HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 23 JANUARY 2018
U.N. RELIEF WING VOICES CONCERN OVER FIGHTING IN SYRIA’S AFRIN DISTRICT
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is deeply concerned by reports of fighting and military operations in Afrin District in northwest Syria near the Syria-Turkish border. There are 324,000 men, women and children, including 126,000 displaced people, living in the district.
- A number of civilians have reportedly lost their lives due to shelling and fighting over the past few days. While the majority of bombardment has been reported to be concentrated on communities close to the Syrian-Turkish border, airstrikes on Afrin town and surrounding communities have also been reported. We have also received reports of cross-border shelling from Syria into Turkey.
- An estimated 5,000 people from the border communities of Bulbul, Shankal, Admanli, Balal Koy and Ali Bakki to the central parts of Afrin District have reportedly been displaced to nearby villages. Another 1,000 have reportedly been displaced to Aleppo city neighbourhoods.
- On 20 January, UN cross-border shipments from Turkey were temporarily put on hold because of the security situation. This has impacted 123 truckloads of UN shipments, comprising food, shelter and health assistance, that were planned for Syria this week.
- The UN urges all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians, and to allow sustained and unhindered access by all humanitarian parties to provide life-saving assistance to all in need.
U.N. AID CHIEF WELCOMES DONORS’ RESPONSE TO YEMEN HUMANITARIAN APPEAL
- Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock has welcomed the response so far by donors to the 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan that was launched on 21 January, which requires $2.96 billion to provide assistance to more than 13 million people.
- That includes the nearly $1 billion pledge by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as a commitment to mobilize an additional $500 million from regional donors. Canada has also pledged $12 million. Mr. Lowcock asked for these pledges to be urgently disbursed to enable life-saving operations.
- He also noted the importance of keeping all of Yemen’s ports, including Hudaydah and Saleef, open to humanitarian assistance and commercial imports of food, fuel and medicines.
U.N. PEACEKEEPING CHIEF TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL OF ‘RACE AGAINST TIME’ IN MALI AMID GROWING INSECURITY
- This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the Security Council on Mali. He said that the adoption of a timetable of priority actions in the framework of the peace agreement is an important step. Less than six months before the presidential elections, he said it is critical for the government and signatory movements to stick to this timetable. Mr. Lacroix warned that time is short and that we are now in a race against time in Mali, confronted with growing insecurity and a worsening human rights and humanitarian situation.
- The objective must therefore be to create the conditions for the holding of elections and for the peace process, he said. He encouraged the government to launch the implementation of key provisions of the agreement, including decentralization and the reform of the security sector, in an inclusive manner.
- Finally, Mr. Lacroix said that five years after the Mission's establishment, time has come to reassess the assumptions that underpin the UN Mission’s presence, review its key mandated tasks against achievements on the ground and reexamine the Mission's layout through a comprehensive strategic review.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY WARNS SAFEGUARDS FOR RETURN OF ROHINGYA REFUGEES TO MYANMAR ABSENT
- Regarding the arrangement for the voluntary return to Myanmar of Rohingya refugees, the UN Refugee Agency said today the necessary safeguards for potential returnees are absent, and there are continued restrictions on access for aid agencies.
- At the same time, refugees from Rakhine State continue to arrive in Bangladesh.
- To ensure the right of refugees to return voluntarily, and in safety and in dignity, UNHCR calls again on Myanmar to allow the necessary unhindered humanitarian access in Rakhine State and create conditions for a genuine and lasting solution.
- The Refugee Agency remains prepared to work with Myanmar and Bangladesh towards finding a long-term solution to this crisis in the interest of the refugees themselves, of both governments, the host community in Bangladesh and all communities in Rakhine State.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC DISPLACEMENT REACHES UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS – U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY
- The UN Refugee Agency said today that ongoing violence in the Central African Republic, particularly in the country’s north-west, has pushed forced displacement to the highest levels since the start of the crisis in 2013. Data as of the end of December 2017 show that 688,700 people were displaced internally – 60 per cent more than just a year ago.
- Meanwhile, the number of refugees from the Central African Republic in neighbouring countries, at almost 550,000, is also up by 12 per cent in comparison to last year. For a country whose population is estimated at around 4.6 million, these two figures combined represent an astonishing level of suffering and people in need.
- In 2017, against needs estimated at around $209 million, only 12 per cent were funded.
SECRETARY-GENERAL OUTLINES REFORMS OF U.N. DEVELOPMENT SYSTEM THAT ‘PUT MEMBER STATES IN DRIVER’S SEAT’
- Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General presented his second report on the Repositioning of the UN Development System.
- He stressed that business as usual will not provide countries with the support they need to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and that is why his report proposes seven keystone reforms which include the emergence of a new generation of UN country teams, a reinvigorated Resident Coordinator system, and a Funding Compact to bring better quality, quantity and predictability of resources, as well as increased accountability and transparency, among others.
- The Secretary-General reiterated that with these reforms, Member States will be in the driver’s seat and the 2030 Agenda will be the driving force. “We now have in our hands - perhaps more than ever before – all the key conditions for success,” he said, and he asked Member States for their leadership to allow the UN to translate the report’s proposals into action as soon as possible.
U.N. WESTERN SAHARA ENVOY TO HOLD TALKS WITH PARTIES AND NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
- In response to questions, the Spokesman confirmed that the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General on Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, intends to hold bilateral discussions with the parties and neighboring countries this January and February.
- He has addressed invitations to the Moroccan Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita, the Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, Brahim Ghali, as well as the Algerian and Mauritanian Foreign Ministers.
ETHIOPIA: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS WING VOICES CONCERN OVER USE OF FORCE AGAINST WORSHIPPERS IN WOLDIVA CITY
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today it is extremely concerned by the use of force by security officials against worshippers celebrating the Ethiopian Orthodox festival of Epiphany this weekend that left at least seven people dead and a number injured.
- The incident, in Woldiya City on 20 January, reportedly took place when the security forces tried to stop people from chanting anti-government songs and allegedly opened fire on them. Protesters reportedly later blocked roads and destroyed a number of properties.
- The Human Rights Office calls on the authorities to ensure that the security forces take all feasible measures to prevent the use of force.
- They urge for a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation to ensure those responsible for any violations are held accountable.
U.N. TO HOLD SCREENING OF ‘CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST’
- Tomorrow, in Conference Room 4, from 6:30 p.m to 8:00 p.m., the Department of Public Information will host the film screening of “Children of the Holocaust” in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The film is an animated documentary.
- There are two related exhibits in the Visitors Lobby entitled “The Butterfly Project: Remembering the Children of the Holocaust” developed by Holocaust Museum Houston and “The Holocaust – Keeping the Memory Alive” featuring the 12 best posters created by students of design out of more than 150 submissions.
- For the complete calendar of events, visit: un.org/en/holocaustremembrance