HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
MONDAY, 21 JANUARY 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES GREATER SUPPORT FOR U.N. PEACEKEEPING
- The Secretary-General spoke at an open debate of the Security Council this morning on UN peacekeeping, and he urged Member States to provide the personnel and assets that the United Nations needs to operate in ever more challenging environments.
- He said that the United Nations will conduct periodic reviews of its missions, to ensure that we have the right mix of skills and capabilities to respond to evolving mandates and changing conditions on the ground.
- The Secretary-General noted that the Security Council, in a resolution today, is emphasizing that national governments have the primary responsibility for identifying peacebuilding priorities. He said that host states are ultimately responsible for ensuring the protection of civilians, and effective national institutions are essential to this effort.
- The Secretary-General said that the UN’s national counterparts must take this obligation seriously, as peacekeeping operations can never act as their surrogate in protecting the civilians within their borders.
U.N. TEAM VISITS SYRIA
- A team from seven United Nations humanitarian agencies, led by Operations Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, has visited Homs in Syria and this morning crossed conflict lines into the city of Talbiseh, which has been battered by more than twenty months of violence. The visit was coordinated with both the Government and the Opposition.
- The delegation, which is in Syria to assess humanitarian needs and identify ways to increase access to people in need in all areas of the country, said it was shocked by what they saw in Talbiseh and Homs.
- The delegation met with people in dire need of food, healthcare and access to clean water. They also met children, who have been particularly affected by the fighting and urgently need psychosocial support and access to school.
- John Ging said he was "encouraged that the delegation was able to cross the conflict lines, which demonstrates that, where there is political will, there is a way to ensure that international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles are upheld, even during such intense conflict." However, he emphasized that "the humanitarian needs are enormous” and that we must find ways to immediately increase the scale of operations.
- In response to questions, the Spokesperson confirmed that Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, would meet the Secretary-General and other senior officials today. Mr. Brahimi and the Secretary-General would also have a joint phone call with Nabil Elaraby, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.
- Mr. Brahimi will also brief the Security Council on 29 January, the Spokesperson said.
- Asked about criticisms of Mr. Brahimi, Nesirky said that he had the full support of the Secretary-General.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPLAUDS REFORMS UNDER WAY IN ARAB WORLD
- The Secretary-General conveyed a message to the Third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Riyadh today, in which he applauded many of the reforms that are under way in the region.
- Across the region, he said, the challenge now is to deepen and broaden reform efforts. In particular, a new and more hopeful era for the Arab world demands that youth and women have opportunities to realize their aspirations. When Arab women enjoy their rights and realize their full potential, they will unleash enormous progress in their communities and countries.
- At the same time, he said, the region faces significant challenges. Growing unemployment and economic marginalization have fuelled discontent. He said that, in order to address longstanding inequalities, we need mechanisms that will increase political participation and strengthen social safety nets to protect and empower the poor.
TORTURE PERSIS IN AFGHANISTAN – U.N. REPORT
- The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) said, in a report released today, that torture persists and remains a serious concern in numerous detention facilities across Afghanistan.
- The Mission found that more than half of 635 conflict-related detainees whom it interviewed experienced ill-treatment and torture, particularly in 34 facilities of the Afghan National Police (ANP) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS). This took place despite significant efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and international partners to address ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees,
- Ján Kubiš, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that the report’s findings are a cause for serious concern.
- He said that, although the Government’s attention and efforts to address abusive practices are visible and encouraging and have produced some positive results, the system is not robust enough to eliminate ill-treatment of detainees. Clearly more needs to be done to end and prevent torture. We have more details in my office. And that’s also available online.
DARFUR: AFRICAN UNION-U.N. MISSION DELIVERS HUMANITARIAN AID
- The African Union–United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has delivered more nearly 456 tons of urgent humanitarian aid, by land and air, to thousands of civilians who were displaced in North Darfur during the past several days.
- The aid, provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). It consists of non-food items such as plastic tarps, sleeping mats, blankets and water purification equipment.
- In addition to logistical support, the Mission has been providing security escorts to humanitarian workers to enable them to carry out their duties.
- The Mission has also been supporting in mediation efforts to reduce the tensions in Jabel Amir.
AFRICAN UNION-U.N.-BACKED PEACE TALKS UNDER WAY IN DARFUR
- Peace negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement Sudan were launched yesterday in Doha, under the auspices of Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and the Acting Joint Special Representative of the African Union–United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) who is also Joint Chief Mediator.
- The head of the Mission commended both parties for having kept their promise to return to negotiations on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD). She said that the African Union, the United Nations and other national and international actors stand ready to assist the parties.
U.N. FOLLOWING EVENTS IN SERBIA’S PRESEVO VALLEY
- Asked about recent protests in Serbia, the Spokesperson noted that the United Nations is following developments in Serbia's Presevo Valley and is appealing for calm.
- The UN has consistently underscored the need for internal and regional reconciliation in the Western Balkans, he said.
- This point has been emphasised during recent meetings between the Secretary-General and senior officials of the region, including Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and representatives of the Kosovo authorities.
- The Spokesperson added that peaceful protest should be allowed.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES MYANMAR CEASE-FIRE
- The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Government of Myanmar on Friday of a cease-fire in Kachin and has been following the various reports from the ground on its implementation.
- He calls upon both sides to make serious effort to create conditions for sustained peace in Kachin through enhanced confidence building measures and political dialogue. He also calls for renewed access to vulnerable civilian populations in the area to enable the supply of humanitarian assistance to them.
HOLOCAUST EXHBITS TO OPEN AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS
- The Department of Public Information (DPI) will host two exhibit openings tomorrow evening at United Nations Headquarters in New York on the occasion of the 2013 International Day of Holocaust Remembrance, whose theme this year is “Rescue during the Holocaust: The Courage to Care.”
SECRETARY-GENERAL’S FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE OF 2013 TO BE HELD TOMROROW: The Secretary-General give his first press conference of the year tomorrow at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
U.N. PROVIDED TECHINCAL, LOGISTICAL SUPPORT TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCERT: In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations provided technical and logistical support to the 14 January concert that took place in the General Assembly. There were some costs associated with UN support, in the realm of $26,000.
U.N. SEEKING FURTHER SAVINGS: Asked about the UN budget, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General submitted a budget outline for the next biennium, but the General Assembly asked for additional savings to be identified for 2014-2015. As a result, a directive has gone out for further savings to be identified among UN offices.