Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

Preview Language:   English
08-Jan-2019 00:27:03
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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As you know the Secretary-General met yesterday with Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel of Guatemala.

She presented him with a letter informing the United Nations of the government’s intention to terminate the Agreement establishing the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) within 24 hours.

As we said, in a statement yesterday, we strongly reject the content of the letter.

We have been constructively engaged with the Government of Guatemala, at various levels, over the last sixteen months, in accordance with Article 12 of the Agreement creating the Commission. The mandate of the Commission is set to end on 3 September 2019.

Until that date, we expect the Government of Guatemala to entirely fulfil its legal obligations under the Agreement.

The Secretary-General expects the Government of Guatemala to abide by its international undertakings to ensure the protection of the Commission’s personnel, both international and national.

The Secretary-General recalls the important contribution of Commission to the fight against impunity in Guatemala.

On the Central African Republic, representatives of the United Nations, the African Union and the region are starting a joint visit to the country today. And they will be there until Thursday.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, is part of a high-level delegation as well as the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, Smail Chergui, and Ministers of the Central African region and representatives from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

The purpose of this joint engagement is to show their sustained support for President Touadéra of the Central African Republic and his Government and give a new impetus to the peace process under the auspices of the African Initiative for peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic.

They will meet with senior Government officials and key stakeholders and will be working to reinvigorate and amplify international efforts to secure a long-lasting peace in the country through dialogue between the Government and the armed groups.

From Myanmar, the Acting Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar, Knut Ostby, is deeply concerned about the situation in northern and central Rakhine State, where an estimated 4,500 people have been displaced so far due to fighting between the Arakan Army and Myanmar’s security forces.

Mr. Ostby was shocked by the reports of attacks on 4 January, regrets the loss of life and offers his deepest sympathies to the families of the police officers who were killed. The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator urges all sides to ensure the protection of all civilians and uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.

Mr. Ostby further appeals to all sides to intensify efforts to find a peaceful solution to the situation and to ensure humanitarian access to all people affected by the violence.

The United Nations has been in close contact with the Myanmar authorities in recent weeks and has offered to support ongoing efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of those affected by the violence.

Turning to Syria, our humanitarian colleagues remain deeply concerned by ongoing reports of civilian casualties - including many women and children - and large-scale civilian displacement due to ongoing hostilities in the southeastern part of Syria’s Deir Ezzour Governorate.

Over 7,000 people have reportedly fled the Hajin enclave since the beginning of December, the majority of them women and children, while an estimated 2,000 people remain in the area. Those leaving the Hajin area have reported a dire situation on the ground, with many civilian casualties, critical shortages of food and medical supplies, and large-scale destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure. Humanitarian access to areas affected by fighting remains severely restricted.

We remain extremely concerned for civilians who continue to be trapped in Da’esh-[held] areas.

The United Nations continues to call upon all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure freedom of movement and safe passage for civilians, and to allow unhindered and sustained humanitarian access to people in need. The United Nations continues to strongly call on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, in line with International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, today launched its 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign which calls on people all over the world to cover the distance travelled by refugees each year.

UNHCR traced the journeys of refugees around the world and calculated that collectively, people forced to flee travel approximately two billion kilometres every year to reach the first point of safety. The campaign encourages people to walk, run or cycle to achieve a cumulative total of two billion kilometres. These acts, when taken together, acknowledge the resilience and strength of refugees.

People can log their distances on their fitness apps or on the campaign website www.stepwithrefugees.org

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the resumption of full operations in response to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu Province; operations had been affected by civil unrest in Beni, the epicenter of the epidemic, towards the end of last month. WHO now says that under the government’s leadership and in collaboration with partner agencies, the Ebola response has resumed across all locations, but warns that further disruptions could have serious consequences and gains could be lost if the area suffers a period of insecurity. The main challenges to the response are the security environment, pockets of mistrust among affected populations, and poor infection prevention and control in many public and private health facilities.

Some 625 cases – 577 are confirmed – and 377 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak was declared in August of last year. WHO reports that more than 56,500 people have been vaccinated, while 220 people have recovered.

Our colleagues in the Security Council Affairs branch tell us that the ‘Highlights of Security Council’ report for 2018 is out now, and it provides an overview of the work the Council has done over the year. It contains information on the evolving practice of the Security Council relating to meetings, agenda, decisions and voting patterns as well as its subsidiary bodies.

Like past editions, the 2018 edition includes some innovations. This year’s edition features for the first time information on procedural votes and it expands to 10 years the scope of analysis of Security Council meetings and decisions.

The electronic version of the document is also available. And it is an interesting read for all of us who are Security Council geeks.

I just want to answer a question which I had been asked about reports seen in some Lebanese and Israeli media saying that the Middle East Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, had been involved in the transfer of Qatari funds to Hamas on Gaza. And I want to tell you that the story is false and Mr. Mladenov is not involved in any way in this issue.

And lastly on a musical note -- for your enjoyment, there will be a concert next week at Carnegie Hall, on Tuesday 15 January at 7:30 pm.

The Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council will present a concert in support of the Helen Sawaya Fund, a philanthropy programme headquartered at Mount Sinai Hospital, whose mission is to enhance the experience of cancer patients using complementary therapies, including music.
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