TRANSCRIPT OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL’S OPENING REMARKS AT PRESS ENCOUNTER IN NEW YORK, 12 AUGUST 2014
· Good afternoon everyone. It is a great pleasure to see you. It has been about two weeks since I saw you last. The world continues to experience tumult and turmoil, with several crises occurring at the same time. I would like to say a few words about three of the emergencies.
· First, the situation in Iraq.
· During my visit to Baghdad and Erbil last month, I urged Iraqis to support the democratic process. I welcome the movement toward the formation of a new government. Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abbadi now has the important task of forming a broad-based government acceptable to all components of Iraqi society. It is imperative that the security forces refrain from intervening in the political process.
· The people of Iraq – all Iraqi people – need security. Yet the poison of hatred and brutality is spreading.
· The so-called “Islamic State” – IS - is a threat to Iraq, Syria and the region. I am profoundly dismayed by its barbaric acts, including accounts of summary executions, boys forcibly taken from their homes to fight, girls abducted or trafficked as sex slaves.
· The plight of the Yazidis and others on Mount Sinjar is especially harrowing. UN humanitarian personnel are in the area, doing what we can. Air drops of food and water are reaching some of the trapped people. But the situation on the mountain is dire. And even when people manage to find a way out, they remain exposed to searing heat and a perilous odyssey.
· I urge the international community to do even more to provide the protection they need. And I condemn in the strongest possible terms the systematic persecution of individuals from minority populations and those who refuse the extremist ideology of “IS” and associated armed groups.
· Let me now turn to the situation in Gaza.
· The most recent ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, appears to be holding. But that is not enough. I strongly hope that a durable ceasefire will be reached soon.
· We must use this cessation of hostilities to address urgent humanitarian needs. The toll of death and destruction is staggering.
· According to preliminary information, nearly 2000 Palestinians have been killed -- almost 75 per cent of them civilians, including 459 children. There were more children killed in this Gaza conflict than in the previous two crises combined.
· More than 300,000 people are still sheltering in UNRWA schools, government and private schools and other public facilities, or with host families. At least 100,000 people have had their homes destroyed or severely damaged.
· Most of Gaza’s households have little or no water supply. Hospitals meant to cope with disaster are themselves disaster zones. The new school year was scheduled to start in less than two weeks, but a great many of the buildings will not be ready or are totally unusable in their current state.
· The United Nations will work with regional and international actors to rebuild. But unless we address the underlying causes of the conflict, another round of violence and vengeance is almost guaranteed.
· Israel’s duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas and other threats is beyond question. At the same time, the fighting has raised serious questions about Israel’s respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality. Reports of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians.
· I have called for an investigation into the repeated shelling of UN facilities harbouring civilians. I expect accountability for the innocent lives lost and the damage incurred.
· Finally, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern.
· WHO announced today that the death toll has surpassed 1,000. Three steps are especially urgent:
· First, addressing the severe lack of capacity in the most severely affected countries. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have only recently returned to political stability following years of conflict that destroyed or disabled their health systems. I urge the international community to respond urgently to the shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment, including protective clothing and isolation tents. We need all hands on deck.
· Second, a coordinated international response is essential. I remain in close touch with Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. In the days ahead, the UN system will further strengthen the way we are dealing with the outbreak.
· To that end, in close coordination with Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO, I have designated Dr. David Nabarro as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease. Dr. Nabarro will be responsible for ensuring that the United Nations system makes an effective and coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the outbreak of Ebola.
· Third, we need to avoid panic and fear. Ebola can be prevented. With resources, knowledge, early action and will, people can survive the disease. Ebola has been successfully brought under control elsewhere, and we can do it here too.
· Thank you very much for your attention.
REFUGEE AGENCY SAYS THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HAVE ESCAPED IRAQ’S SINJAR MOUNTAIN
· The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that thousands of people have escaped from Sinjar Mountain in northwest Iraq via Syria and back into the Dohuk governorate of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq over the past 72 hours.
· According to UNHCR’s NGO partners in Iraq there are now as many as 35,000 people who have newly arrived, who are exhausted and dehydrated. Many have suffered sun or heat stroke, with the daily temperatures reaching 40 to 45 degrees Celsius.
· People are moving to places including Zakho and Dohuk town, where 16 school buildings have been made available. Food, water and medical care are being provided. As of now, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people remain trapped on Sinjar Mountain without food, water or shelter. Access to these families is extremely limited.
U.N. MISSION IN LIBYA CONDEMNS CONTINUING BATTLES IN TRIPOLI
· The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) strongly condemned the continuing battles in Tripoli, despite the repeated official and international calls for an immediate ceasefire and to refrain from the use of force to resolve political differences.
· The Mission deplores the rise in the number of civilian casualties and expresses deep concern about the shortages in medical supplies, the displacement of thousands of families, the huge destruction of residences and infrastructure and the halt in economic activity.
· The Mission also condemns the continuing battles in the eastern region, which is inflicting harm on the civilian population, and the attacks against police and army positions, as well as the use of military aircraft in combat.
· UNSMIL, in coordination with international partners, is in constant contact with all sides in an effort to reach a ceasefire, end the bloodshed and agree to political solutions to the current problems. The Mission calls on all sides to respond positively to these efforts without delay.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. MISSION URGES NEW PRIME MINISTER TO FORM INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT
· Following the appointment of Mahamat Kamoun as the new Prime Minister and Head of the Transitional Government of the Central African Republic, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has urged him to form an inclusive and representative government.
· The Mission says such a government will accelerate the implementation of the road map of the Transition and address the concerns of all communities, in line with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 23 July 2014.
· MINUSCA encourages all Central Africans to work together through constructive dialogue to address the many challenges the country is facing and to establish lasting peace and stability.
EBOLA: EXPERTS PANEL REACHES CONSENSUS OVER THE USE OF EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENT AS DEATH TOLL RISES
· The World Health Organization (WHO) published today the conclusions of a panel of experts in medical ethics on the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
· In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.
· Ethical criteria must guide the provision of such interventions. These include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity, and involvement of the community.
· Between 7 and 9 August 2014, a total of 69 new cases of Ebola and 52 deaths were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
· This brings the total of cases to 1838 and the total of death caused by the disease to 1013.
· The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, said this was a severe health crisis that could rapidly become a humanitarian crisis if transmission was not stopped. She said that there was no early end in sight and that this was an extraordinary outbreak that required extraordinary measures for containment.
· Margaret Chan added that Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have only recently returned to political stability following years of civil war and conflict, which left health systems largely destroyed or severely disabled.
· She said the outbreak threatened to push these countries backwards and that the international community must come together to give them the resources they need.
BAN KI-MOON CALLS ON YOUTH TO STAY ENGAGED
· The Secretary-General attended an event in New York marking International Youth Day, along with Raquelina Langa, a young girl from Mozambique whom he had met last year in Maputo.
· He said he decided to invite her to the United Nations to encourage her – and all young women and men everywhere – to start realizing their potential role in a global Organization and to have great ambitions for their future as global citizens.
· He added that helping young people to realize their potential is at the heart of this year’s observance of Youth Day, which focuses on mental health. The stigma associated with having a mental health condition can cause enormous problems for young people – from jobs to relationships, he stressed.
· He called on youth to stay engaged and be there for each other.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ATTEND OPENING OF 2014 SUMMER YOUTH OLYMPICS IN NANJING, CHINA
· The Secretary-General will depart New York on Thursday, 14 August, for a visit to Nanjing, China.
· On Saturday, 16 August, the Secretary-General will attend the opening ceremony of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games.
· While in Nanjing, he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
· The Secretary-General will hold a discussion with young people on their key role in promoting development.
· He will also take part in a live discussion on social media about the potential of young people, the power of sport and the importance of addressing climate change.
· The Secretary-General will arrive back in New York on Sunday, 17 August.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME DIRECTOR VISITS SYRIA
· The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, wrapped up a one-day visit to Damascus on Tuesday.
· She met with WFP staff, senior government officials and visited a WFP food distribution to oversee progress and discuss the operational challenges of one of the agency’s largest and most complex humanitarian operations worldwide.