Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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18-Sep-2018 00:26:31
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General will speak at the opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly this afternoon. He is expected to tell the Member States that we will have a busy session ahead of us. He will say that we need action for peacekeeping, financing for the 2030 Agenda, empowerment for the world’s young people, urgent steps to end poverty and conflict, and much else. The Secretary-General will encourage the Ambassadors to tell their leaders to come to next week’s high-level week ready to be bold, ready to cooperate, and ready to forge solutions.

Earlier, he laid a wreath in memory of the late Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld and those who perished with him 57 years ago. He reinforced his personal commitment to the investigation into the conditions and circumstances relating to the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and other colleagues and crew.

The Secretary-General also renewed his strongest appeal for the cooperation of all Member States that may hold information and records that are relevant to the investigation.

Ahead of the plenary session of the 73rd General Assembly, here are some facts and figures for the upcoming events.

In advance of the plenary session, 88 Heads of State and 45 Heads of Government have confirmed that they will attend this session, which is up from 77 Heads of State and 37 Heads of Government last year.

Regarding other events, as of today, the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) has received 342 requests for meetings during the high-level week. Compared to the same time last year, 343 requests had been received.

As of today, the UN has received a total of 741 requests for bilateral meetings amongst Member States. This number will increase during the next week. Later in the week, the number of bi-laterals for the Secretary-General will be announced.

The first Member State to be seated on the left at the front row of the General Assembly will be Mali, with the other Member States seated in alphabetical order after that.

A statement on Syria was issued, in which the Secretary-General said he welcomes the agreement reached on 17 September between President Erdogan of Turkey and President Putin of Russia to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib region, which should avert a full-scale military operation and provide reprieve for millions of civilians. The Secretary-General calls all the parties in Syria to cooperate with the implementation of the agreement and ensure safe and unimpeded humanitarian access in all areas through the most direct routes.

The Secretary-General stresses the need for swift action to address the root causes of the conflict and forge, at long last, a durable political solution in line with UN Security Council resolution 2254. And that statement is available to you online.

Also on Syria, you wil have seen there is an ongoing meeting in the Security Council during which Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council and expressed his hope that the agreement that was agreed to in Sochi is expeditiously implemented, with full respect for international humanitarian law; with sustained humanitarian access; with respect for the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria; and with continued preference for dialogue over escalation in addressing a complex situation.

He added that, just as we are seeing crisis in Idlib averted, we are seeing worrying escalation elsewhere. This week, he said, fresh airstrikes were reported in Damascus - that the Syrian government attributes to Israel. Israel has not commented, said de Mistura. And overnight, the Special Envoy added, a Russian military aircraft was downed, killing 15 servicemen.

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Council that, across much of the country the situation is now calmer than it was when he had last visited in January. But humanitarian needs remain substantial, he added, and the Government expressed concern to him about the underfunding of the UN’s humanitarian response plan last year.

Mr. Lowcock added that, to succeed in Idlib, demilitarization requires the agreement of all parties. Short of such agreement, he said, it is foreseeable that force will be used to demilitarize, and thus civilians exposed to the very harm we are trying to avoid.

Mr. de Mistura and Mr. Lowcock will speak to you at the stakeout once the Council has wrapped up.

On the Philippines, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that Typhoon Mangkhut, which made landfall in the country on 15 September, has affected 893,000 people, including over 280,000 farmers. Some 236,000 people were displaced -- 70 per cent of whom are still in evacuation centres.

The typhoon has damaged to nearly 1,500 houses. It is also estimated that 1.22 million hectares of rice and corn have been damaged, with losses estimated at US $267 million.

The United Nations and partners are working closely with the Government to coordinate rapid assessment and response. Major needs include food, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as shelter.

The United Nations stands ready to support the Government’s relief efforts as needed.

On Nigeria, over the past two weeks, floods caused by heavy rains have affected at least 12 states in Nigeria, with areas located along the Niger and Benue rivers at particular risk.

Yesterday, the Government of Nigeria declared a national disaster in four states - Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta.

The United Nations and humanitarian partners are supporting the Government-led rapid assessment and response, including through coordination, information management and reporting.

The Secretary-General yesterday welcomed the meeting between President Guelleh of Djibouti and President Afwerki of Eritrea that was held on 17 September in Jeddah under the auspices of His Majesty King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the encounter would initiate a process to settle all pending issues between the two countries and lead to greater peace, stability and development in the region.

The World Health Organisation presented the findings on their 2018 Global TB Report a bit earlier today.

An estimated 6.3 million children under the age of 15 died in 2017, mostly of preventable causes, according to new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group.

Globally, in 2017, half of all deaths under five years of age took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 percent in Southern Asia.

The report notes note that while the world has made remarkable progress to save children since 1990, millions are still dying because of who they are and where they are born, a reality that can be changed with simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines.

As every new General Assembly season starts, there is also a season for young journalists from the Reham al-Farra (RAF) Memorial Journalism Fellowship.

The Fellowship, which is organized by the Department of Public Information, is a unique opportunity for young journalists from developing countries and countries with economies in transition to cover the UN.

The program is named for Reham al-Farra, a 29-year-old Jordanian public information officer who was one of our colleagues who was killed during the terrorist attack that targeted the UN Headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003.

They will be joined by four other young journalists - Dag Hammarskjold Fellows.

The Dag Hammarskjold Fund for Journalists, which is not affiliated with the UN but run by UN correspondents here, is dedicated to the advancement of a fuller understanding of the deliberations of the United Nations and is there to support and promote the profession of journalism in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
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