Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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23-Mar-2018 00:29:56
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is grateful for the generous pledges of approximately USD 100 million made at the Extraordinary Ministerial Conference entitled “Preserving Dignity and Sharing Responsibility – Mobilizing Collective Action for UNRWA,” which was held in Rome on 15 March.

The meeting was an exceptional demonstration of high-level support for UNRWA's mandate and a recognition for the continued necessity of its work in support of over 5.3 million Palestine refugees. Almost 20 donors pledged additional contributions, including Qatar, Norway, Turkey, Canada, India, Switzerland and many others. The pledges made in Rome represent an important first step, yet a lot of work remains to fully close the critical shortfall.

The Secretary-General encourages all Member States and the private sector to provide support to UNRWA in order to close the still critical funding shortfall. He reiterates that the services provided by UNRWA to Palestine refugees are essential and contribute to bring stability to the region.

The UN continues to support evacuees in collective shelters in Rural Damascus. As of 22 March, an estimated 66,000 evacuees from Eastern Ghouta were being hosted in these collective shelters. Most of the shelters do not have the capacity or infrastructure to accommodate the large number of people arriving.

Though the UN is not in charge of the management of these shelters, it has - together with its partners - mobilized a rapid response, with non-food items, food, shelter items, water, sanitation and hygiene, health, nutrition and protection assistance being provided to those in need through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Also, yesterday, airstrikes on the main market in the town of Harim - near the Syrian-Turkish border - reportedly caused the deaths of dozens of civilians and injured many more. The UN continues to call on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The Security Council heard a briefing today on conflict and hunger from the Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, on behalf of Rome-based agencies.

Mr. Lowcock told the Council that it is possible to eradicate famine from the human condition within our lifetime. He noted that the remaining risk of famine and hunger is now concentrated in a relatively small number of countries affected by large-scale, severe and protracted conflict. The behaviour of combatants in these contexts is often atrocious, he stressed, with warring parties that continue to damage and destroy water systems, farms, livestock and markets, while forcing mass displacement.
Mr. Lowcock said the Security Council had the means to investigate violations of international humanitarian law. There are no humanitarian solutions to conflict, it is peace and political solutions that will disrupt the vicious cycle of conflict and hunger, he added.

For his part, David Beasley stressed that the number of people who are acutely hungry in the world has increased by 55 percent in just the last two years, to reach 124 million.

He stressed that the link between hunger and conflict is as strong as it is destructive. If you don’t know where your child’s next meal is coming from, you may be forced to make impossible choices, he said, noting also that each 1 percent rise in the rate of hunger is matched by a 2 percent increase in migration.

Mr. Beasley also said that the price tag of programmes to tackle the root causes of hunger is far cheaper that the cost of the current conflict-hunger cycle: the World Food Programme could save one billion dollars a year if all armed groups respected international humanitarian law, he explained.

He also stressed that ending wars is not enough; we need to help war-torn people rebuild their communities for the long term.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that humanitarian operations have resumed in Rann town, in Nigeria’s Borno State, on 19 March following several security assessments by the UN and NGOs. However, UN aid workers have not yet been authorized to stay overnight in Rann, and daily operations are expected to continue until security conditions are met by the Nigerian authorities.

The UN and partners are providing life-saving emergency assistance in Rann including food, shelter and medicine to over 80,000 women, children and men, among them 55,000 internally displaced people. The World Food Programme is planning to distribute food to at least 61,000 people this month. Pre-positioning of food is also key ahead of the rainy season, which starts in June, cutting off road access to Rann.

Following the resumption of humanitarian activities in Rann, camp management and displacement tracking activities for impacted people have resumed, in addition to medical services.

The Deputy Secretary-General wrapped up her visit to Liberia today. Prior to leaving, she visited a UN-supported fisheries project that provides employment for women and participated in a ceremony marking the handover of UNMIL Radio to the Economic Community of West African States.
She also spoke at the High-Level Meeting to Initiate the Design of the National Development Agenda for 2018-2024 -- also known as the “Liberian Moment”. She said that at yesterday’s National Reconciliation Conference, Liberians from all over the country renewed their commitment to sustaining peace. But she said we will only build peace by addressing the root causes of conflict. “Liberia has come a long way. But let us be clear-sighted: we still have very serious challenges to surmount”, she added.

Ms. Mohammed commended the Government’s leadership in formulating its ambitious pro-poor vision, in which all Liberians have access to basic goods and services, and resources are carefully managed to contribute to the development of people, infrastructure and institutions. To achieve this, she said there are five key principles that must underpin Liberia’s new National Development Plan: inclusive national ownership; eliminating poverty; ending the dependency on aid; partnerships based on transparency and mutual respect; and for development financing needs to be predictable and sustainable.

The Secretary-General is speaking at the Turtle Bay Security Roundtable at the Japan Society at 3 pm today. He is expected to say that the advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, have generated revolutions in healthcare, transport and manufacturing.

He is convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leapfrog into a better future.

However, the Secretary-General will warn, together with these clear benefits, there are also clear risks. These new technologies pose unforeseen challenges to regional and global stability. The “democratization” of many of these technologies also means that non-state actors, including terrorist groups, could acquire them.

Today is World Meteorological Day. The theme this year is “weather-ready, climate-smart” and highlights the need for informed planning for day-to-day weather and hazards like floods as well as for naturally occurring climate variability and long-term climate change.

In a tweet, the Secretary-General today said that climate change is still running faster than us and we need to reverse the trend of increasing warming temperatures.

The World Meteorological Organization has issued a report on the impacts of climate change in 2017.

Tomorrow is World Tuberculosis Day with the theme “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world.” Saturday is also the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

On Sunday, the UN will observe the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members and the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
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