Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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12-Jun-2018 00:26:28
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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The Secretary-General welcomes the holding of the Summit between the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States as an important milestone in the advancement of sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

As the Secretary-General noted in letters to both leaders before the Summit, the road ahead requires cooperation, compromise and a common cause. Implementing today’s and previous agreements reached, in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, will require patience and support from the global community. The Secretary-General urges all concerned parties to seize this momentous opportunity and reiterates his readiness to fully support the ongoing process.

On Sunday 17 June, the Secretary-General will leave for a trip to Finland, Norway and the Russian Federation.

In Helsinki, the Secretary-General will be attending the second meeting of his High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. He will also attend the Kultaranta talks, an annual debate on foreign and security policy organized by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. The theme of the talks this year is the future of the international system.

He will then go on to Norway where he will speak at the Oslo Forum, which is a retreat for international conflict mediators and high-level decision-makers and is co-hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. While in the Norwegian capital, he will meet with his Majesty King Harald V and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon, who is also a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador focusing on ending poverty. He will also meet with Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Finally, he will go to Moscow where he will meet with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He will also have an audience with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. The Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the Moscow-based think tank, the Valdai Discussion Club. He will also participate in a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN presence in Russia and he will attend the Portugal vs. Morocco Soccer World Cup match.

The Secretary-General is expected to be back in New York on Friday 22 June.

This morning the Secretary-General addressed the 11th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

He stressed that this Convention, with 177 ratifications since its adoption in 2006, is a historical commitment which reaffirms that people with disabilities are entitled to exactly the same rights as everyone else, and that societies must be organized so that all people, including those with disabilities, can exercise their rights freely.

But signing and ratifying the Convention is not enough: implementation is essential, the Secretary-General added, not as an act of charity but as a recognition of rights and a practical necessity, if we are to build healthy, sustainable societies to the benefit of everyone.

The Secretary-General also recalled that he had initiated a comprehensive review of the UN’s work in this area, in order to make sure that the Organization is leading by example.

The Secretary-General also told the General Assembly this morning, at a meeting reviewing progress against HIV/AIDS, that on all continents, key populations at higher risk of infection continue to be left further and further behind.

He stressed the need to empower young people to protect themselves from HIV. This includes providing a full range of sexual and reproductive health services and rights, harm reduction for people who use drugs, and access to anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV.

Prevention is the key to breaking the cycle of HIV transmission, he said.

At this pivotal moment, we must renew our focus and shared commitment to a world free of AIDS. The pandemic is not over, but it can be, and we must all do our part.

The first heavy rains of the year swept through Rohingya refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar district this weekend, marking the start of the monsoon season.

The UN Refugee Agency reports that this is an early test for refugees and humanitarian agencies working to support the Government of Bangladesh on the response efforts.

Torrential rains and winds up to 70 kilometres per hour caused at least 89 reported incidents, including 37 landslide incidents, causing several injuries and one confirmed fatality – a child. Nearly 2,500 refugee families, some 11,000 people in all, are affected.

According to damage assessments, more than 1,000 shelters have been damaged as well as ten water points, 167 latrines, one health facility, and one food distribution site.

The rains have also flooded the main road through the Kutupalong settlement, temporarily blocking vehicle access to parts of the site.

While relocations and aid distributions continue, UNHCR is also prepositioning more emergency supplies, including 10,000 tents, 190,000 tarpaulins, as well as two million water purification tablets, ready for use when needed. UNHCR also has five hospital tents and emergency health kits stored in permanent warehouses in Cox’s Bazar.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, in a statement yesterday called upon Iraq’s election management bodies to expeditiously investigate and adjudicate all complaints of electoral fraud and violations, in a fully transparent way that promotes the integrity of the electoral process and the legitimacy of its results, in line with the laws and Constitution of Iraq.

He called upon all political bodies and their supporters to uphold the peace and to remain committed to resolving any electoral disputes through legal channels,

He also urged the Iraqi Government, the security forces and the electoral management bodies to take all appropriate steps to secure electoral materials, in particular in light of the recent fire incident affecting some of the electoral commission’s warehouses.

The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has held consultations in Cairo and today had substantive and useful discussions with President Al Sisi of Egypt. The Special Envoy underscored the important contribution that Egypt can make in support of the UN-facilitated political process on Syria. The Special Envoy returns to Geneva tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is deeply concerned for the safety and protection of civilians in southern Hassakeh governorate following a recent intensification of hostilities. Since the beginning of the month, 44 civilians have reportedly been killed in the governorate as a result of fighting and military operations against Da’esh.

The United Nations calls on all parties to spare civilians, and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need, particularly those in hard-to-reach and besieged areas, as required by international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The UN Refugee Agency underscored today the importance of working closely with Lebanon to find safe, dignified and sustainable solutions for Syrian refugees. In all countries, the agency says, it respects the rights of refugees to decide freely and for themselves on returning home. Similarly, it does not discourage returns that are based on individual free and informed decisions.

UNHCR is very concerned at Friday’s announcement by Foreign Minister Gebril Bassil on freezing the issuance of residence permits to international staff of UNHCR in Lebanon. This directly impacts UNHCR’s ability to effectively carry out critical protection and solutions work in Lebanon. UNHCR hopes the decision of the Foreign Ministry will be reversed without delay.

The UN Migration Agency today welcomed the decision by Spain to offer a safe harbour to over six hundred migrants – including scores of children and seven pregnant women – who have been waiting aboard a rescue vessel since Sunday.

“I’m glad Spain has stepped forward to defuse this crisis, but I fear a major tragedy if States start refusing to accept rescued migrants as was threatened,” said the IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing.

He added that keeping the rescued people at sea is not going to dissuade other migrants from crossing to Europe and they too will need to be rescued sooner or later.

The UN Migration Agency warned today that Ukraine is the largest displacement crisis in Europe since the Balkan wars. Speaking after her visit to Kyiv and to conflict areas of Eastern Ukraine, Argentina Szabados, IOM’s Regional Director for Southeastern and Eastern Europe and Central Asia said that with thousands dead and 1.5 million displaced, it is scandalous that this conflict remains largely forgotten.

The conflict in the east of Ukraine has escalated over recent weeks, causing widespread destruction and casualties among military and civilians, aggravating the suffering on both sides of the so-called contact line.

Despite all this, crisis response efforts in Ukraine remain underfunded. The Humanitarian Response Plan for this year has only received 17 per cent of the USD 38 million sought.

Yesterday afternoon, the Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Security Council on the Special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary-General on the strategic review of the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

Mr. Lacroix said that the conflict in Darfur has changed, and to best serve the Darfuri people, UNAMID must change with it. The peacekeeping mission should therefore be directed to the area where it is most needed, at the site of continued conflict in the Jebel Marra. In the rest of Darfur, the UN system should leverage the capabilities of the agencies, funds and programmes best suited to tackling the problems that remain there. Now is the time to plan for the future of UN and AU support to Darfur, he said, by closely linking the drawdown in peacekeeping to the build-up in peacebuilding and development.

Today is the World Day Against Child Labour. This year’s theme is “Generation Safe and Healthy,” and it focuses on improving the safety and health of young workers and on ending child labour.

About 73 million children are in hazardous work. These children are toiling in mines and fields, factories and homes, exposed to pesticides and other toxic substances, carrying heavy loads or working long hours.

The Food and Agriculture Organization also warned today that after years of steady decline, child labour in agriculture has started to rise again in recent years driven in part by an increase in conflicts and climate-induced disasters. The agency said this not only threatens the well-being of millions of children, but also undermines efforts to end global hunger and poverty.

In response to questions about the process for selecting the next High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Spokesman confirmed that the UN Secretariat has sent letters to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations to request nominations for that position.

The High Commissioner is appointed by the Secretary-General and approved by the General Assembly for a four-year term. In order to ensure a wide pool of candidates for this position, the Secretariat would welcome any nominations to supplement the Secretary-General’s own search and consultations. The nomination of women candidates is strongly encouraged.
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