Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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14-May-2018 00:21:20
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is in Vienna today, where he had a working lunch with Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, as well as meetings with President Alexander Van der Bellen and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.

In his press remarks after meeting the Chancellor, the Secretary-General welcomed the recent announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) of their intention to close its nuclear test site at Punggye-ri. He said that the irreversible closure of the site will be an important confidence-building measure that will contribute to further efforts towards sustainable peace and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. He looks forward to this positive momentum being consolidated at the summit between the leaders of the United States and the DPRK.

The Secretary-General also said that he was particularly worried today with the news about what’s happening in Gaza, with a high number of people reportedly killed. Following his meeting with the Foreign Minister, the Secretary-General said that Israel must calibrate its use of force and minimize the use of live fire. Lethal force should be used only as a last resort, under imminent threat of death or serious injury. He added that Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations must keep protestors away from the Gaza fence and prevent all violent actions, provocations and attempts to breach the fence.

After his meeting with the President, the Secretary-General thanked Austria as an exemplary host of UN agencies.

The Secretary-General then went to the UN headquarters in Austria at the Vienna International Centre, where he met with heads of Vienna based UN agencies and held a town hall meeting for staff.

The Secretary-General delivered remarks to United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. In speaking to Commission members, he commended their work and that of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in their efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking, cybercrime and corruption among others.

This evening, the Secretary-General will be attending a high-level dinner hosted by Chancellor Kurz for the participants of the R20 Austrian World Summit on climate, which the Secretary-General will attend on Tuesday.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated the people of Iraq on the holding of parliamentary elections on Saturday. Following the military defeat of Dae'sh, the elections represent further progress in building a stronger Iraqi democracy.

The Secretary-General calls on all Iraqi political actors and their supporters to uphold peace as the results are processed. He further urges political actors to resolve any electoral disputes through established legal channels and to complete the electoral process by forming an inclusive government as soon as possible. The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Iraq in this endeavor.

Yesterday, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visited the town of Bikoro in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assess the response to the current Ebola outbreak.

WHO is deploying experts and coordinating partners as well as providing supplies and equipment to the area.

Earlier in the day, Dr Tedros also met with the President of DR Congo, Joseph Kabila and the Minister of Health Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga to review the steps taken so far and agree the way forward.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has assisted WHO in putting in place an air-bridge between Kinshasa, the town of Mbandaka and affected areas, with flights six days a week.

At the request of the Congolese government, the UN Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, will also support the Ebola response, including providing arrangements for contact tracing and screening at strategic points and in high risk zones, as well as transporting personnel and equipment related to the response.

As of today, a total of 39 Ebola cases have been reported in the area in the past five weeks: 2 confirmed, 20 probable (including 18 deaths), and 17 suspected.

This morning, Zahir Tanin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in Kosovo, briefed Security Council members in an open meeting. This past period in Kosovo, he said, was generally characterized by a decline in both the quality of actions and the tenor of political discourse between Pristina and Belgrade. The situation has calmed again with intensive efforts, including with some support from external parties. A new focus by Brussels at all levels, he said, provides a mutually beneficial opportunity for Pristina and Belgrade to leave the current difficult moment behind and to take the dialogue to the next stage of real progress.

Mr. Tanin spoke about the Kosovo Trust-building Forum, held earlier this month in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Representatives of the UN Kosovo Team, the European Union, EULEX, and the OSCE joined over 100 community leaders from throughout Kosovo to discuss ways to address common challenges caused by mistrust and stale political approaches. The starting point of the Forum was simple: not to reinvent or reinterpret past events, but to illuminate, guide, and pursue a more positive path for the future.

The peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) this weekend reported a number of indirect fire attacks on their convoys and camps in the Kidal region, in the north of the country.

Three peacekeepers were wounded on Sunday morning when their vehicle – which was part of a convoy from Aguelhok to Tessalit – hit an improvised explosive device about 40km northwest of Aguelhok. The injured peacekeepers were immediately evacuated to Bamako.

In two separate incidents, the UN mission’s camp in Tessalit came under indirect fire attack on Friday evening, while its camp in Aguelhok came under indirect fire attack on Sunday morning.

At the end of a three-day mission to Sudan, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock urged the international community to step up its support to the humanitarian response for 7.1 million vulnerable people and called for investment in the country’s development. He also stressed that unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to people in need across Sudan is critical for the delivery of relief.

M. Lowcock welcomed the Sudanese Government’s efforts to improve humanitarian access to most locations in the country but noted that further measures can be taken to improve the operating environment for humanitarian agencies.

While in Sudan, Mr. Lowcock visited South Kordofan state where he met with some of the nearly 200,000 people who have been internally displaced by conflict there - most of them women and children. South Kordofan is also hosting thousands of vulnerable returnees, residents and South Sudanese refugees. Mr. Lowcock thanked the Sudanese Government for hosting hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees across the country.

Over the weekend, UNICEF warned that a dramatic increase in violence in the Central African Republic in the first part of 2018 has forced at least 55,000 people, including 28,600 children, to flee. There are currently an estimated 687,400 internally displaced persons, up from 440,000 in 2017, including more than 357,400 children who lost access to education, health and protection services.

third of children are currently out of school. Close to half of all children are not fully immunized and 41 per cent of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

At least 2.5 million people, including 1.3 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, but resources are severely limited. As of the end of April, only 15 per cent of UNICEF’s 2018 humanitarian appeal had been funded.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that evacuations following local agreements continue to see people moving from areas in rural Damascus and northern rural Homs, with nearly 30,000 people displaced to the northwest over the last week.

The United Nations was not a party to these evcuation agreements between parties to the conflict.

The UN continues to call on all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need.

It is imperative that all those displaced are allowed to return voluntarily, in safety and in dignity, to their homes as soon as the situation allows it.

The World Food Programme (WFP) released a report called World Food Assistance: Preventing Food Crises.

Among the most telling findings of the report is the huge amount of money in food assistance costs that could be saved by the taking of preventative action.

An end to violent conflict – one of the main drivers of hunger – could reduce food assistance costs by up to 50 percent per annum.

The report finds that a one-point increase in peace and stability on the World Bank’s measure of these conditions – known as the Index of Political Stability and Absence of Violence - could result in a saving of nearly US$3 billion, based on 2016 data.

In real terms, this would mean WFP would save US$300 million a year in Syria and more than US$200 million a year in Yemen.

The World Health Organization today released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives: WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods.

Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

WHO’s guide, called REPLACE, provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply.
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