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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 MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 18 OCTOBER 2011

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PRISONER RELEASES ARE “SIGNIFICANT HUMANITARIAN BREAKTHROUGH”

  • The Secretary-General welcomed the recent prisoner exchange agreement and views today's releases as a significant humanitarian breakthrough.  He has long called for the end of the unacceptable captivity of Gilad Shalit and has also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners.  For several years, the United Nations has actively supported channels of dialogue to resolve this issue.

  • The Secretary-General thanks Egypt for its contribution to this outcome, and Germany for its efforts. In the aftermath, the Secretary-General hopes that more far-reaching steps will be taken to end the closure of Gaza and enable reconstruction.  He continues to call in the same context for an end to the smuggling of weapons and a sustained calm between Israel and Gaza.

  • Before leaving Switzerland for New York, the Secretary-General was asked by a reporter about the releases and he expressed his sincere hope that today’s release would have a far-reaching and positive impact on the stalled Middle East peace process.

  • The Secretary-General reiterated his hope that, based on the Quartet statement that was issued on September 23, the two parties will return to negotiations so that they will be able to realize the vision of two States, Israeli and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

  • Asked about the question of statehood and membership to the United Nations for the Palestinians, the Spokesperson said that this was a question for Member States to determine. He noted that Member States are doing that in the framework of the Palestinian application to the United Nations through the Security Council.

  • Nesirky added that the United Nations has consistently supported a two-State solution, which should result from negotiations.

IN GENEVA, SECRETARY-GENERAL OUTLINES PRIORITIES FOR SECOND TERM

  • Today in Geneva, the Secretary-General spoke to the Executive Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and outlined his priorities for his second term in office.

  • He welcomed the UNECE’s practice of involving hundreds of national experts and practitioners from governments, academia and the business community in their deliberations.

  • The Secretary-General said many people are disillusioned with the established order; there is distrust in institutions and a general sense that the playing field is tilted in favour of entrenched interests and elites.

  • He went on to say he is particularly concerned over the uncertain prospect for job creation, especially for young people. Governments and business must work together to create a better environment and incentives for increasing employment opportunities. 

YEMEN: HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF CONDEMNS REPORTED KILLING OF PROTESTORS

  • The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned in the strongest terms the reported killing of a number of largely peaceful protestors in Sana’a and Taiz as a result of the indiscriminate use of force by Yemeni security forces since last Saturday. Hundreds of people were also reportedly injured.

  • The Human Rights Office expressed its concern that security forces in Yemen continue to use excessive force in a climate of complete impunity for crimes, resulting in heavy loss of life and injury, despite repeated pledges by the Government to the contrary. The Office reiterated its call for an international, independent, transparent investigation, for accountability and for justice.

  • It also called on the Government’s armed opponents to remove weapons from public spaces used by peaceful protestors, and to stop launching armed attacks from densely populated areas.

  • Asked about impunity in Yemen, the Spokesperson noted the statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that there should be no impunity in Yemen. In response to questions about recent media reports, Nesirky noted that the Secretary-General has not yet received a letter from the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner.

ASYLUM APPLICATIONS IN INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES INCREASE FOR FIRST HALF OF 2011

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that there has been a 17 per cent increase in asylum applications in industrialized countries in the first half of this year.

  • With application rates usually peaking in the second half of the year, the Agency forecasts that there may be 420,000 asylum applications lodged by the end of 2011 – the highest total in eight years.

  • In a new report, the Agency says that this year has seen major forced displacement crises in West, North and East Africa, but that the impact of these events on application rates in industrialized countries has been limited.

  • It says that the main countries of origin of asylum-seekers remain largely unchanged, with many coming from Afghanistan, China and Serbia.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS THAT AID SHOULD NOT BE FIRST TARGET OF AUSTERITY MEASURES

  • The Deputy Secretary-General addressed a high-level symposium on the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum in Luxembourg today.

  • She told participants that, as countries around the world develop fiscal austerity measures, aid budgets are often the first targets. We must resist this trend, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed, adding that development commitments should be kept.

  • The President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Lazaroud Kapambwe, also spoke at the event.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

TRIAL OF FOUR DEFENDANTS IN CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY CASE TO START ON 21 NOVEMBER IN CAMBODIA: The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today announced that the opening statements in the trial of four defendants charged with crimes against humanity and genocide will begin on 21 November. The hearing of evidence in the case, known as Case 002, will begin on 28 November.

U.N.E.P. TO HOLD TWO-DAY EVENT ON MARKET STABILITY, FINANCIAL SUSTAINABILITY: A summit on market stability and financial sustainability held b the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Finance Initiative will kick off tomorrow in Washington DC. Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former Irish President Mary Robinson will be among the more than 100 speakers taking part in the two-day event.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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