HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 3 APRIL 2014
AFGHANISTAN: SECRETARY-GENERAL ENCOURAGED BY PREPARATIONS, ENGAGEMENT FOR THIS WEEKEND’S ELECTIONS
- In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General says that he is encouraged by the technical and security preparations and broad public engagement for Afghanistan's upcoming Presidential and Provincial Council elections. These are extremely important elections for the country. He urges all Afghan men and women to participate in the vote on 5 April and to take this opportunity to have their say on the future direction of their country.
- The Secretary-General denounces violence by any group. He specifically condemns statements by the Taliban threatening further attacks on civilian election workers, candidates, observers, voters and election sites. He reiterates that deliberate attacks against civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law and that those responsible will be held accountable.
- The Secretary-General welcomes Afghan ownership of the electoral process and calls upon Afghan institutions to discharge their responsibility to deliver credible, inclusive and transparent elections. He urges the candidates and their supporters to show patience and respect for electoral institutions and processes, while the ballots are counted and complaints adjudicated, and to abide by the results of the polls.
IN BRUSSELS, BAN KI-MOON SPOTLIGHTS FIGHT AGAINST MALARIA, MEETS WITH LEADER OF CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
- On his last day in Brussels, the Secretary-General attended a breakfast hosted by the Roll Back Malaria campaign. After being given a bed net by the Roll Back Malaria Goodwill Ambassador, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the Secretary-General told the participants that the success of Roll Back Malaria proves that the fight against the deadly and preventable disease is a good investment that saves lives and speeds up economic progress. He added that health is the greatest wealth.
- The Secretary-General also continued to hold a number of bilateral meetings with African leaders also present in Brussels for the European Union-Africa Summit, including the President of the Central African Republic and the Foreign Minister of Uganda.
- He also provided a lecture on climate change at the historical Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels to the Friends of Europe, in which he said that climate change is an overarching challenge with implications for the UN’s entire agenda and that Europe’s leadership on the issue will be crucial.
- The Secretary-General visited the European Parliament offices in Brussels and met with the Parliament’s president, Martin Schulz, and they spoke to the press afterwards.
- Just prior to leaving Brussels, the Secretary-General attended a reception hosted by King Philippe of the Belgians in honour of the participants of the EU-Africa summit.
- The Secretary-General’s next stop on his visit is Prague.
SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON DARFUR PEACEKEEPING MISSION
- The Security Council held a formal meeting on Darfur this morning. Council members adopted a resolution which took note of the proposed adjustment of the benchmarks and indicators outlined by the Secretary-General for the UN-African Union Mission in that country, known as UNAMID. The Council requested the Secretary-General to further refine these benchmarks and indicators to reflect the revised strategic priorities of the Mission, and submit them in his next 90-day report.
- After that, Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, briefed Council members in closed consultations today, by video uplink from Damascus.
Asked about the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons, the Spokesperson said that to date, 53.6% of Syria's chemical weapons material has been removed from Syria or destroyed in-country. He added that there have been no movements since 20 March.
Haq said that the Syria authorities informed the Joint Mission that, in view of the deteriorating security situation in Latakia Province, it would be temporarily postponing scheduled movements of chemical materials.
The Joint Mission has impressed upon the Syrian authorities the need to resume movements as soon as possible, in order to meet the timelines for the complete removal and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons programme.
IN MARCH, U.N. AIRLIFTED SUPPLIES FOR 335,000 VULNERABLE, UPROOTED SYRIANS
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, during the month of March, UN agencies and humanitarian partners organized eight emergency airlifts carrying medicines, health kits, hygiene kits and shoes from the Syrian capital Damascus to Qamishli to help meet the needs of more than 335,000 vulnerable and displaced Syrians.
- Emergency relief supplies also reached people in the besieged city of Douma for the first time since November 2012.
- Regular heavy shelling and bombing continue, and many families are reported to be suffering from malnutrition and have limited access to basic services, including health care and education. On 29 March, a second humanitarian convoy entered Douma, carrying relief supplies, including food, family hygiene kits and plastic sheets for thousands of people.
- In March, more than 2.9 million children across the country received immunization against polio, the highest number reached since the start of the vaccination campaign in 2013.
- Humanitarian field missions to Aleppo, Homs and Tartous reported a rise in cases of child marriage, domestic violence, and other sex and gender-based violence. Aid organizations continue to provide medical examination, psychosocial support and counselling for survivors.
U.N., SOUTH SUDAN RELATIONS YET TO NORMALIZE, SAYS WORLD BODY ENVOY
- The Head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said today that though significantly improved, relations between the United Nations and the country’s Government have not yet normalized.
- Speaking to reporters in Juba, Hilde Johnson said that while hostile rhetoric against the mission by some has subsided, its operations and those of relief groups are still facing serious challenges, including harassment and abuse by security forces and denial of access.
- Ms. Johnson said that nearly 40 incidents have affected the mission’s staff and operations.
- This, she said, not only runs counter to the agreement signed between the UN Mission and South Sudan, but also endangers the lives of staff and hinders the Mission’s operations. Such threats and attacks constitute violations of international law.
- Ms. Johnson also said that we are also far from a sustainable solution for people seeking protection in UN compounds.
- As many as 85,000 civilians – mostly women and children – found shelter within the missions’ premises during the crisis.
- Ms. Johnson said it was always clear that UN compounds were never designed to accommodate such huge numbers of people for such a length of time.
- She added that with the rainy season starting, conditions are becoming worse, with the sites in Tomping and Malakal, in particular, at imminent risk of turning into death traps.
- Ms. Johnson said that that is why the Mission has taken the decision to close the Tomping protection site in May, with the displaced sheltering there set to be relocated to other sites.
- Also on South Sudan, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said today that more than one million people have been forced from their homes, markets have collapsed and trade across borders has been suspended.
- He said that 3.7 million people are already at severe risk of starvation. Although the planting season begins this month, people cannot cultivate their crops because of insecurity.
- Mr. Lanzer called on donors to step up their assistance to humanitarian organizations so that they can help the people of South Sudan so that when the rainy season makes roads impassable, relief supplies will already be in key locations.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: RECENT UPSURGE IN VIOLENCE SPUR RETURNS TO DIPLACEMENT SITES – U.N.
- In Central African Republic, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says today that the upsurge in violence over the past two weeks near Bangui’s airport has led to a dramatic increase in people returning to displacement sites.
- Some 10,000 additional internally displaced persons have moved to the Carmel site in the south of the capital, and another 10,000 to the airport site of Mpoko.
- The UN estimates that at least 60 people were killed in Bangui in the past ten days, while international and national humanitarian agencies continue to be targeted by armed militia groups.
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is also concerned about 20,000 people from minority communities in areas across the country, including in Bangui's PK12 neighbourhood, Boda, Bossangoa, Carnot and Berberati.
- In the past three months, more than 82,000 people from CAR have found shelter in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo and Chad.
Asked about reports that Chad will withdraw from the International Support Mission, MISCA, the Spokesperson noted that the Mission is led by the African Union and not the United Nations. He added that the United Nations continues to do contingency planning for a potential UN presence while it awaits a decision by the Security Council on the Secretary-General’s recommendations concerning such a presence.
- Asked about letters of accession to international treaties by the Palestinians, the Spokesperson said that, as per normal practice, the United Nations has begun review of the instruments on the basis of receipt of copies.
- Asked about the granting of a US visa to Iran’s next Permanent Representative to the United Nations, the Spokesperson said that at present, that is a bilateral matter between the US and Iranian Governments.