HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY, 20 MAY 2014
IN CHINA, SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS WITH RUSSIAN PRESIDENT
- The Secretary-General is back in Shanghai where he met today with Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, on the margins of the Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. They exchanged views on how to address current challenges to international peace and security, in particular the situations in Ukraine and Syria.
- On Ukraine, the Secretary-General and President Putin agreed that the crisis can only be resolved politically and through an inclusive political dialogue. The Secretary-General noted that the forthcoming presidential elections are an opportunity to move forward towards long-term peace and stability in the country.
- On Syria, the Secretary-General and President Putin discussed opportunities for a long-overdue political solution and the urgent need to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons.
- Noting the imperative for a legal agreement on climate change by the end of next year, the Secretary-General reiterated his invitation to world leaders to attend the September 2014 Climate Summit in New York.
- The Secretary-General also offered condolences for today’s train accident in Russia and wished those injured a speedy recovery.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s priorities on humanitarian aid to Syria, the Spokesman said that his main concerns were humanitarian access and funding.
SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS CHINA’S NEWS AGENCY AND MEETS PRESIDENT OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT BANK
- The Secretary-General began his day in Beijing, where he visited the headquarters of Xinhua News Agency. The Secretary-General later held talks with Ding Xuedong, chairman of the China Investment Corporation, the country's sovereign wealth fund.
- The Secretary-General then travelled to Shanghai, where he met with Hi Huai Bang, President of the China Development Bank. Both of those meetings focused on the potential of investment to spur action on climate change and sustainable development.
- The Secretary-General then met with President Mamnoon Hussain of Pakistan before attending the opening ceremony for the Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia.
THAILAND: SECRETARY-GENERAL EMPHASIZES FULL RESPECT FOR DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES
- The Secretary-General is closely following the latest developments in Thailand, where the Army declared Martial Law on 20 May 2014. He has consistently called on all sides to work together to seek a solution to the prolonged political stalemate through constructive dialogue.
- The way to secure Thailand's peace and prosperity is through full respect for democratic principles and engagement in democratic processes. The Secretary-General urges all sides to exercise utmost restraint, refrain from any violence and fully respect human rights.
SOUTH SUDAN: MORE THAN US$ 600 MILLION IN PLEDGES IN OSLO’S DONOR CONFERENCE
- More than US$600 million in pledges were raised today to scale up humanitarian response to the South Sudan crisis at a conference hosted by Norway in collaboration with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
- Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that these pledges will, once paid, translate into life-saving relief to the most vulnerable people in South Sudan and to those who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
- She also said that the fighting must stop so that people can plant and tend to their livestock, and that humanitarian access must be guaranteed so aid organizations can reach more people in need.
- Despite the complexity of the situation on the ground including high levels of insecurity, humanitarian workers have so far reached 1.3 million people with life-saving assistance since the conflict erupted.
- The United Nations and its humanitarian partners need a total of $1.8 billion to implement their response plan for 2014. The regional refugee plan requires $371 million. Pledges made today go a substantial way to funding these appeals.
TENSIONS PERSIST IN AND AROUND CIVILIAN SITES IN SOUTH SUDAN, WITH CHOLERA ON THE RISE
- As fighting enters its fifth month and civilians remain displaced from their homes in South Sudan, the UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) continues to report tensions in and around its protection of civilian sites, particularly in Juba and in Bentiu.
- The Mission reiterates the need, more than ever, for both sides to earnestly implement the “Agreement to Resolve the Crisis in South Sudan” and to accelerate the momentum for peace and end the violence, so that people can return in safety to their homes and rebuild their lives.
- Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the cholera outbreak in South Sudan is intensifying and more cases are expected.
- So far, there are 188 cases, but 130 of these people had already been discharged while nine had passed away.
- Asked about insecurity in Bentiu, the Spokesman said that the United Nations is trying to protect civilians throughout the country. He noted that the UN Mission needs access and freedom of movement in order to protect civilians.
IN NORTHERN MALI, CEASEFIRE HOLDING BUT SITUATION STILL TENSE
- The United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that the situation in Kidal, Northern Mali, remains tense. The cease-fire brokered by MINUSMA on Saturday evening appears to be holding.
- On Monday, the Mission negotiated the release of the thirty two civil servants who had been held at the Gouvernorat. The Mission is receiving reports, however, of an important military mobilisation by all sides in Kidal.
- The Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of MINUSMA, Albert Koenders, has publicly requested that the MNLA hand over the Governorate and other buildings. He also insisted on the need to de-escalate tensions. On Monday, the Deputy Secretary-General also stressed this in a phone call with President Keita of Mali.
- The Mission encourages all parties to renew their commitment to the political process and resume political negotiations at once to achieve a lasting peace.
NIGERIA: U.N. WOMEN DIRECTOR CONCERNED ABOUT IMPACT OF MASS ABDUCTION ON GIRLS’ EDUCATION
- The Executive Director of UN Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has expressed concern about the threat to girls’ education in North-Eastern region of Nigeria, following the recent abduction in Chibok of more than 200 female students by terrorists.
- Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the United Nations system will continue to work with the Government of Nigeria and other partners to provide support to the families of abducted girls and to those students who managed to escape from the custody of the terrorists.
- The traumatised girls and their families need trauma counselling, psycho-social support, educational support and health assistance, among other things.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES GENERALLY PEACEFUL ELECTIONS IN GUINEA-BISSAU
- The Secretary-General welcomes the generally peaceful and orderly conduct of yesterday’s run-off presidential election in Guinea-Bissau. Once again, Bissau-Guineans have demonstrated their commitment to peace and democracy by turning out in large numbers to cast their ballots. The Secretary-General reiterates his call to the candidates and their supporters to respect the official results once announced by the Supreme Court and to follow existing legal procedures to resolve any electoral disputes that may arise.
- The successful conclusion of the elections will go a long way to restoring constitutional order in Guinea-Bissau. The Secretary-General calls on all Bissau-Guineans, their leaders and institutions to seize this opportunity to usher in and consolidate the stability that has eluded the country for too long. The United Nations remains committed to supporting Guinea-Bissau on its path to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future based on the rule of law.
BEFORE ELECTIONS IN MALAWI, SECRETARY-GENERAL APPEALS TO ALL TO ENSURE ELECTIONS FREE FROM VIOLENCE
- The Secretary-General takes note of Malawi’s first tripartite elections, to be held on 20 May 2014, and urges all candidates, political parties, and state institutions to ensure that the polls are peaceful and inclusive. He appeals to the candidates, parties and state institutions to adhere to the Lilongwe Peace Declaration of 10 May to ensure that the elections are free from violence.
- The Secretary-General is convinced that a successful process of presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections will be instrumental for the consolidation of democracy in Malawi. The Secretary-General commends the work of the Malawi Electoral Commission and all national actors, as well as international partners, for their support to the electoral process.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY SAYS 10,000 WERE DISPLACED BY UNREST IN UKRAINE
- From Ukraine, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that the tension in Ukraine has displaced an estimated 10,000 civilians. It adds that the number of people affected is continuing to rise.
- A needs assessment mission has recently been completed and UNHCR is working closely with local authorities, other UN agencies and NGO partners to help those who are most affected. So far this includes providing legal assistance, integration grants for 150 families, cash assistance for 2,000 people, and improved shelters for 50 families.
- Asked about journalists arrested in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that freedom of the press and freedom of movement by the press must be respected.
IN BALKANS, U.N. SUPPORTS EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE TO POPULATION AFFECTED BY FLOODS
- In Bosnia-Herzegovina, the UN continues to coordinate with the Government following recent floods. An airlift with emergency relief items reached Tuzla (North-east Bosnia) on Monday and assessment teams are being deployed.
- Water levels are reported to have receded to normal levels in central Bosnia. The possibility of further flooding is concentrated in north-eastern parts of the country -- where the river Sava embankment has broken in several places.
- People need drinking water, food, emergency tents and medical supplies. The water supply system has been severely disrupted and landslides, debris, mines and potential health threats are of grave concern.
- The UN is supporting the Government in coordinating international humanitarian assistance.
- A six-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) has been deployed and is working closely with the EU’s Civil Protection Team. Two plane-loads of non-food items such as generators, boats, water tanks, water purification units arrived in Serbia on Monday from the UN's Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi. Funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund is also being reviewed.
NEW STOCKPILE OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS DESTROYED, 7.2% REMAINING
- From Syria, the OPCW-UN Joint Mission confirms the destruction of the entire declared Syrian stockpile of Isopropanol.
- It says that 7.2 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons material remains in the country and awaits swift removal for onward destruction. The Joint Mission urges the Syrian authorities to undertake this task as soon as possible.
U.N. RELIEF AND WORKS AGENCY SAYS MORE THAN HALF OF HEALTH CENTRES IN SYRIA ARE NON-FUNCTIONAL
- In its annual report, the Department of Health of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) says that more than half of its health centres in Syria have been destroyed or are non-functional.
- However, the Agency has established ten ‘health points’ in Damascus and Aleppo and intensified services at those clinics which are working.
- The Agency has also reassigned health professionals to facilities that are housing refugees, such as schools, so in some places UNRWA is able to provide medical services around the clock. Forty health teams have received special training in emergency medical care.
MIDDLE EAST: EFFORTS ON A TWO-STATE SOLUTION REACHED AN IMPASSE
- In New York, the Security Council heard from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco this morning in an open briefing on the Middle East. Mr. Fernandez Taranco said that efforts on a two-State solution have reached an impasse.
- He said that the current pause in the talks allows for both parties to consider their next steps, developing on the intensive engagement by the United States over the past nine months. Mr. Fernandez Taranco added that it is the responsibility of the two sides not to take unilateral steps, which will further complicate efforts to return to negotiations.
- In the afternoon, the Council will hold consultations on Sudan sanctions and the work of the 1718 committee before holding an open meeting and consultations on Mali.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION WELCOMES PRELIMINARY RESULTS IN PROVINCIAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS
- The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) welcomed today's release of the preliminary results of the country’s Provincial Council elections, which were held on 5 April.
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, said that it is now important for the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) to address complaints from the Provincial Council elections in an expeditious and transparent manner. For their part, the candidates must also display patience and respect of the process.
- The UN Mission notes that all electoral complaints should be addressed to the legal institutions authorized to adjudicate those complaints.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION REVEALS FORCED LABOUR GENERATES US $150 MILLION A YEAR
- A report issued today by the International Labour Organization says that forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year, about three times more than previously estimated.
- Two thirds of these US$ 150 billion came from commercial sexual exploitation.
The International Labour Organization estimates the number of people in forced labour, trafficking and modern slavery at 21 million.
More than half of the people in forced labour are women and girls, primarily in commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while men and boys are primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.
- Asked about Egypt, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has expressed his concerns about mass arrests and the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt directly to Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in his recent meetings with him.
- Asked about insecurity in Libya, the Spokesman asserted that the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) continues to go about its work. He noted the continuing work by the United Nations to evaluate security conditions.
- Asked about the new Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General hopes that he, like other world leaders, would attend the General Assembly session and summit on climate change in September. He noted India’s important role in dealing with climate change.