday afternoon the Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed spoke at the Spotlight Initiative event to eliminate violence against women and girls. She said that since the initiative launched last September, the UN and the European Union carried out a global consultation process to listen to the experiences of the women’s movement and civil society and based on these, the initiative has developed programmes that will be implemented over the next few months in various countries. The programmes are designed to strengthen the protection of women and girls, promote access to justice, and improve policy and legal frameworks.

“Violence against women and girls has nowhere to hide,” she said. “We are coming for it, in all its forms and manifestations around the world.”

The 2017 report of the Secretary-General on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse has been issued. It is available online on the dedicated website on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse at www.un.org/preventing-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse/.

At 2 pm, Jane Holl Lute, the Special Coordinator on improving the United Nations response to sexual exploitation and abuse, will brief the press on the report.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, welcomed the announcement of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to reopen the international airports in the Kurdistan Region to international flights.

Mr. Kubiš said that this is a significant positive step that is certain to boost the atmosphere of partnership cooperation between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. He called for the speedy implementation of this decision and continued dialogue to resolve all other outstanding issues.

Lise Grande, the new Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, arrived in Sana’a yesterday to start her duties.

Ms. Grande has served in some of the United Nations’ largest humanitarian operations and in peacekeeping missions, including Iraq, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has held leadership positions in India, Armenia, Angola and East Timor and has also served in Tajikistan and Sudan.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, arrived today in Kalemie in the south-eastern province of Tanganyika, where 700,000 people are internally displaced. Mr. Lowcock visited the Katanyika internal displacement site, which is home to some 10,000 people who have fled violence. Women and children make up most of the displaced population.

During the visit, Mr. Lowcock met with a group of women who shared their experiences of the violence and the difficult living conditions. Speaking to Mr. Lowcock, who is accompanied by the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Sigrid Kaag, the women requested more humanitarian assistance, saying they needed education and health for their children and income-generating activities such as farming and fishing. Mr. Lowcock also met with some young boys and girls who have left school due to the violence. The delegation also visited Kalumga site, home to 3,500 people who have been displaced since 2016.

During the visit, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the DRC, Kim Bolduc, also signed an agreement with the Tanganyika Governor to provide a more enabling environment for humanitarian action in the province.

Humanitarian partners and the Government of Ethiopia today launched the country’s Humanitarian and Disaster Resilience Plan for 2018. The plan seeks US$1.66 billion to reach around 7.9 million people in need of assistance following recent successive failed or under-performing rains mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country, as well as an increase in conflict-related displacement in the border areas of the Oromia and Somali regions, and a lack of recovery opportunities.

The plan is structured around three pillars: prevention and mitigation, preparedness and response, and national systems strengthening and recovery. It presents priorities in water and sanitation, agriculture, relief food, nutrition, health, education, protection and shelter and non-food items in the affected areas.

This represents a first step towards the development of a multi-year planning framework for the response in Ethiopia, with the aim of moving away from a short-term response.

The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, today concluded a visit to Bangladesh to assess the situation of the Rohingya refugee population. During his visit, he met with Bangladeshi authorities and civil society representatives and visited refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar.

Mr. Dieng said that international crimes of murder, torture, and rape were committed in Myanmar. The information received by the Special Advisor indicates that the intention of the perpetrators is to cleanse northern Rakhine state of Rohingya existence, which, if proven, constitutes genocide.

He said that the Rohingya must receive protection and support as refugees while in Bangladesh, and the international community must do more to assist Bangladesh in providing support to the refugees.

Mr. Dieng added that the solution to this problem lies with the Myanmar authorities, by creating the conditions for the Rohingya population to return home in safety.

In Venezuela, the UN Refugee Agency today issued new protection guidance encouraging States to ensure Venezuelans who are seeking asylum have access to territory and refugee procedures. UNHCR said that in view of the situation in Venezuela, it is crucial that people are not deported or forcibly returned there.

According to the agency, since 2014 there has been a 2,000% increase in the number of people fleeing the country. While 94,000 Venezuelans were able to access refugee procedures last year, hundreds of thousands remain without any documentation or permission to stay legally in asylum countries, making them particularly vulnerable.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that as the number of asylum-seekers increase, the capacity of governments and host communities to absorb them has diminished. The UN Country Team is strengthening its social services, particularly in areas of nutrition, food security, and maternal/child health. In Colombia, where the Government has officially requested UN assistance the Humanitarian Country Team has agreed to bolster their individual border capacity.

In a statement issued yesterday on Kenya, the Secretary-General welcomed the statement issued jointly by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr. Raila Odinga on 9 March 2018 declaring their commitment to work together to strengthen the unity of the country for all Kenyans.

The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations’ support to continue working with the Government and people of Kenya for efforts towards consolidating peace, stability and development in the country.
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