Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
04-Sep-2018 00:24:56
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General was in Beijing over the weekend, where he spoke at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. He said that China and Africa can unite their combined potential for peaceful, durable, equitable progress and said that the Forum “embodies two major priorities of the United Nations: to pursue a fair globalization and to promote development that leaves no one behind.” He also stressed that stronger cooperation between China and Africa should lead to sustainable, environmentally-friendly and resilient development in Africa, reaching first those people that are furthest behind.

The Secretary-General added that “we all need to work together to guarantee the financial sustainability of African development.” He also warned that a sustainable future for Africa needs to take into account climate change, and he called on China to share its advances with Africa to enable the continent to leapfrog traditional polluting development in favour of green growth.

During his visit to the Chinese capital, the Secretary-General met with President Xi Jinping, with whom he discussed the importance of multilateralism, climate action, and China’s support for development in the African continent. He also met with China’s Foreign Minister, the Presidents of Côte d’Ivoire and Angola and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. The Secretary-General has arrived back in New York.

In a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General noted with concern the conviction and sentencing today in Myanmar of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo to seven years of imprisonment. He urged the authorities to review their decision.

The Secretary-General stressed that the right to freedom of expression and information is a cornerstone of any democracy. It is unacceptable that these journalists were prosecuted for reporting on major human rights violations against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

The Secretary-General will continue to advocate for the release of the journalists. He calls for full respect of freedom of the press and all human rights in Myanmar.

The new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists, pointing out that their coverage of the Inn Din massacre by the military – for which the military subsequently admitted responsibility – was clearly in the public interest as it may otherwise never have come to light.

Ms. Bachelet said that their conviction follows a legal process that clearly breached international standards and sends a message to all journalists in Myanmar that they cannot operate fearlessly, but they must make a choice to either self-censor or risk prosecution.

On Saturday, 1 September, Michelle Bachelet assumed her functions as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, succeeding Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. This Office was established in 1993 and Ms. Bachelet is the seventh High Commissioner.

Ms. Bachelet will be sworn in by the Secretary-General tomorrow morning.

Today, multiple airstrikes reportedly hit a number of areas in western rural Idleb and northern rural Hama in Syria, causing the death and injury of several people and damages to civilian infrastructure, including a school and a market.

The United Nations reiterates its deep concern about the humanitarian situation in Idleb and about the potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences of further military escalation in the area.

Close to 3 million people are estimated to be in the Idleb de-escalation zone. The United Nations and its humanitarian partners continue to respond to needs in Idleb and across the north-west of Syria, drawing on cross-border assistance deliveries from Turkey, which provide a critical lifeline for hundreds of thousands of civilians who cannot be reached through other means.

More funding is urgently needed to respond to a potential military escalation in north-west Syria. The UN and humanitarian partners estimate the cost of responding to further escalation in the north-west to be $311 million.

Meanwhile, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, spoke to reporters in Geneva today, to say that he expects to meet in that city on 10 and 11 September with senior officials from Russia, Turkey and Iran, in talks which build on earlier consultations this summer in Geneva and in Sochi. He said that the talks over the coming days will be an important moment of truth.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that almost 3,500 internally displaced people have been successfully relocated from the UN Protection of Civilians site in Juba to a new site within the community in a joint effort between the Mission and humanitarian agencies.

The combined effort to relocate the families to an existing site at Mangateen in the central city followed an UNMISS-negotiated end to sporadic fighting between various groups within the UN protection camp over the past few weeks that threatened vulnerable civilians inside.

In a statement earlier today, the head of UNMISS, David Shearer, noted that this was the first movement of displaced people of this magnitude out of the UN Juba protection site.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced today that it is bringing South Sudan refugee representatives face-to-face with the parties involved in key peace negotiations in Khartoum. This dialogue will help ensure that refugee voices continue to play a pivotal role in the revitalized peace effort to end the country’s devastating civil war.

Following the conclusion of “revitalized peace agreement negotiations” on 30th August, some 16 South Sudanese refugees across six countries met with all parties involved in the talks today in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Since the start of the conflict in 2013, some 2.4 million people have fled South Sudan – the world’s youngest nation - as refugees and another 1.8 million are internally displaced inside the country.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, will be in South Sudan between 4 and 8 September in her first mission to the country.

Her mission aims to take stock of the progress and challenges in the implementation of the Action Plans to end and prevent grave violations against children. She will also engage on pending commitments and identify opportunities for parties to strengthen the protection of children, including on reintegration efforts.

Today, a two-day conference on Africa’s Lake Chad Region concluded in Berlin with the participation of more than 70 countries, international organizations and civil society actors, and donors announced $2.17 billion to support activities in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that more than 10 million people in the Lake Chad region still need life-saving humanitarian aid and protection. Violence, hunger, displacement and fear remain the harsh realities of their daily lives, but today, he said, we have better access to many communities than we had a year ago. He thanked the donors for their profoundly generous announcements of support to the humanitarian operation.

In a statement issued over the weekend, that the Secretary-General condemned the continued escalation of violence in and around Libya’s capital, in particular, the use by armed groups of indiscriminate shelling leading to the death and injury of civilians, including children.

He reminded all parties that the indiscriminate use of force is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. He also urged all parties to grant humanitarian relief for those in need, particularly those who are trapped by the fighting.

The Secretary-General called on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and abide by the ceasefire agreement brokered by the UN and the Reconciliation Committees, adding that his Special Representative, Ghassan Salame, will continue to offer good offices and work with all parties to reach a lasting political agreement acceptable to all to avoid further loss of lives and for the benefit of the people of Libya.

For their part, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Human Rights Office also appealed to the parties to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure.

On Sunday, UNHCR coordinated with the Interior Ministry and the World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver enough food for a week to two government detention centres where 2,450 refugees and migrants are being held.

The UN Human Rights Office said that, since the outbreak of violence in Tripoli on 26 August, at least 21 civilians have been killed, including two women and two children, with a further 16 people injured. The Office emphasized the need for the facilitation of immediate, unimpeded and safe access of humanitarian aid and aid-workers to civilians in need.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the recommendation by consensus of a set of possible guiding principles on emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems by the Group of Governmental Experts within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.

He is also encouraged by the recommendation for the High Contracting Parties to continue the work of the Group in 2019. The Secretary-General hopes the High Contracting Parties can build upon this achievement. In this connection, he recalls his commitment, as articulated in his agenda for disarmament, to support the efforts of Member States to elaborate new measures to ensure that humans remain at all times in control over the use of force.

On Friday, Secretary-General’s appointment of Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of the Netherlands as his Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) was announced. She will succeed Ján Kubiš of Slovakia, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his service.

Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert has served as Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, becoming the first woman to be appointed in that role. She also served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands and a member of the European Parliament.
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