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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

TUESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2014

EBOLA: WORLD HAS A DUTY TO PROVIDE ASSISTANCE, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL

  • In a statement today, the Secretary-General welcomed the growing number of financial and in-kind commitments many countries are making to the global Ebola response. Ebola is a major global problem that demands a massive and immediate global response. Needs include trained medical personnel, mobile laboratories, vehicles, helicopters, protective equipment, and medevac capacities. 
  • The Secretary General has established the UN Ebola Multi-Partner Trust Fund to provide a flexible, accountable, strategic and transparent platform to finance critical unfunded priorities and help reduce the rate of Ebola transmission. 
  • The Secretary-General thanked the Governments of Australia, Colombia and Venezuela for financial deposits and commitments to the Trust Fund totalling nearly $14 million. The Republic of Korea has announced its pledge of $5 million to the Trust Fund today. Commitments and pledges to the Fund currently stand at $50 million, but much more is needed. The Secretary-General urged all countries that have contributed to consider what more they can do, and those who have yet to contribute to do so as a matter of urgency. 
  • He said that the only way to end the Ebola crisis is to end the epidemic at its source. The people and governments of West Africa are demonstrating significant resilience. The world has a duty to provide the assistance for which they have asked, he added.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) announced that equipment is being airlifted into the affected countries this week to build logistics bases in more remote areas to be exclusively dedicated to the Ebola response.
  • A ship carrying some 7,000 metric tons of rice has arrived in Freetown, in Sierra Leone, from Cotonou in Benin. It will unload part of its cargo in Freetown before proceeding to Monrovia, in Liberia.
  • The Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, arrived in Guinea today. He is meeting with the authorities, including the President, on the way forward with the Ebola response, and to brief them on the operational plan that the Mission produced last week.
  • In Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) welcomed the donation by the government of Canada of 800 vials of an experimental vaccine against Ebola.
  • Clinical safety trials for this experimental Ebola vaccine have already begun in healthy human volunteers and will be completed around December 2014, after which efficacy trials will begin. WHO will facilitate the distribution of the vaccine to clinical test sites.
  • On Wednesday, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola is meeting for the third time. It is convened to look at the latest events and to advise whether or not the World Health Organization needs to change recommendations on travel and trade restrictions.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS CONGOLESE GOVERNMENT’S DECISION TO EXPEL HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL

  • In a statement today on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Secretary-General condemned the decision of the Government of DRC to expel from the country Mr. Scott Campbell, the Director of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office. He is also deeply concerned by recent threats against other staff of the Joint Office, in connection with their human rights work.
  • The Secretary-General recalled that the Congolese people have suffered grave human rights violations, which the Joint Office has, over the years, helped to document as it seeks to promote and protect their rights, while strengthening justice and accountability. Respect for human rights is absolutely essential for long-term peace and stability in the country.
  • The Joint Office and the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) as a whole are mandated by the Security Council to assist the Government of the DRC and its people in this regard. By impeding the UN's human rights work, the Government is failing to uphold its obligations. Doing so can only be harmful for the country's progress.
  • In keeping with the Human Rights Up Front Initiative, the Secretary-General reiterated that UN staff must never be threatened or sanctioned for doing their work, which is based on the UN Charter and, in this instance, mandated by the Security Council. He expressed his full confidence in Mr. Campbell.
  • He urged the Government of the DRC to reconsider its position on his expulsion and to take urgent action to address the threats against other staff. He encouraged the Security Council to consider the implications for its work and objectives when UN staff are treated in this manner, and to consider possible actions.  

SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL FOLLOWING VISIT TO MIDDLE EAST

  • The Secretary-General briefed the Security Council this morning on his recent visit to Israel and Palestine, and he told Council members that nothing could have prepared him for what he witnessed in Gaza.
  • Regarding attacks on United Nations facilities, the Secretary-General said that he is planning to move forward with an independent Board of Inquiry to look into the most serious cases, as well as instances in which weaponry was found in UN premises.
  • He said that he fully understands the security threat to Israel from rockets above and tunnels below. At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality and the need for accountability.
  • The Secretary-General also briefed the Security Council on Syria, noting that while last week he had called on all parties to step up to protect civilians in the town of Kobane. He added that a purely military response to the vicious new threat posed by Daesh could ultimately contribute to the radicalization of other Sunni armed groups and spark a cycle of renewed violence.
  • He added that in Lebanon, he is troubled by a dangerous escalation since August attacks by Daesh and Nusra Front on the town of Arsal.

U.N. AID CHIEF WARNS OF GRAVITY OF HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN SYRIA

  • After a two-day visit to Turkey, United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos reminded the international community of the gravity of Syria’s humanitarian crisis.
  • She called for additional support to people who have been displaced by fighting before the long winter sets in. She also called for more support to countries hosting Syrian refugees.
  • Almost 10 million people have been displaced internally or have left Syria altogether. In a matter of weeks, nearly 200,000 civilians have fled Syria into Turkey.
  • Ms. Amos stressed that the UN and its partners will continue to do all it can to help those in need but said that there is a limit to what the humanitarian community can do, and she called for an urgent political solution to the conflict.

U.N. ENVOY VISITS LEBANON’S BEKAA VALLEY

  • The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, today visited the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, and said that the UN will continue doing all it can to assist the country in confronting the impact of the crisis in Syria. That includes seeking additional international assistance to address the Syrian refugee crisis and for the Lebanese Armed Forces.
  • Mr. Plumbly saw for himself some of the present conditions of displaced Syrians there and met representatives of the Lebanese communities hosting them. After that, he met with representatives from the Lebanese army to learn about the situation along Lebanon’s eastern border.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR GENUINE DIALOGUE AHEAD OF BAHRAIN ELECTIONS

  • The Spokesman confirmed, in response to questions, that the Secretary-General has written to His Majesty King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, in advance of the elections scheduled for 22 October.  The Secretary-General has consistently called for a genuine and all-inclusive dialogue in Bahrain in the interest of peace, stability, reform and prosperity for all. 
  • The Secretary-General calls on the Government to continue to pursue a genuine dialogue with opposition societies and agree with them on a set of concrete steps towards meaningful reforms that are acceptable to all. The United Nations hopes that the Government will make further efforts to this end prior to the elections.   

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF DISARMAMENT RESEARCH

  • The Secretary-General has appointed Jarmo Sareva of Finland as the Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) for a period of one year. Mr. Sareva will succeed Theresa Hitchens of the United States to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her dedicated service and able leadership of UNIDIR.
  • Mr. Sareva has a wealth of experience both in the field of disarmament and with the UN disarmament machinery. He is currently the Deputy Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament and Director of the Conference on Disarmament Secretariat and Conference Support Branch (Geneva Branch) of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA).