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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,

SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

FRIDAY, 30 JANUARY 2015

SECRETARY-GENERAL ENCOURAGED BY PROSPECTS OF REACHING A PEACE AGREEMENT IN COLOMBIA IN 2015

  • In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General expressed encouragement that the year has begun with optimism in Colombia about the prospects for reaching a peace agreement in 2015, as the parties prepare to resume the peace talks in Havana next week
  • The Secretary-General welcomed the importance attached by both parties to de-escalating the military confrontation. He is pleased to learn that the unilateral cease-fire initiated by the FARC-EP on 20 December 2014 has held and expresses the hope that this important gesture can be maintained.
  • He commended the decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to begin discussions that could lead to a bilateral cease-fire. Both parties are encouraged to persist in their talks on the possible implementation of humanitarian measures to diminish the intensity of the conflict. The Secretary-General reiterated the full support of the UN to the process.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS TERRORIST ATTACKS IN SINAI, EGYPT

  • In another statement issued today, the Secretary-General condemned the terrorist attacks in North Sinai on 29 January, which killed dozens of people, including civilians, and injured scores of others.
  • He conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his solidarity with the people of Egypt.

AT A.U. SUMMIT SECRETARY-GENERAL THANKS AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS FOR SUPPORT IN FIGHT AGAINST EBOLA

  • The Secretary-General is in Addis Ababa, where he is attending the 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU).
  • This morning, he addressed the opening session of the summit and thanked African governments for their support and solidarity in the fight against Ebola.
  • He underlined the partnership between the AU and the UN in meeting this challenge, as well as many peace and security threats on the continent, including Boko Haram.
  • The Secretary-General noted the number of forthcoming elections in Africa and said that undemocratic constitutional changes or loopholes should never be used to cling to power. He added that modern leaders around the world cannot afford to ignore the wishes and aspirations of the people they represent.
  • The Secretary-General attended a roundtable on the Ebola outbreak. He also had a series of bilateral meetings this morning with leaders attending the AU Summit.

NEED FOR PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS HAS INCREASED DRAMATICALLY, WARNS U.N. HUMANITARIAN ENVOY

  • The Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, briefed the Security Council today in its discussion on the protection of civilians.
  • Ms. Kang said that the need for protection has increased dramatically in recent years, mainly as a result of armed conflict.
  • At the start of 2014, humanitarian organizations appealed for aid to help 52 million people in urgent need of assistance and protection. By the end of the year, the number had gone up by almost 50 per cent, to 76 million people.
  • The overwhelming majority of these people are civilians affected by conflict and the majority of those civilians are women and girls, said Ms. Kang.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY TO VISIT SOUTH SUDAN

  • The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, will visit South Sudan from 1 to 6 February to assess the human rights situation in the country.
  • During his visit, Mr. Simonovic will seek updates on progress in investigations of human rights violations committed since the resumption of fighting in December 2013. He will also discuss ways to prevent future violations.
  • Mr. Simonovic is scheduled to meet with a number of Government officials as well as civil society actors in Juba. He is also scheduled to visit Bentiu, Malakal and Rumbek.
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned today that more Sudanese refugees are arriving in South Sudan, due to fighting in the war-torn Nuba Mountains, in Sudan.
  • Arrival rates at Yida border town exceed 500 people per week, which represents an increase of more than 100 per cent compared to the same period in 2013.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of new arrivals are children, and an estimated 10 per cent suffer from malnutrition and measles.
  • UNHCR says there is an urgent need to improve current infrastructure as well as education and shelter. It is working with the Government of South Sudan to identify a site to set up a new camp in Unity State in preparation for new arrivals.

U.N. ALARMED BY DETERIORATION OF HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN UKRAINE

  • The UN in Ukraine today said it is alarmed by the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Debaltseve, Horlivka, and other densely populated areas in eastern Ukraine, where heavy fighting has intensified in recent days.
  • This makes it increasingly difficult to deliver essential life-saving assistance to the affected population and of course for civilians to find safety.
  • Neal Walker, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, is calling for an immediate humanitarian truce to allow civilians to leave if they want to, for aid workers to assist affected communities, and to allow for the safe evacuation of the injured and the peaceful civilian population.
  • He said that unfortunately, we continue to receive credible reports indicating that military positions are dangerously close to densely populated areas and places such as hospitals, schools, orphanages and homes for the elderly.
  • Mr. Walker added that indiscriminate shelling of civilians violates international humanitarian law and must stop immediately.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY COMMENDS GREECE FOR REFORMING ASYLUM PROCESS

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) commended Greece today for reforming its asylum process during tough economic and political times, but noted that more needed to be done.
  • Among remaining problems, it stressed the difficulties in accessing the asylum procedure and a continuing backlog of unresolved cases under the old procedure.
  • Over the past, Greece has been carrying a big burden and saw a dramatic increase in refugee and migrant arrivals by sea. More than 43,000 people arrived there across the Mediterranean; 60 per cent of whom were from Syria, with also a substantial number of people from Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea.

U.N. OFFCIAL EMPHASIZES IMPORTANCE OF NEW CONSTITUTION IN NEPAL

  • At the Secretariat’s initiative, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jens Toyberg-Frandzen briefed the Security Council on the situation in Nepal during its closed-door consultations yesterday under other matters.
  • Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen expressed the UN’s increasing concern about the diminishing momentum for inclusive negotiation on the new constitution to be adopted by consensus.
  • He also emphasized the importance of a new constitution as the culmination of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which should enjoy wide support of the people. He reiterated the Secretary-General's call for Nepali leaders to continue dialogue in a spirit of flexibility and urgency.

U.N. TO HOLD 2015 YOUTH FORUM

  • From 2 to 3 February, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will hold its 2015 annual Youth Forum  in Conference Room 4 at UN headquarters. The event will explore the role of young people in the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The event will feature opening remarks by the Secretary-General, the ECOSOC President Martin Sajdik as well as keynote addresses by Gabriela Rivadeneira, President of the National Assembly of Ecuador and Thandiwe Chama, International Children’s Peace Prize Winner 2007 and co-founder of KidsRights Youngsters.
  • Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, will then set the stage for the two-day event, which will also be broadcast live via UN Web TV.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • The Spokesman said that the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, continues to hold constructive meetings with the signatories of the Peace, National Partnership Agreement in Yemen. 
  • The Spokesman said that as of today, four more countries have paid their dues to the UN in full and they are Dominica, Estonia, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.  
  • Today is the first Social Media Day at the UN and the Department of Public Information (DPI) has lined up events featuring social media professionals, digital diplomacy practitioners and academics. The events will take place until 5 p.m. in Conference Room 3 and are available on UN Web TV.