Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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05-Mar-2019 00:13:25
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, announced that Najat Rochdi has joined his team as Senior Humanitarian Advisor, replacing former advisor Jan Egeland. Ms. Rochdi will chair the International Syria Support Group’s Humanitarian Task Force on behalf of Mr. Pedersen and help facilitate crucial humanitarian access and protection of civilians in Syria through supporting humanitarian negotiations in coordination with the UN country team and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Ms. Rochdi, a native of Morocco, is the team leader of the peer-to-peer Programme of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, based in Geneva.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, announced today that the UN Human Rights Office in Burundi was closed down last Thursday at the insistence of the Government.

She said that the office, established in 1995, had worked for many years with the Government on peacebuilding, security sector reform, justice sector reform and to help build institutional and civil society capacity on a whole host of human rights issues.

Since 2016, the Government – in reaction to a report by the UN Independent Investigation in Burundi established by the UN Human Rights Council – suspended all cooperation with the Office in Burundi.

Ms. Bachelet said her office would continue to explore other ways to work to shed light on human rights concerns and support the advocacy, promotion and protection of human rights in Burundi.

For his part, the Secretary-General was deeply disappointed by the decision to close down the Human Rights Office. The Secretary-General also very much believes that the Government of Burundi should engage with the High Commissioner’s office regarding the human rights situation in the country.

The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, called for urgent assistance for thousands of vulnerable people in Burkina Faso who are facing an unprecedented humanitarian emergency due to armed violence and insecurity. This was at the end of her four-day mission to the country.

Ms. Mueller said more had to be done to meet the growing needs of affected people.

Yesterday, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated $4 million to boost relief response in the country.

Ms. Mueller said the funds would make an immediate difference for displaced people – most of whom are women and children – and would help to quickly deliver assistance to communities hosting the displaced, as well as to people who are still living in conflict-affected areas.

Violence in Burkina Faso has displaced over 100,000 people, more than half of them in the first two months of this year. Some 150,000 children are deprived of education, and around 120,000 people have no access to medical care in the violence-affected regions. Around 670,000 people are at risk of food insecurity.

UNAIDS is greatly encouraged by the news that an HIV-positive man has been functionally cured of HIV.

The result, reported at a conference in Seattle, is one of only two cases of reported functional cures for HIV. The man was treated in London for Hodgkin’s lymphoma using stem cell transplants from a donor carrying a rare genetic mutation. The virus has been undetectable since he stopped taking antiretroviral medicine 18 months ago.

Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, said the breakthrough gives us great hope for the future, but also shows how far we are from the point of ending AIDS with science, as well as the absolute importance to continue to focus on HIV prevention and treatment efforts.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) launched its Annual Report for 2018 in Vienna earlier today, in which it warned about the risks of poorly controlled medical cannabis programmes. Such programmes, according to the report, may have a negative health impact, increase non-medical use, and lower the perception of risk associated with cannabis.

The Board also expressed concern about the legislative developments of the non-medical use of cannabis, which pose a risk to health and contravene the drug control conventions.

Today, the Finnish capital, Helsinki, hosted the first-ever International Symposium on Youth Participation in Peace Processes, with the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, in attendance.

The Symposium is intended to move forward the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2250 and 2419, aiming to boost young people’s participation in efforts to build and sustain peace. Young people under the age of 30 account for over half of the world’s population, but despite their numbers, their contributions to peace processes remain undervalued.

The Symposium ends tomorrow, and is being webcast by the Finnish Foreign Ministry.
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