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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 FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 8 JANUARY 2014

HEAD OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS MISSION UPDATES SECURITY COUNCIL ON PROGRESS IN SYRIA

  • Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator heading the Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations that is working in Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning in its closed consultations about the Joint Mission’s work.
  • Ms. Kaag also updated reporters following the meeting on the progress the Joint Mission has been making on the ground in Syria.
  • The Joint Mission informed the Secretary-General on Tuesday of the further progress that has been made towards the removal and elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
  • In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary-General welcomed the continuing progress in the international effort to eliminate the chemical weapons programme of the Syrian Arab Republic, as demonstrated by this latest achievement.
  • Asked about invitations to the Geneva Conference for Syria, the Spokesperson said that 30 other countries besides Syria had been invited, and that three international or regional organizations besides the United Nations had been invited, as well.
  • In response to questions, he noted that Iran was not included in the invitations that have been sent.
  • Haq said that the Secretary-General and Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi have consistently expressed their view that Iran, as a regional power with influence on the Syrian conflict, can contribute to the solution of the Syrian conflict and should therefore be invited to the Conference, along with other regional powers.
  • Asked whether the Syrian opposition would agree to send a delegation, the Spokesperson noted the numerous meetings among and between various opposition groups, in preparation for the Conference.
  • He said that the United Nations urges the Syrian opposition to name their broadly representative delegation as soon as possible, so as to allow sufficient time to prepare for negotiations.
  • Asked whether the invited parties need to commit themselves to the terms of the Geneva Communiqué, Haq said that the point of the conference was to move forward in implementing the vision of the Communiqué, notably of an end to fighting and the seating of a transitional government with executive authority.
  • Asked about the situation at Yarmouk Camp, he said that the UN system, and particularly the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), had been pushing for humanitarian access to the camp for many months. The Secretary-General has called on all sides to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law.

U.N. WORKING TO ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE FOR AID TO REACH IRAQ’S ANBAR PROVINCE

  • Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said that the United Nations is working closely with the Iraqi national and regional authorities, as well as with humanitarian partners, to ensure safe passage for humanitarian assistance and emergency supplies to the stranded and displaced families of Anbar province.
  • Mr. Mladenov said that there is a critical humanitarian situation in Anbar province, which is likely to worsen as operations continue. The UN agencies are working to identify the needs of the population and prepare medical supplies, food and non-food items for distribution if safe passage can be ensured.
  • He expressed particular concern about the situation in Fallujah, as existing stocks of food, water and life-saving medicines begin to run out.
  • According to preliminary assessments, more than 5,000 families have fled the fighting and sought refuge in neighbouring provinces and elsewhere. The United Nations is working with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to identify their needs and meet them immediately.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. ENVOY VISITS CITY OF MALAKAL, SCENE OF RECENT FIGHTING

  • In South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Hilde Johnson, visited the city of Malakal in Upper Nile State today, where there has been fighting in recent weeks.
  • Ms. Johnson met with internally displaced persons in the UN base in Malakal, where the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is protecting more than 12,000 civilians, including those receiving medical treatment in the UN clinic on the base. She also met with UN staff managing the Malakal operations, to assess the current challenges and Mission response.
  • Meanwhile, the Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, is in Bentiu in Unity State today, to assess the humanitarian situations and the UN response there. There are reports of large movements of civilians in the area.
  • The Mission also reports that the situation in Juba continues to be tense. In addition to protecting civilians in its bases, UN troops continue patrols in the capital.
  • The Mission also says that there is continued instability, fighting and mobilization of armed forces in a number of locations, including around Bor in Jonglei State and in areas in Unity and Upper Nile States.
  • Overall the Mission continues to protect approximately 62,000 civilians in its bases, with humanitarian actors providing relief and support. This includes nearly 30,000 at its two Juba bases.

MORE THAN 200,000 PEOPLE UPROOTED IN SOUTH SUDAN, U.N. RELIEF ARM REPORTS

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that an estimated 201,000 people have been internally displaced by the current crisis in South Sudan since 15 December.
  • Some 85,000 people are estimated to be displaced in Mingkaman and surrounding areas in Awerial County, Lakes State.
  • The Office says that food, healthcare, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene remain the top priorities for humanitarian response. Aid agencies are also doing contingency planning for any potential additional displacement in the coming weeks, and for the rainy season starting in May.
  • The Office also says that humanitarian access continues to be constrained by active hostilities, attacks on aid workers and assets, interference with humanitarian activities and other obstacles. It adds that humanitarian flights into Bor have been severely disrupted as a result of the fighting in the area.
  • Aid agencies continue to engage with all parties to the hostilities to secure safe access to civilians in need.

AT HANDOVER CEREMONY, BAN KI-MOON LAUDS ROLE OF G77, CHINA IN ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

  • The Secretary-General attended the annual handover ceremony of the Group of 77 and China’s Chairmanship.
  • In his remarks at the ceremony, the Secretary-General thanked the outgoing Chair, Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, and welcomed President Evo Morales Ayma of Bolivia as the new Chair of the Group. 
  • The Secretary-General said that the Group of 77 and China represents the aspirations of billions of the world’s least privileged people. He added that we will all benefit from the Group’s unity and combined contribution to achieving a sustainable future. He also encouraged the Group to engage in the Climate Change Summit that he is convening in September and to do more to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

SITUATION IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC STILL VOLATILE – U.N. AID WING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the situation in the Central African Republic remains volatile.
  • On Tuesday, humanitarian actors launched the first joint distribution of food and non-food items to 100,000 internally displaced people at Bangui International Airport. The food distributions resumed after a three-week break because of insecurity at the site.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) worked with the UN refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs over the last weeks to organize secure distributions of food and other assistance at the airport.
  • Food rations have already been distributed to 5,490 people on the first day. In total, 20,000 households will receive food, shelter and basic household items, such as sleeping mats, plastic sheeting and buckets, in the coming days.
  • Meanwhile, the emergency vaccination campaign is continuing against measles. The campaign was launched on 3 January in four sites for displaced people where cases were reported.
  • Vaccinations at the airport were expected to start today after a delay due to insecurity.

UNITED NATIONS IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIGITAL

  • In response to questions about letters being sent to UN staff working in publishing, the Spokesperson noted that, during his first term, the Secretary-General unveiled his vision of a digital Secretariat, one that would service UN Member States in an efficient and effective manner by the use of modern technologies.
  • He said that the Secretariat was progressing well in aspects of implementing this vision, but that such fundamental structural changes come with a price.
  • More than 200 posts were abolished with the current budget. In one case, 59 posts were abolished in the Publishing Section of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), and this comes on top of 41 posts abolished last biennium.
  • So far, Haq said, none of the 100 affected staff members have involuntarily left the Organization. Managers in DGACM and the Office of Human Resources Management have vigorously worked on finding acceptable solutions for all and will continue to do so with compassion.
  • He added that many of the affected staff members have already a secure place, either a new post in the Secretariat or in retirement. UN managers will continue to energetically find solutions for all of the affected staff.

UNION: FIFTY-EIGHT U.N. PERSONNEL KILLED LAST YEAR

  • The Standing Committee for the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service of the United Nations Staff Union says that 33 peacekeepers and 25 civilians and associated personnel were killed in 2013. 
  • The civilian fatalities included nine staff members, four security officers and 12 contractors.