Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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21-Dec-2018 00:18:38
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that it is very concerned by the continuing drought in northeast Syria, which, combined with the conflict, could severely impact millions of people.

While the food security situation has improved in many parts of Syria in the past year, some 5.5 million people are still food insecure and need assistance. More than 90 percent of households spend half or more of their monthly income on food.

The drought is exacerbated by damaged or destroyed infrastructure due to the conflict.

This year has been the lowest wheat and barley production in Syria since 1989.

The UN and its humanitarian partners are providing assistance to drought-affected communities in the northeast, including seeds for winter crops, agricultural support mechanisms and technical training.

In response to questions regarding reports of fighting in the Hajin enclave, we are of course aware of continuing reports of intense fighting in and around Hajin enclave, with an estimated 6,000 civilians trapped by Da’esh in desperate conditions.

Sustained access to civilians displaced by ongoing hostilities in the immediate vicinity of the Hajin area has remained very challenging. The UN and its partners have provided assistance to internally displaced people in displacement sites in the Gharanij and Bahra areas as recently as October, but the area remains largely inaccessible due to current insecurity.

The UN calls on all parties to protect civilians and allow safe and sustained and unimpeded access to those in need, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

In response to questions on the situation in Guatemala, I can tell you that the Secretary-General regrets the Government of Guatemala’s announcement that it will expel 11 investigators and lawyers of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). Their work is integral to the fulfillment of the mandate of the Commission to combat impunity and to the Commission’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law in Guatemala. The Secretariat had hoped that the requested visas of the CICIG staffers would be issued promptly.

The Secretary-General values the dialogue of the Government since his last meeting with President Morales, and invites the Government to continue engaging in an open dialogue with the Secretariat to address this situation as well as concerns related to the Commission.

This morning, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, addressed the Security Council on recent developments in Guinea-Bissau.

Introducing the [special] report of the Secretary-General on the assessment of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) led by independent expert Joao Honwana, Mr. Zerihoun described the political situation in the country as fraught with uncertainty.

In his report, the Secretary-General underscored the challenging political context in which the Office operates, and said the Office warranted recognition for the crucial role it has played supporting the work of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-led mediation process to resolve the political impasse in Guinea-Bissau.

In a statement issued a short while ago, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) strongly condemned the recent assault and detention of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) team.

The assault, conducted by the Transitional Government of National Unity security forces, took place earlier this week, on 18 December, in the Luri area of Central Equatoria State. UNMISS notes that the monitoring and verification team members and their support personnel were merely discharging their mandate in support of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

The Mission urges the immediate commencement of investigations in order for the perpetrators to be held to account. The Mission also urges the Parties to the Revitalized Agreement to adhere to the commitments outlined in the Agreement and to ensure that all their forces are aware of and comply with the tenets of the Agreement.

UNMISS calls on all parties to fully cooperate with Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism team as they carry out their mandate.

The UN in Myanmar welcomed today’s announcement by the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services regarding a ceasefire from 21 December of this year to 30 April next year.

The ceasefire seeks to enable peace talks and national reconciliation with all Ethnic Armed Organizations, including non-signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

The acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Andrew Kirkwood, says he hopes that this will provide a new impetus to Myanmar’s peace process and bring an end to fighting between the Tatmadaw and Ethnic Armed Organizations during this period and beyond.

Our humanitarian colleagues remain concerned as the conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to take a toll on civilians, with more than 5 million people are affected and 3.5 million people in need of aid.

During 2018, more than 1 million people benefited from some form of humanitarian assistance and protection services.

As of yesterday, the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan, which has called for $187 million, is only 38 percent funded.

Next year, $162 million will be urgently needed to deliver vital humanitarian assistance and protection services to 2.3 million people in need. With winter temperatures now dropping below minus-10 Celsius, mobilising these funds now is crucial.
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