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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
ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

FRIDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2012

SECRETARY-GENERAL BRIEFS MEMBER STATES ON STORM SANDY, SAYS EXTREME WEATHER IS ‘NEW NORMAL’

  • The Secretary-General briefed the Member States this morning on how the UN system handled the storm Sandy as it moved from the Caribbean into the United States, even affecting UN Headquarters itself. He noted that storms and emergencies pose great tests and challenge, and emergency situations can lay bare where we may have been operating on flawed assumptions and must do better.
  • In this case, the Secretary-General said, the United Nations continued to provide its vital global services despite major disruptions.  At the same time, where there were mistakes, there must be lessons. He said that the United Nations is looking closely into what worked and what did not during the response, and is determined to fix whatever went wrong.
  • He said that in the United States, more than 100 people lost their lives and many families remain without power. In the Caribbean, five million people were affected and 72 people died. He has spoken to the leaders of the affected countries and regions and offered UN help, as needed.
  • The Secretary-General told the Member States that we all know the difficulties in attributing any single storm to climate change.  But we also know this: extreme weather due to climate change is the new normal. This may be an uncomfortable truth, he said, but it is one we ignore at our peril.
  • Asked about problems communication with UN Missions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had told the Member States that the Secretariat made efforts to reach out to staff and delegations, including through the emergency information website and the telephone hotline, and by email to Permanent Missions. But the Secretary-General added that too many email addresses were out of date or otherwise incorrect.
  • The Secretariat, Haq said, would look into the problems and report back to Member States by the end of the month.

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES READINESS OF AUSTRALIA TO JOIN SECOND COMMITMENT PERIOD OF KYOTO PROTOCOL

  • The Secretary-General welcomes the readiness of the Australian Government to join a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and congratulates Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her leadership.
  • Addressing climate change is fundamental for achieving sustainable development.  Urgent action is needed.
  • The Secretary-General calls on all governments to take decisive steps against climate change at the upcoming Climate Change Conference, in Doha, Qatar.

SYRIA: NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN NEED COULD RISE TO 4 MILLION BY EARLY NEXT YEAR

  • The Fifth Syria Humanitarian Forum took place in Geneva this morning, with some 400 participants, including representatives of Member States.
  • The meeting was co-chaired by John Ging, Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) along with the Director-General of the European Union aid arm, Claus Sorensen, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
  • The UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator, Radhouane Nouicer, gave an update on the overall humanitarian situation.
  • Mr. Ging highlighted the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria, saying that the number of people in need could rise from 2.5 million to 4 million by early next year.
  • According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of refugees in neighbouring countries could reach 700,000 people by early next year, as well.
  • Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, concluded her three-day visit to Lebanon and Jordan. Today, she visited the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. She said that WFP was committed to working with NGO partners and sister UN agencies to improve the difficult living conditions of Syrian refugees.
  • In response to questions about the activities of the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Spokesperson said that the Joint Special Representative was in Cairo, where he had been meeting with officials from various countries.
  • Mr. Brahimi was expected to travel in the region next week and to come to New York by the end of November.
  • Asked about reports of atrocities by some opposition groups, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had called on the Government and the opposition to abide by international human rights law. All human rights violations were deplorable.
  • He added, in response to further questions, that the United Nations was focusing on ending the fighting and moving towards negotiations so that the Syrian people themselves could decide who could represent them.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF URGES SOUTH SUDAN TO REVERSE EXPULSION ORDER AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICER

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, urged the Government of South Sudan today to reverse its expulsion order against a senior UN human rights officer working for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which she said was in breach of international agreements.
  • Ms. Pillay said that in the two weeks since the expulsion, the authorities have so far not provided the UN with any satisfactory evidence of serious misconduct by the staff member in question. She also said that the reasoning given by the authorities when they announced that the staff member in question had 48 hours to leave the country, accusing her of misinforming the international community about human rights abuses, was “utterly unsatisfactory and unacceptable,” and appeared to relate to the staff member’s core work as a human rights officer.
  • “The importance of allowing human rights staff to implement the full human rights mandate granted by the Security Council, including human rights monitoring, investigation, reporting and capacity-building, cannot be overemphasized,” the High Commissioner said. “Any attempt at undermining part of a Mission’s core mandate is a direct threat to the integrity and the independence of the United Nations.”

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WARNS OF SPREAD OF HEPATITIS E IN SOUTH SUDAN

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that its capacity to contain an outbreak of hepatitis E among the refugee population in South Sudan is increasingly stretched because of depleted funding. 
  • UNHCR and partners are fighting an outbreak of Hepatitis E in Upper Nile and Unity states, two regions where the disease is endemic and where 175,000 Sudanese refugees are settled.
  • UNHCR says its operation in South Sudan is seriously underfunded and that it needs a minimum of $20 million until the end of the year to keep up basic lifesaving activities.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SPEAK AT YALE UNIVERSITY NEXT WEEK

  • The Secretary-General will travel to New Haven, Connecticut, on Tuesday 13 November.
  • He will speak at Yale University on the theme “Shaping Solutions for a World in Transition”. The Secretary-General will return to New York the same day.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO TRAVEL TO DUBAI, ADDIS ABABA

  • The Deputy Secretary-General will travel this weekend to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to deliver keynote remarks at the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2012. That Forum is being co-hosted by the Government of the United Arab Emirates on 12-14 November 2012.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will then travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to co-chair the 13th Session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism of UN Agencies and Organizations Working in Africa in support of the African Union. That meeting will take place in Addis Ababa on 14-15 November.
  • While in the UAE and Ethiopia, the Deputy Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with senior government officials. He will also meet with the leadership of the African Union Commission while in Addis Ababa.
  • The Deputy Secretary-General will arrive back in New York late next week.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECURITY COUNCIL TO HOLD CONSULTATIONS ON LEBANON: The Security Council will hold consultations at 3:00 this afternoon. Council members will receive a briefing on the implementation of resolution 1559, concerning Lebanon. 

ENHANCED PALESTINIAN STATUS IS QUESTION FOR MEMBER STATES: Asked about reports concerning efforts by the Palestinians to enhance their status at the United Nations, the Spokesperson said that the matter would be one for the Member States to decide. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS NEGOTIATED SOLUTION ON IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAMME: Asked about threats reportedly made by Israeli leaders against Iran, the Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General had asked for all sides to avoid any rhetoric that could inflame the situation. The Secretary-General supports a negotiated solution to the question of Iran’s nuclear programme and has repeatedly called for Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and comply with Security Council resolutions. 

U.N. IS CONCERNED ABOUT FIGHTING IN SOUTH KORDOFAN, SUDAN: Asked about fighting in Sudan’s Southern Kordofan State, the Spokesperson reiterated the UN’s concerns about the fighting and called once more for greater humanitarian access. 

SECURITY COUNCIL HAS ASKED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS ON MALI: Asked about UN planning regarding potential military options in Mali, the Spokesperson noted that the Security Council, in its recent resolution, had asked the Secretary-General to report to them on recommendations on that matter. The Secretariat was at work to respond to that request. 

*** The guest at the Noon Briefing today was Ion Botnaru, the Director of the General Assembly and ECOSOC Affairs Division of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.  He briefed on the forthcoming Human Rights Council elections, on Monday, 12 November.

THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
10 NOVEMBER – 16 NOVEMBER 2012


(This document is for planning purposes and is subject to change.)

Saturday, 10 November

Today is the World Science Day for Peace and Development.

Today, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he will speak at the World Economic Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda 2012. Then, he will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to co-chair the 13th Session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism of UN Agencies and Organizations Working in Africa in support of the African Union.

Sunday, 11 November

There are no major events scheduled for today.

Monday, 12 November

Today is World Pneumonia Day.

This morning, in the General Assembly Hall, there will be the election of seven members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination and the election of eighteen members of the Human Rights Council.

This afternoon, the Security Council will have a debate on the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), followed by a briefing on Security Council missions.

In Geneva, a series of meetings on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will begin. It will end on 16 November.

In Geneva, the 18th session of the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture will begin. It will end on 16 November.

In Geneva, the 49th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) will begin. It will end on 30 November.

Tuesday, 13 November

Today, the Secretary-General will travel to New Haven, Connecticut, where he will speak at Yale University.

This morning, the Security Council will adopt a resolution on the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Then, the Council will have a debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 7 of the North Lawn Building (NLB), there will be a briefing on “Building on the consensus: FAO’s first steps after endorsement of the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure”. It will be organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Wednesday, 14 November

Today is World Diabetes Day.

At 10:00 a.m., in Conference Room 1 (NLB), there will be a memorial service to honour UN staff members who have lost their lives in serving the Organization from 1 November 2011 to 31 August 2012.

This afternoon, the Security Council will adopt a resolution on the European Union Force (EUFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Then, the Council will have a debate on the 1267/1989 Committee (Al Qaeda sanctions), the 1373 Committee (counter-terrorism) and the 1540 Committee (non-proliferation of nuclear weapons).

At 10:00 a.m., in the Economic and Social Council Chamber (NLB), the 2012 United Nations Pledging Conference for Development Activities and the 2012 United Nations/Food and Agriculture Organization Pledging Conference for the World Food Programme will be held.

At 12:00 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, Richard Kollodge, Editor of the State of the World Population 2012 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), will be the guest at the Noon Briefing.

At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 6 (NLB), there will be a briefing on the Secretary-General’s Oceans Compact. Speakers will include Achim Steiner, Chair of the High-level Committee on Programmes and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), by videolink, and Patricia O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs.

In Geneva, the 65th session of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will begin. It will end on 23 November.

Thursday, 15 November

Today is World Philosophy Day

At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 7 (NLB), there will be a briefing on “The Support Measures Portal for Least Developed Countries”. It will be organized by the Secretariat of the Committee for Development Policy.

Friday, 16 November

Today is the International Day of Tolerance.

At 12:00 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, will be the guest at the Noon Briefing.