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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, 10 APRIL 2013

SECRETARY-GENERAL: IMPUNITY FOR SERIOUS INTERNATIONAL CRIMES UNACCEPTABLE

  • The Secretary-General addressed on Wednesday morning’s General Assembly thematic debate on the role of international criminal justice in reconciliation. He said that it can be difficult to know just when a society has sufficiently looked at the roots of conflict and addressed peoples’ grievances. International criminal justice can make a decisive contribution in that effort.
  • The Secretary-General noted the work of the UN International Criminal Tribunals and mixed courts, as well as the International Criminal Court, and said that, through their jurisprudence, these new instruments of justice have ushered in an age of accountability. Impunity for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious international crimes is no longer acceptable, nor is it tolerated.
  • He added that supporting the tribunals and courts means respecting – and not calling into question – their independence, impartiality and integrity. 
  • Also on Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General met with representatives of the "Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves" and the "Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide”.
  • Asked about criticism that the ICC has focused on prosecutions of suspects in Africa, the Spokesperson noted that the ICC works independently of the United Nations.

NEARLY 1.3 MILLION SYRIANS REGISTERED AS REFUGEES OR ASSISTED IN NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

  • Nearly 1.3 million Syrians are now either registered as refugees or being assisted in Syria’s neighbouring countries and North Africa. More than half of the current refugees have left Syria over the last three months, with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) having registered about 7,000 people on average per day for the past four weeks. To enhance assistance delivery and preparedness, humanitarian agencies are revising the response and contingency plans.
  • The Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP), covering the period from January to June 2013, requires $519 million in funding. But as of 7 April, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the plan was only 40 per cent funded.
  • All sectors are underfunded, especially community services, health, education and shelter and non-food items. The water, sanitation and hygiene sector has received only 7.5 per cent of its required funding, just as the hot summer season is approaching and the threat of water-borne diseases is on the rise.
  • So far, donors have committed more than $400 million of the money pledged in Kuwait, leaving about $1.1 billion uncommitted.
  • Asked about the shortfall in funding the appeal, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has been calling world leaders trying to ensure that the money that has been pledged is made available.
  • Asked about the situation in Syria, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has called for all sides to lay down their arms and engage in peaceful negotiations.
  • Asked about the Syrian Government’s communications on chemical weapons allegations, he added afterward that the United Nations has received a letter from the Syrian Government concerning the work of the technical mission. That letter is being studied.

U.N. COORDINATOR IN GAZA CONCERNED OVER RECENT ISRAELI RESTRICTIONS ON CIVILIANS

  • The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Gaza, James Rawley, expressed serious concern regarding the impact of recent Israeli restrictions on the civilian population in Gaza.
  • In response to a deteriorating security situation in and around Gaza, in recent weeks Israel  has announced a series of heightened restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip, including closures of the Kerem Shalom crossing.
  • Mr. Rawley said that the measures are resulting in the depletion of stocks of essential supplies, including basic foodstuffs and cooking gas, and they undermine the livelihoods and rights of many vulnerable Gazan families. If these restrictions continue, the effect upon the Gaza population will be serious.
  • The United Nations will continue to support Egyptian efforts to restore the calm and fully implement the ceasefire understanding as the only viable way to address the unsustainable situation in Gaza.

SECRETARY-GENERAL COMMEMORATES 60 YEARS SINCE DAG HAMMARSKJOLD TOOK OFFICE

  • On Wednesday from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., an event was held at UN Headquarters commemorating 60 years since Dag Hammarskjöld took office as Secretary-General on 10 April 1953.
  • The event featured opening remarks by the Secretary-General and a presentation by Dr. Roger Lipsey, author of a new major biography on Dag Hammarskjöld entitled Hammarskjöld: A Life.
  • This was followed by an interactive panel moderated by the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, with Sir Brian Urquhart; Annika Söder, Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation; and Andrew Gilmour, Director of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian, and Human Rights Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG).
  • In his remarks at this event, the Secretary-General said that Wednesday’s commemoration is a reminder of the dangers facing those who serve the UN and that since Dag Hammarskjöld’s death, thousands of other staff and peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the blue flag, including a dozen staff killed this week during an atrocious ambush in South Sudan.

SOUTH SUDAN: U.N. RELIEF OFFICE SAYS SITUATION IN JONGLEI STATE REMAINS TENSE

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the situation in South Sudan’s Jonglei State remains tense. Civilians continue to be affected by inter-communal clashes and fighting between the South Sudan army and armed groups.
  • Although the full scope of displacement in the State is unclear due to insecurity and limited access to many areas, aid organizations have reported that almost all of the estimated 9,000 inhabitants of the town of Pibor have left their homes. Tens of thousands of people are thought to have been displaced by recent clashes.
  • Aid organizations are trying to reach people with assistance. UN agencies and their humanitarian partners are planning an assessment of the affected communities’ needs.  

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

ANNUAL ENVISION DOCUMENTARY FILM SCREENING TO OPEN WITH THEME “GLOBAL HEALTH”: The annual ENVISION documentary film screening and discussion forum will open on Wednesday evening at the Directors Guild of America New York Theatre. Now in its fifth year, ENVISION is a partnership between the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Independent Filmmaker Project, which brings together UN experts, NGO advocates and filmmakers to discuss fresh new ways to use storytelling and film to raise awareness of global issues. 

D.P.R.K.: SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR UNHELPFUL RHETORIC TO BE RATCHETED DOWN: In response to questions, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General has called for unhelpful rhetoric to be ratcheted down in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). He added that the Secretary-General has no plans at present to travel to the DPRK.