HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 11 MARCH 2014
UKRAINE: IN KHARKIV, U.N. OFFICIAL DISCUSSES ALLEGED HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
- Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic continued his mission to Ukraine today and is in Kharkiv.
- He met with local authorities there to discuss human rights-related measures that can help to de-escalate tensions, as well as allegations regarding human rights violations. He also met with a range of pro-Russian as well as pro-Ukrainian civil society representatives.
- Mr. Šimonovic is assessing the human rights situation in the region. He is also calling for respect for human rights and discussing options for the UN and international partners to assist in strengthening the capacity on the ground, where necessary.
- Mr. Šimonovic plans to travel to Lviv tomorrow. Regarding travel to Crimea, he will not be travelling to Crimea given the logistical situation, especially given the fact that the airport is closed for flights coming from other regions of Ukraine.
- Asked about Mr. Simonovic’s safety, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations examines the security situation on the ground and makes a maximum effort to ensure the security of staff, including during their travels. The Spokesperson noted that the airport in Simferopol was closed to travel from other parts of Ukraine. At present, he said, the airport and other considerations would not allow Mr. Šimonovic to visit Crimea.
- The Spokesperson said that, in his recent statements, the Secretary-General has been asking for all sides to refrain from hasty actions and provocative rhetoric. He underscored the rights of minorities and the need to ensure that they are not scapegoated.
- The call for a referendum by the Crimean parliament adds unhelpful complexity to an already tense and volatile situation.
- Asked about proposals for Ukraine, Dujarric said that a number of options are being looked at now.
U.N. SOMALIA ENVOY BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, URGES IMPROVED SECURITY, NATIONAL RECONCILIATION
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somalia, Nicholas Kay, briefed the Security Council this morning. He said that Somalis desperately needed improved security and that national reconciliation must be fast-tracked. He added that the establishment of Federal States needs to be accelerated – as it is critical to the creation of a cohesive and effective federal structure in Somalia.
- Kay also stressed the need to conclude the constitutional process and said that legislation needs to be set in motion for the constitutional and electoral processes.
- Kay said that progress in Somalia had been mixed so far -- but that it is nevertheless progress. He called on the international community to continue to provide the support necessary so that Somalia could undertake the significant work that remains.
U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF VOICES DEEP CONCERN OVER ATTACKS AGAINST CIVILIANS IN SOUTH DARFUR
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed her deep concern today that civilians in South Darfur have been bearing the brunt of recent attacks. She said there has been a disproportionate use of force by armed groups in areas in South Darfur that are not military targets. And that there must be an immediate halt to attacks on unarmed civilians.
- She urged the authorities to protect civilians and hold to account those who have committed grave breaches of human rights and humanitarian laws.
- Ms. Pillay also voiced concern that peacekeepers from the United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), as well as human rights and humanitarian agencies, had been prevented from reaching areas affected by the attacks.
- The High Commissioner called on all parties to the conflict to participate in UNAMID’s mediation initiatives.
- And also, as you will have seen yesterday, we issued a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General, where he expressed his deep concern about the escalation of violence and its impact on civilians in Darfur.
- He urged all parties to immediately cease hostilities and to negotiate a peaceful settlement to conflicts in South and North Darfur.
- Also in North Darfur, on the ground, UNAMID says it has reinforced its presence by an additional company of peacekeepers and civilian staff to bolster security and assistance efforts.
- Humanitarian workers, escorted by UNAMID peacekeepers, are delivering aid to several thousand civilians gathered near the Mission's base on the outskirts of the town of Saraf Omra.
- Reconciliation talks, which UNAMID is supporting, are currently ongoing.
- Asked who would investigate the Rumbek issue, the Spokesperson said a high- to mid-level delegation from New York would go to the area.
SYRIA: TWICE AS MANY CHILDREN AFFECTED BY CONFLICT THAN ONE YEAR AGO, U.N. CHILDREN’S FUND REPORTS
- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that more than twice as many children in Syria are now affected by the conflict, compared to 12 months ago. In a new report today, UNICEF draws attention to the problems faced by 5.5 million children inside Syria and living as refugees in neighbouring countries, who are suffering from violence, the collapse of health and education services, severe psychological distress and the worsening economic impact on families. Up to a million children who are trapped in areas of Syria that are under siege or that are hard to reach are particularly hard hit.
- Yacoub el Hillo, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, adds that Syrians are now impoverished, with half of the Syrian population living below the poverty line. He said that more than 2.5 million jobs have been lost and unemployment is estimated at 48 per cent.
- The Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General was pleased and delighted that the nuns were released but it serves as a reminder of the large number of people in Syria who are being held against their will. The Secretary-General calls for all of them to be released.
- In response to further questions about the affected children, the Spokesperson noted the problems faced in dealing with the needs, including educational, of the large numbers of Syrian refugees who are living in urban environments.
- Dujarric said that Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, and UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova would brief the press on Wednesday on the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage.
- Asked about incidents threatening the transport of chemical weapons inside Syria, the Spokesperson said that the OPCW-UN Joint Mission is aware of a security incident which occurred two days ago in the area of Lattakia. Security conditions remain of concern. The Mission refers to the Syrian authorities for any specific queries.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WELCOMES JORDANIAN DECISION TO OPEN CAMP TO SYRIAN REFUGEES
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) welcomed the decision this week by the Jordanian Government to open the country's third refugee camp, Azraq, on 30 April. Azraq is located nearly 100 kilometres east of Amman. The camp will initially house relatively small numbers of refugees but will eventually be able to accommodate up to 130,000 people.
- The Refugee Agency said that the opening will be timely, as in the past weeks, we have seen the numbers of people crossing the border increasing by 50 per cent, to an average of 600 people daily. This increase is putting strains on Za'atari, the main camp hosting Syrian refugees in Jordan. Za’atari is currently hosting some 100,000 people, which is close to its capacity. This is yet another sign of the efforts the Jordanian authorities and other neighbouring countries are making to assist the Syrians impacted by the conflict inside their country. Some 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living in urban areas.
U.N. MYANMAR ENVOY HOPES FOR SWIFT AGREEMENT ON CEASEFIRE
- The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, today welcomed the Joint Press Statement issued yesterday in Yangon after a meeting of the members of the Union Peace Making Work Committee, army representatives, members of Parliament and representatives of the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT). The two-day meeting ended yesterday.
- Mr. Nambiar hopes that with two sides now working on a single text of a joint nationwide ceasefire agreement, they will very soon be able to reach agreement and proceed to the early signing of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and the launching of a national political dialogue immediately thereafter.
D.R. CONGO: U.N. MISSION SUPPORTING MILITARY OPERATIONS AGAINST ARMED GROUPS
- The UN Mission in that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) announced today its support and direct engagement alongside the Congolese army for current operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and other affiliated armed groups. The Head of the Mission, Martin Kobler, urged all FDLR rebels to surrender without delay.
U.N. MANAGERS DOING UTMOST TO FIND JOBS FOR STAFF AFFECTED BY POST ABOLITION
- In response to questions about staff protesting the abolition of UN posts, the Spokesperson said that he was aware of the protest. The organizers informed management on Monday of their intentions to stage the event. A decision was made to allow it to proceed, as long as it did not disturb the regular operations at UN Headquarters.
- Dujarric said that the abolishment of posts is never easy, especially for those who are directly affected.
- Asked further about the cuts, he emphasized that senior managers are doing their utmost to find jobs for the people whose posts were abolished. The posts were abolished in accordance with General Assembly resolutions cutting the UN budget.
- Asked about the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, Japan, the Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General had spoken out about the problems there and had quickly visited Fukushima to see what had happened.