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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 SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

THURSDAY, 7 AUGUST 2014

 

U.N. FLAG AT HALF-MAST IN HONOUR OF FALLEN STAFF MEMBERS IN GAZA

  • The UN flag is flying at half-mast at Headquarters today in honour of the eleven staff members and contractors of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who died in Gaza over the past month. The Secretary-General, in his remarks yesterday at the informal meeting of the General Assembly, mourned the fallen staff and said that we will carry on with their work.
  • Also, today in the Circle outside the Secretariat building, we will have a moment of silence in memory of the colleagues killed in Gaza.
  • In less than one month of military conflict, UNRWA lost eleven of its personnel in Gaza. In addition, in recent years, twelve people working for the Relief and Works Agency have died in Syria, in addition to one who died in the West Bank.
  • The fallen UNRWA staff members are: Fatma A. Rahim Abu Amouna, 54, a teacher; Inas Shaban Derbas, 30, a teacher; Mohammed A. Raouf Al-Dadda, 39, a teacher; Ismail A. Qader El-Kujk, 53, an environmental-health worker; Farid Mohamed Mohamed Ahmed, 50, a teacher; Ahmed Mohamed Mohamed Ahmed, 51, a school principal; Munir Ibrahim El Hajjar, a social worker; Medhat Ahmed Al Amoudi, 53, a labourer, and Abdallah Naser Khalil Fahajan, 21, a school attendant.
  • Two UNRWA contractors employed under the Agency’s Job Creation Programme have been killed while on duty in UNRWA’s shelters: Adel Mohammad Abu Qamar, a guard, and Hazim Abdelbasit Abu Hellal, a guard.

SCALE OF NEEDS ‘UNPRECEDENTED’ IN GAZA FOLLOWING FOUR WEEKS OF FIGHTING, SAYS U.N. OFFICIAL

  • The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, James Rawley, said today that the scale of needs is unprecedented in the Gaza Strip following four weeks of hostilities. He said that teams are on the ground assessing needs and providing relief and emphasized the need for a sustained halt to the violence.
  • Since the conflict began last month, at least 1,380 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including 423 children and 224 women, and more than 9,000 people have been wounded. Three civilians in Israel were killed. Some of the 520,000 Palestinians who were displaced have since returned to their homes.
  • In the last 48 hours, humanitarian workers have been able to deliver food rations to hundreds of thousands of people. Vital repairs to water and sanitation infrastructure are underway and hundreds of tons of refuse have been removed from Gaza’s refugee camps. Medical supplies are being re-stocked and more clinics are open. Mine risk education is targeting families in areas with the highest contamination of unexploded ordnance, and emergency psychosocial support is being provided to thousands of children. Search and rescue workers have been retrieving bodies from under the rubble in areas that were previously inaccessible.
  • Mr. Rawley added that, without the full lifting of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in Gaza will continue to be deprived of any sense of a normal life and the massive reconstruction effort now required will be impossible.

IRAQ: TENS OF THOUSANDS FORCED FROM HOMES IN SINJAR – U.N. RELIEF WING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and are in urgent need of life-saving assistance due to the violence in Sinjar, Iraq.
  • While the situation remains fluid and numbers cannot be independently verified, thousands of families, many of them women, children and the elderly, are now trapped on Mount Sinjar. Iraqi authorities estimate that there are some 50,000 people there.
  • An estimated 200,000 people have reportedly made their way to Dohuk Governorate in the Kurdish region or to disputed border areas inside Ninewa Province.
  • UN agencies and partners are providing displaced people with emergency assistance including food, water, health care and basic household items.The situation in Iraq will be discussed in consultations by the Security Council this afternoon.
  • The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed alarm at recent reports of violation of academic freedoms in various universities in Iraq, including the universities of Mosul, Tikrit, Anbar and Diyala.
  • There have been reports that professors, researchers and students have come under increasing pressure, especially in the fields of law, religious sciences and education. UNESCO adds that the principle of co-education is also being jeopardized.

U.N. ENVOY ON AFRICAN GREAT LAKES REGION BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL BEFORE TAKING ON NEW ROLE AS CLIMATE CHANGE EMISSARY

  • This morning, Mary Robinson briefed the Security Council for the last time as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region.
  • She said she remained encouraged by the prospects and opportunities generated by the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, and by the significant achievements recorded so far.
  • Mrs Robinson also told the Council that the voluntary surrender process of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) had yet to gain sufficient traction to show it is credible. All negative forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo must be removed, she said.
  • On elections, she said it would be critically important to work with authorities, in Burundi and in all other countries in the region, in order to ensure the adequate political space that is necessary for free and fair elections.
  • Mrs Robinson has been appointed Special Envoy for Climate Change and will replaced for the Great Lakes Region by Said Djinnit, from Algeria.
  • Also briefing the Council today was the Head of the UN Mission in the DRC, Martin Kobler.
  • He said there could be no doubt that the security situation had vastly improved over the past year. However, conflict persists, the situation is still fragile and not irreversible, he warned.

SECRETARY-GENERAL DEEPLY CONCERNED OVER DIRE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION ACROSS SOUTH SUDAN

  • In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at the dire humanitarian situation across South Sudan. He condemns in the strongest terms the recent killing of five South Sudanese employees of humanitarian non-governmental organizations in Maban County, Upper Nile State, and called for an investigation into events. 
  • The Secretary-General reiterated that there is no military solution to the crisis in South Sudan. He called upon the parties to immediately cease their military operations and demonstrate the political will to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
  • The Security Council also issued a press statement on the situation in South Sudan last night.

CONDITIONS FOR UPROOTED IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC REMAIN DIRE, SAYS U.N. AID OFFICIAL

  • The Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for the Central African Republic, Claire Bourgeois, says that she is concerned about the protection of the displaced persons and the civilian population of Bambari, following a recent visit there.
  • She reported that the condition of internally displaced persons remains dire. Clashes between armed groups continued in Bouca and Batangafo in recent days. Up to 20,000 people have sought shelter at sites including the Catholic mission, the hospital and the town hall.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also says that the humanitarian community is concerned by the looming food security crisis in the Central African Republic.
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) distributed seed-protection rations to 226,000 people last month and assisted an estimated 372,000 people in emergency food insecure areas. In addition, some 33,000 children under five received nutritious blanket-feeding packages. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has registered almost 10,000 cases of malnutrition among children across the country. Up to 15 new cases per day of severe malnutrition with complications are admitted to Bangui's pediatric hospital, and the numbers continue to rise.

CAMBODIA: U.N.-BACKED COURT FINDS TWO FORMER KHMER ROUGE LEADERS GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES

  • The Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) today found two former Khmer Rouge leaders – Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life in prison.
  • These crimes, committed in the last 1970s, included murder, political persecution and forced transfers of hundreds of thousands of people, among others.
  • Today’s verdict is a milestone in the Courts’ work, as well as a historic moment in international criminal justice. It demonstrates that there will be no impunity for the most serious international crimes.
  • The Secretary-General has consistently reiterated his commitment that there must be accountability for those who would perpetrate such crimes.
  • The fact that today’s judgment has been delivered some 30 years after the events in question sends a powerful message to anyone who may consider committing such crimes in the future.
  • In today’s sentencing, the Trial Chamber took note of how the crimes had been committed across the whole of Cambodia during a 2.5-year period against a large number of victims – among the highest of any decided case concerning international crimes. The Chamber said the crimes had serious and lasting impacts on the victims, their families, and Cambodia in general.
  • The hearings for the case began in November 2011, with an unprecedented number of people – more than 100,000 – attending the trial.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION TO BRING EXPERTS TOGETHER TO DISCUSS EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENT FOR EBOLA

  • Early next week, the World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a panel of experts in medical ethics to explore the use of experimental treatment in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
  • Currently there is no registered medicine or vaccine against the virus, but there are several experimental options under development.
  • The World Health Organization notes that the recent treatment of two health workers with experimental medicine has raised questions. It stresses that the gold standard for assessing new medicine involves a series of trials in humans, and that the guiding principle with use of any new medicine is ‘do no harm’.
  • However, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General at the World Health Organization, explained that the current situation was unusual and that guidance from medical ethicists was needed.