Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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30-Oct-2019 00:19:27
Briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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First off, I have been asked in the past hour about reports that Chile will not host the 25th session of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

UNFCCC’s Executive Director, Patricia Espinosa, said that earlier today, she was informed of the decision by the Government of Chile not to host COP25. UNFCCC is currently exploring alternative hosting options.

The President of Chile has informed the Secretary-General by phone that the Government would not be in a position to host the COP25 meeting in Chile.

Earlier today, we issued the following statement on Guinea-Bissau: The Secretary-General is following with serious concern the unfolding developments in Guinea-Bissau following the decrees issued on 28 and 29 October by President José Mario Vaz dismissing the Government and appointing a new Prime Minister. He calls on all political stakeholders to abide by the decisions taken by ECOWAS regarding the governance arrangements in Guinea-Bissau until the presidential election on 24 November and reiterated in the ECOWAS communiqué of 29 October.

The Secretary-General looks forward to the holding of a peaceful, credible and transparent presidential election on 24 November and urges all stakeholders to exercise their civic duty.

The Secretary-General was also saddened to learn of the death of one person reportedly following a demonstration on 26 October. He looks forward to the prompt conclusion of the independent inquiry announced by the Ministry of the Interior into the circumstances and consequences of the demonstration.

The Secretary-General has arrived in Istanbul, where he will meet this evening with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Tomorrow, he will speak at the Istanbul Mediation Conference, and he is to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.

In Geneva today, Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, launched the Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee.

He told the participants that the Secretary-General firmly believes that today’s launch of the Constitutional Committee can and must be a first meaningful step along the political path out of Syria’s nearly nine-year long conflict toward a durable solution in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

Mr. Pedersen said that this is a historic moment, because, for the first time, 50 nominees of the Government and 50 nominees of the Opposition are sitting face-to-face to work as Committee members on a key project: a new constitutional arrangement for Syria. He added that he was proud to see so many women – around 30 per cent – included among the 150 participants.

The Special Envoy encouraged the Constitutional Committee members to be patient and also to be persistent; to be ready to compromise; and to engage constructively as they fulfill their important mandate. He expressed his sincere hope that by signaling their good intentions to one another from the very beginning, trust will steadily grow and a positive working environment can be created. His full remarks are online.

I have been asked about the Secretary-General’s views on the recent developments in Lebanon, and I can say the following:

The Secretary-General is closely following developments in Lebanon, including the resignation announcement yesterday by Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

He appeals for calm and restraint.

He calls on all political actors to seek a political solution that will preserve the stability of the country and respond to the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

He calls on all actors to avoid violence and respect the rights to peaceful assembly and expression.

Today, an event started in the ECOSOC Chamber to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

This morning, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, highlighted that the past ten years have seen more concerted action to combat this scourge than what we have seen in the rest of human history combined.

Looking to the future, she asked for a new decade of decisive action to remove sexual violence from daily headlines and end it once and for all.

The Security Council held an open meeting this morning on the theme, “Cooperation between the United Nations and Regional Organizations including the African Union.”

Briefing Council members, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the African Union, Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, said that the partnership between the AU and the UN continues to grow from strength to strength.

Both organizations, she said, recognize that contemporary threats to peace and security in Africa are complex and interconnected, and their impact is so profound, that neither Organization can resolve them without the other.

The Special Representative pointed to examples of AU-UN collaboration in countries such as Madagascar, the Central African Republic and Sudan.

This afternoon, the Security Council will meet on Western Sahara and Burundi.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore just finished her first visit to Sudan.

The country is at a historic moment and it is critical that children’s rights are at the heart of the national agenda, she said.

During the visit, Ms. Fore met with several senior government officials, including Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, and travelled to Kadugli in South Kordofan where she met with partners and communities.

According to UNICEF, decades of conflict and underdevelopment have left millions of children vulnerable. Over 38 per cent of children under five years are believed to be stunted, or too short for their age. Some 17 per cent are wasted, or too thin for their height.

Approximately 120 children die every day due to undernutrition and related causes and 2.6 million children need humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) has strongly condemned the killing of three of its volunteer aid workers on Sunday when they were caught in the crossfire during clashes between armed groups in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria region.

IOM called for the perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians and humanitarians to be brought to justice.

Two other IOM workers were injured, while another volunteer and the four-year-old son of one of those killed were abducted and are still missing.
IOM was working at Ebola screening points in the border areas between South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to track the spread of the disease. The agency has now suspended Ebola screening at five sites, stressing the safety of its personnel.

This is the first killing of aid workers reported in South Sudan this year. At least 115 aid workers have been killed since the start of the conflict in December 2013. Most have been South Sudanese nationals.

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Somalia, James Swan, today expressed his concern over the flooding that has affected thousands of people, mainly in the country’s south.

He said that the United Nations stands ready to work with Somalia’s federal and regional authorities to support affected communities.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced and casualties have been reported. Farmland, infrastructure and roads have been destroyed, and livelihoods disrupted in some of the worst-hit areas.

A state of natural catastrophe was declared in the Central African Republic on 25 October following several days of unusually heavy rains that have caused flooding in the capital, Bangui, and Mobaye province, along the Oubangui River in the south. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people have been affected. The Government has requested international assistance and mobilization of resources.

The UN and humanitarian partners yesterday delivered over 20 tons of high-energy biscuits to 15,000 people; over 2,000 shelter kits; 1,300 non-food items; and over 1,000 water, sanitation and hygiene kits.

The most urgent needs are in food, non-food items, water and sanitation, and health services. The humanitarian situation in the country deteriorated further in the past six months due to violence, and some 1.7 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Protection of civilians and accountability to affected populations are at the core of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires nearly $431 million and is 65 per cent funded so far.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, as of today, more than 16,400 people have been affected by the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck Mindanao in the Philippines yesterday.

Authorities say that five people were killed and nearly 400 injured.

The Government is leading the response and has deployed medical and search-and-rescue teams to affected municipalities. They are being assisted by humanitarian partners providing food and relief assistance.

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Office of the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General
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