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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ, ASSOCIATE SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

WEDNESDAY, 4 SEPTEMBER 2013

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL ARRIVES IN ST. PETERSBURG, HIGHLIGHTS PRIORITIES HE WILL PRESENT TO G20 LEADERS

  • The Secretary-General arrived in St. Petersburg today to attend the G20 summit of leaders from the world's major economies. This afternoon, he delivered a lecture at St. Petersburg State University and answered questions from the students there.
  • The Secretary-General said that the international community is facing great trials and tests. Around the world, human rights are at risk. Democracies are threatened. Legitimate voices and movements of dissent are being stifled. He said people are worried about the future and wonder whether institutions and decision makers will hear their pleas and act on them.
  • The Secretary-General said he firmly believes the international community had a duty to address the immediate crises in our world, notably Syria. But he said that, at the same time, we must look to a wider time horizon and act now to take on the longer-term challenges - including strengthening global economic recovery and working to ensure sustainable development.
  • He said he had brought three inter-linked messages for G20 leaders: the need to accelerate work on the Millennium Development Goals, to craft the post-2015 development agenda and to tackle climate change. He also said he was sure that G20 leaders would be heavily engaged in tackling the crisis in Syria.
  • On Thursday and Friday, the Secretary-General will have a range of bilateral meetings and attend various segments of the G20 summit.

U.N. CHEMICAL WEAPONS TEAM FOR SYRIA EXPEDITING ITS WORK

  • Asked about the mandate of the chemical weapons team for Syria, the Spokesperson said that it was in line with the Secretary-General’s Mechanism and standard operational guidelines, and noted that previous chemical weapons investigations had taken place in Iran and Iraq, Mozambique and Azerbaijan.
  • Asked about the fact that the team was mandated to look into whether chemical weapons were used but not by whom, he said that the same was true for earlier investigations under that mechanism. He added that the team intends to provide an evidence-based narrative indicating what the facts would show.
  • Asked when the team would complete its work, Haq declined to provide a timeline but said that the Secretary-General had talked in recent days to the head of the team, Dr. Ake Sellström, and had urged him to do what he could to expedite the process of getting results while respecting the scientific timelines.
  • Asked about Khan al-Asal, the Spokesperson said that the team still intends to conduct investigation activities there after it has completed its current work analysing the 21 August incident at Ghouta.
  • Asked whether there would still be useful evidence there, Haq noted that Sarin can be detected in biomedical samples for months following its use. Additionally, reliable witness statements can be gathered as supportive evidence.
  • Asked about the Secretary-General’s discussions on Syria, he added that the Secretary-General expects to talk about Syria with many of the leaders he meets at the G-20 summit.

SAHEL: FOOD SECURITY SITUATION REMAINS DIRE, SAYS U.N. FOOD AGENCY

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday that the food security situation remains dire in the Sahel. It appealed to the international community to increase funding for aid to the most vulnerable farmers and herders in that region.
  • The UN agency said that about 11 million people in the Sahel are still severely food insecure and that poor families have used up their food stocks and are facing high food prices awaiting the next harvest.
  • Of particular concern is the food security situation in northern Mali, northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
  • Despite an appeal from the Food and Agriculture Organization for a total of $113.1 million this year, only $19.4 million has been received.

SOMALIA: NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN CRISIS FALLS TO LOWEST LEVEL SINCE 2011, SAYS U.N. COORDINATOR

  • The number of people in crisis in Somalia has fallen to the lowest level since famine was declared in 2011, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the country said on Wednesday.
  • Philippe Lazzarini said that the welcome improvement in the food security situation in Somalia is due to a combination of ongoing humanitarian response, successive seasons of good rainfall and low food prices.
  • But he warned that the needs in Somalia remain enormous, noting the need to continue providing life-saving assistance and scaling up investments in programming to build communities’ ability to cope with future shocks.
  • Mr. Lazzarini said that if we act to build up resilience now, we can ensure that the next period of poor rains does not turn into a deep humanitarian crisis.

CAMBODIA: U.N. COMMITTED TO ENDING CURRENT FUNDING CRISIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

  • In a statement, Ambassador David Scheffer, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Expert on United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, said that the national budget crisis of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has been generated by a failure on the part of the Royal Government of Cambodia to meet its legal obligation to fund the salaries of most national staff at the Court.
  • Unfortunately, this situation now has led to yet another national staff strike that may disrupt further critical work on Case 002 and the fulfillment of the Extraordinary Chambers’ mandate, which the Cambodian people justifiably expect to see completed.  One cannot argue for more efficiency or speedier trial proceedings at the Extraordinary Chambers and at the same time starve it of the necessary funding.
  • Ambassador Scheffer says that at the United Nations is fully committed to ending the current funding crisis as soon as possible and providing the stable environment that will enable national staff to continue the critical work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and achieve accountability pursuant to its mandate.
  • The United Nations remains deeply concerned for the welfare of the national staff and their families and about any disruption that might result in the judicial process, which is at a critical stage now.  The Special Expert appeals to the national staff to remain patient as we urgently continue with our efforts.

U.N. ENVOY ON YOUTH LAUNCHES ONLINE PLATFORM FOR YOUTH

  • The Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, has launched a new online platform for youth. The website aims to be an information hub on the UN’s work with and for youth.
  • The website is a one-stop-shop for all youth-related news and opportunities in the UN system for the 1.8 billion young people -- the largest generation of youth the world has ever known.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR SEPTEMBER: On Wednesday morning, the Security Council adopted its programme of work for this month and received a briefing from the Department of Political Affairs.

SECRETARY-GENERAL SUPPORTS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS; Asked about Sri Lanka, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General fully supported High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who recently visited the country. He noted that all human rights defenders should be free to go about their work.

 

** The guest at today’s noon briefing was Lassina Zerbo, new Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).