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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,

SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

FRIDAY, 6 MARCH 2015

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED ABOUT PLO’S DECISION TO SUSPEND SECURITY COORDINATION WITH ISRAEL

  • The Secretary-General expresses his concern regarding the 5 March decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Central Council to suspend all forms of security coordination with Israel.
  • The Secretary-General notes that the PLO Executive Committee will report on implementation of this decision to the PLO Central Council in three months. This still provides a window of opportunity for both sides to take necessary actions to honour their obligations. In this regard, he urges both parties to exercise utmost restraint and reverse their unhelpful cycle of actions and counter-actions. The Secretary-General repeats his call on Israel to resume the transfer of tax revenues legally due to the Palestinian Authority as per the Paris Protocol.
  • In the absence of effective international engagement, the situation may further unravel. The Secretary-General urgently calls on the international community, including the Security Council, to exercise leadership and help create conditions for a negotiated final peace agreement that will end the Israeli occupation and realize the creation of a viable Palestinian state, living in peace and security alongside Israel.

ON WOMEN’S DAY, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS ON WORLD TO RESPOND TO TARGETING OF WOMEN AND GIRLS BY VIOLENT EXTREMIST

  • In a message for Women’s Day and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Secretary-General said that some progress had been made over the past twenty years, with more access to education for girls, more presence in businesses, governments and global organizations, as well as progress in maternal health.
  • However, he called on the world to come together in response to the targeting of women and girls by violent extremists. 
  • From Nigeria and Somalia to Syria and Iraq, the bodies of women have been transformed into battlegrounds for warriors carrying out specific and systematic strategies, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion, he denounced. 
  • He said that the international community needs to translate its outrage into meaningful action, including humanitarian aid, psycho-social services, support for livelihoods, and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. 
  • The Secretary-General also stressed that even in societies at peace, too many girls and women are still targets of abuse, and that discrimination remains a thick barrier that must be shattered.
  • The Secretary-General also addressed the high-level debate of the General Assembly on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls for a transformative post-2015 development agenda.

HEAD OF UNESCO CONDEMNS DESTRUCTION OF NIMRUD ARCHAELOGICAL SITE IN IRAQ

  • The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has condemned in the strongest possible terms the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq.
  • She said this was yet another attack against the Iraqi people and added that nothing was safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country:.
  • Ms. Bokova said that the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. She called on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.
  • She said that she had alerted the president of the Security Council as well as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The entire international community must join its efforts, in solidarity with the government and people of Iraq, to put an end to this catastrophe.

U.N. AGENCIES PROVIDE SHELTER, FOOD TO DISPLACED IN IRAQ

  • On Iraq, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that small numbers of people continue to arrive in Samarra city, according to aid organizations.
  • Displaced families are living in 127 collective shelters, including schools where many families are sharing classrooms. Displaced people are also sheltering in unfinished and abandoned buildings, and mosques in and around the city.
  • The Government has provided one thousand tents which are now being erected in Samara. The UN Refugee agency will provide another 1,500 tents.
  • Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has enough food pre-positioned in its warehouse in Baghdad to feed 75,000 people for three days. It will work with local partners on the ground in the coming weeks to distribute monthly food rations, security permitting.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CALLS FOR CONTINUED SUPPORT FOR LEBANON TO MAINTAIN ITS STABILITY

  • The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, wrapped up her visit to Lebanon calling for continued international support to help maintain the country’s stability.
  • She said that Ms. Amos Lebanon had shown generosity in hosting some 1.2 million refugees from Syria and that no country can handle such a burden on its own.
  • She also hoped that the upcoming Kuwait 3 pledging conference would give support to Lebanon to assist the Government in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable Lebanese and refugees from Syria.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Lebanon is the country with the highest ratio of refugees per capita in the world. Four years into the Syria crisis, Lebanon’s public services are overstretched, economic growth has slowed and unemployment is rising.

W.F.P. SCALES BACK ASSISTANCE TO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN TURKEY DUE TO LACK OF FUNDS

  • From Geneva, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that due to a shortage of funding, it has had forced to reduce the number of Syrian refugees it can assist in Turkey.
  • In January, WFP assisted 220,000 refugees in 20 camps throughout the country. But in February, that number fell to 154,000, after the World Food Programme had to withdraw from nine camps.
  • Since 2011, WFP has been providing food assistance to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Turkey through an innovative electronic voucher (e-food card) system.  That system makes it possible for refugees to buy their food in shops like anybody else.
  • The World Food Programme says it requires USD 9 million each month for its assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

SECURITY COUNCIL COUNCIL HEARS BRIEFINGS ON POLITICAL, HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMNATARIAN SITUATIONS IN UKRAINE

  • The Security Council held an open meeting today on Ukraine.
  • Briefing the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, said that since the Minsk package of measures was signed last month, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has monitored some withdrawals of heavy military equipment from the line of contact, but, due to lack of access and freedom of movement of its monitors, the Mission remains unable to verify the true extent of this process.
  • As per the commitments undertaken by the parties in Minsk, Mr. Feltman said that full and unfettered access must be given to the OSCE and withdrawal of heavy weaponry must commence urgently, transparently and comprehensively.
  • He said that there will be no significant traction on the political track unless the prerequisite cease-fire and withdrawal of weapons are fully implemented. The history of this conflict has taught us that the window of opportunity to make these processes irreversible is limited.
  • Also speaking at the meeting was Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic.
  • He said that although the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine has held up in general, the human rights situation has remained alarming.
  • Mr. Simonovic said that after more than 6,000 killed, one million displaced, hundreds of thousands of refugees and continuing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the conflict has still not reached the point of no return.
  • But, he cautioned, the window of opportunity seems to be rapidly closing and we simply cannot afford to let that happen.
  • John Ging, Operations Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that five million people across the country are now in need of humanitarian assistance – two million in Government-controlled areas and three million in non-Government-controlled areas.
  • Speaking on behalf of Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, he said that the ceasefire remains fragile, but – where observed – has allowed a limited increase in humanitarian access.
  • Mr. Ging stressed that it is imperative that humanitarian actors are able to reach those in need with life-saving assistance, and called on all parties to the conflict to facilitate the safe and unimpeded passage of aid and aid workers, and to lift any administrative obstacles to this passage.

HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE CALLS ON INDONESIA GRANT CLEMENCY TO DRUG OFFENDERS

  • From Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today urged the Indonesia Government to refrain from executing individuals convicted of drug offences by exercising its constitutional authority to grant clemency.
  • The Office said that, regrettably, six people found guilty of drug offences were executed in January and others are due to face the firing squad imminently.
  • It added that Indonesia's relentless efforts to fight the scourge of drug trafficking are understandable, but this is not the way to do it. By taking this course, Indonesia sadly will weaken its own position when advocating for its own nationals who sometimes face the death penalty abroad.
  • The Office said that in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, international human rights jurisprudence requires that capital punishment may only be imposed for the ‘most serious crimes’ of murder or intentional killing. It noted that drug-related offences do not fall under this threshold of 'most serious crimes'.
  • The Office called on the Indonesian authorities to reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty and conduct a thorough review of all requests for pardon with a view to commutation of sentence.
  • It said its understanding is that reports have emerged in the last few hours indicating that the executions may have been put on hold.

NEPAL: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF WELCOMES SUPREME COURT’S REJECTION OF AMNESTIES

  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights today welcomed last week’s decision by the Supreme Court of Nepal to strike down a clause giving the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation and the Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons the power to recommend amnesties for serious human rights violations committed during the 10-year internal conflict.
  • He said that his Office studied the ruling and heartily commends the Supreme Court for upholding international standards relating to accountability for gross violations of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law.

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSED NEGATIVE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON HUMAN RIGHTS

  • Also in Geneva today, the Human Rights Council held a discussion on the potentially devastating impact of climate change on human rights.
    Panellists include the President of Kiribati and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, two Pacific Island States which are on the frontline of the global battle against climate change.
  • Opening the discussion, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri told the Council that human-induced climate change is not only an assault on the world’s shared ecosystem, but that it also undercuts the rights to health, to food, to water and sanitation, to adequate housing and – for the people of small island states and coastal communities – even the right to self-determination.
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that it is calling for human rights standards to be put front and centre of discussions on mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. Any action designed to limit climate change must have people’s rights at its core.

27 COUNTRIES STILL DO NOT ALLOW WOMEN TO PASS ON NATIONALITY TO CHILDREN

  • Ahead of Women’s Day, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stressed today that women in 27 countries are still not allowed to pass their nationality on to their children on an equal basis with men, creating a cruel cycle of statelessness.
  • Reform of nationality laws is a key element in UNHCR's #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
  • New supporters to this campaign include former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and singers Rokia Traoré and Angelique Kidjo.
  • They join Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright in calling for action against statelessness.

SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS YANNICK GLEMAREC OF FRANCE AS DEPUTY HEAD OF UN WOMEN

  • The Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Yannick Glemarec of France as Deputy Executive Director for Policy and Programme, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) at the Assistant Secretary-General level. He will succeed John Hendra of Canada to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.
  • Mr. Glemarec will be responsible for setting the direction and guiding the planning, coordination, management and oversight of all program activities and services provided by the Programme and Policy Bureau. He will serve as one of the two Deputies to the Executive Director of UN Women.

CUBA BECOMES 54TH MEMBER STATES TO PAY BUDGET ASSESSMENTS IN FULL

  • On 5 March, Cuba became the 54th Member State to pay its dues in full.
  • This means that139 countries still owe their assessments to the regular budget.