Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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26-Apr-2018 00:15:47
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General has appointed Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland as his new Special Envoy on Myanmar.

Ms. Burgener brings over 25 years of experience in diplomacy having served in various high-level government positions in the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Until her appointment Ms. Burgener was the Ambassador of Switzerland to the Federal Republic of Germany since 2015. From 2009 to 2015, she served as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand and led efforts to mediate between the two sides in the violence that erupted in Thailand in 2010.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the situation in Rakhine state remains extremely concerning.

There are continued reports of departures from northern Rakhine, and some reports of threats and extortion against Muslim communities.

Bulldozing of burned or abandoned villages remains evident, and the movement restrictions placed upon Rohingya communities remain in place, including for those trapped in camps for the last six years in central Rakhine.

There is a population of around 500,000 Rohingya still living in Rakhine who face continued discrimination and marginalization. Severe restrictions on their freedom of movement persist, grossly restricting their access to healthcare, education and livelihoods.

Therefore, our humanitarian colleagues stress that refugees from Bangladesh cannot be expected to safely, voluntarily and sustainably return.

The United Nations stands ready to work with the Government of Myanmar in implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council today that in the highly charged and dangerous environment in the Middle East, whether in Syria, Yemen or Gaza, one word becomes critical – de-escalation. Everyone in the Middle East needs to step back from the brink.

He said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues with no prospect of a political resolution and Gaza is about to explode. Gaza, Mr. Mladenov warned, is coming apart as we speak under the pressure of an explosive combination of negative humanitarian, security and political factors. If another conflict between Hamas and Israel were to erupt, he said, this would have devastating consequences for Palestinians in Gaza.

He said that, since 30 March, during the “March for Peace” demonstrations, 35 Palestinians have been killed and large numbers have been injured by Israeli security forces. No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Mr. Mladenov also discussed the financial problems in the area and said that the situation of the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, is particularly worrying. Even with the welcome pledges of some $100 million last month in Rome, the recent $50 million pledged by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates respectively, and the $10 million contribution just announced by Japan, operations are funded only into the summer.

The Humanitarian Fund for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt HF) announced the release of US$ 2.2 million to address urgent humanitarian needs resulting from the massive rise in Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip.

Through this grant, the Humanitarian Fund will support health and protection actors in Gaza, through providing funds for urgently-needed drugs, medical disposables and laboratory items for frontline medical and in-hospital care, as well as enabling the deployment of specialized emergency medical teams required for complex surgeries, among other critical needs.

Humanitarian partners require another $3 million immediately to respond to needs emerging since 30 March, on top of the $406 million required in 2018 to meet humanitarian needs in Gaza. The United Nations calls on donors to step up their contributions, as well.

The international community gathered at the second Brussels conference yesterday and confirmed $4.4 billion in funding to support life-saving humanitarian aid as well as resilience and development activities to millions of affected people in Syria and the region this year.

“The pledges announced today are a good start,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in Brussels. “In an ideal world, we would have liked to raise even more money and we do expect to receive additional funding this year. The money that donors generously provide makes a real difference to the lives of Syrians caught up in this horrible crisis.”

The international community also confirmed $3.4 billion in funding for humanitarian, resilience and development activities in 2019 to 2020 for the Syria crisis response.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is again warning of the catastrophic consequences of the severe escalation of fighting affecting the Palestine refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus and surrounding areas. The UNRWA Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, says that he is deeply concerned about the fate of thousands of civilians, including Palestine refugees, after more than a week of dramatically increased violence.
The current hostilities have caused deaths and injuries and have displaced around 5,000 civilians from Yarmouk into the neighbouring area of Yalda, of which 3,500 are Palestine refugees. There are also an unconfirmed number of civilians stranded in Yarmouk, who are in dire need of safe passage from the camp. Those families who managed to take refuge in Yalda have been forced to sleep in the streets or in makeshift shelters.
UNRWA repeats its urgent appeal to all parties involved in the fighting to exercise maximum restraint to ensure that civilians are spared from the violence, and that measures are taken to prevent unnecessary damage to civilian infrastructure. It calls for the immediate granting of safe passage for civilians wishing to leave the camp and surrounding areas and for the evacuation of the injured, the sick and the elderly. International humanitarian law must be respected at all times.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein wrapped up his visit to Ethiopia today.

In remarks to the press, he said this second visit to the country demonstrated real sincerity and was very encouraging.

The High Commissioner said that in all his meetings – in the Oromia region and in Addis Ababa – he heard clear expressions of optimism and hope that the new Government would deliver on the heartening and inspiring speeches made during its first three weeks in office.

He welcomed the release of a large number of people, including bloggers, political opponents and others who had been detained in relation to their participation in protests.

The High Commissioner also said that moments of transition are rarely ever smooth. He noted that Ethiopia has struggled with a heavy history, but that it has the wisdom of a tolerant, vibrant, youthful population to harness.

We all want to see an Ethiopia with continuous economic development where all people benefit, and where people express their views on public policies, unafraid, Zeid said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that floods have displaced over 211,000 people across Kenya and reportedly killed 72 people.

About 50,000 people are stranded in several villages in Moyale, near the border with Ethiopia, after a road linking them to the border town was cut off by floods.

The Masinga and Kamburu dams, in the Eastern Province, are reaching dangerously high levels. If rains continue, authorities may be forced to release water from the dams, which could have humanitarian consequences for villages downstream in Tana River and Garissa counties.

Dadaab refugee camp has also been affected and hundreds of refugees have taken shelter in schools.

UN agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations are assisting national authorities in providing assistance and support to those most severely impacted.

So far, more than 10,000 households have been assisted with shelter materials, and other critical items.

Today is the International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day and also World Intellectual Property Day. The theme for this last one is “Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity” and it celebrates the ingenuity, curiosity and courage of the women who are driving change in our world and shaping our common future.

And finally, today is the International Girls in ICT Day and events are being organized around the world to inspire girls and young women to consider careers in the information and communication technology sector. More details on these events can be found on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) website.
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