Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
29-Nov-2018 00:18:15
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reports that the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting today in Mauritius, added six new elements to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The list aims to increase the visibility of the traditions and know-how of communities without recognizing standards of excellence or exclusivity. New additions to the list include: Chidaoba, an ancient form of Georgian wrestling; hurling, which is an Irish field sport; Raiho-shin, from Japan, which involves ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes; the spring festive rites of [Kazakh] horse breeders; As-Samer, a form of Jordanian song and dance usually performed at weddings, and Jamaican Reggae.

The Secretary-General arrived safely in Buenos Aires this morning to attend the Group of 20 Summit - the G20. This evening, he will have a press encounter in Buenos Aires and meet the UN Country Team.

Tomorrow, he will address the G20 a session entitled, “Putting People First: Global Economy, the Future of Work and Women’s Empowerment”, where he will call on G20 leaders to ensure that all their citizens enjoy the benefits of technological and scientific advances, global trade and economic integration. And he will continue to have meetings, participate in the discussions, on Saturday.

He will then travel to Poland to attend the opening of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

And today, the Secretary-General is announcing the launch of a global task force charged with recommending strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. The Task Force on Digital Financing consists of leaders from a range of sectors from both developed and developing countries, and is co-chaired by Maria Ramos, Chief Executive Officer of South Africa’s Absa Group, and Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In a press release, the Secretary-General notes that we have already seen how technology has helped expand financial inclusion — itself an important goal — [by] 1.2 billion people in just six years. However, he said, we have only just begun to tap the potential of digital finance and investment to meet the broader agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate change Agreement.

The Task Force on Digital Finance will meet in Davos in January and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the Secretary-General in September.


The Secretary-General takes note of yesterday’s announcement of the final results of the first round of the Presidential elections held in Madagascar on 7 November. He commends the people of Madagascar for having peacefully expressed their constitutional right to vote, as well as the Malagasy institutions, in particular the National Independent Electoral Commission as well as the High Constitutional Court (HCC), for their leadership and professionalism throughout the electoral process. He also welcomes the role of the Malagasy Government in ensuring an environment conducive to the holding of elections.

The Secretary-General will continue to follow the next steps of the electoral process through his Special Adviser, Mr. Bathily, who is working in close coordination with the African Union and the Southern African Development Community Special Envoys. And the UN, through the Country Team, will continue to support the people of Madagascar in the consolidation of democracy and sustainable development.

He appeals to all stakeholders to exercise restraint in the lead up to the run-off elections on 19 December and remains confident that any potential disputes related to the electoral process will be addressed peacefully through the appropriate legal channels.

The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, appreciates the work done by the Astana meeting by the three guarantors -- the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey -- to ensure that the Idlib de-escalation arrangements are sustained.

However, Mr. de Mistura deeply regrets that at a special meeting in Astana with the three Sochi co-conveners, there was no tangible progress in overcoming a ten-month stalemate on the composition of the constitutional committee.

This was the last occasion of an Astana meeting this year and has, sadly for the Syrian people, been a missed opportunity to accelerate the establishment of a credible, balanced and inclusive, Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, and UN-facilitated constitutional committee.

The Special Envoy will continue to pursue any avenue that can overcome the obstacles for the establishment of such a constitutional committee prior to the target date of 31 December 2018. The Special Envoy has continued to keep the Secretary-General closely updated and intends to report to the Security Council in December.

Speaking of the Security Council, Reena Ghelani, the Director of Advocacy and Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefed Council Members on Syria this morning.

She said that, in the northwest part of the country, there have been reports of mortars, including some shells reportedly containing chlorine gas, hitting three densely populated neighborhoods in western Aleppo. People with respiratory symptoms were rushed to two main hospitals. The WHO (World Health Organization) has provided support to both hospitals and stands ready to provide further public health [support] as required. She noted that the Secretary-General has repeatedly stressed that any confirmed use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and a clear and egregious violation of international law.

She said that OCHA has also received reports of airstrikes in Idlib Governorate on 24 and 25 [November] - the first such airstrikes in more than two months.

She added that some 4.3 million people in need live in areas outside the control of the Government. That accounts for more than one-third of all people in need of assistance in Syria and includes almost three million people in need in areas exclusively reached through cross-border operations.

Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Humanitarian Chief, arrived in Yemen today for a three-day visit. He is in Sana’a, where he expressed his concerns about the humanitarian situation, which has deteriorated since the last time he visited the country in October. He reiterated the key five requests he’d asked the Security Council on 16 November to address the suffering of the people.

Mr. Lowcock is scheduled to meet authorities in Sana’a and Aden, affected people, including displaced families, humanitarian colleagues and other stakeholders.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today condemned what it called a cowardly attack by four gunmen using heavy weaponry on the office of the Directorate to Combat Violence against Women in Sulaymaniyah, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

No casualties were reported, but UNFPA said offices supporting women should be safe havens where they can find refuge from violence and abuse.

In a statement issued yesterday, UNICEF expressed deep concern for the safety and wellbeing of the more than 1,000 migrant children moving through Mexico or waiting at the border town of Tijuana for their asylum claims to be heard by immigration authorities in the US.

UNICEF says these children have limited access to many of the essential services they need, including nutrition, education, psycho-social support and healthcare. They are also at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

UNICEF stressed that “a child is a child first and foremost, regardless of their migration status”, and urged all governments to guarantee that uprooted children have access to asylum procedures in a timely fashion, no matter how they enter the country. The agency stands ready to work with all governments in the region to ensure that children’s rights are respected and upheld, and that uprooted children receive support.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) have launched a partnership to enhance efforts to provide solutions to the tens of millions of people displaced within their own countries by conflict and disaster.

Today is the first ever International Jaguar Day, which aims to boost conservation efforts to guarantee the survival of the largest feline in the Americas.

Half of the original range of the species has been lost and its population is declining due to poaching, conflict with humans and disintegration of their habitat.

While some countries have already witnessed the complete extinction of the jaguar, 14 of the 18 jaguar range countries in Latin America have come together in an unprecedented global commitment to save the jaguar, with help from the UNDP, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Panthera Foundation.

In response to a question on recent press reports regarding the relations between Algeria and Morocco: we have always been very supportive of increased dialogue between Algeria and Morocco, whose relationship is very important to the region.

Burundi paid its budget dues in full for 2018, so we say thank you, which leaves us with 44.
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