SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 18 JANUARY 2022
I have not one, but two, senior personnel announcements for you. Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Elizabeth Spehar of Canada as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, otherwise known as DPPA.
Ms. Spehar succeeds Oscar Fernandez-Taranco of Argentina to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for his dedication and contribution.
With 35 years of experience in international and political affairs, Ms. Spehar has worked at headquarters and in the field, leading political, development, peacebuilding and conflict prevention initiatives. Most recently, since 2016, she was, as you well know, the Head of the Mission in Cyprus, UNFICYP.
And the Secretary-General is also appointing Bruno Lemarquis of France as his new Deputy Special Representative in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Lemarquis succeeds David McLachlan-Karr of Australia to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service and steadfast commitment to the United Nations.
Having served since 2020 as Deputy Special Representative of the UN’s Integrated Office in Haiti and as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Mr. Lemarquis brings to this position extensive managerial and leadership experience in complex multidimensional settings, development, humanitarian affairs and peacebuilding and we congratulate both of our friends and colleagues for these new jobs.
I was asked a bit earlier about the situation in Yemen and I can tell you that the Secretary-General expresses his concern and deplores the recent Saudi-led Coalition’s airstrikes in Sana’a that resulted in numerous civilian casualties. He reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, adhering to the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution.
The Secretary-General again calls upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint and prevent further escalation and intensification of the conflict in Yemen. He reiterates his calls on the parties to engage constructively and without precondition with Special Envoy Hans Grundberg in his mediation efforts to advance the political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Yemen.
Our humanitarian colleagues report that, according to the Government, three fatalities have been confirmed, with several people injured.
Needs assessments by the Tongan authorities are ongoing and should provide a better estimate of what is required of the international community. We are on standby with teams and emergency supplies, and stocks in Tonga are being readied for distribution once humanitarian needs are identified. Our staff there are working to assist coordination and response efforts in-country. And as a reminder at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, the acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, Jonathan Veitch, will brief you remotely and give you more details on the situation on the ground. He will speak to you from Suva in Fiji where he is based, and where it will be about 7:30 in the morning when he speaks to you.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, spoke to the Council today during the open debate on women, peace and security.
She said that the situation that now faces women human rights defenders, and prospects for women’s full participation in shaping and building peace – are vastly worse than they were before the pandemic got underway.
She added that at the heart of Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions by the Security Council is the need for strategies that create inclusive and safe participation
channels for women from all backgrounds, movements and communities.
She also called on the international community to stand united and push back against attempts to attack, silence and criminalize women’s rights to defend rights, participate in decision-making and express dissenting opinions.
Our colleagues on the ground are leading an inter-agency assessment team to Qadis District in northwestern Afghanistan following the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that struck the area yesterday afternoon local time. They tell us that initial reports indicate that 26 people have been killed, four people injured, and hundreds of houses damaged or destroyed. Heavy rains before the earthquake reportedly made mud brick houses more vulnerable to damage.
People whose homes have been damaged or destroyed are sheltering with relatives and other members of their communities. Preliminary reports indicate that food, shelter, and non-food items, and heating materials are most urgently needed.
In addition to our humanitarian assessment team, aid agencies are providing initial emergency support including hot meals, mobile health teams, and the distribution of water purification tablets, hygiene kits, and water kits.
The Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, was recently in Teheran, where he met Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian and other senior Iranian officials. He was also in Doha, where he met Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. In Doha, he also met with the Syrian Negotiations Commission President Anas al Abdeh.
The Special Envoy explored with all of his interlocutors the possibilities for progress on the Constitutional Committee and on a wider set of issues step-for-step, stressing the need for key stakeholders to work together on issues of common concern to end the conflict in Syria in line with Security Council resolution 2254.
Mr. Pedersen has now returned to Geneva in Switzerland, where he be continuing engagements there before heading to Brussels next Monday to discuss these issues with EU Foreign Ministers. He will then travel to New York to brief the Security Council on Wednesday, 26 January. We will do our utmost to bring him to the microphones to face you.
You will have seen that in a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General expressed his sadness following the death of the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. He conveyed his deepest condolences to the family of the former President and all the people of Mali.
From UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has announced it is seeking $ 1.6 billion from the international community in 2022.
The funding will fulfil the General Assembly’s mandate to provide millions of Palestine refugees with vital, lifesaving services and programmes, including education, health, and food assistance. The request includes additional emergency funding for UNRWA to address the humanitarian needs arising from crises in Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) Syria, and Lebanon.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Our UN team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is supporting authorities to prepare sufficient storage facilities and refrigerators for new batches of vaccines landing in the country.
The UN Children’s Fund has so far provided nearly 150 fridges and three cold rooms. Our team is also procuring 100 solar fridges, 100 freezers, three cold chain devices, two generators, 500 coolers and 1,000 vaccine carriers—to keep vaccines cold and safe during transportation. The World Health Organization continues to provide authorities with technical support to procure vaccines and to ensure that vaccination sites follow health protocols.
Over 6.2 million doses of vaccines are currently available in the DRC. Over 1.8 million have been dispatched to 15 provinces, and nearly 240,000 people are now fully vaccinated.
Venezuela just received a fifth shipment with over 3.1 million COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX mechanism. Our colleagues in the Pan-American Health Organization were responsible for the procurement and logistics to deliver these vaccines, which now total over 12 million in Venezuela through COVAX alone, with more on the way for several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly 93 million doses have been delivered so far to 33 countries in the region.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Our Resident Coordinator, Ingrid MacDonald, said in a statement that while Martin Luther King Jr. was yesterday every day is a crucial day to condemn hate speech in all its forms.
She continues to raise the alarm to combat hate speech. Regarding recent incidents involving the glorification of war criminals and damage to the inscriptions paying tribute to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. The Resident Coordinator stressed that such events have no place in a democratic society as that they perpetuate the suffering of survivors and families of victims, who deserve respect and solidarity. She also called upon authorities to ensure that measures are taken to prevent and act upon manifestations of hatred and discrimination, as all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve to live in an environment of mutual understanding, respect and dignity.
In Ecuador, some good news concerning the environment. Our Resident Coordinator, Lena Savelli, joined authorities in Galapagos—on behalf of the Secretary-General— for the signing of an Executive Decree that extends the current marine protected area there with an additional 60,000 square kilometers - that’s over 23,000 square miles. This follows up on Ecuador’s commitments at COP26 in Glasgow last November. The creation of this extensive protected area is a joint effort between Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama that will contribute to protecting biodiversity, tackling climate change and securing food and livelihoods in the Galapagos. The UN Environment Programme’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen, hailed the announcement via Twitter as it protects a “highway” for sea turtles, sharks and other migrating marine life.
CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT
At 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, will hold an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the office.
In a video message, the Secretary-General reminds us that 25 years ago, the global community issued a bold call to action to better protect children impacted by conflict.
Step by step, he adds, we are proving that grave violations against children can be stopped. But boys and girls are still in harm’s way.
A study on the evolution of the Children and Armed Conflict Mandate will also be launched during the event and it’s available online.