Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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20-Mar-2018 00:29:15
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Today is French Language Day. According to the Observatoire de la langue française, 274 million women and men speak French globally, and today they have the opportunity to celebrate their shared language and the diversity of the Francophonie, through word competitions, shows, film festivals, literary meetings, gastronomic events and art exhibitions.

Today is also the International Day of Happiness. This year’s World Happiness Report ranked 156 countries by their happiness levels, but it also focused on migration within and between countries and it ranked 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants. Finland is at the top of both rankings in the report, with the happiest immigrants, and the happiest population in general.

The Secretary-General will speak at 4 pm today at a ceremony to mark the International Day of Nowruz, and he is to say that for more than 300 million people, Nowruz is about new beginnings: the beginning of a new year, the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature. He will say that Nowruz gives us a chance to renew our commitment to peace, sustainable development and human rights.

Ján Kubiš, his Special Representative for Iraq, also has a message today to mark Nowruz, in which he says that this year, this day of renewal and hope serves to celebrate the victory against Daesh but also to remember the sacrifices and challenges of Iraq and its people including the people of the Kurdistan Region. Their determination, perseverance and foremost unity has resulted in this historic victory over the terrorist group, he says.

Tadimichi Yamamoto, the Special Representative for Afghanistan, says that the UN family expresses hope that the year ahead brings harmony to the Afghan people, who deserve a future free from conflict and filled with prosperity, hope and, above all else, peace.

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The theme this year is ‘Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination.’ The Secretary-General will be speaking on this theme today at 3:00 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall, and he will call on countries to live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race.

The hashtags for the Day are: #StandUp4HumanRights #FightRacism #JoinTogether and #AfricanDescent.

In Geneva today, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the World Summit of the Information Society.
She said that the digital revolution is taking place at a breakneck speed and that rapid advances in technology are having a profound impact on every aspect of our lives and societies.

But, she added, as fast as these advances are occurring, they are not taking place fast enough in many areas. All people need to benefit. No one should be left behind. The Deputy Secretary-General said that connecting the unconnected is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by a further deepening of the humanitarian crisis in Syria as fierce fighting in Eastern Ghouta, rural Damascus and Afrin causes massive new displacement.

In Eastern Ghouta alone, more than 45,000 Syrians have fled their homes in recent days. UNHCR is responding to urgent humanitarian needs on the ground, but it calls once more for the protection and safety of both the newly displaced and of hundreds of thousands of civilians still trapped by fighting and in dire need of aid.

UNHCR also reports that all existing shelters are extremely congested and overcrowded and lack basic sanitation. People are queueing in lines for hours to use restrooms, and most have no lighting. These are shelters for people coming out of Eastern Ghouta.

The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, briefed Member States yesterday on her recent mission to the Central African Republic. She described how the situation in the country has deteriorated since last year. Violence is spreading fast across the country, creating new emergencies, while urgent and critical needs that already existed are deepening. The number of people displaced has reached record-high levels. Over 690,000 people have been internally displaced -- 72 per cent more than last year. Over 546,000 people have also sought refuge in neighbouring countries – a 20 per cent increase compared to last year.

The recruitment and use of children by armed groups also increased by 50 per cent between 2016 and 2017. Countless women, girls and boys have been raped. Cases of torture and inhumane treatment, including enslavement and sexual exploitation of minorities have continued to be reported.

Ms. Mueller warned that we cannot afford to neglect the crisis in the Central African Republic any longer, or the price to pay will be much higher than the investments already made. She called on Member States to sustain their support to the country. This year, aid agencies are seeking $516 million but only two per cent of the funds have been received so far.

There will be Security Council consultations at 3 pm today on Lebanon. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix and the Acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Kardel, will brief the Council.

Following consultations, Ms. Kardel will speak to reporters at the stakeout.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that the number of Anglophone Cameroonians seeking asylum in Nigeria has doubled since mid-January.

In total, over 20,000 refugees have been registered and a recent assessment by humanitarian groups shows how grim the situation has become. Ninety-five per cent of the asylum seekers have no more than three days of food.
UNHCR has worked on a contingency plan of US$18 million to help cover their needs. However, so far no funds have been received, leading to immense challenges and gaps in the response.

Earlier this month, the authorities in Nigeria allocated land to UNHCR which should allow for shelters to be established to ensure the safety, security and self-reliance of refugees.

The Agency also urges the Nigerian authorities to refrain from the forcible return of individuals who may have fled persecution in their country of origin, and to respect the principle of non-refoulement or no forced returns.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Migration Agency is supporting the Government to address urgent accommodation and humanitarian needs resulting from an increased number of migrants and asylum seekers.

Since the end of last year, the country has seen a steady increase in the number of migrants entering the country at its southeast border with Montenegro, as well as from different border-crossing points with Serbia. These are new routes that are emerging as migrants stranded in the region continue to try to reach the European Union.
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