Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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11-Mar-2019 00:15:27
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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As you will have all seen, the flags at the UN are flying at half-mast today in remembrance of the colleagues we lost yesterday in the air crash in Ethiopia. I know that the numbers of fatalities have been fluctuating and we have gone through different numbers -- as of five minutes ago, we have confirmations that 21 UN personnel, from different parts of the system, died in the crash.

Before speaking to the Commission on the Status of Women, the Secretary-General said that this is a sad day for our organization and for many around the world. He said the United Nations is united in grief, and he extends his deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims, to the Government and people of Ethiopia, and all those affected by the disaster.

He said our fallen colleagues were women and men —junior professionals and seasoned officials — hailing from all corners of the globe and with a wide array of expertise. They all had one thing in common: a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for all. It is the same spirit that calls us to the UN every day, he said.

And as you know many of these people on the plane were heading to Nairobi to attend the UN Environment Assembly. And the fourth UN Environment Assembly began this morning. The Assembly is addressing the theme, “Innovative Solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption & production.” And after I’m finished here we will have by phone the Head of the UN Environment [Programme’s] New York Office, Satya S. Tripathi, who is in Nairobi and will speak to you more about the Assembly.

And a number of various UN agencies who lost staff or their executive heads have sent out condolences notes and statements. And some of the agencies are also releasing the names of the victims as next-of-kin are notified.

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life and significant damage to people’s homes and livelihoods caused by heavy rains and flooding in Malawi.

The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Malawi.

The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Malawi authorities and stands ready to support them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from the heavy rains and flooding.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that since 8 March, a total of 30 deaths, 377 injuries had been recorded.

Our humanitarian colleagues say more than 93,000 households – that’s close to half a million people – have been impacted – including 6,000 households have been displaced.

And the same storm is also hitting Mozambique where our humanitarian team is reporting at least 10 deaths and the displacement of some 10,500 people following heavy rains due to a tropical cyclone.

Turining to the DRC, the Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent attacks on Ebola treatment centres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He sends condolences to the families and friends of those killed in the attacks, and stresses that protecting civilians in conflict is a fundamental tenet of international humanitarian law. He emphasizes that civilians – including health workers – are not a target.

Still on Ebola, on Saturday, the head of the World Health Organization’s (WHO), Dr. Tedros, visited an Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, that was attacked by armed groups last week and again […] this weekend.

The visit came as he concluded a three-day mission to the country, during which he met with the President of the DRC, government officials, partner organizations and local responders involved in the response to Ebola.

Expressing sorrow over the deaths and injuries resulting from these attacks, he said, “we have no choice except to continue serving the people here, who are among the most vulnerable in the world."

At the opening of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Secretary-General stressed that gender equality is fundamentally a question of power and emphasized that the world today cannot make progress without women’s voices, ideas and participation in all areas of society.

“We need you more than ever,” he told CSW participants.

The Secretary-General noted that advocates for gender equality are mobilizing like never before but warned that there is a pushback on women’s rights around the world that is deep, pervasive and relentless.

He said the United Nations will not turn back and continue pushing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Secretary-General highlighted the progress made within the Organization where for the first time in history: there are more women than men in the Senior Management Group; there is gender parity among Resident Coordinators and there are more women heading peace operations than ever before.

The Secretary-General said parity is about securing peace, advancing human rights and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and added that if women are excluded, everyone pays a price.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, is scheduled to co-chair, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the third conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region with the European Union in Brussels on 14 March. He is expected to arrive in Brussels on 13 March on the second day of the Days of Dialogue that precedes the ministerial-level conference.

The recently issued 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria is a stark reminder that the crisis is far from over for 11.7 million people in Syria who remain in need of some form of humanitarian aid and protection.

During the conference, the UN and its partners will appeal for continued support and generous financial pledges to the critical life-saving response inside Syria, as well as for support to the refugee response and resilience needs in neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, we are gravely concerned by the continued reports of increased civilian casualties and suffering due to intensified hostilities in the northwest part of the country, as four civilians were reportedly killed and ten injured in various locations between 8-10 March.

Back here, the Security Council held an open meeting on Afghanistan.

Addressing the Council, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said [that] the last three months have seen significant developments on both peace and elections, with tangible progress being made towards ending the conflict.

He noted that the UN and the Taliban have continued to engage in intensive talks, but stressed the need for the Taliban to speak directly with the Government of Afghanistan.

Mr. Yamamoto stressed that we must recognize that all international efforts need to come to support the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

He said he expects this year’s presidential elections to be a critical step forward in further consolidating Afghanistan’s representative political system, [but] that holding them on time will be very challenging.

On Myanmar, our humanitarian colleagues are concerned about the situation in Rakhine state, with conflict continuing between the Myanmar authorities and the Arakan Army.

As a result of stepped up clashes last week in the Mrauk-U township, some 3,700 people remain displaced in that area.

Overall, 9,000 people have been displaced by fighting since late last year across Rakhine and Chin states.

OCHA says it is working closely with partners to advocate with the government for increased access to those affected by the fighting.

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 aimed at protecting people across the world from the threat of influenza. The [strategy] aims to prevent seasonal influenza, control its spread from animals to humans, and prepare for the next pandemic.

Thanks to Samoa who just paid its regular budget dues in full. We now have reached the nice number of 70 at the Honour Roll.
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