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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 SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 6 MARCH 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL SADDENED BY DEATH OF VENEZUELA’S PRESIDENT CHAVEZ

  • The Secretary-General was saddened by the death of H.E. Mr. Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.   He offers his condolences to the family of the President, the Government and the people of Venezuela.
  • President Chávez spoke to the challenges and aspirations of the most vulnerable Venezuelans.  He provided decisive impetus for new regional integration movements, based on an eminently Latin American vision, while showing solidarity toward other nations in the hemisphere. His contribution to the current peace talks in Colombia between the Government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed   Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been of vital importance.
  • The Secretary-General renews the commitment of the United Nations to work alongside the Government and the people of Venezuela in support of its development and prosperity.

GOLAN: ARMED FIGHTERS DETAINS TWENTY PEACEKEEPERS

  • The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has reported that, earlier on Wednesday, approximately 30 armed fighters stopped and detained a group of around 20 peacekeepers within the Area of Limitation, east of the B-Line.
  • The UN observers were on a regular supply mission and were stopped near Observation Post 58, which had sustained damage and was evacuated this past weekend following heavy combat in close proximity, at Al Jamlah.  The Mission is dispatching a team to assess the situation and attempt a resolution.
  • The Security Council, in a press statement, strongly condemned the detention of the peacekeepers and called for their immediate and unconditional release.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson reiterated the Secretary-General’s concerns about the spillover effects from the fighting in Syria.

SYRIA: NUMBER OF REFUGEES REACHES ONE MILLION

  • The number of Syrians who have been registered or assisted as refugees has reached the 1 million mark, the UN Refugee Agency announced on Wednesday.
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said that, with a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiralling towards full-scale disaster. He said the Refugee Agency is doing everything it can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched.
  • The number of Syrian refugees fleeing their country has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. More than 400,000 people have become refugees since 1 January 2013. Around half of the refugees are children, the majority under the age of eleven.
  • Asked about the humanitarian appeal for Syria, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General expects that the pledges made in Kuwait will be turned into concrete commitments.

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF AFRICAN UNION MISSION TO SOMALIA

  • On Wednesday, the Security Council observed a minute of silence in honour of President Hugo Chávez.
  • It then unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) until 28 February 2014.
  • The Council then met on Iran and non-proliferation, as well as on Guinea Bissau.

SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES SUPPORT FOR WATER MANAGEMENT AND NATIONAL DISASTER RISK REDUCTION PLANS

  • The Secretary-General said that water-related disasters are a regular feature of life on our warming planet at the Special Thematic Session of the General Assembly on Water and Disaster on Wednesday morning.
  • Noting that the Session is part of the UN’s broader push for sustainable development, the Secretary-General said that water is a human right and that we must work together to manage this basic resource.
  • He added that his five-year agenda includes supporting national disaster risk reduction plans, and emphasized the importance of early warning systems, disaster education and resilient structures.

U.N. OUTLINES MEASURES FOR IMPROVED TREATMENT OF PALESTINIAN CHILDREN IN ISRAELI MILITARY CUSTODY

  • UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, outlined on Wednesday a set of practical measures that could be taken to improve the treatment of Palestinian children who are in contact with the Israeli military detention system.
  • In a briefing paper, UNICEF recommended measures so that the Palestinian children in Israeli military custody are treated in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international standards. The paper says there appears to be a pattern of ill-treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation of child detainees.
  • UNICEF will continue its engagement with Israeli military authorities to improve the safeguards that promote the rights and well-being of Palestinian children in military custody.

D.R.CONGO: CONGOLESE ARMED FORCES REGAINS CONTROL OF KITCHANGA TOWN

  • The UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that, on Monday, the Congolese armed forces regained control of the town of Kitchanga, in northern Kivu province.
  • Kitchanga had been occupied by the APCLS armed group in recent days.
  • Fighting has stopped but the situation remains tense, the Mission adds.
  • MONUSCO's peacekeepers have undertaken patrols in town to restore calm and protect civilians.
  • Around 5,000 people, including locals and displaced persons, have now assembled around the mission's base in Kitchanga.

U.N. COORDINATOR IN SUDAN WELCOMES SIGN OF PROGRESS FOLLOWING TALKS IN NORTH DARFUR

  • The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan welcomed signs of progress following reconciliation meetings between two tribes in North Darfur.
  • Following these talks, which were brokered by Sudanese authorities, roads into the town of El Sireaf have re-opened for the first time since last month, allowing food and other urgently-needed supplies to reach the area.
  • Ali Al-Za’tari said that further fighting must be prevented and reconciliation promoted between the two tribes.
  • More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been uprooted or affected by fighting between the tribes in early January.

U.N. MISSION IN LIBYA CONCERNED ABOUT ESCALATION OF DEMANDS BY PROTESTORS

  • The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed concern about the escalation of demands by protestors to attempt to coerce the General National Congress to act on matters on its agenda.
  • The UN Mission emphasizes that while peaceful protest is a fundamental right, it is of utmost importance that the democratically elected bodies and legitimate institutions of the State are enabled to carry out their duties in the service of the people in a conducive environment and that the integrity of their decisions is preserved.
  • The UN Mission strongly encourages Libya’s political and community leaders, as well as civil society activists and all Libyans, to ensure that the ongoing transition be based on the respect for the law, democratic principles and peaceful political dialogue.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ENCOURAGE BUSINESS LEADERS TO SUPPORT GENDER EQUALITY

  • The Secretary-General will attend the 5th Annual Women’s Empowerment Principles Event, which is co-hosted by the UN Global Compact and UN Women in New York on Wednesday.
  • In his remarks, the Secretary-General is expected to ask business leaders to help the United Nations engage more companies and stakeholders to join these Principles, which he launched three years ago.
  • He will also ask them to help highlight the importance of gender equality as a driver of growth and progress and help the United Nations in the urgent task of improving child and maternal health.

ELEPHANTS UNDER THREAT AS TRADE IN ILLEGAL IVORY TRIPLES OVER PAST DECADE

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says elephants in Africa continue to be under severe threat as the illegal trade in ivory grows.
  • According to a new UN report entitled “Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis”, the number of elephants killed has doubled and the amount of ivory seized has tripled over the last decade.

CASE OF FORMER STAFF IN ZIMBABWE YET TO BE CONFIRMED BY U.N. APPEALS TRIBUNAL

  • Asked about a case involving a former UN staff member in Zimbabwe, the Spokesperson said that judgments of the UN Dispute Tribunal are not final until they have been confirmed by the UN Appeals Tribunal.
  • He said that the Organization intends to file an appeal of this judgment. Consistent with the established policy regarding ongoing cases, which includes cases under appeal, the Organization is not in a position to provide any further comments at this time.