Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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ENGLISH 10-Aug-2018 00:23:58
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
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In remarks made earlier this morning, the Secretary-General said he was delighted that the General Assembly has confirmed the appointment of Michelle Bachelet as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He said that Ms. Bachelet has lived under the darkness of dictatorship. As a physician, he said, she knows the trials of people thirsting for health and yearning to enjoy other vital economic and social rights, and she knows the responsibilities of both national and global leadership.

The Secretary-General said that she takes office at a time of grave consequence for human rights, with hatred and inequality on the rise, respect for international humanitarian and human rights law on the decline, space for civil society shrinking and press freedoms under pressure.

To navigate these currents, he said, we need a strong advocate for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned the air strike earlier in the day by the Coalition forces in Sa’ada, Yemen, which hit a busy market area in Majz District and impacted a bus carrying children from a summer camp. Local health authorities have confirmed that scores of people were killed and injured, the majority of them children between 10 and 13 years old. He expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims.

The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. The Secretary-General emphasizes that all parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations. He calls for an independent and prompt investigation into this incident.

In a separate statement, Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, said that the tragic incident should urge us all to exert more efforts to end the conflict through an inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue. He hopes that all parties will engage constructively in the political process, including consultations scheduled in Geneva in September.

In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General welcomed President Joseph Kabila’s decision to abide, as he has stated, by the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also welcomed the continued progress towards the holding of presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 23 December 2018.

The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations’ readiness to continue working with the Government and people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prepare the ground for free, fair and credible elections leading to a peaceful transfer of power.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that a rise in security incidents is affecting humanitarian aid delivery in many areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Tanganyika Province.

So far, the suspension of humanitarian delivery by at least 10 organizations is directly affecting over 60,000 people. Almost all humanitarian sectors are affected as projects are being implemented in health, water and sanitation hygiene, food security, and non-food items.

The resurgence of violence in the Tanganyika region has left nearly 388,000 people internally displaced.

Yesterday, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) delivered United Nations humanitarian assistance consisting of hygiene kits, sanitary items and core relief items for 32,500 people in need of assistance in Dara’a Al-Balad in Dara’a city.

Needs in the area remain high both for those people who are returning and for as many as 100,000 people who remain displaced.

This week, fighting in the east and northeast of al-Suwaidaa desert has newly displaced over 1,000 people from eastern rural As-Sweida’a Governorate to As-Sweida’a city, according to the Red Crescent.

In the Al-Yarmouk Basin area, in southern rural Dara’a, at least seven people were reportedly killed and 14 others were injured between 4 and 6 August by unexploded ordnance.

The United Nations and partners are seeking more sustained access to people in need in order to provide them with aid and services, including protection.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is ramping up its assistance to Ecuador, which declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in the provinces of Carchi, Pichincha and El Oro due to the influx of Venezuelans.

Since the beginning of the year, some 547,000 Venezuelans have entered Ecuador through the Colombian border. However, the influx is now accelerating and in the first week of August, some 30,000 Venezuelans entered the country at a rate of more than 4,000 per day.

UNHCR has strengthened its presence at the key border crossings and is stepping up its emergency response by providing technical assistance, and supporting the Government in shoring up its refugee status determination, registration and other protection mechanisms.

In Geneva, the United Nations Road Safety Trust Fund had the first meeting of its Advisory Board and its Steering Committee. The Trust Fund aims to catalyze efforts to address the global road safety situation by bridging the gaps in the mobilization of resources and ensuring coordination of action at all levels.

Representatives from five Member States representing each of the United Nations Regions – Argentina, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden – have been appointed to the Fund’s Advisory Board, along with representatives for businesses, civil society and academia.

The Fund currently has $11.8 million dollars and further contributions are expected over the coming months. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety Jean Todt thanked partners but added that much more is needed to fill the funding gaps, and the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Olga Algayerova, added that “transforming the global road safety situation, which represents 1.25 million deaths and an estimated economic cost of $1.85 trillion every year, urgently requires the strengthened involvement of a wide range of partners and the enhanced coordination of global efforts.”

Sunday 12 August is International Youth Day. The theme this year is “Safe Spaces for Youth.” In his message, the Secretary-General said the hopes of the world rest on young people. However, millions live amidst armed conflict or organized violence and many face deprivation, harassment, bullying and other infringements of their rights.

“The world’s young people need safe spaces -- public, civic, physical and digital spaces where they can freely express their views and pursue their dreams,” he said, adding that the UN is strongly committed to listening to their voices and opening pathways for meaningful participation in decisions that affect them.

Two more Member States have joined the Honour Roll. Ecuador and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines have made full payments to the regular budget.

The total is now 117 fully paid up.
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