HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC, SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2018

 
YEMEN
The Secretary-General welcomes the launch today of intra-Yemeni consultations in Sweden and urges the parties to make progress on the agenda for the consultations as outlined by his Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, by exercising flexibility and engaging in good faith and without pre-conditions. 
The Secretary-General appeals to the warring parties to continue the de-escalation of Hudaydah and explore other measures to mitigate the life threatening economic and humanitarian situation. He reminds the parties that a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue is the only way to end the conflict and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. 
In the opening remarks Martin Griffiths made at the consultations in Sweden, he announced the signing of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners, detainees, the missing, the forcibly detained and individuals placed under house arrest. He said that the agreement would allow thousands of families to be reunited and it is a product of very effective, active work from both delegations.
Mr. Griffiths also spoke to the press in Sweden and said that there is a massive international effort to try to solve the conflict in Yemen. He said that there was huge consensus about the urgent need to resolve the conflict, noting the worsening plight of Yemeni civilians, with a risk that fully half of Yemen’s people will become vulnerable to famine, hunger and disease if we do not move urgently towards a political solution.
He said that he intends to discuss with the parties what might constitute the outlines of a settlement. And he added the parties would discuss, among other measures, the release of prisoners, the question of opening Sana’a airport and how the two parties can contribute to a coherent economic and monetary plan. Mr. Griffiths underlined the importance of finding ways to de-escalate the violence in the country.
 
WESTERN SAHARA
The roundtable meeting held in Geneva yesterday and today under the auspices of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Horst Köhler, has wrapped up, and the delegations involved - Morocco, the Frente POLISARIO, Algeria and Mauritania - have agreed to a communiqué.
The communiqué says that the delegations took stock of recent developments, addressed regional issues, and discussed next steps in the political process. All delegations recognized that cooperation and regional integration, not confrontation were the best way to address the many important challenges the region is facing.
All discussions took place in an atmosphere of serious engagement, frankness, and mutual respect. 
Delegations agreed that the Personal Envoy will invite them for a second roundtable meeting in the first quarter of next year.
 
SECURITY COUNCIL
The Secretary-General addressed the Security Council this morning on the role of States, regional arrangements and the United Nations in the prevention of conflicts.
He said we are overwhelmingly managing crisis and conflict, when we should put far more effort into preventing them from happening in the first place. He added that prevention saves lives but also makes economic sense.
The Secretary-General noted that the UN is working to improve its capacity -- from greater use of good offices to investing in mediation and strengthening the contribution of peacekeeping and peacebuilding to prevention. He also stressed that sustainable development was one of the most effective tools for prevention and that achieving the SDGs will make a significant contribution to tackling root causes and building lasting peace.   
 
COUNTER-TERRORISM
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the first meeting of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Compact Coordination Committee, and said that the new Compact Task Force will enhance the collective approach to counter-terrorism across the United Nations system. He said the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture is now better coordinated and organized around fundamental objectives.
The Secretary-General noted the new Compact between 36 United Nations entities —plus INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization — will provide a clear framework and solid platform.
He added that we must lead by example by fighting terrorism in a manner that fully respects international human rights standards and the rule of law. Policies that limit human rights only end up alienating the very communities they aim to protect, who would normally have every interest in fighting extremism. 
 
LEBANON
Lt. Gen. Stefano Del Col, the Force Commander for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), along with a technical team, today visited a location near Metulla in northern Israel where the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has discovered a tunnel close to the Blue Line.
Based on the site inspection, UNIFIL can confirm the existence of a tunnel at the location.
Accordingly, UNIFIL is now engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action. It is very important to determine the full picture of this serious occurrence. UNIFIL will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon.
 
SYRIA
The United Nations remains deeply concerned by continuing reports of injury and displacement in Idleb Governorate in northwest Syria, following ongoing hostilities and shelling in the area.
Yesterday, shelling reportedly continued on several areas in southern Idleb, reportedly injuring civilians in Khan Shaykun and temporarily displacing many people.
Many of the newly-displaced people are reportedly staying in the open without adequate shelter. While initial food assistance and non-food distributions by local organizations and local councils are reported to have started, many people reportedly remain in need of emergency food and shelter.
The United Nations continues to reiterate that a full-scale escalation of hostilities in the area must be averted at all costs, and that failure to do so will bring about humanitarian suffering at a scale not yet seen in this conflict.
 
LIBYA
The UN Refugee Agency said today it had evacuated 133 refugees from Libya to Niger, most of them women and children who were previously detained in Libya.
UNHCR secured their release and housed them in the newly opened Gathering Departure Facility in Tripoli before safely evacuating them. The Facility is the first centre of its kind in Libya and is intended to bring vulnerable refugees to safe environments while solutions including refugee resettlements, family reunification, evacuation to emergency facilities in other countries, return to a country of previous asylum, and voluntary repatriation are sought for them.
 
FAO
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that food commodity prices declined in November, led by a drop in the price for palm oil and other vegetable oils.
The Food Price Index for this month was down 1.3 per cent from October and 8.5 per cent from a year earlier. The index is now at its lowest level since May 2016.
Large palm oil inventories and abundant supplies of soy and sunflower oils fueled the decline as well as large exports for cereals which increased the competition in the market.
 
CERF
The Secretary-General will open the annual Central Emergency Response Fund High-Level Pledging Conference tomorrow morning. The event will highlight the Fund’s achievements, announcements towards the fund in 2019, and discussion on how to collectively increase the level of funding towards the US$1 billion target endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016.
 
UDHR
Today at 6 p.m., the Secretary-General will open a UN exhibit on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that will take place in the Visitors Lobby, along with the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Representative of France. The exhibit highlights the little-known, yet essential roles played by women delegates in drafting the Declaration.
Tomorrow at 11 a.m. in the Trusteeship Chamber, the Secretary-General will speak at the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The event includes an interactive video presentation by USC Shoah Foundation, allowing for real-time dialogue with Holocaust survivors. The Secretary-General will also sign a cooperation agreement on peace and security issue with the African Union at 1:30 p.m.