Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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03-Sep-2019 00:22:15
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), whose mandate comes to an end today, made a decisive contribution to strengthen the rule of law as well as investigation and prosecution capacities in Guatemala over its last 12 years of existence and operation. The Secretary-General expresses his gratitude to CICIG staff for their professionalism and commitment to assist in the cause of justice. He also trusts that efforts to fight impunity will continue and expresses the UN’s readiness to continue cooperating with Guatemala in strengthening the rule of law.

The Secretary-General expects that the rights of those involved in the fight against impunity in Guatemala will be protected.

The Secretary-General is travelling back to New York after he spent Labour Day weekend in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a three-day visit.

Yesterday in Kinshasa, he called on the international community to be united in its support to the Congolese people and authorities. And he said that he noticed winds of hope blowing in the country and stressed in his meeting with President Tshisekedi that he believes that the Congo was living a historic moment.

In Kinshasa, he also met with parliamentarians, representatives of the opposition and civil society. He said his visit was one of solidarity, especially on the security front, and that the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would thrive to improve its capacities in support of the Congolese Army against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) to better counter the national and international threat represented by this armed group in and around the area of Beni.

On Sunday, he had visited Beni, where he paid tribute to the peacekeepers killed in the fight against the ADF, before travelling to the nearby town of Mangina, where the Ebola epidemic started some13 months ago. There, he visited the Ebola Treatment Centre along with the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is travelling today to Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Then on the 5th of September, she will proceed to Rwanda, to speak at the 14th annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony, “Kwita Izina”, which brings together several key players from the world of nature conservation.

On September 7th, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Delhi, in India, to attend the 14th Conference of Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and meet with senior officials.

Next week, on 11 September, she will travel to Rome, Italy, to represent the Secretary-General at the Joint Meeting of the Governing Bodies of Rome-based UN Agencies.

Ms. Mohammed will return to New York following that trip.

Turning to the Bahamas, our humanitarian colleagues tell us they’ve pre-deployed teams to Nassau as part of the Government-led assessment teams. They will deploy to Abaco and Grand Bahama as soon as possible. The main needs would include water, food, shelter and early recovery assistance.

The teams will support the Government of the Bahamas in assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian over the next three days and in prioritizing needs.

The UN Migration Agency is also deploying staff to the island and liaising with the government and donor partners. The IOM’s Dominica Head of Office, Jan-Willem Wegdam, is expected to arrive there later today.

At this stage, the World Food Programme has four specialized staff on the ground who can support in the areas of food security, emergency telecommunications as well logistics. There is also a drone specialist, as drones can be very useful for assessments, as was the case in Mozambique.

And you will have seen that we issued a statement yesterday in which the Secretary-General said he was deeply saddened by the terrible devastation caused by the Hurricane in the Bahamas. He expressed his solidarity with the people and the Government of The Bahamas and said the UN will continue supporting the ongoing relief efforts.

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports that the situation is calm in its area of operations and that UN troops remain deployed on the ground and along the Blue Line. The Force Commander of UNIFIL, Major-General Stefano Del Col, remains fully engaged with the parties to ensure that stability is maintained along the Blue Line.

You will recall that on Sunday, UNIFIL was informed by the Israeli Defence Forces that an anti-tank missile had been fired from the vicinity of Marun Ar Ras, in southern Lebanon, at an IDF vehicle in the Avivim area, south of the Blue Line. In response, the IDF conducted artillery fire directed at the general area from where the missile attack had originated.

We made it clear in a note on Sunday that the Secretary-General was seriously concerned about the incidents across the Blue Line. And he calls for maximum restraint and urges all concerned to cease all activities that violate resolution 1701 and endanger the cessation of hostilities.

Major-General Del Col added that this was a serious incident in violation of the resolution and clearly directed at undermining stability in the area.

On Sunday, UN teams in Yemen reported that air strikes hit a former community college compound on the northern outskirts of Dhamar City. According to sources on the ground, as many as 170 prisoners were being held in a detention facility in the compound. The Yemen Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed that 52 detainees were among the dead.

Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, called the incident a tragedy and said that the human cost of this war is unbearable. He expressed his hope that the Coalition will launch an enquiry into this incident. Accountability needs to prevail, he said.

Meanwhile, Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in Yemen, said that the scale of the casualties was staggering. And she added that the UN sends its deepest condolences to families that are grieving for their loved ones.

The UN Special Representative in Afghanistan and the head of the UN Mission in that country, Tadamichi Yamamoto, called for an end to violence.

In a statement issued earlier this morning, he said that violence across Afghanistan underscores the urgency of ending the conflict through a negotiated settlement.

The suffering of the Afghan people must end, he added.

He also expressed his condolences to the families and friends of the victims, all civilians, who once again suffered indescribable loss in violence.

The Taliban-claimed attack yesterday in Kabul caused more than 100 civilian casualties, most of them wounded, according to initial findings.

Turning to the Central African Republic. Our colleagues at the UN Peacekeeping Mission there reported on clashes on Sunday between elements of two armed groups in the town of Birao in the country’s northeast. That’s in the Vakaga prefecture. Six members of the armed groups and one civilian were killed.

In anticipation of retaliatory attacks, the Mission conducted patrols and erected checkpoints in the town.

UN peacekeepers also extracted civilians and secured an area in front of the UN compound, where approximately 2,000 people sought shelter after the clashes.

The African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States and the UN peacekeeping mission issued a joint communiqué yesterday, calling for the cessation of violence, which they branded as a violation of the Peace agreement framework.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expressed concerns about food insecurity in Sudan and Somalia.

In Sudan, some 6.3 million people – or 14 per cent of the country’s population - are experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity, the highest on record since the introduction of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification in Sudan in 2007.

And in Somalia, late and erratic rains this year, coupled with low river levels, have led to the poorest cereal harvest since 2011 - up to 70 per cent below average.

Without humanitarian assistance, up to 2.1 million people across Somalia face severe hunger through the end of the year.

In both countries, Humanitarian Response Plans remain underfunded. In Somalia, a billion dollar appeal is only 45 % funded and in Sudan, a 1.1 billion dollar appeal is only 31 % funded.

Today the Secretary-General is appointing Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, Movses Abelian of Armenia (who is also a national of Georgia), to the post of Coordinator for Multilingualism.

In his role, Mr. Abelian is responsible for coordinating the overall implementation of multilingualism Secretariat-wide. Multilingualism is one of the Secretary-General’s priorities, as a core value of the Organization.

Zimbabwe has paid its dues in full to the regular budget of the United Nations, bringing the total number of fully paid up members to 116.

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