Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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25-Jan-2019 00:11:17
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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This morning, a statement was issued by Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, in which he welcomed the ratification of the Prespa Agreement by the Parliament of Greece.

Mr. Nimetz commended the Parliament and the Government of Greece on this visionary step, noting that this historic Agreement between two neighbours opens the door to a new relationship between them and ushers in a new era for the consolidation of peace and security in the Balkans.

He said that he looks forward to completion of the process as outlined in the Agreement and reiterated the continued commitment of the United Nations to working with the two Parties.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today condemned and called for effective investigations into the violence that has led to several deaths and injuries during this week’s protests in Venezuela. She urged all sides to conduct immediate talks to defuse the increasingly incendiary atmosphere, and said she is “extremely concerned that the situation in Venezuela may rapidly spiral out of control with catastrophic consequences.”

The High Commissioner said her staff have also received more than 350 reports of large-scale detentions of demonstrators and have been collecting information about raids on property in some of the poorest areas of Caracas where at least 180 protests have taken place during the course of the week.

Ms. Bachelet urged the Venezuelan authorities to exercise restraint and respect everyone’s fundamental right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, and reminded them that “excessive, disproportionate or indiscriminate use of force is clearly and unequivocally prohibited under international law.”

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern about an increase in political violence in Malawi as the country heads towards elections in May 2019.

The Human Rights Office says political violence had already been on the increase during the 2018 primary elections, where women candidates in particular faced threats, harassment and intimidation; attacks on persons with albinism have also increased in the run up to the elections.

The Human Rights Office welcomed Malawian President Peter Arthur Mutharika’s recent condemnation of political violence, but said it was concerned that so far, no one has been brought to justice for these politically motivated attacks.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is warning that humanitarian needs in Cameroon have increased drastically and will likely continue to rise, with eight out of the country’s ten regions impacted by violence, particularly in the northwest and southwest, where over 437,000 people have been forced to flee.

According to OCHA, 4.3 million people need lifesaving assistance, an increase of 31 per cent from 2018.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, Allegra Baiocchi, and Cameroon’s Civil Protection Director, Yap Mariatou, said attacks against civilians had increased, while many conflict-affected people were surviving in harsh conditions without assistance due to the dramatic underfunding of the humanitarian response.

A joint Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 – presented yesterday in Geneva – is seeking US $299 million to assist 2.3 million people.

This morning the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary Di Carlo, spoke to Security Council members during an open debate on the impact of climate-related disasters on international peace and security.

Mr. Di Carlo said climate change affects peace and security in indirect but serious ways. In the Sahel, competition for resources has fueled tensions between herders and farmers; in the Lake Chad Basin drought has reduced economic opportunities and threatened the livelihoods of many who are turning to armed groups; and in Asia, studies have shown a link between the impact of climate change on livelihoods and the intensity of civil conflicts. Ms. Di Carlo also pointed to climate-related displacement as an acute problem which drives up local tension as well as human trafficking and child exploitation.

She said the UN is intensifying efforts to address climate-related security risks and is leveraging its partnerships with Member States and civil society to act with urgency on this collective problem.

Members of the Council also heard from UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner and Chief Scientist of the World Meteorological Organization Pavel Kabat.

In response to questions asked at the noon briefing yesterday, our UN Human Rights Office put out a press release today saying that the UN human rights expert, Agnès Callamard, will visit Turkey from 28 January to 3 February.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General will attend a ceremony at Park East Synagogue in Manhattan for a ceremony marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. He is expected to express his alarm at rising anti-Semitism, the proliferation of neo-Nazi groups and growing discrimination against minorities, migrants, refugees and others.
In a video message for the Day, the Secretary-General said that “we see bigotry moving at lightning speed across the Internet” and intolerance entering mainstream politics and stressed the need to be vigilant.

Correspondents are invited to attend next week’s events to mark the International Day of Commemoration. On Monday, the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony will take place in the General Assembly Hall, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Speakers will include the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations.
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