HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
WEDNESDAY, 16 JULY 2014
IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES COUNTRY’S STRIDES IN REACHING DEVELOPMENT TARGETS
- The Secretary-General is in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, today. This morning, he addressed a joint session of the congress. He stressed the Dominican Republic's important contributions in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. He also noted that President [Danilo] Medina [Sánchez] had asked for assistance with expanding education and equal opportunities, creating decent jobs and combating inequality and said the UN stood ready to work with the country.
- Yesterday evening, upon his arrival in the Dominican capital, the Secretary-General met with President Medina. Speaking to the press afterwards, he commended the President for his leadership in the adoption by the Dominican Congress in May of a law that addresses the problem facing thousands of Dominican-born persons of foreign descent. He said that the new law is an important step toward the recognition of the Dominican nationality of these individuals, and he encouraged the Dominican authorities to keep working hard to resolve statelessness and protect human rights.
- At a press conference before leaving Haiti, the Secretary-General said that the security situation in the country has improved markedly, but serious challenges remain. He said he is especially concerned that Haiti’s political transition could suffer a regression. He emphasized that the holding of inclusive elections in October is essential for the continuity of parliament in 2015, and for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law.
SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS EGYPTIAN CEASEFIRE INITIATIVE, VOICES CONCERN OVER UNABATING VIOLENCE
- Asked about the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, the Spokesman recalled that the Secretary-General spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday. The Secretary-General, he said fully supports the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire agreement but was deeply worried that the fighting has not stopped, despite Israel’s readiness to accept the ceasefire proposal.
- Asked about the Secretary-General’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, Haq said that the Secretary-General is continuing to make calls to world leaders in order to have them press the parties to halt fighting and return to negotiations. Those calls include one earlier today with the President of Indonesia.
- Asked about civilian casualties, the Spokesman reiterated the Secretary-General’s concern about all such casualties and his call for maximum restraint. He added, in response to further questions, that all sides were urged not to target medical facilities or to use them to launch attacks.
- The Spokesman, in response to a question, confirmed that the Secretary-General had received a letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and said that it was being studied.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION WELCOMES CALL FOR RAMADAN CEASEFIRE
- The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says it supports the call today from the Federation of Afghanistan's Civil Societies for a ceasefire between Government forces and other armed groups during Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ján Kubiš, expressed full support for the call, saying that Ramadan is a time of peace and community, and should be observed in a spirit of compassion and unity.
- The UN Mission notes that, in light of the sanctity of this month, Afghan families should be able to worship and celebrate in peace, without fear of violence.
- Also on Afghanistan, yesterday the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attacks in Paktika and Kabul.
- The Secretary-General has also issued a statement, as you would recall.
- Security Council members remain concerned about the threats posed by the Taliban, Al-Qaida, and other terrorist and extremist groups, to the local population, national and international security forces. They underlined the need to bring the perpetrators to justice.
U.N. IRAQ ENVOY LAUDS ELECTION OF NEW SPEAKER IN COUNCIL OF REPRESENTATIVES
- The Secretary-General Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, yesterday congratulated the Council of Representatives on the election of a new Speaker and Deputy Speakers.
- He urged all political blocs to support the Council’s efforts to find agreement on key legislation, including the budget for 2014. He added that the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) stands ready to support their work.
- Mr. Mladenov called the election an important step towards restarting the democratic process. He strongly encouraged Iraqi political leaders to swiftly move forward by electing a new President and forming a new Government.
- Also yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence, Zainab Hawa Bangura, voiced grave concern at reports of sexual violence in Iraq, including several cases of rape near Mosul.
- Asked about worries expressed by some residents of Camp Hurriya, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has appealed to Member States to contribute to a durable solution for the relocation of Camp Hurriya residents outside of Iraq and come forward with offers to accept residents into their territories.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION TO SYRIA CONFLICT – SECRETARY-GENERAL
- Asked about the inauguration today of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Spokesman reiterated the Secretary-General’s conviction that there is no substitute for a political solution to the conflict.
- In response to questions, Haq noted that Staffan de Mistura and his Deputy, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, are in New York to hold initial discussions with officials.
U.N. RELIEF CHIEF BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON SUDAN, SOUTH SUDAN
- Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning in its closed consultations on Sudan and South Sudan.
- This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on the Central African Republic.
U.N. AID WING ISSUES URGENT CALL FOR NEARLY $1 BILLION TO HELP 7 MILLION PEOPLE IN SUDAN
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the revised response plan for Sudan now urgently requires US$982 million to assist 6.9 million people in need of humanitarian assistance or about 20% of the population. Humanitarian needs include shelter, protection, nutrition, health, and drinking water.
- The Office says that more people have been displaced in Darfur in the first half of 2014 than in any single year since 2004. Some 85,000 people have been driven across the border to seek refuge in Sudan, particularly in White Nile State. Given the scale of these new needs and the declining capacity of relief agencies, the delivery of basic humanitarian services in Darfur is inadequate. Aid agencies in Sudan have reassessed their priorities and refocused primarily on the immediate delivery of life-saving assistance.
TOP U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL SPOTLIGHTS ‘DISTURBING’ LACK OF TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that studies by both her office and others have revealed what she calls a “disturbing” lack of transparency regarding government surveillance policies and practices.
- Navi Pillay said that this includes de facto coercion of private sector companies to provide sweeping access to information and data relating to private individuals.
- Ms. Pillay said that this is severely hindering efforts to ensure accountability for any resulting human rights violations despite a clear international legal framework laying down governments’ obligations to protect our right to privacy.
- Her office has been working for more than a year on issues relating to the right to privacy in the face of modern digital technology and surveillance measures.
- A new report issued by the office today stresses the need for vigilance and procedural safeguards against governmental surveillance programmes.
PLIGHT OF MIGRANT CHILDREN FROM CENTRAL AMERICA AN ‘URGENT’ HUMANITARIAN SITUATION – SECRETARY-GENERAL
- The Secretary-General today called the plight of unaccompanied child migrants from Central America an urgent humanitarian situation affecting tens of thousands of children.
- In a message to a conference on this issue under way in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he said that unaccompanied minors, some of whom are under the age of seven, often rely on unscrupulous human smuggling network exposing them to harm, exploitation and abuse to make this journey.
- The Secretary-General called upon Governments of countries of origin, transit and destination to urgently protect the human rights of migrant children.
AS TYPHOON RAMMASUN PASSES OVER PHILIPPINES, U.N. TASK FORCE ON STANDBY
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Typhoon Rammasun has crossed the Philippines’ island of Albay and has passed through the metro Manila area.
- It is expected to leave the Philippines by tomorrow morning. The typhoon is projected to affect 43 million people, with 136,000 households living in areas highly susceptible to landslides and storm surge.
- People have been evacuated from vulnerable areas, and authorities have provided food and other aid. The Humanitarian Coordinator, Luiza Carvalho, said that a task force has been set up to enhance readiness to respond and is on standby.
MORE THAN HALF OF ALL HIV-POSITIVE PEOPLE UNAWARE OF THEIR STATUS, NEW U.N. REPORT FINDS
- A new report by UNAIDS shows that more than half of the 35 million people living with HIV today do not know they have the virus.
- UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said that whether you live or die should not depend on access to an HIV test. He added that smarter scale-up is needed to close the gap between people who know their status and people who don’t, between people who can get services and people who can’t, and between people who are protected and people who are punished.
- The report shows that people will seek life-saving treatment when they find out their HIV-positive status, with nearly 90 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa who tested positive getting access to antiretroviral therapy.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW HEAD OF U.N. OFFICE IN GUINEA-BISSAU
- The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Miguel Trovoada of São Tomé and Príncipe as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS).
- Mr. Trovoada succeeds José Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his leadership. Mr. Trovoada, a former President of his country, most recently served as Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission.
U.N. STUDYING DUTCH RULING CONCERNING SREBRENICA PEACEKEEPERS
- Asked about a Dutch ruling concerning Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was aware of the press accounts. However, he added, the judgment would need to be studied in greater detail before any comment would be made on it.
- Asked further about the Srebrenica massacre, the Spokesman noted that, in a report to the General Assembly analysing what happened there, the Secretary-General wrote, “The United Nations experience in Bosnia was one of the most difficult and painful in our history. It is with the deepest regret and remorse that we have reviewed our own actions and decisions in the face of the assault on Srebrenica. Through error, misjudgement and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.”
- The report goes on to say that tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever. In the end, the report says, the only meaningful and lasting amends we can make to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who put their faith in the international community is to do our utmost not to allow such horrors to recur.
- In response to questions, on Ameerah Haq, she will be leaving her post as Under-Secretary-General for Field Support and she has informed her colleagues that she will be leaving in October.
- In response to a question about reports of potential repatriations from Thailand to Myanmar of people who, to our knowledge, are not Rohingya, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) does not have any information on what was discussed between the two Governments, but is very concerned by inaccuracies reported in the media which are causing anxiety among the refugees and concern among humanitarian workers. The Thai Government has consistently reassured UNHCR that any refugee returns to Myanmar must be voluntary and conducted in safety and dignity. UNHCR is not aware of any changes in the Government’s policy, and will continue to support its efforts to protect and assist refugees from Myanmar.
- Asked about a schedule Thursday briefing to the Security Council on Libya, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Tarek Mitri, was expected to brief the Council by video teleconference.
- Asked about the reported use of cluster munitions in Ukraine, the Spokesman said that any evidence of such use could be shared with the UN human rights monitoring mission present in Ukraine.