Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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24-Jan-2019 00:19:04
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Secretary-General spoke at a plenary session at the World Economic Forum in Davos today, and he underlined the modern contradiction in which global challenges are interlinked, but our response is fragmented. There’s also a growing sense, he said, that political systems, nationally and internationally, have lost the confidence of many people. Speaking as a multilateralist, he said that we should not vilify those who don’t agree with us and have lost faith; we need to understand the root causes of why large sections of the population disagree with us and to address the discontent of those who feel they were left behind. Governments and international organizations need to act and show that we care, he said during a conversation with the former Norwegian Foreign Minister and current President of the World Economic Forum, Borge Brende.

Turning to climate change, the Secretary-General said that the reality is worse than what the scientists had predicted but the problem is that political will is not there. However, he added, technology is on our side and the private sector and civil society are fully mobilized.

While in Davos, the Secretary-General held a number of bilateral meetings, including with the President of Colombia, the Prime Minister of Jordan and Dubai’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Gergawi Crown Prince of Dubai. He also met with Susannah Rogers, a gold medal Paralympics swimmer and disability rights advocate.

The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York, where he will arrive tomorrow.

The Secretary-General is concerned about reports of casualties in the context of demonstrations and unrest in Venezuela, and, in a statement, called for a transparent and independent investigation of these incidents.

He urged all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent violence and avoid any escalation, and underlined the urgent need for all relevant actors to commit to inclusive and credible political dialogue to address the protracted crisis in the country, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.

The Secretary-General welcomes the recent announcement by the Emir of Qatar to allocate $50 million to support Syrian refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East affected by the recent severe weather in the region. The Secretary-General is very grateful to the Emir and the people of Qatar for their generosity.

As you know, the recent harsh winter conditions in the Levant has had a horrific impact on populations who were already vulnerable, both refugees as well as the communities hosting them. Humanitarian partners continue to respond to the needs of those who have been affected and are reinforcing preparedness and mitigation efforts. These difficult conditions make Qatar’s donation extremely valuable and timely for the UN system’s efforts to help vulnerable people.

Earlier today, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, spoke in Khartoum, Sudan, at the opening of the direct dialogue between the Government of the Central African Republic and 14 armed groups, convened under the African Union Initiative for peace and reconciliation in the country.

Mr. Lacroix conveyed the UN’s support for the African Initiative to end the crisis in the Central African Republic and called on all parties to seize this important opportunity to bring the country back on the path to stability, peace and development.

Mr. Lacroix will then travel to Chad from 26 to 29 January to pay tribute to the ten Chadian peacekeepers of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) killed in the attack against their base in Aguelhok on 20 January. He will attend a memorial ceremony that will take place in N’Djamena on 28 January.

On 22 January, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Ambassador Huang Xia of the People's Republic of China as his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region. Mr. Xia will assume the position of Special Envoy on 1 April 2019.

The Secretary-General reiterates his deep gratitude to his outgoing Special Envoy, Said Djinnit, for his distinguished service in West Africa and the Great Lakes region, respectively, over the past eleven years. During that period, Ambassador Djinnit worked closely with the African Union, as well as regional organisations and mechanisms, to tackle complex peace and security challenges on the continent.

The Secretary-General particularly appreciates Mr. Djinnit's efforts to advance the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.

Our humanitarian colleagues report that yesterday, 14 new cases of Ebola were reported in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the largest one-day increase since the beginning of the outbreak on 1 August last year. Nine of the new cases were detected near Butembo, a city of a million inhabitants.

As of 21 January, the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola stands at 699, including 433 deaths and 246 survivors.

The Ministry of Health, WHO and humanitarian partners have fully scaled up the response on the ground. A decline in case incidence had recently been reported in Beni, the former epicenter of the outbreak; this is an indication of how effective the response can be despite multiple challenges, including access, contact tracing, and delayed case detection.

According to WHO, the current Ebola response is likely to continue for the next six months and the spread of the epidemic, both north and south, remains possible.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction today said that extreme weather events affected 60 million people last year.

Earthquakes and tsunamis accounted for the majority of the more than 10,000 lives lost in disasters last year, while extreme weather events accounted for most of 61.7 million people affected by natural hazards such as floods, droughts, storms and wildfires.

The countries with the most people affected by extreme weather events are India, the Philippines, China, Nigeria and Guatemala.

A new report released today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that even though there are significantly more laws to protect the environment, enforcement of these laws is weak, which ends up exacerbating environmental threats.

The report found that environmental laws have increased 38-fold since 1972. However, these laws are not enforced properly due to poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement.

UNEP said that having the necessary laws and regulations is not enough, stressing that political will is lacking.

Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and General Patrick Cammaert are currently in Riyadh. They held meetings with President Hadi as well as Saudi and Emirati officials to discuss suggestions of the Redeployment Coordination Committee Chair for a proposal on redeployment of forces as agreed in Stockholm; access to the Red Sea Mills; and the next RCC meeting.

Following the adoption of Security Council resolution 2452, we are actively working to stand up the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement.

Today, we mark the first-ever International Day of Education, proclaimed by the General Assembly last year in celebration of the role of education for peace and development.

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), today, at least 262 million children and youth still do not attend school, while 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math.

In his message on the day, the Secretary-General noted that education transforms lives and is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals. He added that Nelson Mandela rightly called education “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
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