HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 23 JANUARY 2017
 
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPROVES UPDATED U.N. WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY
  • As part of his reform agenda, the Secretary-General has made it a priority for the UN to have a whistleblower protection policy that meets the highest possible standards.
  • He has just approved a policy to have the UN function in a more open, transparent and fair manner, with the objective of enhancing protection for individuals who report possible misconduct or cooperate with duly authorized audits or investigations. Staff and management both agreed on the policy, contained in a bulletin that was just issued, which meets best practices.
  • The major changes include the following elements:

(1) The Ethics Office and Office of Internal Oversight Services will now be able to take preventive action where a risk of retaliation has been identified (instead of staff being required to identify a specific retaliatory act before they can request protection);
(2) The policy affords protection from retaliation to whistleblowers who report wrongdoing committed not only by staff but also by contractors, non-UN peacekeepers and others;
(3) Staff now have the right to seek review of Ethics Office determinations;
(4) Complainants will be notified of disciplinary measures taken against staff members found to have retaliated against them.

  • The Secretary General has also tasked an internal working group to examine whether the policy on protection against retaliation should be further expanded to also provide more protections for consultants and individual contractors. He has given the working group a deadline of 30 June 2017 to come back with their recommendations on this.
  • Until this matter is decided, the Secretary-General has asked that the Ethics Office continue its practice of providing assistance to consultants and individual contractors who seek protection against retaliation. To include this category of individuals within the policy would have resource implications.
  • The Secretary-General is in favour of enhancing the independence of the Ethics Office by having it report directly to the General Assembly, instead of through the current arrangements, which provide for it to report to the Secretary-General. He has requested the Ethics Office to urgently examine this issue and to revert with its advice. Such a change in reporting line would require the General Assembly's approval.
U.N. SYRIA ENVOY VOICES HOPE THAT ASTANA TALKS HELP FIRM UP CESSATIOIN OF HOSTILITIES
  • Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, spoke at the opening of the talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, and he expressed the hope that those talks would consolidate a cessation of hostilities, while talks in Geneva next month would be used for the genuine relaunching of political negotiations to address the core issues of the conflict.
  • He said that the violence has dropped in Syria, but it has not ended yet, including in particular in Wadi Barada, where fighting is jeopardising access to water for residents of Damascus and neighbouring areas.  He said that sieges are totally unacceptable methods of warfare that cause civilians to be deprived from food, medicines and other essential items.
  • Mr. de Mistura said that the UN remains guided by Security Council resolution 2254, the only viable, internationally agreed basis for a political solution. Its core principle, he recalled, is to foster a cessation of hostilities in parallel with a comprehensive and inclusive political process, where women and civil society play an active role.
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, for over a month, water has been cut off from Ain El Fijeh, depriving 5.5 million people in Damascus and surrounding areas from their main water source since 22 December.
  • The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and water authorities’ technical teams, who suspended their mission following a security incident, remain on stand-by to enter the area again to complete their mission as soon as security conditions allow. The UN stands ready to provide additional support to ensure the swift repair of the water infrastructure.
  • An estimated 1.8 million people in Aleppo remain cut off from their main water source since 14 January due to a technical failure at the Al Khafse water station. The station is located in an eastern rural Aleppo area that is controlled by Da’esh, which reportedly are not allowing repair teams to access the water station to make reparations.
  • The UN, water authorities and other humanitarian partners have been responding with fuel, water trucking, and water purification tablets, and are installing tanks and rehabilitating additional wells in the city.
IRAQ: MOSUL CLASHES FORCE MORE THAN 161,000 PEOPLE TO FLEE THEIR HOMES
  • As of today, more than 161,000 people are internally displaced as a result of ongoing fighting in Iraq’s Mosul city.
  • Yesterday, humanitarian partners delivered aid packages consisting of ready-to-eat food, water supplies, high-energy biscuits, and hygiene materials to 4,500 people in an east Mosul city neighbourhood.
  • Overall, between 16 and 22 January, some 56,100 people living in newly accessible east Mosul city neighbourhoods received aid packages from UN partners.
  • Access missions by humanitarian partners continue. An access mission to north-eastern Mosul neighbourhoods, which is underway today, will assess the level of explosive hazard contamination around water treatment facilities.
U.N.-BACKED APPEAL FOR $550 MILLION LAUNCHED TO HELP MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN
  • The humanitarian community has launched a $550 million appeal to support the most vulnerable and marginalised Afghans in 2017.
  • Strategic, life-saving interventions related to food, health care, nutrition, safe water and sanitation will reach an estimated 5.7 million people under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan.
  • In 2017, the humanitarian community projects that 9.3 million people, or one-third of the population, will be in need of humanitarian assistance. This is a 13 per cent increase over last year.
  • The elevated needs are due to the unprecedented number of Afghans who fled their homes due to conflict in 2016, as well as the unanticipated influx of Afghans returning from Pakistan.
SENIOR U.N. OFFICIAL THANKS BHUTAN FOR CONTRIBUTION TO TRUST FUND FOR VICTIMS OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
  • The Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, met on Friday with the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Bhutan, Kinzang C. Namgyel and received on behalf of the Secretary-General a contribution of $10,000 to the UN Trust Fund for Assistance to Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. 
  • Mr. Khare thanked the Government of Bhutan for demonstrating its commitment and care for victims. He said that the UN and its Member States have a responsibility to do more to ensure that the trust in our values and institutions are not eroded through acts of sexual exploitation and abuse by those whose calling is to protect.
  • This latest contribution by the Kingdom of Bhutan will bring the total amount of the Trust Fund to $536,000. The Trust Fund was established in 2016 and, so far, contributions have been received from Bhutan, Cyprus, India, Japan and Norway. The UN reiterates its appeal to all Member States to contribute to the Trust Fund, which aims at providing immediate assistance to victims.  
LUXEMBOURG BECOMES 14TH U.N. MEMBER STATE TO PAY FULL DUES IN 2017
  • Luxembourg has paid its regular budget dues in full, bringing the total to 14 of Member States who have done so.

 
***The guest at today’s noon briefing was Toby Lanzer, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, who updated reporters on the situation in Nigeria and around the Lake Chad basin.