HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ACTING DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2013
ON VISIT TO AUSCHWITZ, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR PEACE, JUSTICE AND HUMAN DIGNITY FOR ALL
- The Secretary-General is in Poland, where he will attend the UN climate change conference in Warsaw.
- Earlier today the Secretary-General visited Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He said Auschwitz-Birkenau is not simply a register of atrocities. It is also a repository of courage and hope. He said nothing can truly prepare a person for a visit to the epicentre of evil, where systematic murder unique in human history reached its atrocious climax.
- The Secretary-General said that for all the victims, we need to reaffirm that we will never forget. For our shared future, we must embrace our common duty as members of the human family to build a world of peace, justice and human dignity for all.
- The Secretary-General flew to Poland from Lithuania, where he held talks with the President and other leaders. Before this, he visited Estonia over the weekend and Latvia last Thursday and Friday.
PHILIPPINES: U.N. AGENCIES STEP UP RELIEF EFFORTS, HUMANITARIAN CHIEF ON FOLLOW UP VISIT
- Shortly before leaving Lithuania this morning, the Secretary-General said in response to a question at a press conference that the recent typhoon in the Philippines is a wake-up call for the international community to accelerate its efforts to fight climate change.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, according to Government estimates, nearly 13 million people across nine regions have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan, including more than 4 million people who have been displaced and some 2.5 million people who require food aid.
- Authorities report that more debris has been cleared, while public services are being restored but affected are still facing power outages and fuel shortages. Nearly half of the health facilities in four affected regions remain closed.
- UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos has arrived in the Philippines for a follow-up visit and is expected to visit affected areas in the coming days. She is expected to speak to the press in Manila on Tuesday, along with the Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
- For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that at least 200,000 people in Tacloban and six surrounding districts are now receiving clean water, with the first water treatment plant having coming back to full operating capacity last night.
- UNICEF, the Philippines armed forces and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) took part in negotiations resulting in an initial emergency fuel supply to run the plant for four days.
- In the past 48 hours, UNICEF has been trucking and airlifting water and sanitation supplies to Tacloban and other affected areas to restore clean water supplies and reduce the threat of diseases caused by poor sanitation and contaminated water.
- Asked about the delivery of aid, the Spokesperson said that in recent days, the ability to transport aid to the islands that need it has improved, but added that much more needs to be done. He said that Valerie Amos would now be able to assess the needs on the ground firsthand over the coming days.
- Asked about the effects of climate change on Typhoon Haiyan, Haq said that it was difficult to attribute any single event to climate change. He noted that climate change experts have made clear that the costs of extreme weather due to climate change will continue to rise.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WORKING TO CONVENE SYRIA CONFERENCE IN GENEVA BY MID-DECEMBER
- Asked about the prospects for an international peace conference for Syria, the Spokesperson noted that, in a press conference today in Lithuania, the Secretary-General said that he was still working to have such a conference take place in Geneva by mid-December. The Secretary-General made clear that he was not yet ready to announce a date for a Geneva II conference.
- Haq added that Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, would meet in Geneva with US and Russian officials on 25 November, and there could be more clarity about a Geneva II conference by then.
- Asked about the main outstanding challenges towards holding such a conference, the Spokesperson noted the need to have a Syrian Government delegation and a Syrian opposition delegation that can participate.
- Asked about the situation of Syrian refugees, he said that the United Nations continues to work to provide assistance to the millions of Syrians who are refugees in neighbouring countries or are internally displaced within Syria.
- To that end, the United Nations will convene a donors’ conference in Kuwait next January and is encouraging donors to be generous in providing new funds for all those affected by the fighting, both within Syria and outside it.
- Asked about the transport of chemical weapons outside Syria, the Spokesperson said it was understood that bilateral discussions are underway to finalize arrangements regarding a State Party hosting destruction activities.
- He said that the hosting of destruction facilities and the transport of chemical weapons is an extremely challenging and courageous act, one which will remove the threat that these weapons might be used again in the Syrian conflict.
- The Secretary-General also emphasizes that the timely execution of the plan for the destruction of chemical weapons will require the existence of a secure environment for the verification and transport of the chemical weapons.
U.N. ENVOY IN SOUTH SUDAN RAISES CONCERNS OVER JONGLEI STATE AND HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, briefed the Security Council this morning.
- She said that, despite enormous challenges and a state struggling to establish and extend its authority, progress had been made in some key areas.
- However, she also noted that the situation in parts of Jonglei State continues to be worrying. She said that with the dry season approaching, the mobility of both armed groups and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army will increase, creating risks of increased attacks, but also opportunities for response.
- She added that, with this in mind, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had developed a series of contingency plans to address emerging security threats and protect civilians.
- Ms. Johnson also said that the behaviour of security forces continued to be a cause for grave concern, whether with regard to human rights abuses or incidents of violence and harassment affecting UN personnel, diplomats and ordinary citizens.
- She said the Mission continued to monitor and investigate reports of alleged violations and abuses, and would increase its public reporting.
A.U.-U.N. MISSION IN DARFUR FACILITATES MEDIATION BETWEEN TRIBES FOLLOWING CLASHES
- Following clashes between Salamat and Misseriya in Central Darfur in the past weeks, the African Union-United Nation Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) facilitated the travel of the Wali, or Governor, of Central Darfur and the State Security Committee yesterday. They were accompanied by a team of UNAMID officials to Um Dukhun to mediate between the two tribes.
- The delegation met with the local security committee, the local peace and reconciliation committee as well as with representatives of both the Salamat and the Misseriya. It also met with representatives from international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Commission operating in the area who confirmed that the security situation has improved since 14 November. The Mission says that international non-governmental organizations have decided to stay to carry out their activities, instead of evacuating as previously requested.
- The Mission says it remains gravely concerned about the impact of intertribal violence on the civilian population in the affected areas and will continue to exert intensive efforts to bring the fighting parties to agree on a cessation of hostilities. The Mission also stands ready to facilitate longer-term reconciliation between them.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES END OF RUN-OFF ELECTION IN MALDIVES, CALLS FOR RECONCILIATION
- In a statement issued on Sunday, the Secretary-General welcomed the conclusion of the run-off of the presidential election in the Maldives.
- Once again, the people of the Maldives have turned out to vote in impressive numbers, showing their determination to choose their next president, despite the many obstacles and delays. The close contest highlights the need for the new administration to engage the opposition in a constructive manner and to lead the country in the interest of all Maldivians.
- The Secretary-General noted the preliminary assessment by international and domestic observers that the election was administered in a transparent and professional manner and congratulates the tireless efforts of the Elections Commission.
- The Secretary-General strongly urges all political leaders, state institutions and the Maldivian people to work urgently toward genuine reconciliation and to advance the country’s democratic process through long-term institutional reforms, in particular strengthening the judiciary and accountability mechanisms, and promoting a national dialogue.
- The Secretary-General stands ready to continue to provide the support of the United Nations for democratic progress and prosperity in the Maldives.
U.N. MISSION IN LIBYA WORKING WITH PARTIES TO FOSTER DIALOGUE: Asked about instability in Libya, the Spokesperson said that the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has been working with the parties on the ground to engage in dialogue and has been reporting to the Security Council about security concerns on the ground.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED ABOUT VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN: Asked about sectarian violence in Pakistan, the Spokesperson reiterated the Secretary-General’s concerns about the recent violence in the country and his warnings against religious intolerance.
SECRETARY-GENERAL ENCOURAGED THAT PARTIES TRYING TO RESOLVE CONCERNS ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME: Asked about the talks between the E3+3 and Iran in Geneva, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General was encouraged that the parties were trying to resolve concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme through dialogue.