HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2013
SYRIA ENVOY MEETS U.S., RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
- Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, met in Geneva today jointly with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Speaking to reporters afterward, he said the discussions today were useful and emphasized the importance of working to bring about the Geneva II conference successfully.
- In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General said that he had received a letter from the Government of Syria, informing him that President Bashar al-Assad has signed the legislative decree providing for the accession of Syria to the Chemical Weapons Convention. In their letter, the Syrian authorities have expressed their commitment to observe the obligations entailed by the Convention even before its entry into force for Syria.
- The Secretary-General welcomes this development, noting that, as depository of the Convention, he has long called for universal accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Given recent events, he hopes that the current talks in Geneva will lead to speedy agreement on a way forward which will be endorsed and assisted by the international community.
- Asked about remarks by the Secretary-General concerning the use of chemical weapons, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General had not yet received the report of the chemical weapons team. He would look at the team’s work with an open mind and has made clear that he intends to share their findings with the Member States.
- The team still intends to continue its other investigative work on Syria, he added, although they would first report on the 21 August Ghouta incident.
- Asked about Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, Haq said that the United Nations was in contact with the Government of Syria to obtain additional information so that the instrument of accession could be deposited. Once an instrument of accession is deposited, it would take 30 days before it enters into force.
U.N. RELIEF CHIEF URGES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS TRAPPED IN SYRIA FIGHTING
- The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said today that towns and cities are increasingly under siege as the Syria crisis worsens and fighting intensifies. People are unable to leave sealed-off Government or opposition-held areas, sometimes for months on end, and have run short of water, food, power and medicines.
- She said that she is extremely worried by reports that more than half a million people remain trapped in Rural Damascus.
- Under-Secretary-General Amos reminded the Government and other parties to this conflict once again that they have an obligation under international human rights and international humanitarian law to protect civilians and allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need.
- Asked further about the problems with access, the Spokesperson said that Ms. Amos had pointed to very disturbing reports from the town of Moadamyieh, just a few kilometres from the capital. It is reported that the town has been besieged for the last ten months, suffering daily shelling and armed clashes between Government and opposition groups. UN humanitarian agencies have not been able to deliver supplies for nearly a year, despite repeated attempts, due to security constraints.
- Ms. Amos added that most of the 70,000 population of the area has fled but some 12,000 people remain trapped, unable to get enough food for their families. There are cases of severe malnutrition among children, as well as the spread of skin and respiratory diseases.
SHARP INCREASE IN NUMBER OF SYRIANS ARRIVING IN SOUTHERN ITALY, U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY REPORTS
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is seeing a sharp increase in Syrians arriving by boat in southern Italy. Over the past 40 days, 3,300 Syrians, of whom more than 230 were unaccompanied children, have come ashore, mainly in Sicily. Some 670 of these arrivals were during the past week
- Most of the arrivals have been families with children. Several people have needed hospital treatment for dehydration, and there have been instances of people having to be airlifted directly from the boat they were traveling on.
- The Refugee Agency estimates that more than 4,600 Syrians have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of 2013. A full two-thirds of these arrivals have been in August.
BAN URGES END TO FIGHTING IN SYRIA, URGES PROGRESS IN MEETING DEVELOPMENT TARGETS
- The Secretary-General spoke this morning to the Women’s International Forum, saying that it is time for the parties in Syria to stop fighting and start talking.
- In his remarks, he also said that he continues to press for a political solution there.
- The Secretary-General also spoke about sustainable development, saying that the international community must accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as the 2015 deadline draws near.
CHILD MORTALITY HALVED SINCE 1990 – U.N. REPORT
- The number of child deaths worldwide is down by half since 1990, according to a new report released today by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.
- The report says last year approximately 6.6 million children, or 18,000 children per day, died before reaching their fifth birthday. This is roughly half the number of under-fives who died in 1990, when more than 12 million children died.
- Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has welcomed this trend, saying that millions of lives have been saved. He has called for a greater sense of urgency as most of these deaths can be prevented by using simple steps that many countries have already put in place.
- The report says that about half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.
PRESS KIT FOR FORTHCOMING GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION AVAILABLE ONLINE
- The Department of Public Information (DPI) has made a press kit for the forthcoming General Assembly available online in all languages.
- The press kit contains a range of materials, including the General Assembly's provisional agenda and a biography and photo of the President-elect.
- This year, for the first time, the Department has produced a paperless press kit as part of its efforts to be environmentally friendly, and as endorsed by the President-elect of the General Assembly
- A PaperSmart version of the kit can be viewed and downloaded on mobile devices.
SECRETARY-GENERAL, GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT TO BRIEF PRESS NEXT WEEK
- The Secretary-General will hold a press conference at noon on Tuesday, 17 September, to discuss the forthcoming 68th session of General Assembly.
- Before his press conference, Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, the President of the new General Assembly session, will also hold a press conference.
***The guest at the noon briefing was Ion Botnaru, the Director of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Affairs Division of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. He briefed the press on the upcoming General Assembly session.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
14 – 20 SEPTEMBER 2013
(This document is for planning purposes and is subject to change.)
Saturday, 14 September
There are no major events scheduled for today.
Sunday, 15 September
Today is International Day of Democracy.
Monday, 16 September
Today is International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
In the morning, the Security Council will be briefed on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Libya sanctions, followed by consultations.
Following the Security Council briefing, Tarek Mitri, Special Representative and Head of UNSMIL, will hold a press stakeout.
In Geneva, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Board will begin its 60th session. It will end on 27 September.
In Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will begin its 64th session. It will end on 4 October.
In Geneva, there will be a press conference on the presentation of latest report by Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Human Rights Council.
Tuesday, 17 September
The sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly will convene at United Nations Headquarters.
In the morning, the Security Council will be briefed on the Middle East, followed by consultations.
At 11:20 a.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference by Mr. John Ashe, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly.
At 12:00 p.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference by the Secretary-General in advance of the 68th session of the General Assembly.
In Geneva, there will be a press conference on the update on the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by Mr. Michael Kirby, Chair, COI DPRK.
Wednesday, 18 September
In the morning, the Security Council will hold consultations on Sudan and South Sudan.
In the afternoon, the Security Council will adopt a resolution concerning the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), followed by a briefing and consultations on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL)
At 10:00 a.m., in Conference Room 5 in the North Lawn Building (NLB), there will be a panel discussion on “Rio+20: From outcome to action, partnering for action on green economy”, co-organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
At 11:15 a.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations on “Vienna +20 Human Rights achievements, shortcomings and the way forward”. Speakers will be Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Minister Gerhard Doujak, Head of the Human Rights Department in the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs.
Thursday, 19 September
In the morning, the Security Council will hold a debate on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
In the afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).
At 10:50 a.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference by H.E. Mr. Le Hoai Trung, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations.
At 12:00 p.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference on the 2013 Millennium Development Goals Gap Task Force Report, entitled, “The Global Partnership for Development: The Challenge We Face” Speakers will include the Secretary-General.
At 12:30 p.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference on the upcoming Annual Treaty Event, which will be held at UN Headquarters 24-26 September and 30 September – 1 October 2013. This year’s event will focus on the rights of the child. Speakers will be: Ms. Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children; Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and Mr. Santiago Villalpando, Chief, Treat section, Office of Legal Affairs.
At 4:00 p.m., in Conference Room 2 in the Conference Building (CB), there will be a briefing on “The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in 2013 and an update on policy issues” by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, organized by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Friday, 20 September
At 10:00 a.m., in Conference Room 6 (NLB), there will be a thematic presentation on “Water and Technology”, organized by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine as a follow-up of the High-Level Forum on South-South Cooperation for Sustainable Development (18 July 2013, Hong Kong).
At 10:15 a.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to launch a report entitled, "Building Resilience to Natural Disasters and Major Economic Crises."
At 11:00 a.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference on the High-level Meeting on Disabilities and Development by speakers from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
At 1:00 p.m. in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference on the Commission on Sustainable Development Concluding Session.
At 3:00 p.m., in Conference Room 6 (NLB), there will be a thematic presentation and discussion on “Developing cybersecurity systems”, organized by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine.
At 4:45 p.m., in the Press briefing room, there will be a press conference on the International Contact Group meeting by Mr. Michael Koch, International Contact Group Chairman and Ambassador of Germany, Mr. James Dobbins, Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Ershad Ahmadi, United States and Afghanistan Deputy Foreign Minister, and Ján Kubiš, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
In Geneva, there will be a public event entitled “Geneva Peace Talks”, organized on the occasion of the International Day of Peace in partnership between United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform and Interpeace. On the theme of "What does peace mean to you?", speakers will relate their own personal stories about practical involvement in peacebuilding, dispute resolution, or violence reduction, emphasizing how their engagement shaped their own understanding of peace.