HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

MONDAY, 27 JANUARY 2020

 

 
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE
The Secretary-General spoke at the UN’s Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
The Secretary-General spoke of the recent resurgence of antisemitic attacks around the world, saying that our solidarity in the face of hatred is needed today more than ever.  He said we need to name this phenomenon for what it is: there is a global crisis of antisemitic hatred; a constant stream of attacks targeting Jews, their institutions and properties. He also drew attention to the initiatives designed to counter such hatred, including the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech that he launched last year and the UN Plan of Action of Safeguarding Religious Sites.
The Secretary-General added that new surveillance technology can also be abused by both governments and corporations to enable discrimination and deny people of their rights. He said the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation had recommended actions to safeguard human rights in the digital age, which will include working with partners to develop standards for fair, accountable and transparent artificial intelligence.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General also spoke at Park East Synagogue, on the Upper East Side, here in New York, which he has visited every year since becoming Secretary-General, and in his remarks there, he stressed that “The United Nations stands with you every day, together with many people around the world who believe that an attack on one is an attack on all.”
 
PRESS CONFERENCE
Due to scheduling considerations, the Secretary-General’s press conference has been postponed by a week, and will now take place on Tuesday, 3 February. 
 
SYRIA 
The UN remains deeply concerned about the safety of over 4 million civilians in northwest Syria, over half of whom are internally displaced, following reports of ongoing airstrikes and shelling over the weekend.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that over 1,500 civilians in the northwest of Syria have been killed since April, when the current military escalations began, including over 430 children and 290 women.
Since December 1st, an estimated 389,000 people have been displaced. That’s an increase of more than 30,000 since last week. The vast majority, about 80 percent of those people who are being displaced, are women and children.
The latest displacement compounds an already dire humanitarian situation on the ground in Idlib, where more than 400,000 people were displaced between the end of April and the end of August, many of them multiple times.
We continue to call for a cessation of hostilities and urge all parties, and those with influence over the parties, to ensure the protection of civilians, the protection of civilian infrastructure, and that’s in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
 
LIBYA
The UN Human Rights Office, in a new report today on the airstrikes last July on the Tajoura detention centre in Libya, renewed its call on all parties to the conflict in that country to conduct independent, impartial and thorough investigations to ensure accountability for the violations of international law.
The report concurs with previous UN findings that the airstrikes were likely conducted by aircraft belonging to a foreign state, noting that, “it remains unclear whether these air assets were under the command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) or were operated under the command of that foreign state in support of the LNA.”  The report calls on all parties, as well as any States supporting either party, to conduct investigations in the airstrikes with a view to ensuring the swift prosecution of those responsible.
Over the weekend, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) deeply regretted the continued blatant violations of the arms embargo in Libya, even after the commitments made in this regard by concerned countries during the Berlin Conference.  The UN Mission said that over the last ten days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing in Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country, providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters. The UN mission condemns these ongoing violations, with a risk of plunging the country into a renewed and intensified round of fighting.
Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, is currently in Tunisia, holding meetings in preparations of the security track and the political tracks of the peace process.

CORONAVIRUS
On the Coronavirus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros, arrived in Beijing today.
He is expected to meet with senior Chinese Government officials to discuss the coronavirus outbreak.
WHO has stressed that we have a chance to get ahead of the virus if we all work together. It has provided advice to countries on how to identify and care for people sick with the virus, and how individuals can protect themselves and others. You can find information on the WHO’s website.

COLOMBIA 
A new report from Colombia on the situation of children and armed conflict  concludes that the Peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP, which contained child protection provisions, contributed to a significant decrease in violations committed against boys and girls.
Ms. Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on this issue, commended the Government of Colombia for its efforts to protect boys and girls, but, she pointed out that more than 3 years after the signature of the peace agreement, children continue to be exposed to grave violations as other groups are occupying the space left by the withdrawal of the FARC-EP.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO - MEASLES
Although measles case incidence showed a decreasing trend in December, the cumulative number of cases and deaths has continued to increase, with over 6,000 deaths reported last year.
Cases of measles continue to be reported in all 26 provinces, including the provinces of Ituri, North-Kivu and South-Kivu, which are also affected by the Ebola outbreak.  The majority of measles cases - 75 per cent of those cases– are impacting children under the age of 5.
The emergence of new cases is likely a result of persisting gaps in the vaccination coverage, which needs to be scaled-up accordingly. US$ 40 million are needed urgently, in order to extend the vaccination to children over 5 and to reinforce outbreak response activities beyond vaccination.
 
MADAGASCAR
In Madagascar, last week, following heavy rain and flooding caused by a tropical disturbance, there has been an impact to 107,000 people, and at least 31 deaths. More than 16,000 have also been displaced.
The Government is leading the response, with support from the UN and humanitarian partners who have mobilized and pre-positioned stocks to assist people affected by the floods.

TURKEY
In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General said he was deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property in the wake of an earthquake in the Elazig province of Turkey.