HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2018

  SECRETARY-GENERAL TO SECURITY COUNCIL: TIME FOR REASON AND CONCERTED ACTION IN MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS

  • The Security Council held a meeting on the situation in the Middle East today, in presence of the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas.
  • At the outset of the meeting, the Secretary-General reiterated his full personal commitment – and the commitment of the United Nations – to supporting the parties in their efforts to achieve a two-State solution.
  • Yet, he warned, we must face today’s sad reality. After decades of support, the global consensus for a two-State solution could be eroding. Obstacles on the ground have the potential to create an irreversible one-state reality.
  • The Secretary-General said that this is a time for dialogue, for reconciliation, for reason.  At this moment of grave consequence, he appeals for effective concerted action by all parties.  It is more important than ever.
  • He stressed the importance of continued humanitarian and development assistance to the Palestinian people from the international community.
  • Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council further, saying that the enemies of peace are growing more confident by the day. They see every failure of the forces of moderation as a win for the forces of radicalisation.
  • He warned that our window of opportunity is closing and, if we do not seize it quickly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be engulfed in the whirlwind of religious radicalization that remains present in the region.
  • In a bilateral meeting, the Secretary-General and President Abbas agreed on the importance of moving the Middle East Peace Process forward and underlined their shared commitment to the two-state solution as the only viable option to sustainable peace.
  • The Secretary-General expressed his concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and the funding shortfall of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) programmes.  
SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA WARNS OF INCREASING TRAGEDY IN EASTERN GHOUTA
  • Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, said in remarks to reporters in Geneva today that we need to avoid a greater escalation of the fighting in eastern Ghouta. 
  • He warned, “We are looking in front of us at an increasing tragedy.” 
  • He called on all those who have influence on the Syrian Government and on militant groups fighting in that area to use that influence to avoid any further escalation.
  • Panos Moumtzis, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said in a statement yesterday that the recent escalation of violence compounds an already precarious humanitarian situation for the 393,000 residents of East Ghouta – who account for 94 per cent of all Syrians living under besiegement today.
  • He said that overall access to East Ghouta remains woefully inadequate. No convoys were undertaken in December and January due to limited access.
  • While requests for inter-agency humanitarian convoys for East Ghouta are systematically made monthly, just one convoy was allowed to the town of Nashabiyeh on 14 February, delivering life-saving food, health and nutrition assistance to 7,200 people. That is well short of the overall needs.
IRAQ: RENEWED CIVILIAN DISPLACEMENT UNDERWAY FROM MOSUL
  • Renewed civilian displacement in Iraq is underway from Mosul, almost eight months after the city was recaptured from Da’esh control. One million people were displaced in the context of the military campaign to recapture Mosul, which concluded in July 2017. Approximately half have since been able to return to their homes.
  • Since the beginning of the year, the number of civilians leaving Mosul has again picked up, with approximately 100 to 150 people per day arriving at camps and out-of-camp areas in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. According to figures reported by the Kurdish Regional Government, some 2,900 people from Mosul have arrived at camps for internally displaced people in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. These displaced people are primarily from the western part of the city.
  • Humanitarians are monitoring the situation and providing assistance to the displaced, as well as to vulnerable families in the city.
HUMANITARIANS APPEAL FOR US$142 MILLION FOR BURUNDI IN 2018
  • The Burundi 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was launched yesterday in Bujumbura requiring US$142 million.
  • It targets 2.4 million people in need of assistance across the country, more than double the number of people targeted last year. Over one-quarter of Burundi’s population is estimated to be acutely food insecure.
  • The Humanitarian Response Plan focuses on supporting the return of internally displaced people and the reintegration of returnees and repatriated people, as well as assist people impacted by natural hazards.
REFUGEE AGENCY WARNS OF HUMANITARIAN DISASTER OF EXTRAORDINARY PROPORTIONS IN TANGANYIKA, D. R. CONGO
  • The UN Refugee Agency warned today that a humanitarian disaster of extraordinary proportions was about to hit the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the province of Tanganyika plunges further into violence, triggering spiraling displacement and human rights abuses.
  • Several areas of the province have seen atrocities and mass displacement, due to entrenched intercommunal conflicts and fierce clashes between the Congolese armed forces and militias.
  • The violence spreading across Tanganyika, which is three times the size of Switzerland with a population of some three million, has now internally displaced over 630,000 people.
  • UNHCR is working with partners to redress this calamitous situation but is appealing for increased assistance to help the population cope. Last year, it received less than US$1 per person in donor contributions for its programmes for the internally displaced in the DRC.
MAJOR DATA VERIFICATION EXERCISE REGARDING REFUGEES LAUNCHED IN UGANDA
  • The UN Refugee Agency announced today new measures to support the government of Uganda’s refugee programme, including through a major biometric data verification exercise.
  • UNHCR has already deployed staff, with partner emergency teams, to start the exercise. In total, more than 400 staff will register refugees.
  • The data verification exercise is scheduled to be completed by September 2018 – including introduction of biometric checks at food distribution sites. The tried and tested biometric system has already been used in 48 countries across the world.
  • In parallel, UNHCR’s independent Inspector General’s Office is rigorously pursuing its own oversight and due diligence measures, including investigations of several serious allegations received in 2017 on fuel embezzlement, one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse, irregular tendering of water trucking, and fraud in procurement and food distribution.
  • Uganda initiated a probe in January after reports received by UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) alleged corruption and grave misconduct by government officials involved in refugee assistance.
  • UNHCR is closely monitoring the outcomes of these investigations and is closely cooperating with the Ugandan authorities and other partners.
PREPARATIONS AHEAD OF MONSOON STEPPED UP FOR ROHINGYA REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH
  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned about the situation of several thousand Rohingya who have been living in a so-called “no man’s land” near the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh since the end of August 2017.
  • They estimate there are some 1,300 families, approximately 5,300 men, women, boys and girls living in the area near Tombru canal.
  • UNHCR reiterates that everyone has the right to seek asylum, just as they also have the right to return home when they deem the time and circumstances right.
  • Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, together with the authorities, UNHCR and partners continue to step up preparations ahead of the monsoon season.
  • To date, they have distributed over 33,000 upgraded shelter kits for refugee families, including biodegradable sandbags to help anchor the structures. 
U.N. HEALTH BODY REPORTS 400% SURGE IN MEASLES CASES IN EUROPE LAST YEAR·
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) reports a 400% surge in measles cases in Europe in 2017, compared to 2016.
  • The disease affected more than 21,300 people and caused 35 deaths in 2017, following a record low of 5,273 cases in 2016.
  • The surge in measles cases in 2017 included large outbreaks in Romania, Italy and Ukraine. These countries have experienced a range of challenges in recent years, such as declines in overall routine immunization coverage, consistently low coverage among some marginalized groups, interruptions in vaccine supply or underperforming disease surveillance systems.
  • Health Ministers of 11 countries are meeting today in Montenegro to achieve the goals set out in the European Vaccine Action Plan (EVAP) by 2020, including measles and rubella elimination.
SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO MALAWI AMBASSADOR NECTON D. MHURA
  • The Secretary-General issued a statement on the death of Ambassador Necton D. Mhura, Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations.
  • He said he has learned with sadness of the passing of Ambassador Mhura.
  • Ambassador Mhura represented the Republic of Malawi at the United Nations since September 2016. He was a skilled diplomat and person of great learning.
  • Ambassador Mhura will be remembered for working tirelessly for the universal goals of peace, human rights and sustainable development. He did so with inspiring dedication, as demonstrated by his active role as Vice Chair of the Group of Least Developed Countries. His loss will be keenly felt by peers and colleagues in New York.
  • The Secretary-General paid tribute to his contributions to the United Nations and offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and to the Government and people of the Republic of Malawi.
WORLD SOCIAL JUSTICE DAY HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE OF FAIR TREATMENT OF MIGRANT WORKERS
  • Today is World Social Justice Day. The theme this year is “Workers on the move: the quest for social justice,” which highlights the importance of fair treatment of migrant workers in order to preserve the social fabric of our societies and achieve sustainable development.