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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 STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 03 MAY 2016

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF U.N. VERIFICATION MECHANISM FOR YEMEN

  • In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General welcomed the official launch on 2 May of the operations of the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) based in Djibouti, following a request by the Government of Yemen.
  • The Secretary-General noted that UNVIM has been established to facilitate the unimpeded flow of commercial goods and services to Yemen, while ensuring compliance with the arms embargo established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).
  • It should provide fast and impartial clearance services for shipping companies transporting commercial imports and bilateral assistance to Yemeni ports outside of the authority of the Government of Yemen.
  • He further noted that the launch of UNVIM is part of broader efforts to bring relief to suffering Yemeni civilians, which he hopes will culminate in a negotiated political settlement between the Yemeni parties through UN-mediated talks currently underway in Kuwait.
  • The Secretary-General extended his appreciation to the European Union, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America for their generous contributions to support UNVIM.
  • The Yemeni Peace Talks in Kuwait are continuing. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has convened a number of meetings yesterday and today with the delegations to the talks and with other political representatives and diplomats.
  • The meetings were intended to ensure that the delegation of the Government of Yemen comes back to the negotiating table and to finalise a strategic framework that encompasses the proposals of the two delegations and seeks to bridge the divide between them.
  • The UN Special Envoy said that the General Framework developed by the UN builds on common elements and lays the path for an inclusive and strategic process that will provide political stability and security to Yemenis.
  • That plan is being discussed with the two delegations in bilateral meetings, in order to determine their respective priorities and build on the common ground that has been identified.

EVEN WARS HAVE RULES, WARNS SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SECURITY COUNCIL ON PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

  • The Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council today at the open debate on protection of civilians, with a specific focus on health care in armed conflict.
  • Stressing that that intentional and direct attacks on hospitals are war crimes, the Secretary-General said that no government should stand by and watch the erosion of safeguards for the protection of civilians in conflict. He added that the international community must never become numb to flagrant abuses.
  • According to latest statistics from Physicians for Human Rights, the Secretary-General said that there have been more than 360 attacks on some 250 medical facilities in Syria alone. More than 730 medical personnel have been killed.
  • Calling such attacks shameful and inexcusable, the Secretary-General said that when so-called surgical strikes end up hitting surgical wards, something is deeply wrong. He added that even wars have rules.
  • He urged Member States to seize the opportunity of the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to take concrete action to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity.
  • He added that we can only strengthen humanitarian response by working together with all partners, including Governments and NGOs. He also called for greater efforts to find political solutions to end bloodshed and suffering around the world.
  • The heads of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Médecins Sans Frontières also briefed the Security Council today.

SYRIA: SPECIAL ENVOY STRESSES NEED TO RE-INVIGORATE CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES

  • The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow today. Afterwards, he told reporters that, in recent days, he has been discussing the need to re-invigorate the cessation of hostilities in Syria, which has become more fragile.
  • Following his recent discussions, the Special Envoy expressed the hope that, possibly in the next few hours, the international community can relaunch the cessation of hostilities. If that were to happen, he said, the UN has been preparing for the future, having organized an Operations Centre with more Russian and United States staff to monitor the cessation of hostilities.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the recent escalation of violence in Aleppo and surrounding areas over the past two weeks has led to the death and injury of hundreds of people, many of them children, as well as damaging schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure, and hindering humanitarian aid operations.
  • In Aleppo city, yet another hospital was damaged today, in western Aleppo city, leading to reports of at least three deaths and 15 injured. This follows the attack on the Al-Quds hospital in the Sukkari neighbourhood in the eastern part of Aleppo city on 27 April, which resulted in approximately 20 fatalities, including those of at least three doctors, as well as many injuries.
  • The UN is also very concerned about the escalation of violence and the impact on civilians in other parts of the country; for example Dara'a, where heavy fighting and aerial bombardment have resumed over the past week. It once more called on all parties to the conflict to take all measures to protect civilians, as required under international humanitarian law.
  • A 12-year old Syrian refugee, Hanan Dacka, has been selected by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Organizing Committee of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to run with the Olympic Torch today in the Brazilian capital Brasilia.
  • The UNHCR said in a statement that with the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution at highest levels in the post-World War II era, Hanan's carrying of the Olympic torch through Brasilia is about solidarity with refugees everywhere.
  • Hanan, who arrived in Brazil in February 2015, lives with her family in São Paulo, speaks fluent Portuguese and has many Brazilian friends.
  • The Brazilian leg of the Olympic Torch relay started today and will last close to 90 days, concluding with the inauguration ceremony on 5 August in the Maracana Stadium, where the Olympic pyre will be lit.

HEAD OF MISSION IN IRAQ CONDEMNS RECENT CAR BOMBING IN BAGHDAD

  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, strongly condemned the terrorist car bombing that took place yesterday in Baghdad’s Saydiyah neighbourhood, which targeted civilians, including religious pilgrims.
  • Mr. Kubiš said that Da’esh’s criminality knows no limits, and now it is aiming the full wrath of its cruelty at pilgrims on their way to perform their religious duty.
  • He expressed his confidence that such attacks will not be able to break the Iraqi people’s will and he urged them to remain united.

NEWLY-ELECTED CENTRAL AFRICAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HOLDS FIRST SESSION – REPORTS MISSION

  • The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reported that the newly elected Central African National Assembly held its first session today.
  • According to the session's agenda, the National Assembly is expected to elect its Executive Bureau including the President of the National Assembly, to adopt its rules of procedures, and to elect the members of the permanent parliamentary Commissions.
  • This is an important step in the return of the constitutional order in the Central African Republic. So far, 128 out of the 140 MPs have been installed. The remaining twelve MPs will be elected during the partial elections which are scheduled to take place as of 15 May.

ECUADOR: U.N. AGENCY KICKS OFF COMMUNITY WORK AND DEBRIS REMOVAL

  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP) kicked off community work and debris removal opportunities for the first Ecuadoran families deeply affected by the 16 April earthquake. Around 30 women and men are working on debris management and repair of critical community infrastructure in the rural coastal city of Las Gilces, 400km west of the capital, Quito, in the hard hit province of Manabi. The cash-for-work initiative will soon expand to other affected locations.
  • Also, some of the biggest stars in Latin music will perform in a benefit concert, “Ecuador Aquí Estoy,” (Ecuador, I am here for you) in Miami on Wednesday, May 11 at 8pm.  Proceeds generated through ticket sales will be donated to UNDP to place earthquake-affected communities at the heart of recovery efforts.

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY REPAIRS LIBYA’S ONLY OPERATIONAL RADIOTHERAPY MACHINE

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today that it has helped repair Libya’s only operational radiotherapy machine after a long outage, enabling it to resume essential cancer care for hundreds of patients every month.
  • Responding to a request from the Libyan medical authorities, the IAEA provided assistance totalling US$70,000 through its technical cooperation programme.
  • The radiotherapy machine in the Tripoli Central Hospital - which can treat more than 10,000 patients per year - broke down in September 2015.
  • In view of the urgent health need, the IAEA procured spare parts and services from the manufacturer and the machine was brought back to operation.

U.N. TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT AGENCY LAUNCHES NEW REPORT ON OFFSHORE FINANCIAL CENTRES

  • The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published today its latest report on offshore financial centres and special purpose entities, also known as shell companies.
  • The matter of illicit financial flows had been a topic of great concern for UNCTAD for a long time, the agency said, because such activity has an effect on development.
  • UNCTAD said that investment flows to offshore financial centres had retreated from their recent high of US$132 billion, but were remaining in line with the flows of previous years.
  • One new element, the report notes, is the rising volatility which indicates that the funds were being moved around more rapidly.

U.N. COMMEMORATES PRESS FREEDOM DAY

  • The Department of Public Information (DPI), in collaboration with the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) New York Liaison Office, will organize this year's observance of World Press Freedom Day at the UN Headquarters on Thursday, from 10 am - 1 pm in Conference Room 4. The event entitled, "Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms: This Is Your Right!” will be webcast live. The event will be available in the six official UN languages.
  • The opening segment will be moderated by the Under-Secretary-General of Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach, and will include the Secretary-General's World Press Freedom Day video message and a video message from the President of the General Assembly.
  • Following the opening segment, a panel discussion with a focus on best practices will take place with leading journalists from different regions, to discuss the safety of journalists and freedom of information in the context of the new sustainable development agenda in the digital age. The global celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2016 will take place in Helsinki, Finland, from 2 to 4 May.

**The guest at the noon briefing will be Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).**