Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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13-Sep-2019 00:23:29
Briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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I will start off with a statement on the Board of Inquiry for northwest Syria.

As announced on 1 August, the Secretary-General has established an internal United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry to investigate a series of incidents that have occurred in northwest Syria since the signing of the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey on 17 September 2018.

The Board will be led by Lieutenant General Chikadibia Obiakor of Nigeria and it will also include as other members Ms. Janet Lim of Singapore and Ms. Marta Santos Pais of Portugal. The Board will review and investigate a number of specific incidents in which there was destruction of, or damage to, facilities on the UN deconfliction list and on UN-supported facilities in the area. The work of the Board will be supported by two senior experts - Major General Fernando Ordóñez of Peru and Mr. Pierre Ryter, the former International Committee of the Red Cross – Head of Regional Delegation, and he is from Switzerland.

The Board will commence its work on 30 September. It will ascertain the facts of the specific incidents concerned and report to the Secretary-General once it completes its work.

The Secretary-General urges all parties concerned to extend their full cooperation to the Board.

The Secretary-General is on his way to Nassau in the Bahamas. He is expected to meet with Prime Minister Hubert Minnis this afternoon. As he told you yesterday, this is a visit to show the UN's solidarity with the Government and people of the Bahamas after the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian.

While in Nassau, the Secretary-General will visit a shelter for hurricane evacuees, as well as the operations centre of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Tomorrow, he is expected to visit the areas hit by Hurricane Dorian on Abaco Island.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is Rome in Italy, today to participate in the Joint Meeting of the Governing Bodies of Rome-based UN agencies.

She told the officials of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) that they have showed continued unity throughout the year to advance the reforms and have played a pivotal role in ensuring timely cost-sharing contributions by the entities of the UN development system. She has said they have provided their respective entities with the mandates they needed to seize this historic opportunity for transformation.

Ms. Mohammed said at a meeting on the Sahel that it is our collective responsibility as an international community to support the governments of the Sahel as they strive to address the root causes of the crisis and create a path towards peace and prosperity.

This morning, the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, spoke at the General Assembly’s High-Level Forum on the Culture of Peace and she spoke on the Secretary-General’s behalf.

She said that peace is at the heart of the United Nations Charter and all that we do, stressing that the concept of a culture of peace is grounded in the understanding that peace is fragile and that its pursuit must be a constant process.

Ms. Viotti said that a culture of peace is also inseparable from human rights, respect for diversity and fairer societies. As societies become more multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious, we need to invest in more social cohesion, recognizing that diversity is a richness, and not a threat.

Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the mission there, met today with the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, to discuss the fight against Ebola, as well as other heath emergencies.

She reiterated the importance of supporting the Ebola response, while addressing other diseases affecting too many people in the country, such as measles, cholera and malaria. She added that improving basic health services for the population has also to be a priority.

The UN Mission also confirmed that the body of the peacekeeper from the Indian contingent deployed in Goma, who drowned in Lake Kivu and had been missing since Sunday, has now been found. Ms. Zerrougui offered her condolences to the family and friends of the peacekeeper, as well as to the people and Government of India.

And finally, further south, in the province of Tanganyika, UN peacekeepers supported rescue operations following the derailment of a train yesterday in Nyemba. The peacekeepers provided first aid to the wounded and helped evacuate them to a local hospital.

Today, 3.9 million Malians need humanitarian assistance, or one in 5 people in the country. This is an increase of 22 per cent compared to the beginning of the year.

The number of internally displaced people has also doubled to reach close to 170,000 people as of the end of July.

The surge in inter-communal violence has, as one can imagine, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. As of today, more than half a million people are severely food insecure.

The revised Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 seeks $324 million, but it is only 30 per cent funded.

Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Vice President Felix Ulloa of El Salvador. In response to a request for the UN’s support from the Government of El Salvador to establish an international mechanism to fight impunity and corruption, the Secretary-General has agreed, as a first step, to deploy an interdisciplinary technical assessment mission to El Salvador in the coming days.

From Geneva, World Food Programme (WFP) colleagues tell us that the agency has launched its biggest emergency response for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh so far this year following this week’s heavy rains and flooding.

In 24 hours, WFP reached 16,000 people with food aid – that’s more than the total number of people WFP reached since the start of the monsoon season.

UNESCO warned today that, without urgent action, 12 million will never set foot in a school.

As of last year, one in six school-age children – or roughly 258 million – were out of school, making it difficult to ensure inclusive quality education for all.

Yesterday, we announced the appointment of Lieutenant General (retired) Abhijit Guha of India as the Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) and Head of the UN Mission in support of the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA).

As you know, he succeeds Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard, who served as head of the mission until 31 July.

As of today, the Secretary-General is expected to have about 140 bilateral meetings and participate in 52 separate events. We will be putting out a Week Ahead that will be updated daily as soon as we can, and those numbers are expected to change obviously as we get closer to the date.

As of Wednesday of this week, 196 individuals are scheduled to speak at the GA, according to our colleagues from the General Assembly: 97 Heads of State; five Vice Presidents; 46 Heads of Government; five Deputy Prime Ministers; 38 Ministers; two Chairs of Delegation, and three observers.

A total of 560 official meetings have so far been requested, and this does not begin to include bilateral meetings between representatives of Member States. We don’t have that number yet. But just for your information, in 2018, 1,676 bilateral meetings were confirmed and serviced by the UN here on the premises.

At the end of the day, while we would hope to accommodate as many meetings as there are requests, but we do have a space factor, obviously.

We congratulate and wish good luck to our friends in the General Assembly and Conference Services, who have to handle all of the requests and all of the meetings.

Lastly, we thank our friends in Ghana, who have paid their budget dues in full today, bring us up to 120 Member States which have done so.

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