Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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22-Mar-2018 00:16:11
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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Today is World Water Day. This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the High-level Event to Launch the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development.” He said that the growing water crisis should be much higher on the world’s radar, and stressed that safe water and sanitation are key to poverty reduction, economic growth and healthy ecosystems. He added that water has historically proven to be a catalyst for cooperation not conflict, but warned that without effective management of our water resources, we risk intensified disputes between communities and sectors and even increased tensions among nations.

UNICEF, in partnership with global entertainer Beyoncé, has been working to provide safe water to women and children in Burundi. So far, they have built 35 wells, and thanks to a new partnership with Gucci and CHIME FOR CHAGE, 80 more will be built this year, benefitting 120,000 women, girls and families.

The Deputy Secretary-General is in Liberia today. In her meeting with President George Weah, she underlined the commitment of the UN to support his administration to achieve meaningful progress in addressing sustaining peace and advancing sustainable development.

She also attended an event hosted by President Weah to celebrate the completion of the mandate of the UN mission in Liberia, UNMIL. Speaking to the press, she said UNMIL is yet another successful peacekeeping mission in West Africa. It was deployed in 2003 to a failed state with state institutions in ruins, non-existent economy and a disintegrated national police and army. Since then, the state has been rebuilt and more than 100,000 former combatants participated in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. Justice and security institutions were restored. She said that today Liberians enjoy peace and UNMIL leaves behind a country that has great potential to achieve lasting stability, democracy and prosperity.

Ms. Mohammed said it is now up to the Government with the full support of the UN and partners to continue to address poverty, youth unemployment, illiteracy and lack of basic infrastructure. Sustaining the international community’s investment in Liberia will require continued support from donors and partners, she added. UNMIL is leaving but 17 UN funds and agencies will remain in Liberia to focus on development and improving the lives of Liberian people.

This morning the Deputy Secretary-General also briefed the Security Council by videoconference on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin. She said that considerable progress has been accomplished in the fight against Boko Haram. It is now crucial to stabilize the areas that have been reclaimed, and seize the opportunity to promote development, she said.

Ms. Mohammed warned that violations of human rights continue to fuel insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin. Investments in strengthening community justice mechanisms will be essential. She added that it is also critical for counter-terrorism activities to integrate human rights and gender dimensions.

Turning to the humanitarian situation, she said that 10.7 million people need life-saving assistance in the region. The Deputy Secretary-General called on Member States to ensure that the $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal is well-funded.
Finally, she said we should recognize that security measures and military operations have proven their limits. There will be no sustaining peace without sustainable development; and development gains will always be at risk without lasting peace, she added.

The UN mission in Mali today strongly condemned an attack against its camp in Kidal that took place early this morning. Preliminary reports indicate that some members of international forces were injured in the attack. No UN peacekeepers were wounded.

The attack occurred as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, was accompanying a visit of the Malian Prime Minister, Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, and members of the Government in the Kidal region.

Mr. Annadif condemned this attack at a time of positive developments in Mali, illustrated by the Prime Minister’s visit to Kidal, which, he said, is a strong signal for peace and reconciliation in the country and an important step towards the return of the state across the Malian territory.

In a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated African leaders for taking the leap into history by signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to create one of the world’s largest trading blocs with over 50 countries.

He called it an important step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and delivering on the African agenda of peace and prosperity.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that an estimated 167,000 people have been displaced by hostilities in Syria’s Afrin District, with the majority going to Tal Refaat, while others go to Nubul, Zahra and other nearby villages.

Access to Aleppo City for internally displaced people is currently restricted. This is a concern for medical cases, as there is an urgent need for medical evacuations to specialized hospitals in Aleppo City for severely sick people. Four deaths due to the lack of proper healthcare have already been reported. The UN recalls the parties’ duty to evacuate and care for the wounded and sick, and calls on the parties to immediately facilitate medical evacuations of the wounded and sick to seek treatment in Aleppo city. More generally, the UN calls for the freedom of movement of internally displaced people.

Meanwhile, in recent days, some 5,000 ready-to-eat rations and 1,000 bundles of bread have been delivered daily to people in need in Zahra and Nubul, and 2,500 ready-to-eat rations to people in need in Tal Refaat. Medical supplies, mobile clinics and reproductive health services have also been provided to Tal Refaat, Zahra and Nubul.

In a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General said he is alarmed at the persistent allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The use of chemical weapons, under any circumstances, is unjustifiable and abhorrent. Equally unjustifiable is a lack of response to such use, if and when it occurs. Impunity cannot prevail with respect to such serious crimes. The Secretary-General reiterates his call for the Security Council to demonstrate unity and resolve on this matter.

Ahead of World Meteorological Day tomorrow, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its State of Climate 2017 report, which found that weather and climate-related events cost countries some $320 billion dollars, making it the costliest year on record.

According to the report, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States and eradicated decades of developments gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica. Major monsoon floods in the Indian subcontinent, and continuing severe drought in parts of east Africa also contributed to 2017 being the most expensive year on record for severe weather and climate events.

A new report out today sounds the alarm regarding surging levels of acute hunger: some 124 million people in 51 countries were affected by acute food insecurity during 2017 — 11 million more people than the year before — according to the latest edition of the Global Report on Food Crises.

The report defines acute food insecurity as hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to lives or livelihoods.

The increase is largely attributable to new or intensified conflict and insecurity in Myanmar, north-east Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Yemen. Prolonged drought conditions also resulted in consecutive poor harvests in countries already facing high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in eastern and southern Africa.

Produced each year by a group of international humanitarian partners, the report was presented by the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Food Programme at a briefing for UN member nations in Rome.

In response to questions about the ports in Yemen, the Spokesman said that Yemen’s main ports – including Hodeidah and Saleef – have remained open since the Coalition eased import restrictions late last year. He said we need these ports to remain open for humanitarian and commercial cargo without restriction. We are concerned that commercial shipping companies appear to be calling on these ports less frequently, due to concerns over the ports’ future status and experience with long delays and other obstacles that increase the costs of doing business.

Bureaucratic impediments - including multiple inspections of vessels, arbitrary restrictions on imports and long delays in allowing vessels to enter port - must stop. Even before the crisis, Yemen imported about 90 per cent of its staple food. Maintaining the flow of these imports is essential.

Airports have remained open for UN and other relief agencies’ humanitarian flights since late November 2017. However, Sanaa airport has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016, which has prevented thousands of people from travelling abroad to seek medical care. The UN is calling for Sanaa airport to re-open to commercial flights, at the very least for humanitarian cases.
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