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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 MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL PRAISES QUINOA AT LAUNCH OF INTERNATIONAL YEAR

  • The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s launch of the International Year of Quinoa on Wednesday morning. He noted that quinoa is both highly nutritious and adaptable.  He also noted that it can be grown in many different ecological and climatic conditions – including where soil moisture is low. This is especially important in a warming world, with desertification and land degradation.
  • The Secretary-General also pointed to potential pitfalls, saying that, as prices for quinoa rise along with export demand, the poor risk being excluded from their staple grain in local markets.
  • The Secretary-General spoke in the presence of Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma and was due to attend a lunch with him shortly as part of the commemoration of the International Year of Quinoa. President Morales was due to speak to reporters on Wednesday afternoon about the International Year.
  • Asked about the International Year, the Spokesperson said that the world has shrinking resources and there need to be good, nutritious food sources for a growing world population. In that context, the Secretary-General has pointed to some of the advantages of quinoa.
  • Asked about problems with the high prices of quinoa, Nesirky said that the world needs more staple crops and added that the Secretary-General has pointed to potential pitfalls, as well.

SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES WITH ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NEED FOR RESUMPTION OF PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

  • On Monday evening, the Secretary-General had a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In that call, they discussed the need for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. They also discussed the situation in the region more generally, in particular the impact of the Syrian conflict, including Israel's security concerns in this regard.
  • The Secretary-General stressed that it is urgent for Israelis and Palestinians to reengage in a serious peace effort with effective international support, and to create a conducive environment to that end. The Secretary-General also raised the deteriorating health condition of the Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli custody, highlighting the need for an urgent solution.
  • A statement was also issued on Tuesday expressing the Secretary-General’s concerns about the rapidly deteriorating condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody.

U.N. FOOD AGENCY HOSTS HIGH-LEVEL EVENT TO REVIEW RESPONSE TO FOOD CRISIS IN SAHEL

  • The World Food Programme (WFP) hosted a high-level event in Rome today to review what has been achieved a year after the international community launched a major humanitarian response to the food and nutritional crisis affecting millions of people across the Sahel region.  
  • Although food security in the region has improved since 2012 due to good rains and harvests, more than 10 million people in nine countries still do not have enough to eat, including a million children at risk of severe malnutrition. 
  • Insecurity and displacement in northern Mali, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of people, continues to compound food insecurity in the region.
  • The World Food Programme Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, said that boosting food security and building resilience lies at the heart of the collective efforts to change the pattern of recurring drought.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, said that the focus of the United Nations strategy for the Sahel is on the people of the region, to help them address the root causes of instability, with special emphasis on marginalized communities.
  • The Spokesperson, in response to questions, noted Romano Prodi’s presence in the meetings as an important sign of dealing with the other dimensions of the food crisis.

U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND SAYS 24 CHILDREN DISCHARGED FROM MYANMAR ARMED FORCES

  • The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said on Wednesday that 24 children have officially been discharged from the Myanmar Armed Forces.
  • UNICEF says that the move is in line with the Government’s commitment to end the recruitment and use of children under the age of 18 in the armed forces.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

U.N. SAYS TALKS IN BRUSSELS ABOUT KOSOVO ARE A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT: Asked about the situation in Kosovo, the Spokesperson said that a round of talks in Brussels facilitated by the European Union was a positive development.

INVESTIGATION ABOUT RAPE ALLEGATIONS IN MINOVA, D.R. CONGO, IS UNDERWAY: Asked about rape allegations in Minova, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Spokesperson reiterated that an investigation is under way.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY IN SRI LANKA: Asked about photos and video footage of the son of Sri Lankan leader Velupillai Prabakharan, the Spokesperson noted that the Secretary-General has consistently called for accountability in Sri Lanka.