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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 EDUARDO DEL BUEY
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

THURSDAY, 20 DECEMBER 2012

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON SYRIA SAYS CONFLICT IS INCREASINGLY SECTARIAN

  • The latest periodic update by the independent international Commission of Inquiry on Syria was released on Thursday, and it describes the unrelenting violence that has resulted in many thousands of dead and wounded. The report also focuses on arbitrary detention and disappearances, huge displacement and the massive physical destruction in Syria.
  • The update describes the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, with Government forces and militias that support it attacking Sunni civilians, and reports of anti-Government armed groups attacking Alawites and other pro-Government minority communities, including Catholics, Armenian Orthodox and Druze. Some minority communities, including Christians, Kurds and Turkmen, have also been caught up in the conflict, and in some cases have been forced to take up arms for their own defence or to take sides.
  • The report also highlights the presence of foreign fighters, some with links to extremist groups, and the radicalisation of some of the Syrian anti-Government fighters.
  • Asked about the whereabouts of the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Spokesperson said that he is in Cairo.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS THE U.N. HAS MADE SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN ADVANCING PEACEBUILDING AGENDA

  • The Secretary-General spoke to the Security Council during its meeting on post-conflict peacebuilding on Thursday, saying that the United Nations has made significant progress in advancing the peacebuilding agenda.
  • He said that UN missions and country teams are working more closely together and that the United Nations has also become more agile in deploying senior leaders, specialized experts and staff to the field. The United Nations has strengthened and expanded its partnerships, including with the World Bank and regional organizations. And it is broadening and deepening the pool of its expertise to build institutions in key areas where there is a capacity gap.
  • The outcome of these various efforts, he said, has been a more coherent, timely and effective response to immediate post-conflict priorities.
  • At 3:15pm, the Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting on Mali.

U.N. MISSION SAYS SITUATION REMAINS TENSE IN WAU, SOUTH SUDAN

  • The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says that the situation in Wau remains tense. Several thousand civilians fleeing violence were provided safety in and around the UN base on Wednesday.
  • Earlier today, many of those who sought UN protection and stayed overnight left the base to inspect their homes. A significant number of civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly, remain in the UN base and continue to be protected.
  • The UN Mission continues to safeguard the airport and has conducted patrols to assess the situation in the city and affected outlying settlements. The Mission is also redeploying additional peacekeepers to Wau in order to assist in the protection of civilians. UN agencies stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance.
  • The Mission is urging authorities and community leaders to exercise restraint and engage in peaceful dialogue in order to prevent a further deterioration of the fragile situation.
  • Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency reports that an estimated 4,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo have sought refuge in South Sudan’s Central Equatorial State in recent weeks.

SPECIAL ADVISER WRAPS UP VISIT TO MYANMAR, INCLUDING RAKHINE STATE

  • Vijay Nambiar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, has finished a visit to Myanmar that he went on at the invitation of the Myanmar Government, which began on 16 December. He participated in a meeting of the Myanmar Peace Donor Support Group on Monday, and he accompanied the Minister for Immigration and Population Affairs, U Khin Yi, on a visit to Rakhine State.
  • This visit helped the Special Adviser see the current conditions of the internally displaced persons from both communities in the area and also allowed him to participate in the discussions which the Minister was holding with the representatives of the two communities, together and separately. During those discussions, the Minister presented some ideas on the way forward, especially on a framework for addressing immediate and medium term solutions to the problems afflicting the communities there. 
  • In his own comments to the communities, the Special Adviser underlined his initial impression that the Minister's outline of his proposal was forward-looking and realistic, while taking into account the dignity and essential interests of the affected communities.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY SAYS 55 PEOPLE DROWNED OR ARE MISSING AFTER BOAT CAPSIZED OFF SOMALI COAST

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday that 55 people have drowned or are missing after an overcrowded boat capsized off the Somali coast on Tuesday night. This is the biggest loss of life in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011.
  • According to five of the survivors, the boat was overcrowded and ran into trouble almost immediately after leaving the port of Bosasso in northern Somalia. It capsized just 15 minutes into its journey, spilling all 60 passengers into sea. Those on board were Ethiopians and Somalis.
  • One hundred thousand people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year, despite warnings from UNHCR and other aid agencies about the risks such trips involve.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CONCERNED OVER RECENT SECURITY INCIDENTS INVOLVING REFUGEES IN KENYA

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed its concern on Thursday about the recent security incidents in Kenya, which have killed scores of Kenyans as well as refugees.
  • It condemns these attacks and extends its sympathy and solidarity to all victims, the Kenyan people and their Government.
  • The Refugee Agency said that it has noted recent public statements linking the presence of refugees to these security incidents and that it cautions against stigmatization of refugees and asylum-seekers.
  • Recognizing Kenya's long-held commitment to refugee protection, the Agency urges the Government of Kenya to continue to uphold the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, who have fled to Kenya in search of protection.

NEW HEAD OF A.U.-U.N MISSION IN DARFUR APPOINTED

  • The Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission have appointed Mohamed Ibn Chambas of Ghana as their Joint Special Representative for Darfur and the head of the African Union and United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).  His responsibilities will also include those of the African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator. 
  • Mr. Chambas replaces Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL WILL REMAIN IN NEW YORK NEXT WEEK: Asked whether the Secretary-General will take a vacation, the Spokesperson said that it was expected that the Secretary-General would remain in town next week. 

U.N. MISSION SAYS NO PRESENCE OF ZIMBABWEAN TROOPS RECORDED IN NORTH KIVU: Asked about reports on the alleged presence of Zimbabwean troops in North Kivu, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations is aware of these reports. The Brigade in North Kivu of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) says that no such presence has been recorded in the province. 

***The guest at the noon briefing was Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.  She briefed reporters on her recent visit to the Central African Republic.