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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 MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

 

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday
, December 1, 2009
 

 

WORLD'S AIDS DAY: DISCRIMINATION ONLY FUELS EPIDEMIC

  • Today is World AIDS Day.  In a message, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that more must be done, on an urgent basis, to uphold the commitment to reach universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010.
     

  • He adds that this can only be achieved by upholding the human rights of all people living with HIV, people at risk of infection, and children and families affected by the epidemic.
     

  • The Secretary-General urges all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the response to AIDS, including travel restrictions against people living with HIV.
     

  • Echoing this message, Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), adds that World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to act on HIV prevention. Gains made today are fragile and must be sustained, he says. He adds that the economic crisis should not be a reason for reducing investments in health.
     

  • And tonight the Secretary-General will be participating in the “Light for Rights” World AIDS Day event in Washington Square Park in New York.
     

  • Lights in the park and on top of the Empire State building will be dimmed simultaneously to symbolize how human rights infringements cast a dark shadow on the response to AIDS.
     

  • In his remarks, the Secretary-General is expected to stress that discrimination against people living with HIV, sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic.
     

  • He will add that successful AIDS responses don’t punish people, they protect them.

 

AFGHANISTAN:  TRANSITION STRATEGY AND NOT EXIT STRATEGY NEEDED

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, today told reporters in Kabul that there needs to be a “transition strategy” rather than an “exit strategy” in the country.
     

  • He said the vital part of that transition strategy would be a programme to build institutions in Afghanistan. Eide also told journalists that the next five to six months “can give us a momentum that has been lost during the election process”.  
     

  • He said it is necessary for the international community to “re-assert” a long-term commitment to Afghanistan that can aid efforts towards peace, development and sustainability in the country.
     

  • The Special Representative stressed the need to put an emphasis on building Afghan institutions, which can ultimately ensure sustainability.
     

  • Asked whether the Secretary-General had been consulted about the U.S. policy on Afghanistan that is to be announced by President Barack Obama tonight, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General has been briefed on the announcement as part of consultations that the United States has had with its various partners.

 

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY ASSISTS THOUSANDS OF DISPLACED AFGHANS TO PREPARE FOR HARSH WINTER

  • In Kabul today, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has begun distributing blankets, warm clothes, charcoal and other winter supplies to 1,500 returnees and internally displaced people (IDPs) in greatest need.
     

  • That effort is part of a countrywide programme to help some 200,000 vulnerable Afghans survive the harsh winter.
     

  • UNHCR has pre-positioned winter supplies throughout Afghanistan based on an earlier needs assessment of tens of thousands of families across the country.
     

  • The assistance package varies in different locations according to needs, but includes plastic sheets, blankets and jerry cans as core items.
     

  • Supplies were strategically moved to the areas with harsh winters, such as the western region, where heavy snow would otherwise impede access.
     

  • The Refugee Agency teamed up with the Afghan Government and local partners to ensure that relief can reach less accessible areas.

 

SWISS BAN ON MINARETS IS DISCRIMINATORY AND DIVISIVE

  • The  High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that Switzerland’s ban on building minarets was clearly discriminatory and deeply divisive.
     

  • In a statement, she added that this was an “unfortunate step” for Switzerland to take and risks putting the country on a collision course with its international human rights obligations. The UN Human Rights chief also said that this initiative, taken alongside some of the xenophobic posters used in this and several recent political campaigns was a part of an extremely worrying trend.
     

  • Politics based on xenophobia or intolerance is extremely disquieting, wherever it occurs, added Pillay—urging people everywhere to take this issue of discrimination extremely seriously.

 

BAN KI-MOON TO APPOINT MORE WOMEN TO TOP POSITIONS

  • The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Women’s International Forum, flagging issues ranging from climate change, maternal health and violence against women.
     

  • On climate change negotiations, the Secretary-General said at least 90 presidents and prime ministers will be attending the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this month.
     

  • Such high-level attendance is a game-changer, he said, adding that from all corners of the globe, we now see unprecedented momentum for governments to act quickly and decisively. He said he is optimistic Copenhagen can be a success.
     

  • On maternal health, the Secretary-General said that next spring, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and he will jointly convene the major players on maternal and child health.  “We want to leverage commitments to accelerate progress and address critical gaps,” he said.
     

  • On violence against women, he referred to women as holding up “half the sky”.  Let the men hold up the other half as well, he said.
     

  • Finally, the Secretary-General said he will continue to appoint more women to senior posts.
     

  • Since taking office, nine new women Under-Secretaries-General have joined his team. He noted that he will soon appoint two more women Under Secretary-Generals for the posts of Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme and as head of the new gender equality entity. 
     

  • Overall, he noted that the number of women in senior posts -- at the rank of Deputy Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General -- has increased by 40 per cent under his tenure.

 

SOUTH-SOUTH COOPERATION SHOULD BE STRONGER TO DEAL WITH GLOBAL CRISES

  • Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, has today addressed a conference on South-South Cooperation being held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
     

  • She hailed South-South cooperation as a grand partnership that has encouraged its member states to set aside narrow national self-interests for the common good.  She further noted that new south-south cooperation activities now exist in trade, finance and technology, indicating a new community of countries that has formidable economic strength and potential. But she called for stronger cooperation in dealing with problems of hunger, unemployment, the global economic crisis and climate change.
     

  • She warned that development could not happen in a vacuum and she called for more cross-border trade and investment.
     

  • The United Nations can play a catalytic role in promoting South-South cooperation, she stated, especially in bringing together countries that might not ordinarily think of working together.
     

  • Also speaking at the conference was Helen Clark, the Administrator of UNDP, who told the participants that her organization aims to support and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experience across the South to help accelerate development.

 

EASTERN CHAD:  INSECURITY LEAVES ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PEOPLE VULNERABLE

  • In Chad, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that almost 100,000 people in need are at risk of deteriorating living conditions due to the continued suspensions or reduction of operations by several humanitarian organizations.
     

  • These suspensions are due to security concerns, adds OCHA, which reports that Eastern Chad remains characterized by persistent insecurity -- impeding the implementation of humanitarian programmes.
     

  • OCHA says that the Government has taken some security measures to reinforce the protection of civilians and humanitarians workers with the presence of humanitarian police protection.
     

  • The UN Mission there, MINURCAT, has also increased its patrols in the areas where humanitarians operate and continues to offer escort.
     

  • According to OCHA, some 70 humanitarian organizations work in the east assisting more than 250,000 Sudanese refugees, 160,000 internally displaced persons and around 150,000 people in host villages affected by the crisis.

 

BURKINA FASO ASSUMES PRESIDENCY OF SECURITY COUNCIL

  • Burkina Faso has assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December, replacing Austria. Ambassador Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, the new Council President, is holding bilateral discussions with other Council members on the programme of work for this month.
     

  • Yesterday, the Security Council finished its discussion of Darfur by issuing a press statement, in which Council members said that the political process has reached a critical point and called on those who have not yet joined the political process to do so without delay. Members also expressed concerns about attacks on UNAMID staff and humanitarian workers in Darfur.

 

EAST JERUSALEM:  TOP U.N. OFFICIAL CALLS FOR END TO DEMOLITIONS, EVICTIONS AND NEW SETTLEMENTS

  • The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, today visited the Sheikh Jarrah area in East Jerusalem, outside a house that was occupied by settlers.
     

  • Serry’s office issued a statement during that visit, recalling that the Secretary-General has expressed his dismay at the continuation of demolitions, evictions and the installment of Israeli settlers in Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. The statement reiterated the Secretary-General's call for these actions to cease immediately.

 

WORLD COURT BEGINS HEARINGS ON KOSOVO’S SECESSION

  • The International Court of Justice, (ICJ) started public hearings on the question of, the Accordance with International Law of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo.  This is a request for advisory opinion.
     

  • Thirty States and the authors of the unilateral declaration of independence have expressed their intention of participating in the oral proceedings before the Court. At today’s opening the delegations of Serbia and of the authors of the unilateral declaration of independence presented their oral statements.
     

  • On 8 October 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution requesting the Court to render an advisory opinion on the following question: “Is the unilateral declaration of independence by the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government of Kosovo in accordance with international law?”
     

  • The hearings will last till 11 December inclusive.

 

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

NEW HEAD OF MISSION IN DARFUR WILL BE JOINTLY APPOINTED BY U.N. AND AFRICAN UNION:  Asked about the appointment of a new Special Representative for the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the Spokeswoman said that would be a joint appointment by the United Nations and the African Union. In this instance, she said, once the two bodies have jointly agreed on an appointment, that information will be conveyed in a letter to the Security Council.

 

ALL QUIET ON THE ISRAEL-SYRIA SECTOR: The Secretary-General, in a report to the Security Council, writes that the situation in the Israel-Syria sector has generally remained quiet. He recommends a further extension in the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) operating in that area, by six months – until the end of June 2010. The report is out on the racks today.
 

UNITED NATIONS HAS NOT RECEIVED LETTER CONCERNING SAHARAWI ACTIVIST:  Asked about a letter by the Spanish Government, reportedly concerning Saharawi activist Aminatou Haider, the Spokeswoman said that the letter has not yet been received by the Secretary-General.