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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 SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

FRIDAY, 22 MAY 2015

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL, VIETNAMESE PRESIDENT DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS

  • Today in Hanoi, the Secretary-General met with Vietnamese President Truong T?n Sang, and he told reporters afterward that they had a very productive discussion concerning Viet Nam's impressive progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. They also talked about climate change, human rights and other topics.
  • The Secretary-General said that he and the President agreed that ensuring a smooth transition from the MDGs to the new sustainable development goals is a high priority for both the United Nations and Viet Nam.
  • He noted that Viet Nam is currently serving on the Human Rights Council, adding that Human Rights Council members are expected to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” He said that this places Viet Nam in an ideal position to demonstrate its commitment to human rights by working to improve its own domestic human rights record.
  • The Secretary-General also held meetings in the afternoon with Prime Minister Nguy?n T?n Dung and with Nguy?n Phú Tr?ng, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, on many of the same topics that he had discussed with the President.

SECRETARY-GENERAL STRONGLY CONDEMNS ‘ABHORRENT’ TERRORIST ATTACK AGAINST SHIA MOSQUE IN SAUDI ARABIA

  • In a statement, the Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attack today targeting a Shia mosque in the town of al-Qudaih in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The attack caused many deaths and injuries as people were gathering for Friday prayers.
  • The Secretary-General stresses that such attacks on places of worship are abhorrent and intended to promote sectarian conflict.  He hopes that the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice.
  • The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his sympathies to the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

BURUNDI: SECRETARY-GENERAL ENCOURAGED BY POLITICAL DIALOGUE

  • In a statement, the Secretary-General said that he is encouraged by the ongoing political dialogue in Bujumbura.  This involves representatives of civil society, political parties, religious organizations and the Government with the facilitation of Special Envoy Said Djinnit and representatives of the African Union, the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
  • The Secretary-General applauds the participants for the progress achieved so far in the discussions, especially on measures to reduce tensions and create propitious conditions for free, fair, inclusive and peaceful elections. He is concerned, however, about the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving refugees. He expresses appreciation to the neighbouring countries for their hospitality to the refugees and urges the Government of Burundi to create conditions for their return.
  • The Secretary-General encourages the stakeholders to pursue the ongoing dialogue with a view to reaching a comprehensive agreement on all the issues they have identified. He reiterates the availability of the United Nations to accompany the people of Burundi and the region during this process.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY, PARTNERS LAUNCH PLAN TO HELP 200,000 BURUNDIAN REFUGEES

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and 17 of its partners have launched the Regional Refugee Response Plan to protect and assist up to 200,000 Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries.
  • Since early April, nearly 100,000 Burundians have fled Burundi to Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the situation in Burundi remains tense and violence continues to be reported, aid agencies fear that the number of refugees may double over the next six months.
  • High Commissioner António Guterres praised the neighbouring countries for keeping their borders open and called on the international donor community to support the Response Plan.

SECRETARY-GENERAL DEEPLY TROUBLED BY CONTINUING BOKO HARAM ATTACKS AGAINST CIVILIANS

  • In a statement, the Secretary-General said that he is deeply troubled by the continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks by Boko Haram against civilian populations in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
    He regrets that in spite of the military gains made by the affected countries, Boko Haram continues its wanton destruction and killing of civilians.
  • The Secretary-General is appalled by the continued abductions and use of children as “human bombs”, as well as by testimony that many of the girls and women held by Boko Haram were repeatedly raped while in captivity and compelled to marry their captors as part of a campaign of forced imprisonment and sexual violence. The perpetrators of these despicable acts must be brought to justice. He calls on the Government of Nigeria to scale up the provision of medical and psychosocial support to the survivors.
  • The Secretary-General is also deeply concerned over the further displacement of some 40,000 civilians in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria in the last three weeks. He urges members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin to advance the operationalization of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), and create a secure environment for the safe and voluntary return, resettlement or integration of displaced persons and refugees.
  • The Secretary-General again urges the states involved to ensure that all measures taken to address the terrorist threat of Boko Haram are conducted in line with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. To be remotely effective, the response to this threat has to go beyond a purely military one.  Legitimate grievances, past and current human rights violations, and the root causes of the conflict must also be addressed.

U.N. SYRIA ENVOY CONTINUES GENEVA TALKS

  • The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, continued the Geneva Consultations today.
  • He met with Islamic scholar Muhammad Al Habash, who shared his thoughts on methods and processes to facilitate a peaceful solution to the conflict, based on religious perspectives and traditions.
  • Mr. de Mistura also met with Hind Kabawat and Asma Kftarou from the civil society organization called "Tastaqil." They discussed the unacceptable suffering of the Syrian people and the urgent need to end violence and reach a political solution.
  • He also received a delegation from the Kurdish National Council, which shared views on ways to end the conflict, with due respect for Syrian diversity while maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria.
  • He met with Najla Riachi Assaker, the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva of the Republic of Lebanon, who discussed ways to support Syria in launching a political process, as well as the urgent need to alleviate the humanitarian suffering and its impact on the neighboring countries.
  • Mr. de Mistura also received with deep sadness the news of the kidnapping of a priest, Father Jacques Mourad, yesterday in Homs. He said that this grave act is unfortunately not the first of its kind, and is one of the sad consequences of this raging conflict.
  • The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and its partners are preparing aid for some 11,000 people who fled the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra and surrounding villages when they were overrun by militant forces this week.
  • Situated in central Syria, Palmyra had been sheltering thousands of people forcibly displaced from other parts of Syria for the past three years. It was reportedly captured from the Syrian army on Wednesday, along with the nearby World Heritage-listed archaeological sites.
  • About 8,000 people have found shelter in the village of Al-Qarayateen and a further 3,000 fled to nearby Furglus village. They are now described as arriving exhausted and scared. The refugee agency is now sending more relief supplies to Al-Qarayateen and Furglus to meet the rising needs, though UNHCR expects new arrivals will move further west towards the city of Homs.

YEMEN: DELIBERATE DESTRUCTION OF CIVILIAN STRUCTURES IN CONFLICT MUST STOP – U.N. RELIEF WING

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports continued damage to civilian buildings and infrastructure in Yemen. The deliberate or indiscriminate destruction of civilian infrastructure during conflict is against international humanitarian law and must stop. All parties to the conflict have an obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure from the effects of attacks.
  • In Sa’adah City, preliminary UN satellite imagery analysis has identified widespread damage to infrastructure. Four medical facilities were identified within 100 metres of damaged and destroyed buildings. Also, in Haradh District, in the Hajjah Governorate, a warehouse that contained hygiene kits, water and sanitation supplies was damaged in an airstrike.

U.N. MALI MISSION TEAM INVESTIGATING REPORTS OF RIGHTS ABUSES FOLLOWING CLASHES

  • The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that an investigation team has been deployed today in the town of Tin-Hamma, Gao region, to establish the facts following reports of serious human rights violations including alleged executions of civilians following clashes between armed groups.
  • MINUSMA is also concerned with the increased number of armed confrontations in northern Mali. The Mission condemns the continuous violations of cease-fire that jeopardize the peace process.
  • MINUSMA deplores that the humanitarian access is also affected as a result of the violence and calls on all parties to respect their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.

SOUTH SUDAN: STEPPED UP FIGHTING BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION VIOLATING INTERNATIONAL LAW – U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, warns that the escalation of fighting in recent weeks between Government and opposition forces in South Sudan has resulted in violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and has taken a terrible toll on civilians.
  • He added that since the escalation of fighting at the end of April, there have been alarming reports of gross violations, including killings, rapes, abduction as well as burning and destruction of towns and villages in various counties of Unity State. UN human rights monitors have been denied access by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to various sites in Unity.
  • The High Commissioner also notes that successive commitments to end the hostilities have failed to be implemented and there has been a lack of justice and accountability for the victims.
  • He urges the parties to the conflict to take all feasible measures to prevent harm to civilian lives and infrastructure, including the personnel and premises of the UN and humanitarian agencies.
  • The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is also deeply concerned that its compound continues to be caught in the cross-fire. There have been eight fatalities among the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) so far. There are over 1,600 IDPs currently being protected by UNMISS in Melut.

SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON ILLICIT TRANSFER OF SMALL ARMS

  • The Security Council this morning adopted a resolution in which it expressed its intention to continue to take due regard of issues related to the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons when considering or updating mandates of United Nations peacekeeping operations and other Council-mandated entities.
  • Among other things, the Council, in its resolution, requests the Secretary-General to include in his reports and briefings to the Council on country-specific situations, more comprehensive and detailed information and recommendations relating to the impact of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
  • The resolution passed with nine votes in favour, none against and six abstentions by Angola, Chad, China, Nigeria, Russia and Venezuela.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WELCOMES LANDING OF 200 PEOPLE STANDED AT SEA IN MYANMAR

  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed the landing of more than 200 people who had been stranded at sea off the coast of Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
  • After they disembarked, they were taking to a reception centre, set up by UNHCR in collaboration with local authorities, in southern Maungdaw where they are receiving assistance.
  • The Agency is working with its partners to help the Government ensure that the needs of the people – including water, food, medical assistance and protection – are met.
  • It hopes that this recent positive development will be followed by other disembarkations in Myanmar and across the region. It reiterated that the priority is to save lives by getting people safely off these boats as soon as possible.
  • It is estimated that up to 2,000 people are still stranded on boats in the Bay of Bengal and a further 1,500 in the Andaman Sea.
  • Since Wednesday's announcement that Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand would work together to assist people in distress at sea, UNHCR has been talking to governments about support it can provide and has shared recommendations on the way forward, which include meeting emergency humanitarian needs and jointly finding medium-to-longer term solutions.

WOMEN, GIRLS DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTED BY NEPAL QUAKE – U.N. RELIEF ARM

  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that women and girls were disproportionately affected by the recent earthquakes in Nepal.
  • New data released yesterday shows that women and girls were disproportionately affected by the earthquake in Nepal, as is often the case in natural disasters.
  • Data released yesterday shows that 55 per cent of casualties were among women and girls.
  • The United Nations is working on providing protection support for women and girls, including providing them with dignity kits, and setting up safe spaces for women to get together, receive counselling, safe shelter and legal aid.

ON INTERNATIONAL DAY, SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES RECOMMITMENT TO ACTION TO REDUCE BIODIVERSITY LOSS

  • Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity and his message, the Secretary-General calls on everyone to recommit to global action to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, for people and for our planet.
  • He adds that the sustainable development goals and the broader post-2015 development agenda, which are under negotiation now, will provide an opportunity to mainstream biodiversity and promote transformational change in how economies and societies use and regard biodiversity.
  • In the Secretary-General’s message for the International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, which will be observed tomorrow, he calls obstetric fistula a devastating yet completely preventable and, in many cases, treatable injury of childbirth, the Secretary-General says that we have a moral obligation to complete the unfinished agenda of eradicating fistula.
  • Today, at least 2 million women and girls live with the condition, and 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur every year, especially among the poorest and most marginalized women and girls.

GUINEA, TONGA LATEST MEMBER STATES TO PAY DUES IN FULL

Guinea and Tonga have become the 90th and 91st Member States to pay their dues for the Organization’s regular budget in full.