HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
WEDNESDAY, 15 JANUARY 2014
NIGERIA: SECRETARY-GENERAL FEARS NEW ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW COULD FUEL PREJUDICE, VIOLENCE
- In a statement, the Secretary-General says that he shares the deep concern expressed on Tuesday by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, following the recent signing into law of the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act in Nigeria. The law introduces a wide range of offences, in breach of fundamental human rights, including 14-year jail terms for same-sex couples who live together or attempt to solemnize their union with a ceremony.
- The Secretary-General fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them. As UNAIDS and the Global Fund noted in a statement on Tuesday, the law also risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS.
- The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination. This fundamental principle is embedded in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The Secretary-General strongly hopes that the constitutionality of the law can be reviewed. The United Nations stands ready to assist Nigeria in any way to bring about constructive dialogue and change on this matter.
SYRIAN PEOPLE ARE NOT FORGOTTEN, BAN KI-MOON SAYS AS PLEDGING CONFERENCES RAISES $2.4 BILLION
- The Secretary-General spoke at the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which has been taking place today in Kuwait City, and said that the world was sending a message to the Syrian people that they are not forgotten.
- The conference raised more than $2.4 billion. The Secretary-General said the United Nations would make the best use of this money to provide food, water, shelter, emergency treatment and other supplies and services to millions of people in need.
- He said the international community responded generously at this conference and he was now calling on all concerned to step up efforts to bring the parties together. He also called on all parties to respond to today's generosity by letting relief aid reach all besieged areas.
- Earlier today, he met the Emir of Kuwait and thanked him for his outstanding commitment to Syrian relief efforts through Kuwait's $500 million pledge today.
- And on the margins of the pledging conference, the Secretary-General also held a series of bilateral meetings with delegations present in Kuwait City, including with the Secretary of State of the United States, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
- The Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday.
- Asked about new allegations of the use of chemical weapons, the Spokesperson noted that the investigation into earlier allegations has been completed, and the team’s final report had been delivered. He noted the difference between that team’s work and the work of the Joint Mission dealing with the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
U.N. RELIEF CHIEF URGES END TO INDISCRIMINATE ATTACKS, UNHINDERED PASSAGE OF AID
- Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos also addressed the Conference in Kuwait today and told participants that, as the violence intensifies and the situation on the ground becomes more complex, people are becoming increasingly desperate. She said that she was deeply troubled by the persistent reports of people running out of food in besieged communities, where some 245,000 people live.
- Ms. Amos also said that, despite the call by the UN Security Council for an end to indiscriminate attacks and for the unhindered passage of humanitarian aid, we have yet to see any major difference on the ground.
U.N. AGENCY EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED THAT AID CONVOY TO SYRIA’S YARMOUK CAMP HAD TO TURN BACK
- The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, has expressed its profound disappointment that one of its convoys had to turn back on Monday after unsuccessfully trying to gain access to the Yarmouk camp in Syria.
- The convoy on Monday comprised six small trucks with food for 6,000 people, along with 10,000 doses of polio vaccine and some medical supplies. It had to turn back when a bulldozer that was clearing the road ahead of the convoy was fired upon, with subsequent firing taking place nearby.
- When Syrian authorities gave the Relief and Works Agency clearance to deliver assistance to Yarmouk, they required it to use the southern entrance to the camp. This meant the convoy had to drive some 20 kilometres through an area of intense and frequent armed conflict.
- This is an extremely disappointing setback for the residents of Yarmouk, who continue to live in inhumanely wretched conditions. The Relief and Works Agency remains undaunted by these frustrating impediments and is already pressing the Syrian authorities to support a further attempt to deliver humanitarian assistance to Yarmouk.
- The Secretary-General is similarly concerned and frustrated and has called, in Kuwait City, for access to all besieged areas.
- The Spokesperson added that the UN system, including the Security Council, has been putting as much pressure as it can on all sides to provide humanitarian access to places like Yarmouk.
- UNRWA will continue to work with the Syrian authorities and liaise with other groups to seek access to that camp. It is primarily in the Syrian authorities’ hands to allow access to Yarmouk Camp.
SOUTH SUDAN: CIVILIAN SHELTERING AT U.N. BASE KILLED BY GUNFIRE
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that one civilian seeking shelter in its Malakal base, in Upper Nile State, was killed by bullets after gunfire entered the UN base there yesterday. Dozens of civilians and a UN military officer suffered gunshot wounds inside the base yesterday and received medical attention at the Mission’s hospital. The Mission said that peacekeepers fired multiple rounds of gunfire to deter anyone engaged in fighting from coming too close to its base, in order to protect civilians.
- Today, the Mission reports that the fighting has stopped in Malakal, but the situation remains fluid. The Mission says that sporadic gunfire can still be heard some distance from the UN base, where it is now protecting some 20,000 civilians.
- The Mission also continues to report loud explosions and gunfire in the vicinity of its base in Bor, where it is protecting 9,000 civilians within the UN base. Meanwhile, in Bentiu, 6,000 civilians are seeking shelter within the UN base.
- In a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General called on all parties to cease hostilities and urged them to engage constructively with the negotiation process being led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
ON ANNIVERSARY OF RWANDA GENOCIDE, DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL POINTS TO SOUTH SUDAN AS POSITIVE EXAMPLE
- The Deputy Secretary-General spoke at an event on genocide this morning, held on the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, and he said that the consequences of failing to heed the warning signs in Rwanda were monumentally horrifying. He said that we must never forget the collective failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide.
- At the same time, the Deputy Secretary-General pointed to improvements in efforts to protect civilians, saying that we need look no further than South Sudan today for an example of dedication and innovation in protecting people. He said that, in spite of a tragically great number of people being killed in the conflict, thousands of civilians are alive today because they have sought shelter inside United Nations compounds and have been provided with protection and assistance.
- The Deputy Secretary-General called for greater effort to take action against atrocities. He said that over the last few weeks alone, men, women and children have been slaughtered not only in South Sudan but also in the Central African Republic and in the nightmare of Syria.
- Asked about the hosting of civilians at UN compounds, the Spokesperson noted, in the context of the UN Rights Up Front initiative, the importance of protecting the rights of all people. The situation in South Sudan has been one test case for the Rights Up Front plan.
- Nesirky said that in South Sudan, the United Nations is currently hosting thousands of civilians in places that were not designed to do that; yet people felt safe and secure in the UN compounds.
- He added that the Deputy Secretary-General had spoken about how the United Nations has tried to learn from the failures of Rwanda and Srebrenica, among others.
- The Spokesperson added that the UN system is also focusing on how to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, as part of its effort to sound the alarm earlier and more loudly about crises and encourage international action at an earlier stage.
TOP U.N. OFFICIAL URGES GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY FOR RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN AFRICA’S GREAT LAKES REGION
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging leaders attending a major summit in Africa’s Great Lakes region to ensure that those suspected of committing international crimes and serious rights violations do not continue escaping justice by crossing borders.
- Navi Pillay says that the high-level meeting of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) under way in the Angolan capital, Luanda, is an opportunity for countries to advance the fight against impunity.
- The meeting’s goals are the promotion of peace, security, stability and development, and Ms. Pillay says that they will be achieved only if those responsible for violence and illegal economic exploitation are held to account.
- Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, is also in Luanda and spoke at the meeting.
U.N. MISSION INVESTIGATING CRASH OF UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson confirmed that this morning in Goma, an unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) belonging to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) veered off the runway and crashed while landing. The incident did not result in injuries or damage to property, except to the UAV.
- The Mission is working with the company which provides the UAV services, SELEX, to repair the unmanned UAV. The Mission is also investigating the cause of the incident.
- The Mission continues to use its remaining UAV for surveillance operations.
- MONUSCO's UAV capacity will reach its full operational capability of 5 UAVs by April this year.
- The Spokesperson added that the cost of repair is covered by the contractor.
HUNDREDS OF FINANCIAL LEADERS GATHER AT U.N. TO DISCUSS CLIMATE CHANGE
- Today, more than 500 global financial leaders are gathering at the United Nations to discuss the growing urgency of climate change and investor actions that are needed to solving the climate crisis.
- The all-day gathering includes key players in the climate debate and is co-hosted by CERES and the UN Foundation.