HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2018

 
AFRICA
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the Africa Dialogue 2018 on the partnership between the African Union and the United Nations.
He said that Africa today is driving its own agenda, with countries growing more prosperous and regions becoming more integrated.
The Secretary-General said that the historic agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea is creating opportunities to consolidate peace across the Horn of Africa.
He stressed that the UN believes in African leadership to solve African problems, and that the Organization is fully committed to working closely with the African Union in solidarity and respect to seize the vast potential of today’s opportunities.
The Secretary-General pointed to the two agreements signed in the past 18 months – the Framework on Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, and the UN-AU Framework on Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security – as the foundations of our renewed cooperation.
Both of these are based on ensuring women’s leadership and gender equality in all areas, he said, pointing to a very important moment with the creation of the new government of Ethiopia, which enjoys full gender parity.
 
SYRIA
The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the Security Council today that the Government of Syria has invited him to Damascus next week. This is a follow-up to the meeting with the Secretary-General during the General Assembly. Mr. de Mistura said he plans to engage them on the work that has been done on the Constitutional Committee and also intends before the end of the month to invite the Astana guarantors for consultations in Geneva. He expressed the hope to be in a position to issue invitations to convene the constitutional committee, hopefully during the month of November.
The Special Envoy said that the UN has done all it can to find a way to convene a credible and balanced constitutional committee. He added that the UN is ready to do more and in an accelerated way during the forthcoming month, taking advantage of the Idlib window of opportunity, but he added he would not convene a committee that is not credible or balanced.
Mr. de Mistura also informed Council members that he intends to step down from his post as Special Envoy by the end of next month, after serving for four years and four months on the job. 
The Secretary-General will be initiating consultations immediately to find a successor to his Special Envoy, with a view of submitting a name of the Security Council. The Secretary-General deeply appreciates the work that Mr. de Mistura has done during his time as the Special Envoy. Throughout his tenure, Mr. de Mistura has kept the interest of the Syrian people first and foremost in his mind and the values of the UN have underpinned every decision he has taken.
Also yesterday, I was asked about the transit of humanitarian goods between Jordan and Syria. For now, the UN humanitarian deliveries are not taking place from Jordan into Syria.  Since the change in control in southern Syria, deliveries through the UN Security Council-authorized cross-border mechanism have not been possible.
 
COMOROS STATEMENT
We issued this morning a statement on the Comoros in which the Secretary-General expressed his concern over reports of heightened tensions on the island of Anjouan and calls for all concerned to exercise calm and utmost restraint in the interest of peace and stability in the Comoros.
The Secretary-General exhorts all Comorian political actors to return to the Inter-Comorian dialogue which began under the facilitation of the African Union High Representative, Ramtane Lamamra, and urges the Government, political parties and civil society organizations to implement the confidence-building measures agreed to, in support of an inclusive dialogue process.
 
POPULATION
Today, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) launched its annual State of World Population report, entitled “The Power of Choice: Reproductive Rights and the Demographic Transition.”
The report shows that the global trend towards smaller families is a reflection of people making reproductive choices to have as few or as many children as they want, when they want. It also shows that the power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children can bolster economic and social development.
 
REFUGEES
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) today urged European leaders to address this year’s record rate of drownings urged European leaders to address this year’s record rate of drownings in the Mediterranean Sea. Their appeal comes ahead of this week’s meeting of European Union Heads of States and Government to discuss the issue.
The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and the Director-General of the IOM, Antonio Vitorino, today warned that the political discourse concerning refugees and migrants has become dangerously toxic in some countries, even at a time when arrivals to Europe are declining. This narrative is stoking unnecessary fears, they said.
They also called on leaders to focus on the implementation of the Valetta Political Declaration and Plan of Action, which seeks to address the root causes of displacement.
 
GUATEMALA
Yesterday, I was asked about Guatemala not renewing visas for some staff members of the Commission against Impunity.
The Secretary-General expresses his concern upon learning of the decision of the Foreign Ministry of Guatemala not to renew the visas of the staff members of the Commission. The Agreement establishing the Commission calls on the Government of Guatemala to provide the Commission with all assistance necessary for the discharge of its functions and activities. Some of those affected by this decision have an important role in fighting impunity. We are in touch with the Guatemalan authorities to discuss the situation.
 
POVERTY
Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This year’s theme is “Coming together with those furthest behind to build an inclusive world of universal respect for human rights and dignity.”
The Secretary-General will take part in the commemoration of the Day, where he will highlight the progress made since the Day was first observed 25 years ago. Since then, 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty. However, many still are left behind.
The Secretary-General will also call on governments to implement policies that promote inclusive growth and respect for human rights.
 
HONOUR ROLL
Oman has paid its budget dues in full, bringing the total number of Member States which have done so to 145.