Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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01-Oct-2018 00:14:21
Noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General arrived in India a few hours ago, and on arrival in New Delhi, he participated in the opening of the new and revived UN House in the Indian capital.

In remarks delivered at the ceremony, the Secretary-General noted the strong bond between India and the United Nations. He told the assembled UN staff that the UN’s work in India cannot be business as usual. Rather, we want the UN system to be united to fully support India’s government development plans and to fully support India’s leadership in relation to climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals and so many other efforts in which India is showing a leadership role.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is to lay a wreath in honour of Mahatma Gandhi at the Raj Ghat memorial. This year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The Secretary-General will also join Prime Minister Modi at the closing session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference.

You may have seen that, earlier today, the Secretary-General said in a Tweet that he has been watching the unfolding tragedy in Indonesia. He said that our hearts go out to all of the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami there.

The Secretary-General sends his deepest condolences to all who have lost family and friends, adding that the United Nations system is mobilizing to support Government-led rescue and relief efforts as needed.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, since the disaster took place, international humanitarian agencies have been in close contact with the Government.

Today, the Government welcomed specific offers of international assistance in line with identified humanitarian needs on the ground.

Given the scale and complexity of the emergency, UN agencies and non-government organizations are working closely with the Government to provide technical support.

As of today, more than 800 people were confirmed to have died and 600 others injured, but it is likely these figures will increase as more areas become accessible and more assessments are conducted.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, today decided to temporarily withdraw part of its international staff from Gaza following a series of worrying security incidents affecting its personnel in the Strip. The Director of Operations and other international staff will remain. UNRWA operations continue in Gaza.

Earlier today, a number of staff were harassed and prevented from carrying out their duties by individuals protesting recent measures resulting from UNRWA’s challenging financial situation, in particular in relation to the Emergency Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory. Some of these actions have specifically targeted the UNRWA management in Gaza.

UNRWA calls upon the local authorities in Gaza to respond to its repeated demands to provide effective protection to its employees and facilities.

Our humanitarian colleagues report that fighting continues on the outskirts of Hodeidah city in Yemen, as well as in districts south of the city. About 550,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Hodeidah since 1 June.

The United Nations and partners have reached nearly all recently displaced people with emergency response kits containing food rations, hygiene supplies and items to preserve dignity. The emergency response continues.

Additional assistance – including cash, household items and shelter supplies – are provided based on assessed needs.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni riyal continues to rapidly lose value and has depreciated by nearly 200 per cent against the US dollar since 2015 – including a roughly 30 per cent loss in value in the last six weeks.

Because Yemen imports the vast majority of its food and other basic commodities, food and other commodity prices are rising beyond the means of millions of Yemenis at a time when famine remains a real threat. Our partners estimate that an additional 3.5 million people may soon be added to the 8.4 million who are already severely food insecure.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, today urged European countries to accelerate efforts to establish arrangements in the Mediterranean for people who have been rescued at sea. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stressed that “refugees and migrants cannot be continually put at risk while States argue over their responsibilities.”

The agency also thanked Malta for allowing 58 rescued people from the NGO ship Aquarius to be disembarked, ending their ordeal after days at sea. It also thanked France, Germany, Portugal and Spain who have offered to receive these people from Malta. However, UNHCR expressed concern about the future of search and rescue capacities in the Mediterranean and said that the de-registration of the Aquarius is “deeply worrying and would represent a dramatic reduction of search and rescue capacity at precisely the moment when it needs to be stepped up.”

The UN has welcomed the announcement by the Government of Sudan on 27 September that it would facilitate its request to access the most vulnerable people in areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) in parts of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The request is purely humanitarian in nature and is based on humanitarian imperatives. The UN’s relief operations will adhere to the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality, and the United Nations will monitor the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The UN calls on all parties to facilitate humanitarian access and the delivery of assistance to the most vulnerable people in the Two Areas.

For this United Nations initiative to succeed, consent by all parties, for sustained humanitarian access in accordance with humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality, is a must.

Today, UNHCR, welcomed South Sudan’s accession to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. President Salva Kiir signed the accession instrument in Juba after it was ratified by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly.

South Sudan –which hosts some 300,000 refugees despite all the challenges of a civil war -- becomes the 143rd country to accede to the Convention and its Protocol.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today launched its first global guidelines on sanitation and health, warning that the world will not reach the goal of universal sanitation coverage by 2030 unless countries make comprehensive policy shifts and invest more funds.
The guidelines offer guidance for international, national and local sanitation policies; WHO says by adopting them, countries can significantly reduce the 829,000 annual diarrhoeal deaths due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

This week in the Republic of Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) opened a meeting in the city of Inchoen to consider its special report entitled Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, including the impacts and associated risks of such a temperature increase.

The report focuses on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

During the meeting representatives of the IPCC’s 195 member governments will work with scientists to finalize the Summary for Policymakers of the report, which will be released on 8 October.

We are almost at the end of the high-level segment of the 73rd session of the General Assembly. By the end of this morning’s meeting, it is expected that all 193 Member States will have spoken. That includes 77 Heads of State, 5 Vice Presidents, 44 Heads of Government, 4 Deputy Prime Ministers, 54 Ministers, one Vice Minister, and 8 Chairs of Delegation.

There were also 429 side events held between 18 and 30 September, with 14 more side events planned for today.
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