Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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06-May-2019 00:19:46
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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This morning, the Secretary-General paid tribute to all the members of staff who have lost their lives in the line of duty in a memorial service here at UN Headquarters.

Between January 2018 and March of this year, 115 UN staff from 43 nations lost their lives. Most were involved in peacekeeping and the vast majority were African. Among the fallen, there were also 19 civilians as well as 21 colleagues who perished in the Ethiopian air disaster.

The Secretary-General praised the commitment of this men and women to risk all to promote peace and provide assistance to some of the world’s most vulnerable people. He also offered his deepest condolences to all the families and loved ones and added that the United Nations is promoting better individual preparedness for crises and providing enhanced medical and psychological support for the victims and their families. It is also working to settle claims and provide comprehensive counselling, care and assistance to survivors and families.

The Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to ensure that the UN reviews and improves its practices related to the safety and care of staff.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will depart New York for Geneva to attend meetings on 8 May of the UN Sustainable Development Group, the United Nations Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration, and the first regular session for 2019 of the UN System Chief Executives Board, which is scheduled for the 9 and 10 May.

The 3rd Annual African Union-UN Annual Conference is taking place at UN Headquarters; the Conference is led by the Secretary-General and the Chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

It aims to build on the close partnership between the two organizations, will address, among other issues, climate change and the African Union Theme of the Year 2019: “The Year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons: towards durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa”

We expect a Communiqué at the end of the meetings.

The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of a political agreement between the Government and the opposition on 2 May in Bamako, which was followed yesterday by the formation of an inclusive Cabinet.

The Secretary-General commends the leadership of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and the successful conclusion of the consultations that produced the political agreement and a renewed commitment to implement the 2015 Peace Agreement. He also welcomes the constructive contribution of opposition parties in this regard.

The Secretary-General urges all Malian stakeholders, including the signatory parties to the 2015 Peace Agreement, to redouble their efforts to address the challenges facing their country through the full implementation of the Agreement, including the completion of the constitutional review process.

The Secretary-General reiterates the UN’s commitment to continue to support the people and the Government of Mali in their quest for peace and stability.

For the past year, the United Nations has been working hard to prevent the situation in Gaza from escalating and to provide humanitarian relief to the population. The latest escalation over the weekend was the worst since the 2014 conflict. Fortunately, following a series of engagements with Egypt, Qatar, and all concerned parties, we were able to contain it, based on understandings on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the livelihoods of people, with no violence at the Gaza perimeter fence. It is now up to the parties to implement these understandings.

If the calm is sustained, the United Nations believes that we will be able to discuss longer-term arrangements to improve the situation and provide relief for the people of Gaza by easing the closures, and support for the reconciliation process. Both are critical to finding a political solution to the problems of Gaza. The UN Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, will be going to Cairo tomorrow to continue his discussions with relevant parties.

Over the weekend, you will have seen that the Secretary-General condemned in the strongest terms the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, particularly the targeting of civilian population centres. He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint, immediately de-escalate and return to the understandings of the past few months.

Yesterday, the UN Mission in Libya called for an extendable one-week humanitarian truce starting on the first day of Ramadan, which is today, during which all parties pledge to halt all forms of military operations. Unfortunately, the truce has so far not been observed and fighting continues on the outskirts of Tripoli. The UN Mission renews its call to all parties to abide by the truce and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need and to ensure the freedom of movement of civilians.

Over the weekend, the UN Mission also called on all sides in Libya to and focus efforts on combatting terrorism, their common enemy, noting that terrorist groups will seek to exploit the ongoing fighting in Tripoli to expand their presence in Libya. We echo the strong condemnation by the UN Mission of the attack – claimed by Daesh – in Sabha in southern Libya on Friday, which took nine lives, including one civilian.

Our humanitarian partners tell us that fighting continues in and around Tripoli; 104 civilian casualties have so far been verified by the health sector – that includes 23 civilian deaths.

Civilians continue to be driven from their homes by the fighting, with more than 56,000 people now displaced, according to the UN Migration Agency (IOM). Most displaced people are staying in urban areas with friends or family, or in rented accommodation. 29 collective shelters are in operation, housing close to 3,000 people.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that multiple conflict-affected areas remain largely inaccessible to humanitarian workers, while conditions for civilians trapped in these areas continue to deteriorate.

The United Nations is extremely concerned about attacks on healthcare facilities and hospitals in northwestern Syria following a recent escalation of violence and hostilities in and around the demilitarized zones. Since 28 April, at least seven facilities have reportedly been struck, including four in Hama Governorate and three in Idlib Governorate.

Yesterday, health facilities were reportedly hit by airstrikes in Idlib and Hama.

We continue to call on all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians, and in particular to avoid the destruction of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that it successfully arrived at the Red Sea Mills in Yemen over the weekend. The plan is to establish a small technical team of Red Sea Mills employees at the Mills to begin cleaning and servicing the milling machinery in hopes of then preparing the wheat for distribution. This process may take several weeks.

WFP lost access to the Mills in early September 2018. At that time, there were 51,000 metric tonnes of wheat, enough to feed 3.7 million people for 1 month.

Over the weekend, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, met with officials in Sana’a. He is now back in Amman.

Our humanitarian colleagues report from Mozambique that cholera is on the rise following Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall late last month. Some 64 cases have been received at health centres around the Pemba and Mecufi areas in the north of Mozambique. Cholera Treatment Centres have been set up in two districts, and Treatment Units are also being established.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is redeploying a team of public health specialists and logisticians from the city of Beira to Cabo Delgado Province to assess Cyclone Kenneth’s impact on health. Organizations working in water and sanitation hygiene are also ramping up activities to prevent the spread of cholera.

Over 43,000 houses were reportedly damaged or destroyed, while nearly 41,000 students in Cabo Delgado have had their education interrupted due to damage to their classrooms, according to the Government.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says 36,000 people have received food assistance in the four worst-affected areas.

Regarding Turkey’s decision to send ships to begin offshore drilling operations around Cyprus, the Secretary-General is monitoring the developments closely with concern.

Our position on hydrocarbons exploration has not changed. Offshore hydrocarbons have the potential to benefit both communities in Cyprus.

The Secretary-General recalls that the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader have previously agreed in their negotiations that natural resources in a unified Cyprus would lie within the competence of the future federal government.

The Secretary-General urges efforts to be made to reduce tensions.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, wrapped up a five-day mission to the Central African Republic, during which she held the first national event on the campaign entitled “ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict”, and publicly introduced the idea of a national plan to prevent grave violations against children in that country.

A global assessment launched today by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, otherwise known as the IPBES, warns that around one million species are threatened with extinction as nature is declining at unprecedented rates. Among the most threatened species are amphibians, corals, and marine mammals.

The report ranks the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impacts so far. These culprits are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

The report says that the decline will have grave impacts on people around the world and stresses that the current global response is insufficient and transformative change is needed to protect and restore nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades and draws on indigenous and local knowledge to map the way forward.

More information online.

Over the weekend, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, opened his own Instagram account. In his first post, he explained that he joined the platform to give people a first-hand look at his job and share what motivates him to strive for a better, more peaceful world for all.

Lastly, we want to thank China, which has paid its regular budget dues in full - xiexie. And we are now up to 91.
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