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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 FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

 

THURSDAY, 8 MAY 2014

 

FROM ROME, SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES KIDNAPPED SCHOOLGIRLS WITH NIGERIAN PRESIDENT

  • The Secretary General is in Rome, where he spoke today by phone with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. He called to personally express his deep concern at the fate of the recently kidnapped schoolgirls in Borno State and to express his solidarity with the people of Nigeria, and especially the girls' families.
    The President briefed the Secretary-General on the current state of the search for the abducted girls. The President accepted the Secretary-General's offer to send a high-level representative to Nigeria to discuss how the United Nations can better support the Government's efforts to tackle the internal challenges.
  • In a statement issued this morning, saying that the Secretary-General shares the anguish of the families of the girls and the people of Nigeria at this traumatic time.
  • The Secretary-General reiterates that the targeting of children and schools is against international law and cannot be justified under any circumstances. He reminds all concerned that human rights law and international humanitarian law must be fully respected.
  • The Secretary-General is chairing the Rome meetings of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) today. Tomorrow morning, he and the other members of the CEB will have an audience with Pope Francis.
  • Asked about the responsibilities of a UN representative dealing with this issue, the Spokesperson said that such responsibilities are still being worked out. He added that they would be expected to include ways to enhance cooperation on counter-terrorism and human rights issues.

BAN KI-MOON CONGRATULATES SOUTH AFRICA ON PEACEFUL POLLS

  • In a statement, the Secretary-General congratulates the people and Government of South Africa on the peaceful holding of parliamentary and provincial elections yesterday, amid reports of high voter turnout.
  • He applauds the determination of South Africans to participate meaningfully in the democratic system the country has fought so hard to establish, starting with the first multi-racial elections 20 years ago.
  • The United Nations is committed to continue supporting South Africa in its efforts to advance justice and development for the benefit of all segments of society.

SOUTH SUDAN: NEW U.N. REPORT POINTS TO POSSIBLE VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, HUMANITARIAN LAW

  • The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) released today a report on the gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law that have occurred since the beginning of the conflict in mid-December.
  • Based on thorough documentation and investigations, the report says that there are reasonable grounds to believe that gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed by both parties to the conflict. Violations include extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual violence, arbitrary arrests and detention, targeted attacks against civilians, and attacks on hospitals as well as against UN facilities and the peacekeeping mission and its staff.
  • The report also says that the widespread and systematic nature of many of these attacks, and information suggesting a degree of coordination and planning in some incidents, also give reasonable grounds to believe that certain crimes against humanity may have been committed.
  • The report calls for further investigations and says that these should move quickly and lead to the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators. They must also be conducted independently and in a transparent manner consistent with international standards and principles.
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said that accountability was critical to end the legacy of impunity in the country and that there could be no reconciliation without it.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMME

  • The Security Council held consultations this morning on Syria’s chemical weapons programme. Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, briefed Council members on the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons materiel.
  • This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on South Sudan. Council members will receive an update from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, will also participate by video teleconference.
  • This morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution deciding to create “the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” to be awarded to those military, police, civilian United Nations personnel and associated personnel who demonstrate exceptional courage, in the face of extreme danger, while fulfilling the mandate of their missions or their functions, in the service of humanity and the United Nations.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ATTEND MIGRATION FORUM IN SWEDEN

  • The Secretary-General will travel to Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday 13 May, to attend the Global Forum for Migration and Development Opening Ceremony.
  • The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is an informal government-led process, open to all states who are members or observers of the United Nations. This year’s forum is being hosted by Sweden as the current chair of the Forum. 
  • The Secretary-General will speak at the opening session of the Forum on Wednesday, 14 May.
  • The Secretary-General will be received by the King and Queen at the Royal Palace. The Secretary-General will also meet with the Crown Princess in connection with the conference. He will also hold discussions with the country’s Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, among others.
  • The Secretary-General will return to New York in the afternoon of Thursday, 15 May.

SENIOR U.N. RELIEF OFFICIAL WRAPS UP VISIT TO PAKISTAN, URGES STEPPED UP SUPPORT TO THOSE IN NEED

  • Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kyung-wha Kang wrapped up a visit to Pakistan today.
  • She stressed the need for more support to millions of people in the country affected by insecurity, natural disasters and chronic malnutrition.
  • She visited the Jalozai camp hosting some 32,000 displaced people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There, she met with families which have been uprooted for years.
  • Ms. Kang called the protracted suffering of one million people displaced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas “heart-wrenching.”
  • During her three-day mission, she met senior Government officials in Islamabad and Peshawar, discussing ways to enhance the close cooperation between the authorities and the international humanitarian community to assist those in need.

PHILIPPINES: SIX MONTHS ON FROM TYPHOON HAIYAN, U.N. URGES CONTINUED HELP FOR PEOPLE TO REBUILD THEIR LIVES

  • Six months ago today, Typhoon Haiyan swept across the central Philippines, affecting 14 million people across nine provinces and uprooting 4 million people.
  • The humanitarian community in the country reports that the situation has stabilized across affected areas, but that progress remains fragile as millions continue to need assistance to rebuild their lives.
  • The acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines says that millions of people whose homes were lost or damaged now live in inadequate shelter, leaving them extremely vulnerable.
  • He said that funds are urgently needed to sustain progress on disease control and preparedness.

UKRAINE: SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES DE-ESCALATION OF SITUATION

  • Asked about recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin concerning Ukraine, the Spokesperson recalled that the Secretary-General had asked for all sides to avoid provocative rhetoric and to de-escalate the situation. He added that, while any efforts to de-escalate the situation would be welcome, it was important to focus on the situation on the ground, and the United Nations would continue to follow developments there.
  • He noted, in that regard, that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was in Ukraine and had visited Russia earlier.

BRAZILIAN APPOINTED AS SENIOR POLITICAL OFFICIAL FOR U.N.’S GUINEA-BISSAU OFFICE

  • The Secretary-General announces today the appointment of Marco Carmignani of Brazil as his Deputy Special Representative with the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau. He will handle the political portfolio.
  • Mr. Carmignani brings a wealth of political and leadership experience spanning over two decades of service with the UN.

U.N. REPORT FINDS PERSISTING INEQUALITIES IN ACCESS TO WATER, SANITATION

  • A report issued today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF) shows that inequalities in access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities still persist around the world.
  • The report notes some progress. For instance, in 1990, only 62 % of people had access to improved water in rural areas. That figure jumped to 82% in 2012.
  • However, in addition to the disparities between urban and rural areas, there are often also striking differences in access within towns and cities. The situation of people living in low-income, informal or illegal settlements or on the outskirts of cities or small towns is particularly worrying.
  • The report reveals that by 2012, 116 countries had met the Millennium Development Goal target for drinking water, 77 had met the MDG target for sanitation and 56 countries had met both targets.
  • The goal is to cut in half, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

U.N. PURSUING PEACEFUL SOLUTIONS TO GLOBAL DRUG PROBLEM

  • Asked about the UN response to a recent drug report that criticises the UN strategy on dealing with drugs, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations is not engaged in a war. Rather, it is pursuing peaceful solutions to the world drug problem founded on a balanced approach between demand and supply that embraces human rights, scientific evidence and the overriding principle of protecting people’s health.
  • Such efforts are entirely in line with the International Drug Control Conventions, which in the preamble to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, states that parties to the Convention are ‘concerned with the health and welfare of [humankind].’ 
  • Haq said that these principles were reiterated at the recent High Level Review at the 57th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. At that meeting, Member States reached consensus on a joint ministerial statement that stressed health, prevention and treatment in countering the world drug problem.
  • The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) takes note of the report as part of the discussion on the direction of international drug control, which is to be reviewed and agreed upon by Member States at the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in 2016.

U.N. PROVIDES INFORMATION ON STATES’ CLAIMS TO MARITIME JURISDICTION ON ITS WEBSITE

  • Asked why the UN Secretariat had posted a Note Verbale from Turkey concerning maritime boundaries and Cyprus, the Spokesperson said that, on this issue, the UN Secretariat maintains as part of its mandate a website providing comprehensive information on States’ claims to maritime jurisdiction.
  • This information at times includes claims on baselines or the limits of maritime zones. UN Member States frequently use the services of this website to give publicity to such claims as well as to other information or communications. The Law of the Sea Bulletin, a periodic publication issued by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, serves a similar purpose.
  • The Spokesperson noted that the publication or circulation of information, like the Note Verbale from Turkey, is a technical function. It is based on requests by UN Member States and is not related to the substance of the information. The UN Secretariat maintains this website on the principle of strict impartiality.
    The website clearly states that posting of information does not imply any opinion on the part of the Secretariat concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities. Publication of information does not imply recognition by the UN of the validity of the actions and decisions in question.
  • Haq added that, as part of this long-standing practice, any objections or counter-claims by other Member States to communications like this Turkish Note Verbale would also be posted on the United Nations web site and/or published in the Law of the Sea Bulletin.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Asked about the destruction of holy sites in Homs and Aleppo in Syria, the Spokesperson noted the concerns previously expressed by the Secretary-General concerning the destruction of places of historical or religious importance during the Syria conflict.
  • The Spokesperson reiterated the UN’s disappointment about the verdicts reached in a case concerning mass rapes allegedly committed in Minova, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Asked about disputes in the South China Sea, the Spokesperson said that the United Nations expected and trusted that the concerned nations would resolve such disputes amicably.