HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
TUESDAY, 18 DECEMBER 2012
U.N. CONDEMNS ATTACKS THAT KILLED SIX HEALTH WORKERS IN PAKISTAN
- The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, have condemned the multiple attacks that have killed six health workers in the past 24 hours in Pakistan.
- They said in a statement that those killed were among thousands who work selflessly across Pakistan to eradicate polio.
- They said that such attacks deprive Pakistan’s most vulnerable populations – especially children – of basic life-saving health interventions.
- The World Health Organization and UNICEF said that they remain committed to supporting the Government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in their efforts to rid the country of polio and other diseases.
- The Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General joins the World Health Organization and UNICEF in condemning these senseless and inexcusable attacks on health workers. The Secretary-General was due to meet on Tuesday the Pakistani Permanent Representative, who is next month’s Security Council President, and during that meeting, the Secretary-General was expected to express his condolences and condemnation of those attacks.
PALESTINIAN REFUGEES IN SYRIA EXPERIENCE INTENSE ARMED ENGAGEMENTS, U.N. AGENCY SAYS
- The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says that more than 150,000 Palestine refugees resident in Yarmouk, a suburb of Damascus, have experienced particularly intense armed engagements in recent days, involving the use of heavy weapons and aircraft.
- Credible reports point to civilian deaths, injuries and destruction of property in Yarmouk. There are also waves of significant displacement as Yarmouk residents scramble to seek safety. You will recall that the Secretary-General also expressed his grave concern about the fighting in Yarmouk and firmly condemns this escalation of armed violence, in particular the shelling of population centers and attacks against civilians.
- Palestine refugees are also fleeing beyond Damascus. Although the scale and direction of this movement cannot be precisely determined, some have made their way to Lebanon. The Relief and Works Agency appeals to all parties to refrain from actions that endanger civilian lives and property.
- The Agency appreciates that the Government of Lebanon is allowing Palestine refugees from Syria to seek safety in Lebanon, and reiterates that refugees fleeing conflict must be accorded the safety and protection to which they are entitled under international law.
- Asked about Syrian accusations that the refugees were aiding the rebel groups, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has made his views clear about the escalation of violence in Syria, including in Yarmouk.
- The Secretary-General spoke by phone on Monday with the Syrian Foreign Minister and made clear that it is incumbent on the Syrian authorities to ensure the safety and security of the Palestinian refugees that they have hosted for many years.
- The Spokesperson noted the generosity of Syria’s neighbouring countries, adding that the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General have visited several of those countries in recent weeks and expressed their appreciation for the countries’ efforts to host refugees.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS INTEND TO CONTINUE WORKING IN SYRIA
- Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, visited Damascus last Saturday and she briefed the Security Council on Monday on her concerns on the deteriorating security situation in Syria and its impact on neighbouring countries, particularly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The number of people who have fled the country has now reached 500,000.
- Ms. Amos said that she asked the Syrian Government to allow the United Nations to import fuel because the shortage is impeding humanitarian operations. She also asked the Government to consider whether a number of additional international non-governmental organizations can work in the country so that humanitarian activities can be increased significantly.
- Ms. Amos emphasized that, while the security situation remains volatile, UN humanitarian organizations have every intention of continuing to work in Syria to help those people in need. We are looking at a range of options so that we continue to operate outside and inside Syria, security permitting.
The Spokesperson added, in response to questions, that Ms. Amos had met with a wide range of officials in Syria to underscore her concerns about humanitarian access and the need for fuel.
U.N. MISSION IN DR CONGO INVESTIGATES ALLEGED HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN MINOVA
- The UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is investigating alleged human rights violations in Minova and surrounding villages, which occurred between 20 and 30 November. So far, two UN Joint Human Rights Office teams have visited the area this month and have interviewed more than 200 people.
- According to preliminary findings, the UN Mission has documented at least 126 cases of rape. The teams were also able to confirm the killing of two civilians, including one minor.
- The Congolese Armed Forces have started investigating those human rights violations. The UN Mission is supporting the military justice procedure in conducting thorough investigations into these allegations to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and held accountable. To date, nine soldiers from the Armed Forces have been arrested, two in connection with the rapes and seven in connection with lootings.
- Officials from the UN Mission met on Tuesday with the Vice Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Defense, to share preliminary findings. And the Mission is working with the Government to establish what Congolese Armed Forces units the soldiers belong to in order to review any support provided to these units in accordance with the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
- Asked about whether the United Nations would stop aid to any Congolese Armed Forces units, the Spokesperson said an investigation is under way. Once that has been concluded, the Mission could then review any support provided to these units in accordance with the United Nations Human Rights Due Diligence Policy.
U.N. AGENCIES APPEAL FOR 144 MILLION DOLLARS TO HELP HAITI NEXT YEAR
- UN agencies and humanitarian partners appealed on Tuesday for $144 million to help more than a million people in Haiti next year.
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the funding will be used to respond to crises, including food insecurity, cholera and displacement.
- About two million Haitians are facing food insecurity, and more than 350,000 people are still living in camps and depend on humanitarian aid. Aid organizations are concerned that the resurgence of cholera in remote areas could affect more than 100,000 people next year.
- The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Haiti, Nigel Fisher, said that drought and storms such as Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy have left millions of people with less food and fewer jobs. He said that if we do not help people recover, much of what has been achieved so far may be lost.
SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN, DR CONGO AND OTHER TOPICS
- The Security Council held consultations on Tuesday morning on Sudan and South Sudan and on the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, to consider the Secretary-General’s recent reports on each of those topics.
- In his report on Sudan and South Sudan, the Secretary-General congratulated the Presidents of the two countries and their negotiating teams on their leadership in reaching agreement on a range of important issues in September. If properly implemented, they will play a decisive role in guiding the cooperation and development of the two countries and peoples.
- And in his report on Iraq and Kuwait, the Secretary-General mentioned his recent visit to both countries and the willingness of both parties to move forward and address outstanding issues.
- In the afternoon, the Security Council was expected to hold a meeting on the Central African Republic. After that, Council members were scheduled to resume consultations to discuss the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Wednesday afternoon, the Council will meet on Afghanistan and hear from Special Representative Jan Kubis, who intends to speak to reporters after that meeting.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS TWO-STATE SOLUTION IN MIDDLE EAST: In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General supports a two-State solution in which Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security.
U.N. SPECIAL COORDINATOR VISITS SOUTH LEBANON: The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, visited south Lebanon on Tuesday and toured part of the area along the Blue Line. He also viewed development projects and met with Lebanese local authorities. Mr. Plumbly also visited the eastern sector of the Blue Line and was briefed by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on the work of the international force there, and he also met with local officials. During all his meetings, he emphasized the link between the security and stability, which was made possible in south Lebanon by the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, and the longer term development of the region.