HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 17 DECEMBER 2018
  

LEBANON
The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), as you know, has been actively following up on developments relating to the discovery of tunnels along the Blue Line by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The IDF has informed the UN peacekeeping mission that they have so far discovered four tunnels along the Blue Line.
UNIFIL technical teams have undertaken a number of site inspections south of the Blue Line in order to ascertain the facts.
Based on the UN’s independent assessment, the peacekeepers have so far confirmed the existence of all the four tunnels close to the Blue Line in northern Israel.
After further technical investigations conducted independently in accordance with its mandate, UNIFIL at this stage can confirm that two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line. These constitute violations of UN Security Council resolution 1701.
This is a matter of serious concern and UNIFIL’s technical investigations are continuing.
The UN peacekeeping mission has requested the Lebanese authorities to ensure urgent follow-up actions, in accordance with the responsibilities of the Government of Lebanon pursuant to resolution 1701.
The situation in UNIFIL’s area of operation remains calm. The UN’s leadership is fully engaged with the parties to ensure stability along the Blue Line and prevent misunderstandings in order to keep the area of operation calm.
 
SG TRAVEL
The Secretary-General landed back in New York from Doha a few hours ago. Over the weekend, as you know, he attended the Doha Forum and [before] that he was in Katowice, Poland and in Marrakech at the migration meeting.
Yesterday, in Doha, he met with the Emir, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani; the Prime Minister of Qatar as well as the Foreign Minister.
Speaking to the press with the Foreign Minister after taking part in a signing ceremony for Qatar-UN partnerships, the Secretary-General thanked Qatar for its generosity and welcomed the new strategic relationship between Qatar and the United Nations. He also hailed Qatar for its support to UNRWA – the UN’s Relief and Work Agency - so that the United Nations could continue supporting Palestine refugees.
While in Doha, the Secretary-General also gave a lecture at Hamad bin Khalifa University, where he made his case to the students about the importance of multilateralism.
He ended his visit by giving the keynote address at the closing of the Doha Forum, where he underscored that international cooperation is crucial to solve the pressing challenges of today, including climate change and conflicts, as well as issues such as technology that will pose problems in the future.
 
AFGHANISTAN
Back here, Tadimichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council this morning on the political situation there, saying that the elections in October were essential but that there were major and avoidable irregularities in the preparations and implementation of the parliamentary elections by the electoral management bodies. It is clear that these electoral institutions need to significantly improve themselves before the presidential election, he said.
The Special Representative said that the possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real in the past 17 years than it is now. On the Afghan side, he said, a peace plan was suggested by President Ghani at the Geneva Ministerial Conference, while a team to negotiate directly with the Taliban was appointed. The key next step, he added, would be for representatives of the Government and the Taliban to meet, or at least to formally initiate what in mediation is referred to as talks about talks.
Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said that according to this year’s Afghanistan Opium Survey, the overall area under cultivation remains the [second] highest measured since the beginning of systematic opium poppy monitoring and recording in 1994.  The area under cultivation fell by 20 percent compared with the record level of 2017, accompanied by a drop in opium yield, but both can be attributed to the devasting drought that Afghanistan has suffered.
And later today, my understanding is that the Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation in Kosovo, according to relevant Security Council resolutions.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will brief at their request.
 
OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY
Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, and the Minister of Social Development of the State of Palestine, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Shaer, launched the Humanitarian Response Plan for the occupied Palestinian territory for 2019, which seeks to address rising critical humanitarian needs amidst new challenges.
The plan appeals for $350 million to provide basic food, protection, health care, shelter, water and sanitation to 1.4 million Palestinians, who have been identified as in most need of humanitarian interventions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Mr. McGoldrick said that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory continues to deteriorate, preventing Palestinians from accessing health care, clean water and livelihoods, among other needs.  At the same time, he added, humanitarian workers are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action.
 
IRAQ
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert assumed her responsibilities today as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, pledging to continue UN support for Iraq in its post-conflict recovery.
She said that she was delighted to be in Baghdad and she added that the UN will continue its efforts in support of Iraq as the country recovers from the fight against terrorism and looks towards a brighter future.  She said, “It is my intention to make the wellbeing of the Iraqis a top priority, and work towards that goal in the security, humanitarian, political, economic and development fields.”
As you know, she succeeds Ján Kubiš, who had served in the post for almost four years.
 
CLIMATE
As you know, over the weekend countries at the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice adopted a set of guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement.
The agreed ‘Katowice Climate Package’ is designed to operationalize the climate change regime [contained] in the Paris Agreement and will promote international cooperation and encourage greater ambition.
The Secretary-General said that “Katowice has shown once more the resilience of the Paris Agreement – our solid roadmap for climate action.”
He added that from now his five priorities will be “ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition.” In mitigation, adaptation, finance, technical cooperation and capacity building and technological innovation.
The Secretary-General stressed that ambition must guide all Member States as they prepare their Nationally Determined Contributions for 2020 to reverse the present trend. “It is our duty to reach for more and I count on all of you to raise ambitions so that we can beat back climate change.”
The next step obviously is the Climate Summit the SG
 
HUMAN RIGHTS
Just to flag that tomorrow the Secretary-General will speak at the UN Human Rights Prize 2018 award ceremony. That’s taking place in the General Assembly Hall at noon.
The four winners will formally receive their award tomorrow. The winners of the Prize are: Ms. Rebeca Gyumi of Tanzania. An activist for the rights of women and girls; Ms Asma Jahangir of Pakistan who was a human rights lawyer. The award will be received by her daughter, Ms. Munizae Jahangir, journalist and human rights activist in her own right; Ms. Joênia Wapichana of Brazil -- an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples; as well as the organization “Front Line Defenders” from Ireland which works for the protection of human rights defenders.
The United Nations Human Rights Prize is an honorary award given every fifth year to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding work in the field of human rights.
 
DPA-GCC MEMORANDUM
Dr. Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, Assistant Secretary-General for Political and Negotiation Affairs of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and Mr. Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, signed a Memorandum of Understanding this morning in New York.
The document is aimed at strengthening cooperation between the UN and the GCC in the area of peace and security, including mediation, conflict prevention and training.