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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

PRESS CONFERENCE OF THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS, BAN KI-MOON

TUESDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

OPENING REMARKS BY SECRETARY-GENERAL

  • It is a great pleasure to see you on the eve of the General Debate and I thank you for your time. I am pleased to brief you as we open a new session of the General Assembly this afternoon.
  • More than 140 heads of state or government will attend.  Civil society leaders, CEOs and other influential global figures will also be here.
  • Together, we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq, where conflict and governance failures have provided a breeding ground for extremist groups. 
  • I welcome the growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global and regional peace and security.
  • Violence continues in Mali, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  We will not let these crises be forgotten – and we will meet next week at the highest level to determine what more we can do.
  • The situation in and around Ukraine remains volatile. 
  • In Libya, order is breaking down.
  • In the aftermath of yet another devastating war in Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians seem more polarized than ever. 
  • In Nigeria, the advances of Boko Haram grow more alarming every day.  As in Syria and Iraq, we are seeing terrorist organizations not only carrying out attacks but seizing large areas of land beyond the government’s control.
  • The world is facing multiple crises.  Each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach.  But all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children.  All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions.  And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response.
  • In my main speech to the Member States next Wednesday, I will call on world leaders to unite and uphold human dignity, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
  • We will also place a special focus on Ebola Virus Disease, which is a cause of huge concern in West Africa and beyond.
  • Two days from now, the Security Council will convene an emergency meeting on the outbreak.  WHO Director General Margaret Chan and I will outline the international action plan to contain this threat.
  • Next week, the General Assembly will follow-up with a High-Level Meeting on the needs of the people and countries affected by Ebola.
  • Generous contributions are being announced each day – but we have a lot of catching up to do to provide the health services, food, water, sanitation and supplies that are needed.
  • Every day we delay, the cost and the suffering will grow exponentially.
  • We cannot allow bans on travel or transport to slow us down. 
  • We need isolation of people affected by Ebola – not of nations struggling to cope with it.
  • This is not just a health crisis; it has grave humanitarian, economic and social consequences that could spread far beyond the affected countries.  The United Nations is determined to meet this test of international cooperation and solidarity.  But we will need to be as bold and courageous as those who are already fighting on the frontline of the disease.
  • That is why we are mobilizing – and why the United Nations will be the centre for action in responding to the outbreak.
  • Ebola is an exponential crisis that demands an exceptional global response.
  • The new session of the General Assembly will be a pivotal period for our efforts to defeat poverty and adopt a new generation of sustainable development goals.
  • Action on climate change is urgent. The more we delay, the more we will pay in lives and in money.
  • The Climate Summit that I am convening one week from today has two goals: to mobilize political will for a universal and meaningful climate agreement next year in Paris; and second to generate ambitious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience.
  • We are anticipating an impressive turnout of leaders from government, business, finance and civil society. 
  • Most important, we are expecting significant commitments and progress.
  • Today, I am delighted to announce that a new voice will be joining our climate advocacy efforts.  Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the world’s leading actors; he has also a long-standing commitment to environmental causes, including through his foundation. 
  • Today, I am appointing him as our newest United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special focus on climate change issues.  His global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge.  His first act as a Messenger of Peace will be to address the opening of the Climate Summit on 23 September.
  • Finally, the week will open and close with two remarkable public gatherings on the streets of our host city, New York – the People’s Climate March on Sunday the 21st , and the Global Citizen Festival on Saturday the 27th of September.
  • I will link arms with those marching for climate action.  We stand with them on the right side of this key issue for our common future.
  • I will also take part in the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park to thank thousands of young people for helping us to fight hunger, protect the planet and promote the rights of women and girls.
  • At this time of turmoil, the next two weeks will highlight again the indispensable role of the United Nations in tackling global threats and seizing opportunities for common progress.
  • Your coverage of these issues and events will, as ever, make an important contribution. 

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

U.N. NEEDS 1 BILLION FOR RESPONSE TO EBOLA CRISIS

  • The response to the Ebola crisis will require $987.8 million, with about half needed for the worst-hit country, Liberia, the United Nations announced during a press conference in Geneva by UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos, UN System Coordinator for Ebola Dr. David Nabarro, and WHO’s Emergency Chief Bruce Aylward.
  • The death toll from the epidemic rose to 2,461, out of 4,985 cases in the three West African countries that have borne the brunt of the disease, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
  • The UN response plan estimates that some 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola by the end of the year, with Guinea accounting for 16% of infections, Sierra Leone 34% and Liberia a full 40%.
  • If the international community and affected countries respond swiftly and energetically, transmission should begin to slow by the end of the year and end by mid-2015.

SPECIAL COORDINATOR: U.N. BROKERS AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY ON RECONSTRUCTION OF GAZA

  • Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council today on the situation in the region following the recent crisis in Gaza, and he said that he senses a realization in his dealings with the parties that a renewed conflict would be a disaster. He said that the fundamental dynamics in Gaza need to change, or else these could be another, more devastating round of violence.
  • Mr. Serry pointed to the need to open Gaza up for reconstruction and recovery. He announced that his office, UNSCO, has brokered a trilateral agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the UN to enable the work that is required in the Gaza Strip. That agreement provides security assurances through the United Nations, which will monitor to ensure that construction materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose.
  • He added that the Secretary-General plans to commission a Board of Inquiry to review and investigate a number of incidents involving UN premises during the recent Gaza conflict.
  • Mr. Serry also briefed the Security Council on Syria, and he emphasized that measures to counter ISIL should be accompanied by political measures to end the appalling violence in Syria and resolve the Syrian conflict.

U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE URGES INVESTIGATION INTO KILLINGS DURING PROTESTS IN YEMEN

  • In Geneva today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the authorities in Yemen to conduct an independent, prompt and effective investigation into the killing of nine people in Sana’a, during protests that took place on 7 and 9 September. A further 67 people were reported injured, including 33 by live ammunition and others as a result of use of tear gas.
  • According to interviews conducted by the UN Human Rights Office with injured protestors and witnesses in Sana’a, the protestors were armed only with sticks, stones and umbrellas, and security forces opened fire with live ammunition without warning. To date, no official investigation has been initiated into the alleged excessive use of force.
  • The Human Rights Office called on all sides of the political divide in Yemen to renounce the use of violence and to participate in the current national processes in order to avoid further instability and bloodshed.

ONE IN NINE OF WORLD’S POPULATION HUNGRY, NEW U.N. REPORT FINDS

  • One in nine people in the world – or more than 800 million – suffer from hunger, according to a new United Nations report.
  • The number of hungry people has dropped by more than 100 million in the past ten years and by more than 200 million in the past two decades.
  • The trend in hunger reduction in development countries means that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 is within reach with the requisite political commitment.
  • The annual report is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

CHILD MORTALITY RATES DROPPED BY HALF SINCE 1990

  • New data released today by the United Nations show that under-five mortality rates have dropped by 49% between 1990 and 2013.
  • New estimates in "Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014" show that in 2013, 6.3 million children under five died from mostly preventable causes, around 200 000 fewer than in 2012.
  • The average annual reduction has accelerated but overall progress is still short of meeting the global target of a two-thirds decrease in under-five mortality by 2015.
  • In 2013, 2.8 million babies died within the first month of life, which represents about 44% of all under-five deaths. About two-thirds of these deaths occurred in just 10 countries. While the number of neo-natal deaths has declined, progress has been slower than for the overall under-five mortality rate.
  • While Sub-Saharan Africa has cut under-five mortality rates by 48% since 1990, it still has the world’s highest rate – 92 deaths per 1000 live births – nearly 15 times the average in high-income countries.
  • Children born in Angola, which has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world (167 deaths per 1000 live births), are 84 times more likely to die before the age of five than children born in Luxembourg, with the lowest rate (2).

MALAYSIA: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE CONCERNED BY ARRESTS, PERSECUTION OF PEOPLE FOR PEACEFUL EXPRESSION OF OPINION

  • The UN Human Rights Office voiced its concern today over the recent increase in the use of the 1948 Sedition Act to arrest and prosecute people for their peaceful expression of opinion in Malaysia.
  • Since the beginning of August, at least 19 people – including religious leaders, civil society actors, political opposition members, activists, a university professor and a journalist – have been charged or are being investigated for sedition.
  • The Office said that the Act is overly broad and does not outline well-defined criteria for sedition, and called on the Government to quickly initiate a promised review of the law and to repeal or amend it in line with its international human rights obligations.
  • The Office expressed its concern that Malaysian authorities are arbitrarily applying the Act to silence critical voices, and urged the Government to immediately stop investigations and prosecutions under it, as well as to drop charges against all those currently facing prosecution.