HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
TUESDAY 12 JUNE 2012
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED OVER INTENSIFICATION OF ARMED VIOLENCE IN SYRIA
- In a statement issued Monday evening, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at the dangerous intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past several days, and the grave danger facing civilians in areas under fire.
- The Secretary-General condemned this escalation of armed violence, in particular the shelling of population centres and attacks against civilian infrastructure by all sides, which impairs delivery of essential services and exacerbates the humanitarian crisis.
- The Secretary-General further called on all sides to stop the killing, cease armed violence in all its forms and seek peaceful political means to resolve the deepening crisis, as called for by the six-point plan.
- The Spokesperson for the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) said that United Nations observers trying to reach the town of al-Haffeh today were confronted with angry crowds that surrounded their vehicles, stopping them from proceeding any further.
- The crowd, who appeared to be residents of the area, then hurled stones and metal rods at the UN vehicles.
- The UN observers turned back. And as they were leaving the area, three vehicles heading towards Idlib were fired upon. The source of fire is still unclear.
- All UN observers are now back at their bases and they are secure.
- The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) has been trying to reach al-Haffeh since June 7 but has been impeded by the violence in the area.
- The Mission calls on the parties to grant the UN observers immediate and unfettered access to conflict zones.
- Asked about the work of the observers, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said that they have been extremely courageous, but added that it was not feasible for them to move ahead at the time that they were confronted by a crowd throwing metal rods and other objects at them.
- Asked about the civilians who were throwing objects at the peacekeepers, the Spokesperson said that the Mission was trying to obtain further details about them. The bottom line is that the crowd, who seemed to be residents of the area, threw stones and metal rods and impeded the observers’ progress.
- Asked about designating the conflict as a civil war, the Spokesperson noted the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross in making such a designation.
- The Secretary-General and the Joint Special Envoy have recently referred to the deterioration of the situation on the ground, the Spokesperson noted, and the UN Secretariat was looking at the implications of that deterioration.
- Asked who escorts the UN observers, the Spokesperson said that UNSMIS is accompanied by Government escorts in Government-held areas. The observers are not accompanied by such escorts in areas outside of Government control.
SOLDIER MUTINY THREATENS EASTERN DRC, U.N. ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, provided an update to the Security Council on Tuesday about the fighting in North and South Kivu following the mutiny by soldiers led by Bosco Ntaganda and Sultani Makenga.
- The mutiny, he said, now threatens a general destabilization of the Kivus and the region and dramatically increases the general threat to millions of civilians.
- Mr. Meece said that the United Nations Mission, MONUSCO, has credible information regarding killings on a significant scale and other serious crimes committed in the Kivus, including rape and other forms of sexual violence.
- He said that the UN Mission has deployed forces and stepped up operations throughout the affected area, but its resources have been stretched to the limit.
- And earlier, the Security Council adopted a resolution concerning the focus of the second phase of Yemen’s political transition, including the holding of an all-inclusive National Dialogue Conference.
- And the Council extended by one year the mandate of the Panel of Experts dealing with sanctions concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
SECRETARY-GENERAL AWARDED THE SEOUL PEACE PRIZE FOR 2012
- The Secretary-General has been awarded the Seoul Peace Prize for 2012. He regards the award as recognition of the efforts of the United Nations.
- The Seoul Peace Prize was established in 1990.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CALLS ON BANGLADESH TO KEEP BORDERS OPEN AMID VIOLENCE IN MYANMAR
- Given the rapid escalation of violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is calling on Bangladesh to keep its borders open.
- The Agency is very concerned about media reports quoting a statement of the Bangladeshi Border Guard force that it had turned away a number of boats carrying people from Myanmar.
- The Agency is trying to monitor key crossing points along the border between the two countries following the temporary relocation of its staff in the area.
- It is hopeful that its staff will be able to return soon.
- The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Mr Vijay Nambiar, is currently in Myanmar to participate in a meeting of the Myanmar Peace Donor Support Group with President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw.
- In this context, and in follow-up to the Secretary-General's recent visit to Myanmar, Mr Nambiar discussed a range of issues with the President and other senior leaders in the country.
- This included the state of emergency that has been declared in Rakhine State and the need for the Government to continue to handle the situation transparently and with respect for human rights and the rule of law, consistent with President Thein Sein's recent statement in order that the cycle of violence is broken and the broader reform process not adversely affected.
U.N. CALLS FOR $200 MILLION FOR HUMANITARIAN NEEDS IN DPRK
- The United Nations is calling for nearly $200 million to respond to humanitarian needs in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, this year.
- The Resident Coordinator for the country said that 16 million people continue to suffer from chronic food insecurity, high malnutrition rates and deep-rooted economic problems.
- Jérôme Sauvage noted that the United Nations in the DPRK remains seriously underfunded, adding that separating humanitarian needs from political issues is a prerequisite for a sustainable improvement in the condition of the people.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE EXPRESSES ALARM AT ATTACKS AGAINST AFRICAN MIGRANTS IN ISRAEL
- Asked Monday about the United Nations response to reported violent attacks against African migrants living in Israel, the Spokesperson added Tuesday that the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed its alarm at the incidents of violence and targeted attacks against migrants of African origin that have recently taken place in Israel.
- The Office welcomes the statement by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemning such violence, but it also regrets that the violence and targeted attacks in question have been accompanied by a harsh public discourse, which has included incendiary public statements by Israeli political figures, against migrants and asylum seekers. Under international law all migrants, regardless of their legal status, are entitled to protection of their fundamental rights, including protection from violence and hate speech.
- The High Commissioner’s Office urges public figures in Israel to avoid inflammatory and derogatory language when referring to migrants.
- It calls on the Government of Israel to put in place balanced policies to manage migration and to develop appropriate alternatives to detention for migrants and asylum seekers. Irregular migration is not a crime.
UNHCR SAYS SUDANESE REFUGEES IN SOUTH SUDAN HAVE BEEN MOVED TO RELIEVE OVERCROWDING: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said eight thousand Sudanese refugees have been moved from a transit site in the north-east of South Sudan to relieve overcrowding. Fifteen thousand more refugees are expected to arrive at the site at Hofra. South Sudan is currently hosting more than 150,000 refugees from Sudan.
FAO CALLS FOR STEPPING UP EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE CHILD LABOUR: Today is the World Day against Child Labour. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the internationally agreed target of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016 will be missed if countries don't step up their efforts to combat child labour in agriculture. Worldwide 215 million children are child labourers, of whom around 130 million boys and girls between 5 and 17 work in agriculture.
***The guest today was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, who briefed reporters on the Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.