HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 21 JUNE 2017
 
SECRETARY-GENERAL SOUNDS ALARM ON ‘PERILOUS’ PLIGHT OF CIVILIANS IN SYRIA’S RAQQA

  • In a statement issued earlier this morning, the Secretary-General said that he remains deeply alarmed at the depths of human suffering being endured across Syria. Daily life is dangerous and desperate for millions of people. Civilians continue to be killed, injured and displaced at a terrifying rate. He is also alarmed that places of refuge, such as hospitals and schools continue to be targeted.
  • The Secretary-General is particularly concerned about the perilous situation for civilians in Raqqa who are trapped and face threats from every direction. The situation is also grim for those civilians stuck in other besieged and hard-to-reach areas, some of whom have been deprived of food and basic medical assistance for years on end.
  • The United Nations and humanitarian partners are doing all they can to stem the suffering in Raqqa and across Syria, often at great personal risk.
  • The Secretary-General made an urgent appeal to all those conducting military operations in Syria to do everything in their power to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, as fighting continues in Raqqa and elsewhere. It is also critical for all parties to facilitate improved humanitarian access to allow aid to reach those in urgent need of life-saving assistance without delay.
SENIOR U.N. OFFICIALS APPOINTED FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM, POLICY
  • Today, the Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov of the Russian Federation as Under-Secretary-General of the newly created UN Counter-Terrorism Office. 
  • The Secretary-General appreciates the hard work of Member States and the many partners who share his commitment to this agenda. The Under-Secretary-General will provide strategic leadership to UN counter-terrorism efforts, participate in the decision-making process of the UN and ensure that the cross-cutting origins and impact of terrorism are reflected in the work of the Organization.
  • Mr. Voronkov brings to the position more than 30 years of experience within the Foreign Service working primarily on United Nations as well as responsibilities ranging from public diplomacy and social and economic development issues to intergovernmental affairs.
  • He is currently Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna.
  • The Secretary-General is also appointing Ana Maria Menéndez of Spain as the next Senior Adviser on Policy. She will succeed Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.
  • Ms. Menéndez has more than 30 years of experience in diplomatic service involving bilateral, regional and global issues, and currently serves as Spain’s Ambassador to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva.
SOUTH SUDAN: THOUGH FAMINE EASING, U.N. WARNS SITUATION REMAINS DIRE
  • UN agencies said today that famine has eased in South Sudan after a significant scale up in the humanitarian response. However, they warned that the situation remains dire across the country as the number of people struggling to find enough food each day has grown to 6 million – up from 4.9 million in February – and is the highest level of food insecurity ever experienced in South Sudan.
  • The accepted technical definition of famine no longer applies in former Unity State’s Leer and Mayandit counties where famine was declared in February. However, 45,000 people in former Unity and Jonglei states are still experiencing catastrophic conditions and face the prospect of starvation if humanitarian assistance is not sustained. Meanwhile, the number of people facing emergency levels of hunger - one step below famine - is 1.7 million up from 1 million in February. The Director of Emergencies of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dominique Burgeon, warned that the crisis is not over. “We are merely keeping people alive but far too many face extreme hunger on the edge of a cliff”, he said.
  • The Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will brief the Security Council this afternoon on the situation in South Sudan.
U.N. MISSION REPORTS CLASHES IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC’S BRIA
  • The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reports that clashes took place yesterday in Bria, in Haute-Kotto prefecture, between members of the anti-Balaka and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC). UN peacekeepers intervened and exchanged fire with the armed individuals. They secured key locations in town, including an internally displaced persons camp and a local hospital. Peacekeepers also continue to maintain a robust presence and conduct patrols in key locations to deter further clashes.
  • The UN Mission condemns the violence and calls for an immediate cessation of violence in accordance with the agreement signed in Rome on Monday.
WORSENING SECURITY SITUATION BRINGS POLITICAL TENSIONS TO FORE, U.N. AFGHANISTAN ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
  • This morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, briefed the Security Council.
  • He said that the months since his last briefing have been unusually tense in the country, and that the deteriorating security situation has brought underlying political tensions to the surface.
  • He noted that there have been indications since last summer that Afghanistan’s broad political consensus was fraying, and in recent months, a growing number of political factions, have begun to criticise and demand reforms to the Government. While the existence of opposition is natural in any political scene, Mr. Yamamoto noted that the amount of mistrust is growing and there is an increasing resort to uncompromising slogans and statements that can fuel further violent protest. He stressed that efforts at inclusiveness and building consensus for political stability are critical to address these issues.
  • He added that in spite of the recent terrorist attacks in the country, the international community should continue its development and economic assistance in the country and not be intimidated by terrorists. In addition, emphasized the need to ensure that the next round of elections runs smoothly, and that the Government should engage directly with the Taliban in a genuine peace process.
U.N. SPEAKS OUT AGAINST CONTINUED DETENTION OF STAFF MEMBER IN COLOMBIA
  • The UN system in Colombia condemns the continuing detention of its official, held since May 3, and demands a proof of life, as well as direct contact with those responsible for holding him.  
  • In accordance with human rights principles and national and international law, the UN will continue to demand the immediate and unconditional release of its colleague, as well as full respect of his personal integrity. 
  • The detained colleague has been working with dedication as a member of the UN System to serve the populations most in need. Our priority continues to be his well-being and that of his family, as well as his safe and immediate release.
RECORD 141 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE NEED HUMANITARIAN AID – U.N. RELIEF WING
  • The UN issued the Global Humanitarian Overview 2017 Status Report today, showing that a record number of people – 141 million people across 37 countries – are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • Since the UN and partners launched the 2017 humanitarian appeal and coordinated response plans in December, international donors have generously provided US$6.2 billion in funding.
  • However, requirements have since climbed to $23.5 billion – leaving the global appeal funded 26 per cent halfway through the year.
  • New disasters and deteriorating protracted emergencies are driving up the numbers, including the rapid escalation of violence in the Kasai provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, drought in Kenya, tropical cyclones in Madagascar and Mozambique, and flooding in Peru.
  • This is in addition to some 20 million people who are at risk of famine across north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
SENIOR U.N. OFFICIAL WARNS RETURNS OF NIGERIAN REFUGEES TO BANKI NOT ‘SUSTAINABLE’
  • The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said today that he is extremely worried that large numbers of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon are returning to northeast Nigeria into a situation which is dangerously unprepared to receive them.
  • Three weeks ago, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) had warned about the dire situation in the Nigerian border town of Banki, which was already hosting 45,000 people and thousands more were returning.
  • In the town, shelter is lacking; there is severe overcrowding; water supplies and sanitation facilities are wholly inadequate; and humanitarian aid is in short supply.
  • Mr. Grandi said that it is his firm view that returns are not sustainable at this time.
  • His agency has stepped up its efforts in a camp in Cameroon to ensure that refugees are given adequate information on the conditions in Banki before they make the choice to return.
U.N. ENVOY URGES COOPERATION TO INCREASE LEGAL PATHWAYS TO REGULAR MIGRATION
  • In Brussels, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for International Migration, Louise Arbour, today spoke before the High-Level Conference on Migration Management at the European Parliament.
  • She emphasized that a crisis of migration governance at the national, regional and global levels is currently unfolding before our eyes, and stressed the need for all stakeholders to work together to increase legal pathways to regular migration and promote the successful integration of migrants, including through addressing their vulnerabilities, as well as the needs of the communities that host them.
WORLD POVERTY COULD BE SLASHED BY HALF IF ALL ADULTS HAVE SECONDARY EDUCATION – U.N.E.S.C.O
  • A new UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) paper shows that the global poverty rate could be more than halved if all adults completed secondary school. But UNESCO data shows persistently high out-of-school rates in many countries, making it likely that completion levels in education will remain well below that target for generations to come.
  • The new paper shows that nearly 60 million people could escape poverty if all adults had just two more years of schooling. If all adults completed secondary education, 420 million could be lifted out of poverty, reducing the total number of poor people by more than half globally and by almost two-thirds in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
U.N. MARKS INTERNATIONAL DAY OF YOGA
  • Today is the International Day of Yoga. The theme for this year is “Yoga for Health” and it seeks to highlight the fact that yoga can contribute to achieving an equilibrium between mind and body.
TONGA BECOMES 109TH MEMBER STATE TO PAY U.N. DUES IN FULL
  • Tonga has become the 109th Member State to pay its UN budget dues in full.