HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 25 FEBRUARY 2014
SECRETARY-GENERAL SERIOUSLY CONCERNED ABOUT SIGNING OF ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW IN UGANDA
- The Secretary-General is seriously concerned about the signing into law of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.
- The Secretary-General reiterates that everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination. This concept is embedded in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Ugandan Constitution.
- The Secretary-General shares the assessment of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that imposing sentences of life imprisonment for homosexuality, same-sex marriage and so-called "aggravated homosexuality" could fuel prejudice as well as encourage harassment and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. As noted by UNAIDS, it may also obstruct effective responses to HIV/AIDS.
- The Secretary-General urges the Government to protect all persons from violence and discrimination, and hopes that the law can be revised or repealed at the earliest opportunity. He offers the support of the United Nations for constructive dialogue to achieve change on this matter.
- The Secretary-General conveyed these concerns on Monday to Dr. Richard Nduhuura, Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Headquarters.
- Asked about differing opinions on the question of gay rights, the Spokesperson said that the concept of every person living a life of dignity is firmly embedded in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- He noted that the Secretary-General raised the topic last year when he met in Uganda with President Yoweri Museveni and had said that he hoped the legislation would not be passed.
- Nesirky said that the Secretary-General has been consistently strong in calling for the rights of the LGBT community and in asserting the principle that everyone should have the same basic rights. He said that was a universal concept which should be applied universally.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO AUTHORIZE MORE HUMANITARIAN STAFF TO WORK IN SYRIA
- The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s informal briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria, saying that he hopes that the resolution adopted by the Security Council three days ago will make a difference on the ground.
- He said that access is still needed to hundreds of thousands of people in the north-east who have received hardly any help for three years. Civilians who want to move freely out of conflict zones should be able to do so. Medical centres must no longer be used to house fighters and store arms.
- The Secretary-General called on the Syrian Government to authorize more humanitarian staff and partners to work in Syria. It is not credible to cite bureaucratic procedures as reasons for delay when it is the Government itself that controls those procedures.
- Other senior officials spoke at the meeting, including UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, World Health Organization Director General Margaret Chan and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang.
- Asked about a replacement for the departed Deputy Joint Special Representative for Syria, Nasser al-Kidwa, the Spokesperson said that there had been discussions but there is no announcement to make at this point.
- Asked about aid to Yarmouk, the Spokesperson said that the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, visited the camp on Monday and was shocked by what he saw. The Agency delivered a small amount of aid and has delivered about 7,000 food parcels to Yarmouk so far.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CONCERNED ABOUT 15,000 PEOPLE SURROUNDED BY ARMED GROUPS IN C.A.R.
- In the Central African Republic, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that more than 15,000 people in 18 locations in the northwest and southwest of the country are presently surrounded and being threatened by armed groups. It says that these populations urgently need better security.
- The Agency and its partners are responding through protection-by-presence, humanitarian assistance, advocacy for protection measures and in exceptional cases, through facilitating the movement of these communities to safe sites. But it says that humanitarian efforts alone cannot be a sufficient solution to the crisis.
- The UN Refugee Agency is appealing again to all armed elements to stop indiscriminate attacks against civilians. It is also calling for the deployment of more international troops.
- Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is warning of a regional crisis as thousands of people continue to flee violence across the Central African Republic. It says that neighbouring countries are struggling with more than 150,000 new arrivals in urgent need of assistance.
- The World Food Programme is concerned that it cannot meet the needs of these extremely vulnerable people because of insufficient funding. Many of the surrounding countries are already hosting large numbers of refugees from various countries and resources are stretched.
U.N. MISSION IN SOUTH SUDAN EXTRACTS 33 ADDITIONAL PATIENTS FROM MALAKAL HOSPITAL
- On South Sudan, the UN Mission in the country, UNMISS, reports that its military and police conducted a number of patrols in various parts of the country in the last 24 hours.
- On Monday, a Mission patrol to Malakal, in Upper Nile State, noted that the town was still deserted of civilians, with the presence of a very small number of Opposition forces. The patrol also visited a church in Malakal where displaced civilians are sheltering, and assessed the situation there to be non-threatening.
- The Mission also says that it was able to extract another 33 patients from the Malakal Teaching Hospital and bring them to the Mission hospital for further medical treatment.
- The Mission continues to protect some 21,500 civilians at its base in Malakal.
- The Mission also deployed a patrol to Mayom and Abiemnom in Unity State yesterday. In Mayom County, Mission personnel observed large numbers of heavily armed Sudan People’s Liberation Army troops.
- The Mission says that the number of civilians being protected within various UN sites remains at approximately 75,000.
SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD DEFINING MOMENT IS NEAR IN MIDDLE EAST
- Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the Middle East this morning, and told Council members that a defining moment is coming near on the Middle East peace process. US Secretary of State John Kerry's months' long work to address Israeli and Palestinian aspirations and concerns in a fair and balanced manner has opened a credible political horizon for achieving the two-state solution. Mr. Feltman said that any meaningful political initiative must continue to strive towards a comprehensive settlement.
- He said that the progress in the talks in Geneva on Syria has been limited so far, confirming the deep rift between the two sides. Yet he added that it is no small feat that these long-awaited negotiations have finally begun, and both sides remain committed to sitting at the table. That is something on which the international community must try to build.
U.N. MISSION IN LIBYA CONCERNED ABOUT CONTINUED VIOLENCE
- The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed its deep concern today about the continued violence in the country, including assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and other attacks.
- The UN Mission calls upon officials and all forces to do their utmost to put an end to all acts which threaten stability in Libya, put the security of its people at risk, violate human dignity and undermine the values that Libyans uphold as they aspire to build a State based on the rule of law and the respect for human rights.
UKRAINE: SECRETARY-GENERAL’S SENIOR ADVISOR HOLDS MEETINGS, STRESSES U.N.’S SOLIDARITY WITH ALL CITIZENS
- The Secretary-General dispatched Robert Serry to Kiev as his Senior Advisor to assure all citizens of Ukraine of the support of the United Nations and to also convey that he expects all key international actors to work collaboratively to help Ukraine at this challenging time in the country's history.
- In a press release, Mr. Serry said that he had held meetings with, among others, the new Speaker of Parliament, the Vice Prime Minister, the acting Minister of Finance, and the acting Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the situation in Ukraine and concerted efforts to bring about a stable and prosperous future.
- Mr. Serry said that he had delivered important messages from the Secretary-General, including that the United Nations stands in solidarity with all citizens of Ukraine.
- The United Nations is committed to assist a Ukrainian-led, accountable and inclusive governance process, in a spirit of non-violence and upholding the key principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, thereby creating a conducive environment for free and fair elections. As the Secretary-General has said, the United Nations is committed to the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
- Asked for the length of Mr. Serry’s stay, the Spokesperson said that he would try to hold discussions with a wide range of people on the ground.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ATTEND HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL IN GENEVA, CLOSING CEREMONY OF SIERRA LEONE MISSION
- The Secretary-General will travel to Switzerland this weekend where he will first attend the 10th Seminar of the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General in Mont-Pelerin.
- Then, on Monday 3 March, in Geneva, he will take part in the opening of the High-Level Segment of the 25th session of the Human Rights Council. The Secretary-General will meet with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as well as with the President and members of the Human Rights Council.
- He will also hold a joint meeting with several human rights non-governmental organizations and is scheduled to have meetings with representatives of Member States attending this session of the Human Rights Council. Ninety ministers are expected to attend the High-Level Segment this year.
- Also in Geneva, the Secretary-General will inaugurate a photographic exhibition which will mark World Wild Life Day, celebrated on 3 March.
- On Tuesday, the Secretary-General will travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone. He will be there for the closing ceremony of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) after fifteen years of UN peace and political missions in the country, marking the transition to a UN presence focused on development.
- During his visit, the Secretary-General will meet with the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, and other senior officials as well as with representatives of major political parties and civil society. The Secretary-General will return to New York in the evening of March 6.
- Rebeca Grynspan has said she will leave her position as Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), after she was elected unanimously to head the Ibero-American Secretariat (SEGIB) starting April 1. Ms. Grynspan will be the first woman to lead this organization, replacing Enrique Iglesias.
- In response to a question, the Spokesperson said that the Deputy Secretary-General would attend a meeting next month in Paris of the International Support Group for Lebanon, on the Secretary-General’s behalf.