Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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14-Dec-2018 00:18:21
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General is back in Katowice today. This is the last day of the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (or COP-24) which is taking place in the Polish city.

The Secretary-General had a series of bilateral meetings this morning, including with the Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs of China and the President of Poland. He also met with representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (OASIS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as well as a representative of countries in Latin America. He also met with non-governmental organizations present at the conference.

On Wednesday, the Secretary-General made an appeal to the parties to the conference and told them that this was the time for consensus and for political compromises. And he challenged them to work together and raise ambition on all fronts.

Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, briefed the Security Council by VTC this morning on the agreements reached during the Sweden consultations that came into force yesterday upon publishing of the documents. This is no small achievement, he said, made possible first and foremost by the commitment of the parties, and the credit goes to them. Mr. Griffiths noted the role that the Secretary-General played in the process, saying that his meeting at the G20 in Argentina with the Saudi Crown Prince ensured the last-minute clearances needed to move the 50 injured to Muscat days before the talks. And the Secretary-General’s subsequent visit to the consultations for the vital last 24 hours were instrumental in making the agreements happen.

The agreement, Mr. Griffiths told the Council, includes phased but rapid mutual withdrawals of forces from both the Hodeida ports and the city. The United Nations is asked to monitor the compliance of the parties to these commitments and the Special Envoy added that he was sure that the Security Council will want to address this requirement. A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential, he said; it is also urgently needed. He said that Gen. Patrick Cammaert has been contacted to lead the monitoring component of the agreement.

Parties have also reached a mutual understanding to ease the situation in Taiz, he said, with the prospect of the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow the safe passage of goods and people across the front lines, the reduction of the fighting in the governorate, the deployment of demining operations and the release and exchange of prisoners.

Mr. Griffiths added that, before arriving in Sweden, the parties had already agreed to the establishment of a joint committee to provide and plan for the mutual release of all prisoners. He said that we hope, with the ICRC in the lead, for a mass exchange in mid-January of as many as 4,000 prisoners.

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock briefed the Security Council on the humanitarian crisis that he witnessed first-hand in Yemen. He said that millions of people are starving, sick and desperate and have one message to the world: This war must stop. This week’s success, he said, must not lead to complacency.

The efforts to establish a constitutional committee have been the subject of continuing consultations. In this context, Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura anticipates hosting high-level representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey in Geneva early next week as he finalizes his assessment, to be presented to the Security Council on 20 December, of the possibility of establishing a credible, balanced and inclusive constitutional committee.

The Special Envoy is currently in Qatar, after which he will be returning to Geneva, and thereafter will proceed to New York to report to the Security Council.

Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed the Security Council yesterday and welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2449. He said that the situation in the north-west of Syria, where some three million people remain dependent on humanitarian cross-border operations, remains very challenging. While the pause in airstrikes has had a meaningful impact on the lives of the people there, he said that shelling and fighting in areas in and around the demilitarized zone continue to result in civilian death and injury and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Mr. Lowcock said that Idlib remains on the edge of a humanitarian disaster. Should there be a further escalation of violence, the needs would quickly overwhelm the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond. He also remains very concerned about the more than 40,000 people in Rukban and 6,000 trapped in Hajin, where we continue to receive reports of civilian suffering and death.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix is currently in Zanzibar, Tanzania visiting the families of the 15 UN peacekeepers who were killed in an attack in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year.

Mr. Lacroix expressed his solidarity with the families of the fallen peacekeepers and mentioned that the UN will never forget its brave heroes.

The Under-Secretary-General also met with national authorities to express gratitude for their contributions and support to UN Peacekeeping.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today expressed her deep concern over the violence at opposition rallies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this, week ahead of presidential elections scheduled to be held on 23 December.

Ms. Bachelet called on authorities to ensure that these incidents are promptly investigated and that the rights to freedom of expression and peacefully assembly, which she called essential conditions for credible elections, are fully protected.

These incidents include those such as the one on 11 December, when at least three men were killed and several injured after police reportedly fired live ammunition at an opposition rally in the Haut-Katanga province. On the same day, the convoy of a presidential candidate also reportedly came under attack by police.

In an already tense electoral environment, the High Commissioner urged the Government to send a clear signal that threats and violence against political opponents will not be tolerated.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today voiced its concern at the large number of people left homeless by fighting in the country, leaving aid agencies unable to provide even basic access in several areas.

UNHCR estimates that some 1.5 million people’s homes have been damaged or destroyed in deadly clashes involving armed groups and Government forces. More than one million Congolese people are now estimated to have become internally displaced in 2018.

In the Ebola-affected area near Beni, North Kivu, more than 1,300 cases of human rights violations against civilians have been recorded in the last three months, including physical attacks, indiscriminate killing, pillaging and kidnapping.

UNHCR urges all parties to the violence to immediately stop targeting civilians, calling on the Government to address the causes of forced displacement and to engage in seeking solutions for the victims.

In Libya, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, Mourad Wahba, the Director of the Crisis Bureau, Asako Okai, and the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), Ursula Mueller, called on the Government and the international community to address people’s urgent need for life-saving assistance and support recovery and stabilization in the country.

The four senior officials just completed a four-day mission to Libya and Tunisia, where they visited hospitals and shelters and spoke to people who are displaced and have been affected by the conflict. They also met the Libyan Prime Minister and representatives of the humanitarian communities in both countries and reiterated the UN’s continuous support towards a peaceful transition in Libya.

In Geneva, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) today launched their regional refugee and migrant response plan for Venezuela. The plan is the first of its kind in the Americas and will respond to the needs of Venezuelans on the move and secure their social and economic inclusion in the communities receiving them.

The response plan is also an appeal for funds. For next year, the plan will require $378 million dollars to help 2.7 million people in 16 countries, 2.2 million of them Venezuelans and 500,000 people in host communities.

On Monday, at 1:30 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will host a special event on the Global Compact on Refugees: a model for greater solidarity and cooperation. Speakers will include: the President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés; Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed; and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi; as well as Principal of the Rawhide Elementary School and former refugee, Bertine Bahige.

Following the event, at around 2:15 p.m., Mr. Grandi will brief reporters at the stakeout area between the Trusteeship Council and the ECOSOC Chamber.
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