HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 7 JULY 2014
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL SADDENED BY PASSING OF FORMER PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA
- The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the passing of H.E. Mr. Eduard Shevardnadze, who served as President of the Republic of Georgia during the challenging early years of his country's independence.
- The Secretary-General recalls Mr. Shevardnadze’s significant contribution as Foreign Minister of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the international stage and his efforts to overcome the divisions of the Cold War, including through advocating for nuclear disarmament at the United Nations.
- The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the bereaved family of Mr. Shevardnadze as well as the Government and people of Georgia.
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL LAUNCHES LATEST DEVELOPMENT REPORT SAYING MANY KEY TARGETS HAVE BEEN MET
- The Secretary-General spoke at the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) this morning, and he launched the 2014 report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). He said that the report makes clear that many key targets have been met or are within reach. The targets to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half and to reduce the number of people without access to improved water sources have been met five years ahead of schedule. And remarkable gains have been made in the fight against malaria and tuberculosis, with a decline of 42 per cent in malaria mortality rates globally.
- At the same time, the Secretary-General says that achievements have been uneven between goals, among and within regions and countries, and between population groups. For the most marginalized and vulnerable in society, social exclusion and discrimination are among the greatest obstacles to progress. He warned that, unless these imbalances are addressed through bolder and more focused interventions, some targets will not be met.
SECURITY COUNCIL HEARS A BRIEFING ON SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS
- The Security Council is holding consultations on Syria’s chemical weapons this morning. Council members heard from Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator for the OPCW-UN Joint Mission that is working in Syria, who briefed the Council by video teleconference from Cyprus.
- The Secretary-General issued a statement last month welcoming the completion of the destruction and removal of the declared chemical weapons material from Syria. The Secretary-General congratulated the OPCW-UN Joint Mission for completing this most challenging of tasks in an active war zone.
U.N. ENVOY IN IRAQ CALLS ON POLITICAL LEADERS TO REACH AN AGREEMENT ON ELECTION OF SPEAKER
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, has called on Iraqi political leaders to reach an agreement on the election of a Speaker of the Council of Representatives as soon as possible.
- Over the last few days Mr. Mladenov has held discussions with a number of Iraqi political leaders and encouraged everyone to stay within the framework of the constitutional political process so that the Council of Representatives meets promptly.
- He added that the blocs in Parliament should limit the number of days for final negotiations, and work within constitutionally mandated timelines for the necessary nominations.
U.N. ENOY IN SOMALIA CONDEMNS ATTACKS DURING RAMADAN
- The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicolas Kay, issued a statement condemning the recent attack on the Somali Parliament and the many killings claimed by Al-Shabaab since the start of Ramadan.
- He called on all Somalis to unite, and work with the authorities to prevent further attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice.
- Mr. Kay added that the UN is working actively with the Federal Government, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and international partners to help the country build a strong Somali national security force.
U.N. ENVOY IN MIDDLE EAST RECEIVED LETTER FROM PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT REQUESTING INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION
- In response to questions, the Spokesman confirmed that Robert Serry, in his capacity as the Secretary-General’s representative on the ground was handed a letter on Sunday by President Mahmoud Abbas which calls for “an international and independent investigation into the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir”.
- Haq added that the letter is being transmitted to the Secretary-General, who had not yet seen the letter. The letter would then be evaluated and responded to in due course.
- Asked about the violence on the ground, the Spokesman referred to the statements that the Secretary-General has issued, including on the killings of the three Israeli teenagers and of the youth killed in Jerusalem last week.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS UNLAWFUL ACTIONS OF ARMED GROUPS IN UKRAINE, URGES AUTHORITIES TO EXERCISE MAXIMUM RESTRAINT
- Asked about recent fighting in Ukraine, the Spokesman said afterward that the Secretary-General is aware of reports that armed militias have regrouped in Donetsk and Lugansk and that the Ukrainian forces are engaging in intensified military activity.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the continued, unlawful actions of armed groups. He also urges the Ukrainian authorities to exercise maximum restraint and to take every possible step to ensure the protection of the large civilian population in these areas.
The Secretary-General reiterates that military means alone cannot provide a solution. A renewed and lasting cease-fire upheld by all parties is fundamental. The continuation of a political and diplomatic process towards a definitive cessation of violence and a peaceful resolution of the crisis is critical.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY DEEPLY CONCERNED BY AUSTRALIA’S DECISION TO RETURN ASYLUM-SEEKERS FROM SRI LANKA
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is deeply concerned by Australia’s announcement today that it has returned some 41 asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka after having intercepted them at sea.
- The Agency says it understands that “enhanced screening procedures” were used as a basis for determining whether these 41 individuals raised claims for protection which required further consideration. Without further information, the Agency says it cannot confirm whether they were in accordance with international law.
- The Agency has previously made known its concerns to Australia about its enhanced screening procedures and their non-compliance with international law.
- It says that it does not object to the returns of persons properly found not to be in need of international protection, but it considers anyone claiming asylum has a right to have their case properly assessed by qualified personnel in accordance with the necessary procedural and legal safeguards.
- The Agency also expressed its concern over the fate of a further 153 asylum-seekers of Sri Lankan origin who are now subject to an Australian High Court injunction on their return.
AFGHANISTAN: DISPLACED FAMILIES FROM PAKISTAN URGENTLY NEED AID
- The UN Refugee Agency or UNHCR has reported that many Pakistani families displaced in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces are urgently in need of food.
- Military operations in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region had forced an estimated 95,000 people to flee to Afghanistan. Many of them had arrived across the border with few possessions and host communities in Afghanistan are struggling to cope with the influx.
- UN agencies and humanitarian partners have scaled up assistance since mid-June. The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food rations to 900 families. UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have vaccinated nearly 25,000 children against polio. WHO has pre-positioned life-saving medication for 25,000 patients and UNHCR has distributed tents to hundreds of families.
U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL ANNOUNCES NEW WAY TO DETERMINE PERSONAL STATUS OF SAME-SEX COUPLES AT SECRETARIAT
- The Secretary-General has issued a bulletin that presents a new way of determining personal status applicable to same-sex couples across the UN Secretariat.
- Previously, a staff member’s personal status was determined by the laws applicable in their country of nationality. Now, personal status will be determined instead by the law of the competent authority under which the personal status was established.
- As such, if a same-sex couple gets married in a country where same-sex marriages are legal, the personal status of the staff member involved will be determined on that basis.
- Describing the new policy, the Secretary-General said that human rights are at the core of the mission of the United Nations. He said that he is proud to stand for greater equality for all staff. He also calls on all members of the UN family to unite in rejecting homophobia. The new policy became effective on 26 June.
- Asked further about the bulletin, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General had issued it under his authority as the chief manager of UN Secretariat staff.