HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2018
“MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO PROTECT CIVILIANS: PREVENT CONFLICTS AND END THEM”, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- This morning the Secretary-General spoke to Security Council Members at the debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, where he stressed that “the most effective way to protect civilians is to prevent conflicts and to end them.”
- He reiterated that conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding are, and will remain, the highest priorities for the whole United Nations system. The Secretary-General noted that although the global situation is bleak, with many regions suffering from displacement, food insecurity, and human rights violations due to conflict, there are some reasons for hope. This includes the growing recognition by many governments that respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law contributes to reducing conflict and countering terrorism.
- He called on Member States to develop national policies to protect civilians in conflict and ensure accountability for serious violations against them.
- Avoiding civilian casualties and providing unhindered access to humanitarian assistance are essential to avoid a cycle of instability and resentment, and make lasting peace and reconciliation possible, he added.
“HUMAN RIGHTS NO LONGER A PRIORITY, NOW A PARIAH” - U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, today issued a stark warning that the world, including Europe, is back-sliding on human rights.
- Speaking at an event in Vienna marking the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights, the High Commissioner said human rights are sorely under pressure around the world. They are no longer a priority, but are now a pariah, he said, adding that the legitimacy of human rights principles is attacked and the practice of human rights norms is in retreat.
U.N. REPORT WARNS HEALTHCARE UNDER ATTACK IN LIBYA
- In a report published today, the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in Libya say violence in Libya continues to have a devastating impact on health care in the country, with hospitals and other medical facilities bombed, shelled and looted; medical personnel targeted, attacked and even taken hostage or arbitrarily detained; and patients at times denied prompt life-saving care or attacked while getting treatment.
- Ghassan Salamé, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, said these attacks are a major violation of international law and a tragic disregard of our common humanity. All too often, there is no respect for the sick and no sanctity for those who provide care. This must end, he said.
- Between 1 May 2017 and 1 May 2018, the UN recorded 36 attacks on medical facilities, personnel or patients, although the actual number is likely to be significantly higher.
SYRIA: 400 PEOPLE EVACUATED FROM YARMOUK TO MADIQ CASTLE AFTER LOCAL AGREEMENT
- Today, a convoy of an estimated 400 people from Yarmouk arrived in Madiq Castle in Syria’s northern Hama Governorate following a local agreement reached between parties. The United Nations was not a party to these evacuation agreements.
- The United Nations continues to call on all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
- It is imperative that all those displaced are allowed to return voluntarily, in safety and in dignity, to their homes as soon as the situation allows it.
200,000 ROHINGYA REFUGEES AT RISK FROM FLOODING, LANDSLIDES DURING MONSOON IN BANGLADESH
- The latest reporting on the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh indicates that more than 7,000 people were affected by storms or landslides in the week of 7-14 May alone, at the start of the monsoon season.
- The monsoons typically deposit 2.5 meters of rain on Cox’s Bazaar, resulting in significant flooding. As a result, 150,000-200,000 refugees and 883 community facilities are at risk from flooding and landslides during the monsoon season, including 25,000 refugees at critical risk.
- UN Agencies have ramped up preparedness activities to mitigate the effects of the rains on refugees.
- We recognize that Bangladesh has been dealing with monsoons annually, and has developed some experience in these matters. However, the situation present in the refugee camps is unique in scope and volume, and the international humanitarian community is working to support and protect the refugee communities most at risk. More flat land on the mainland to temporarily relocate the refugees to, would be appreciated. The lack of sufficient safe space for at-risk refugees, and the lack of safe shelters, limits our risk mitigation possibilities.
ELECTRICITY, WATER SUPPLIES AT RISK AMID INCREASED HOSTILITIES IN EASTERN UKRAINE – U.N. RELIEF WING
- The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the overall security situation in eastern Ukraine has deteriorated since the beginning of May. Hostilities, with the use of mortars and heavy artillery, were reported near some 26 settlements on both sides of the “contact line” in the last 24 hours only. Shelling has interrupted local gas and electricity supply systems in at least three settlements along the “contact line” affecting more than 10,000 households.
- The operation of the Donetsk Filter Station remains suspended, which puts at risk the water supply for 345,000 people. The filter station has been attacked on eight occasions this year. The area of Avdiivka in Donetsk province, with over 16,000 people, is already depleting its backup water reservoirs. Humanitarian partners have today started water delivery to the city.
- It is essential that all parties to the conflict respect civilian infrastructure and protect civilian workers. Any targeting of civilian infrastructure, and the intentional disruption of access to water supply is a violation of International Humanitarian Law.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY ALARMED AT SHARP RISE IN DISPLACEMENT IN NORTH OF CENTRAL AMERICA
- The UN Refugee Agency is seeing a significant increase in the number of people fleeing violence and persecution in the North of Central America.
- More than 294,000 asylum seekers and refugees from the North of Central America were registered globally as of the end of 2017, an increase of 58 per cent from a year earlier. This is sixteen times more people than at the end of 2011.
- The vast majority of those fleeing are seeking refugee protection either to the north in Belize, Mexico and the United States, or (and increasingly) to the south in Costa Rica and Panama.
- A growing number of children say that they are fleeing forced recruitment into armed criminal gangs and death threats. Women and LGBTI communities are also particularly faced with violence and abuse.
- Needs in the region are huge. For this year, UNHCR’s work requires some US$36.2 million to provide protection and assistance to those affected by the North of Central America situation. So far only 12 per cent of the funding needed has been received.
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES COMOROS TO PRESERVE PEACE, STABILITY
- In response to questions about the situation in the Comoros, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General has been closely following and monitoring developments in the country over the last few months, particularly since the holding of the national dialogue process of “assises nationales” in February 2018, and the recent announcement by President Azali Assoumani of the implementation of the constitutional reform as part of the recommendations of the “assises nationales”.
- The Secretary-General urges the Government, political parties and all other political actors as well as civil society to do their utmost to respect the rule of law, human rights and individual freedoms and to work for the preservation of peace and stability in the country, to allow for development and progress in Comoros.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF BIODIVERSITY
- Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity. This year’s theme celebrates the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General stressed that the rich variety of life on Earth is essential for the welfare and prosperity of people today and for generations to come. He added that while we know the many benefits of biodiversity, its loss continues around the world, and he called on governments, businesses and people everywhere to protect the nature that sustains us.