HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2014
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC IS ‘CATASTROPHE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS’ – U.N. REFUGEE CHIEF
- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, wrapped up a visit to the Central African Republic and said today that he had witnessed a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions.
- He said that massive ethno-religious cleansing was continuing and that shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterized the violence in the country.
- Mr. Guterres also said that he was deeply distressed that nearly half a million Central Africans have been newly displaced since December alone. In all, 2.5 million are in desperate need.
- He said that humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations were doing an exceptional job in helping the victims of this humanitarian crisis but that they all faced dramatic underfunding.
- The High Commissioner also said it was vital to re-establish security, law and order in the Central African Republic. He added that the international community must come together for a significant and immediate increase of the forces and police on the ground.
- He said the Central African Republic should not fall through the cracks of international attention.
- Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) began to airlift food into the Central African Republic today. In total, 1,800 metric tons of cereals – enough to feed 150,000 people for a month – are due to arrive by air on about 25 flights over the next four weeks.
- The World Food Programme also says that food is urgently needed to be pre-positioned across Central African Republic before the start of the rainy season in May, when many roads will be impassable.
- Asked whether the Secretary-General spoke with the Foreign Minister of France, Laurent Fabius, about more European Union troops for the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson confirmed that the two continued their conversation on that topic. The Secretary-General had mentioned his calls with the Foreign Minister in a meeting with journalists on Tuesday.
- Asked whether genocide is happening in the Central African Republic, the Spokesperson noted the Secretary-General’s remarks on Tuesday about the serious risk that the country might face de facto partition.
- Mr. Guterres, he noted, has spoken of the need for more forces on the ground, which is a subject that the Secretary-General has been pursuing with world leaders.
U.N. HELPS TO DELIVER FOOD TO 1,000 BESIEGED SYRIANS IN TOWN OF HOMS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that food for around 1,000 people for one month was delivered to community leaders in Homs, in Syria, today, and approximately 200 men, women and children were reported to have left the besieged area so far today. Aid workers said that many people were frail and had difficulty walking.
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is waiting, along with partners, to receive people being evacuated from Homs at the reception point at the edge of the Old Town.
- A centre in the suburb of Al Waer was designated by Syrian authorities as a destination place for evacuees to shelter should they choose to do so. So far, only 200 have opted to go there, while the rest have asked to be taken to neighbourhoods in Homs where they have ties or might feel more secure.
- As for the school where men are being questioned, the Refugee Agency has a regular presence at the school, along with staff from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). So far, more than 150 of the 336 men and boys there have been questioned and have left.
- Asked about a draft resolution being considered by the Security Council on humanitarian access in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the matter is for consideration by Security Council members. He noted that Valerie Amos had said that, while she was grateful for the Security Council’s Presidential Statement on the subject, a resolution would have been preferable, and the Secretary-General agreed.
SYRIA ENVOY TO MEET RUSSIAN, U.S. ENVOYS IN GENEVA
- The trilateral meeting between the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov and United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will be held in Geneva on Thursday afternoon.
- Mr. Brahimi met this morning with the two delegations from the Syrian sides simultaneously. Earlier today, he also met with Mr. Gatilov, the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
SOUTH SUDAN: SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES START OF POLITICAL TALKS
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is continuing to undertake military and police patrols in various parts of the country.
- In Malakal, in Upper Nile State, a Mission patrol on Tuesday reported the town to be tense.
- The Mission noted that most of southern Malakal was deserted, while SPLA presence was observed in the eastern side of the town. The Mission is protecting some 22,000 civilians at its site in Malakal. Overall, approximately 75,000 civilians continue to shelter in UN bases across the country.
- In a statement, the Secretary-General welcomed the start Tuesday of the South Sudan political talks in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
- He reiterated the importance of national political dialogue, with the participation of all South Sudanese political and civil society representatives, including all senior SPLM detainees.
- The Secretary-General also noted with deep concern the reports of fighting and skirmishes in parts of Unity and Upper Nile States.
CIVILIANS CONTINUE TO BE KILLED, INJURED IN CONFLICT, U.N. RELIEF CHIEF TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- The Security Council is holding a meeting today on the protection of civilians, and Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Council that civilians continue to be killed, injured and maimed in conflict by targeted or indiscriminate attacks. She said that the recent examples of Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan bear this out, with parties to conflict failing, sometimes deliberately, to respect and protect civilians, despite their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.
- Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that more than 95 per cent of peacekeepers work today in missions specifically mandated by the Security Council to protect civilians.
- In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, peacekeepers have utilised a clear and robust mandate to respond to those who would perpetrate attacks on civilians, and this past November witnessed the surrender of the M23 rebel movement. He added that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has in recent weeks provided unprecedented protection for up to 85,000 civilians fleeing violence.
- Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also briefed the Council by videoconference.
U.N. MIDDLE EAST ENVOY VISITS GAZA, VOICES CONCERN OVER DETERIORATING SITUATION
- Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, visited Gaza today and expressed his concern about the deteriorating situation in the Strip.
- Mr. Serry said that, during the past two months, there have been more rockets being fired at Israel, border incidents, and Israeli retaliatory operations causing death or injury to civilians. The United Nations condemns the rise in violence, and all parties must act in accordance with international law.
- He said that social and economic conditions in Gaza are also deteriorating as a result of continued closures. In particular, imports of construction materials have dramatically decreased.
- Mr. Serry stressed that imports of construction materials for the private sector through legal crossings remain essential for the Gaza economy, while material must not be diverted from its intended peaceful purposes. He also expressed hope that the Rafah crossing with Egypt would soon resume normal operations.
AFGHANISTAN: $400 MILLION HUMANITARIAN APPEAL LAUNCHED
- An appeal for more than $400 million has been launched to meet the most acute humanitarian needs in Afghanistan this year.
- The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Bowden, said that the country remains in a protracted, complex emergency, with 5 million people in need of lifesaving assistance despite more than a decade of international and Government development efforts.
- He said that humanitarian funding and response must remain robust, adding that otherwise Afghanistan could become a forgotten emergency as international attention moves onto to other crises, such as those in Syria and South Sudan.
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES CONTINUED EFFORTS TO BOLSTER EQUALITY, EMPOWERMENT
- In remarks to the press today, the Secretary-General said that, in the two decades since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) took place in Cairo, there have been considerable advances in equality and empowerment for women, global health and life expectancy, and education for girls. Much has been accomplished through the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, but much remains to be done.
- He said that, as we look ahead to the 2015 MDG deadline, there are two priorities: to intensify efforts to achieve these life-saving Goals, and second, to define an ambitious, compelling and feasible post-2015 development agenda.
- Asked about a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Spokesperson noted that in a high-level panel report on post-2015 sustainable development goals, there is a recommendation to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information”.
- Asked whether Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman has received instructions from the US Government, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has full confidence that Mr. Feltman acted as he should do as a UN Under-Secretary-General.
- Asked about the meeting concerning the Korean peninsula, the Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General spoke for more than half an hour in Sochi last week with Kim Yong Nam, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Secretary-General had called for a decoupling of the issue of family reunions from the political track, and he welcomes family reunions. He clearly welcomed that the North-South meeting took place today, but the United Nations was still analyzing the outcome.