Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ACTIVITIES OF THE U.N. SYSTEM

FRIDAY, 28 AUGUST 2015

 

ON 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF ARUSHA ACCORD, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON LEADERS OF BURUNDI TO RESUME DIALOGUE WITH RIVALS

  • In a statement today, the Secretary-General said that as Burundi marks the fifteenth anniversary of the initial signing of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Tanzania, never has the spirit of Arusha been as sorely tested as in the past five months.
  • He encouraged the people of Burundi to recapture the spirit of the Arusha Agreement, based on dialogue, consensus, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
  • He also called on all leaders from across the political spectrum to show the courage and vision to resume dialogue with their rivals and look beyond their political differences. No matter how great these difference may seem, they are smaller than the price of returning to violence, he added.
  • The Secretary-General expressed his sincere hope that all of Burundi’s political leaders, including those in exile, will find common cause and show their commitment to build on the peace and stability that the Arusha Agreement has brought to the country.

BURUNDI LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS ADEQUATELY CONDUCTED BUT MARRED BY LACK OF INDEPENDENT MEDIA ACCESS

  • The U.N. Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB) presented today its preliminary conclusions on the conduct of the 24 August local council elections.
  • The Mission said that given their nature, the local council elections did not garner much political attention compared to the legislative and presidential elections and took place in a broadly peaceful atmosphere.
  • The major political developments in the country, including the swearing in of the President, did not directly impact the pre-electoral environment.
  • Electoral campaign themes focused exclusively on local development issues and Agathon Rwasa’s decision to take his seat in the National Assembly facilitated co-operation between his faction of Amizero Y'Abarundi and the CNDD---FDD representatives at the local level.
  • The Mission says that the electoral administration performed its duties in a diligent manner, completing logistic tasks on time and managing satisfactorily the organization of the electoral campaigns for the local council candidates.
  • The overall security environment continued nevertheless to be volatile across the country, particularly in Bujumbura, with a surge in targeted attacks and assassinations. Media freedoms also remained severely restricted and the security environment for journalists did not improve.
  • MENUB concludes that, from a technical perspective, the local council elections were adequately conducted and the overall environment more conducive to credible elections than the presidential and legislative rounds. But the process remained marred by lack of independent media access.
  • MENUB reiterates the Secretary-General’s calls for the cessation of all forms of violence, respect of basic human rights and resumption of dialogue.

U.N. HEAD IN GUINEA-BISSAU WARNS OF INCREASING DEFIANCE IN THE COUNTRY, URGES FOR DIALOGUE

  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Guinea-Bissau, Miguel Trovoada, told the Security Council today that Guinea-Bissau is yet again experiencing political turbulences.
  • He said recent statements by State leaders were showing a climate of tension. The absence of dialogue has opened the way to increasing defiance and antagonisms, he stressed.
  • Mr. Trovoada noted that protests in the country had so far been peaceful. Dialogue is the only option for a sustainable solution and for the well-being of the population, he added.
  • He noted that previous reports about Guinea-Bissau had always underscored that the stability of the country remained fragile, as the root causes of instability were not addressed.

HUMANITARIAN NEEDS ACROSS YEMEN GROWING AS VIOLENCE ESCALATES – U.N. RELIEF WING

  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that humanitarian needs across Yemen continue to grow as violence escalates. Air strikes, armed clashes and shelling are directly affecting 21 out of 22 governorates, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that close to 400 children have been killed in the conflict.
  • Satellite imagery indicates that at least 2,300 civilian structures, including schools, hospitals and markets, have been damaged, destroyed or commandeered by conflict parties.
  • At least 160 health facilities across the country have closed, in many cases due to a lack of medicine, supplies, equipment and fuel to run generators. Health staff who continue to work have not been paid in months due to the economic crisis caused by the conflict.
  • Two million children have been deprived of education due to insecurity and the closure of more than 3,500 schools.
  • Despite major access constraints, more than 70 aid organizations are present across the country, providing some form of assistance to 6.9 million people in all 22 governorates between March and July.

LATEST LIBYA TALKS CONCLUDE IN MOROCCO, U.N. ENVOY CONCERNED OVER DETERIORATING SITUATION

  • The latest round UN-facilitated political dialogue concluded in Skhirat, Morocco, today. The discussions focused on the way forward, with an emphasis to finalize the Libyan Political Agreement in the coming days.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, said that the talks were held in a positive and constructive atmosphere.
  • Speaking to the press earlier today, Mr. León noted that the General National Congress, which is currently restructuring its team, has informed him that it will take part in the next round of talks.  
  • The Special Representative also said that he remains concerned about the impact of the deteriorating security situation in Libya and its impact on civilians, including those affected by the migrant crisis.  
  • The next round of talks is expected to take place at the UN Office in Geneva on 3 and 4 September 2015.

NUMBER OF PEOPLE CROSSING MEDITERRANEAN IN 2015 TOPS 300,000, COMPARED TO 219,000 IN 2014 – U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today said that the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 300,000, including almost 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy. This represents a large increase from last year, when around 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean during the whole of 2014.
  • At the same time, some 2,500 refugees and migrants are estimated to have died or gone missing this year, trying to reach Europe. This death toll does not include yesterday's tragedy off Libya where numbers of deaths are still unconfirmed. Last year, some 3,500 people died or were reported missing in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • In the last few days, more people have lost their lives in three separate incidents.
  • The Libyan Coast Guard carried two rescue operations on yesterday morning, with two boats carrying some 500 refugees and migrants were intercepted and survivors taken to shore in Libya. An estimated 200 people are still missing and feared dead. A still undetermined number of bodies were recovered and taken to shore. The Libyan Red Crescent has been helping with the collection of the bodies.
  • On Wednesday, rescuers coming to the aid of a boat off the Libyan coast found 51 people dead from suffocation in the hold. According to survivors, smugglers were charging people money for allowing them to come out of the hold in order to breathe.
  • Last week, in a similar incident, the bodies of 49 persons were found in the hold of another boat. They are thought to have died after inhaling poisonous fumes.
  • Despite the concerted efforts of the joint European search and rescue operation under FRONTEX, which has saved tens of thousands of lives this year, the Mediterranean Sea continues to be the deadliest route for refugees and migrants.
  • Many of the people arriving by sea in southern Europe, particularly in Greece, come from countries affected by violence and conflict, such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan; they are in need of international protection and they are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized.
  • UNHCR appeals to all governments involved to provide comprehensive responses and act with humanity and in accordance with their international obligations. All European countries and the EU must act together in response to the growing emergency and demonstrate responsibility and solidarity.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY VOICES SHOCK, SADNESS AT DISCOVERY OF DOZENS OF BODIES IN TRUCK IN AUSTRIA

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today expressed its deep shock and sadness at yesterday’s grim discovery of the bodies of up to 70 people inside a truck abandoned near the Austrian border with Hungary. Austrian police say that they believe the truck came from Hungary and entered Austria on Wednesday night or early on Thursday morning, and that the victims might have been dead for one or two 2 days. Their identity is still unknown but it is presumed that they were being transported by smugglers.
  • The Agency said that this tragedy underscores the ruthlessness of people smugglers who have expanded their business from the Mediterranean sea to the highways of Europe, showing that they have no regard for human life and are only after profit.
  • UNHCR hopes this incident will result in strong cooperation among European police forces, intelligence agencies and international organisations to crack down on the smuggling trade while putting in place measures to protect and care for victims.
  • UNHCR reiterates its call to European countries to approach the refugee crisis in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation and to provide those seeking safety in Europe with safe legal alternatives to dangerous irregular voyages. These legal avenues include resettlement or humanitarian admission programs, flexible visa policies and family reunification.

U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND WELCOMES MATERNAL, NEONATAL TETANUS ELIMINATION IN INDIA

  • The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said yesterday that the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus in India will prevent thousands of deaths.
  • The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, announced during the Call to Action 2015 Summit that Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT) has been eliminated in India. This landmark achievement will save the lives of countless mothers and their newborns, UNICEF said.
  • India is one of the most populous countries in the world, with 327 million women of childbearing age and 26 million children born every year. In 1988, tetanus killed as many as 160,000 young children in India.
  • The drop ever since has been extraordinary. The elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus as a public health problem means that the annual rate is less than 1 per 1000 live births. 
    With India’s announcement, the list of validated countries grows to 37, but there are 22 countries that still must eliminate this disease.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION AHEAD OF NEW WAVE OF BOAT MOVEMENTS IN BAY OF BENGAL

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today called for urgent action before the end of the monsoon season unleashes a new wave of people leaving on boats from the Bay of Bengal.
  • A new UNHCR report estimates that in the first six months of this year, some 31,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis departed from the Bay of Bengal on smugglers' boats, marking a 34 per cent increase over the same period last year. The number of people who have risked their lives making the dangerous journey since 2014 stands at 94,000, with more than 1,100 people are estimated to have died in these waters since 2014, including 370 in 2015.
  • The boat movements have temporarily stopped due to the monsoon rains, which have caused severe flooding in many areas across Myanmar. However, the maritime departures are expected to resume once the weather improves in the coming weeks.
  • UNHCR is urging governments to avert another crisis at sea by acting now on proposals made to affected States in the context of the Bangkok Special Meeting in May.

AS NUMBER OF REFUGEES, INTERNALLY DISPLACED TOPS 2.6 MILLION, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WELCOMES SOUTH SUDAN PEACE PACT SIGNING

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed the signing of the South Sudan peace agreement this week, which comes as the number of refugees and internally displaced people have passed the 2.6 million mark.
  • The Agency said that daily arrival rates in Ethiopia remain high, with almost 200 new arrivals registered per day, while in other receiving countries, most notably Sudan, the rainy season has reduced the number of new arrivals in August compared to June and July but Sudan experienced the highest growth in refugee arrivals this quarter up by 47 per cent.
  • More than three quarters of a million people have now fled South Sudan to neighbouring countries. Some 620,762 South Sudanese refugees have been received in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya since December 2013.