Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
21-Mar-2018 00:23:47
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General condemns today’s attack in Kabul during the Nowruz celebrations near a religious shrine. Nowruz is a time of renewal and celebration, and should be a time for promoting the values of peace and solidarity. Those who have organized this attack must be brought to justice.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured. He expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of Afghanistan.

The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Ibrahim Thiaw of Mauritania as his Special Adviser for the Sahel.

He will support Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, in ongoing efforts to advance the recalibration of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and the emerging Sahel Support Plan.

Currently Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. Thiaw’s appointment builds on almost 40 years of experience in sustainable development, environmental governance and natural resource management.

The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive in Liberia today.

Tomorrow, she will meet with the President of Liberia, George Weah, and attend an event hosted by the President that will celebrate the successful completion of the mandate of the UN mission in the country, UNMIL. She will also meet with civil society organizations and women parliamentarians and attend a National Reconciliation Conference. She is also expected to brief the Security Council by VTC on the situation in the Lake Chad region.

On Friday, she will participate in a high-level meeting to initiate the design of the national development agenda for 2018-2024 and in a ceremony to mark the turning over of UNMIL Radio to the Economic Community of West African States Commission.

She will depart for Nigeria Friday afternoon.

Regarding Syria, the United Nations remains deeply concerned for the safety and protection of civilians in eastern Ghouta.


Living conditions continue to be desperate, bread is unavailable and water is not potable. Humanitarian access remains extremely limited. The last convoy to eastern Ghouta took place on 15 March with food for 26,100 people in Douma.

Since 11 March, the UN estimates that more than 50,000 people have left eastern Ghouta. UN teams have been visiting collective shelters in recent days in Rural Damascus where people who have left eastern Ghouta are staying. Most of the shelters do not have the capacity or infrastructure to accommodate the large number of people arriving.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has activated an emergency operations centre that works around the clock to assist the tens of thousands of Syrians from East Ghouta who have taken refuge in collective shelters in Rural Damascus.

Mobile health teams supported by WHO have been deployed to the shelters and are providing up to 550 medical consultations and treatments per day.

WHO has delivered 9 tonnes of health supplies, including 40 patient beds and medical equipment, and has also prepared an additional 7-tonne shipment of life-saving medicines, sufficient for more than 190,000 medical treatments, to be delivered to health care facilities in Rural Damascus.

The UN reminds all parties that whether civilians choose to stay or evacuate, they must be protected against attack, be treated humanely, and have access to the essentials to survive, including through humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the parties’ obligations under international humanitarian law.

The UN is also deeply concerned by the increase in violence in Idleb Governorate in recent days.

It 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 Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya, Ghassan Salamé, briefed the Security Council this morning. He announced that the UN mission had now returned to Tripoli.

Mr. Salamé said that while Libya was once known for its great demographic fluidity, ideological or identity cleavages have led to widespread ostracism. Unless Libyans can come together to speak, they will be unable to agree, he said. And unless they agree, the political process cannot progress.
He added that his mission is not to slice the cake between competing greeds but to bring Libyans together around a common national narrative.

Mr. Salamé also stressed the importance of holding elections but said it is vital that before they take place, we are certain that they will be inclusive, and their results accepted. He further asked Council members to make clear to all leaders in Libya that the political process must progress and that the status quo is untenable.

Mr. Salamé expressed concern over the situation in Sebha, saying that the conflict risks adopting a transnational dimension that could further destabilize Libya. He added that while there is space for all in civilian life, it is abundantly clear that no military faction can hope to conquer the country.

In Somalia, the Food and Agriculture Organization said there have been massive livestock deaths due to drought, which is severely affecting the livelihood of many communities in the country.

In some areas, as much as 60 per cent of herds have been wiped out. These losses threaten to exacerbate the country's food security situation, as the livestock sector accounts for about 40 per cent of GDP and 65 per cent of the population is engaged in livestock rearing activities.

FAO aims to assist 2.7 million Somalis this year and is appealing for $236 million to help farmers secure a good harvest and provide cash transfers to the most vulnerable.

Actor and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, Cate Blanchett, today warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingya refugees from the worst impacts of the upcoming monsoon season in Bangladesh. Ms. Blanchett just returned from a visit to Bangladesh this week, and is calling for urgent action to support UNHCR and its partners, working with the Government of Bangladesh, to avoid an “emergency within an emergency”.

Since August 2017 over 671,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have sought safety in Bangladesh. Heavy rains, potential cyclones and adverse weather conditions are now threatening to put more than one hundred thousand Rohingya refugees living in congested settlements in Cox’s Bazar district at serious risk in the coming months.

“The people of Bangladesh and host communities have been the first to respond to this crisis, supported by agencies like UNHCR and its partners. But I cannot stress how much more help is needed for these vulnerable stateless refugees, the majority of whom are women and children,” Ms. Blanchett said.


In Bonn, Germany, sustainability experts from around the world are gathering over the next three days to discuss ways to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals, at the Global Festival of Action for sustainable development.

Participants will be able to connect with partner organizations, exchange ideas, build partnerships, and ensure that solutions are transported across borders. The Festival will also hold the first SDG Action Awards, recognizing innovative efforts to ignite action on the SDGs.

Most of the festival can be watched online and followed through the hashtag #SDGGlobalFest.

The Secretary-General is aware of the meeting in Helsinki on the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

The UN has contributed to this academic exchange, with a UN official providing legal expertise. The Secretary-General is encouraged by the diplomatic advances made recently to further reduce military tensions and to discuss denuclearization in future talks with all relevant parties.

A few International Days are observed today.

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly Hall in the afternoon and stressed that world leaders “cannot allow extremist ideologies to become normalized and legitimized in our societies. The answer is to preach and practice tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity,” he said.

Today is also the International Day of Forests. The focus for this year is forests and sustainable cities and highlights the importance of green spaces to make cities greener, healthier and happier places to live.

It is also World Down Syndrome Day. This year, the Day’s theme is #WhatIBringToMyCommunity - how people with Down syndrome can and make meaningful contributions throughout their lives, whether in schools, workplaces, living in the community, public and political life, culture, media, recreation, leisure and sport.

Today the UN also observes World Poetry Day, which celebrates the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind.

Last but not least, it’s Nowruz Day, which marks the first day of spring.

On Saturday evening, 24 March 2018, at 7:00 p.m., the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council will present a Haiti Benefit concert at All Saints Episcopal Church - that is located at 230 East 60th Street.

All proceeds will be directed to Fonkoze, Haiti’s leading microfinance institution, which provides financial and development services to empower Haitians – primarily rural women. Through Fonkoze’s programs and services, there are currently over 200,000 Haitians who have a viable and sustainable way to lift their families out of poverty.

At the concert, the music programme will feature the world premiere of the chamber music arrangement of “Haiti Project: Symphony of Hope” specially arranged by Grammy winning composer and conductor Lucas Richman for the UN Chamber Music Society.

The “Symphony of Hope” project was originally produced by Grammy winning composer Christopher Lennertz and is a collaboration by 25 of today’s leading Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy winning composers to benefit Haiti.
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