HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2019

 
YEMEN
Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, briefed the Security Council by videoconference this morning, and said that there are signs of hope for the people of Yemen, but these are fragile and in need of our diligent care and attention.
He said that, in the south, the situation remains volatile, with a tenuous calm in Aden. But it is worth noting that there has been no large-scale fighting in areas of dispute. This can be taken as testimony to the restraint shown by the those on the ground and their leaderships, he said.
Mr. Griffiths welcomed the initiative by Ansar Allah to suspend all drones and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the reduction of violence that followed the announcement.
Among other measures, the Special Envoy welcomed the release of 290 detainees by Ansar Allah and said he was also grateful to the Government of Yemen for allowing fuel ships into Hudaydah.
Earlier, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that humanitarian workers are reaching more than 12 million people across Yemen every month, and yet, he said, it often feels like the more we achieve, the more complicated the problem becomes.
He said that the situation regarding violence was a little better in October, but he added that all parties must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructures.
He also said humanitarian access remains extremely challenging – particularly in the north. Agencies there must still navigate more than 100 different restrictions imposed by Ansar Allah authorities, Mr. Lowcock said, in addition to frequent harassment and attempts at interference.
In the afternoon, the Security Council will discuss the UN-AU Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.
 
SYRIA
We continue to be gravely concerned about the situation in northeast Syria, where fighting has placed civilians at risk.
While exact numbers cannot be confirmed, since 9 October, at least 160,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the violence from areas around Tell Abiad and Ras al-Ain. Most of the displaced are staying with relatives or host communities.
Close to 20,000 people fled IDP camps in the area of hostilities to camps in safer locations further south, while around 5,000 people moved to collective shelters. Approximately 1,000 people fled to Iraq.
Despite the challenging situation, the UN and humanitarian organizations continue to deliver aid and provide basic services to people in need where access allows. United Nations staff remain in northeast Syria. Fighting and ongoing insecurity has seen some NGO partners transfer international staff, who were operating in the northeast, out of the area, and others have had to temporarily suspend operations.
As the Secretary-General stated earlier, any action must ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected at all times, and that sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians in need will be guaranteed, including through the cross-border modality, in order to allow the United Nations and its humanitarian partners to continue to carry out its critical work in northern Syria.
 
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL’S TRAVELS
This weekend, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will depart to the Horn of Africa on a joint United Nations-African Union Solidarity Mission on Women, Peace and Security and Development. This is the third such visit with the African Union.
During the joint visit, the delegation will visit a number of countries in the region and meet with Heads of State and Government, senior government officials, women leaders, displaced and migrant women, UN staff, and civil society leaders. Discussions will focus on the shared UN-AU priorities of women’s participation in efforts to advance peace, security and sustainable development in the region.
Following the joint mission, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Sudan with senior UN officials. She will visit Khartoum and Darfur, including the UN Mission in El Fasher. While in Sudan, the Deputy Secretary-General will meet with the President, Prime Minister, Ministers and senior Government officials, civil society and women leaders. Discussions will focus on the United Nations collaboration with Sudan, in particular on economic development, and will also highlight the importance of women’s leadership.
The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 29 October.
 
AFGHANISTAN
Figures released today by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) show record-high levels of civilian casualties in the third quarter of 2019.
Overall, in the first nine months of 2019, UNAMA documented 8,239 civilian casualties – that 2,563 killed and 5,676 injured.
And, in the latest quarter, UNAMA documented an unprecedented number of civilian casualties, registering an increase by 42 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2018.
Moreover, in July, UNAMA documented the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded in a single month.
The UN reiterates its call for all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm and strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, at all times.
 
PHILIPPINES
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that at least two people were killed and dozens more people injured yesterday when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck parts of Mindanao in the Philippines. 
People living in coastal areas fled their villages after the earthquake in fear of potential tsunamis and returned home today.
Government agencies are conducting rapid assessments and providing temporary shelters and psychosocial support to affected families. This is the fourth earthquake which has caused deaths or injuries to have struck the Philippines this year.
 
RESIDENT COORDINATORS
The Secretary-General has appointed two new UN Resident Coordinators for Côte d'Ivoire and Zimbabwe, following confirmations by the respective governments.
Philippe Poinsot of France will serve as Resident Coordinator in Cote d’Ivoire and Maria do Valle Ribeiro of Ireland will serve in Zimbabwe.
As Resident Coordinators, they will boost development coordination among UN agencies, funds and programmes to support countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We continue to have full gender parity among all of our Resident Coordinators, covering 162 countries and territories.
 
CUTS AT DUTY STATIONS
As promised yesterday, our colleagues in Vienna have reported on their efforts to cut costs.  Like other duty stations, official travel will be limited; purchases of goods and services will be postponed; and energy-saving measures to reduce utility bills will be implemented.
Amongst other cuts, there will be no interpretation or documentation services for non-calendar meetings; summary records will be delayed and done only when internal capacity permits; and word-limit mandates will be strictly enforced with respect to all parliamentary documentation.
There will be no orders of office supplies, goods, services, furniture, and IT equipment, and outgoing mail services will be reduced.  And security services will not be provided for any meetings or events outside of normal working hours, unless such services are covered by extrabudgetary resources.
 
HAITI
Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has condemned the killing of Haitian journalist, Néhémie Joseph, which took place on 10 October.
She urged authorities to spare no effort to investigate this crime and ensure that all those involved are brought to trial.
Néhémie Joseph, a radio reporter and presenter for Haiti’s Panic FM and radio station Méga, was found in the trunk of his car after being shot by unknown assailants.
Ms. Azoulay said journalists and the media bring an indispensable contribution to democracy and governments must prioritize their safety.
 
POSTAL UNION
In a drop-by with US President Donald Trump, held in the White House on 15 October, the Director General of the Universal Postal Union, Bishar Hussein, displayed the letter revoking the United States’ decision to withdraw from the UPU.    
Speaking afterwards, Mr. Hussein thanked President Trump and said that he is convinced that the maintenance of the worldwide postal system is a victory for everyone on this planet.
 
POVERTY
This year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is marked by a call to “act together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty”. The theme was chosen to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In his message for the day, the Secretary-General reminded us that children are more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty than adults. They will also live with the devastating consequences of climate change if we fail to raise ambition now.
Access to quality social services must be a priority, said the Secretary-General. Yet, today, almost two-thirds of children lack social protection coverage. 
The Secretary-General called on all of us to recommit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 1 and a fair globalization that works for all children, their families and communities.
 
SENIOR APPOINTMENT
Today, the Secretary-General welcomes the decision by the General Assembly to approve Fatoumata Ndiaye of Senegal as Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services for a five-year non-renewable term. 
She will succeed Heidi Mendoza of the Philippines to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her dedicated service to the Organization.
Ms. Ndiaye brings to the position more than 24 years of knowledge, hands-on experience and inter-agency work in the areas of audit, investigations and evaluation, coupled with overseeing and coordinating human resources, finance, budget, information technology and administrative services and operations.