HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2019

 
MIDDLE EAST
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council this morning in the aftermath of the most serious recent escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Although the immediate crisis was defused, he said, the situation remains highly volatile.
Although calm was restored in Gaza, Mr. Mladenov said that the dangers have not passed. He said that, for now, the arrangements that came into effect in the early hours of 14 November are holding, but sporadic rocket launches have continued, prompting Israeli retaliation.
The Special Coordinator said that Gaza ultimately requires a political solution. Militant activity cannot continue to undermine the chances for peace and development. He added that Israel cannot continue with its policy of closures that stifles development.
 
IRAQ
The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said today that Iraq’s draft electoral legislation - currently under review by the Council of Representatives - requires improvements to meet public demands.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative said that it is the prerogative of the Council of Representatives to examine this legislation as it sees fit. However, she urged the parliamentarians to act on their constituents’ legitimate demands for credible, free and fair elections.
The United Nations stands ready to assist, she added.
 
SYRIA
The humanitarian situation throughout Syria remains dire, with more than 11 million people in need of assistance and over 6 million people displaced.
We are particularly concerned over the safety and protection of some 3 million people in Idlib and surrounding areas of the north-west of the country, including some 1.6 million internally displaced people.
Since the end of October, an increase in airstrikes and shelling has impacted dozens of communities in Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Latakia governorates. In addition, an increase in attacks with improvised explosive devices have been reported in Idlib and Aleppo governorates. There have also been recent reports of ground fighting.
Since hostilities began in late April, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified over 1,000 civilian casualties as a result of hostilities, hundreds of them children.
The UN continues to remind all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law. Hospitals and medical facilities, as well as medical staff, enjoy special protection under international humanitarian law.
 
DARFUR
In Sudan, the head of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, spoke to reporters in Khartoum earlier today.
The Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, noted that the Security Council’s resolution late last month maintains the mission’s two-pronged approach of having peacekeeping in the Jebel Marra area and having peacebuilding in the rest of Darfur.
Mr. Mamabolo said that, yesterday, the UN-AU mission handed its largest camp in Darfur over to the Sudanese Government to be exclusively used for civilian purposes.
 
D.R. CONGO
We have new clashes reported between armed groups in the Congolese province of North Kivu that have reportedly left 6 people dead and led to the displacement of up to 40,000 people, who have fled villages around Bukombo.
Earlier this year, in June, some 300,000 people, mainly women and children, were also displaced following a wave of attacks by various armed groups in Ituri and North Kivu.
In total, over 5 million people are currently displaced across the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Insecurity and displacement especially impact the most vulnerable, who are also in need of assistance.
The Humanitarian Response Plan for the DRC, which is $1.65 billion which aims to assist 9 million people, is only 42 per cent funded.
 
MYANMAR
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the armed conflict in Rakhine and northern Shan states between the Myanmar military and armed groups is deeply concerning since it continues to impact civilians.
More than 40,000 people are currently displaced across Rakhine and Chin states, which marks an increase of at least 8,000 people since late October. This is in addition to the 128,000 mostly Rohingya who remain displaced in camps in Rakhine state, many of them have been there for more than seven years.
The UN and our humanitarian partners’ access to those in need is impeded by persistent insecurity and restrictions Rakhine State.
In northern Shan, nearly 25,000 people have been temporarily displaced by conflict this year, up from nearly 22,000 last year.
We continue to call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from violence, adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of civilians and facilitate timely access to people in need.
 
ENVIRONMENT
Our colleagues at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and it partners today released a report that says countries plan to produce 120 per cent more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be burned under the 1.5°C warming limit.
The Production Gap Report is the first assessment of the gap between the Paris Agreement goals and countries’ planned production of coal, oil and gas. This report complements UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, which shows that countries’ pledges fall short of the emissions reductions needed to meet global temperature limits. That report is due out next Tuesday.
The Production Gap Report says the world is on track to produce far more coal, oil and gas than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C, creating a “production gap” that makes climate goals much harder to reach. The report also details options to close the production gap, as well as those available through international cooperation under the Paris Agreement.
 
CHILDREN
Today is World Children’s Day. It is also the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty.
In his message to mark the day, the Secretary-General highlighted achievements of the past 30 years, including a 50 per cent decrease in child deaths before the age of 5. With millions of boys and girls still suffering from war, poverty, discrimination and disease, he urged countries to keep the promises made to children by joining this landmark convention.
At a high-level event at the General Assembly this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, also recognized the important progress of the past 30 years, but, she added, our work is far from done. Children are rightly demanding action on climate change, on gender inequality and on human rights.
Speakers this morning included UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore, as well as Goodwill Ambassadors Millie Bobby Brown and David Beckham.
 
HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS
Tomorrow, at 4 pm, five members of the Harlem Globetrotters, including two new players and one female player, will be here at UN Headquarters for a VIP guided tour. For the first time in its 93-year history, the Harlem Globetrotters will be announcing the signing of their first Chinese player and their first player from Poland.
Over the course of the team’s history, the Globetrotters have played in 124 countries and territories around the world. We are delighted to have them here.