HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
FRIDAY, 29 APRIL 2016
SECRETARY-GENERAL RECEIVES OLYMPIC FLAME IN GENEVA, STRESSES POWER OF SPORTS TO UNITE PEOPLE
- The Secretary-General today received the Olympic Flame in Geneva, Switzerland, as that torch makes its way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for this year’s Olympic Games.
- Speaking at an event on the Olympic spirit, the Secretary-General said that the flame represents timeless values that can never be extinguished and is a beacon of solidarity with all peoples of the world.
- This year, he noted, for the first time in the history of the Olympics, talented athletes who have been forced to flee their homes will get a chance to chase gold, forming a team comprised of refugees. Win or lose, he said, the members of that team are champions of the spirit, and he added that he will be cheering for them with all his might.
- The Secretary-General also received the Olympic Cup Award from the International Olympic Committee today, noting that this is the second time that the United Nations has received this distinction. The first time the United Nations received the award, he added, was exactly 17 years ago, which comes to one year for each of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The Secretary-General also spoke to the press with IOC President Thomas Bach, telling reporters that sports has the power to unite people.
- While he was in Geneva, the Secretary-General met his Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and they shared their concerns about the latest fighting on the ground, while noting that the cessation of hostilities is still holding.
ATTACKS REVEAL "MONSTROUS DISREGARD FOR CIVILIAN LIVES" IN SYRIA, WARNS U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said today that the latest reports of civilian deaths and injuries in Syria, including bombings of marketplaces and medical facilities, revealed a “monstrous disregard for civilian lives by all parties to the conflict.” He urged all sides to step back from a return to all-out war.
- The High Commissioner warned that the violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities. He added that there are deeply disturbing reports of military build-ups indicating preparations for a lethal escalation.
- In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General reiterated his condemnation of recent indiscriminate shelling by Government forces and opposition groups, as well as terrorist tactics by extremists. Attacks that target civilians are inexcusable violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. There must be accountability for these crimes.
- The Secretary-General called on the warring sides in Syria to immediately renew their commitment to the cessation of hostilities. He encouraged the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in particular its two co-chairs, the Russian Federation and the United States of America, to exert pressure on all concerned to stop the fighting and to ensure credible investigations of incidents such as the attack on Al Quds hospital.
- The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a statement today expressing outrage at the attack on Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo, adding that the attacks remind us of the enormous difficulties and dangers that Syrian health workers face every day. Those workers deserve more than our admiration and greater protection, they added.
YEMEN: PEACE TALKS CONTINUE IN KUWAIT
- The Yemeni peace talks in Kuwait have been continuing with discussions on key disputed issues, and plenary talks took place last night in which both delegations reiterated their commitment to negotiating in good faith in order to reach a peaceful and comprehensive solution. The delegations will resume the consultations on Saturday following the Friday holiday.
- The Government of Yemen presented its vision on issues of withdrawal, handover of weapons and formation of security committees to the Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, yesterday. The Special Envoy also discussed the need for urgent measures to protect the Yemeni economy.
- The Special Envoy also met yesterday with the members of the delegation of Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress. The delegation is developing a paper for submission to the Special Envoy on their vision of security and political matters for the coming period.
SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS MANDATE OF U.N. MISSION IN WESTERN SAHARA
- The Security Council voted over the past hour to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by one year, until the end of April 2017. The Council emphasized the urgent need for MINURSO to return to full functionality and request the Secretary-General to brief the Council within 90 days on that.
- The Security Council’s vote was 10 in favour of the resolution, with Uruguay and Venezuela voting against, and Angola, New Zealand and the Russian Federation abstaining.
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES APPOINTMENT OF MINISTERS OF TRANSTIONAL GOVERNMENT IN SOUTH SUDAN
- In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the appointment by President Salva Kiir of the Ministers of the Transitional Government of National Unity.
- He said he was pleased to note that President Kiir and First Vice-President Riek Machar had achieved this important milestone of the peace process and he urged them to swiftly complete the establishment of all institutions of transition.
MOZAMBIQUE: U.N. RIGHTS OFFICE CONCERNED OVER CLASHES
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it has received worrying information about ongoing armed clashes between national security forces and members of the rebel group, Renamo, in Mozambique.
- The Office said that security forces have been accused of summary executions, looting, destruction of property, rape, ill-treatment, and other human rights violations, while attacks against police and military forces have also been attributed to Renamo.
- The lack of accountability for past human rights abuses and violations seems to be a key component of the deteriorating situation. OHCHR said it is particularly concerned about the killing on 1 April of Public Prosecutor Marcelino Vilankulo, and about the lack of progress in the investigation into the March 2015 murder of Gilles Cistac, a law professor who had denounced electoral fraud.
- The Office said it is also seriously concerned by the announcement this week by the Head of the Police that any public protest will be repressed. It is urging the Government to fulfil its obligation to guarantee that all citizens may exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
EL NIÑO-INDUCED DROUGHT AFFECTS 1.4 MILLION, WARNS U.N. IN ANGOLA
- The UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Angola said that the severe El Niño-induced drought is affecting 1.4 million people across seven of the country's 18 provinces.
- Severe acute malnutrition rates have doubled compared to data for the first half of 2015, with more than 95,000 children affected, according to UNICEF.
- Food insecurity is expected to worsen from July to the end of the year due to meagre crop yields and La Niña-related floods.
- To strengthen the humanitarian response, a UN drought emergency team has been established. Food prices have already skyrocketed reducing the population's purchasing power by an estimated 40 per cent.
U.N. GOODWILL AMBASSADOR HERBIE HANCOCK TO PERFORM AT WHITE HOUSE ON JAZZ DAY
- The 5th Annual Celebration of Jazz Day will be celebrated with a star-studded event featuring some of the greatest jazz musicians in a concert to be hosted by United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House tonight.
- It will be webcast on International Jazz Day as a one-hour program, “Jazz at the White House,” tomorrow evening on the UN, the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United States State Department and White House websites.
- In addition to UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and jazz legend Herbie Hancock, the concert will feature Sting, Aretha Franklin, Hugh Masekela, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and many others. At last count, nearly 150 countries will be hosting Jazz Day events over the next several days.