HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
MONDAY, 02 MAY 2016
SECRETARY-GENERAL PROFOUNDLY CONCERNED OVER DANGEROUS ESCALATION OF FIGHTING IN AND AROUND ALEPPO, SYRIA
- In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General expressed profound concern over the dangerous escalation of fighting in and around Aleppo and the intolerable suffering, counted in mounting deaths and destruction, it is causing among civilians.
- He called upon the warring Syrian sides to recommit immediately to the cessation of hostilities and to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians from the effects of the conflict.
- Noting the temporary re-launch of the cessation in Damascus and Lattakiya governorates, the Secretary-General stressed the need to expand these arrangements to other parts of Syria, with a special urgency for Aleppo.
- The Secretary-General reiterated his call on all concerned regional and international actors, in particular the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group -- the Russian Federation and the United States of America -- to redouble their efforts in support of the Syrian parties to put the cessation of hostilities back on track.
- The cessation of hostilities has alleviated the plight of some of the Syrian people, but it also constitutes a vital component of the overall process set up and sustained in Geneva by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), including the political transition process under the UN Special Envoy's leadership, Staffan de Mistura.
- The collapse of the cessation of hostilities will only bring more violence, death and destruction while further weakening efforts to find a negotiated solution to this brutal war.
- The Special Envoy for Syria today met with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Geneva to discuss ongoing efforts to reaffirm and re-implement the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria, following increased fighting in many parts of the country.
- The Special Envoy spoke to the press afterward and expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation and the continued violence, in particular Aleppo, affecting innocent civilians. He warned that “it is putting the cessation of hostilities at a high risk.”
- He re-emphasized his appeal to the U.S. and Russian Federation to renew their efforts to protect and restore the cessation of hostilities nationwide. He said, “there can be no progress in the political process unless we urgently see tangible benefits on the ground for the Syrian people.”
- Mr. de Mistura also met with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir, and underlined the importance of the members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) assisting with the re-implementation of the cessation of hostilities.
- The Special Envoy is scheduled to travel to Moscow tonight where he will meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, on the same issues.
- An inter-agency humanitarian convoy on Saturday delivered critical aid to 60,000 people in the besieged Syrian towns of Madaya and Zabadani in Rural Damascus and Foah and Kafraya in Idleb, as part of the Four Towns Agreement. The 70-truck convoy carried food, health items, vegetable seeds and other emergency supplies.
- Today, an inter-agency humanitarian convoy is on its way to the hard-to-reach area of Talbiseh in northern rural Homs - as a follow-up to the 27 April convoy - to deliver much needed food, health and other relief supplies to 60,000 people.
CONDITIONS ACROSS IRAQ CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE – WARN U.N. AND HUMANITARIAN PARTNERS
- Humanitarian conditions across Iraq continue to deteriorate, with displacement increasing as military operations continue and clashes break out among other forces.
- The United Nations and our partners are responding to new displacement in three areas: the Anbar corridor, the Mosul corridor, and in northern Salah al-Din Governorate. An outbreak of fighting in Tuz Khormatu displaced nearly 14,000 people from 23 to 26 April.
- In central Anbar Governorate, military operations have displaced around 60,000 people since early March. In Erbil Governorate, on the edge of the Mosul corridor, over 3,800 people have been displaced by ongoing military operations over the past two months.
- Humanitarian assistance is being provided in all locations, though insecurity, strict security screening procedures, the remote location of displaced people, and overcrowded camps remain critical barriers.
- The UN also remains extremely concerned about the reports of dire humanitarian conditions inside Fallujah. It does not have access to the area to verify conditions directly; however, remote monitoring of food prices and availability indicates severe shortfalls may exist.
- The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) expressed its grave concern over the weekend at the developments in Baghdad, including the storming of the Council of Representatives premises by demonstrators after they entered the International Zone.
- The Mission condemned the use of violence, including against elected officials, and urged calm, restraint and respect for Iraq’s constitutional institutions at this crucial juncture.
- UNAMI called on the Government, all political leaders and civil society to work together to engage in dialogue that will ensure the implementation of the reforms necessary to draw Iraq out of its political, economic and security crisis.
- The UN continues to operate from its headquarters in Baghdad’s International Zone and is in constant contact with parties to facilitate a solution that meets the demands of the people for reform.
- In a statement issued today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš expressed outrage at the deliberate targeting of civilians in two car bombings in the city of Al-Samawah in southern Iraq yesterday.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON D.C., SEYCHELLES, MAURITIUS AND MADAGASCAR
- The Secretary-General will leave for Washington D.C. this Wednesday evening. The following day, 5 May, he will speak at the opening session of the Climate Action 2016 – a multi-stakeholder summit that he will co-host with the World Bank and other partners.
- In the margins of the summit, the Secretary-General will meet with the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as other high-level officials participating in the summit.
- The Secretary-General will then on Friday travel to Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. In Seychelles, where he will be over the weekend, he will meet with President James Michel and Foreign Minister Joël Morgan and he will address the National Assembly.
- The Secretary-General will also visit the Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, which is a UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site, known for its biodiversity.
- On Sunday, 8 May, he will travel on to Mauritius. He will hold meetings with President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth and other officials.
- During his stay there, he will deliver the keynote speech to the 2016 Conference of the International Council of Commercial Arbitration.
- The Secretary-General will also take part in a special event on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and receive an honorary degree from the University of Mauritius.
- He will also visit Aapravasi Ghat and Le Morne, two sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and that are significant to the history of slavery and the slave trade in Mauritius and the region.
- On Tuesday, 10 May, the Secretary-General will go to Madagascar. He will meet with President Hery Rajaonarimampianina. He will also meet with the Presidents of the Senate and the National Assembly and address a joint congress of both chambers. He’ll also have discussions with representatives of civil society, the private sector and the diplomatic corps.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL MEETS COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY LAST YEAR’S EARTHQUAKE IN NEPAL
- Ahead of World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson was in Nepal today, where he met with local communities in Bungamati affected by last year’s devastating earthquake.
- Speaking to communities and local authorities, Mr, Eliasson stressed the need to focus on immediate needs and longer-term support. He urged them to share lessons learnt from disaster response with the rest of the world.
- He also met with the President, Prime Minister and other high-level officials in Kathmandu. He is now on his way to Vietnam where he is expected to meet with government officials as well as visit drought-affected communities in the southern province of Ben Tre. The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on Friday.
SEVERE WEATHER CONDITIONS AFFECT AN ESTIMATED 59,000 PEOPLE IN MYANMAR
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that severe weather conditions have been affecting Myanmar since mid-April.
- According to the national authorities, an estimated 59,000 people have been affected and 21 people killed by strong winds, hail and heavy rains in some regions and states. Some 1,900 houses have been destroyed.
- Humanitarian organizations are providing emergency shelter assistance to 550 displaced families in Kachin State, whose shelter units were damaged or destroyed by the severe weather conditions. Further assessments are being carried out to support repairs and reconstruction of shelters.
ECUADOR: U.N. AGENCIES AND PARTNERS REACH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WITH AID
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that several Member States, UN agencies and international NGOs have activated internal emergency funding and have provided in-kind supplies and other forms of assistance.
- A three-day supply of food aid has reached more than 65,000 people in Manabi and Esmeraldas provinces. The World Food Programme (WFP) also plans to introduce cash transfers and will conduct a food security assessment in coordination with the Government and partners.
- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has provided water purification tablets, water tanks and containers as well as set up latrines in affected areas.
- As of last week, the death toll was at 658 people with 27,638 people injured, according to the Government. A total of 1.9 million people have been affected, including an estimated 350,000 people who need assistance. More than 29,000 people are staying across 103 displacement sites.
U.N. PEACEKEEPING CHIEF VISITS MALI, URGES IMPLEMENTATION OF PEACE AGREEMENT
- Over the weekend, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, was in Mali visiting the UN Peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) in the country.
- During his two-day trip, he met with Malian government officials, including Prime Minister Modibo Keita and the Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.
- On Saturday, he discussed the progress on the peace process with the International Mediation team. Yesterday, Mr Ladsous travelled to Tessalit, and then Kidal, where he met with representatives of the signatory armed groups of the peace agreement.
- During his discussions with the Government and the signatory armed groups, he urged them to accelerate the pace of the implementation of the Agreement. In Kidal, the Under-Secretary-General also toured the MINUSMA base.
BURUNDI: U.N. PEACEBUILDING FUND SUPPORTS A.U. EFFORTS TO FINANCE HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVERS
- The UN Peacebuilding Fund finalized the transfer of $2.26 million in direct aid to the African Union to finance 32 human rights observers already on the ground in Burundi for an additional six months.
- The Peacebuilding Fund is also providing just over $300,000 to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Burundi for training and joint monitoring missions with the AU.
- This is the first time the Fund provides direct aid to the African Union Commission, or any regional organization, and a move toward strengthened cooperation between the UN and the AU in peacebuilding. The funding is a stopgap ahead of the planned deployment of up to 100 African Union human rights observers.
ENVOY IN YEMEN URGES ALL PARTIES TO ENGAGE IN GOOD FAITH AND CONTINUE WITH TALKS
- In a statement issued yesterday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Special Envoy for Yemen, said that he understood the reasons that led the Government of Yemen to suspend its participation in the plenary sessions of the Yemeni Peace Talks.
- However, he urged all the parties to engage in good faith and demonstrate wisdom in their participation in the talks. He said that all difficult issues should be discussed at the negotiating table in a transparent manner in order to reach a comprehensive agreement.
- He noted that he is in constant contact with the De-escalation and Coordination Committee (DCC) and through it to the local committees to investigate and halt all breaches of the Cessation of Hostilities.
- After communicating extensively with the Government of Yemen delegation and meeting the leaders of Ansar Allah and the General People's Congress delegation on Sunday afternoon, the Special Envoy confirmed that he had received assurances from the parties regarding their commitment to resolve the outstanding issues without convening joint sessions.
- UN political experts are currently reviewing the documents presented by the two delegations in order to identify common ground. The UN hopes to resume the talks and build on the tangible progress achieved in recent days.
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES NEED FOR FREE, INDEPENDENT AND SAFE MEDIA ENVIRONMENT AHEAD OF PRESS FREEDOM DAY
- Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day, and the Secretary-General, in a message, said that a free, independent and safe media environment is essential. Yet, all too often, journalists are threatened, harassed, obstructed or even killed in the pursuit of information. Many languish in detention, some in appalling conditions, for shedding light on governance failures, corporate malfeasance or societal problems.
- The Secretary-General urged all Governments, politicians, businesses and citizens to commit to nurturing and protecting an independent, free media. Without this fundamental right, people are less free and less empowered.
- This evening, the Secretary-General will make remarks when he receives the Spirit of Helen Keller Prize, in which he will pay tribute to Helen Keller’s work as a champion of the underprivileged and the marginalized.
- In response to a question about two civilians allegedly killed in Bangui, the Central African Republic, by UN peacekeepers in August 2015, the Spokesman said that the Board of Inquiry (BoI) was established last year to review the circumstances of this case. The Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) has also investigated the incident and a copy of its final report was shared with the Board in January to assist in its own review. The work of the Board has been completed and the report is now being finalized.
- One of the news agencies reported that UN security guards had escorted Ahmed Boukhari, the representative of the Polisario Front in New York, off UN premises. In response, the Spokesman said that the report is completely false and that no such incident occurred. As the representative of one of the parties to the Western Sahara conflict and to the UN-facilitated negotiations to find a solution, Mr. Boukhari is responsible for the Polisario's interaction with the highest levels of the Secretariat ands he has a valid badge to enter UN premises whenever he wishes, added the Spokesman.
**The guest at the noon briefing will be the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, who briefed on the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit.**