HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 11 OCTOBER 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES CHEMICAL WEAPONS ORGANISATION FOR RECEIVING NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
- The Secretary-General congratulated the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for being awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize today. He extended his warmest respects to the Organisation’s Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, with whom he spoke by phone. He noted that this recognition occurs nearly 100 years after the first chemical attack and 50 days after the appalling use of chemical weapons in Syria. Far from being a relic of the past, chemical weapons remain a clear and present danger.
- He noted that, later on Friday, the Security Council is expected to approve a first-of-its-kind OPCW-UN Joint Mission in Syria following the landmark work of the UN Chemical Weapons Investigation Mission.
- The Secretary-General said that the OPCW has greatly strengthened the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. But progress in achieving the total destruction of chemical weapons must be complemented by efforts to gain universal adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
- He added that, from the battlefields to the laboratories to the negotiating table, the United Nations is honoured to work hand-in-hand with the OPCW to eliminate the threat posed by chemical weapons for all people and for all time. Together, we must ensure that the fog of war will never again be composed of poison gas.
SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS PRESIDENT OF MYANMAR, SULTAN OF BRUNEI
- The Secretary-General headed back to New York from Brunei on Friday.
- Earlier on Friday, he met with the Sultan of Brunei, whom he congratulated on the successful conclusion of Brunei's chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
- The Secretary-General also met in Brunei with U Thein Sein, the President of Myanmar. They discussed Myanmar’s transition process and the human rights situation and the ASEAN-UN partnership.
- The Secretary-General congratulated the President on the progress made on the areas of democratisation, national reconciliation and socio-economic development. He also called on the Government to continue its efforts to address communal violence, urging strong action to ensure that the rule of law is maintained and that true reconciliation takes place.
- On his way back to New York, the Secretary-General stopped off in Singapore, where he met with senior officials from the country's Foreign Ministry. He is due back in New York on Saturday.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS TEAM MAKES PROGRESS IN VERIFYING INFORMATION FROM SYRIA
- The advance team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations has made good progress in verifying the information submitted by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic on its chemical weapons programme. At the end of the first ten days of operations on the ground, the verification teams have inspected three sites and plans are underway for further site visits.
- A second group of OPCW inspectors and more UN support staff have arrived in Damascus, bringing to about 60 the number of people on the advance team.
- As the OPCW has received initial and supplementary information from Syria on its chemical weapons programme, the advance team is now in the process of verifying that information. It has also overseen the destruction by Syria of some of its munitions stockpile, as well as some of its chemical weapons production equipment.
- Asked about a recent human rights report concerning alleged atrocities by Syrian rebels, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has said that there should be no impunity for crimes committed against civilians by any of the parties.
- Haq added that the violence was another reason for the need to cease the fighting and revitalise the diplomatic process. He noted that the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was working to arrange an International Conference on Syria, with the intention of holding it in Geneva by mid-November.
- Asked about arms to the parties, Haq said that all the parties had been linked to killings of civilians and that the Secretary-General opposed the further militarization of the conflict in Syria.
- Asked when the OPCW-UN team would be expanded, the Spokesperson referred to the recommendations made by the Secretary-General in his recent letter to the Security Council.
SYRIAN CHILDREN FACE FOOD AND HEALTHCARE CHALLENGES, SAYS U.N. RELIEF OFFICE
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that soaring food prices, the unavailability of food for children, displacement and loss of income have made it difficult to provide Syrian children with adequate healthcare and nutrition.
- The number of children admitted to hospitals with severe or acute malnutrition has reportedly increased in Aleppo, Dar’a Deir-ez-Zor, Hama, Homs and other areas. Humanitarian partners report that six children have died from malnutrition in the past month in Moadamyieh, Rural Damascus.
IRAQ: U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE CONCERNED OVER EXECUTIONS BY IRAQI AUTHORITIES
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its concern that, over the past two days, the Iraqi authorities have executed at least 42 individuals, including one woman, on terrorism charges.
- The Office says that number of people who have been executed in Iraq has risen from 18 in 2010 to 67 in 2011, 123 in 2012 and 140 so far this year, with almost a quarter of the year still to go.
- The High Commissioner’s Office calls on the Government of Iraq to halt all executions immediately, and to review and commute the sentences of the hundreds of other people who are believed to be on death row in Iraq.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION CALLS FOR MERCURY-FREE HEALTHCARE BY 2020
- The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Friday for the phase out of mercury fever thermometers and blood pressure measuring devices by 2020.
- The initiative called Mercury-Free Healthcare by 2020 was launched to mark the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
- The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said that mercury is one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern. It poses a particular threat to the development of the child in utero and early in life.
U.N. DEVISING CONCRETE ACTIONS TO FOLLOW UP ON INTERNAL REPORT ON SRI LANKA
- Asked about follow-up to the Internal Review Panel on Sri Lanka, the Spokesperson said that, based on the Panel, the Deputy Secretary-General has now put together concrete actions that will put human rights responsibilities at the centre of UN thinking; provide for better collection of human rights information; have a straightforward crisis management system to ensure clear responsibilities; enable the better gathering of political support from Member States; and allow for improved action on the ground.
- The Secretary-General has asked the Deputy Secretary-General to lead implementation of these actions, and he will be tracking the work in all these areas closely.
- Asked about information on the follow-up process, Haq said that the UN Secretariat would continue to brief Member States, the NGO community and the media on its implementation of the recommendations stemming from the Internal Review Panel on UN Action in Sri Lanka. He noted that the Panel report and the recommendations were made public.
- He added that a summary of the Action Plan and an update were being prepared.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS WORK OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
- Asked about criticism of the International Criminal Court, the Spokesperson recalled the Secretary-General’s support of the International Criminal Court for its role in the efforts of the international community to ensure accountability and to end impunity for the most serious crimes of international concern.
- In response to questions about Kenya’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute for the Court, Haq said that the process of withdrawal was not yet complete.
RIGHTS COMMISSIONER STANDS FOR VICTIMS’ RIGHTS: Asked about recent comments by Navi Pillay on Haiti, the Spokesperson said that the role of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is to stand for the rights of victims, and her comments should be understood in that context. As there are legal processes under way, he declined any further comment on this particular situation.
U.N. MISSION PROVIDES INFORMATION ON M23 ARMS DEPOT: Asked about reports of arming by the M23, the Spokesperson said that the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, informed the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism of the existence of a logistical and arms depot under M23 control in North Kivu. The Mission formally requested the Mechanism to investigate it, and in particular to assess whether there has been a violation of the arms embargo and to determine the origins of the weapons and ammunition.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
12 – 18 OCTOBER 2013
(This document is for planning purposes and is subject to change.)
Saturday, 12 October
There are no major events scheduled for today.
Sunday, 13 October
Today is International Day for Disaster Reduction.
Monday, 14 October
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 6 in the North Lawn Building (NLB), there will be a briefing on the Trade and Development Report 2013, organized by the New York Office of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
At 1:15 p.m., in the Economic and Social Council Chamber in the Conference Building (CB), there will be the Commemoration of Mwalimu Nyerere Day, organized by the Permanent Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania.
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room E (NLB), there will be an informal briefing on “Reporting to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms and to the United Nations Report on Military Expenditures”, organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA).
In Geneva, the Human Rights Committee will begin its 109th session. It will end on 1 November.
In Geneva, the GAVI Alliance will hold a press conference on the plan to immunize a quarter of a billion children by 2015 and prevent 4 million deaths.
In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) will hold a pre-launch press briefing on the 2013 World Disasters Report – Focus on technology and the future of humanitarian action. Advance copy of the embargoed report was made available to the press.
Tuesday, 15 October
Today is International Day of Rural Women.
Today is an official holiday (Eid al-Adha) at the United Nations.
Wednesday, 16 October
Today is World Food Day.
In the morning, the Security Council will be briefed on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), followed by consultations.
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 6 (NLB), there will be a panel discussion on “Human rights of women in prison: A Toolbox to implement the United Nations Bangkok Rules”, co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Thailand, Penal Reform International (PRI) and the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ).
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 7 (NLB), there will be a panel discussion on “Transparency in military expenditures”, organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA).
Thursday, 17 October
Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
At 10:00 a.m., in the UNICEF House Exhibition Space: Danny Kaye Centre, there will be a panel discussion on “People’s Voices”, focused on on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty’s theme, the Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015.
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 2 (CB), there will be the Observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2013 on the theme “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty”, co-organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the International Movement ATD Fourth World and the NGO Sub-committee for the Eradication of Poverty.
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 3 (CB), there will be a special event on “Fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT): the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and Beyond”, co-organized by United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and the Permanent Missions of Canada and the Netherlands.
At 1:30 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, there will be a discussion and screening of the documentary film entitled “The Bangkok Rules: United Nations Standards for Women in Prison” in the context of the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (A/RES/65/232), co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Thailand, the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), and the United Nations Women’s Guild.
In Geneva, there will be a commemoration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty with the non-governmental organization “ATD Fourth World”. The theme for this year’s observance is “Working together towards a world without discrimination: building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty”.
In Geneva, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO) will hold a press briefing on the release of the latest IARC Monographs evaluation, Monograph Volume 109, on Ambient Air Pollution, under embargo.
Friday, 18 October
In the morning, the Security Council will hold an Open Debate on women and peace and security.
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 6 (NLB), there will be a high-level panel discussion on “Taking action against the gender-related killings of women and girls”, co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Austria, Argentina and Thailand, the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), and the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ).
At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 7 (NLB), there will be a panel discussion on “Nuclear weapons and international law”, organized by the Permanent Missions of New Zealand and Switzerland.